Circumnavigating Australia Part 1

Brisbane to Mackay

This blog is about my wife and I sailing our 13 metre sailing catamaran ‘Alana Rose’ around Australia during 2012, 2013 and 2014. We sailed from Brisbane at the end of April 2012 and slowly headed north anticipating that we will arrive in Darwin just before the cyclone season and head west afterwards when safe to do so and complete the circumnavigation.

(Alana Rose, Leopard 42 catamaran)

In all my notes I refer to our tracks taken through waters some that have been adequately surveyed and a lot that have not been surveyed or unsatisfactorily surveyed, the way-points and tracks that I have given in these notes were correct at the time of our visit in accordance with our instruments on board and I offer these as information in good faith to those that follow our journey. However, it should be noted that seabeds do change from time to time in regard to sandbars and waterways. Therefore any Captain that use this information should treat them as a guide only as instruments may differ and it is the responsibility of any Captain for the safety of ones vessel .


Manly Harbour, Brisbane – 03/04/2012

Well we have had a little hurdle thrown in front of us for our planned circumnavigation. We are intending to spend the wet season in Darwin, and yes some may think we are mad for that. However, the hurdle is that it is not that easy to get into a marina which we need to do for protection in case of a cyclone. The Tipperary Marina has a maximum allowable width of 6 metres and we are 6.93 metres so that rules that out. The Cullen Bay marina does not have space for us which leaves the Bayview Marina who have put us on a waiting list as they have a policy of not taking permanent bookings until a month prior to arrival. I can understand that as many yachts make bookings at marinas and do not turn up at times. May I say the Bayview have been sympathetic towards what we need and have got us on the list and it may all be well but we cannot confirm at this point in time.

(Circumnavigation starting at Brisbane and sailing anti-clockwise)

So we have to hope that we can get a booking a month prior and that others have not got in before us. This is one problem owning a catamaran there are fewer berths for them because we take up more space and catamarans are getting very popular.

We will try and book a berth at Bayview we get to Cairns and if we cannot get in at Darwin we will spend the wet in Cairns. One other problem is that I was so confident that we would be alright in Darwin I have already booked and paid for Nancy to fly out of Darwin for a couple of weeks to get her Grandchildren fix. Booking early to get the cheap flights, well if we don’t get there then we pay a little extra for her to fly out of Cairns.

The reason we want to spend the wet in Darwin is that after the wet all the waterfalls will be flowing very well around the Kimberly’s so we would see it at its best.

If this fails we stay at Cairns until end of April then head to Darwin and have a shorter stay there, we will see what pans out.

Manly Harbour, Brisbane – 21/03/2011

We are still researching for the circumnavigation around Australia and in the process realise that we are going to hit some cold weather as we get down the west coast and cross the southern coast something we have not dealt with for some years now. I see this voyage as a bigger challenge than the crossing of the Pacific Ocean that we did. We do not own many cold climate clothes as we have sailed north to warmer climates in winter months.

We are getting information from different people that have already done this trip some have done it in the reverse to what we are doing and sometimes in some areas like the west coast it is better but then crossing the southern coast may be more in our favour.

This year we will be watching the weather patterns on the west and southern coast lines around the months that we may tackle them next year.

Most of our medical issues are sorted, Nancy had an operation on her right wrist yesterday with the damage she had done on the tendon so I am chief cook and bottle washer for a few days. The doctor asked if she worked and she told him only on a boat, so he has given her a sick certificate stating she cannot work for the next seven days. So Nancy gives me the certificate and says there you go skipper. So I’m crewless but now have one first class passenger. All joking aside she is going well with the operation and tends to feel she is in less pain than before the operation but she has to let the wound heal.

The boat itself is almost ready with all the servicing complete, I am going through spare parts and checking we have enough to get by, the big thing is to carry enough fuel filters just in case we get bad fuel although we shouldn’t. I always fuel from fuel cans so I can see what is going in the tanks and they are given additives to prevent the algae build up. The other good thing about the additive is that the engine runs cleaner since I have used it I do not get exhaust stains around the exhaust outlets and on the side of the hulls.

(Checking and updating paper charts)
(Updates printed off the Mariners Notes cut out and stuck over the affected areas)

The worst thing one can do with a boat is leave it for long periods with less than full fuel tanks, fuel tanks with air space creates condensation and that water drops into the fuel this creates the fuel algae which is a black slime that when you hit some rough seas this algae stirs and floats around waiting to be picked up through the suction tube to the fuel filter where it blocks the filter off and the engine shuts down. This is when Murphy plays his games, it usually will happen at the worst time you could imagine. Consider if you get rough weather that usually stirs algae up enough to block the fuel flow and you want to get into harbour out of the storm. There has been many a boat come to grief crossing a bar entering a harbour and lost engines and then crashes into the harbour wall. I have had it happen where we have been in rough seas and lost one engine due to dirty fuel we are fortunate we have two engines and each has its own fuel tank.

It is always advisable to carry at least one fuel container (20 litre) as a spare tank. If your engine fails through dirty fuel tank with 20 litre of fuel in a container and the right size plastic hose you can change filters and disconnect the inlet pipe to the fuel filter and fit the plastic line and place the 20L fuel container above the engine bleed the line and it should get you out of trouble. But remember there is also a fuel return line to the tank and if you can get a second pipe to the return line back to the fuel container it will last longer, if not you will go through the fuel a lot faster. My engines go through 2.5 litres per hour it probably pushes twice that with the return to the tank so if you do not put a return line to your fuel container you have approximately 4 hours or a little less, this is plenty of time to get out of trouble. The old story when in doubt stay at sea entering a port with a bar crossing can be more dangerous to tackle than the sea itself.

In our preparation studies show that we will need to carry a couple of planks to use with the fenders to go alongside jetties that only have pylons as the standard fenders is a cylindrical shape the same as the pylon. One has to use two fenders roped to the plank, the fenders stay in contact with the boat and the plank maintains contact with the pylon. The other factor is the high tidal difference up to 8 metres, so the best time to go alongside these pylon jetties is around the top of the tide and be quick to do whatever you have gone alongside for. All this information we have gathered from other yachties that have done this same journey.

The first leg of the voyage. 25/04/2012

The voyage has started on Anzac Day after the Anzac Day March in Manly, Brisbane . The day started with the march at 0800 hours. The previous night we had a BBQ with our friends at the marina as a farewell with them although we will see most of them at the Shag Islet Cruising Club weekend at Monte’s in Ausgust.

(ANZAC Day march in Manly Qld.)

After the march and the service we prepared the final few things that had to be done before heading out. Daughter Lindy and her hubby Steve and grandson Sam were at the Anzac service and we said our goodbyes from there we had been out to dinner with them the weekend.

Fellow boaties Kath, Andy, Soraya and John came down to send us off or as Andy said to make sure we go and at 1015 hours we cast off the lines and we were on our way.

The predicted weather conditions were favourable and that was the deciding factor on leaving on this day. Weather conditions were for moderate SW winds which are hard not to take advantage of as sailing this coast with the wind coming off the coast means very little wind waves this makes for good sailing.

As soon as we got out of the harbour leads we hoisted the mainsail but still had to motor sail as the wind was too light for us in the direction we needed to go. We passed friends on ‘Backchat’ as they were slowly heading out across the bay they were trying to fill the sails with wind and were sailing at a slow pace but that should have changed as they moved away from the mainland. We continued motor sailing until we changed direction near the Brisbane Harbour leads then we were under sail and did quite well with speeds ranging from 5.5 to 8.5 knots depending on the land-form that occasionally slowed the wind. We took the track up towards Scarborough and the southern end of Bribie Island and round to Skirmish Passage. As we neared the end of Skirmish Passage I noted a cargo ship entering the shipping lane calculating the distance we would meet at the point I normally take a short cut over the North West Channel so I decided to cross it early so that I did not have to wait for the vessel to pass.

(Sailing away from Brisbane)

When in this situation occurs it is better to make your crossing with a direct movement so that the pilot on the cargo ship can identify what you are doing or they will give you a call on the VHF radio and tell you the obvious that you are in a shipping lane. By the good book shipping lanes should be crossed at a 90⁰ angle not that we always practice this but as long as it can be seen so that the pilot does not think that you have just wondered into a shipping lane not knowing and there are probably some out there that would do this that probably should not be out on the water themselves similar to those sailors that sail without lights during the night or do not use anchor lights. We cut across the shipping lane twice in our short cut the second crossing is near Caloundra at the beginning of the shipping lane then we head north again.

In the past we usually call into Mooloolaba but at the moment Mooloolaba is having a bit of trouble with the sand bar since the heavy rain and seas, so it is a little tricky getting in and out. As we passed last night we heard a boat talking to the pilot boat asking if they could follow him in of which he was kind enough to oblige. So we passed by doing an overnight sail to Wide Bay Bar southern end of Fraser Island.

Overnighters on the first night out is tough, it was made tougher by me having a dose of the flu, those flu injections really work, had one last Friday got the flu Sunday. Also last night was bloody cold. Nancy told me to put a singlet on, can’t remember the last time I wore one. I did as she said with a tee shirt on top and a good woollen jumper , plus a short sleeve sailing jacket and a foul weather jacket on top of that, track suit pants and a blanket around the legs and I was still freezing. Nancy had made a bacon and vegetable soup that was piping hot I had three helpings plus cups of tea throughout the watch to keep the insides warm. It was too cold to get tired, so I stayed on watch through to 0100 hours when Nancy woke up and told me off for not waking her. (Yes dear) Those two words are part of the marriage vows.

I did wake her a few hours before when she was in a deep sleep as I needed assistance. We have a rule on board that no person on watch is to leave the cockpit without another person on deck to make sure the person returns safely. The wind had kicked in to above 25 knots and usually we put a reef in the mainsail before nightfall, we did not do it because the conditions were quite mild. Well when the wind kicked in and occasionally heavy gusts were felt I thought I should have put that reef in the main earlier. So I dragged Nancy out of bed we furl the genoa and turn into the wind to reef the mainsail. As I was out at the mast putting the reef in I let too much of the sail down missing the first reef point I had got to the second reef point so I decided that will do. After getting back on course I unfurled a very small section of the genoa and we still continued to sail at 6.5 to 8 knots depending on sea and wind conditions.

Nancy took the shift at 0100 hours and I got a couple of hours sleep before I felt the boat moving differently and woke up, at the same time Nancy came down to wake me as we were near the Wide Bay Bar. She said she changed direction to slow us down but that did not work. I had actually asked her to wake me as we neared Double Island Point then we could have gone straight into Wide Bay south of the Wide Bay Bar and anchored but she had misunderstood what I said so we had a 3 NMS to track back to the anchorage where we anchored at 0500 hours we then flopped on the bed fully clothed for a 2 hours sleep before heading to the Wide Bay Bar for the crossing into Great Sandy Straits.

(Chart of Wide Bay and Wide Bay Bar. Red dots indicate anchorages, southern end of Wide Bay can get a little uncomfortable in heavy seas, tuck in as close as you can , the anchorage inside Wide Bay Harbour at Inskip Point is good for when waiting to come the other way).

I woke a little before seven and got up and put the kettle on then got ready to get going. Once underway Nancy cooked breakfast and we ate on the way.

Arriving at the first waypoint having checked with the Coastguard that they have not changed since last year then started the crossing. The bar looked lively with waves breaking on the bar and water spraying into the air. However, the conditions outside were not too bad, we had an east – southeast swell of around one metre the wind was from west – southwest. The tide was 2 hours prior to high tide and that is what was causing the waves to stand up a little the wind was opposing the tide and was blowing the top of the waves causing white caps. As far as the crossing itself I have had better and I have had worse, this one was like a washing machine waves were all over the place but they were only half a metre high. It actually looked worse than it was.

(Chart Wide Bay Bar, black dots way-points, check with Coastguard to see if they have changed before crossing)
(Wide Bay Bar, little washing machine action)
(Waves standing up a little across the Wide Bay Bar)
(Wide Bay Bar sandbar)

Once safely in the Straits we headed for Kauri Creek and anchored then after a little Irish coffee (medicinal purposes for sure, plus it tasted good after the cold air), went for a sleep and slept till late lunch time. We will spend a couple of days here before moving on.

(Kauri Creek anchorages, good shelter in most weather conditions)

Kauri Creek to Garrys’ Anchorage – 27/04/2012

When we left Wide Bay yesterday we had a funny experience when we were trying to weigh anchor the boat seemed to be going in circles, I was at the anchor and Nancy was on the helm, being a bloke I asked her what she was doing to cause it. Naturally Nancy fired back saying it was not her. We got the anchor up and went across the bar and when we went to anchor at Kauri Creek we started to do the same.

After we had anchored I started to check the new gear box that I fitted whilst in Brisbane and found that it was stuck in the ahead gear and started to think the worst but being tired decided to leave it until today. So this morning first job was to check out what the problem was and found it to be very simple. The split pin that holds the control cable had broken and dropped out when the we had the engine in the ahead position, I was very pleased that it was nothing serious.

We had to wait for near high tide to leave Kauri Creek there is a section that is very shallow near the entrance (see chart above). There are strong wind warnings that have been issued so we have decided to move up to Garry’s Anchorage for a couple of days, it is more protected than this creek.

We motored out of Kauri Creek at 1030 hours and as soon as we left we unfurled the genoa and shut down the engines, the wind was light but going with the tide we averaged 5 knots. Once we arrived at Garry’s we found a suitable place to anchor and dropped the pick. We have internet coverage so we are getting up to date with our notes. So we will stay at Garry’s Anchorage for the strong wind days before moving north.

(Chart showing Garry’s Anchorage, red dots good anchorage areas for strong S/SE winds)

(Garry’s Anchorage, located between Fraser and Stewart Islands)
(Garry’s Anchorage, sunset over Stewart Island)

When sailing the Great Sandy Strait’s you have to pick your times as the tides flow in from the south and the north, the tides meet at Sheridan Flats which is about half way. If you are planning to sail north it is best to time it that you arrive at Sheridan Flats at its high tide. You should then pick up an addition 2 knots speed on the flood tide to Sheridan Flats then after passing through Sheridan Flats you pick up the ebbing tide going north again gaining the addition of 2 knots. May I add that you will need to be at Sheridan Flats at high tide to pass through the shallow waters.

Bundaberg – 02/05/2012

(Great Sandy Straits, Sheridan Flats, where the tides meet and you need near high tide to cross  through)

We left Garry’s Anchorage on the 29 April waiting for a couple of hours before high tide this gave us the benefit of going with the tide and having deeper water across the shallows of Sheridan Flats, there was a strong wind warning predicted so we decided to drop the anchor at Ugowa, South White Cliffs. You have to hunt around for the correct place to anchor because there is a sudden fall away into deep water not far from shore. We put plenty of cable out for the winds and also in case we moved out to deeper water on the turn of the tide. By the time we went back on the chain we were only just over a boat length away from the old wreck ‘Ceratodus’ an old dredge.

(Chart Great Sandy Straits, South White Cliffs, red dots suitable anchorages)

(The old wreck ‘Ceratodus’)

We found it to be very sheltered from the wind as the winds were blowing 35-40 knots out at Double Island Point and the only affect was an occasional gust of wind but not that strong and at high tide there were some slop waves coming through from Wide Bay Harbour through the shallows and causing a small rocking of the boat and wave slap on the hull.

We stayed there for two nights then on the 1 April we sailed up to McKenzie’s Jetty at North White Cliffs, the old jetty is a relic and only the pylons remain. We lowered the dinghy and went ashore for some exercise and take photos. I always marvel at the millions of soldier crabs on the beaches in the northern areas of the Straits, when you step ashore hundreds of soldier crabs scurry to hide in their holes. The beach at low tide shows the little round balls of sand where the soldier crab has dug the hole. They are very industrious and methodical. They bring the sand from the hole and place them in rows starting a fair way from the hole and they seem to know the correct distance so when the hole is complete the last round ball of sand is close to the hole. The tide comes in washes all away and it refills the holes then at low tide they start again.

(McKenzies Jetty)
(Alana Rose anchored near McKenzies Jetty)

Just near the old jetty we found the remnants of an old tractor as you can see by the photos very old and very buried not sure of the story behind it may be it was from the old timber industry and just left there.

(Remains of an old tractor on the beach)

After returning on board we checked weather predictions and decided that we would sail for Bundaberg the next morning at around 0500 hours near the change of the tide so we could ride with the tide giving an additional 2 knots speed. I woke at 0400 hours and got up to make cups of tea, took Nancy’s cuppa down to the cabin and then rechecked the weather on the net. All looks good to go.

After I finish my cup of tea I started getting things ready, rolled up the covers in the cockpit, climbed up top and undid the mainsail bag, check all else and we are ready to go, first light is starting to show. But no first mate she is still in bed. So I decide the best way to get her attention is start the engines. She was up very quick, she asked, “Was starting the engine a hint for me to get out of bed?” I answered, “No the cup of tea was.”

She run around and got organised as she does and we were underway. The wind outside the island was not showing itself as yet so we motored, we got to Big Woody Island before we felt any wind and we unfurled the genoa and started to sail, it was not great but under sail is good.

There was a monohull yacht that was a little in front of us under motor to start like us then went the genoa. As we neared the fairway buoy at the end at the Straits the wind died, the yacht in front set up a pole out for the sail to catch the little wind available. We do not have a pole to pole out but I used a similar method of using an extra two sheets (ropes) on the genoa through pulleys fore and aft to simulate a pole this usually works well but not today as the wind was not strong enough and the fact that we had mixed seas, east swell and S/SE wind waves makes for a simulated washing machine action and catamarans do not do well in these conditions. This wave action rocks the boat sharply causing any wind in the sails to shake out. If the wind had been a couple of knots stronger we could have tacked to get the benefit but it was not strong enough for that.

We ended up motoring or motor sailing the rest of the day. I only use the one engine when motor sailing or motoring when going a long distance so today we burnt a little fuel about 2.5 litres per hour. We arrived at Bundaberg early than expected and anchored near the marina we will go in there tomorrow for a couple of days before heading north again.

3 May 2012

We went alongside in a berth at Port Bundaberg Marina this morning at 0900 hours with the tide ripping out and the wind trying to blow us off the dock made it interesting but being placed on the end of the finger makes life a little easier as we did not have to worry about another boat alongside. This marina always has someone on dockside to help you tie up its one of the few marinas to offer this service without being asked.

(Chart Port Bundaberg)

Chart shows Port Bundaberg , red dots anchorage areas. When entering Bundaberg try to get there prior to the time where the sun is about to set, the channel is due west and entering with the sun dead ahead makes things hard to see. The marinas is where the yacht symbol is on the chart, the Port Marina is the one inside the channel.

Once secure we went to book in and the staff are always friendly and it was good to catch up with them again. We popped in to say hello to Kirsty in the chandlery, of course Richard and Sam are no longer there as they are now in New Zealand. We did learn some bad news regarding them from a fellow yachty, Sam has got terminal cancer of the curvex and that is sad, they had such plans selling the business and going sailing, our hearts go out to them both.

(Bundaberg Port Marina, first light)

Once settled Nancy went to do the laundry and I gave the boat a wash down and went to the chandlery for my fix, love chandlery shops. I renewed our lifebuoys as the old ones were looking a little shabby.

At the end of the day we showered and went up to Baltimore’s for drinks and stayed for dinner the food is always good there and very well presented, I can recommend their rack of lamb, I think I have it nearly every time we go there.

4 May 2012

Nancy went shopping for stores this morning and I stayed aboard to do some small maintenance items we are having a quiet day the weather is not that great it is cool with scud showers coming and going. This afternoon Wayne from the yacht brokers here is hosting the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club’s monthly get together so we will attend that.

Tomorrow we are sailing for Lady Musgrave Island approximately 50 NMS north of us, the weather is supposed to be fine with very little wind on Sunday through to Wednesday ideal weather for there. We will be out of phone and internet range for that period of time, we will sail from there on Tuesday of Wednesday for Great Keppel Island.

Lady Musgrave Island to Great Keppel Island – 09/05/2012

After a couple of days at Bundaberg we set sail for Lady Musgrave Island as the weather predicted was SE 15/20 knots for Saturday and thereafter no wind for four days which makes for ideal conditions on the reefs.

Our last night was spent with host Wayne (of Yacht Domain Brokerage), he hosted the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club monthly get together which is held outside his office the first Friday of every month. He had invited everyone that was at the marina and we had a good night although we did not stay for its duration as we planned to sail early next morning.

Saturday I was up at 0415 hours put the kettle on being the most important task before rolling up the covers and getting all else ready before leaving. After having a few sips of the tea we singled up the lines disconnected the power, turned on the navigation lights and instruments started the engines and slipped away from the dock. The time was 0500 hours and it was still dark, we headed out the channel of the Burnett River with another yacht ahead of us which we caught up with as it was going rather slow.

We turned out of the channel as soon as the water was deep enough to allow us to do so which is about two navigation markers short of the end of the channel as soon as we were in clear water away from any shallows we set our course for 345⁰ magnetic to bring us on the western side of Lady Musgrave Island. About two miles out we got under sail with the wind close behind we went under genoa alone and was getting along at 5.5 to 6 knots a nice steady pace this should get us there at the turn of the tide for easier access to the cay. We sailed just over half way before the wind backed off and our speed dropped below 2 knots so it was time to hit one of the iron sails and we motor sailed up until about 5 NMS from Lady Musgrave where the wind disappeared and the sail just flapped so we furled it and used the engine alone. As we neared Lady Musgrave I started the other engine to warm it up before entering the access to the cay of Lady Musgrave.

The directions for entry is that you line the boat up in line with the centre of the channel marked with a port and starboard marker and steer 130⁰ magnetic, having someone on the bow is advisable to give guidance once you enter to watch out for bommies, (coral mounds). The water is plenty deep enough we arrived just after low tide and shallowest we had was 6.4 metres and we anchored in over 7 metres of water.

(Lady Musgrave Chart)
(Entrance to Lady Musgrave Island/Atoll)

Our friend Rick and Michelle on ‘Neriki’ arrived just ahead of us so we had a bit of a reunion once anchored that actually turned into staying for sundowners followed by dinner. We had a good night catching up. Their boat was hit by lightening some months back and it took them two months to get the boat back to operational condition with waiting for insurance companies and getting all the electronics replaced.

Sunday 06/05/2012

During the very early hours of the morning I woke to the boat rocking and once alert I could hear the wind howling in the rigging. I got up to check all is well the time was 0230 hours. I switched on the instruments and the wind is 20 plus knots. This was not in the predictions the wind was supposed to die for a few days. I checked the anchor and the anchor watch GPS and all was well so I went back to bed although not having a good night’s sleep as I kept waking to check all is well.

When daylight broke the wind was still there and being out at Lady Musgrave we cannot get internet to see what is happening so we had to wait for VMR Bundaberg to transmit the weather which is around 0800 hours.

One fellow called out on the radio asking if anyone had a weather update, an answer came back from another boat, “yes it’s bloody rough”. No help there. When we got the weather report it was entirely different to what I got from the Met on the internet the morning we left this wind was to stay all day and taper off in the evening and lighter winds thereafter for three days but still higher than first predicted.

Lady Musgrave Island is an atoll where many years ago it is believed that someone blew a hole in the reef to allow boats to enter to collect guano
(a fertiliser containing the accumulated excrement of seabirds or bats), and since for boats to anchor to enjoy the lagoon some of the naughty things we did in the earlier days where you would be hung out to dry if you even had a thought of doing something like that today. It is one of many reef formations in the Capricorn and Bunker Group. It is situated 56 NMS north of Bundaberg and 35 NMS east of Pancake Creek.

We went ashore yesterday for a walk and look around it is pleasing that they now have port and stbd floating markers to guide you into the beach, three years ago there was nothing to guide you and it was easy to hit some of the live coral as people did not know where to approach the island. We went ashore at low tide as you can see from the picture. The tide was very low due to the full moon . I believe that last night the moon was at its closest to earth as it has been in more than 800 years, a little bit before my time.

(Looking out from the island)
(Clam shell in shallow water)

As we started to walk on the beach and go around the island we were swooped on by nearby birds, Little Terns, they were nesting so we kept our distance. They attacked similar to that what Magpies do in nesting season making loud squawks and diving for your head. They were just on one small section of the island. As we went further there were lots of Black Noddy’s in the trees and flying around. One often see them out to sea fishing. You start to see these north of Fraser Island.

(Black Noddy’s)

This island like many has suffered beach erosion from the stormy seas of the last two years there was a lot more beach three years ago when we were here last. Last time we were here there were a lot of campers but that could have been due to it being school holidays at that time, there aren’t any campers here at the moment. It is a national park so permits are required to camp on the island, it is also a marine park so one must check the marine parks charts before dropping a fishing line in the water. These charts are free from many outlets, waterside information places or chandlers there are many of them as they cover all of the Queensland coast.

I have noticed whilst here that some people are dropping a line in where they should not probably oblivious to the laws as they may not have these charts. I must say that most islands and water front that have such restrictions usually have a board near the area where people come ashore identifying the restrictions but there is not one here.

Last night we were again invited over on ‘Neriki’ for drinks and dinner along with new friends Canadians John and Cheryl on ‘ Sea Mist’ Nancy had prepared main course which was a Mediterranean Hot Pot that she cooked in the shuttle chef and Michelle provided desert of apple crumble and custard and cream and everyone brought pre dinner nibbles, Cheryl had cooked some small pies with mustard sauce which were very nice. We had a fun night that went rather late but we all enjoyed it. Tonight it will be drinks on ‘Sea Mist’, it’s a rough life.

Tuesday 08/05/2012

Last night was a good night aboard ‘Sea Mist’ it was another extended sundowners all the girls had made different dishes for sundowners that there was so much it ended up being dinner. We returned to ‘Alana Rose’ about 2200 hours.

Our plan today is to sail from Lady Musgrave to have a look at Fitzroy Reef and if we are not keen on staying there to go onto Wistari Reef and anchor there for the night. Rick and Michelle on ‘Neriki’ are leaving with us.

We waited for the tide to flow in a little so that it started to come over the reef itself and not just rushing against us through the inlet so around 0700 hours I started getting things ready I noticed ‘Neriki’ was doing the same. We weighed anchor and started heading out, ‘Neriki’ had its engines running so I assumed they would do the same. We followed our entry track out but Nancy still stayed on the bow to watch for bommies.

Once out of the access passage we turned into the wind and hoisted the mainsail then turned on course and unfurled the genoa and shut the engines down. It is good to just sail and I hoped the wind would last all day.

As we settled I looked back and ‘Neriki’ had not moved, I said to Nancy, “I was sure they were ready to leave”. The next thing Michelle called on the radio and said the clutch on the anchor winch was slipping. I suggested the fix maybe to tighten the nut on the outside of the gypsy, Michelle said they had done that. Next she said the problem is the anchor has fouled in a coral bommies so they have to go for a dive. They told us not to come back they will catch up later.

We sailed nearly all the way to Fitzroy Reef but had to start an engine and motor sail just before we got there. Although there was little wind the seas were messy, there was small choppy wind waves from the SE and a swell from the east this made it difficult to see anything when we neared Fitzroy Reef so I said to Nancy it may be better to go on to Wistari Reef.

They say Fitzroy Reef is very pretty the reef is covered with water and there is an access to go inside the reef and anchor for a few boats but you have to make sure that your anchor is set in good holding because if you dragged here there is little room for error and you could end up on the reef damaging your boat.

We motor-sailed to Wistari Reef I set the course to go between Wistari Reef and Heron Island, this passage is quite wide and in the centre it is 30 metres deep at low tide. After going through the passage we turned to the noted anchorage at the NE tip of Wistari Reef. Again Nancy went to the bow to look for any bommies and for a clear place to anchor. Visibility over the side was not that good. We anchored in a depth of 7.5 metres and added 3 metres for high tide then from that calculation multiplied it 5 times and put out that much anchor chain. The anchor set well as the tide was pushing us back at a speed of 0.8 knots and we suddenly pulled to a stop when the anchor grabbed, once all the allocated chain was out we went back on it again to make sure the anchor had hold. After we settled I had a look around and did the normal thing of setting the anchor alarm I then went out on deck and had a look around whilst it was still light. I grabbed the anchor chain and it felt solid. (You know where I going don’t you?). I had a look over the side and it appeared a little dark at the bottom so my thoughts were it was a coral base anchorage. After dinner I said to Nancy I am having an early night I was tired and I still have the ruminants of the flu, I was also thinking that if we do have trouble with the anchor it may be a long night.

I went to bed about 2000 hours and Nancy stayed up reading we had not said too much to each other about doubts about the anchorage but we both had thoughts about it. I woke around 2245 hours the movement of the boat was rocking with the change of tide, at the same time Nancy who was still up called to tell me the anchor alarm was sounding. I got dressed and went up on deck Nancy turned the instruments on and I checked our movement on the chart plotter, we did appear to be dragging but no urgent concern as it was taking us away from the reef into deeper water. This gave me time to check a few things out before deciding what to do. I had a feel of the anchor bridle and I could feel every time a wave rocked us there was a drag of the anchor chain.

I said to Nancy that I would not be happy to try and find a good anchorage here in the dark when we sure did not find one in daylight. I said that I think we will sail to Great Keppel Island now I had a couple of hours sleep. We weighed anchor and once underway I unfurled the genoa but we had to use one engine as the wind was not enough. Nancy made a hot cup of tea before she went for a sleep.

It was a great night a near full moon that lit the surroundings, it was not a cold night, well not until the first light started to show then I had to grab a few extra clothes. Nancy woke around daybreak just after 0500 hours and I was ready for a sleep, the last hour I was nodding off and had to walk around the cockpit to keep awake. It was a little busy with other ships some cargo and some fishing boats. The last one was as Nancy got up I had to change course to avoid it, although it was supposed to give way to me I don’t like to force that issued with a container ship with many more tons than we and you never know if they are paying any attention to what is outside. They would not even feel the bump if they hit us.

I had about an hour sleep then woke and came up on deck, again we had these messy seas we were only a couple of hours from Great Keppel Island. Once we were anchored I had another rest. I think I have freshened up the flu again.

(HMCS Protector)

HMCS (Her Majesty’s Colonial Ship) Protector was a large flat iron gunboat commissioned and purchased by the South Australia government in 1884, for the purpose of defending the local coastline against possible attacks in the aftermath of the Russian scare of 1870s. She arrived in Adelaide in September 1884 and subsequently served in the Boxer Rebellion, World War I and World War II.

During July 1943, Protector was requisitioned for war service by the US Army. On the way to New Guinea and off Gladstone, she was damaged in a collision with a tug and abandoned. The hull was subsequently taken to Heron Island off the Queensland coast and later sunk for use as a breakwater. Her rusting remains are still visible to this day.

Keppel Bay and Keppel Islands –

(First ray of sunshine as we sail towards Great Keppel Island)
(Chart showing in red the track we took from Bundaberg to Great Keppel Island, pencil track is previous years sailing)

Wednesday 09/05/2012

We arrived at Great Keppel Island at 0935 hours and after anchoring and having a cuppa I had a sleep, I am still shaking the tail end of the flu so I figured I needed a little rest. So we did very little all day after sailing through the night having little sleep but we did enjoy the scenery and the relax.

Thursday 10/05/2012

At 0845 hours we pulled the pick and sailed over to Keppel Bay Marina there was no hurry so we just sailed under the genoa which gave us a speed of 5.5 knots, seas were still a little messy but not too bad. As we left GKI we noticed ‘Swanning Around’ friends that we met in Brisbane last year and saw them again in Brisbane this year. Nancy called them on the radio and asked what they were up to and we will catch them up north. We also saw a couple of other yachts that we knew from earlier days and caught up with some of them it looks like the start of the cruising season is here.

(Sailing towards Roslyn Bay Marina)

Once we had berthed in Keppel Bay Marina we went to book in with the usual very friendly people here. The marina is quite a nice marina and the people are so friendly. After booking in we had a coffee and something to eat at the cafe before starting on some of the chores. We are in for one night, tomorrow we have friends coming aboard for a couple of nights, Dot and John, we always call in here or Gladstone to see them, Dot has been a friend of Nancy’s for a long time when they lived in Geurie NSW.

Friday 11/05/2012

We did a little running around getting some fuel and Nancy had ordered some bread from the servo so we picked that up then Dot and John arrived and took Nancy into Yeppoon to get some items we could not get out here. When they arrived back I had the boat ready to go. Once they were on board I went up to the marina office and told them we were leaving and booked us in again for Sunday and Monday. I also enquired about the courtesy car and they pencilled in a booking for Monday.

This marina has a courtesy car that you can book for a two hour period, totally free of charge, two hours is just enough time to drive into Yeppoon do a big shop and return to the marina unload your stuff and return the keys. This is the only marina I have seen that does this. But let me say that when the cruising season is in full swing it is not easy to get the car the exact time you want it and some people will dip out, this happened to us last year we could not get it in the time frame we was at the marina, that’s the breaks. So don’t expect to come in for only one or two days and be able to get it you may miss out but it’s not always the case.

At 11 30 hours we left the marina, the wind outside was lively so I left a reef in the mainsail when I hoisted it, once hoisted we set a course for the NW side of North Keppel Island, one of the guide books state it is the best SE wind anchorage. Once course set we unfurled the genoa and away we went at 8.5 knots, choppy seas and not knowing how our guest can handle the seas I thought that will be fine I will leave the reef in the main. The waves stood up a little more in the shallower areas but only one or two waves washed the upper deck.

(Chart of Rosslyn Bay and the Keppel Isles)

As we approached the anchorage we furled the genoa and then turned into the wind and dropped the mainsail then carefully motored into the anchorage area as we had never been in this anchorage before. We were at high tide with a 3 metre difference between high and low I did the math and with us drawing 1.4 metres decided that 4.8 metres depth at high tide would keep us off the bottom.

(Chart North Keppel Island anchorage)

I found the anchorage alright but I would not say it is the best SE wind anchorage as the waves still work their way up from the southern end and being quite away of the beach there are some small wind waves from the direction of the wind. It is also prone to some slap from waves under light SW winds that tend to be around in the mornings. It would not worry me anchoring here in these conditions it is still comfortable but it is not the best SE wind anchorage I would say close in on Second Beach on Great Keppel Island would be a better anchorage.

Besides this we had a good night at this anchorage and a nice sunset a good meal , a few drinks and a lot of laughs. We did not stay up too late as we were all a bit bushed. John had come off night shift so he was feeling more than any of us.

Saturday 12/05/2012

As usual I was out of bed at first light and it was a beautiful morning, we had the S/SW slight wind that caused some wave slap on the hulls in the early hours of the morning but the skies were full of colour before the sun got over the horizon. I made a cup of tea and Nancy got up, our guests stayed in bed. When the time got to 0720 hours I suggested to Nancy that we pull anchor and head for Second Beach and have breakfast there. So we got ready and was away by 0730 hours unfortunately startling our guest with the starting of engines and the rattle of the anchor chain.

They surfaced and I asked them if they liked the alarm clock. They said that they were awake and thought we were still asleep because they did not hear us moving around.

(Chart Great Keppel Island)
(Great Keppel Island)

We motored all the way to Second Beach as the wind was on the nose and it was not that strong anyway.

(Looking out of the north side of Great Keppel Island)

We anchored close in to the beach and then cooked a good Aussie breakfast of sausages, bacon and eggs on toast. After that and the dishes were done we lowered the dinghy to go ashore for a walk. We first went ashore at Svendsen’s Beach, we walked to the end of the beach then went over the walkway to Butterfish Beach on the NE end of the island which is very picturesque we then walked back to the dinghy and went over to Second Beach and walked that and then onto Leekes Beach and went up to Leekes Creek.

It is possible to take a yacht into Leekes Creek on a high tide and beach it during low tide. I have seen a yacht in there high and dry supported upright by ropes attached to halyards abeam of the yacht attached to trees so it does not topple at low tide. The bloke that owned it was a Kiwi, he left the yacht there and went back to New Zealand for a few weeks.

(This picture was taken some years ago from inside a cave, it is actually six pictures that I stitched together, it has since been listed as an Aboriginal Sacred Site and people are asked not to go in there).

After we had walked all the northern beaches it was time to go back to ‘Alana Rose’ the midday heat was getting a little warm, yes people in the southern states it was hot in May, yes it cools in the night to around 13⁰C, but the days are lovely above the tropic of Capricorn. I should not rub it in too much because we will be sailing south next winter.

We had lunch followed by a quiet afternoon, I had a nanna nap for half hour the rest of the crew soaked up the sun and a couple of beverages on the forward deck. Late afternoon Mark on ‘Perfect Solution’ a Lagoon motor catamaran anchored alongside and came over with prawns and fish for us, so the prawns were entree and fish was main course. We met Mark two years ago he had his boat on the hard at Mackay the same time we were on the hard and we became friends from then. He had come by as soon as we were in the marina the other day with a tray of fish. He loves fishing and he always gives fish away to visiting friends that turn up at the marina. His wife is not keen on the sea so he goes out by himself. Makes me think how lucky I am with Nancy enjoying this life on the sea as much as I do.

(Sunset over the mainland from our anchorage)

With our seafood dinner and a few drinks and laughs it was time to turn in for the night and I think we all slept very well. I was up again at first light followed by Nancy our guests surfaced a little later then we cooked the big breakfast once again.

After the big breakfast and all dishes done and stowed we weighed anchor and motored around the western side of the island anchoring close in to Fishermans Beach. This beach is the main inhabited tourist part of the island there are a few commercial places such as holiday units, Pizza Restaurant, etc. The old resort is there that has been closed for some years.

We went ashore to walk off the big breakfast and look around, I must admit it looks a little healthier as far as business than last time we visited. But at this time in 2012 there is a big cloud hanging over this island. A big developer apparently worked wonders with the Labour Government in getting a development approved to build a 37 acre marina, 18 hole golf course, 300 apartments 750 villas.

This is not beneficial to the beautiful island that it is, it’s about a developer selling real estate. GKI is one of the few islands left for yachties and local people from Yeppoon being able to visit and enjoy the freedom of an island with some facilities to cater for tourist at an affordable price. It is funny how the land zoning had changed from National Park to this development just before the election. Tell my suspicious mind that money did not change hands between the government of the day and the developer. Let’s face it elections cost money.

Well after our walk on the beach today we went back on board for lunch and then had to motor over to the marina as there was not a drop of wind to fill a sail. Once in the marina we said goodbye to our friends Dot and John.

Keppel Bay to Island Head Creek

Tuesday 15/05/2012

We were out of bed by 0500 hours this morning and as usual the cup of tea comes first then we get ready to sail getting the charts out, roll up the cockpit covers, disconnect the electricity and single up the docking lines. We have a W/SW wind in the marina of around 6 knots which is going to blow us off the wharf and we had another boat alongside of us which makes it a little tricky when there is just the two of us. Our normal routine is that we remove all dock lines other than a bow and a stern line which are just one round turn on the dock cleat and back to the boat so we can just slip the lines from onboard. I usually let go of the stern line and race back to the helm to take control of the boat and call to Nancy to let go of the bow line and away we go. If we did this now the stern would swing around on the wind and hit the other boat, even though we have fenders out on that side just in case but we don’t want to touch that boat.

Before letting go any lines I explained to Nancy what we would do and this is what we did. I stayed with the helm and put the port engine in slow ahead this pulled on the stern line and because that was holding us the bow was forced forward and hard against the dock, Nancy then released the bow line, then she came to the stern line and when she was ready I put the port engine into neutral and gave the starboard engine a touch astern taking the weight off the stern line Nancy quickly retrieved the stern line and I moved both engines slow ahead before it had time to blow across to the other boat. This is one of the advantages of a catamaran with two engines you can do these manoeuvres.

We motored slowly out of the marina whilst Nancy ran around putting the ropes and fenders away and as soon as that was completed we went out of the marina, as we moved into deeper water I shut down one engine and unfurled the genoa (headsail) and then as we got away from the land I shut down the other engine and went sailed. It was a tail wind and not that strong but we got along around the 5 knots. The seas were very sloppy with swell from ESE and wind waves from the south. In the distance I could see one yacht ahead of us which turned out to be a French monohull and after we had been out about 20 minutes two sails appeared to our stern they had the sails wing on wing. (Wing on wing is where the headsail is out one side of the yacht and the mainsail is out the other side as with a tail wind having both sails out the same side the mainsail would block the wind from the headsail). We could have done the same but I found that going any faster in these seas made it more uncomfortable I had worked that out when we had one engine and the headsail working together.

Coastguard had told us about the military exercises in the military zone which start just north of Five Rocks and ends north of Townsend Island the exercise in operation at the moment does not affect the areas we need to go but most of the area will be closed after the 11 June. We could hear the heavy shell firing at the Keppel’s.

We continued to sail along having to change course slightly at times to keep the wind in the sail and stop it from flapping from one side to the other which it did on a couple of occasions because the large waves would turn the boat off course now and again. I could see the yachts behind gaining on us and as they say more than one yacht going in the same direction constitutes a race, however, I was comfortable with my feet up at the helm keeping watch and reading a funny book so I let the other two race behind me they passed me near Port Clinton about 4 NMS from our destination one was a catamaran ‘Aquavista’ the other a monohull ‘Sparanza’.

(Passing a fishing trawler)

‘Sparanza’ furled their foresail soon after and we again caught up and followed them into Pearl Bay where the French yacht was also anchored.
Pearl Bay is quite pretty and although the seas were a little messy outside however, as the seas livened during the night it became a little rocky.

(Heading into Pearl Bay)
(Chart of Pearl Bay)
(Pearl Bay anchorage)
(Pearl Bay)

Wednesday 16/05/2012

This morning as we rocked a little having our cup of tea at first light we talked about what we would do, we knew the weather was going to be stronger winds today and considering the amount of swell here in Pearl Bay at the moment although not too bad, we knew it would get worse so we decided to move out straight away and head for Island Head Creek some 6 NMS north for better protection.

We quickly got organised and weigh anchor and headed out the same way as we entered as we knew we could get some internet coverage out there to check weather reports for the next few days. As we got out of the bay the seas and swell were around the 2 metre mark and a little sloppy, I headed almost straight into the waves heading east until we were away from the islands and then turned quickly to go with the waves before one of the large ones hit us on the side.

(Dome and Split Islands just north of Pearl Bay)

We unfurled a little of the genoa and motor sailed as we needed to charge the batteries and we wanted to get into Island Head Creek before the tide change so we were moving along at 8.5 knots. Nancy got on the computer and got the weather information and did a few other things.

At 0700 hours I had to ask Nancy to do the HF radio sched with the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club, it started yesterday and but I forget to do it. Nancy got on the HF radio frequency 8161 and made contact with Andy on ‘Paws’ who kicked the sched off. Apparently he had no one yesterday and only us today. I now have the alarm set on my wrist watch so I do not forget the sched.

(Chart of Island Head Creek, red dots suggested anchorages)

It was a little lumpy getting into Island Head Creek the tide had just turned and as we entered I was quite surprised at the amount of yachts/boats anchored I believe there is 22 in number anchored here. Most of the good spots were taken up, we saw ‘Neriki’ and went over for a chat the boats were evenly spread along the sand bar for protection and I felt that if we did go between any of them it would be too close for the amount of chain everyone plus us would have out. So we decided to go over to our usual anchorage by the fourth beach near the entrance and drop anchor there.

(Nearing Island Head Creek)

Island Head Creek

After we had anchored we got breakfast underway and checked how the anchoring here situation was with the effects of wind and tide. Whilst we had breakfast we started to get these bullets of wind coming around the hillside up to 30 knots, the seas were much calmer here but the wind bullets were a little worrying, I prefer to have a constant wind force than bullets as the bullets of wind give violent movements of the boat and this can dislodge the anchor. After breakfast we went looking again and anchored the NW side of the creek, this puts us on a lee shore which I did not like but we anchored well away from the beach and put heaps of anchor chain out after making sure the good Rocna anchor was buried deep.

The strong winds kept up all day but the wind waves were quite small but constant slapping on the hulls. After lunch and making sure all was well we went ashore for a long walk. We met other yachties doing the same. They said they would be having sundowners on the beach at 1600 hours so we said we may see them there. However, when the time came it was also tide change and we swung around the other direction and I did not want to leave the boat until I knew all was well so we missed out on sundowners. Just as we waited the anchor dragging alarm sounded, this was expected as we always set the alarm short at first to let us know when the boat has turned with the tide so we can check that the anchor is holding. Once satisfied that all is well we add a little more distance onto the alarm setting. We held strong and fast so we were happy we had our sundowners on board.

Earlier Rick from ‘Neriki’ came over to see us to see what our plans were, we told him nothing set in concrete but we may stay here tomorrow and sail the next day for Hunter Island. It all depends on the weather. Rick said that he is booked in to go on the hard at Mackay in two weeks so he has time to waste here and around the islands before heading to Mackay.

We had dinner and read for a while before going to bed, I went before Nancy she stayed up reading a little longer.

Thursday 17/05/2012

I was up just before first light this morning I put the kettle on before going out on deck to see what the weather was like. The wind still blowing but not as bad as yesterday. I made the cups of tea and took Nancy hers as she remained in bed for a short while. I then got onto the computer to start the scribbles on the blog.

We had the HF radio sched at 0700 hours and again we spoke to Andy, no one else came on the radio, it is only a new thing that we are starting and it may take some time before people remember to switch on.

(Island Head Creek beach view)
(Nancy on the beach)
(Small fridge and other items found on the beach from a motorboat that hit the rocks and sank whilst trying to enter in rough weather)

This morning Bret on ‘Swanning Around’ called on the radio letting everyone know that they were having a BBQ on the beach for lunch if we would like to join them so we did. Getting ashore in the dinghy we got rather wet with the wind waves, the wind was blowing up to 20 knots, but we soon dried out in the sun. We had quite a gathering with crews off ‘Swanning Around’, ‘Sasha B’, ‘Aquavista’, Neriki’, ‘Sporanza’, ‘Annalese’ and us ‘Alana Rose’ We had a great lunch and socialising for sometime then we noticed the wind had first settled then started to pick up again and this nasty cloud formation across the sky appeared and was moving from the east to west in our direction.

(The group shot after the BBQ)

I was the first to say “I think we will start to move back to our boat”, and soon after I said to Nancy let us make a move I want to be on board before that hits, so we said farewell to our friends got the dinghy in the water and sped back to “Alana Rose’. We got back on board hoisted the dinghy and then the rain came most of the others that waited longer got rather wet getting back to their boats, it poured rain for about twenty minutes and very heavy, after the rain it got rather cool.

(The storm front)
(Pouring rain)

Friday 18/05/2012

The weather today is still cool and the wind is howling so we decided to just do a few chores on board. We have had the internet coverage on and off depends which way the boat swings with the wind and the tide, it is a very week signal so it can be frustrating but we are getting better service with the outside antenna where others do not have any service. I have continued to get the seven day weather reports from the different internet sites and then broadcasting it to all the other boats in the creek.

Nancy did general cleaning and I cleaned waste water strainers and gave the bilges a clean out and just checked engines and all the necessary things. We then sat around reading our books.

Saturday 19/05/2012

We decided to relocate over to the other side of the creek this morning near the sand bar that gives a little more shelter from the fetch and this reduces the wave slap on the hulls. We then did a few more little jobs after giving the weather out to the other boats.

I did a some rope splicing which I am still not the best at with certain rope this one being a soft nylon rope makes it most difficult. We have these openings for boarding in the guardrails that is stainless wire with a latch that can easily open if grabbed wrongly. They always give me a little concern when at sea and moving about the deck thinking if you grab it to save yourself when the boat rocks it may come open and you will just keep going over the side. So I am replacing these with nylon rope spliced to the one side of the rail support and a spliced eye at the other end that will be held in place with a ‘D’ shackle, much safer I think.

(Stainless steel latches unsafe open too easily opened)

(Replaced stainless latches with rope)

Late afternoon we lowered the dinghy and went over to see Michelle and Rick on ‘Neriki’ for a chat and we had a couple of drinks with them which was good. We stayed a while and then I saw the clouds bounding over the hill and decided to move before we got wet bums on the way home.

We cooked some nice fish that we got from dear friend Mark at Keppel Bay and had to make a wind break so that I could use the BBQ on the back because the wind was on our beam due to the tide flow being stronger than the wind. The fish was very nice.

Sunday 20/05/2012

I did the weather report over the radio and also each morning we are doing the HF radio sched with SICYC although at this stage it is only Andy on ‘Paws’ and us doing it but I have a feeling others are on the side and a little bashful to comment. (Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club’s HF radio sched 0700 hours eastern standard time (2100 Zulu or UTC) on frequency 8161.0 kHz).

A little later Rick called over, he said he was going to go for a trip in the dinghy and taking Gary and Mercedes on ‘Forever Dreaming around to Pine Tree Point and would we like to follow and have a look around with them. So we got ready to go.

We lowered the dinghy as Rick was leaving his boat and we started to follow them although they having a larger dinghy and outboard motor left us some way behind. The wind was still blowing strong and when we went through the sandbar between the mainland and Island Head the seas were a little lumpy and I said to Nancy it is going to be fun coming back unless it settles down. We were going with the wind and waves coming back we will be against both.

When Rick invited us he said they were just going around the point so I did not think it was going to be far, wrong, it was quite a distance. We kept on going and Rick disappeared around the next point when we eventually got there we could not see where they had gone. I said to Nancy I not sure how far we have to go but I think that we will just go as far as that beach ahead. We finally got around that head to the beach and there was Rick and the rest all set up on the beach.

When we arrived at the beach the waves were breaking on the shore so Gary and Rick helped us by holding our dinghy in deeper water whilst we got out then we just lifted the dinghy and carried it to the beach without getting swamped.

(Beach around Pine Tree Point)

Michelle was organised with thermos of hot water and made us a cup of tea, then we set off on a walk along the beach. After we had been for a walk it was time to head back. Rick said that they had decided that the Mercedes and Michelle would walk back via the beach as four in the dinghy might be a bit too much for the seas that we had to slam into. I asked Michelle if she had her handheld radio with her, she said she had, so I told her I would have mine switched on Ch16 if they run into trouble to give us a call.

We all set off and it was a little lumpy and sea spray was constant, Rick lead us through the hole in the wall which made the trip a little better than going out past the point but when we got to the other side it was head on wind and seas, again it was sea spray and we got drenched. Rick having the larger dinghy raced ahead of us for us to follow in his wake so he was basically knocking the tops of the wave for us which made it a little better but we still had water coming at us at times.

(Hole in the wall)

We were pleased to get back on board and dry off and get warm again. Rick came over later and said he was sorry if it was a bad idea, but we said it wasn’t we had a good time. Poor Michelle and Mercedes were worn out after their long walk back. We had a lot of fun and it was better than just sitting around on the boat or doing chores.

(Rainbow at the back)

We then had a quiet night aboard Nancy had cooked a silverside in the shuttle chef and with the vegies white sauce and a couple of glasses of red wine it was a nice night.

Island Head Creek – 22/05/2012

Many yachts left this morning three heading south selecting the lighter winds of the day Gary and Mercedes on ‘Forever Dreaming’ went north their catamaran is a lighter built Easy Catamaran that Gary built himself only weighing in around 3 to 4 tonnes they prefer the lighter winds to sail where most of us need a little more wind as we are heavier. Gary made comment when aboard ‘Neriki’ a 45 Leopard catamaran how steady it was in the water at anchor with the wind and wind waves his boat being lighter moves quite a lot.

‘Endless Dream’ that has been here a couple of days we met the crew last night are heading to Busselton south of Perth they also headed out this morning. I think they will still have to run and engine at times as the wind comes and goes.

Yesterday we had lunch on ‘Neriki’ Nancy made up a couple of dishes and Michelle did also, Michelle had invited a group over there was, Michelle and Rick, Mercedes and Gary off ‘Forever Dreaming’ Jill Knight off ‘Cooee’, Jim off ‘Prosper’ and Nancy and myself. Jill and Jim have been friends for many years quite well known around the yachting world. Jill has written many articles for Cruising Helmsman magazine plus others and she has written at least one book. She has been sailing on ‘Cooee’ a timber monohull built in 1884 for many years, she originally crewed on it sailing around Asia in the early 80’s then she finally purchased it from the skipper/owner a few years later she is quite a lovely lady and enjoys a good laugh. Jim is also a bit of a character, he bought his first boat also in the early 80’s and then learnt to sail by taking it out on the ocean. He purchased ‘Prosper’ some time later also a monohull, it was a new boat but had not yet been fitted out with mast, rigging and sails. He works a few months a year in Japan on a wealthy persons boats maintaining them during the active season this is were he earns his money to continue cruising when he returns to Oz.

(Nancy, Mercedes,Shelley and Jill Knight)

We had a great lunch and a great afternoon before returning back on board, as we went by ‘Endless Dreaming’ we waved to the crew and Gary and Mercedes were talking to them alongside in their dinghy. When we got back on board Brian on ‘Endless Dreaming’ called us on the radio and asked if we could have a chat. We dropped the dinghy again and went over, they are heading around the top like us and wondered if we were going the same time. The good thing about it was that they provided information about sailing WA and we were able to give them information about QLD.

This morning I did the usual up early and got on the internet to get the weather from different websites, did the Shaggers Net on the HF radio at 0700 hours and then at around 0820 hours I broadcast the weather to those that are interested in the Creek here.

Because some of the yachts decided they were leaving this morning I did the weather for them last night as well so they could make their commitment to sail this morning or wait for better weather. Today is the only day for the lighter winds so they went today.

Before we came to the Creek Rick had phoned us whilst we were down Keppel and asked how long before we would be as he had his crab pots in and was catching too many for just him, I told him it would be two or three days so he said he would have to pull the pots out until we got here. Well when we finally arrived he put the pots in and sure enough no crabs. Rick said he could not believe it the crabs and fish all of a sudden disappeared, we know the feeling every time we try to fish they seem to do the same. It may have been the rough weather that had sent them to more sheltered waters. Well this morning he came over with big smiles and said Nancy I have the crabs I promised you . He said he found where they were hiding. So we have crabs and big ones.

(Ricks got crabs)
(One bucket of crabs)

Nancy has stunk the boat out cooking them and now We both then removed the meat from the crabs and put it all in a large pot having to crack the shells to get the meat out. After this Nancy started cooking again making a large corn crab dish with spices, we had some for dinner with lots to spare.

Wednesday 23/05/2012

Today was a little calmer as far as the winds so Nancy went out in the kayak to investigate some of the shore and take photos, I made her tie a lifeline to the kayak around her ankle and take the handheld radio with her as the tidal flow here is quite strong and if the wind kicks in again she could find it difficult. I asked her which way she was going and when she told me I said that she would have the tide against her coming back, (talk to yourself John she will not agree), well she went her way and the tide was flowing against her on the way back but nothing said. She enjoyed herself anyway.

I stayed on board to do some chores I drained off some diesel out of the tanks to make sure we did not have any water in them, I found that I had not completely tightened the port filler cap and was concerned with the amount of rain we had that some water may have got through but there was no evidence of it. However, I dosed the tank with diesel additive just in case. I then serviced the little generator as it had done a few hours with the cloudy rainy days we have had.

Michelle called up on the radio and asked if I could print out the weather forecast for the French boat as they could not understand my morning weather report as they have difficulty with the Australian language. Each morning after 0530 hours I download the weather from different internet sites and then I broadcast it over the VHF radio at around 0820 hours to all the boats in the area. Lots of the boats cannot get internet due to the type of setup they have and they appreciate the weather information. Thirsty Sound Coastguard do transmit the basic weather forecast but more often than not we do not get the VHF reception in the creek, I heard it this morning for the first time in two days.

Later Michelle came over to pick the weather from us to take to the French couple and Michelle said she had asked them over for sundowners and for us to come over and join them at around 1600 hours and so we did.

The French couple Annie and Daniel had arrived in Australia some time ago having sailed the Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific Oceans, they had returned to France a few times by plane and at one time when they were away was during the Queensland floods that occurred in Bundaberg, somewhere up the river they had paid for a dock and a person to keep an eye on the boat for them, the flood occurred and the boat, a Fontaine Pajot catamaran was swept away. When they returned their boat was gone and all the bloke said your boat was swept away with the flood, no one had bothered to look for it. They finally loaned a dinghy and went looking for it on the way a lady asked them what they were doing and when they told her she took them home and she looked after them until the boat was found, recovered and repaired. They found their boat the next day it was trapped in the mangroves. One interesting point was they contacted their insurance company and the company told them they were not allowed to retrieve it themselves it had to be a company that they would allocate, if they did it themselves the insurance would not cover any of the damages. I have heard this before, so if your boat is damaged and your insurance is required, contact the insurance company before you do anything. Insurance companies are tough and they only require the smallest loophole to wipe you. Unfortunately they had some bad treatment by a few of our countrymen but they also had some good, especially the lady that took them into her home and looked after them.

One interesting factor was they approached an authority for permission to cut the mangroves so they could get the boat out, the person gave them permission but he said he could not put that in writing. What a wimp, this is the way it has got with litigation in Australia, people are frightened to commit themselves, very sad.

We had a pleasant sundowners before returning aboard our own boats for the evening.

Thursday – 24/05/2012

(Morning glory)

After getting the weather report we decided to up anchor and move a little further into the creek for a bit more protection from the NE and SW winds that are predicted today and tomorrow. I called ‘Neriki’ on the radio to let them know what we were up to so they did not think we were taking off without them as they are going to sail with us. ‘Neriki’ has a damaged anchor winch and has to wind it in by hand and in the windy conditions the boat is always pulling on the anchor so a third person can be hand one to direct, one to wind and one to drive the boat, so we said we would go and anchor and then come back in the dinghy and help them move.

(Anchored along the sandbar Island Head Creek)

This we did and after both boats were at anchor Michelle made a nice cup of tea and we sat yarning for awhile. The day was incredible we had a blazing sunrise this morning but the day was basically calm, calm before the storm maybe.

We did a little cleaning and Nancy did a little cooking, Anzac biscuits, of course I had to test them. Michelle and Rick came over for dinner last night and we had another pleasant night, we talked about making a move on Saturday if the weather that is predicted stays the same.

Friday – 25/05/2012

After moving yesterday the internet service has dropped out but I was able to get a few minutes of service to download most of the weather and was able to inform the other yachts on my usual radio transmission at around 0820 hours. There is a strong wind warning today with the S/SW change coming in around mid afternoon with 20-30 knot winds and seas up to 3 metres. We are hoping that by morning this will settle down and we will make a move north.

At about 1130 hours the wind changed the first we noticed was that the tide had changed but we turned at a different angle when I looked out the SW winds had just started light at first then it got stronger, then a front hit with rain and cold air and the winds increased up to 30 knots. The first big gust straightened the anchor chain out in the opposite direction putting us in a little shallower water than what I really liked so we have been watching closely whilst the tide goes out and fortunately the tide is now at the bottom and the flow has kept us in 5 metres of water. I think we are in for a rough night with the wind howling.

Anchored: 22⁰ 22.212 S 150⁰ 38.766 E (Good for E-NE handled the SW wind change of strong winds but it does put you on a lee shore with the sand bar, good anchor and good length of anchor chain no problems we had 50m chain out.)

Saturday -26/05/2012

Well we did have a sleepless night last night I think I got up about four times. The first time Nancy banged me with her arm which is my dragging anchor alarm. We have a handheld GPS on the navigation station that is on 24/7 and when we anchor we set the alarm, when in bed due to me being a deaf old bugger I do not hear it but Nancy does, so she hears it that wakes her she hits me and tells me the anchor alarm is going off.

Well I put my eyes on (glasses) and go up top and I still cannot hear it, I get to the GPS and no alarm is indicating and I cannot hear one. I tell Nancy that she is dreaming it, next thing the bloody things goes off. No Nancy is not psychic, what happened is that we stretched out of the alarm distance the alarm probably sounded then we went back into the safe area again then by the time I got back into bed and got comfortable we went past the limit once again but this time stayed there.

Well I finally got back to sleep and then woke again at 0200 hours nature calling, I attended to that then at 0320 hours the tide was pushing us one way then the wind would push us another this occasionally would put us side on to the wind waves and they would slam into the ships side making quite a noise, then to make matters worse the wind would push from behind and push us over our anchor chain and because we are a catamaran that uses a bridle on the anchor chain which has a loop of the chain behind where the bridle is fixed to the chain this loop sags as we go forward and rubs on the anchor chain on the other side of the bridle, this make the chain grate against itself.

I woke again at 0520 hours and got up to make a cup of tea and check the weather on the internet. We have had strong winds for days and it is not changing, however, there is a small window over the next couple of days where the wind is easing through the night this gives time for the seas to settle down for the next day. The added bonus is that the winds are SW which means the winds coming off the land therefore by sailing near the coastline there are very few wind waves or they have not the distance to gather height.

Island Head to Mackay

So we readied ourselves to sail straight after the SICYC HF radio sched at 0700 hours, which was good to hear a few on the net this morning. Then we waited for ‘Neriki’ to see if they needed a hand as there anchor winch is not working at all. They managed it themselves so as soon as they were underway we did the same. We motored out of Island Head Creek and just as we got outside I did my last weather broadcast for those that were up and about and wished the ones that were staying well and that we may catch up again further north. If we had not left today we would have had to stay another week with what weather is coming.

We got clear of the land and turned northwest and set course to pass Cape Townsend before changing course for Hunter Island. The wind was not that strong so we unfurled the genoa (headsail) and motor sailed for a short time then as we past Island Head the wind came good and we shut the engine down. ‘Neriki’ followed us out along with another catamaran ‘Kularoo’, ‘Neriki’ stayed closer to the land where I went a little further out to sea before turning northward, the reason I do this is that I find more often than not the wind gets sheltered by the landform more so close by than further out to sea. This can be the same if the wind is coming off the land like this morning or blowing onto the land, sometimes the benefit from wind close to land is when it is blowing along it, it tends to hit the ranges and reflect out a little. As we sailed along a pod of dolphins went by the starboard side out for their morning fishing.

(Sailing north of Island Head Creek, lumpy seas)
(You could say it is a little cool out here)

We stayed with the headsail only even though when passing Strong Tide Pass at the lower end of Townsend Island where the wind came out of there at nearly 20 knots, I knew that Townsend Island would shelter the wind once we were going along it. ‘Neriki’ soon after that turned into the wind and hoisted the mainsail with two reefs then turned about and unfurled the headsail as well, I stayed with the headsail as we were doing well under that alone and I wanted to see what the wind was going to be like once we passed Cape Townsend with the SW blowing straight up Thirsty Sound and going on the wind charts that will be where the strongest winds would be. As we rounded the Cape the apparent wind was around 18 knots this would give a true wind of around 24 -25 knots, I called the deckie out (Nancy) to assist with sails, we furled the genoa and then Nancy on the helm turned the boat into the wind and I hoisted the mainsail to first reef point, then turned back on course unfurled the genoa leaving four turns on the furler and shut the engines down once again. We had a great sail speeds ranging from 8.5 to 10 knots not that I am a racer but we romped ahead, Rick told me later that he had reefed to the second point and that is where we did better than them. The seas were a little lumpy in places but not that bad.

As we neared the Marble Island group the SW winds and seas were still there it had not yet changed to SE direction. ‘Neriki’ called up and asked about the anchorage they cannot afford to change anchorages if Hunter Island turned out bad due to wind direction and they had to move having to manhandle the anchor chain, so we made the decision to go to the north anchorage at Marble Island and on arrival found it to be a good decision.

(Anchored at Marble Island)

The weather today was wet and cold, 15⁰C this is ridiculous bring on the global warming.

(Entering Marble Island north anchorage)

Anchored: 21⁰ 58.338 S 150⁰ 10. 433 E, good anchorage for strong SW – SE winds can get swell during strong SE winds. Hunter Island is the better anchorage for SE – NE winds 21⁰ 58. 507 S 150⁰ 08.315 E.

(Marble Island north anchorage)

Sunday – 27/05/2012

I had a bit of a restless night again last night, I was warm enough as Nancy put the doona on the bed but around 0120 hours I woke and had to go to the head and whilst up I had a check around, checked the GPS we had not moved from the original spot where we settled at anchor. I must say under these conditions this anchorage is good, the wind was strong and you could hear that but that’s not a problem as we are used to that. The sea was quite flat and it was calm this is probably due to the wind being SW – S all day and this evening, the good book states that it can be rollie here during strong SE winds the swell curls around into the bay. There is no tidal flow effect so the boat generally stays in the same position and does not turn with the tide.

I think this was my problem why I could not get back to sleep thinking of things woke the brain up and could not stop thinking of things after that.

I was up by 0530 hours put the kettle on, it was cold out and I ventured out to give the gas solenoid a tap because it was cold too and would not operate, the little tap on the side fixed that. I often find that if it is really cold (cold to me anyway), that the valve sticks. After a cup of tea and checking the weather charts we got organised, I had to get away from the island before 0700 hours because I had to run the SICYC HF radio net as Andy was out yacht racing this morning.

As it was close to the radio sched time by the time we had nearly everything done we had to rush a little. The wind was a SSW and 20-25 knots and cold, I had all my foul weather gear on plus track pants shirt and woollen jumper and I was still cold. I was a little harsh on dear Nancy this morning she was fluffing around a little this morning doing this and that which were not important at this time. I asked to get the anchor started so we could get moving whilst I was finishing a few things, then she went on doing something else unimportant, so I had to pull the skippers cap on and say sternly “anchor please”. She is a darling she just went off and started getting the bridle off the anchor chain and probably calling me precious names under her breath, well maybe not under her breath because she knows I am deaf it would give her more enjoyment to say it out loud.

We got clear just in time to do the radio sched, we put the engines in neutral and thought we would drift whilst doing the radio and also wait to make sure ‘Neriki’ was alright with their anchor. I went and did the radio sched and surprised to get a few responses, all week we have just had Andy and I and a couple listening on the side. Today we had David on ‘Moonglade’ in the Mary River at Great Sandy Straits, another Dave on ‘Quinco’ who is still in Brisbane hoping for weather to settle so they can sail this week. Then a surprise a call from Luganville, Vanuatu a yacht named ‘Riptoure’ (I think), he wanted to check on Dave of ‘Quinco’. When I finished the radio sched I went to the helm Nancy had been keeping an eye on things, the first thing I noticed that we were doing 4 knots without engines or sails and against the tide, I think we will just unfurl a little genoa today and see what that does.

‘Neriki’ got underway and they hoisted their mainsail to first reef, I still thought I would stick with the headsail as I know the weather is going to get a little stronger and I want to clear the islands to see what is happening in the open seas before putting anymore sail up. I find with short hand crew meaning only two of us I use sails which make life easy, with a near or tail wind the headsail is easy to control it is all done from the cockpit where mainsail hoisting or reefing have to be done out at the mast and one has to turn the yacht into the wind to make the adjustments. Many sailors would do what ‘Neriki’ did and that is use the mainsail reefed some would do what I did, each to their own.

As we got out to where the real action was happening winds were sometimes 20-25 and occasionally 25-30 knots I reefed in the genoa four turns on the furler. The wind waves had got larger now the tide was in full swing we had wind against tide so the waves were standing up with white tops. We sailed along between 6 and 8 knots and in these conditions that was fast enough. We had a good sail albeit a little uncomfortable.

We arrived at Curlew Island and motored into the anchorage and we dropped the anchor where the recommended spot was in the Curtis Coast Book the same place we had anchored in years before, it was still windy in the anchorage with the bullets of wind coming through the gap between the mountains. Later that night it became uncomfortable with the bullets of wind swinging the boat from one side to the other. None of the boats had a comfortable night and we all suffered lack of sleep. The stronger wind woke me at 0020 hours and I don’t think I slept after that.

Anchorage: 21⁰ 35.596 S 149⁰ 47.915 E This anchorage under strong SE can be uncomfortable with the swell creeping in, three years ago we anchored in very strong SE winds and in spring tide times with the swell, current and wind we travelled 9 NMS in three days around the anchor.

Monday – 28/05/2012

We got underway just before 0700 hours in time to clear the island to do the Shaggers HF radio sched, once clear of the island the wind was blowing and the seas were up a little but not as bad as yesterday. I set a course for Mackay at the same time to try and miss some of the high wave spots marked on the charts which are caused through shoals and sea streams around the islands. I still maintained sailing with the headsail only as by the weather forecast I knew the wind was going to get stronger, however, I also knew by the wind charts that the closer we got to land the less windy it would be.

We were just over half way when the wind died down to around the 12 – 15 knots and I toyed with putting the mainsail up but Nancy had gone for a rest on the lounge and it looked as though she was asleep so I was not going to disturb her. Anyway it was quite pleasant the seas had dropped with the wind and although we had the tide partly against us we continued to sail between 5 and 6.5 knots.

Another catamaran ‘Kularoo’ had set off before us, Bill the owner was by himself on board and he did well under a Screecher, he was just in front when we left Curlew but was around 4 NMS in front by the time he arrived in Mackay. ‘Neriki’ who was around 3 NMS behind at the start after hoisting a reefed mainsail when the winds calmed had caught up with us as we arrived at Mackay.

We had our allocated berth and went straight to it, it was fun getting in with the wind deciding to increase as we arrived, catamarans are easily grabbed by the wind once you slow down and we have to slow down to get in the berth. Fortunately it was a blow on dock and a bloke off another yacht came to give a hand.

When we had all secured we decided to book in. I turned my phone on now that we have service and a couple of messages came through one from the shipyard here so I rang their office. When I inquired what they wanted me for, they wanted to know what happened I was supposed to haul out that morning. I politely said that I had phoned and cancelled the booking because they would not let us live aboard whilst out on the hard. They apologised and said they had forgotten about that. So I said I will haul out if that policy has changed. I was told that we may be able to live aboard if we kept quiet. Apparently it has always been the rules here that no live aboard on the hard but in previous years it has not been enforced, well we will haul out on Friday. There are a few new rules that have to be complied with, power cords you use must be tested within the 3 months that they are to be used, you must wear covered in footwear in the yard and safety goggles when using sanders or grinders. I am lead to believe that children are not allowed in the yard.