Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Whitsundays - bruised but still beautiful

The weather has been lovely as we sailed up from Curlew Island through Digby Island, Carlisle Island, Goldsmith Island, and Windy Bay on Haslewood Island, one of the eastern-most of the Whitsundays. This area was extensively trashed by Cyclone Debbie in March, with a lot of damage done.

There was plenty of destruction to see, but it is all still lovely.

Broken pines on Haslewood Island

Islet near Whitehaven Beach

Dune on Whitehaven Beach

Defiant Whitsunday cairn

Shipwreck in Cid Harbour

Shipwreck in Nara Inlet

Fresh growth on a cycad in Nara Inlet

Backpackers still coming

Friday, May 26, 2017

Coal story

As we passed Hay Point, just south of Mackay, we saw a shocking sight.

Many huge coal ships anchored, waiting to take on board coal and ship it out the world to be turned into CO2 and contribute to climate change.

AIS image of Nimrod picking her way through the ship-park

We counted 43 ships in the queue.

Looking into the Australian coal industry, the numbers are colossal.

'Coal exports from Queensland - one of the world's biggest suppliers to China - hit record levels for the third year in a row in 2016.

The state's coal shipments - accounting for 60 percent of Australia's coal exports - reached 221 million tonnes last year, eclipsing 2015's record by 1 million tonnes, says the Queensland Resources Council.'

'The Port of Hay Point is one of the largest coal export ports in the world and is located about 40 kilometres south of Mackay.

The port comprises of two separate coal export terminals: Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal (DBCT) which is leased from the State Government by DBCT Management Pty Ltd and the Hay Point Coal Terminal (HPCT) which is owned by BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance and operated by Hay Point Services. Together, these coal terminals service the mines in the Bowen Basin in Central Queensland.'

Public Relations document from the Minerals Council of Australia 'Coal Hard Facts'. It smells of panic to me. Astonishingly, I couldn't find any reference to one obvious 'coal hard fact', viz; how much greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere from coal, globally and from Australian coal in particular.

See this article from the radical greenie rag 'The Financial Times'. 

The Big Green Bang: how renewable energy became unstoppable.

Various unexpected people are tolling the bell for the end of coal.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Republican governor of California. "Saying you'll bring coal plants back is the past. It's like saying you'll bring Blockbuster back, which is the past. Horses and buggies, which is the past. Pagers back, which is the past."

Top Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn: ‘Coal doesn’t even make that much sense anymore’ 

While the Australian federal government looks ridiculous. Scott Morrison brings coal to question time: what fresh idiocy is this?

And the Queensland Government vacillates. Queensland drops plan to give Adani Carmichael coalmine royalty holiday

Australia is putting a lot of its eggs into one basket, a basket with some fragility at a time of global climate change, and an accelerating shift towards renewable sources of energy.

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.

I was taught young; the family used to holiday in South Devon. Mackerel fishing and lobster pots were a daily routine.

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. Max number in your possession: ten.

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.