Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Debbie Does the Gold Coast

As cyclone Debbie smashed into the Whitsunday Islands and then made landfall at Airlie Beach in Northern Queensland a few days ago, our first concern was for the safety of niece Laura who's working in Airlie. She has a bit of a history with freak weather, have endured a full hurricane on a family holiday to Florida a few years ago, so we were very relieved that she managed to call us from a public phone on Wednesday to say that she was fine (unlike most of the buildings in the badly-battered town). 

Debbie had left Airlie and moved inland and was downgraded from a Category 4 cyclone to a Tropical Low so we had no inkling of the havoc she would then wreak down here when she moved south east and tracked down the coast.

On Thursday morning we'd arranged to come up the Coomera River to anchor off the Boat Works yard for a Raymarine technician to come aboard to sort the autopilot. We saw the forecast for gale force winds and rain so thought that being up the river would give us plenty of shelter. WRONG!

As we motored up river the heavens opened and we had torrential, stinging rain that limited visibility to only a 100m at times:

water sluicing off the bimini cove over the cockpit
When we anchored off the yard and phoned the Raymarine agent we were pretty shocked to be told that the government had just issued a severe flood warning, all schools were being shut and businesses were being urged to send their employees home before the roads near major rivers became impassable; they were about to shut their office. We quickly searched all the weather sites and realised that being anchored here would be foolhardy; we'd read enough to know that the vegetation being swept down a flooded river can quickly build up around the anchor chain, pulling the boat's bow down and potentially breaking the anchor out. Oh, crap!

Luckily a phone call to the Boat Works office was answered by Alana, who we got to know when we were here in November, and she found us a last space in their little marina. Better still, it was tucked behind (and downstream of) a 60ft motor yacht that would do a sterling job of deflecting any debris away from us so we lost no time in mooring up. We then bailed out the dinghy, half full of rain water after only 2 hours, and lashed it on deck, secured all the sails, double-checked the mooring lines and then watched as the river turned brown and swift.

Debris sweeping down the river, just where we'd been anchored
This short video clip may not play if you are viewing this on an iPad, but it shows one of several navigation buoys plus lots of vegetation, being swept down the river.

During the night the river burst its banks and crews on several yachts on the pontoons upstream of us took the decision to abandon their boats and sleep on the floor of the cafe, such was their concern about getting hit by damaging debris or even that the pontoons might fail under the strain.

As morning dawned, sunny thankfully, the river subsided and the clean-up operations began. The water was like cocoa but when we walked ashore we were shocked to see all the mud in the car parks and boat yards several metres above the normal river level. Apparently there was a real danger of a couple of catamarans floating off their stands in the yard when the water level peaked just after midnight.

muddy waters

A river authority boat with a collection of navigation buoys that had gone adrift

The water has receded and the mud has been hosed off the pathway but the electricity box on the right was engulfed in the flood

This was the high-tide line. Apparently the box started emitting substantial quantities of steam before tripping out

Across the river, the tide line, level with the top step, shows how close this house had come to having a swimming pool full of brown water
So we feel very relieved to have got through the night with no damage to Maunie but realise how close we came to a nasty outcome. In the yard the clean-up was done very quickly and efficiently and work was back to normal by midday. We stayed an extra night on the pontoon to allow the river to continue to drop and are now anchored off the yard to wait for the Raymarine expert on Monday.

Finally, though, no Maunie story would be complete without an improbable coincidence. Once we'd moored up on Thursday we received an email from Carolyn and Russel, a Kiwi couple we'd met on the Lake Waikaremoana hike that we did last February. During the walk they'd discovered we were sailors and asked lots of questions, saying they were planning early retirement to buy a catamaran to become liveaboard yachties themselves. Anyway, their email said that they'd bought a boat last June and they were aboard it, on the next pontoon only 20 metres behind us! Tiny world.

1 comment:

  1. Great story and that's a ridiculous coincidence re the "we're behind you" pontoon! Glad you're all safe here. We've just had ridiculous rainfall here, quite unbelievable. Xx