Monday 7th April.
Today is a workday and Donnis took the free time to have a friend and her children visit. The friend Julia R is Spanish, she married an Australian, they have two children and she is excited about a trip to Spain to visit family at the end of the month. Her only suitcase was a bit time worn so Donnis donated one of our many suitcases.
Although late in the “season” cyclones can happen even until May. The last cyclone in May was “Charlie” in May 1986. Why am I telling you this? A cyclone called “Ita’ has formed in the Coral Sea. It is a category two and expected to be a category 4 by the time it reaches the coast somewhere north of Cairns, perhaps Cooktown, the last reasonable size town in the north. A category 5 is by far the most frightening and destructive and this thing has the potential to reach that category. That means around Cooktown. Port Douglas and Cairns can be in for a rough time by about Friday. We will probably get lots of heavy rain.
Tuesday 8th April
The United States Navy weather website gives a different slant on cyclone ”Ita”. They have it approaching the coast as a category 4 then moving down the coast.
Wednesday 9th April
The Australian weather website, BOM, also gives a possible southerly movement of “Ita” although it will still come close to Cooktown before turning so our friends in the far north, Glennis and Eric who live at the Daintree a little south of Cooktown and just north of Port Douglas could be in for a rough time. In the afternoon I washed WWWGO with the Gerni and a bottle of car wash. Gosh was it dirty. After the sudsdy wash I pressure brushed and a final pressure rinse left it looking, well, if not pristine, at least presentable.
Thursday 10th The last working day of my week. The big news in North Queensland this week is Severe Tropical Cyclone Ita. Severe means it is now a top range category 5. Winds at the epicenter are 280 Kph.
Drat. It could be a wet weekend! We had planned to take WWWGO away for the weekend to Seaforth. In fact we will still go and tolerate any windy or rainy weather…at least until the rain gets too heavy. Then it’s time to come home. Donnis spent a few hours yesterday and again today preparing WWWGO for the short voyage.
Friday 11th April
I think the long version of today will be appropriate.
Just before we left I called a friend at Seaforth to tell them we are on our way with one small stop and we would be there in time for mid morning coffee.
We left home just after 8am almost on time as we had WWWGO booked into a windscreen repair place to have a stone chip treated so it will not crack any further. The guy we booked it in with yesterday said 30 minutes …tops! The guy who took the vehicle today said at least an hour … if all goes well! Hmmm! This was our first delay. We had deliberately not hitched TERIOS onto the back as we also had to get fuel and it is a bit of a difficult petrol station to get into and out of. While WWWGO was being treated we went to the shopping centre to get a few items, then went to Bunnings ( a hardware chain) to window shop and arrived back at the windscreen repairers exactly an hour later. All done. Good so far. Then we got fuel (2nd delay) and drove across the street to McDonalds which shares parking space with other businesses and which gave us plenty of room to park. As we were coupling WWWGO and TERIOS I noticed a U-bolt was missing from one of the safety chains. Hmmm. An auto spare shop (Auto Pro) was one of the businesses so I trotted off to buy a U-bolt. (3rd delay) http://autopro.com.au/ OK, so far so good, almost ready to go. All we have to do is check the electrics and we are on our way. Ummm Errr! The lights do not work. OK so I clean all the contacts and try again. Same result. Nada (4th delay) It was hot out in the car park so we stopped and went to McDonalds for coffee, after all it would be something simple I could fix AFTER we had coffee.
Back in the car park I pulled the fittings apart and found one of the pins had been pushed back into the housing and as luck would have it I had left all my tools at home…except for a few pocket tools which have never been used. With grunting sweating and a fair bit of exasperation I finally got the pine back into place and the lights should work. Right???
No! Delay number six.
At this point I was ready to give up on the whole weekend or at least unhook TERIOS and take it home. I called a mechanic I knew who had his workshop around the corner and maybe he would know enough about electrics to get us on our way. He was out road testing a vehicle but his staff promised he would call when he returned. (7th delay). I waited 20 minutes and decided to unhook TERIOS and take it home when the phone rang. It was Steve from Airlie Brake & Suspension (ABS) who told me to bring the rig around and park in the street outside his workshop. Although the distance involved was less than a kilometer, without working lights it would be an illegal move but I bit the bullet and moved anyway. Steve checked the fittings. Nada. He unscrewed the fittings and used his tester. Hmmm! He said. Looks like you have a major earth problem. Right then and there I was ready to go home.
Next, in frustration he unscrewed the plug housing from WWWGO to look at inlet and outlet sides. The screws holding the wires in place fell out and the earth wire was loose!!! WOT THE!!! He put everything together and our lights umm err lit.
Finally we were on our way at 11.30am.
We arrived at the Mackay & District Bowmens Club Archery Range our campsite for the weekend just on 1pm.
While I set up outside Donnis made lunch.
The sun was shining and a good weekend was expected.
That is until the clouds rolled in, the humidity built up and the sandflies (biting midges or no see ums for our friends from USA) arrived. The cyclone was expected to cross the coast during the night but that was 1,000 Klms to our north.
For dinner our group of about two dozen went to the Seaforth Bowls Club for dinner.
About 10pm the rain started…about the same time Cyclone Ita, a category 4, crossed the coast near Cooktown.
Happy Birthday Donnis
We woke to full on rain and humidity and those biting sandflies were too much. WWWGO roof was leaking around the hatch. It was time to leave.
All the while rain was coming down in huge drops slamming against the windscreen making a loud noise.
We drove to the highway and left WWWGO at a roadside rest stop and took TERIOS into Mackay and visited daughter Averyl hubby Paul and grandson Anakin.
After a morning visit we then went to Canelands Shopping Centre for a curry lunch at Bollywood Bites and then went to visit sister Sandra.
The rain stopped long enough for us to drive out of town to Palm Tree Creek and hitch up to WWWGO and drive home.
Cyclone Ita had crossed the coast near Cooktown but instead of tracking in a westerly direction and turning into a rain depression as cyclones usually do it did a left turn and started tracking along the coast on the land side. Still a cyclone it has become a category one. It is expected to track south just on or off the coast bringing strong winds, heavy seas and heavy rainfall of up to 1500mm.
We called friends Glennis & Eric who own a house in the rainforest in The Daintree, midway between Cooktown and Cairns. Although they are high enough in the hills not to have flooding problems they are concerned about the wind. They had packed up two days earlier and moved their caravan to Ravenshoe which is the highest point in Quueensland and west of Cairns. Eric I supposed to fly out of Cairns tomorrow but it is doubtful if the airport will be open. At least they should be away from the main destructive winds but are still copping all the rain. They have no idea if they still have a house when Glennis returns home next week.
Sunday 13th April
Heavy rain started during the night but came in patches.
Further north in Townsville my daughter Shelley reported flooding in the area around her suburb. She is cut off from her usual shopping centres.
The rain and wind increased during the afternoon and our roof gutters, with leaves cleaned out two weeks ago began to overflow. The amount of rain was just too much for the downpipes to handle. Our house is nicely tucked into the hillside and we are high enough above any creeks and the coast to avoid any flooding or tidal surge. The only things which can bother us is the wind strength and or volume of water against windows and doors. Or a tree being blown on the house. Earlier in the afternoon I saw a tree branch being blown onto the street from a neighbours yard. Around 4pm when the wind and rain seemed to be at its worst, the power went out. Power did not come back until almost 9pm. When the eye of the cyclone was passing a strange calm occurred with wind and rain falling away. We went for a drive to Cannonvale Beach and along the Airlie Beach foreshore.
The waves rolling into the beach I have ever seen here. One yacht had run up on the rocks near the entrance to the sailing club rockwall. It was a sad sight watching the boat being pounded by the relentless waves especially in a bay which is normally mill pond calm.
Boats on moorings or even worse, on anchor, in Airlie Beach cannot get insurance. Without insurance they cannot enter a marina either.
Although power was out in Jubilee Pocket, three Klms away at Airlie Beach the power was on and Woolworths were doing a roaring trade.
While we were out when the eye passed Airlie with the opposite side of the eye the wind direction changed and rain came in through our open windows on that side of the house.
We managed to cook dinner on our gas stove with the aid of seven candles.
As I write this the cyclone has continued over Airlie Beach and to move south and out to sea although the wind is still very strong.