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.