Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Long Paddock

There is a stretch between Shoalwater Bay and the Whitsundays where the sea is scattered with uninhabited islands. Some people regard it as a challenge to get through as quickly as possible. They head north from Island Head Creek, and perhaps stop once on Middle Percy Island before reaching the southern Whitsundays.

Middle Percy Island is famous, with its shrine to yachties paraphernalia, but the truth is that it is not a very comfortable anchorage. The south coast is lovely, but that is really only usable in a northerly. We like to stop there on the way south in October or November. See this blog entry from November 2015.

On the subject of déjà vu, check out this video we made exactly seven years ago on our first trip north in Nimrod.

After Island Head Creek, we sailed up to Hexham Island with a Seawind 1000 'Marvento', and hung out with a couple on board, Lindsay and Michelle.

Sunrise at Hexham Island

Next on to Hunter Island, one of the Duke Islands.

At present we are anchored at Curlew Island, about 25 nautical miles west of Middle Percy, and a lovely anchorage. Noel Patrick, whose 'Curtis Coast' cruising guide is a must-have, describes it: 'Curlew Island is one of the most beautiful. Anywhere.'

Curlew Island. At low tide there is a massive smooth beach. Oysters on the rocks.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Pearl Bay

We left Svendsen's Beach on Great Keppel Island at dawn to sail to Pearl Bay.

Arguably the prettiest anchorage on the East Coast of Australia, Pearl Bay is in the Shoalwater Bay Military Reserve, so as wildernessy as it comes.

And then, with wet weather forecast, we sailed a little up the coast to Island Head Creek, another fabulous area.

The wet weather arrived, so we 'gunk-holed' in the upper part of the creek, famous for mud-crabs. It also has a small area where one can get 3G from time to time.

Dead mangrove tree in upper Island Head Creek

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Full-moon crabbing

One of the joys of cruising the East Australian coast is the ability to feast on mud-crabs and sand-crabs.

We carry crab pots on Nimrod. Four blue foldable ones, with two entrances each. We have tried different ones, but these seem to give the best results. They are 730mm in diameter, and you can fit four in the foredeck locker.

Crabbing is messy. Plenty mud involved with muddies. An asset is the sea-water hose that we have plumbed in to the salt-water pump in the starboard engine compartment. Great for cleaning up after crabs, and also blood from fish, etc. Good for kids having sea-battles when Swallows want to repel Amazons.

We had a good haul last night in The Narrows, north of Gladstone. I put the pots out in the evening, and picked them up at 6 am. Ten muddies in three pots; four of them legal males. Full moon.

George gets the water boiling in a saucepan and then cooks them for 7 minutes. Delicious!

The rules are: 15cm minimum across the shell, males only. Maximum number in your possession = 10. https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/fisheries/species-identification/inshore-estuarine-species/mud-crab

There is a legend that crab harvesting in the north of Australia and South East Asia was done according to the phases of the moon. 

The Mud Crabs (Scylla serrata) who inhabit burrows in the inner-tidal mud of the mangrove regions, have a habit of digging deep into the mud just before the full moon illuminates the sky and makes them easy prey for predators like crocodiles.

Before this hiding occurs, the crab eats a lot and becomes heavy with meat. When the full moon turns to the waning gibbous, the crabs come up to feed, having lost condition and their flesh is rendered muddy.

So canny crab gatherers know that the best time to harvest the crabs, when they are full of meat and clean tasting, is on the waxing gibbous, two to three days before the full moon.

Some of the competition.

There's another sort of competition! As I was lifting a pot up the top of Island Head Creek, a big underwater object surged towards my dinghy. A big 'bow-wave'. I didn't actually see what it was, but its movement was aggressive, not away from me. I think it can only have been a crocodile. Fortunately I had the outboard running, and was able to rev away quickly. I won't stop the outboard in future, and keep my eyes skinned.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Cruising north - May 2017

Nimrod is on the road again! We had a frenetic few months of land life, featuring a burglary, floods, hard work (especially for George when her partners were away), a trip to Sydney to visit her parents and some friends, and the annual fitout. 

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

We got quite a bit done in her annual refit at Boatworks in Coomera. New Hypalon tubes on the RIB ($2,900 from RibForce). New deck hatches. New seals under the sail-drives. New boombag. New carpets. New deck-shades. New life-lines. Whisker pole. 

The whisker pole is a great addition. I got inspired by Andrew and Aida Stevenson's boat 'Double Black Diamond'. I asked Cookie of S and H spars to make one up for us. Ours is 4 metres long, 80mm diameter, with Ronstan beaks, and ForeSpar attachments to the stanchions.

So much of the trip up the Queensland coast is close to directly downwind that having the ability to either fly a kite, or a goose-winged genoa is a great bonus.

Especially if it is windy, or you want to carry it overnight. You can incrementally furl the genoa from the cockpit, and put reefs in the main, without any of the heroics on the foredeck associated with the kite.

We set off from Hope Harbour Marina on Friday May 5th with a plan of meandering in leisurely fashion up to Airlie Beach, where she will live until the end of October.

We socialised on the way up Moreton Bay, with a visit to a friend of George's from Taree at Bribie Island, and a night in Mooloolaba with friends we cruised with in Vanuatu and the Chesterfields.

Bribie Island

Readers of this blog might have noticed a campaign about the Wide Bay Bar. I had been hoping to test our theory, but when we got to Double Island Point, the sea was pretty big, and we made the prudent decision to go the long way round Fraser Island and duck in to Pancake Creek. A fast run, averaging 8 knots with our goosewinged arrangement. Plenty rock'n'roll! 32 hours at sea. The swell was spinning off from Cyclone Donna which has been harassing Vanuatu and NewCal. It didn't seem likely that anchoring at Lady Elliott Island or Lady Musgrave Island would be very comfortable.

Pancake Creek is a lovely all-weather anchorage, and it was a relief to get in there out of the storm, and a delight to find our friends Ivan and Jo St Clair in their Seawind 1160 'Amour de la Mer'. George Neal from another 1160 was crewing with them. We had a couple of fun evenings together.

Amour de la Mer in Pancake Creek

Aircraft Beach. Looking towards Clew's Point from near Bustard Head.