Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Walk, swim, walk, swim, etc

There's so many great walks on Magnetic Island, most of them leading to yet another lovely bay to swim or snorkel in.

As we sailed across the other day, the sea was awash with tons of coral spores. There was an accumulation of them in Florence Bay yesterday creating some spectacular colours  - blues, greens and reds - on the beach and in the water, though the stuff on the beach was a little smelly and the colours looked better through sunglasses.
All up we walked up and down hills for about 12 kms yesterday exploring Florence and Radical Bays along the way.
Radical Bay is picture perfect with waving palms on a sandy beach and turquoise water.
And then, of course, there is lovely Horseshoe Bay where we are anchored. When we arrived  on Sunday evening I counted 38 boats at anchor. That number is probably halved now but I'm sure the weekend will see another influx. It's a good chance to catch up with people we've met somewhere along the coast.
Last night there were mysterious navigation lights playing out around the south-west corner of the bay and we figured the vessels must have been part of the military exercise going on in Halifax Bay at the moment.
We woke this morning to a small flotilla of Army ducks tied up together in the bay so our guesses were correct.
Military versus catamaran
Today the bay is as calm as could be and we have shifted anchor to prepare for a predicted strong south-easterly blast tomorrow. On Friday we'll make our way across to Townsville, with friends on board for the sail across.
In the meantime, we'll continue with the walk, swim routine. It's a very nice way to spend a day.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Whale watch

We had the best intentions to sail all the way to Cape Upstart from Bowen, but when the wind dropped below two knots it was back to motor-sailing with the Code Zero out whenever the breeze picked up in order to cover the 40 nautical miles.
Of course, as soon as we rounded the cape, the wind freshened and blew well into the night, rocking us around a bit at anchor.
Upstart was a lot busier (land-wise) than when we anchored here back in May. It's Queensland school holidays so the holiday shacks along the beachfront were alive with people and runabout boats.
We had planned to stay here for a couple of days but a look at the forward weather forecast showed us that, if we wanted to sail north, yesterday was the day. From today the wind is predicted to drop away before swinging to the north for the next few days.
We hoisted the main sail and hauled up the anchor at around 5.30am yesterday. As we passed the headland we had enough breeze to put out the Code Zero and we were away.
As the sun slowly emerged over the horizon, we spotted what was to be the first pod of whales going south. By the time we reached Cape Bowling Green (32 nautical miles) we'd passed by three pods (that we saw). The last one put on a great display, leaping right out of the water, sometimes two at a time. As the little Agfa el-cheapo camera isn't much on distance or zoom, we didn't try to capture the images, but just watched and enjoyed the experience.
Freighter-watch replaced whale watch
From Bowling Green to Magnetic Island it was `freighter-watch' rather than whale watch. These huge ships seem to zoom up from the horizon and Sea Piper is tiny by comparison.
The one that didn't get away
There were plenty of other distractions, including the huge mackerel that took all Royden's strength and energy to haul onto the boat. Around the same time, the wire trace on the other lure was completely bitten off.
The catch made up for the previous day when, on two occasions, we'd lost good size mackerel within a few metres of getting them into the boat.
Just in case you couldn't figure the size from the previous photo
We made great time, travelling at around 6 knots, and decided to press on from our planned overnight anchorage at Cape Cleveland (south of Townsville - which we'd reached by 3.30pm) to Magnetic Island's Horseshoe Bay where we dropped anchor - and I doubt we'll lift it up again for a few days.
We're due over at Breakwater marina next week where Sea Piper will have a rest while we fly down to Victoria.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

The only boat in the bay ... but this could change ...

We're still in Bowen and loving it. There are so many gorgeous beaches here and we've decided to see and swim in as many as possible while we wait for the wind to drop.
Once ashore, you would hardly know the wind was blowing in many of these lovely protected bays.
Horseshoe Bay looking towards Gloucester Island
Lonely Sea Piper in Grays Bay
We walked to Horseshoe Bay and Queens Bay today then came back for a swim at Grays Bay where we had the dinghy anchored offshore to allow for the run-out tide.
This weekend is the Bowen Fishing Classic and the start of school holidays so it will probably get a lot busier and Sea Piper won't be the only boat in the bay.
The wind looks like dropping tomorrow but we're hanging around till early Saturday morning to pick up the Weekend Australian before heading to Cape Upstart for a day or two on our journey north.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Blowin' in Bowen

Sunset from Sinclair Bay looking towards Bowen
When we first heard the term ``blowin' in Bowen' we laughed. Yeah, it was breezy last time we were here, but it would calm off from time to time.
Well we're back in Grey's Bay at the back of the township and guess what? It's still `blowin' in Bowen'.
But for some reason, Bowen has great appeal for both of us. It's a bit sleepy. It's a lot friendly, has beautiful beaches and the bus picks us up, takes us shopping and drops us back to the boat ramp where we leave the dinghy!
Plus there's a fabulous cafe in Bowen `Food Freaks' with great cakes, coffee and atmosphere.
We sailed across Edgecombe Bay from Sinclair Bay yesterday morning on the outgoing tide with (initially) a gentle wind pushing us along at 4 knots. A few ticky tacks got us across the bay where we picked up a 20 knot plus wind which zoomed us up and around the headland into Queen's and Grey's Bay.
In the middle of changing course and adjusting the sails, a good-size mackerel decided to hit the trailing line. Royden pulled this one in and was in the process of letting the line out again when he got a second hit - this time just a bony herring which got to swim back in the sea.
As we rounded the rocky bar at the tip of Cape Edgecombe I just happened to look out to sea as a whale breached. Luckily it did it again for Royden to see.
It was fairly swelly when we anchored in the bay as the wind was gusting through from the north east but around 9pm it shifted more to the south-east and things settled down - and so could we for the night.
We'll probably stay here for a few days before heading towards Cape Upstart and then on to Magnetic Island.
We're at the whim of the weather.
PS: All negative thoughts about Olympus have been cancelled. The company has replaced our `not-waterproof' camera with the latest model (it is currently in Benalla). The first thing I will do is test it in a bucket of water. In the meantime, the little Agfa special is doing a fine job.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Holy mackerel

On the way to Sinclair Bay
No prizes for guessing what's on the menu tonight.

Bay hopping

We've been out of range of technology for a few days as we bay-hopped our way up the coast.
As we have no plan other than to be in Townsville marina by the end of the month (in order to fly to Melbourne), we decided to explore all the little bays that we passed by as we headed south earlier this year.
It's been a beaut, and beautiful, experience.
Morning in Double Bay East
It helps that we're always heading north of course, so wind and tide are generally with us for our little `hops', but despite BOM predictions to the contrary, the nights have been so still and calm in these bays, it's lulling us into a sense of ``maybe this is what it's supposed to be like most of the time''.
Double Bay East again - with morning rainbow
We remained in Double Bay East for a couple of nights then moved one bay north to Double Bay West (very inventive names!).
We were alone here all day then towards late afternoon several other boats came in and anchored tucked in for protection against the rare northerly and a predicted wind change to south west during the night. Apart from a few stray gusts, the night was peaceful and calm.
We met up with the owners of another catamaran Backchat in funny circumstances. We noticed they'd dinghyed in close into the mangroves, assuming (correctly) they were setting some crab pots. As daylight was fading we decided to haul our dinghy up and having done so, looked around and noticed the Backchat tender was being rowed back from shore.
Thinking their motor had broken down, we re-launched our dinghy and went ``to the rescue''. Approaching them (at this point they'd almost got back to their boat) we realised they probably didn't need rescuing as both had broad smiles on their faces. Turns out Jenny, the rower, is/was a white water rafting instructor and likes to keep her hand in on the oars. Anyway, we had a good laugh over a drink and next morning were the recipients of a beaut mud crab which we had for dinner last night.
Following our Double Bay anchorages, we motored around the corner to Erlando Bay. It was a lovely bay except for the Keep Out signs along the beachfront of the closed-down resort (yet another one). We spent the morning there and met up with the owners of Midnight Blue who were heading south. It's great to have these catch-ups with other `cat' owners. We always learn something and hopefully share something in return.
Jonah Bay
Random rocks - I liked the colours.
Our next sail took us around George Point and into Jonah Bay where we anchored for the night. The bay had a great beach to explore with several fishing camps tucked away in the bush. We met one camp and the bloke who came out to greet us grew up in Mentone and went to St Bede's (same as both my brothers for those who wouldn't realise the link).
Looking towards Bowen from Gloucester Passage this morning
Yesterday we briefly visited Dingo Beach but the outgoing tide and the extent of the reef didn't lend itself to lunch at the onshore pub (reputed to be very good), so we continued on to Montes, in the Gloucester Channel, and had a beaut lunch there instead, enjoying the company of a honeymooning couple from Brisbane and also the owners of the catamaran Endless Summer which was anchored out front with us.
We also spotted a whale breaching several times well south of Gloucester Island. It must have been huge as it was a long way away and its massive body could be clearly seen leaving the water and crashing back in. Spectacular.
Today we are planning to duck around the corner to Sinclair Bay. It's less than three nautical miles so hardly a big day - unless of course we decide to explore somewhere else as well.
NB I know people are still having problems commenting on the blog. I don't know why it's not happening for you as I've removed any possible restrictions. If I discover any clues I'll post them on the page.
* Go Sam Stosur - what a champion.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Fish for tea - and lunch, and brekky

A dump of rain helped replenish the water tanks yesterday morning
Sometimes you get to be in the right place at the right time - and with the right lure on the end of your rod.
This morning we decided to move into the next bay north, Double Bay (Double Bay East that is) as we read that the fishing was good and it offered good shelter from most things the weather might throw at you.
We made our way around at a leisurely pace with the outgoing tide helping us along, and anchored deep in the inlet about two hours before low tide.
Our maps showed a few bommies to be wary of, so we lowered the dinghy and put in the depth finder to check out the area surrounding our anchorage.
With change of tide looming, we threw in the fishing rods as well.
Our first drift past the said bommies - which were well inshore from Sea Piper and not posing a threat - scored a hit for each of us.
Initially I thought I'd snagged on the reef but then the line offered a bit of fight. Hmm, might be a fish there after all.
And what a beauty it was when it was finally hauled into the boat. A big fat rock cod.
Catch of the day
That'll do nicely for a few dinners. Fish have been a bit scarce along the Queensland coast so far which probably doubles the enjoyment.
This bay has managed to live up to its reputation already.

Monday, 5 September 2011

On the move.

Approaching Grimston Point at the top of Woodwark Bay.
After a lazy few days off Airlie Beach, we headed off this morning for a slow journey north to Townsville.
Re-stocked, and with a $38 `on special' (reduced from $129) waterproof digital camera from Harvey Norman, we have anchored just a little way up the coast in Woodwark Bay.
It's been a very windy few days and there are quite a few boats in this inlet waiting for conditions to ease quite a bit more.
We grabbed a window of opportunity on the outgoing tide this morning and enjoyed a beaut sail on the Code Zero. As we rounded into Woodwark Bay, the wind found its gusto again, picking up several notches as did the waves.
Airlie Beach provided a nice stopover with the chance to meet up with the owners of another Easton catamaran anchored alongside. We also feasted on a delicious feed of fish and chips - funny what you have cravings for and sensational if the meal lives up to the expectation.
At 7am on Sunday we found ourselves in the middle of the swim leg of the annual Triathlon. Hundreds of wet-suit clad swimmers took part - it was quite a sight to see them racing down the beach then heading out towards our boat. It looked like hard work out there with some struggling to make the distance, let alone the next two legs.
Here they come ...
It's nice to get ``out of town'' though.
Woodwark is a beautiful little bay and we usually don't have internet or any other reception so I'm taking this opportunity to send this while I can.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

... but wait, there's more

Mog and Kal's last day at sea was capped off by another sighting of a whale and her calf, just off Henning Island, as we neared Hamilton Island for an overnight mooring before our farewell today.
The mother appeared to be having a rest, lying like a huge log on top of the water. No resting for the calf though. It was splashing around then diving down and coming up for big leaps and bigger splashes.
This went on for about 15 minutes until the big whale rose up and did a major splash - all went a bit quieter after that.
The last few days have been amazing with the number of whales we have seen, not to mention other wildlife like the big manta ray in Nara Inlet whose wings looked like two shark fins swimming side by side until it got closer to the boat and we were able to identify it..
Unfortunately I won't be able to include photos on the blog for a while until Olympus tell me what they're going to do with my (not) waterproof camera.

Monday, 29 August 2011

WOW - whales.

Humpback off Hook Island
We've been out of phone and internet range for quite a few days .... days filled with snorkelling, whales, dolphins and dead calm.
After picking up Mog and Kal from Hamilton Island, we were holed up in Gulnare Inlet (Whitsunday Island) for three more days while the 30 knot wind blew itself out (even some of Hamilton Island's yacht races were cancelled).
In the chilly morning ....

... and in the afternoon
We had an overnight in Cid Harbour before heading to the northern bays of Hook Island for some snorkelling. Thursday brought great sailing weather and with main and head sail set we were coasting along at a comfy 5 to 6 knots when the first, of what was to be many, whale and calf appeared just south of Nara Inlet.
It was a taste of what was to come. As we neared the passage between Hayman and Hook Islands, another whale and calf were making their way through the passage ahead of us.
They gave us a spectacular show as we held back to let them pass.
An overnight mooring at Maureen's Cove gave us access to some beaut coral reefs. We followed up with another dive in the morning before shifting along to Manta Ray Bay.
We hadn't snorkelled there for years but our memories of it weren't diminished.
Along with Cataran Bay, it offers some of the best snorkelling in the Whitsundays. We agreed we all could have spent longer looking at the coral except the water was a bit chilly and the shivering sent us back to the boat.
It was in these bays I discovered that our newish (Dec 2010) Olympus underwater camera didn't function too well underwater at all. In fact it stopped working within seconds of getting wet. Very disappointing. Luckily Mog's on board with his camera to capture these wonderful whale pics.
Heading off from Manta Ray Bay around the east side tip of Hook Island to overnight closer to Whitehaven Beach, we again came across whales. Two adults and a calf. They were so beautiful to watch.
The sea over the past two days has been like a mill pond and there has been low cloud giving the Whitsundays a misty effect - at times more like thick fog. But when the sun breaks through it is glorious.
More whales were spotted when we motored over to Cataran Bay for another great snorkel.
We're currently anchored in Nara Inlet at the base of Hook Island.
Mog and Kal have to be back on the plane tomorrow. We'll miss them. 

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Racing around Hamilton Island.
Hundreds of racing yachts are calling Hamilton Island marina home this week and into next - not the best time to calling in for a visitor pick-up, especially right on the end of a race.
However, after much manoeuvring around the 100 or so racers we managed to gain entry to the marina yesterday but the spot we were to tie up to was already home to a big cruiser.
What to do? What to do?
Mog and Kal had landed (after a Jetstar cancellation and a diversion through Sydney) and were waiting around the marina for directions on where to go to get on to Sea Piper.
To the rescue came the beaut, cool and calm marina staff.
The bloke in the tiny runabout that races around getting everyone safely `housed' in their spots came up alongside to see what he could do to help then motored over to where Mog and Kal were, loaded up their back packs then got them to stand on the bow hanging onto the console while he ducked and weaved amongst the incoming racers to deliver our guests over to Sea Piper.
Classic! We haven't had visitors arrive like that before.
Personal water taxi.
We headed out of the marina as quickly as we could in the wake of the ferry. We figured everyone would get out of its way - we figured right.
With a 25 knot blow on our tail we threw out the Code Zero and within the hour we were back, safely anchored in Gulnare Inlet (Whitsunday Island).
We'd arrived there from Goldsmith Island on Sunday following a change of weather forecast of strong wind warnings from Monday to Wednesday. We figured if we got within cooee of Hamilton, we had the best chance of getting Mog and Kal on board.
We'd had a beaut sail from Mackay to Goldsmith on Saturday with wind and waves going with us. Ditto for Sunday's sail.
A highlight just out of Mackay was whales breaching about a kilometre away then later in the day a whale swam past us (probably only 100 metres away) headed in the opposite direction.
On Sunday it was the turn of the dolphins with two separate schools making an appearance as we sailed along.
Prior to that our week in Melbourne, Rochy and Benalla went all too fast but it was great to catch up with everyone.
Our plane trip back north had a couple of hiccups however with the late departure from Melbourne leading to missing the connecting flight to Mackay on Friday evening.
Virgin put us up in a nice motel with (a very late) dinner and breakfast, so it wasn't too bad to bear.
In the end we got to Mackay around 10.30am Saturday, did a quick fruit and vege shop on the way to the marina, unpacked, cast off and were away by 12.30pm - not much later than we'd planned in the first place, given the tides.
At the moment we are firmly anchored in the Gulnare Inlet mud and will probably stay here another night while this front blows itself out.
The forecast for the days following looks good so we should get some snorkelling and exploring in.
Right now, we're waiting for the fish to start biting but they seem to have ducked for cover out of the weather as well.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Discovering a gem or two

Newry Island, Outer Newry, Acacia Island and Rabbit Island are clustered outside the small town of Seaforth, north of Mackay, and what little gems these islands are.
Perfect weather helped of course.
Tethering the dinghy for a walk on Newry Island
We set out early Tuesday and sailed along the coast in close to ideal conditions. Approaching the Newrys, the landscape gets more rocky with some fantastic formations lining the way or else erupting from the sea.
With so many rocky islands to dodge, including Wedding Cake Rock (looked more like a birthday cake with all those pine tree candles), Concertina Rock and Mausoleum Island, it's hard to see where the gap is to get into the bay to access the sheltered anchorages of the Newrys but what a treat it is when you sail through.
Crocodile rock (not its official moniker)
We dropped the pick in a quiet little bay to the west of Outer Newry. Craggy mountains and rocky peaks dotted the landscape. Some old fish traps were exposed in the low-tide mud in front of us along with an old wooden boat `Wayward Wind' which floated up every high tide then sat back down again as the tide ebbed away.
One of several former resort cabins on Newry Island
A quick trip in the dinghy took us to Newry Island, home to an abandoned resort built in the 1940s and added to by various owners over following decades before fading away again. It would have been gorgeous. There were (very small) individual cabins made of rocks from the bay and right on the beachfront was the former Beachcombers' Bar with its handpainted facade and tiled beer tables.
All the islands here are now National Parks and we were surprised at how well kept they are (ie no rubbish and slashed grass).
On Outer Newry, we followed a track to the east of the island and found a rocky bay with what looked like a swimming pool complete with bommies and coral. We doubt it was man-made but it was so squared off up one end you'd have to wonder. Maybe Newry Island resort owners got bored in the off-season?
Lagoon on Newry Island
Several circuits of the bay between Newry and Outer Newry at various times didn't yield us any fish. This was hardly surprising as, at one point, we counted 11 small boats doing the same thing so we gathered this area is a pretty popular one with the local fishos. Can't imagine how busy it must be on weekends.
After two blissfully peaceful nights we pulled anchor at dawn this morning to take advantage of the forecast northerly (a rarity) and flooding tide to sail us back to Mackay in good time for our early flight out on Saturday. It was a very peaceful and quick trip back with wind and waves and tide all going the same way we were.
Sunrise off Concertina Rock - beautifully calm and with a tail wind filling the Code Zero
While we would have loved to have stayed another day and night, the wind is set to swing around strongly to the south-east again tonight and remain that way all tomorrow so we figured we could live without another hard slog against the elements.
It's so much nicer when we go with them.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Wait a minute ... it's stopped blowing

A good downpour washed the salt off the decks.
We woke this morning to silence. The wind has finally stopped roaring through and, oh, the activity in the marina this morning as boats that have been waiting weeks to sail south, finally untied lines and motored out of the marina.
The breeze is at 10 to 15 knots and dropping. The swell is definitely less than the two to three metres it has sustained for over a week now.
The forecast predicts we may have three or more days of calm in succession so we're predicting we may head out, yet again, to explore the offshore islands of Mackay.
We made an attempt last week and anchored off Keswick Island. Lots of coral and lots of bommies. It's very pretty but the on-shore signs are hostile. Private Property. Keep Out.Not the welcome you'd like.
Anyway, a foray in the dinghy indicated we needed to anchor further out of the northern bay to compensate for the 5.8 metre tide change that evening, which meant lots of anchor chain out and a wide swinging circle. Being further out meant riding an increasing swell which was very uncomfortable so we decided to shift our anchorage to the Egremont Passage between Keswick and St Bees Islands.
There were two other yachts anchored there, tucked in tight to the coral reef, which provided its own challenges.
However with nearly 50 metres of anchor chain out, we felt reasonably secure even though the tide dominated the wind and pushed us every which way except the direction we expected to be sitting. It was weird and resulted in not much sleep as we took it in turns to stay up and check our position during the night.
The next morning we were tired out and the weather was deteriorating so we made the decision to head back to Mackay and the marina. With wind and tide assisting we were sometimes flying along at eight knots but as we got closer to Mackay, the seas were churning and we were struggling to maintain four knots. We were happy campers when we finally tied up to the marina berth.
One of the other yachts at Keswick came into the marina the following day and said that we'd looked like we knew what we were doing with our anchorage so as soon as we'd left it they shifted to where we had been. It just shows you can fool some of the people some of the time. We all had a good laugh over it.
Because of our extended stay here we've managed to catch up with a few people and explore a fair bit of Mackay on our bikes. The city has a fantastic 21 km Bluewater Trail bike and walking path. It's about two metres wide, either bitumen or concrete the whole way, and takes you along the Pioneer River, through wetlands and mangroves, along the foreshore and through the Botanic Gardens (the latter is a treat on its own).
It's a fantastic ride (rather a long walk though) with plenty of birdlife along the way.
The marina is 7kms out of town so we're keeping pretty fit exploring, doing a bit of shopping and going to markets.
When it's windy, cycling's a bit like yachting, I reckon. Going one way you fly but when you want to go back it's a bit of a battle. However, if you're on our bike, you can always get off.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Colour my world Mackay

Running water shower!


Hair colour!

Have arrived in Mackay marina.

Monday, 25 July 2011

No phone, no shoes, no pets .....

Sea Piper and Nick of Time in Roylen Bay
Roylen Bay has to be one of the prettiest and most `alive' bays we have visited. Dolphins, dugongs, turtles and masses of fish in crystal clear waters were a few of the pluses as well as a magnificent view back to the Whitsundays.
We even managed to catch some fish for tea.
With a beaut sandy beach to explore and plenty of mackerel massing around, we had no trouble spending a couple of days here. Strangely, while we had internet coverage, we had no phone coverage except for one evening when atmospheric conditions must have been just right. Anyway, that's our excuse for not phoning anyone recently or responding to any messages.

Coral and shells on the beach
After a very peaceful night in Roylen Bay we decided to take advantage of a wind drop early this morning and motor sail down to Brampton Island where we anchored in time for morning tea.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Royden almost has a bay named after him....

We've moved bays at Goldsmith Island and are now in Roylen Bay - guess they got the spelling wrong on this one.
It has a beautiful sandy beach and not so many coral bommies as Minne Hall.
Yesterday afternoon, a barnacle covered dugong came up around the boat and there are lots of turtles and fish. In fact we almost had mackerel for tea last night except it just missed getting into the dinghy!
Dugong tail
It looks like it's difficult to make comments on this blog if your search engine is through Internet Explorer however, if you make a comment as Anon in the drop down box (where you would usually select Google Account or similar) there's a better chance the comment will be accepted.
If you like, you could tell me who you are in the text of the comment.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Meet the Smiths

Today we visited the Smiths.
Smith Islands that is.
We had two goes at it and the second time we were successful.
Early morning from Gap Beach, Lindeman Island
We'd spent the last two days at Gap Beach on the northern side of Lindeman Island but an hour before tide change this morning, we slipped through Kennedy Sound between Lindeman and Shaw Islands.
 All was calm. The channel crossing was beautiful with the early morning light on Mount Oldfield that we climbed yesterday and behind us the glowing rock face of Pentecost Island that juts out of the sea and points at the sky.
Kennedy Sound from Mount Oldfield, Lindeman Island.
We counted 10 yachts at anchor as we passed the sheltered inlet just inside Burning Point at the southern tip of Shaw Island.
As we rounded the Point to head towards the Smiths, it was like a fury had been unleashed .
The time around tide change is referred to as `slack tide' because the flooding (rising) or ebbing tide is at its slowest rate. We'd picked our run to take us throught the Sound at slack tide then catch the flooding tide south.
Nice dream. A 20 knot wind had sprung up - in the opposite direction to the tide, making the waves sit up, which were sideways to the swell of course. We must be getting smarter because after about 40 minutes of trying to push through, we decided to head back and anchor overnight in the calm haven off Burning Point and try the journey south another day.
After a leisurely morning tea then lunch, we settled down to strum the ukele (me) and do a Sudoku (Royden).
We suddenly realised the wind had dropped to nothing and the turbulent sea we had looked out on before had calmed to almost flat. It was an hour before the next tide change (from flooding back to ebbing) so we made a quick decision to haul the anchor and test out this slack tide to head to the Smiths.
We had a lovely motor sail south with just enough breeze from the south-east to fill out the head sail and not enough flow from the ebbing tide to hamper our progress.
And the Smith Islands - we passed them all and thought what great names they had. There's Silversmith, Goldsmith, Blacksmith, Coppersmith, Tinsmith, Anchorsmith and Ladysmith Islands along with Anvil, Hammer, Forge, Solder, Farrier Islands, Bellows Islet and Ingot Islets.
It makes some of the other island names positively boring.
We're currently tucked up in Minne Hall Bay on Goldsmith Island, having enjoyed a glorious sunset over a glass-like sea. We're treasuring the moment.
Sunset behind Ladysmith Island as seen from Goldsmith Is.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Who's for cards?

I hate it when our visitors go home.
Apart from the excellent company they provide, regressing to two-handed Yaniv isn't a patch on a fast-moving game with three or more!
After a beaut five days, Leigh and Rhys went back to Townsville yesterday for their last couple of days of holidays before returning to Victoria.
The wind was a bit fresh but the sun shone on day one.
While the weather was patchy during their stay, we did manage a visit to both Hook and Whitsunday Island as well as a fabulous sail from Hook Island back to Airlie Beach on Thursday (just before the weather again turned and belted the Whitsundays with 25-30 knots and three metre swells).
Overnight anchorages in Cid Harbour and Nara Inlet were tranquil and beautiful.
As we arrived in Cid, a dugong came up close to our boat and continued to feed in the vicinity for some time. This was followed by turtles emerging at various spots around us.
This great welcome was followed by a climb to the top of the Whitsunday peak for a (fortunate) view of the surrounds. In the following days it was shrouded in cloud.
Sawmill Bay turned on its best colours
We saw the dugong again the next morning. As we took a dinghy tour around Sawmill Bay it came up within 10 metres of us, did a roll and flipped its tail. Impossible to catch with the camera but firmly locked in the memory bank.
Nara Inlet beach

Cave at Nara
In anticipation of finer weather tomorrow or Monday, we've done the washing and restocked the cupboards and will head to the Lindeman group of islands (south of Hamilton Island) and then maybe onto Mackay. Maybe. I'll tell you when we get there!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Sea Piper's special visitors sleep over

What an excellent few days we have had, capped off with a special sleepover on Sea Piper for Sonny and Alexander and a surprise dinner and birthday cake on Long Island last night.
It was sad to farewell Stu, Tina and the boys this morning but, with much improved weather conditions over the past week, we've made the most of the days, seen our share of turtles and dolphins, made lots of dinghy and canoe trips, and played many rounds of mini golf. Whales would have been good to cap it off however they proved elusive though we heard a report of them off Long Island (on the other side of course) on Tuesday and again this morning on the east side of the Whitsundays.
One of the funniest sights occurred yesterday when Alexander went with Pa to anchor the dinghy out beyond the low tide mark. Looking up from the shore we noticed the two had changed positions and Alexander was proudly mastering the controls and doing the odd `zoom' across the bay leaving a trail of white foam in his wake.

A change of Captain!
Many thanks to friends and family for their birthday greetings, messages and presents. I am loving the ukele and practice every day - thanks Rochy gang for coming up with such a beaut and unexpected challenge. Stu was able to assist with some strumming technique which I was finding very difficult so now the chords are coming together and it's sounding a bit more like music. I'm sure Royden's pleased at this development.
Turtle heaven or haven on Long Island.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Calm seas - and wildlife

Doesn't look rough but we were surfing in front of the waves. Note the angle of the seat - one of its straighter moments.
The sea is a fickle creature. Yesterday we surfed the Whitsunday Passage with a three metre swell, the waves just as high and the wind filling the headsail.
It's the first time we have surged ahead at over nine knots.
The conditions were a big improvement on the preceding days when we heard charterers over the radio with shredded headsails, lost dinghies and/or simply `lost' to the awful and freakish conditions.
Our last night at Gulnare Inlet was calm and peaceful - we almost got to sleep through the whole of the night without having to check the anchorage. Old habits die hard though and we each did a quick reccy in the early hours of the morning.
After a re-stock of groceries and `refreshments' at Airlie yesterday, we upped anchor this morning and headed around to Long Island. Minutes after we set off, heavy cloud and rain drifted in, leaving us in close to white-out conditions. The upside of this was little wind (six knots) and a calm sea. Hard to believe we were re-tracing part of yesterday's bracing sail.
As we neared Long Island we could see four figures on the beach - the smaller two running round excitedly.
Securing the mooring was a breeze in calm conditions and we quickly lowered the dinghy and headed ashore to the resort and to warm hugs and kisses.
The little boys, decked out in their bright life jackets, were keen to visit Sea Piper and Pa keen to oblige.
24 hours later - the same stretch of sea as the photo above.
As if on cue, a pod of dolphins circled the boat as the dinghy neared. To cap it off, turtles appeared off the bow as the boys explored the boat.
A pretty good day by anybody's standards.
Dolphins and turtles - what a treat!