Clan tartans on poles

Clan tartans on poles

After our trip up the Richmond River (see blog River of Lifting Bridges ) we continued our trip south. The next river on our list was the Clarence River. We first wanted to spend a few days on shore so we headed to Maclean.

We had heard it was a lovely historical town with more than a touch of Scottish flavour to it and we found it certainly has. All along the main road on the approach and through town the electricity poles have been decorated in different clan tartans with the name of the clan at the top of the design. The local bottle shop streamed Scottish music for the enjoyment of anyone passing and the best time to visit we discovered was Easter. That’s when the town holds their Highland Gathering and Games.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we travelled through and saw the stone police station, courthouse, other civic buildings and churches the town was appearing to be a candidate for the inspiration for the graphics to a children’s story toy town.

Image Credit: nswcourts.com.au

The local store boasted to being one of the oldest in continuous use in Australia which was easy to believe from the historical architecture of the store.

Apart from the architecture one of the best things about Maclean is that it welcomes visitors and cruisers with open arms. You can stay at the showgrounds for $10 per night. This is where we based ourselves for a few days. We had a view of the river and old timber bridge and at dusk sat mesmerised as thousands of bats left their colony in the trees near the showground.

 

For the cruisers the local council have put in two large pontoons with water, pump out station, toilets and shower. You can stay on the pontoon for 24 hours and they are superbly located on the main river frontage in the centre of town with everything within easy walking distance.

We were also fortunate that a good friend put us in touch with her dad and step-mum who live in Maclean and they very kindly offered for us to leave our Landrover and boat trailer in their back garden. This was a huge weight off our minds as we wanted to cruise for a week or more on the river.  So, after a few nights sleeping without rocking, we were well rested and keen to launch and start exploring the Clarence.

 

 

River of Lifting Bridges

River of Lifting Bridges

Our purpose for going to Ballina in NSW was to cruise the Richmond River. From our research beforehand, we knew it is was 237 kms (147 miles) long and had a sizeable navigable section from Ballina to Coraki or even Lismore.

Boat Ramps

By googling public boat ramps in Ballina we were able to see the location of the ramps and 360 degree photos.

The one of at the sailing club was wide enough with good free parking but was tidal and there was only sand at the bottom of the ramp when we arrived. At the other end of River Street, off Boatharbour Road, was another public jetty. We saw from our Google search that it had two pontoons so we headed there. There was plenty of room to rig Tatui and launch. The only tricky part is to avoid the overhead power lines and bridge at the end of the second pontoon. There is plenty of parking at the ramp, water at the fish cleaning station and toilets.

 

 

Navigation

It was easy to navigate up the river which was much wider than we had expected but you do need to be able to drop your mast easily. We eventually cruised 30 nautical miles upriver from Ballina to Coraki and then back again. It is a very quiet river once you leave Ballina. The jet skiers and water skiers all congregate in the channel in front of the town. The only hazards we had to navigate were the Burns Point ferry that crosses the river not too far out of Ballina, bridges, overhead powerlines and a short shallow section above Woodburn.

 

 

The first place we had to drop the mast was at Wardell.

 

As there were numerous overhead powerlines showing on the Navionics map * and bridges at both Broadwater and Woodburn we kept the mast down after Wardell. The bridges on this trip were one of the highlights. There are different types and designs of lifting bridges with amazing ironwork and mechanics with the one just north of Coraki looking like it had been constructed from a child’s Mechano set.

 

 

To see it you need to take the left-hand fork where the river divides at Coraki and after a very short distance you see the bridge. This is where we turned around to travel back down the river. Other interesting sights we encountered were the historical buildings and houses in and around the towns.

 

 

and a disused dry dock a short distance after Broadwater.

 

 

Depth of water

We had good depth of water all the way to Woodburn but we needed to watch the depth sounder after the town. In this straight part of the river it went as low as 1.8m and we had to zig zag until we could find the deepest channel.  It is good to follow the general advice when cruising rivers to search out the deepest water on the outside of the bend. Any vessel over 1m draft would have to be sure to take the deep channels of the river. We were also cruising after heavy rainfalls so might have had higher water levels than after a prolonged dry spell.

To keep our speed up and revs on the engine low we travelled with the tide that way we were able to do 6.2 knots with 2000 revs.

 

 

 Approaching Woodburn

Overnight Stops

Our first night stop was at Tuckean, a short tributary off the river at Broadwater. It was shallow with only 1m at low tide but was easy to navigate in. The entrance is opposite the major road construction just before Broadwater Sugar Mill.

At both Woodburn and Coraki you can anchor off the river bank in the middle of town and kayak in. There are small wooden jetties at both towns but we decided to anchor off. There are shops along the riverfront in both places.

It was at Coraki that we decided not to cruise any further as the river splits here into a much narrower Richmond River to Casino and the Wilsons River a narrow river to Lismore.

Our second night stop as we cruised back to Ballina was in the shallow stretch before Woodburn.

 

 

A peaceful spot in shallow water. We enjoyed a superb sunset followed by a very surprising summer river fog that made the first part of our cruise back to Ballina very slow in the dim light but a magical experience.

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other anchorages in Ballina

As well as our cruise on the Richmond River we also spent nights at anchor in Mobbs Bay, a sheltered anchorage behind a low small sand island behind the training walls. We also anchored in North Creek. We had to drop the mast to get under the bridge in North Creek and it is a shallow area but it is has pretty sand banks and is easy to navigate if you follow the leads. We enjoyed a couple of days swimming, kayaking and watching the dolphins and pelicans who shared the water with us. We can vouch for the good holding in North Creek as we had two huge storms come through on each night while there both blowing 30 knots on our wind indicator and we held fast. At least they were over by the time we went to bed otherwise it would have been a long time on anchor watch.

Ballina Town Public Jetty

 

*Navionics app:  https://www.navionics.com/usa/apps/navionics-boating

Celebrations

Celebrations

After our exploration of the Noosa Everglades we took a short break from roving. We parked Tatui in a friend’s garden to be an oversized garden ornament for 10 days while we attended Stuart (my stepson’s) graduation from university.

Tatui caused quite a stir among the neighbours. They stopped to look and even take photos of such a large boat alongside a heritage cottage in Towong in Brisbane.

We took the opportunity while family were all together to have an early Christmas lunch. In addition, we took a trip out to Forest Oak Drive in the Gold Coast to see the Christmas lights we had heard so much about. Russ’s niece has organised the lights in her residential street for several years to raise money for charity. They raised $40,000 this year and the lights on the houses in the street were most definitely something to see. They counted 8,000 people visiting on one-night last year. View the video below of one of the Christmas Lights to music show at one house.

 

 

 

After we had celebrated, quaffed champagne, laughed, eaten too much food, opened presents and found the spiders had started taking up residence we knew it was time to take Tatui back to the water.

We launched Tatui at Ballina on the coast in New South Wales. A lovely coastal town with a population of 15,000. We chose Ballina as it is at the mouth of the Richmond River. We wanted to explore the Richmond for a few days, being a much larger river than the Noosa River.

 

Even though we had 30c degree heat we made our boat as festive as possible while we celebrated Christmas in Ballina. We even enjoyed wine in fire candlelight listening to Christmas songs on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Day was a very Aussie affair. As we knew there would only be the two of us we indulged in everything we love for our Christmas lunch:  Locally caught prawns, scallops, Moreton Bay bugs, as well as prosciutto, Bombay potato/ cauliflower salad, tabouli, fresh baked loaf all washed down with Oyster Bay pink champagne followed by French profiteroles – heaven.

After a short siesta after lunch we paddled over in ‘Z’ our 2-man kayak to the beach for a dip in the water while we watched the comical way the pelicans land and feed. They water ski for a short distance when they come into land as for feeding well that is not quite so elegant. One way they feed is to take off for a short low flight and then nose dive to scoop up fish with their backends in the air. It looks like a badly aborted landing than an effective fishing method!

We hope you all had a great Christmas yourselves with plenty of good food and cheer which didn’t involve going out and catching your own unlike the pelicans.

 

Pumicestone and Bribie

Pumicestone and Bribie

After our adventures on the Noosa River it was time for some relaxation time catching up with friends and getting re-acquainted with family I hadn’t seen in many years. We headed to beautiful Bribie Island and launched Tatui for a day cruise up Pumicestone Passage.

                                               

 

Bribie Island is all about relaxation and enjoying a few drinks. They have aluminium banana chairs and tables on the foreshore for your evening sunset drinks.

 

In the marina we spotted a floating bar in front of one owners boat. All set up to enjoy time with friends after a day on the water.

 

As you can see we are very relaxed!

 

 

 

 

 

Follow the sticks

Follow the sticks

Follow the sticks Bruce said, and he wasn’t kidding. After our detour out west we headed back to the coast. At long last Tatui got her bottom wet in the Noosa River. We knew very little about this waterway but with some advice from friends about following the sticks we headed up the Noosa River, hoping to make it to Harry’s Hut Campground in the Everglades. The Noosa Everglades is one of only two everglade systems in the world apparently, the other being in Florida. The Noosa Everglades system is 60km long comprising narrow waterways with numerous well-kept campsites along the way for the kayakers*. There are 2 tours boats that also go as far as Harry’s Hut and this is where we were headed for.

With the anticipation that we would have to drop our mast for parts of the trip, we had the gantry which lets us drop it slowly and easily already attached to the mast.

The first part of the trip was easy as we passed the urban river banks where the local paper is delivered to your private pontoon and the houseboats came in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

 

     

 

We then met our first high voltage power line across the river. To be on the safe side we dropped the mast while we motored under. Our next hazard was the car ferry. A shallow barge that moves via cables along the river floor to get a small number of cars from one side to the other. All we had to do was to wait until the flashing red light on top of the wheelhouse was off and we zipped over the cables, hoping they were lying well under us on the bottom of the river. Another high voltage power line came in to view not long afterwards so we dropped the mast again.

Image Credit: Noosa Northshore Ferries

 

Following this, we had a wide empty river to ourselves as we slowly idled up the river to the first lake in the river system. Lake Cooroibah.  There were port and starboard leads which were easy to follow to cross this shallow lake. Another stretch of quiet river and we arrived at Lake Cootharaba. To help us navigate this large lake, with an average depth of only 1.4m and warning signs that in some places it can be as low as 0.5m, we used our Navionics app**. This gave us a suggested track and compass bearings to follow as the port and starboard leads into the lake finished soon after we had entered.

We decided to call it a day after cruising up the river for the afternoon and anchored in the lake in 0.7m off the campground at Boreen Point. The next day we would head further upriver and into the everglade system. It was our approach at the end of Lake Cootharaba that we came across the sticks. These were our only navigation aids as we approached the narrow passage around Kinaba Island.

 

 

It was very hard to see if we would need to drop the mast if the trees in the narrow passage were too low for us to get through. We took a risk and were relieved to see the opening was wide and unobstructed above. Once in the passage to Fig Tree Lake we even had National Park signs to direct us in the river system.

However, our approach to Fig Tree Lake wasn’t as elegant as we would have liked. We mistakenly thought the large right-hand fork in the river would be the main entrance to Fig Tree Lake. At the last minute we realised our mistake and changed direction into a much narrow entrance. It had overhanging trees with only a narrow path through the tree branches. With the angle we had come at we could not quite make it through without collecting a few small branches and numerous leaves as we snagged our mast strouds on the way through.

Fig Tree Lake was tranquil as we joined only a few pelicans and a couple of kayakers. We had already met some of the pelicans at Boreen Point where we saw they have an unusual way of keeping an eye on you if you are behind them while they are resting.

 

 

There are no navigational aids in Fig Tree Lake. We surmised that it was unlikely the National Park Authority expected this part of the lake and the narrows leading up to Harry’s Hut to be explored by a 26 foot sailboat. We therefore slowly and cautiously picked our way across the lake to Fig Tree Point on the other side and into the narrows.

Warning: This is a good time to give a note of warning. Unless you are experienced at handling your Mac/Tattoo or other trailerable yacht, can quickly and easily drop your mast and are prepared to risk damage to your boat we would not recommend you travel any further than Fig Tree Pointing Camping Area. See link to map at the end of the post. We didn’t suffer damage on our trip from Fig Tree Point to Harry’s Hut but we could have.

The narrows were not that narrow to start with. The first part is very wide but it got narrower and narrower. The tree branches were starting to encroach above our heads so we decided to drop the mast. However, with the mast dropped it then sticks out 5m behind the boat. This is fine while you are going straight but a different story when you must negotiate tight turns in the narrows.

 

 

In addition, you need to be able to avoid paddlers in Canadian canoes coming from the other direction. With a strong tidal flow behind them and even though they had four in each canoe, they were having difficulty steering to one side to pass us. We also had difficulty keeping out of their way due to the potential to snag the mast on trees as we attempted to keep to starboard of the narrow waterway. On top of that we met not one, but both of the tour boats right in the middle of the narrows. There were some very surprised looks on the skippers and passengers. It would be virtually unheard of we imagined for them to meet a 26-foot yacht coming the other way in the narrows. It was only through Russell’s boat handling skills that he was able to balance speed with manoeuvrability and adjust where and when he could to avoid the tour boats and kayakers.

 

    

                 Image Credit: The Discovery Group                                                                                                            Image Credit: The Discovery Group

 

We made it through the narrows to Harry’s Hut surprisingly unscathed. Harry’s Hut is a historical hut with campground and toilet facilities. Unfortunately, we were unable to tie up to the public jetties as they were all underwater due to the recent heavy rainfall. Here, however, is a wide area of the river system and we were able to turn around easily. With further rain forecast, we decided to head back through the narrows. The way back was easier in some ways as we knew there wasn’t a problem with depth or trees but this time the tidal flow was with us and it was pushing us much faster down the river. Again, we needed Russ’s excellent boat handling skills to navigate the narrows but at least we knew we would not be meeting tour boats or kayakers this time.

After a full day navigating a narrow waterway it was a relief to come out at Fig Tree Point. It felt we had got back much quicker than going up the river. Here we stopped for a beautiful peaceful night with no one in sight with the water reflecting Tatui and the surrounding trees like a mirror on the lake. It is easy to understand now why the Noosa Everglades and river are known as the River of Mirrors.

 

 

*Noosa River Map: https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/cooloola/pdf/noosa-river-map.pdf

**Navionics app:  https://www.navionics.com/usa/apps/navionics-boating

 

Puftaloons for the cowboys

Puftaloons for the cowboys

We walked into the kitchen to a delicious smell. Gladys, John’s mum, a lovely small, sprightly and chatty 94-year-old came through the door from the kitchen. She had her walking stick in one hand and was carrying a plate of what I was told when I asked, were ‘puftaloons’ for her cowboys. Her cowboys were her very hardworking son John, grandson Tom and nephew Wayne who had welcomed us to join them for a few hours on their cattle farm. We were going to help them tag and drench their cattle. We felt guilty that we didn’t deserve to tuck into the spread laid out on the table as we hadn’t helped muster the cattle. Instead we had arrived just in time to see the cattle running down into the cattle yards in a dust storm from their hooves. John and Tom were on their horses with their cattle dog trotting beside them as they drove the cattle from the rear.

They had been out mustering the cattle since early that morning and well deserved their break. The horses were unsaddled and turned out into the paddock beside the yards. Their cattle dog ran under the fence and jumped straight into the water trough to cool off. It wasn’t until the horses came over and suggested he got out so they could have a drink, did he reluctantly hop out and shook himself dry.

Having already had a full cooked breakfast before we had left Barb and John’s house, Russ and I knew we really shouldn’t have any morning tea as we had done nothing yet to deserve it. However our mouths were watering at the smell of the puftaloons so we couldn’t resistant trying one. A puftaloon is a fried scone made with flour, salt, butter, milk and then fried in a shallow pan of oil. The Carige Clan ate them warm with golden syrup. My verdict “they were too good for their own good” and lethal for the waistline unless you had been up at dawn and spent some hours riding a horse to muster cattle.

After watching Glady’s cowboys finish most of the puftaloons we headed back to the cattle yards. The cattle were jostling and mooing waiting for us to move them through the race and into the crush. Not the nicest experience for them but essential if they were not going to be plagued by flies, mosquitoes, ticks and any other members of the insect kingdom that wanted to feed on them during the summer.

As John let a few cattle in at a time into the first part of the race from the holding yards, Wayne moved them down the race. Russ opened the gate to the crush as I moved one at a time through the gate. Tom then closed the front of the crush around their necks to hold them in place. It only took a minute for Tom to inject them and add a fly tag to their ear. They then leapt out of the crush as soon as the neck gate was opened mooing loudly to join the others in the yard in front.

         

It was good to know that Russ and I were a big help to John and Tom for those few hours. With five of us working in the yards they were able to move the cattle through at a much quicker pace than they normally could do with only 2 or 3 of them to do the work.

It was even better to receive the compliment from John that evening that I had done well as a ‘cowgirl’ for the morning. He said I had naturally talked to the cattle and persuaded them to move into the crush with as little use of the cattle prodder as I could get away with so that they remained calm while they were injected and tagged.

After watching John and Tom that morning muster the cattle on horses we were able to ride a very different ‘workhorse’ in the evening. It was the newest addition to the farm –  a Tom Car.

A 2-seater off-road utility vehicle that can replace using motorbikes, quad bikes, and old cars on a farm. After Russ had a lesson on driving the ute from John we set off and had fun touring the farm to check out the newborn calves.

They are fun to drive if a little noisy but easy to fix. They are proving popular with farmers who can’t just pop down the road to the mechanic if they need a vehicle fixed as a mechanic’s workshop might be a 5-hour drive or more away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though we only helped for a few hours on the farm it confirmed that we would like to find other station owners that might need help in exchange for a place to park that boat and camp for a while as we travel around OZ.

 

 

A twinkle among the stones

A twinkle among the stones

We washed the stones then turned the sieve upside down on the hessian bag on the table in the sunlight. We had done this 4 times before but with no luck. Petula said I would be able to see a sapphire or a zircon immediately. It would jump out at me as soon as the stones were on the table, glistening all wet in the sunlight. I couldn’t envisage in my mind’s eye what it would look like when it did happen. However, as the sieve was lifted away this time, when the stones were in full view, there it was, I saw it immediately. The sun was shining through the stone twinkling at me. It wasn’t a sapphire but a zircon* but I still jumped up and down. Saying to Russ ‘look, look what I’ve found’ as Pet chuckled beside me, happy for me that I had spotted my first gemstone.

 

 

That was it, I was hooked. I spent the rest of the day washing the stones determined to find a sapphire.

 

After digging a bucket of dirt we put it on a rack called a Shaker Box. 

 

The larger stones stayed on the sieve and collected on a small tray at the bottom. The tray was set at an angle that tipped the large stones into a bucket at the side. Dirt from around the stones fell through the sieve and the remainder went into a bucket at the front.

 

To wash the stones, we had 2 sieves, one on top of the other. We filled the top one with stones/dirt from our bucket of sieved material. The 2 sieve trays we then placed in a steel ring over a half-filled steel drum of water. We moved the handle that was suspended above the sieve up and down in the water for a few minutes. This setup is called a Willoughby (wet sieve). The dirt washes through, together with small rocks, to the lower sieve. We then took out the top tray, drained off the excess water and flipped the sieve over onto a hessian bag. Pet and her husband Russell explained that gemstones are heavier so will most likely be in the middle on top after turning the sieve over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we processed each tray of dirt and stones we continued to find small zircon stones mainly orange and a beautiful deep red. Then I spotted it. When we flipped the sieve over a clear sapphire with a blue tip again leapt out at me as soon as the stones were visible. My very first sapphire find!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t stop then until every bucket of dirt was washed and sorted. I was lucky to find a few more small sapphires. To be sure however, we washed them in clean tap water then put them on the top of a torch that had been turned on. Only then could you see their true colours and their variety.

 

Unfortunately, gemstones need to be fairly large to be cut as half to 2/3rds of the stone is lost in the cutting process. So, all the ones I found were too small but the ‘thrill of the find’ of my very first gems was enough for me to have had a very good day searching for those twinkles among the stones.

 

*Zircon, is not to be confused with Cubic Zirconia which is man-made synthetic diamond simulant. Zircon is naturally occurring gemstone that can be quite valuable.

 

 

When weight matters

When weight matters

2,220kg the scales read. Not good! We couldn’t think of a way to lose any weight so all we could do was to start the long process to fix the problem. We needed to act to allow us to carry more weight.

It was, therefore, a slow start to our trip. Our first stop had to be Airlie Beach 350kms from home. An important stop, not only to pick up the boat where we had left it with a friend since the end of August, but now we had to stay long enough for Russ to do some urgent work.

We follow a Facebook Blog of owners who have the same boat. A recent post told us that a boat owner had been fined $700 and 6 points by police because the kg limit of the boat trailer they were towing their boat on had been exceeded. We have the identical boat and trailer and the trailer was the one supplied and sold to us by the boat manufacturer. We were therefore very surprised when we took ours to a weigh station and it was also substantially overweight. We hadn’t even filled it yet with water or fuel or our clothes. It appears the trailer was only rated for the boat and engine without anything else added into the boat! As the manufacturers were in the USA and we didn’t want to start a lengthy dispute and delay our lap around OZ. Instead, we bit the bullet and bought an extra new axle, wheels and braking system. Thank goodness Russ has built quite a few boat trailers over the years and knew what to do. Even for Russ though it was quite a process with 3 steps forward and one step back.

Nearly 2 weeks, $3,000 and 57 hours in the workshop later the modifications have been completed. Russ had added nearly 50% towing capacity to the trailer. We could now add more wine, beer and I even sneaked in a few extra pairs of shoes.

We called the inspector to check the work. This led to an internal wrangle with the government transport department because the inspector was only registered to check much larger heavy-duty trailers not a light-trailer like ours. We, therefore, had to take the trailer a few days later to a different inspector. This time armed with 3 different forms Russ was able to get the trailer registration amended to reflect the modifications.

At last, we packed the boat and set off. We were now officially on our way around OZ!

 

Why are the cockatoos screeching so loudly?

Why are the cockatoos screeching so loudly?

A flock of sulphur-crested cockatoos are long term residents on our friend’s property where we are staying. They usually make their presence known at about 3pm by calling and swaying in the tall thin trees around the house and some are cheeky enough to fly closer and perch on the hand rails of the first-floor veranda. One evening they started to make a much louder and a much more urgent screech all in unison. Those on the veranda flew back to the trees and they congregated as high up the trees as they could while continuing their screeching.

We went outside and looked around to see what had caused the commotion. There trotting happily along the border of the grass, occasionally dipping it’s head to sniff the ground was a dingo/wild dog cross. Click on the photo below to hear what it is like when cockatoos meet a dingo cross.

 

The dingo is related to wolves and coyote and is the largest carnivore mammal in mainland Australia. Unfortunately, domestic dogs have mated with the dingos to create a dingo cross, know as wild dogs. These are more dangerous than the timid pure dingo as they are not afraid of humans. As a result, they are not welcome on private property. We are hoping this one and its pack will move on in a few days so that they are not a danger to Rocky and Scarlett, the brush-tailed possums that have been hand-reared and recently released on to the property. Sadly, a large wallaby about 35kg was found dead on the property last night which Russ had to move from under the guest cabins with the help of a friend. Fortunately, it had only just died so the smell was only starting, which is how it was found. It is likely it was brought down by the dogs and had crawled under the cabin for refuge and died there.

It is amazing to see nature up close, but it is also sad to see the brutality of it at the same time. However, it doesn’t make me want to see less, only to learn more about the environment around us as we travel.

Rocky & Scarlett

Rocky & Scarlett

Our first stop on our lap of OZ is the Whitsundays where we are spending a week while Russ adds an additional axle and brakes to our boat trailer. These two adorable brush-tailed possums have been hand-reared by a young licenced wildlife carer after their mums were killed by cars when they were still in the pouch. They have been released at our friend’s property where we are staying. Although they have a box in the trees on the property they like nothing better than hanging around with us before they go off foraging during the night. However sometimes Rocky and Scarlett are a little cheeky when demanding we come outside and say hello to them and even trying to include us in their play by chasing each other around the veranda of the house at 3am.

The following night Scarlett managed to scale the fly screen of an open window and push herself through a gap at the top. Again, it was 3am and this time we found her climbing over the internet modem, over the phone and several pairs of sunglasses, which came crashing down, as she tried to climb on to the key holder and up the wall. Not the quietest of intruders by this time. A quick hand around her waist I was able to relocate her out onto the veranda to join Rocky and told to go and play somewhere else so that we could all get back to sleep.

Of course, they are always forgiven because they are so cute and adorable and make us all laugh.

 

 

Click the picture to view the video.