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    Re: The mystery of the Queensland version of the Marie Celeste.
    From: Peter Fogg
    Date: 2007 May 6, 07:18 +1000

     Gary wrote:
    > ... Nobody had
    > lowered the boarding ladder and the boat has high freeboard.
    Many boats are impossible to climb onto from the water. This big boat
    had a wooden platform near the water at the stern that could be let
    down or tied up. My own boat had a couple of hand-holds at the stern.
    More difficult but not impossible.
    > Tell me about Lord Howe island. I recently became interested in it after rereading
    > Chichester's book "Seaplane Solo." I found some photos of Lord Howe on line and it
    > looks like a very nice place to visit. I am planning to visit New Zealand 
    sometime and was > thinking of a side trip to Lord Howe. Is it really this 
    Its even more beautiful. The bay in the foreground of your pic is
    known as Neds Beach.
    Its famous for the fish feeding that goes on every afternoon. As a
    result it is a "fish infested sea" (from Homer, who was referring to
    the Mediterranean of more than 3000 years ago). Usually as one glides
    into an underwater coral garden, almost anywhere, the fish of many
    colours, shapes, and sizes discreetly move away, hide, remember urgent
    appointments elsewhere. We must look a strange sight to them. But at
    Neds they move towards you. As you turn to scan the underwater
    horizon, keeping an eye out for unmentionables, you see that there's a
    whole crowd of so many very different reef fish following hopefully.
    As I walked up the hill from Neds and away (had a yacht to catch)
    people were coming in from all directions for the daily spectacle
    taking place a little later on. Its great family fun, the kiddies lie
    in the water and watch the feeding through their goggles. Occasionally
    their parents are disconcerted to notice that among the fish lining up
    are sharks as big or bigger than their children, and just a short
    lunge (lunch?) away.
    In the lagoon where we were moored the water was clear and the bottom
    mostly sand, so that even at night we could easily watch sharks
    circling about our boat. In the morning another one turned up; only a
    small chap, probably a reef shark, with three much smaller fish flying
    in formation above his starboard fin.
    The permanent population of Lord Howe is about 280. There is scarcely
    even a small town as the buildings are mostly hidden by foliage from
    the few roads and there is almost no 'down-town' - just three small
    shops widely spaced. The main industry these days is tourism and the
    locals drive the few vehicles, mostly mini-buses for shuttling the
    tourists to and from the airport which was across the lagoon from us.
    The planes came in low, seemingly just above our mast. The tourists
    themselves wobble about on bicycles with little number plates bearing
    the names of their accommodation, eg; "Leanda Lai 17". They even have
    tricycles for adults unfamiliar with the skills of two wheels. The
    bicycles have a basket on the handlebars filled, typically, with
    flippers and snorkel. Although this must have been their peak period
    and the island small, the place was not crowded - us tourists were
    constantly on the verge of greeting each other along the bushy roads,
    as one does when crossing tracks out in a national park, for example.
    I was impressed that the locals always seemed to have a cheery wave
    for what must seem like an endless succession of total strangers as
    they slowly (speed limit 25 km/hr) made their way around. They all
    seemed to be called Snick or Wilson and frequently, one would imagine,
    both. It is a low key yet expensive place to visit by plane, lodge,
    and restaurant. Bali would almost certainly be cheaper. For us it was
    not expensive as we carried our own food, beds and transport; we just
    had the mooring fees and local tax to pay.
    Our skipper first visited Lord Howe as a youngster, by ex-WWII
    flying-boat taking off from Rose Bay in Sydney and landing in the
    lagoon. He says those holidays were like an excerpt from "Lord of the
    Flies", running wild with the local boys in the bush at either end of
    the island, hunting down and killing wild pigs with rocks. However,
    visiting by sailing boat was an ambition that had to be deferred for
    about 35 years. Back then his father had an ocean racing yacht. His
    brother must have been a few years older, as Robert was only 13. The
    two of them, in the school holidays, would wait for a southerly, which
    often means a storm, and set out for Lord Howe. Inevitably they'd
    break something; once it was the mast, and end up at Port Stephens.
    Probably just as well; I imagine the provisioning, let alone their
    navigational capacities, left much room for improvement.
    On the morning we approached the island the day came grey and heavily
    overcast. We knew that Lord Howe's mountain tops could be seen from at
    least 50 nautical miles (nm). We were all on the lookout, but there
    was nothing to see but low cloud. 50, 40, 30 nm and still nothing.
    Remko tried calling the island on our radio. No response. 20, 10 nm;
    it was a worry. Rechecked the waypoint entered into the GPS. It had to
    be just in front of us, but it wasn't.
    Then through the mist one side of Mount Gower coyly revealed itself,
    like a leg provocatively exposed around a curtain. Closer and the
    whole island opened up on either side of us. We caught a fish,
    coloured a brilliant and improbable yellow that faded with death to a
    dull and mottled blue. Robert said it was a Dolphin Fish, or, in
    Hawaii, a Mahi Mahi. The island answered the radio and Clive Wilson,
    who wears many hats apart from Harbour Master, guided us in through
    the North Passage by radio. Once into the lagoon he told us to
    "proceed on 120 Magnetic" then a little later "at your best speed"
    (ie; get a move on) and so we did, nervously watching the depth,
    consistently 2.6 metres, the bottom clear sand, the water beautifully
    clear. On one side the surf was breaking on the edge of the reef, on
    the other, beyond the beach, the green island led to the ex-volcanic
    twin peaks with their heads in the clouds. It reminded me of photos
    I've seen of places in Polynesia like Bora Bora. We were asked to pick
    up the mooring and attach two of our "best lines" to the chain, so
    that we were being held by three solid ropes. The lagoon is fairly
    exposed, especially to the west and we were rolling about for much of
    the time there. We'd done the 315 nm from the mainland in 48 hours at
    an average speed of over 6.5 knots, a particularly fast passage.
    You can see part of the lagoon on the right-hand side of your pic,
    with just a glimpse of surf breaking on the reef, seemingly just below
    Mount Gower.
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