Tuesday, 31 May 2011


This says it all. Montes in the Gloucester Passage. Sea Piper in the background.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Building character?

Bit of a shipping hazard - The Bun off Cape Upstart

If someone could point me towards the person that said facing challenges is character building, I'd like to let them know that we've built ours enough and we would like to stop now.
Leaving Cape Upstart last Friday headed to Bowen seemed like a good idea at the time. The weather forecast looked as favourable as it could be for heading south so off we went.
In what seemed like a repeat episode of other passages, one metre seas soon became two metres, 15 knot winds ramped up to 25 - right on the nose of course, and white caps started to break across the swell in a confused pattern.
Before leaving the north east edge of the cape, we ducked into a semi-sheltered bay for a reprieve and re-assessment of our situation.
Maybe it was the coffee and cake that helped, but after an hour the swell looked like it was diminishing so we gave it another go, perservering right through to Queens Bay, Bowen.

Passing Abbott Point was interesting with its long, long coal-loading wharf, ships and tugboats. We were rewarded shortly after this with a beaut mackerel which was immediately slotted into pride of position on that night's menu.
Fish for tea at last.
As the sun set, Sea Piper's anchor hit the mud/sand in Queen's Bay. Whew!
Bowen proved a little treasure with numerous beautiful bays and beaches. As yet it appears to not have fallen victim to over-development (the exception being the newish apartment block in Queens Bay that is visible from way out to sea. We initially thought it was an old sugar mill or housing commission high rise a la North Melbourne.)
Early yesterday, with provisions of fresh fruit and veges on board, we bid farewell to Bowen and set off towards Gloucester Passage. Less than 15 minutes into our journey we lost both engines. Royden's investigations revealed water in the fuel system. In the meantime (of course) the wind and swell had built up and started knocking us around.
Ahhh bring on that character building.
We unfurled the head sail and managed to get ourselves back into the outer reaches of Queen's Bay where my brilliant husband worked relentlessly for hours until he had the starboard engine up and running again which allowed us to re-anchor more safely further into the bay. Several hours more work and the port engine was again running, much to the delight and relief of both of us.
What a day.
Today the gods must have been smiling on us as we had a beautiful sail from Bowen across a tranquil bay to the west side of the Gloucester Passage. The freshly installed Code Zero sail was a winner in the light wind and scooted us across at up to 7 knots.
A tranquil sea on the way to Gloucester Passage
The day was topped off with a nice fresh fish for tea. Good for the brain - and maybe the character?

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Did you know Dugongs snort?

We discovered that dugongs do snort or at least the one that hovered around our boat for a while this morning was a `snorter'. It was beautiful to watch it feeding through the grasses then stick its snout out of the water and give a snort or two. Getting a photo was just about impossible so we just enjoyed the moment.
The afternoon was blissfully calm (uh oh!) so we took the chance to go ashore and explore, finding a fresh water creek and a salt water creek. There are shacks dotted along the coast with the only access being from the sea. The area is now a national park but we understand the shacks can remain with the families that owned them when the park was declared.
There's one other yacht anchored here tonight. Other than that, there's just the stars and us.
Incoming tide

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Early start for Upstart

Sunrise out from Cape Cleveland
Tuesday 24th May 2011

I'm starting to get suspicious of a gloriously calm sea - but more on that later.
After studying every weather prediction site we could find, we decided to set sail from Magnetic Island yesterday for Cape Bowling Green or, if all went well, a further 35 nautical miles to Cape Upstart. The forecast gave us hope of travelling for three or four days down to the Whitsundays - or at least to the Gloucester Passage, south of Bowen.
We were both awake just after 4am and had lifted anchor and left the bay by around 4.30am - so much for ``we'll never sail at night!''. However we were both comfortable knowing sunrise was just a couple of hours away. It certainly made the big ships outside Townsville harbour easy to see as we glided past. The swell was still around 2 metres but wasn't breaking white caps, and the wind came off the coast at around 10 to 12 knots, allowing us to put the head sail up and motor sail at close to 6 knots. By dawn we were off Cape Cleveland, and at around 11.30am we had rounded Cape Bowling Green, headed for Upstart.
Bowling Green looks such a desolate place to stop. It's a seemingly endless sandbar with little vegetation. In fine weather anchoring would be fine, I imagine, but given the radical change in conditions at 3am this morning, I'm glad we were here not there. Again, more later.
Turning more southward towards Upstart gave us less swell to contend with and a friendly tide gave us an extra knot in the latter stages. We were in the bay around 5pm.
Anchoring proved a little tricky and we moved three times before we were happy the anchor was lodged.

Though exhausted, we still enjoyed a beautiful sunset and the sound of turtles surfacing around us in that aforementioned `gloriously calm sea'.
Sleep didn't come easily despite the long day. First night anchor worries always impinge.
At 3am we were woken by the violent thrusting of the boat and the sound of rain and wind howling through.
Where did this come from? Certainly wasn't on any of the weather prediction sites - and still isn't.
The BOM radar showed this freaky little weather system over the Cape so guess that's it. From then till dawn, we kept anchor watch as well as having the anchor alarm on.
It made us recall that silky smooth sea out from Orpheus Island that was followed by a raging storm and nine days of high winds and swell.
Before that was the wonderful trip to Dunk Island (pre cyclone), anchoring in a gentle swell that was soon rearing up and bucking us all over the place.
Here at Upstart we're still rocking about in 25 knot southerlies and waves breaking over the front of the boat - but there's nowhere else to go so looks like we sit it out, thankful we didn't decide to take an overnight break at Cape Bowling Green which is so much more exposed.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Waiting it out

At the moment we're nestled into Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island, while 30 knot S-E winds blow themselves out and three metre seas roll on through. Of course, SE is the direction we would like to go in order to explore the Whitsundays once again - this time at our leisure.
Yesterday squalls passed through and it looked like the Palm Islands and Hinchinbrook area got a bit of rain. The prawn trawlers, which seem to be based here, went out but were back within about half an hour. A bit rolly even for them.
Towards evening the bay and the sea beyond took on a silver glow - pretty stunning. Reminded us a lot of an early morning on Chilli Beach, Cape York - except it was a lot windier there and never stopped raining.
Conditions look like improving over next weekend. In the meantime, there's always decks to scrub ... fish to catch ...
Stay tuned

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Forts

View of Magnetic Island bays - and beyond - from The Forts is spectacular. Lots of World War 2 remnants. Good chance to stretch the legs then be rewarded with an icecream upon the return to Horseshoe Bay..

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Objects in the rear view mirror ...

Thursday 12th May 2011
The anticipation was almost like that for a tooth extraction but casting off from Breakwater Marina, Sea Piper's home since December last year, went without a hitch.
Fond farewells the day before and morning of departure, then suddenly we'd broken free of the marina - all ropes and fenders accounted for - and were heading across the open water to Magnetic Island in close to ideal conditions, motor all but idling, head sail out and making six knots.
Thank you Peter for this great evening shot of our boats at Breakwater

Sea Piper anchored in Horseshoe Bay
Townsville looked magnificent in the rear view mirror with Castle Hill and Mount Stuart glowing in the morning sun. In just a couple of hours we had anchored in Horseshoe Bay at Magnetic Island, a gorgeous spot where `overnight stays' can turn into whole weeks.