Sunday, 28 July 2013

Fate's fair hand

Sometimes fate delivers you into the right place, or to the right person, at the right time.
Being, it would appear, semi-addicted to having the Weekend Australian we headed up to the Cardwell slipway to tie up for a night or two so we could buy the paper and refresh our fruit and veges.
We had intended to do this on Friday but the tides were more favourable on Thursday.
The entry to the old marina is silting up so a decent rising tide is needed to get through.
From this ...

... to this ...

... and this. Excellent parking skills Royden! Despite the industrial surrounds, we were grateful to know there is somewhere secure to tie up the boat at Cardwell - and it allowed us to change our plans and stay in the area for Cristy and Johnno's visit.
Anyway, having swapped our amazing backdrop of mountains for a huge shed and a puddle of water, we got out the bikes and headed into town. As fate would have it, this was just in time to meet up with another cyclist coming from the other side of the pond.
Around here, a person on a bike carrying a bag of garbage and a couple of shopping bags can only be off a boat so naturally we got chatting about boats and the marina etc.
Turns out the cyclist and her husband own the block of land opposite the slipway and, fortunately, had not built their house, nor moved their boat up from Gladstone, before Yasi hit in February 2011. The block includes a pontoon and two boat berths one of which is now occupied by their boat. The other they were looking to rent out short or long term for a very moderate rate.
As we were looking for somewhere to tie up while Royden goes to Melbourne for his August meeting - and somewhere for Cristy and Johnno to leave their car when they come up for a holiday with us in mid-August - we put our hands up.
... and this is where we have moved to
With this settled and The Australian bought, we prepared to head back out into the Hinchinbrook Channel on Saturday's rising tide. That was until part of one of Royden's teeth decided to give way at breakfast.
A quick change of plans ensued with a dental appointment secured in Townsville for Monday, we contacted our prospective berth owners and were able to move across the puddle into Sea Piper's new tie-up looking out over green lawn and palm trees.
Tomorrow it's off on the bus for the appointment and an overnight stay with David and Vikki.
It's again timely as the wind has been up around 25 to 30 knots for the past few days but is easing on Tuesday/Wednesday with a very favourable weather window following. Perhaps a perfect opportunity for a little island or reef hopping.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Ahh ... the serenity

Anchored in Gayundah Creek - what a backdrop!
There are some elusive barramundi in the Gayundah Creek.
Every day at low tide (and they're very low at the moment) we go fishing along the run-outs along the creek and every day we see barramundi but have been unable to attract one to a lure.
Yachts further up the creek
The side creeks can be a bit creepy - especially in an inflatable dinghy and even more especially when a crocodile slides into the creek just ahead of you!
Gayundah Creek is a beautiful sheltered anchorage below some of the huge peaks of Hinchinbrook Island. With the wind blowing at 25 to 30 knots out at sea, it's a great place to be. There's just enough breeze coming through to keep the mozzies and midges at bay.
Today we're heading up to Cardwell and will tie up for a couple of nights at the slipway bays within the old marina precinct.
Low tide fishing the run-offs

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Circumnavigation and lots of happy memories

This was the second set of whales we saw on Sunday. There are certainly plenty of them about.
We have finally completed our circumnavigation of Hinchinbrook Island.
Though our travels have taken us through the Hinchinbrook channel many times, the weather has never before been agreeable enough to go around the outside.
But I'll go backwards a bit to leaving the Townsville marina last Friday.
In all we spent two weeks in the marina with 25 to 30 knot winds constantly blowing for that whole time. The swell and waves looked awful so we were glad to be tucked up and even happier to catch up with lots of friends - some heading north, some south and others staying put.
We even managed to fit in a Celtic Fyre concert - rock and roll with bagpipes, mandolins, guitars, accordions, keyboards, and some of the most talented musicians around.
The wind finally subsided and we headed across to Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island as the first leg in our journey north. It was like the holding pool for those heading north and south. I think 33 anchored boats was the final total that night.

Rebuilding works at Yanks Jetty on Orpheus Island.
We set off early towards the Palm Islands on Saturday, with the lightest of breezes in the main and head sail, and a greatly reduced swell running in our favour. It was a very pleasant trip. We had anticipated anchoring at Yanks jetty on Orpheus Island but rebuilding works were being done, so we headed further along and picked up one of four moorings in Little Pioneer Bay.
Low tide at Little Pioneer Bay
Happily our timing coincided with the start of the rising tide after a 0.07m low so we had a beaut snorkel around the extensive reef which was teeming with fish.

Zoe Bay
    Brook Islands - not another soul in sight.

On Sunday we headed along the east coast of Hinchinbrook, evoking many happy memories of our Hinchinbrook holidays with the kids in the early 1990s. We passed Zoe Bay (the timing of the low tide and its `lowness' prevented a visit to the waterfall), Ramsay Bay, Shepherd Bay and Hinchinbrook resort, then out to the Brook Islands where, many years ago, we had snorkelled on some magnificent bommies which unfortunately we could not find on this trip. We anchored off the sandbar on the north west tip of the island intending to stay the night but the swell coming around the corner was pretty unpleasant even in mild conditions so we headed back across to Hinchinbrook, rounding Cape Richards and putting the pick down opposite Macushla Beach which is where I saw my first dugong back in the 90s.
It was a very pleasant anchorage.
The now-defunct Hinchinbrook resort is hidden in the trees at Cape Richards. We have happy memories of three wonderful holidays spent here with the kids in the early 1990s.

Sunset from Missionary Bay opposite Macushla Beach.
With a forecast of freshening south easterlies from today, we waited till late morning and headed towards the Cardwell entry to the Hinchinbrook Channel to catch the change of tide, managing three knots with just the head sail out. The swell and the tide carried us around the corner into the channel where all wind just ceased and the sail sagged to a halt.
Not being in a hurry we motored slowly down the channel with the increasing current until we reached Gayundah Creek, tucking Sea Piper into a valley between the craggy peaks of the island.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Crossing paths with Cats and whales

We tied up in Breakwater marina yesterday after a beaut run up the coast.
Following us into Upstart on Wednesday were two monohulls and one catamaran, Biaha, that we were anchored with at Bowen, and a second Cat, Memphis, that had anchored off Gloucester Island.
Obviously we were all doing the same thing - making a run north with a gentle south-easterly before a forecast high (read: high winds and high seas) hits the coast on Sunday.
We pulled the anchor at 4.30am on Thursday and set off in the dark along the long sandy projection of Cape Bowling Green.
We're convinced that this stretch is a whale route as the pattern we experienced on previous trips re-occurred.
About two-thirds of the way along this stretch, and fortunately after the sun had risen, we saw our first whale - right in front of us.
Alter course to port!!
We altered course to go around this whale

A short time later, two whales emerged - again right in front of us. These were more playful and kept up their flipper slapping for some time after we'd passed.

Waving goodbye?
It was very exciting.
Rounding Cape Bowling Green, after about six hours sailing, the wind and swell were at a much better angle and we scooted along under sail averaging six knots - sometimes seven!
Our intention was to drop anchor around the tip of Cape Cleveland, another four hours from Bowling Green but only a couple of hours sail out of Townsville.
However we hadn't factored in the bullet winds coming off the mountains at this headland. While trying to find an anchorage in the very shallow water, the bullets were hitting us at 20 knots and more.
As it was just a little after 3pm and Townsville was in sight, we unfurled the head sail again and scooted across Cleveland Bay to the Duck Pond, behind the rockwall of Townsville harbour, and spent a wonderfully peaceful night.
The Red Baron seaplane takes off for a joyride from the Duck Pond outside Townsville.

It was great to come back into the marina yesterday and be greeted by so many people we've become friends with over the past few years.
Needless to say, we didn't do much else than that for the whole day!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Heading north

After enjoying a final Airlie market and catching up with some Rochy people on Saturday morning, we sailed off to one of our favourite spots, Double Bay.
While we are out of all communication (save for those freaky little atmospheric conditions at sunrise and sunset providing a glimpse of the weather on the internet), Double Bay is well protected from winds and swell, and teases you with its fish life. Not to mention the beauty of a quiet little bay surrounded by mountains.

One was released and one was dinner.
Yesterday we decided forecast conditions for the next few days looked pretty good for our trip up to Townsville so off we set.
Beautiful Olden Island - burnt off by Marine Parks. This tiny island is rock and grass so you'd have to wonder why it needed burning. 

(Unburnt as yet) Grassy Island, just outside Double Bay
Despite a Bureau forecast of 15 to 20 knots increasing to 25 in the afternoon, the wind barely got to 10 knots and the sea was like glass.
With our new, downloaded diagrams on sail trim and reefing, we (finally) made some sense of the best shapes for the main and head sail and twitched some extra knots. Yay! The conditions were perfect for us to play around with the sails and so today, when we set off from Bowen, with a land breeze of 10 knots we were able to set the sails early and effectively. Of course it helped having a ebbing tide and the swell going our way.
We have now dropped anchor at Cape Upstart which puts us one (long) day out of Townsville, though we may pull up just south tomorrow night at Cape Cleveland, depending on conditions.
Today's trip included three pods of whales, well off in the distance but their mighty breaches and splashes could be seen for miles.