We bought a boat in Moreton Bay
Brisbane – Queensland’s Whitsundays? (Part 1)
We bought a boat in Moreton Bay …this is our story…
When I first arrived in Brisbane via first class sleeper train from Melbourne (I know, exotic right?) in 1988, the beautiful local girl I found to show me around (I have to say that as I’m still married to her) did a great job in showing me the sights to be seen in the city I was to spend the next nine months in (yep, I was an Expo 88 conscript). This remarkable tour took me to the Gold Coast, once at four in the morning to watch the sun come up over the ocean – something I hadn’t seen growing up in the West, and then to the Sunshine Coast and its glorious hinterland. As weekends came up, we’d plan another foray into seeing Brisbane’s sights …which inevitably involved leaving Brisbane – I saw Wivenhoe Dam before I saw Mount Coot-tha.
I do not blame Jayne for this as it seemed all Brisbanites saw Brisbane’s main benefit as the proximity to somewhere else close by – demonstrated by a peculiar way of compressing two-hour drives into the single phrase, “…it’s about an hour away.” I had people apologising to me for Brisbane, and I accepted it gracefully, adding helpful suggestions as to how it could be improved. For instance there was a weird system of ferries that would go across the river, but not up it, removing any link to other public transport. The river was to be crossed, but not travelled upon. Obviously someone listened, though there’s yet to be a City Cat named after me, but sharing my worldliness was the least I could do – there was potential.
Incidentally, after Expo, we drove a van we painted a white picket fence on over to my home state via Darwin where I did an abysmal job of showing Jayne anything at all – she still reminds me that we didn’t even go to Rottnest Island.
But I do digress. It is really only since my return in ’98 and sheer persistence that I started to pry away the rotting veneer of the coasts and discovered secrets buried deeply within the shame of liking Brisbane. My first epiphany, like many of the greats, was a result of drunken ebaying.
On October 1, 2011, Jayne and I started our aperitifs early, torn between sitting around doing nothing and planning our Christmas holidays. This was something we’d been stuck on with the contradiction of too much on offer with too little with a wow factor that we could actually do with regards to timing, budget, etc. At a guess it would have been a cheap bottle of red, our weapon of choice at the time, with another in the wings in case we got inspired.
Ebay came into the conversation regarding unwanted bookings, but a quick perusal on our two separate computers showed up, strangely enough, Gold Coast high-rises and Sunshine Coast getaways. There was, however, also an item for a houseboat hire on the Tweed River that caught our eye. By halfway through the second bottle, our research had ballooned out to looking at bareboat charters on the Whitsundays, until Jayne backtracked to ebay whilst I was off tangentially looking at Bushwalking the Whitsundays, followed by Captain Cook, then the Seven Year War – all the while sliding further down the sofa so my computer was on my stomach instead of my lap. I almost soiled myself when Jayne let out a loud, “YES!”, bringing me out of my stupor.
Some back story…
For a little while, we lived on a thirty foot sloop called Laafin ( http://www.laafin.org ). Our firstborn was conceived and spent his first three months out of the womb on board our little ocean racer/cruiser (Peter Joubert’s Currawong design for those of you in the know, but with a custom flush deck). It was our little protest to the well-worn track of getting married and buying a house. Anyway… boatless since a mad dash to Canberra in ’96, we have always said we’d get another.
She had discovered a twenty three foot sailing boat in the back blocks of Logan, as far from water as you’d ever want a boat, that was ready to sail and packed with wondrous extras like GPS and an autohelm, for basically the same money as it would cost for a week on the Whitsundays. The catch, and the great thing about drunken ebaying is that nothing seems insurmountable, was that it was sans trailer, and a long way to slide a two-tonne boat to water. We put a bid on it, then started planning our holiday, giving scant regard to the finer details like; getting it to water, what we were going to do with it when we got there, how we were going to store it and winning the auction in the first place. It had until the following Tuesday.
Images from the eBay ad…
Buyer’s remorse, aided by an aching head, kicked in the next morning, and we staggered between the idea of sailing again and the onerous task of getting it to water and the subsequent responsibility. More than once we considered blowing our good name at Ebay by withdrawing the bid, all the while checking to see if we were still the leading bidder. We went and inspected it, but instead of giving us a good reason to withdraw, it was a beautiful boat and the guy selling it was extraordinarily nice. By Tuesday our hope had whittled down to the idea that we wouldn’t get it for such a price, and that was probably a good thing. Then we bought a boat in Moreton Bay, telling ourselves that we would sail it for a while to get our money’s worth, then flick it – the fittings alone were worth what we paid for it.
Yep, we bought a boat in Moreton Bay. The Norse II had to be craned out of its Logan backyard on to a truck where it was delivered to a Manly marina and placed on stands for me to anti-foul the bottom to allow it to sit permanently in the water. I had managed to find the name of a guy through the Australian Aquarius 23 (the type of boat it is) forum that could help us with mooring it at Point Halloran, within spitting distance of Coochimudlo Island and covered by webcams (http://www.weathercamnetwork.com.au/point_halloran_se.html). Now I can always view what’s happening with the tide or weather, or just wish I was there. Being on a mooring meant we needed a tender to get to it, so in all we added an extra $1,500 to our $4,000 buy price, which still left us with a bargain.
On October 25 I sailed the Norse II out past the rock walls of the Marina for its (foolishly single handed) maiden voyage into a 15-20 knot breeze straight on the nose, for what I’d like to say was an uneventful trip. It wasn’t, but I won’t bore you with the details of losing the outboard from its mount, catching it in time before I lost it completely and the following test of sailing onto a busy mooring without power in a boat I didn’t know. The good news was that she sailed beautifully.
As Christmas approached, I would visit the boat with a family member – one time Cal and I overnighted on the mooring after getting there late – getting it ready for the four of us to test its ability to cope with four people living in close quarters for a week. It has five births, but the fifth runs back through a narrow passage under the cockpit, so the two sleeping on the double-length berth would need to be intimate. Luckily we stopped at two kids, so they each had a settee/birth. Meanwhile I researched Moreton Bay. Such is the secret society that is Moreton Bay boaties, there is very little information to be gleaned from internet research. I managed to find a couple of diary entries of visiting yachties finding a deserted beach here and there, and we’d already visited Tangalooma resort on Moreton Island sailing past on Laafin (Jayne refused to go snorkelling on the wrecks when a shark bit off the little fish she’d caught) and anchored at the curiously named, “Big Sandhills” that rises from the shore into big sandhills.
We discovered the batteries were shot, probably from the solar panel it came with overcharging more than anything, so we bought one new big one, and when January 2 came around we packed up our little white van (sans pickets) with victuals and made the fifty-minute trip to Point Halloran with a forecast for fun …and 10-15 knots from the East and scattered rain showers.