Circumnavigating Australia Part 5

Gloucester Passage to Fitzroy Island

Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club at Monte’s

Monday – 27/08/2012

Well the first day at the anchorage with 20 other boats and during the day the amount was growing with many that we know and some that we don’t this was to be the trend for the week some boats arriving on the big party day which was the Parrot Head Party on Saturday making the total number of boats of 140, last year there were 80 boats. On the Friday we had the picnic day on Shag Islet with a total of 350 people attending this is well over the 260 people that we had last year.

People have come from all over Australia and a large number did not bring their boats they flew in or drove here all the places of accommodation were fully booked out and also the campground where people used tents or caravans.

(Sunrise at Gloucester Passage)
(Chart of Gloucester Passage)

(Chart showing anchorages outside Monte’s Resort)
(Chart showing anchorages and moorings near Eco Resort)
Passage Islet is also known as Shag Islet
(Shag/Passage Islet from the beach)

The events started on Thursday with the meet and greet at sundowners this year with a singing artist that went for many hours and the dancing and drinking started. Some of the members worked hard Susan and Mark off ‘La Scandell’ worked many days taking new memberships applications amongst other things. Nancy was the official photographer so I did not see much of her, I also helped with being runner for the raffle draw and selling the wrist bands for the Parrot Head Party and also doing a little photography.

(Maree and George getting married)

Prior to the Parrot Head Party we had George and Maree’s wedding (off yacht ‘ Warpdrive’) on the beach, Nancy and I were the photographers for that, all our services were given free. George and Maree are a great couple and after their long engagement of around 30 years they thought they would tie the knot.

Following the wedding everyone assembled on the beach in front of Monte’s for the clubs group photo this year it was taken from the air with Nancy and Mark flying in a helicopter. I covered the ground photos for that time.

(Monte’s Resort)

Many people dressed up for the party and it was a great night good music, good food and good people. The raffle prizes were drawn and there were many of them with some great prizes, one item was a fully paid for charter catamaran for the period of this clubs turn out next year. The raffle draw was followed by the auction of other items with the main item being worth $9,500 for a charter boat for Lan Cowie Malaysia with the bidder paying $9,400 for. This is how generous some people are as all the money goes to Prostate Cancer Foundation, so basically the person that bid that much for it was really giving a donation and getting something nice for it. It was a top night with over $27,000 raised for the charity.

(Ken and Rhonda founders of the SICYC)
(Some of the members at the start of the party)
(Group photos at the Parrot Head Party)

Sunday it was the day of the Pirates, we were taxied to Dingo Beach Pub some 20 minute drive where the Pirates Party was held. There were many well dressed pirates and wenches at the party. Another great day and the club ended up with the $30,000 to give to the Prostate Cancer Charity.

(My Nancy and yours truly at the Pirates Party)
(Three pirate lasses)
(Pirates and wenches)
(Pirate wenches)

It is now Monday and we did intend to sail today, however, we do not have any decent wind to sail by so we will stay another day.

Gloucester Passage to Townsville

Tuesday – 28/08/2012

Our original plan was to sail yesterday but there was little wind so we decided to stay and prepare some of the photos that we had taken, it turned out to be a busy day. We contacted George about his wedding photos and he invited us over for sundowners. Nancy still has work to do on the wedding photos but I had the ones I had taken finished so at least it gave them some photos to show family and friends.

Nancy had worked to get some photos of the clubs party days as they were in big demand by Ken for newspaper articles this will keep her busy for many days.

Sundowners last night with George, Maree and many others lasted many hours and we poured ourselves home, George likes topping your wine glass up so you don’t know how many glasses you are drinking and I have a weakness for red wine.

Never the less we were up this morning before first light and got everything ready to sail, as first light appeared we weighed anchor as did some others some going south some going north, we and 11 other yachts went north some steady cruisers and some that like to race. They often say one yacht is a cruiser two is a race, but considering it is race week at Magnetic Island and some of these yachts are heading there for that I stay a cruiser I don’t even attempt to race them. They are already lightened for racing we are almost maximum load at a total of 14,000kgs, we are 10,500kgs bare, yes that is heavy for a catamaran but it is a good sea boat. Given the right winds we can sail at 10 – 14 knots not that I try I prefer to sail around 7 to 9 knots more comfortable and less of putting the hand in the pocket for repairs.

(Suns up)

The fast yachts left sometime after us we left with about four others, the winds were not great and those with spinnakers had the advantage. The first yacht to leave for north was a Voyager catamaran that aren’t a really good yacht for speed and it floundered in the light winds. I met a bloke with one of these yachts a few years ago and he said that the sails were for the purpose of making it look like a sailing vessel, he had two 100hp engines in his and said that is the only way he sails. We did pass the Voyager early in the sail, I was taken by a monohull that appeared to be doing very well and passed us about an hour out he left just after us but when talking to him this morning on the radio he stated there was not enough wind to get him going so he had the engine idling over. We saw our first whale for the day just after leaving it surfaced just off our starboard bow.

The winds were good to start with but backed off near Abbots Point for a while which was just before a wind change, we sailed wing on wing in these lighter winds as the wind was almost directly behind us. At the change the wind was stronger but now right on our stern and the waves picked up with the tide change this caused the mainsail to slap shaking the wind from the sails. We dropped the mainsail and went under genoa (headsail) only and I used the additional sheets (ropes) on the sail through a pulley on the stern port side to hold the sail out wide our speed dropped to around 4.5 to 5 knots but it was a great day and we just enjoyed the sail at cruising speed. The faster yachts put the spinnakers out again. We all anchored within an hour of each other with a total of twelve yachts anchored at Cape Upstart.

Cape Upstart anchorages –

(Approaching Cape Upstart)

There are a number of places to anchor at Cape Upstart shown on this chart. Care should be taken if entering in the dark as there are some close rocks there are navigational marker lights at the danger areas. The holding is good in the sandy areas. The water shallows to 4-5 metres a fair way from the beach and many people get as close in as possible to reduce any bullets of wind.

(Cape Upstart red dots anchorages for different wind and wave conditions)
(Anchored at Cape Upstart)

There is another anchorage that you do not find in guide books for the occasional south – south westerly winds and that is a small beach the eastern side of the Cape.

Wednesday – 29/08/2012

(Sunrise at sea)

Early start weighing anchor at 0400 hours, wind was better than expected and we sailed under genoa to start with as it was dark the moon had gone and I did not want to go too fast due to the whales in the area. I don’t want to hit one but if it did happen I only want to be at slow speed. We were the first to leave and a few others followed a short time after they were under full sail and caught up just as sun was rising. We furled the genoa and turned into the wind and hoisted the mainsail set course and unfurled the genoa again. Seas were a little sloppy as they came from the side but we sailed quite well. Soon after sunrise we saw a whale and it’s calf but again by the time we got the cameras they were well south of us. We saw four lots of whales around the Cape Bowling Green area I did manage to get a couple of shots with these although not that great.

(Chart Cape Bowling Green, not a great anchorage only in calm weather)
(Passing Cape Bowling Green)
(Whale breaching)
(Whale Breaching)

As we change course around Cape Bowling Green the wind died down, I was able to sail by tacking for some miles but that soon failed with winds under 10 knots so it was time to kick an iron sail into action, the starboard engine was started and we motor sailed to Townsville. We could not get into our favourite marina the Townsville Yacht Club because the Magnetic Island Yacht Race and the fishing competition is on at present and they are fully booked so we got into the Breakwater Marina. This marina could do with a little TLC on some of the older docks. The staff are very friendly and helpful though. A few years ago they knocked down the small shopping complex that was in the marina to make way for more blocks of units once the land was cleared everything stopped obviously due to the economic downturn. Getting in and out of the marina cannot be done at low tide we entered 2 hrs 30 minutes after low tide and the shallowest point was 2.7 metres we draw 1.4 metres draft.

We will stock up clean the boat do a large wash of the cloths, sheets and towels over a couple of days and then we will head to Magnetic Island.

Townsville and Magnetic Island

Thursday – 30/08/2012

(Approaching Townsville)

Today is clean up day we gathered the dirty washing and Nancy headed for the marina laundry and I got ready to give the boat a good scrub down and fill the water tanks, whilst the washing was in the machines Nancy came back and started to clean cabins and heads. We had contact with Virginia on ‘Overproof’ and we did some movies exchanging and also Jan and Trevor on ‘Nefetiti’ who had sailed alongside us from Gloucester Passage and we went over to ‘Nefetiti’ for sundowners at 1700 hours. We had not seen Jan and Trevor since we left Brisbane. So basically the day was spent doing chores which ended in a nice sundowners catching up with good friends.

Friday – 31/08/2012

Another day of running around armed with empty back packs and Nancy’s granny trolley we head on foot into town about a 25 minute walk, did the shopping posted letters and headed back on board to unload. Then off again another 20 minute walk to the grog shop to stock up on beer and a few wines then back to the boat and before settling down I had to go and get the gas bottle filled and fuel containers filled for dinghy and generator, by the time all this was done another day had gone. We had a quiet night with a nice dinner and a nice red wine.

Saturday – 01/09/2012

We had breakfast and waited for the change of tide time before heading out so that we would not be sailing against tide, did the usual last minute things like top up the water tank that we had used, roll the covers and we were off. Virginia was waving us goodbye as we left the marina. We followed another yacht out then we got the sails up after we left the leads. The winds were light but just enough to sail on at slow speeds of 3.5 to 4.5 knots. As we sailed past Nelly Bay the yachts that are participating in the Magnetic Island Yacht Race started to come out of the marina and then the wind dropped away to nothing so we had to start an engine and motor the rest of the way to Horseshoe Bay at Magnetic Island.

As we rounded the top end of Magnetic Island and headed for the bay a whale surfaced they are so great to watch so huge and so graceful. After the whale had gone we motored to the anchorage and dropped the pick. We then went ashore to our favourite restaurant ‘Noodies on the Beach’, it is a Mexican Restaurant and they serve great food at a reasonable price. After lunch we took a short walk along the beach before returning on board. We had a quiet night aboard nice meal and it was good to be sitting at the cockpit table for dinner as the nights have warmed again.

(Whale near Magnetic Island)

Sunday – 02/09/2012

Up early as usual and watched the sun rise, did the radio sched at 0700 hours and talked to ‘Moon Glade’ anchored in the same bay, they invited us to join them for a walk ashore to the lagoon and then back along the beach. We met them ashore at just after 0900 hours and set off.

The lagoon is more like wetlands and is very pretty, there is a number of birdlife about, magpie geese, royal spoonbills, purple swamp hens, plus ducks and others that we heard but did not see. The walk is a short distance on the road south from the waterfront and then on the right you go in about 200 metres, after the wetlands or lagoon as it’s known we continued along the track through a housing estate and across a boardwalk and down a track to the beach and then walked along the beach back to the dinghy.

(Lagoon on Magnetic Island)
(Reflections in the lagoon)
(The Lagoon)
(Magpie Geese in the wetlands)

This island has a lot to offer in the way of beaches and walks along with many water sports, they also have other areas on the island with restaurants and shops and for us yachties it is easy to get from one place to another through the regular bus service that runs from one end of the island to the other every 30 minutes with the exception of an hour break at lunch time. The last bus runs at 2230 hours at night so you can travel to one of the restaurants at the southern end of the island and get back.

Another walk well worth doing is the Fort Walk, the fort is the gun placements and ruins of the military structures from the second world war, naturally the guns are not there now but the concrete structures and bunkers and control room buildings are still there. We have done this walk twice before but we do not have time to do it this visit.

(Gun Placement taken in 2009)
(View from the gun placement taken 2009)
(The Command Centre picture taken 2009)
(The Guns and buildings were covered in camouflage netting during the war so they could not be seen)

We had sundowners on board our boat today with a few SICYC friends, they treated it as our farewell sundowners as we may not see them for a couple of years with us heading around the whole coast of Australia. For some this is the end of the line before they turn south again, others may go on to Cairns or Lizard Island. We had an enjoyable sundowners and said farewells as they left, we sail north tomorrow for Orpheus Island then on through the Hinchinbrook Channel and make our way to Cairns.

Magnetic Island to Hinchinbrook Channel

Monday – 03/09/2012

Up again before first light a nice cup of tea to wake the body up properly then out on deck to get ready to sail whilst Nancy got breakfast underway. After a quick light breakfast and checking the weather we set to weigh anchor. The wind was dead ahead whilst at anchor so we took the advantage of hoisting the mainsail before lifting the anchor saves bobbing around outside the anchorage keeping your balance whilst trying to hoist the sailplus you can get under sail a lot sooner saving fuel and engine hours.

We were heading for the Palm Group of Islands and hopefully pick up a mooring at Little Pioneer Bay at Orpheus Island. The anchoring there can be a little tricky with coral and sand mix bottom, mainly coral if anchoring make sure the anchor is properly set and put plenty of chain out.

Sailing out of Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island we had to tack slightly to port to get the wind in the sails on a very broad reach having light winds at this stage we needed to make the best of it and get the apparent wind speed up, this tack was sending us around 10⁰ magnetic off our rhumb line but we would get there faster than having the wind directly behind us. Just after 0800 hours Townsville Coastguard opened on the VHF radio so we logged on with them. They then informed us that they were about to put out a Securitay Message regarding the Air Force conducting live fire on Rattlesnake Island and there is a 5NM zone that we needed to keep outside of, at this point we are just about entering that zone near Cordella Rocks, time to tack the other way. As we left this morning Nancy got out one of the fishing rods to troll she fitted the lure put the rod in the holder and secured it then went inside, just after we did our course change the fishing line started to run. Nancy came outside as I got to the rod and I started reeling it in, I must say it was not putting up much of a fight and my first thought was that we have picked up a piece of weed. It wasn’t until I got it just about on board that it started to give a little fight. I landed it then bled it before cleaning it and cutting it into fillets. It was a Spotted Mackerel of 70cm in length fresh fish for dinner tonight and enough for two more dinners.

No whales in sight today, I am not sure whether they have all moved south and maybe the one we saw the other day was the last, past years we have always seen a whale and her calf at the southern end of Orpheus Island but nothing there today. Some say they are moving south a little early this year which concerns me some. It means they know something I don’t, a couple of years ago they went south early due to high water temperatures the year of Yasi Cyclone the water temperatures are not high this year as yet they are between 23.5⁰ C and 24.8⁰C north of latitude 20⁰. Creatures know more about the weather and conditions than we do, you don’t see many injuries of wildlife during or after a cyclone for instance and the main reason is they are either buried down in a safe area of they have gone well before it hit. I am reading a book at the moment , Sue Williams “Welcome to the outback”, she describes in there where she flew over the inland sea after the major rain that Australia received like when Lake Eyre was full of water, the pilot told her that the birds arrived there twelve months before the water so the locals knew something was about to happen and people think we are the smart ones. The Australian Aborigine used to know when floods were coming unfortunately a lot are losing these skills , I can remember years ago when I lived in the Alice an aboriginal woman told me to stay on the town side of the river because the Todd River was going to flow, all the aborigines had or were moving out. It had not rained in the Alice and there had not been a cloud in sight for days within the next couple of hours the Todd was flowing quite well, they were the days they only had a walk bridge from one side of the river to the other.

Anyway back to where we were. We arrived at Little Pioneer Bay on Orpheus Island and we managed to pick up one of the mooring buoys , there are four moorings available the late yachts had to anchor. The wind increased after we anchored, the afternoon sea breeze and stayed most of the night.

Orpheus is a pretty island and is well worth going ashore to climb the peak for the views we did this last time we were here. There is a restricted area on Orpheus and that is Pioneer Bay just south of the moorings. There is a marine research station there. Further south is a private resort and a national park area with walks, the resort is private and yachties are not allowed to enter this area.

We had a quiet time aboard I had a busy day sailing continually adjusting sails which means going from one side of the cockpit to the other which is only 4 metres wide but one has to step up one side then down to and up to go to the other so it is good exercise and tacking is even more work and having to do it a lot faster.

We settled down for a nice dinner with the fish WE caught, we have settled on saying “we caught” as Nancy has set the line before as she did this morning and then gone inside the boat doing her photography or notes on the computer whilst I do meagre tasks of sailing this yacht from one place to the other and then when something is on the line Nancy states she has caught a fish. So this morning Nancy said I have caught a fish I looked at her and said you put the line out, I had to reel the fish in and land it, bleed it, clean it and fillet it. She said ok we caught the fish, sounds fair don’t you think. Anyway spotted mackerel is very nice very white and sweet meat.

(Nice Spotted Mackerel)
(Sunset over the mainland from Orpheus Island)

Tuesday – 04/09/2012

(Chart showing track from Orpheus Island through to Hinchinbrook Channel)

I was up before light this morning and started on these scribbles, we are not in too much of a hurry to get away this morning Nancy wanted to go through the Hinchinbrook Channel we have not been through there since the first year we started coastal sailing after bringing the boat from overseas. I can remember the first time was a navigational challenge to us not that it is difficult but after sailing from the Caribbean to Australia classed as blue water or ocean sailing and having depths below you then of up to two nautical miles crossing water that shows a datum depth of 0.3 metres and less that all you really have is the depth of what the high or near high tide is takes a little getting used to. It was also the time that I did not trust electronic charts as I had seen many places we had travelled where we pass and island and the chart plotter shows we are going over the land when we are clearly in good depth of water. This is still the case today in some places here in Australia the electronic charts are wrong. So I still don’t trust them but I still use paper charts and my depth gauge and my eyesight along with the electronic charts we do alright.

(Under headsail only, we don’t have a pole so we use a 3rd sheet method to get the sail further  out using a pulley)
(Hinchinbrook Island)

We set off around 0800 hours just under headsail with the wind behind us this would get us to the leads 90 minutes before high tide giving plenty of depth across the shallow sections, this entrance is near the town of Lucinda. Lucinda stands out very well in fair to good visibility it has a very long jetty going out to sea passed the shallow waters. It was built to load ships with sugar but it proved an expensive exercise as during not so calm waters a couple or more ships damaged the jetty badly so it was fixed but not used again. Coming from the south you sail passed the jetty towards the fairway buoy (red and white floating marker) a little further and you come to the line of leads. The leads are two triangle markers and they have orange lights on each, the lower triangle marker is on the side of the jetty itself not far from the sugar storage silos and the top triangle marker is beyond the jetty, you naturally line these markers up and proceed in a straight line towards them and the unnerving thing is that you follow them almost right up to the jetty where you turn to starboard and go through the port and starboard navigation markers. Please note that these markers are the exit channel markers therefore you have the port marker to starboard and the starboard marker to port. Going through these markers is also interesting the starboard markers are actually on the ends of a wharf and you go that close to the wharf you feel you could shake hands with the people standing watching you go through. After a couple of other port markers there are a set of leads to take you through to another set of markers where you turn to port after this the water depth is good. We motor up to this point and this morning there was a little wind just enough to unfurl the headsail with the wind directly behind I used my third sheet (rope) to hold the sail further outboard (in place of a pole), and we sailed along at 4 – 4.5 knots with just the sound of rippling water as there were hardly any waves. Very relaxing, the channel from here on has good depth and is reasonably wide.

(Passing Lucinda Wharf)

We anchored on the north side of Haycock Island a small island in the middle of the channel, we have anchored here the last visit and it proved to be good but you can get a strong tide flow at times so we put out plenty of chain. About mid afternoon the wind must have picked up south of us as I could see white waves beyond the island and it started to bring in a swell which made life uncomfortable. There are two other anchorages in the area but these were taken and they are probably better anchorages for higher winds. Looking at the one yacht I could see hardly had a ripple in the water. We chose to up anchor and head for Sunday Creek a short distance north this proved to be a better anchorage, the creek goes quite a distance and it has plenty of depth. We just tucked in around the corner out of the wind waves and swell.

(The anchor lady)
(Charts showing anchorages)

Once settled and had a cup of tea I got the ships barber to give me an overdue haircut, the ships barber has been busy with her photography from the clubs events. After a nice shower I am finishing these scribbles with a cold beer.

Hinchinbrook Channel, Dunk Island and Mourilyan Harbour

Wednesday – 05/09/2012

Looking at the weather report this morning we thought we should sail today as it has the most wind, there is very little wind between now and Sunday. We had breakfast and started to get ready to go. I did have one problem and that was to get the First Mate to put her bloody camera away and get ready for weighing anchor. When there are dolphins and bird life hanging around means that Nancy puts a stop on everything else.

(A little photoshopping, six photos of the one dolphin)

The morning was a little wet it had rained through the night and there was still rain hanging around, it is not unusual for clouds to hang around Hinchinbrook Island the aborigines call it the cloud maker it is similar to Cradle Mountain in Tasmania in the way your very lucky to see the top of it without cloud.

This area has a lot to offer for those that have time but not for swimming it is the home of many crocs. The only place I would swim is at the waterfall at Zoe Bay. Zoe Bay is on the east coast of Hinchinbrook Island and the only time you can really go there is when there is no or very little wind or the wind is from the north through to south west. We went there twice last year it is a beautiful spot. Hinchinbrook has many creeks to explore good fishing but unfortunately during warm windless times the mosquitoes and sand flies come out to annoy.

Nancy finally stopped taking photos and we got underway, we motored a short distance and then some wind came so we hoisted the mainsail and unfurled the genoa and shut the engines down. It wasn’t going to be a fast sail but we have plenty of time. I got the fishing gear out and Nancy set it up not too long after putting it in the water when we got a hit. It was one of those hits I don’t totally like, I could not pull the thing in and I eventually lost it along with the lure as it snapped the line. In one way it was a good thing something that big I don’t really want to tackle with it on deck and two we would probably not be able to fit it all in the freezer.

Nancy rigged up another lure on the line whilst I navigated the channel a while later we had another hit another spotted mackerel but it had to go back as it was under size. We did not get anything after that.

We sailed quite steady up the channel and as we approached the Cardwell area it seemed strange prior to cyclone Yasi you could hardly see the town for the huge trees along the waterfront the buildings were basically hidden but now everyone living there has a waterfront view. Just south of there was the Hinchinbrook Marina which was also destroyed in Yasi and to date has not been rebuilt. To stop at Cardwell and anchor off the jetty to go ashore you need perfect calm weather which we do not have today.

We sailed on and change course for Dunk Island as we neared Gould Island the wind dropped away and the swell came beam on shacking the wind out of the sails we started one of the engines to keep going forward as I had got below the speed where the rudders work so no steerage. I started an engine hoping that when we leave the shadow of Gould Island we would pick up the wind again but the swell was stronger than the wind so we had to motor sail the rest of the way. Some other yachts in the area maintained some sailing with the sails doing the same they are a lot lighter than us, however, once the sails start slapping one you lose air in them and two it does damage to the sails. We had wind when the rain squalls occurred and we would sail as soon as the rain passed the wind would drop again. It didn’t matter whether I tacked to get the seas off the beam we still could not get enough wind to sail so we motor sailed to Dunk Island and anchored.

(Chart anchorages Dunk Island)

The anchorage was quite rollie with the swell sneaking around the sand spit on the western side of the island but not uncomfortable. Looking at the weather we will stay here until Sunday when we get some 15 – 20 knot winds there is little wind until then.

Thursday – 06/09/2012

We had a lazy start to the day not doing much just photos on the computer and doing a few notes then later in the morning we lowered the dinghy to go ashore and surprise the outboard would not start so I had to use the spare, me on the oars. On the way to shore we called in on ‘Cassini’ a catamaran and we met Peter now partner to Tania who we had met on Virginia’s yacht ‘Overproof’ last year.

(The beach end of the jetty missing and jetty damaged from Cyclone Yasi)

We then continued ashore and went for a walk, the resort here was damaged badly in cyclone Yasi the owner at the time had been hit with two cyclones in five years, first Larry then Yasi so he put the place up for sale as he was unable to get any insurance if he rebuilt. It was sold last year and the place has been cleaned up a little but buildings are still damaged. The units that survived or had little damage have been cleaned up and the open air bar and swimming pool have also been cleaned although the swimming pool does not have a working pump and filter it is heavily dosed with chlorine. I have been told that the new owner held a 50th birthday party not long ago and that is probably one of the reasons for the pool and bar clean up. It is a sad sight though. The island is still beautiful and the trees are slowly recovering, it was good to see some business operating a water taxi delivers people to the island from the mainland for the day to do the walks or laze on the beach, there is also a charter yacht that seems to be working the island called ‘Big Mama’ a large alloy ketch. Men are still coming over and doing work National Parks have all the walks open and they appear to be doing some work on the airport and airstrip.

(Damaged accommodation buildings, many of the ground floor units were full of sand having broken windows)
(The bar lounge has been cleaned up and repaired)
(The swimming pool, after the cyclone this was full of sand )

After returning on board I pulled the motor off the dinghy to see if I could find the problem it appeared tight to turn over so I had a look at the rope start and checked everything else but could not find the problem so I thought I would wait until we got to Cairns.

We had Peter and Tania over for sundowners that ended up having them stay for dinner as Nancy had prepared dinner earlier and invited them to stay. We had a very enjoyable evening which we do most of the time meeting great people and having a few laughs.

Friday – 07/09/2012

Had a sleep in this morning it was light when I woke up at 0630 hours must have been the red wine. I got up and made the cups of tea and had a look outside, it was cloudy and looked like rain a short time later we had a light shower.

We intended to stay here as the weather charts this morning showed very little wind until Sunday when we will get 15-20 knots from the SE. However, we appear to have some SW winds of around 12 knots and the sea is getting a little bumpy. I kept an eye on it for a while and it appeared to get stronger so we weighed anchor and sailed. We headed for Mourilyan Harbour.

When we left Peter and Henry on their catamarans also set off, their cats are light weight compared to ours and they can sail on light winds, they would be less than half our weight. I took a different tack to them they appeared to head directly for the destination with a tail wind, I went on a starboard tack out to sea to get passed the island wind shadow and hopefully get better wind by tacking. When we got out about 2 NMS passed the east end of the Dunk Island I changed tack giving us an almost direct track for Mourilyan Harbour and with the wind behind but slightly to the port side and was able to sail on a very broad reach having to change tack to clear North Barnard Island and then change back once we were clear. Nancy had set the trolling fishing line and about 10 NMS north of Dunk Island we had a strike, I wound it in and it was a 76cm spotted mackerel. I landed it, bled it, cleaned it, filleted it and gave it to Nancy to wash and cut into dinner sizes and put in the freezer with the exception of one lot for this evening. So that’s how we catch a fish, I have made a deal with Nancy that if she wants to claim she caught a fish she has to set the line and put the line away and I will do the in between stuff then she can claim that we caught the fish. The fact is Nancy after hurting her wrist last year would not be able to wind a fish that size inboard when we are also under sail going around 5 knots. Once we are under sail we don’t want to stop it is different if we are just motoring we just pull the engines into neutral making it easier to land a fish.

(Catch of the day, spotted mackerel)

We sailed on to Mourilyan Harbour we ended up 2 NMS behind the faster catamarans which I thought was pretty good. The entrance to Mourilyan Harbour is good, it may look a little narrow on approach but it has leads and the depth is maintained at around 13 metres as freighter vessel come here to load raw sugar and molasses from the Innisfail, Babinda, Tully and the Atherton Tablelands , they started a new log product export operation commenced in 2011this will see 250,000 tonnes of woodchip and export log pass through the Port. The Port includes a livestock export facility and the capacity to expand into new bulk cargo exports. So when entering make sure there is not a ship coming out or moving in the harbour.

(Entering Mourilyan Harbour)

(Mourilyan Harbour anchorages)
(End of another day)

Anchoring isn’t a problem but you have to find a spot outside the shipping turning circle which is marked by yellow buoy yellow markers, do not anchor inside of these. There are two main areas one is just outside the yellow marker buoys between the boat ramp and the pile moorings. The other area is through the pile moorings and in the area just passed those the electronic charts are quite good in this area but be careful as the shallows can move from one year to the next. There are no real facilities in this port as far as shops, toilets and showers. They have built new boat ramps here with floating dock and in doing so have placed four wheelie bins for rubbish in the car park. This harbour gives good protection in high winds and can be entered under quite heavy seas.

We will stay for a few days with heavy winds on Monday this is probably the better anchorage.

Mourilyan Harbour

Saturday – 08/09/2012

After breakfast and having got photos ready for the blog scribbles I got out to do some work before the heat of the day hit. I had to fix the batons in the sail cradle as the port one keeps sliding out under sail and the starboard one is in two sections and have come adrift both ending up in the middle of the bag and is going to be difficult to extract. It was slightly overcast when I started but as Murphy’s Law would happen the sun came out in full force as soon as I started the job. Fortunately it went a lot easier than I thought it would be. The hardest part was keeping the sweat out of my eyes.

As I was finishing and packing things away Jonathan off ‘Peggy Mae’ a monohull anchored next to us called out but with my deafness I could hardly hear him so he said he would come over.

Jonathan and wife Joey (short for Josephine), had tried to call Coastguard and another yacht before entering Mourilyan just ahead of us yesterday and did not get an answer, so I called them and just let them know that they were getting out because when you call a boat just ahead of you like they did without answer sometimes you wonder if you have a problem with your own radio. They thanked me and said that they had engine failure and would have to sail into the harbour, I said I was just behind them and would watch out for them.

After that as we were now slowed with the wind dropping close to land I started the engines and dropped the sails on the run rather than the norm of turning into the wind, I did this by speeding up to better the speed of the wind from behind and then dropped the mainsail. By the time we got to the harbour they were inside safe and anchoring.

Jonathon came over and asked if I knew anything about diesel engines and then he told me about his situation, (I am a diesel mechanic but I never used to advertise that). I told him that it sounds like he has air in his fuel system. The problem with his system is that it is a Westerbeke engine and it does not have a manual fuel lift pump or anywhere on the engine where you bleed the air on the engine as the electric feed pump is designed to force the fuel through the system making itself bleed. Jonathon thought it may be a problem with the electric fuel pump, he said he had a spare so I suggested he change it and that would prove if the pump is faulty. I said I would go over and help him but I think he felt that he would be imposing. He went and did this and then return with his electrical drawings which are all drawn by hand. I followed the drawings and worked out the circuit for the fuel system as the new pump still did not fix the problem. I asked if he had previously checked voltage at the pump and he had not. I pointed out areas he should test and he came back over and said that he had voltage. We discuss more options and I said to him that I feel he still has an air lock in the system. I suggested a few places where he could eliminate air from the fuel system on the engine. A while later he came over all smiles he had bled the engine of air and the engine had been running for 30 minutes, which was good because his fridge/freezer compressor is driven by the engine. One of the major areas of fuel problems is the pump sucking in air and it is common to be one of the seals in the fuel filter, others are broken pick-up line in the fuel tank or leaking joints in fuel lines between pump and filter or tank. We invited he and Joey over for sundowners. They came over and we had a very pleasant evening.

Sunday – 09/09/2012

(Morning light)

Jonathon called over this morning and invited us over for coffee so we went over and I was armed with a bit of gear to help them.

Jonathon has been sailing nearly all his life, he has run a charter yacht in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, he also ran the sailing school in the BVI’s. He is American born but Australian by choice and has been here since the early 90’s, Joey is an Australian. Jonathan navigates with a GPS and paper charts and said he must update to a chart plotter soon. So we went over for coffee and I assisted him by setting up his computer with charts and have loaned him a GPS antenna that he can mail back to me when he returns home to Airlie. I thought it best for him to know where his yacht is if he is going around the reefs and Lizard Island, naturally electronic charts are only a system for assisting navigation it should not replace paper charts and normal human observations.

We sat and had a good chat aboard his yacht which is over 27 years old and he has sailed it many places around the world.

When we were leaving to return to our yacht Jonathon and Joey insisted to tow our dinghy with theirs instead of me rowing because our outboard has a problem at the moment. We thanked them and went back aboard Alana Rose and had a quiet evening.

Monday – 10/09/2012

After breakfast and a tidy up we went ashore to stretch the legs and have a look around and do a rubbish run. One good thing about the new boat ramps is that they have four rubbish bins there for the boaties. When Premier Bligh took over a few years ago they doubled our boat registration fees to improve facilities and they have been putting in these boat ramps which are no good to vessels our size so I guess they can’t complain about us using their rubbish bins.

(Morning light in the west )
(Mourilyan Harbour from shore)

At the side of the car park there is an 18 metre catamaran hauled out on the land, ‘Rainbows End’ looks like a Crowther design. I wondered what it was doing there and when I inspected it I found out why. The starboard hull is holed badly in many places. I asked a local what had happened and he told me it broke away from its anchorage in high winds and smashed against the rock wall by the boat ramps. I looked it up on the net and found the story in a Cairns newspaper clip. The catamaran had been anchored here for 3 months as the owner had just finished repairs from cyclone Yasi. On the day it broke its anchorage there were winds of around 50 knots which caused it to break free. According to the story there were naval vessels anchored nearby but said they could not assist as they required permission from head office Canberra, good old red tape and litigation was the cause of lack of assistance. The damage could have been less if the boat had been pulled away from the rocks straight away but because no one could help it was left to smash against the rocks with the waves caused by the high winds. The coastguard here could not be raised on the radio because of the lack of volunteers they only operate on weekends. My friend said if he had called a mayday on radio the Navy would have had to assist.

(The damaged catamaran)
(Wood chipping yard)

One of the major problems Australia is facing is the loss of volunteers and I can fully understand after working 20 years in a volunteer organisations, again the red tape and bureaucratic regulations are the cause along with employers over the years have had to down size staff and they are not that willing to let volunteers leave work during working hours to attend incidents. This situation also breeds a different type of volunteer, earlier days the volunteer would just go help where required and return to his/her work and not look for any thanks it is just what you did, a little different today. I understand why some changes had to be made but some of the requirements of today turns the old volunteer away.

Well we had our little walk around not that much to see, the fenced yard is full of cut logs and stacked wood chip. These trees that are going as wood chips are the trees from the forests that were damaged during the cyclone. Apparently it is at a stop at the moment because of the sugar season, they use the same conveyor belts to load sugar and wood chip, so the wood chip is on hold as I suppose they have to thoroughly clean the belts from wood chip to load sugar so whilst sugar is in season wood chips take a break.

At the moment there is no sign of any large ships coming here as I looked on the internet this morning, however, I have heard that there may be one arriving Wednesday, there is a continuous line of trucks arriving day and night with sugar or molasses.

After our little exercise we returned to the dinghy and started rowing back to our boat, it was a little choppy as the wind was against us but all was well, Jonathon on ‘Peggy Mae’ saw us and came and towed us back, I told him it was alright I can do with the exercise, he said you don’t need that much.

He rang us a little later to tell us the mechanic that was working on a trawler had offered him the use of his car to go into Mourilyan to get some supplies and asked if we needed anything so he picked up some bread and fruit for us. Some people are very kind, can you imagine someone in the cities doing that.

Tuesday – 11/09/2012

Up early or should I say earlier than normal, the wind hit around 0330 hours this morning along with some rain that woke me so I got up to have a look around and make sure all was well then went back to bed but I was wide awake, I lay there for nearly an hour and decided to get up and make a cup of tea.

(Two Army Landing barges came in last night and left this morning)

The winds are in for a couple of days so we may sail Thursday for Fitzroy Island.

Mourilyan Harbour to Fitzroy Island

Wednesday – 12/09/2012

Around 0500 hours the VHF radio crackled it was VTS Mourilyan Harbour calling a freighter that was anchored outside the harbour informing him that the pilot boat was on its way out and to rig a ladder on the starboard side for the pilot to board. So we got up had a cuppa and waited to watch the ship come in. They bring the ship in with tugs getting in place before they get right into the harbour and then when they reach the area that is designated the turning circle they spin the ship around before going alongside so the ship is facing out to sea.

(Ship enters, tugs on it’s Starboard side ready to turn the ship once in)
(Tugs turning the ship before going alongside)

As soon as the ship was secured alongside they opened the hatches and started loading sugar but was soon halted by rain. It turned out to be a miserable day with windy light rains so we stayed inside. They tried a few times to load the ship to be halted by rain showers. It was after sunset when the weather cleared so loading went through the night.

I spent the day plotting a course from Lizard Island to Gove and printing off some charts, I have the large area chart that does not give close in detail but I have a program that I can print off Australian charts which is very handy. I am full of these bright ideas in life, I have always liked challenges thats probably why we even bought a yacht to live aboard. But looking at charts and plotting the days of sailing brings back the time when we bought Alana Rose, once we had everything paid for and Oz registration and ready to sail from St Lucia in the Caribbean for Australia our first ever full over night sail to Grenada, I felt quite proud, then after having breakfast at a roadside cafe in St Georges, Grenada I went inside to pay the bill and on the wall was this mural of the world atlas that filled the whole wall, I looked at it and could see where we were and where Australia was and I thought to myself, shit what have I done? I never told Nancy that story until we arrived back in Oz, we did it and more than I, my Nancy deserves the bow, I had travelled oceans before Nancy never had.We had an early night as we sail early in the morning for Fitzroy Island 43NMS north.

Thursday – 13/09/2012

We were out of bed by 0445 hours and I put the kettle on before going outside and removing the covers and getting sails ready. Nancy made the teas then came out to help, Jonathan on ‘Peggy Jane’ was also getting things ready to sail. As soon as the engines warmed we weighed anchor, ‘Peggy Jane’ had moved before us so I steered away from them into the ships turning area when I felt we had a good distance I turned to follow them out of the harbour. ‘Peggy Jane’ appeared to be almost stopped as we neared them and I was a little concerned their engine was playing up again so I increased speed and got up alongside and asked Nancy to ask if they were alright. Jonathon stated that he was waiting for us to pass because we are a faster boat.

We headed out passed the markers and then set course for north, the winds appeared to be very light but once clear of the harbour I unfurled the headsail and shut one engine down this gave us a speed of 6 knots then as daylight started to approach the wind got a little stronger so we furled the headsail turned the yacht into the wind and hoisted the mainsail then got back on course and unfurled the headsail again. To get the most out of the wind we had to alter course slightly taking us a little further out to sea but the benefits was that we sailed at a speed of 7.5 to 8 knots and as a bonus this course was taking me between two rain squalls. We continued on that course until I was sure we could change tack and maintain a broad reach this went well until we reached High Island and the wind dropped away after a large rain squall.

Just as we changed tack we saw a whale, the first one we have seen since Magnetic Island, Jonathan said he saw some south of Mourilyan Harbour so there are still some about but I think they must be close to the last ones heading south. The whale only surfaced the once in our view so it looked as though it was on the move.

After High Island we had to motor sail for a short while, the mainsail started to flap from side to side so we turned into the wind and dropped the main and then sailed under the headsail only until 2NMS before Fitzroy Island I started both engines to give the batteries a charge and get hot water for showers. The other reason for running both engines was that a couple of the lighter catamarans were gaining on me and I wanted to get a decent anchorage.

(Chart of anchorages keep clear of jetty large tour boats visit regularly)
(Anchorage Fitzroy Island)

We arrived at 1330 hours which was a good result, we set the anchor and started tidying up all the gear as other yachts started arriving. After Jonathan arrived he came over to make sure we had his contact details. We had showers and went ashore just before 1700 hours went to Foxy’s Bar for a sundowners drink, no one else came ashore so we had a drink and returned to the dinghy to go back on board as we rowed back we called by ‘Cassini’ to say hello to Peter and Tania they invited us aboard for a drink which ran into dinner, I went back over to our boat to get a bottle of wine. Peter cooked a nice meal and we had another pleasant night with some good people.

We will stay for a few days as the weather is good and there isn’t any wind to sail on.