Welcome to this edition of Southern Cross Enews. As winter appears with a bang here in South East Queensland we are reminded just how lucky we are to live at this latitude. As I look out across the Bay this winter weather can only be described as magnificent. Not a cloud in the sky, a pleasant 20 degrees and a not a zephyr of wind to ruffle the azure sea, the Sandhills on Moreton Island crystal clear in the perfect visibility. I spent much of  the Easter break, marvelling at just how perfect the sea can be in completely clam conditions, ‘perfect ‘ if it hadn’t been from the cockpit of Oceans during the Brisbane to Gladstone Race. Yes dear reader, at 530 on the Sunday night of this year’s great race, we reluctantly retired from the race. At that time we had moved 6.4 Nautical Miles in the previous 8 hours [all by tide], the GPS had our ETA to Gladstone sometime in August, and we were running out of that most essential of all commodities, humour.

The race began in a light northeaster, the sky thick with helicopters as we competitors manoeuvred through the thousands of spectator craft around the start line. Even from a mile offshore we could hear the cheers from the hundreds of thousands of spectators lining every vantage point of the Sandgate shoreline. Ok I am talking it up but there was a good spectator fleet this year! From the 5 minute gun we slapped a tight cover on Blackjack and the 66 foot Alive, both of them weaving through the fleet to try and shake us, but we stuck to them like Velcro on a sheep. As the gun boomed out to start the 67th edition of the great race we were perfectly positioned underneath all the big boats, giving us alone a short opportunity to practice sailing in no wind – very useful given what was to come. The first leg to Redcliffe took about 2 hours, about a 1 hour fifteen minutes more than it would have taken to walk there.  As we began the long slow beat out of the Bay, I started mentally running through the ship’s stores and the smokers started counting their packets as the biggest high pressure system in history began to drift towards the coast. We rounded the fairway buoy at 830 and settled into a light north-westerly that kept as moving at a steady 6 knots all night and by dawn were well up the island. Our plan to stay on the rum line had worked well against all our opposition inshore and we were 2nd overall in both PHS and ORCi divisions. They should have stopped the race then.

After dawn the westerly slowly faded from seaward and all of our group sailed back up to us and about ten of us- 4 0footers and rafts [that is a mono hull expression of endearment for our colleagues competing in the multihull fleet] were gybing in and out of the beach up past Indian Head and along the coast to the Cape. Absolutely spectacular sailing all day. As we enjoyed the second sun of the race we were  15 miles from Breaksea spit light with the wind going north {the exact course to the light of course] and getting lighter. Naturally the tide began to flood as well and we enjoyed a long evening in a tacking duel with 2 ‘rafts’ (a cat and a tri). It was our one hull against their five!

For the last 1hour before rounding the light we were tacking through 160 degrees. I thought we had become infected by them but it was just the tide. Dawn on the third day of the race saw us 5 miles from Lady Ellliot Island. Sadly sunset on that day saw us still 5 miles away from that same Island.

By 9am there was not a breath of wind, the sea like a mirror and that is how it stayed all that day.

Yes for a while we all sat to leeward and someone held the wheel, but after an hour or so we got sick of that and started getting bored. We ate, picked on the bowman, told the same jokes and I did some cleaning and read the engine manual. Occasionally a dark patch of wind would appear and we would call them to us like a bunch of unshaven, balding sirens, but it never came. As the day wore on boats around us would start their engines, drop their sails, wave and motor away towards Gladstone.  One of our team mates appeared from over the horizon (they were along way behind) motored a circle around us drinking beer and singing ’Margaretville’ before disappearing over the horizon. I dreamed of them running out of fuel.

I was quite content to stay out there. I like being on my boat, the weather was beautiful and, well with all respect, Gladstone isn’t exactly the Caribbean. But there were planes to be caught and showers to be had, and as there were certainly no trophies to be had, we decided to pull out and motor into the ’Jewel of the mid coast’. Oh well there is always next year.

Next week is a different matter and we have places available with two 5 day boats out. The staff are even making me skipper one!

So with that the end of any windless conditions for this year, we still have places available for our offshore trips this year returning from Yeppoon on 6 August and to and from Airlie Beach in September.

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