“Blooming heck, Florence is in a Marina! That’s an unusual sight!” called our friends from the opposite dock.
It seems we have developed a reputation among cruising friends for avoiding marinas. Why?
Life in a marina is never a relaxed affair for us. We always feel an underlying pressure because we are paying for parking, when we would normally park for free. This additional cost must therefore be justified by making the most of showers, laundry, provisioning and running water for cleaning, scrubbing and polishing. Marinas mean chores. Once clean and restocked, we develop an itch that can only be satisfied by leaving the comfort of the marina. The comfort begins to feel uncomfortable and our freedom stifled.
Like many other like-minded yachts, we had scurried into Mackay marina ahead of a period of stormy weather. With limited snug anchorages available, the cyclone safe harbour of Mackay held great appeal. Admittedly as we stared up at the grey, uninspiring fortress surrounding us it’s a strange appeal, the towering battlements of the stone breakwater reach almost the height of Florence’s mast. This is a long way from the secluded anchorages we usually frequent. However when the strong winds and rain arrived at 3am we rolled over in our bunk with smug grins on our faces and drifted back into a comfortable sleep, only faintly aware of the wind howling over the mast top. The smugness of arriving before the wind and rain was only magnified by the fact that the marina was offering 5 nights for the price of 3.
As well as avoiding the strong winds, another incentive to visit Mackay was to see Alison and Liam, a couple a similar age as us who also own an Oyster Heritage 37. With only 35 every built, it was an opportunity we could not pass on. Our only regret is that the weather and time did not allow for us to take the sisters out for a sail together.
Although our time in Australia has been extensive, our exploration has been limited to a very thin strip of coast line. It is usually both difficult and expensive for us to get inland. With Florence safely guarded from the weather in the marina, we rented a cheap car and set out towards the fresh mountain air of the Great Dividing Range. Our trusty stead held a few battle scars but nothing to dent our excitement at the possibility of discovering a duck billed platypus in the wild.
We are two people that are happiest when immersed in Nature. Nature’s cathedrals of Sea, Mountain and Forrest hold far more appeal to us than their man made equivalents. So breathing in the crisp clean mountain air and hearing the birdsong in the forest is our elixir. Some say that a change is as good as a rest and we felt re-rejuvenated. With excited grins on our faces we set off along the river trails in search of a platypus.
The platypus are small and difficult to spot. It took us a while to find one but when we did we were transfixed; sitting quietly, watching it continually diving down to hunt for food on the bottom of a pool in the river. We were lucky enough to find 5 in total which was more than we were expecting. They are extremely cute!
Along with our platypus hunt we had been recommended to take a dip in Finch Hatton Gorge. We can report that the water is ‘somewhat bracing’, and after stripping off for a swim we had to don all the clothes we had with us and run back down the trail in order to warm up again!
Returning to the fortress, victorious from our Platypus hunt we checked the weather once more to see when Florence could leave. With no improvement in sight for another week the drawbridge was still firmly up. Our feelings towards our knight protector had now changed. Our fortress had become our prison. We longed to be back out on the open sea, exploring secluded anchorages and resented this enforced period of stagnation. With the wind whistling through the rigging of all the boats in a marina, it often seems worse than it actually is. We discussed back and forth whether we should leave, whether that was sensible with 25 knots gusting 30+ in the forecast for the next 7 days. Analysis-paralysis. Eventually we decided we had become too soft; we are ocean sailors and have dealt with these winds many a time. So we donned our armour (foul weather gear and life jackets) put 3 reefs in the mainsail, trampled down the drawbridge and sallied forth to our joust with the weather. As we exited the marina we felt a little foolish; not because it was silly to be out there, but that it was silly to have such a small handkerchief set for a sail. It was fine. Really. So after a quick radio message back to those still imprisoned we let out more sail and set off for the Whitsunday Islands…