Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pancake Creek, Mostly

We left Mooloolaba just before sunset and we felt sick. There wasn't enough wind to steady the boat's motion, and the piddling little swell kept us jerking back and forth in an unpredictable way. Alisa and I both felt miserable, immediately.

"I can't believe we were just talking about sailing to Patagonia," she said.

The night before we had been inspired by the video that our friends on Six Pack had shot in southern Chile, our imaginations stoked by the idea of heading there ourselves.

"I mean, we're getting sick outside Mooloolaba," she added.

The only person on board who wasn't sick was Elias. He sat in the cockpit, completely unruffled, and asked us why.

"Why does a motor boat float?"

"Because that's what boats are designed for, honey."


"Just because."

"Oh. Why do sailboats float?"

"No more questions, honey."


Alisa and I were gruff with each other, and short with him. Seasickness is death on tolerance for other people, no matter if those other people are your spouse and adorable child. Alisa even came up from the cabin when she was getting Elias ready for bed and hugged the rail for a moment, just on the verge of throwing up.

But we had that useless kind of seasickness that makes you unable to do anything properly - you can't even throw up when you need to.

"Right now," I said after choking down my dinner of one steamed sweet potato, "living in a house and going to a soul-destroying job every day sounds pretty good."

Eventually we got over it. We sailed into the night and left the seasickness behind. But the bug that has been stalking Alisa off and on for the last few months flared up again, and she had to return to her bunk only two hours after she relieved me on watch. Taking into account the state of the crew, we ditched our plan of sailing straight through for 36 or 48 hours and pulled into Great Sandy Strait, the first haven to the north. Here's me and Elias, in the cockpit at anchor the next day. See if you can tell which person slept the night through and which slept two hours:

We made it to Bundaberg the next day, taking advantage of our knowledge of the very well-lit entrance to arrive after dark. In Bundie Elias helped his great-uncle Ken collect eggs from the chooks:

We left Bundaberg after only a day. We're on a mission to meet up with our Iluka friends Miles and Melissa in the Whitsundays on August 24th, so no dallying for us. A long day took us to Pancake Creek, farther north than we have yet been in Oz. That night we celebrated my 41st birthday:

When it came time to make a wish, I thought to myself, "There's nothing else I want." And then I blew out the candles.

The next morning, since we were in Pancake Creek, we breakfasted on pancakes in the cockpit:

Later Elias helped me fix the compass light:

Northerly winds set in, so we stayed put in Pancake Creek. Luckily there were great tidal flats to walk:

And some birding to do:

And we went on a great "bushwalk" up the hill to the Bustard Head light, and over the hill for this view of what I am told is the second spot that James Cook went ashore in Oz:

We met some very nice people among the 15 or so boats that were anchored in Pancake Creek, mostly waiting for the northerlies to pass. We did notice, however, how overwhelmingly retirement-age the demographic was on other boats.

"Why are there no other kids on these boats?" Elias asked.

Pancake Creek was beautiful, though it's also an inscrutable beauty. We're learning the birds, but everything else is completely mysterious to us: the flora, the geology, the indigenous culture and history. So different from being in Alaska, where we lived long enough, and arrived early enough in our lives, to make ourselves feel so much at home. And at the same time that Australian natural history is so foreign, the human side of the country has this very non-exotic, proto-North American feel. Very strange combination...

So, our march north continues. We left Pancake Creek, and have crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, and so are back in the tropics that we have begun to love so much. Every yacht anchorage and every town that we stop in is a place where we've never been before, but also somewhere fairly familiar just because it is Australian, and so repeats what we've experienced elsewhere in Oz.
We're in a marina today, in to run some quick errands in town and to get a mechanic to take a look at the diesel. The winds are forecast to come up strong from the south tomorrow, so we're looking forward to some good traveling. Meanwhile, Alisa and I have both had a funny feeling of loneliness as we toodle up the Queensland coast. There are no other foreign-flagged yachts about, as they have mostly left Oz for the cyclone-free season in the tropics. So we're without the company of fellow voyaging sailors, a group of people who are always capable of surprising us with sudden good friendship. Aside from the close interaction among the family on board, our social life mostly consists of waves to other boats and brief conversations with strangers. We miss the state of belonging to some sort of community, even if it is the ever-so-loose community of vagabonding sailors.
So it's good to have the visit with our Iluka friends before us, and the goal of meeting them in the Whitsundays to spur us along.

1 comment:

  1. All the cruisers are up here in Northern Queensland. Pretty darn crowded at Lizard Island!