12 May 2007

Hook Island, Whitsundays

Anchored Nara Inlet
Hook Island
Whitsunday Islands, Queensland

Happy Mothers Day!!!! We broke free from Airlie Beach yesterday and made the 7 miles run to where we are anchored in Nara Inlet. Nara Inlet on Hook Island just north of Whitsunday Island. It has a long narrow inlet that runs inland a mile to a very secure anchorage between two large hills.

The weather here has been really weird since the day we anchored in Airlie Beach. We had only planned on staying there long enough to get the alternator repaired. But it has been blowing 30+ knot winds and sideways rain since we arrived. It was quite comical trying to get ashore in Airlie Beach in the high winds and rain. Sandpiper was anchored quite a distance from shore because the bay is shallow and there is such an extreme tidal range.

We loaded up the dingy with all our laundry and trash, but got hit by a squall before we could even get away from Sandpiper. So we jumped back on board the Sandpiper to hide from the rain. When the hardest of the rain slowed down we made a break for shore. Amy held an umbrella over the bow so that the waves crashing over the dinghy's bow would not get us and our laundry completely waterlogged.

We spent another day on Sandpiper. It was so windy and rainy that there was no point in even trying to get to shore. So we caught up on a lot of movies and played scrabble.

Amy was not to enthusiastic about my decision to leave for the crossing over to Nara Inlet. But it had stopped raining, and I was itching to move to a better anchorage. We had 30+ knots of winds, just like the experts had predicted. It made for a most fun trip, with waves smacking over the bow, and stuff below crashing loose. Mostly it was a motor-sail with a double reefed main and staysail out since we were beating almost straight into the wind. The great thing about motor-sailing with the wind off the bow is that the faster that you try to go, the more the winds speed increases, which makes the ride even more uncomfortable.

The winds are supposed to finally calm down down to 20 knots tomorrow. Hopefully later this week it will calm down even more. We really are here to snorkel and swim, which is not much fun in the weather we have been experiencing.

Since we are trapped on the boat due to rain and wind, it gives me time to ramble away about the other 'FOS's (Friends of Sandpiper) who are linked on this website.

Our friends on S/V Shiraz are on the other side of Whitsunday Island at Whitehaven Beach. They have been anchored there for the last week due to the same bad weather. We are planning to meet up tomorrow at Tongue Bay which is about halfway between both of us.

If you haven't been a follower of their web site, you should check them out, because they have made a bunch of upgrades to their site. We got to see a preview the last time we were on their boat. There are lots of cool pictures, and even some short video clips of their trip. You might even catch pictures of us if you keep looking.

Our friends on S/V Blue Sky have been catching up to us since leaving Sydney a month after we did. They were held up in Sydney due to boat complications. They have taken quite a beating offshore that we were spared. They are now 200 miles south of us in the Port of Gladstone waiting for the winds to calm down. They are quite happy that they do not have to do any more overnight trips because from where they are now they can hop from island to island.

Our friend Chris on S/V Christa is on the east coast of the U.S. where he is getting ready to retire from the Coast Guard. Chris and I were stuck in same stateroom on USCG Cutter Morgenthau for 2 years. He has a new web site that is a lot of fun. Check it out. He is trying to complete all his last minute projects before he becomes a full time cruiser. You can find some pictures of "Team Sandpiper" on his site from before we left San Francisco.

As for Sandpiper, everything has been running really well on our trip up the coast. The exception is our alternator, which we just had repaired. This has been an ongoing problem for over 4 months now, and it just had gotten worse as time went on. Basically the problem was that when we ran the engine for long periods of time, Sandpiper's battery bank would get really hot. This is because the alternator would continue to charge the batteries after the charge was supposed to be complete. This became quite a problem because there is no way to stop the alternator from charging except by turning off the engine. And that is not a option when we are near land, or in a narrow channel.

When we took the alternator in for repairs at Port Macquarie, the electrician never really tested the alternator. He told us that we needed to buy new batteries. Without even looking at them, he claimed that the batteries were shot. This was really not an exciting option because the batteries that we have are quite expensive. And I had just installed them before we left San Francisco.

The electrician really had a negative attitude, which I found very strange being here in Australia. So we just decided to come up the coast without the alternator on the engine. We used the generator to recharge the batteries.

When we got to Southport we had an electrician come on board. He tested the batteries and found them to all be good. He showed me how to stop the alternator from charging while the engine was running. That trick worked, until we got to the Whitsunday Islands, when the alternator just decided to stop charging all together.

So we decided to come straight to Airlie Beach and we took the alternator to another electrician there. He found the problem to be the voltage regulator, which he was able to replace in one day! We are much pleased. Hopefully this will cure the overcharging of the battery problem. But I am sure that I am going to be staring at the charge gauge for the next 6 months till I am sure that this problem has been fixed.

Sandpiper has several different ways to get or make power:

  • When at a dock, we can plug in to the dock's electrical outlet, and have all the power we need.
  • When the engine is running, it spins the alternator, which makes power.
  • And when we are at anchor or sailing, we can make power with our generator.
  • We have a wind generator that makes power as long as there is a good breeze blowing.
  • If it is sunny outside, we have two 75-watt solar panels that help juice up the batteries.
Sandpiper likes her power. We have lots of gadgets running all the time and they eat up lots of juice. So to be without power would be a major disaster for us.

Wow.... That was a ramble. Hope you're still reading.

Tom and Amy

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