Sheltering from storms in Moreton Bay

Friday (19th February) we awoke to another grey and miserable day in Tipplers anchorage. However it was not too busy with boat traffic and it didn’t rain, so definitely an improvement on recent days.

We had a lazy day on board then, about 4pm when most of the day trippers had left, we headed ashore and had a few drinks and nibbles. We were lucky enough to have another wallaby encounter but no huge lizards this time. Back on board around 6pm and, by now, the weekend crowd were starting to arrive so we had the usual anchor shenanigans as they all tried to get set for the night.

Saturday morning we got ourselves ready to leave Tipplers and waited for the tide to turn. So at 10.15 we were heading north an hour after low tide, through the gap between South Stradbroke and North Stradbroke islands at Jumpinpin and then into the Canaipa passage. During the trip, winding our way through the shallow river system, we picked up about a knot of boat speed as we were lifted by the tide and we saw no less than 1m under the keel so we had timed this 15 mile run just about right. Sad sight at The Huts anchorage, though, where we saw that an abandoned boat had finally sunk in recent weather events. Wonder who is responsible for cleaning all that up?

As we neared Canaipa, we snuck under the overhead power lines (which always look closer to the top of the mast than they really are) and anchored on the west side of the river as we were expecting winds from the NW / W overnight. A few other boats joined us and we watched big clouds building and heading out to sea, thankfully they didn’t affect us.

We sat in the cockpit and enjoyed watching a large camp of fruit bats fly through as they headed to North Stradbroke Island to roost for the night. We also had a very brief dolphin and dugong visitation. They literally show themselves for seconds and disappear right beneath the stern so no chance for a decent photograph but, oh, what a treat!

Sunday we stayed on anchor at Canaipa and had an admin day onboard continuing with our online visa applications. When we called it a day we sat in the cockpit and were then visited by some strange looking yellow-eyed flies and we soon found out that they bite, hard! So we lit our insect smoke coils and left them burning in the cockpit (in a suitable container obviously) while we took ourselves down below to escape. The rain then started and the water became flat calm. After the rain we were treated to the most beautiful cloud formations and a fire-red sunset. One of our neighbours took a photo and loaded it up on Facebook showing Morphie at anchor in Canaipa lit by the most astonishing sky. Beautiful or what?!?

Monday morning we weighed anchor at 8am with our destination 19 miles away at the Moreton Bay Trailer Boat Club Marina in Manly. Another marina…sigh….but the weather forecast was consistently for severe thunderstorms and we would rather be safely tied to a dock and surrounded by large masts than sitting it out on the hook. We felt very lucky to have been able to get a berth booked at such short notice for a three night stay.

It was really hot and still in the morning and we got a picture of our neighbour in the lovely morning light. There was no wind so we motored across the glassy water in the Bay and had more encounters. This time it was a turtle, another dugong, and a ray jumping completely out of the water. What a great start to the day!

We arrived into the marina, found our berth, and got ourselves organised. Richard hooked up the power, rinsed Morphie off and re-installed the canvas while I headed into the office with all our documentation to check in. In Australia the marinas insist on a minimum of $10mn public liability insurance plus a copy of the Border Force Control Permit to allow you to stay, so I already had that ready for them. Checked in, security gate key fob in hand, I returned to Morphie. Have to say, on first impressions, we think the MBTBC marina beats the neighbouring East Coast Marina hands down in terms of facilities and quality of the docks and services. Plus it is literally across the road from Manly village so very accessible for re-provisioning etc. Here is Morphie settling into her new slip.

Later in the afternoon we headed out to the Moreton Bay Boat Trailer Boat Clubhouse (literally across the car park) and paid $5 to become an annual member. This gave us significant discounts on all food and drinks so we managed to recoup our outlay in less than two hours!

We took a seat on the outside balcony and enjoyed a view across the channel leads into the harbour entrance which serves four marinas. A really lovely place to enjoy a couple of cold ones. Then the discussion turned to food so we checked out the Club’s simple menu but were very excited by the ‘curry of the week’ option of a chicken tikka masala with basmati rice and a roti. OMG we haven’t had a proper curry for about a year and, although expectations were low, we both decided to order it anyway. It turned up after about 15 minutes and it was absolutely divine….very authentic with fabulous flavours. All I can say is Yum.

Suitably replete we returned to Morphie and watched the clouds roll in and then the heavens opened but thankfully no thunderstorms. The rain was biblical in nature and the wind gusts were significant so we were pretty sure we had made the right decision to shelter out here for a few days.

Tuesday morning we were up very early and Richard started by doing routine engine checks when he realised that the fresh water pump was leaking a small amount of coolant. Doing some research it became clear that these are very difficult to repair and Yanmar themselves actually recommend a straightforward replacement. So Richard got in touch with a company in the Boatworks to order a new pump on our behalf. In the meantime we’ll nurse the engine and top up the coolant as we go until we can get this replaced.

Doing his other boat checks he also noticed that the Balmar SG200 battery monitor would not cycle through all the modes AGAIN. So he disconnected and restarted it only to find that the readings were complete garbage as our house battery bank’s state of health should definitely not be 100% after two years of use. We have been having battles for about a year with Balmar about this unit as we keep insisting that it is faulty and their helpdesk troubleshooting advice works in the first instance (sometimes) but then, soon after, it goes into meltdown again and we have to keep reverting to their helpdesk. This time, thankfully, they finally agreed to replace it. Woo hoo! We just need to work out the logistics to make that happen now. Phew….

In the meantime I continued doing admin – this time it was to apply for Australian Federal Police Checks which are needed for the visa process. Their system was playing up but, eventually, I managed to get them completed and paid for.

Afterwards we both headed out to the shops and topped up with some basic provisions. Once back on board after we had stowed our shopping we had a lazy afternoon sitting watching the clouds build. We had dinner down below and then returned to the cockpit. OMG the storms were building, it was getting dark, the internet was lit up with warnings and radar images, and then it started. There were multiple storms all around us with lightning shows, thunder and torrential rain and it went on for over two hours. Was very exciting because it wasn’t immediately on top of us and, thankfully, no hail. Phew!

Wednesday morning it remained cloudy and stormy. Richard was swapping out the shower bilge pump while I headed into town again for more shopping. I got back and Richard had just finished so we then stripped beds, sorted out all the washing, and headed up to the laundry area. We put the machines on, got a propane fill sorted there and then, and then sat outside in the BBQ area while we waited for the laundry to finish. All very civilised.

Whilst there I called AmEx’s fraud team to query a charge which had been taken by a company without permission. As this ‘purchase’ had allegedly been done via PayPal we raised a potential fraud case with them too. It turns out that the vendor involved is well known and ‘auto renews’ annual software products sold to customers previously (at virtually triple the cost in my case) without informing the purchaser or seeking approval despite no previous authority being given. So very happy that the card wasn’t compromised; the ‘purchase’ was cancelled; and the vendor has been blocked from charging me ever again. Thankfully all resolved to my satisfaction that afternoon.

Back on board we relaxed before heading back out to the Club for a drink. We had planned to then go to a local restaurant for a fish and chip supper but, very naughtily, we both succumbed to the curry again and it was just as good as the first time. Wednesday night in the Club was very busy as it was Parmy night (which is chicken parmigiana and one of Australia’s most popular dishes) for only $14. For the uninitiated this is a breaded fried chicken snitzel coated in tomato sauce with grilled cheese on top served with salad and chips.

Oh yes and Wednesday night is race night at the local marinas here so we enjoyed watching all the little ducklings return to base for the night from the outside balcony.

We decided to move on to the Celtic Corner pub in Manly village before returning to Morphie. The barmaid screwed up my order so it had to be redone; we had to fight to get a seat; and the price was $10 more than the same round in the Club. So if we come back this way again, think the pub has seen the last of us LOL.

This morning, Thursday, it was raining and while Richard was preparing the boat to depart I quickly went into town to pick up some fresh bread, fruit and vegetables, got rid of our last minute rubbish, and then returned our key fob to the marina office. Definitely think we’ll be back here, such a friendly place.

By 10 am we were making our way through the leads and headed out towards the Sandhills anchorage, Moreton Island, just under 16 miles away. The weather deteriorated and it poured with rain for a while with poor visibility but nothing out of the ordinary….

Eventually the rain cleared, we arrived at our destination, and had our anchor down by 1pm. Lovely spot – really glad to be back. This time, though, there was a fishing camp that had been set up in the shallows so we watched them go about their business also checking out the pelicans who were clearly hoping for a tasty handout.

So that’s it for now folks. We are looking forward to exploring more of Moreton Island over the next few days as the wind is coming from the right direction to make these anchorages tenable and the weather forecast is nice and stable – fingers crossed of course!

In the meantime, we have caught up with the ongoing Covid vaccination programme at home and were delighted to hear the plan of when they are going to ease the restrictions. There is still a way to go but definitely light at the end of a very long tunnel. Keep safe and well everybody, sending hugs as always. So to cheer you up in lockdown here is another tiny Australian cutie to make you smile – this one is a baby orphaned Antechinus.


A wet and windy week at Tipplers

Friday (12th February) we had plans to do some boat jobs but both felt a bit weary so decided to just chill and instead watched the anchoring shenanigans around us as the anchorage filled up. As the day boats left for the day we picked up the hook and re-anchored further away from the shore as the overnight forecast of brief NW winds would put us on a lee shore. During the manoeuvre we had a brief dolphin visit. Always lovely to see them come by although we do worry about them swimming in the channel with the speed some of the jetskiers come through here! We also admired some strange cloud formations above us before the sun set for the day.

Settled in for the night and we just sat down below listening to the wind and the rain, it was definitely a wild one but thankfully we held fast.

Saturday it was a bit brighter and we were surrounded by houseboats and it was crazy jetski busy. We waited until most of the crowds had gone and then went ashore for a couple of drinks and nibbles.

Whilst sitting outside Tipplers CafĂ© and Bar we enjoyed visits from both a wallaby and a monitor lizard. The guys sitting near us were feeding the lizard their chips and some lettuce and, of course, it then came close to them to get a better look at which point they freaked out and were worried about their toes getting chewed. Was really funny to watch – who would have thought big Aussie guys would be frightened of a lizard eh??

We had a quiet night back on board and then retired early listening to the very heavy rain falling on the coach roof. There had also been an earthquake detected near New Caledonia which meant a tsunami warning was in place for Lord Howe Island but thankfully not the east coast of Australia. Luckily the danger was over quickly and the warning was soon dropped.

Sunday morning and it was Happy Valentine’s Day. We enjoyed exchanging our cards and had a leisurely morning.

The wind had swung south early on and we were now pointing back down the river towards Southport and as we had a good set we decided to stay put. In a lull in the rain we got into the dinghy and quickly cleaned the waterline of the light growth that had accumulated. We then climbed back on board and get the dinghy hoisted onto the arch as the next band of wind and rain came through.

The winds built up and built up but we were pleased that, by now, lots of the houseboats and day trippers had cleared out of the anchorage so we were able to put out more chain to reflect the worsening conditions. And it blew like stink – forecast of 40+ knots – and we reckon we saw that at least. As the rain eased later in the afternoon we sat in the cockpit and watched this 52ft Lagoon catamaran come into the anchorage – who then tried and failed to anchor behind us four times – and then left, probably because he was embarrassed. Oh dear, not sure where else he would find shelter from this appalling weather nearby before it got dark….

Monday morning it was still blowing but was lovely and sunny. Hurrah! So we did some hand washing and then headed ashore for some coffee and cake (although I actually had a delicious smoothie). The place was deserted although we did have two lizard encounters which was fun (and they didn’t seem too keen on each other!). By the time we were ashore we had a very large neighbour anchored in the middle of the channel.

We had a nice time relaxing in the sun on board for a little while on our return to Morphie but, yet again, we were chased down below by the rain although we did at least enjoy a lovely sunset first.

Tuesday it was cold and cloudy. Then the rain set in and the wind picked back up again. Getting a bit fed up of this now!!! We stayed on board all day and just poked our heads up to check our position as the wind was swinging SSE/ESE but as there were no neighbours we weren’t really concerned. We then heard about more earthquakes just off Vanuatu and Tonga but thankfully no tsunami warnings came about because of these. Oh yes and we saw the Lady Brisbane come down the river which was nice to see.

The weather forecast continues to show rain for most of the week and, unusually, this time they seem to be pretty accurate! Oh well, never mind…. Even the sea birds are looking a bit fed up with it all! But at least the wind died down overnight giving us some respite.

Wednesday morning and, of course, the wind picked up and then it rained again…sigh…. It really was miserable out there so we both stayed down below and started downloading all the documents that we need for our visa renewals and turning them into .pdfs in preparation for uploading onto the on-line Australian Immigration system. We then started the actual process of completing the on-line form but a poor internet connection meant we didn’t have great success so called it a day! Neither of us enjoyed doing this but at least we are getting there….

Afterwards we had another quiet night on board watching more offline Netflix content.

This morning, Thursday, and it started a bit brighter with a better forecast than previously, but then of course, it started raining.

We had hoped to get ashore for coffee at least (and to get rid of our rubbish) but decided against in the end. So I’m blogging down below while Richard is in the cockpit reading. Hopefully we’ll get out of here soon!!! Oh yes and half the Australian content is missing from Facebook today because of the ongoing row so even Bureau of Meteorology weather warnings are not allowed anymore. We can obviously access them elsewhere but seems a bit heavy handed or what?!?

Anyway, bye for now, and take care everybody, sending love and hugs your way. The Covid situation at home appears to be improving with the rollout of the vaccinations so hopefully there is an end to the lockdown restrictions soon. But, in the meantime, to keep your spirits up here is a baby Australian platypus to make you smile.


Boat jobs in Coomera

Thursday (4 February) I blogged during the day while Richard pottered around doing some important jobs like working Y-valves. In the late afternoon we took ourselves off to the Pirate Ship for sundowners before returning to Morphie for dinner.

Friday morning and it was time to give Morpheus some loving care and attention. First job was to wash her down as she had accumulated quite a bit of dust on her topsides whilst we had been away. Then, having wiped her down, we used a cleaner on the topside gelcoat. Afterwards we worked on the non-slip areas of the deck and coach roof by applying a layer of special non-slip wax before washing off the residue and drying it all. We then took a bit of a breather before tackling the coach roof which was waxed and polished. And here she is looking all beautiful and clean again, although we did notice that the varnish is starting to deteriorate on the eyebrow so that will probably be our next job.

Later on we picked up our courtesy car for the weekend and headed to the doctors. Blood test results were all fine, we got our repeat prescriptions, and then headed to the bottle shop to stock up on supplies. We then had a takeout roast chicken for dinner. Have to say we both slept well that night after all that physical exercise.

Saturday was a big provisioning run. We are planning to be on anchor now for a month and, then, after a short return to the Boatworks for doctors appointments we are booked into Sanctuary Cove again in early March. So we needed to replenish our stores. We were out for quite a few hours and it took us just as long on our return to find places to stow all the goodies onboard.

Later in the afternoon Richard decided to tackle cleaning and waxing the cockpit while I headed back to the shops as I wanted to get some new shorts / capri pants. I was surprised to find that Waitangi Day was being celebrated in the Coomera Westfield Mall and that Maoris were performing some traditional cultural dancing and singing including the haka. So I enjoyed watching that for a while – which brought back great memories of the numerous times we had spent at the Waitingi Treaty Grounds in New Zealand – before returning to the boat with my purchases. For a change we spent the evening in the cockpit enjoying some music and a snack supper.

On the dock behind us we have the YouTubers Sailing Zatara who are here as they need to get their engines replaced. They are constantly coming and going and we have noticed randomly that the males of the family go everywhere by some sort of electric skateboard or scooter, whilst the females walk everywhere. Very interesting….

Sunday we headed out very early to the laundry having got everything we could think of stripped off and into the washing bags. After getting the washing started we headed to the Galley to have breakfast.

Afterwards Richard headed out to Bunnings (because no week on the dock would be complete without a trip to his favourite shop LOL) plus to pick up some other bits and pieces that we had missed from our original provisioning list the day before. I stayed watching the laundry and used the Boatworks internet in the Cruisers lounge to do some admin work plus also to look into the Australian visa renewal process. Our current visas are good until mid March so I need to action this around the end of February but just wanted to check it all out in advance.

Reunited back on board we hand washed all our boat cloths; did the engine checks; filled up with water; and stowed everything properly down below in preparation for our departure on Monday morning. On our return we had noticed that we had a new neighbour on a Princess powerboat and he clearly didn’t make it into the slip easily in the gusty conditions – look at the damage he did to his boat on his arrival by hitting the huge pile at the end of the dock. Ouch….that won’t polish out…. Thankfully he didn’t hit us!

Very early Monday morning we returned the car. I checked the freezer temperature only to realise that it had fallen over during the night and we could not get the compressor to restart. Damn, we had just filled this up too, so we need to get this resolved as soon as possible to avoid our newly-purchased food defrosting. We rang Rene (our “go to” refrigerant guy) for advice but he is so busy that he wouldn’t be able to schedule us into his diary for another three weeks – so it was down to us to resolve it. We realised that, until this was resolved, we wouldn’t be able to leave the dock as we will need shore power to support the freezer as below a certain level of voltage the freezer tends to throw a wobbly anyway. So I went to the office and booked us in for another day. Frustrating but these things happen…..

We spent the rest of the day trouble shooting the issue to no avail initially. We decided to swap the fridge and freezer units over. We can live without the fridge if necessary but obviously we had a lot of food in the freezer that was at risk. So I cleaned both units, reset their temperature settings, and moved the food across. The fridge responded really well and started to come down to temperature (although a long way from freezing at this point) and we carried on working on the freezer unit. With a bit of mucking around with gas and pressure levels we were able to get the freezer to respond and stay on. So, once it was stable, we swapped all the food back across again and hoped for the best overnight. Phew had been a very long and frustrating day!

Tuesday morning and the temperature in the freezer box was coming down nicely but still had a way to go. And the wind was howling too. So we decided to stay another day on the dock. We had a quiet day on board and even did another small laundry run just to make sure there was nothing left that needed washing on board before we headed out LOL.

Wednesday morning and we were up early. The fridge and freezer were fine, the temperatures were set, and we set off for Tipplers anchorage on South Stradbroke Island. The wind picked up en route and, to start with, we were getting a lift from the outgoing tide until we got to the Broadwater when the current was running against us.

We arrived at Tipplers and it was flat calm on arrival and not too busy either, so that was a result. We got anchored quickly and enjoyed sitting in the cockpit for a while – and, then of course, the skies darkened and it rained on us!

In the meantime a cabin cruiser (which had tried to anchor at least three times to our knowledge) decided to drop his anchor in the channel but then backed up into the shallows which we thought was very strange, but assumed he knew what he was doing. So when the tide went out he ended up sitting on the mud and despite efforts from others they were not able to pull him out. Later in the evening as the tide came back in he was able to get himself free of the mud and re-anchored with all the other boats. We are genuinely surprised by how many boats we have seen stranded on the mudbanks during our travels – these areas are well buoyed and charted so there really is no excuse!

It was quite chilly and drizzly in the cockpit during the evening so we headed down below for a Netflix evening. But we had a lovely sunset anyway.

This morning, Thursday, and we were up early and suddenly the big supply barge came in and cut between us and the green channel marker (so he was travelling outside of the channel). Was a bit close to say the least! We decided to give him more room for his departure so, once he was offloading the trucks, we picked up anchor quickly and got set further away. Was at least a lovely bright morning.

We had planned to leave here tomorrow to head to Peel Island for the weekend (making the most of the shelter there from light north winds) and then on to other anchorages near Moreton Island. But, of course, the weather forecast changed again and there are strong winds from the south east forecast now from Monday to Wednesday at least (plus a chance of a thunderstorm too) so we might just stay here and sit it out as we have protection here plus it is good holding in mud. So plans all up in the air yet again but we will just go with the flow – we are definitely getting used to the changeable Australian summer weather.

Hope you are all doing well at home despite the snow and hope to see you all again at some point later this year. With UK quarantine rules; requirement for covid tests; banned countries list; we are really not sure how long we will have to stay here especially since some of the major ‘hubs’ (eg Hong Kong, Singapore, UAE) are also not currently letting transit passengers through to the UK either. And, of course, we don’t want to abandon Morphie without the international borders opening so that we can return to her here in Australia. So we’ll just have to keep sending you lots of love and Australian hugs until that day comes. Take care and stay safe everybody.


Exploring Queensland: Australia Zoo and Caloundra

Thursday (28th January) we arrived into Caloundra (188 miles drive south from Bagara) and, once we arrived on the outskirts of town, did some food shopping in the local mall. It had been raining on and off all morning and the roads were very busy with lots of big trucks driving quite aggressively so we arrived feeling a bit weary. We got to our accommodation at Rumba Beach Resort at just gone 2pm so were able to check in immediately, park in the secure underground car park and then take the lift direct to our apartment. And, wow, what a place. One bedroom, two bathrooms (including a large ensuite with a spa bath), full kitchen, laundry, lounge, balcony the works. An amazing place and fully equipped with everything I could think of that we would ever need.

Having got ourselves unpacked and settled in we headed out to Happy Hour that was being advertised in the resort’s bar which sits behind the pool complex. Well this wasn’t great as the seating was not comfortable and the drinks were served in plastic glasses which would be OK if we were going poolside but not sitting in the bar itself. Oh well, never mind. After a short while we retired to our very comfortable room for dinner and a movie night.

Friday we were up early and on the road to Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah, to visit Australia Zoo. We had heard a lot about this place so were excited to finally visit. We were there 10 minutes after they opened the gates at 9am.

As well as animal exhibits there are also regular shows and photo opportunities to have close encounters with some of them. We planned our day around the main Wildlife Warriors Show in the Crocoseum and, first on our list, was to visit Australian animals. We started off walking to see the dingos – but the enclosure was sealed off as they were away on holiday (seriously) – so next stop was the cassowary, but again, the enclosure was sealed off as they were sitting on eggs right now. Next was the Tasmanian Devils and, again, the enclosure was devoid of life. At this point – hot and bothered in the high humidity – we were both wondering whether this was worth the effort and thought about asking for our money back! All we had seen at this point was a few lizards, a cute sleepy binturong and a funny crocodile statue.

But we persevered and this time we came across some crocodile enclosures. Richard was convinced that one was a statue but when we checked later we found his mouth was now closed so clearly a living specimen LOL. We saw native snakes and then checked out the echidnas and a variety of kangaroos, wallabies and koalas.

The enclosures are spacious, well laid out, and beautifully landscaped with many of the animals roaming freely so it is possible to get up close to the many non-deadly species. What made this better (for us) was the lack of visitors so social distancing was easy to maintain. But the lack of visitor numbers must be causing some financial difficulty for the Irwin family right now. Throughout the park there were lots of tributes to Steve and his passion for conservation work.

We headed to the parrot show and I was amazed by the white cockatoo who would jump on demand, come close for a photo while I was sitting on the bench, and would chat away quite happily. He was so much fun and we really enjoyed meeting him.

Then it was time for the main show. The arena was about 20% full and whilst we were getting seated the big screen was on showing Steve in all his glory. It was sad to think of such a charismatic character taken so early. Then it was followed by a video from Bindi’s wedding which, to be honest, was a little much especially when they declared that they would be conservation partners and wildlife warriors for life as part of their vows. They were even selling this video in the gift store….. Oh well, each to their own.

The show was fun with free flying birds followed by some salt-water crocodile action. Was amazing to see these creatures just doing what comes naturally and the rangers were very brave to be in such close proximity to these deadly creatures.

After the show, and some lunch, we passed the children’s water park which was very popular with the toddlers and their parents….and moved on to the wetlands where we came across a range of birds as well as some interesting dinosaur exhibits and saw some more small critters. Check out the colours of this tiny (poisonous) tree climbing frog.

Then we visited more local animals and saw our first wombats who were largely asleep in their shady enclosures. Much bigger than we expected them to be, with huge claws! One family, doing the (very expensive) VIP thing with animal encounters and a personal tour guide / driver, did get to lay on the grass next to a wombat but we saw them moving him to this event walking through the park on a lead just like a dog LOL and then onto a cart. He didn’t seem that happy at having his sleep disturbed.

From there it was into Asia where we tried to see red pandas and elephants but the enclosures were empty. However, we did see some teenage tigers.

Then onto Africa and, first, to Bindi’s island where there are lemurs roaming free. So we enjoyed spotting these little fellows along with their other island inhabitants, giant tortoises.

Moving into Africa properly we saw giraffes, zebras, five southern white rhinos and, finally, the meerkats. The African savannah was huge with lots of room for the animals to move around in and, as is the way here, the animals are not caged so it felt very natural. They must have spent a fortune on the landscaping, it is simply beautiful.

Now to the serious question – is this a zoo or a conservation park? Well, in my mind, it is both. Some animals are clearly at risk of extinction (like the rhinos) and others are endangered (like koalas) so the breeding and release programmes are fantastic (with animals that are not able to be released for whatever reason, living out the rest of their life in the park). But others (like giraffes and zebras) are purely there for entertainment purposes. The conservation side is definitely more focused at the on-site hospital. Any wild animal that is found distressed in Queensland can be taken here and is brought back to full health and released free of any charges. This is funded by their own charity so quite a special setup. While we were there we watched a malnourished and rescued sea turtle being checked over by the vets.

Overall it was definitely worth the visit and we had a great time. This zoo is 4,000 km2 so there was a lot of walking involved but, thankfully, it was mainly flat and there were lots of benches and places to take a breather during the day.

We got back to our apartment around 5pm, rested up for a while and then headed out to dinner. First we walked through the twilight market that was set up along the promenade which we expected to be artisan goods – but it was mainly food stalls with lots of people around.

Moving on we decided to go to the Drift Bar which is below our resort, overlooking the beach, but it was absolutely rammed with people queuing for tables. So we continued exploring and ended up in the Aqua restaurant sitting above the promenade. This was a bit of a find and we had a fabulous three course Italian-style meal with Richard enjoying his first glass of wine in nine months. Yum!

Saturday morning we were up early and decided to try one of the resort pools. But OMG it was way too hot as there was no breeze.

I had a dip in the lap pool but we soon called it a day and headed to the beach armed with our new shade tent.

We got ourselves set up and even enjoyed bobbing in the sea – which dropped off into deep water pretty quickly. Then, later in the afternoon, the currents got really strong and we struggled to hold our position. We then realised that people were turning up just to drift along in the currents – so we joined in. It was fantastic fun and we understand why the nearest bar is called the Drift Bar now LOL. It was tough to get out of the water at the end so we just launched ourselves towards the sand bar and, when we hit bottom, we crawled out. I had to get assistance from Richard to stand up but then we walked back down the beach and did it all over again…and again….and again. Was really good fun.

Later on we returned to the hotel pool complex where we bobbed with a cold drink in the jacuzzi but found the water way too hot. So we returned to our room and had a bubble bath in the spa bath instead! Cleaned up we then headed out to the (still busy) Drift Bar for a couple of drinks before returning to our apartment with the best fish and chip takeaway we’ve had for a very long time.

Sunday we returned to the beach for another lovely sunny although windy day. There is a very shallow non-navigable bar (for keel boats anyway) into this beach from the top of Bribie Island to the mainland. That said, we did watch the coastguard going out to sea through the surf and across the bar. Quite exciting! Whilst relaxing on the beach we watched a number of huge ships that were going up the coast – amazing that the ship channel can be that deep so close to the sandbars.

There was a king tide that day so the current was running even faster and we drifted along at about four knots! Here is Richard showing how it is done LOL.

After a lovely day enjoying the beach we headed back to our apartment for another bubble spa bath before going out to the Drift Bar for a couple of drinks before returning back to our apartment for dinner.

Monday morning we packed up our belongings and checked out of our apartment. A great trip and we had thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Caloundra. But we had timed our departure perfectly as the heavens opened and the rain was so heavy we had to pull over to the side of the road for a little while as the visibility was so limited. We got back to Morphie around lunchtime, pleased that all was well, unpacked, returned the hire car, re-opened the sea cocks and that was it for the day.

Tuesday we spent the whole day down below as it was raining heavily most of the day. Richard, in a very small gap in the weather, headed out to buy a longer snubber line, chafe protection and a new hook while I blogged. And that was it!

Wednesday morning we were up early to collect our Boatworks courtesy car and head to the doctors as we both needed to have fasting blood tests done. Mission accomplished we had breakfast out in the mall and did a bit of clothes shopping – a new swimsuit for me and shorts for Richard. The rain had stopped but it was very hot and humid with the threat of a thunderstorm later.

Back on board and I rested up for the rest of the day while Richard swapped out the engine impeller, cleaned the engine compartment, then put in a clean ‘nappy’. Later on, we headed to the Pirate Ship for sundowners and met up with the crews of SV Zofia and SV Mischief. It was a real nice change to have some company. They were staying there for a BBQ dinner so we left them to it and came back to Morphie and listened to a few tunes before turning in.

So that’s it for now. Our plan is to leave the Boatworks on Monday (if the weather forecast doesn’t deteriorate) and go back out on the hook for the month. So we need to provision up again and give Morphie’s topsides a wax and polish before we leave.

We are pleased to see that the vaccine roll out is speeding along at home so we hope that you are all coping well with the restrictions and that there is light at the end of this very long tunnel. Stay safe and well and here’s another Australian hug to make you all smile.


Exploring Queensland: Bargara, Childers, Mon Repos and turtles

Tuesday (26th January) – Australia Day – we were on the road by 7am heading towards our destination Bargara which was 269 miles and five and a half hours drive away. We weren’t sure whether travelling on a public holiday would be a good idea but we were delighted to find that, apart from around intersections to major towns along the route, the roads were pretty quiet. Richard drove first and then, after a couple of hours, we stopped at a ‘rest’ stop for a bathroom break. Richard went first while I stayed with the car. Then I headed into the unisex facility and, of course, I forgot to look at the ceiling before I sat down. But I soon realised I had the company of a huge hairy spider looking at me. I exited left as quickly as I could and told Richard about it – being very brave he headed in there to have a look. OMG this beasty was about the size of his hand and, of course, we had no idea whether it was venomous or not. Doing an identification check now and I think he was another giant Huntsmans. Have to say didn’t enjoy the encounter much LOL.

Quickly leaving the rest area behind I drove on towards our rented apartment in Bargara along the main Pacific Highway. About an hour away from our destination we left behind the main road and found ourselves in farming country travelling on twisty and bendy single-lane roads. The crops are varied (with much of the land given over to sugar cane production which goes into the manufacture of Bundaberg rum) and macadamia nuts, ginger and figs are available throughout the year. Other crops like melons, lychees and mangos are in season now and the harvest looked plentiful with lots of farms advertising temporary jobs and accommodation to help with the picking. The unintended consequence of the Australian border closure is that there aren’t the usual temporary supply of Pacific islanders or international backpackers and students. This is a big worry for the farming community and, in Queensland, they are desperately trying to resolve the situation with specific quarantine suggestions that would allow temporary workers in and stop the harvests being lost. But time is running out for some crops.

We arrived into Bargara around 12.30pm and located the Koola Beach apartments. I popped into reception to see if we could leave the car in their secure underground car park whilst we went out to explore before official check in (at 2pm) but were told, to our delight, that our room was ready and they let us take immediate possession. What a result! We parked the car and headed up in the lift direct to our apartment. We let ourselves in to find we had been allocated a two-bedroom unit so lots of space and very nice and well-equipped it was too. The only disappointment was that we overlooked parkland rather than the sea but we were only there for two nights so it didn’t really matter.

We relaxed in the air conditioning for a couple of hours then headed out for a walk. We found ourselves in the middle of an Australia Day party with lots of competitions for the kids and numerous food trucks. We had a snack whilst we wandered around and then left the park to check out the beach. Was a really hot and humid day.

Moving on we walked the promenade which followed the shore towards the main town of Bargara which was a fair walk away.

When we got to the town we headed to the Bargara Beach Hotel which had an outside veranda bar open to non-residents. So we had a couple of cold ones there while we debated dinner, not really fancying any of the offerings that we had come across. So we left the hotel and continued looking until we came across a small Thai restaurant so settled on that. We had a nice meal and then asked if they could call us a taxi – but the cab company didn’t pick up the call – so we decided to walk after all. Arriving back to our apartment we had a night cap in front of our large flat screen TV in the air conditioned environment which, for us, was a bit of a treat.

Wednesday morning and we awoke to a very cloudy and grey day. It definitely wasn’t a beach type of day so we headed inland to Childers. This town came into existence as a service town for the sugar cane fields and has a wealth of historic buildings. This, combined with the age of the unusual Brazilian Leopard Trees which line the main street, had led to it being dubbed Historic Childers, the National Trust Town. It is full of quirky sights, including some unusual statues, historic buildings and a link back to Oxfordshire with it’s river Isis and town of Childrey.

We enjoyed visiting the town and stopped for tea in an old Post Office building. Walking the high street we checked out the old medicine bottles in one of the museums and then spent some time in the military and memorabilia museum, before coming across the most moving war memorial to those who had served and been lost in past conflicts.

Having had a great morning out we headed back towards Bargara, around 40 miles away. On the way we decided to check out the Mon Repos beach and conservation centre where we had tickets that evening for a turtle encounter. Was nice to get a glimpse of the beach in the day time.

After checking out the beach, I used the basic public facilities and, this time, I remembered to look up but instead of a beasty I found a wild koala fast asleep tucked into the rafters of the roof. Amazing!

On return to our apartment we headed down to the complex’s small pool and jacuzzi area and enjoyed relaxing in the water – we had the entire place to ourselves.

Back in our apartment we got ourselves cleaned up and changed ready to head out back to Mon Repos for the evening when Richard looked out from the balcony to see large kangaroos in the park – so we spent some time watching them.

Then it was time to head back to Mon Repos for the ‘turtle encounter’. We were very excited about the prospect of seeing turtles but, of course, there is no guarantee with wild animals.

Mon Repos supports the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the Eastern Australian mainland and has the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting population in the South Pacific region and is critical for the survival of the endangered loggerhead turtle which is officially classified as ‘vulnerable’.

During November to January female turtles lay their eggs on Mon Repos beach (which is closed to the public from 6pm to 6am during turtle season) and from January to March young hatchlings dig themelves free and run down the beach to the sea. They then have to swim offshore for a number of days before they can have their first feed. Loggerhead turtles are omnivorous feeding mainly on bottom-dwelling invertebrates. Young loggerheads are vulnerable as eggs to predators such as lizards and then on their perilous sea journey until they reach adulthood at around 30 years of age where their only real predator are sharks because of their size. It is estimated that only one in a thousand hatchlings actually survive to maturity. The loggerhead sea turtle has a low reproductive rate with females laying an average of four egg clutches in a season then producing no eggs for two or three years after. Each clutch can contain up to 130 eggs. They have a lifespan of 47-67 years and can weight up to 450 kgs in weight measuring around 90cm when fully grown.

Climate change has impacted on the gender distribution of these turtles in the wild as the hotter the sand the more likely that the clutch will produce female hatchlings. The Mon Repos rangers are trying to conserve the population but they only interfere with the natural way by relocating eggs that have been buried below the waterline (where they would perish in the nest) and, to address the gender issue, they have built some shaded areas so that these clutches produce male turtles. Otherwise it is just as nature intended….

Anyway, we had arrived at 6pm for our 7pm encounter as the on-site parking was very limited and the off-site facilities were a long walk away. Of course we hadn’t checked our phone for text messages until we were there completing our track and trace registration. That’s when we found out that we should have arrived at 7.15 for our Group 4 encounter to ensure proper social distancing at the centre. Never mind, we weren’t the only ones, and we got chatting to a couple originally from Belfast which was nice.

We looked at the exhibits and took our own allocated table and waited and waited. And then we were called to the beach. Luckily it was the night before full moon so it wasn’t too dark. The ranger explained that she had spotted a couple of turtle noses sticking out of the sand quite high up the beach and she wanted to explore this clutch. Well, the mother turtle must have had a hell of a job getting this far above the waterline and digging this narrow tunnel into the hard-packed sand filled with vegetation roots. The ranger just swept away the top impacted layer and, suddenly, all these little bodies started appearing. They were left to escape naturally and then collected and moved into a ‘holding’ area so that they could be counted – this clutch had 98 hatchlings which gave us the opportunity to look at them closely. Only the rangers are allowed to handle them.

Afterwards we lit the way to the sea with our torches, the ‘barrier’ was removed, and they all ran to the sea (including across our feet at times). OMG what an experience – felt quite emotional and just hoped that they would beat the odds.

Encounter over we were walking back along the beach to the centre in awe at the power of nature and suddenly we were told to stop and not move our feet. Another clutch had dug their way to the surface and were heading towards the sea – it was a good job it was a moonlight night otherwise we could easily have squished them! What an unexpected bonus.

Back at the centre we were given certificates although the waiting time of almost two hours was the ‘official’ time rather than the actual time we had been waiting of course. A great souvenir though.

We then returned to our apartment for the night.

Wednesday morning (27th January) we were up early, packed and checked out to drive back down the sunshine coast to Caloundra for the second part of our adventure. You’ll have to wait for the next blog for the rest.

Bye for now. Stay safe and well folks.