Friday, May 28, 2010

Mission accomplished

Friday May 28th.

The mission was to sail Nimrod from the Gold Coast to Hinchinbrook, and leave her safely tucked up in Port Hinchinbrook. We pulled it off, thanks to perfect weather and following trade-winds.

The last few days have been relaxing. After Dunk Island we motored back to the Brook Islands, which feature some particularly good snorkeling. Joan walked on the reef, while George and I snorkeled. Lovely. Some huge clams.

Then to Hinchinbrook Island, where we sped up some mangrove creeks, in the RIB, looking for crocs and a boardwalk to join the famous Thorsborne Trail. It looks stunning, and will be an early point of call when we return at the end of July.

Then further up the Hinchinbrook Channel, beautiful, but with plenty of mozzies.

Finally, just as we were heading for the marina where we have left Nimrod, Joan caught a small shark, which she expertly dissected (her old degree in zoology coming out of storage), and then she cooked us a great last supper.

So this leg of the cruise is over, and we have flown home to resuscitate our respective practices, and will go north again at the end of July to do the next stage.

Signing off for now,

Dave and George

Monday, May 24, 2010

Orpheus to Dunk Island

Monday May 23rd.

We spent Sunday night moored peacefully at Orpheus Island, a pretty member of the Palm Island group. We climbed a hill for the views.

Then today we sailed past Hinchinbrook Island, a large and spectacular island with quite high mountains.

Zoe Bay, Hinchinbrook Island

Zoe Bay

Hinchinbrook Island

Because the forecast is for the wind to go around to the north in a few days, we decided to go further up to Dunk Island before coming back to Cardwell with the nor-easterly on Wednesday. This is approaching the Family Group of islands.

I've been reading a book "Confessions of a Beachcomber" by Edmund Banfield, courtesy of the magic of Kindle. Banfield was Australia's answer to Thoreau. He lived on Dunk Island at the beginning of the twentieth century, writing about his life of natural simplicity. Dunk is a lovely place.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Palm Island - Tropical ghetto

Sunday May 23rd.

We collected George's Mum, Joan, from Townsville airport and motored and sailed back to Horseshoe Bay on Maggie Island.

Joan settled in quickly. We went for a beach walk past a wedding.

Some small boys in 'stinger suits' were playing on the stinger net. Stingers are seriously dangerous jellyfish, to keep you on your toes when you are not thinking about sharks or salt-water crocodiles.

And today, a gentle kite-only sail about 30 miles north to the Palm Island group. The largest of these is infamous for containing a settlement of aborigines with plenty of social problems. Palm Island got in the Guinness Book of Records for being the most violent place in the world outside a war zone.

Estimated Violence Rates Per 100 000 people 1976/77 to 1981/82

Queensland Palm Island
Homicide 39.6 6.15 94.3
Serious Assault 226.1 45.9 929.9

Quite incongruous to have such problems in such a beautiful place. Read more here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Experimental flythrough

I've been playing with ways to record our cruise. This is a Google Earth flythrough of the places we have been between Southport and Magnetic Island. See if it works on your computer.

I came across a nice quote from Mark Twain.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Maggie Island

Thursday May 20th.

Chill-out time at last! The trip up to Townsville involved quite a few miles every day, early starts and long hours. But now the pressure is off, and we are hanging out in beautiful Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island, which is just off Townsville. A lovely place, with walks, cafes, and lots of spectacular rock formations.

Tomorrow back to Townsville to reprovision, and get the mainsail cover which needed repair. On Saturday we will be joined by George's mother Joan.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Salvage operation

Tuesday 18th.

Sitting quietly in Townsville marina doing repairs and jobs on the boat. We had a lovely meal last night with our friends Lucy and Mal, who moved up here from the Gold Coast a few years ago. Lucy is an obstetrician, and they have a beautiful Schionning catamaran called 'Barbarella', and a house with an amazing view of Maggie Island.

After leaving Bowen, we had a bit of excitement. We were out to sea near Cape Upstart with the kite up when George spotted a floating tinnie behind us. We thought there might have been someone in distress with an outboard failure, so we dropped the kite and motored back, ready to resuscitate a dehydrated fisherman.

No-one to be seen. So we took it in tow and pulled it all the way to Townsville.

We passed it on to the water police. It turns out it had broken its rope in the Gloucester Passage and blown out to sea.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Welcome home Jessica

Saturday 15th May

We were trying to dock at the fuel wharf in Bowen as the TV was showing Jessica Watson arriving home in Sydney. So moving. She is such an inspiration.

I think she serves as a Rorschach test for people to project their patterns and beliefs about issues such as:
  • Coming of age rituals and ordeals,
  • Emancipation
  • How parents should manage teenagers, with what balance of 'protect and control', vs 'liberate and tolerate risk'.
Coming from a tradition of early independence and encouragement of calculated risk-taking, I am greatly relieved that she came home in one piece. If she had drowned, it would have unleashed a tidal wave of schadenfreude from the cosset'n'control crew.

I just hope she has as much luck coping with a tidal wave of celebrity.

We had a nice sail north from Butterfly Bay through the Gloucester Passage, and had a walk over a headland in Bowen, where some of the film 'Australia' was shot. Today we have an eight hour sail to Cape Bowling Green, within striking distance of Townsville.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Surfing the South-east Tradewinds

Thursday 13th May.

An early start as dawn broke, with a 15-25 knot wind right behind us. This is not the best angle for a cat, as the angled back shrouds, to compensate for no backstay, prevent you putting the boom out enough, or risk chafe of the mainsail against the shrouds.

We have found that the kite (aka spinnaker or MPS) alone is a great cruising downhill rig, and we have been getting increasingly confident running it in stronger winds. Gotta remember to wear gloves when working with the kite-sock ropes!

And what a ride. We covered 80 nautical miles to the southern Whitsundays in 10 hours. Hooting along, ducking and weaving past 60+ moored coal ships outside Mackay and Hay point. Signs of the mineral boom export to China, as well as poor rail and port infrastructure.

AIS symbols of ships on the chartplotter

We stopped at Thomas island, a pretty spot where I have stayed a few times before.

Friday 14th May.

A big debate today as to whether to linger in the Whitsundays, or press on to Townsville and Hinchinbrook. The trouble with Australia is that the distance between A and B is further than you think!

So we had another kite run up past Whitehaven Beach,

and had lunch in Tongue Bay under Hill point.

Hill Inlet

Then on round the north coast of Hook Island to Butterfly Bay.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Into the wild

Saturday 8th May.
No crabs in Pacific Creek. Plenty shopping-list writing, prior to a motor-sail, turned kite run, to Rosslyn Bay marina.

We fitted into a tiny mono sized berth. Confidence building. Then the marina offered us a ‘courtesy car’ for a couple of hours to hit Woolies 10 km down the road in Yeppoon. George is a serious shopper, and we made the most of the last opportunity to stock up before the wilderness of Shoalwater Bay and the islands we will go through before Mackay or the Whitsundays.

Sunday 9th May.
Snuck out of Rosslyn Bay at the late start hour of 6.30am, and carried on northwards with a 20-25 knot wind behind us. Waves built up to 3-4m. We put in a couple of reefs. Pretty nice sail. We are getting more confident with heavier conditions.

Round Manifold Island and on to Port Clinton, part of the huge Shoalwater Bay military reserve. I love it. I’m sure that if the army hadn’t locked it up, it would have been ‘developed’ or mined. Instead it’s this huge area of unspoilt country, available to yachties. We went up the top of Port Clinton, and ‘gunkholed’ in a mangrove creek miles from the next human.

Monday 10th May.
A slow start in the quiet anchorage. George scrubbed the boat to the point where you can see through the fibreglass. I fixed stuff. One definition of cruising is ‘doing repairs in exotic places!’

Then on to Island Head Creek, a very special place. A brisk reach across the shallows at the entrance to Port Clinton. Picture a 38 foot Hobie cat playing in the surf. Then through some very pretty islands along the coast past Pearl Bay.

Island Head Creek is about as big and beautiful as Pittwater, but has no houses and hardly any boats. There is a beach you could land an airliner on.

We walked it, before going upstream to a cyclone hole, where George and I stayed on our first cruise in 2001, and I also stayed another time with my Kiwi friend Richard. A sacred site.

Tuesday 11th May.
Out of Island Head creek, passing a Fusion 40 cat like one we nearly bought a few years ago. No regrets. Then a tricky days sail with not quite enough wind and some fidgeting with kite, genny, main and motors. The kite got stuck up the mast at one point, which lead to plans to climb and free it in the next quiet anchorage, but we managed to find another solution.

We passed Strong tide Passage and the Cannibal Islands.We anchored at Hunter Island, in the Dukes. A pretty spot with a hill to climb, where George gave her phone a workout. We have been out of mobile range for a few days.

Keeping up with email sometimes requires climbing to the top of an island!

A large stag startled us by leaping out of the long grass and galloping away.

Wednesday 12th May.
Onward ever onward to the north, through masses of lovely uninhabited islands. All as nice as anything in the Whitsundays, but without the crowds and charter fleets.

Today to Curlew Island, described in Noel Patrick’s cruising guide as “Curlew Island is one of the most beautiful. Anywhere.”

Friday, May 7, 2010

Keppel Bay

Friday May 7th.

How lucky are we being with the weather? Every day sunny, with 15 knots of wind to give us a reach or kite run. It doesn't get much better than this.

 So we are making great progress, powering up the coast at an average of about 10 knots, (looking a bit like this.)

Nimrod reaching
From Burnett Heads (near Bundaberg) we made an early start at 4am, and romped up the coast for 10 hours to Pancake Creek. More wilderness. Just lovely. Birdlife galore. 


Then today, a further jump through Gladstone and The Narrows to a little creek on the south side of Keppel Bay.

Pilot boat passing a bulk carrier

Ship loading

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hervey Bay

Wed May 4th.

An easy motor sail across Hervey Bay, with the usual 'one-that-got-away' story.

We went up the Burnett River and topped up with fuel and water. A fantastic crab dinner.

Platypus Bay

Tuesday 3rd, we mosied quietly up through the Great Sandy Straits, letting the tide and spinnaker do the work. The smell of crabs cooking.

Then on up alongside Fraser Island to Platypus Bay, which is the western side of north FraserIsland, with a gentle off land wind, making it a peaceful anchorage. We went ashore for a long walk on the unspoilt beach. A lovely evening.

In the morning, a fog, lifting as the sun came up.

Could we find the crab pots? We did, with 8 crabs, five of them legal!

Now off to Burnett Heads, near Bundaberg.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Nightsail to the Wide Bay Bar

After an uncomfortable night in Bongaree, at the southern end of Bribie Island, in which we woke at 4am to discover we had dragged our anchor, we set off for Mooloolaba. A rock & rolly sail, as it often is in that patch of sea where the rhythms of the ocean fight with the waves from Moreton Bay.

After losing a big Mangrove Jack, and getting part of a wave through the open hatch over our bed, we got into Mooloolaba and dropped anchor for a rest.

The Wide Bay Bar is the channel between Fraser Island and the mainland. Its like ducking through a narrow pass in the middle of two surf breaks. Many yachts have foundered there. Its the most scary spot in Queensland cruising. To cross it, you need reasonable weather, no extreme swell, daylight, and the last three hours of a flood (incoming) tide. High tide on Monday was 11am. So we could cross it between 8am and 11am. And its nine hours sail from Mooloolaba. Mmm!

The deal was that I would get the boat going alone at midnight and let George sleep in until five. It was exciting to creep out of Mooloolaba under the moonlight and get the sails up. Perfect conditions, a 15 knot wind on the beam, and we were soon creaming along at 10 knots, with the moonlight glinting off the waves. Nimrod went beautifully. I love night sailing.

We got to Double Island Point as the sun rose, and slowed down a little to cross the bar without incident at 8am. Triumphant and exhausted.

Now we are anchored peacefully in Garry's Anchorage, a sheltered spot on Fraser Island, which hosted 1000+ yachties on Saturday in the Bay to Bay trailer sailer race. I've done it myself a few times; there is an amazing party in the middle of the race that often features choppers bringing in rockbands, big marquees, and bulk grog for lots of happy sailors in the middle of the wilderness. It reminded me of a scene from Apocalypse Now! Around us as I write are lots of small boats with hungover crew returning from Hervey Bay to Tin Can Bay after the race.

Dave & George