Nimrod left the Gold Coast in May 2013, following a refit after damage from a lightning strike. She has lived in North Queensland since that time; spending summer of 2013-14 based in Mackay, late 2014 in PNG, and subsequently in Townsville and the Whitsundays.
If miners can 'fly-in, fly-out' so can yachties. It has worked very well, and we have had some great sailing in FNQ (far north Queensland) and the Whitsundays.
But there have been times when we wished that she was nearer home for pottering about in and day-sailing on Moreton Bay or the Broadwater.
So we decided that we would use the month of November to slowly cruise down the Queensland coast and bring her home. We have also decided to do a major Pacific cruise next year (Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia), and preparing for that, and leaving, will be easier from the south.
Nimrod has been berthed in Abell Point marina at Airlie Beach for the last six months. We flew up on October 30th, and George provisioned while I fitted the new Spectra trampolines. The standard ones are mostly fabric, with small holes. They catch upward waves, and we have ripped ours a few times, mostly significantly on the trip to the Louisiades. I wanted some netting ones with bigger holes, and less fabric, so as to present less resistance to water. After some research I ordered some Spectra netting with 18mm squares. Spectra stretches very little, so the tramps are firm to stand on, and not too bouncy.
Original on the left. Spectra netting on the right.
One nice effect is that you can see the bows slicing through the water much more clearly.
We had a meal at Sorrento's restaurant with our friends Graeme and Enriqueta Nolan, and left the next day for Cid Harbour. Then down to Thomas Island, to a quiet anchorage on the south coast, sheltered from the north-easterly.
Next down to a lovely anchorage on the west coast of Keswick Island.
An early start at 5am to get down to Middle Percy Island. Sixty nautical miles.
Many boats are trekking south at this time of year
Middle Percy Island has a special place in the cruising world. It has an A-frame shed where hundreds of yachts have left their memorabilia as a sort of shrine.
Sunset off West Bay, Middle Percy Island
We spent an extra night at Middle Percy Island, round on the south coast in Rescue Bay. Very pretty.
A natural sculpture made of what looked like baked sand with a rusty iron content. Possibly volcanic?
Then an easy kite run down to Island Head Creek in the military reserve at Shoalwater Bay. Some parts of it were out of bounds, but the easterly anchorages were open. We went up the top of Island Head for one night, and spent another in the breeze lower down. A very special piece of wilderness to enjoy all alone.
Saturday November 7th. We set off south again, picking up a 18kg Spanish mackerel as we left Island Head creek. Then a lovely kite run in a strengthening wind down to Great Keppel Island. Just before we got there, we were hit by a thunderstorm, with major squalls and heavy wind. We coped well, furling jib and putting in three reefs in short order, before anchoring in Long Beach, on the south side of Great Keppel Island.
Sunset at Long Beach, Great Keppel Island
Exploring a creek at sunset
A possum on Great Keppel Island. Unusual to see one in daytime.
Nimrod at sunset, Great Keppel Island
Queenslander on the shore at Sea Hill, on the north-west corner of Curtis Island.
Shiny kit for processing coal-seam gas near Gladstone.
LPG loading dock
Sunset at Pancake Creek
Storm over Hervey Bay. A miscalculation here! We went from the town of 1770 to Bundaberg. Pretty gentle motor-sailing. All was going well, with the forecast for several hours more of peaceful weather followed by a southerly front and then several rainy days. We didn't much fancy being holed up in Bundaberg for several days, so thought we could press on to Platypus Bay on Fraser Island, and spend the bad weather in the Great Sandy Straits, which are lovely. Great idea, but the front came through before we expected, so we had to punch through pouring rain and a 30 knot headwind across Hervey Bay to reach Platypus Bay by 11pm at night. Nimrod did us proud, but it was a long and tiring day.
Walking on the beach at Platypus Bay. Fifty kilometres of magnificent sand all to ourselves. One of the few bits of Australia with a consistent off-land wind.
Osprey on the beach at Urangan
Sundowner in Garry's Anchorage, Fraser Island
George cooking up a storm
Mooloolaba fishing fleet and marina masts
Pelicans hanging round where fisherman clean their catch
We started a bit late on Friday July 17th, after driving from Blaye and provisioning in Marmande. First leg up the Canal lateral de Garonne towards Damazan was limited by the locks closing at 7pm. On the canal we could stop wherever we wanted.
First night on the canal
Learning about the long lunch in a shady restaurant - Vianne
Pretty girls in Vianne
Mary Poppins at Vianne
Exploring by bike
George posing for a Pfizer advert on a bike ride near Vianne.
At Buzet we took a lock to move from the Canal Lateral de Garonne, to the river Baïse. Different types of lock, and fewer places to tie up.
Chateau on the banks of the River Baïse
Under Barbaste railway bridge
Evening meal at Barbaste
Fireworks at Barbaste castle
Fleurette statue at Nérac. She was the teenage mistress of the teenage Prince Henri, who later became the first Bourbon king. She killed herself after he dumped her. Her name 'Fleurette' gave rise to the word 'flirting'.
Nérac night market. A lot of fun with food stalls, and live music. People friendly and happy to have photos taken of them. Right beside where we were moored.
Nérac is a delightful town. Some readers will know the film 'Chocolat', which stars Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp. It is based on the book by Joanne Harris, who has said that Nérac was an inspiration for the fictional village. She used to have holidays there as a child. More from Joanne Harris here.
Girl at night market enjoying a cornet
Crepe seller - night market
Jewellery seller - night market
Singer in an Eric Clapton cover band - night market
Paul grooving on music with his cigar
The canal bank en route to Le Mas d'Agenais
Early morning downstream of Le Mas at Pont de Sable
Some of the crew escaping the heat in a canal-side bar - Meilhan sur Garonne
George - contra-jour
Meilhan sur Garonne
Panorama of the Garonne river and canal
Sunrise over the Garonne valley
On Friday July 24th, we reached the end of the canal, where it joins the part of the Garonne River which is navigable to the sea, past Bordeaux into the Gironde Estuary and the Atlantic Ocean. This is at the town of Castets-en-Dorthe. By another stroke of luck, we arrived when there was another night market.
Man in market
Kay with her vaper
Surreal matchstick museum, with Palace of Versailles built by Gerard
A short video of the cruise on the Garonne Canal in SW France. HD version here.