Friday, 30 August 2013

An extra day

Dickson Inlet this morning - keeping our distance from the neighbours!
I was a bit tired when I wrote yesterday's blog and right up until bedtime I thought it was Friday.
No, that's today.
So we're spending two days in Dickson Inlet (or creek) and then going into the marina for the weekend.
I guess you could say I've gained a day.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Three day sprint to Port Douglas

We had a great time with Cristy and Johnno on board, helped by fantastic August weather, but I'm glad they didn't stay on board for the trip up to Port Douglas where we're due to pull the boat our of the water on Monday. I don't know if Cristy's tummy could have coped with the past three days.
Even though the winds have only been up to 15 knots, the swell has been pretty uncomfortable and mostly coming in at a different angle to the wind and waves (strangely) making it difficult to get sails full of wind and a reasonable ride.
Anyway we managed to make good time despite our late start on Tuesday when we had to wait for enough water to flow into the Cardwell pondage. For some reason there was a glitch in the tide table and on Tuesday morning it was two hours out, which admittedly had us bamboozled as to ``Why is it so?''
Dunk Island was our first overnighter after a very choppy crossing from Cardwell.
We lifted anchor just after 6am Wednesday and, with initially unsettled conditions which then settled nicely for us, we dropped anchor a little after 5pm at Fitzroy Island just south of Cairns.
A nice size mackerel happened to jump on the hook as we travelled solving the problem of dinner.
An early start again this morning was rewarded with swell, waves and wind going with us and a quick and comfy trip up to Port Douglas where we have just dropped anchor in the creek.
We initially dropped anchor closer to the township but were roundly abused by the fellow in the boat behind. We thanked him for his `good advice' and set off further upstream. As we passed another boat, the man there called out that he'd suffered the same abuse when he tried to anchor upstream of this fellow. An aberration in the yachting world thank goodness.
Tomorrow and Sunday we've booked into the marina (for a treat) and on Monday morning's high tide Sea Piper comes out of the water for her hull clean and repaint, and a few other jobs.
Looking at the forward forecast, it's a great window to not be on the water with winds and wave heights beginning to rise tomorrow and soaring for the next week (hence our quick trip).
Hopefully that will be gone by the time we re-float Sea Piper and take off with our anti-fouling helpers Leigh and Rob to places yet unexplored.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Not a bad day's work - or play

Full moon to sail by.

Water spout

Today's catch a 3kg bream- and they kept on coming

Some big, some not so big.

This crabber came along and fed the Brahminy Kite that swooped into the mangroves as soon as his boat appeared. He told us he's been feeding it, and five others, for years.

Coming in for a feed - one of two Brahminy Kites that came from nowhere..

Friday, 23 August 2013

A few more pics ...

The land of cyberspace is a strange one.
A brief internet connection window presented itself from within the depths of the Missionary Bay creeks and mountains and I was able to upload the last blog - but for the rest of the time we had no other reception of internet or phone. Don't know about TV but doubt we had that either.
The blog's success must have been due to the low cloud and early morning atmospheric conditions, plus the fact the internet cable is connected to the top of the 17m mast so therefore has the best chance of reaching anything.
Anyway, some of the photos wouldn't upload so I've attached them on this page.
Obviously we have sailed elsewhere, hence this update, and are now back in the Hinchinbrook Channel as the wind has picked up outside the shelter of the island - plus we caught the most fish here.
Cardwell's new walking/cycling path will go for kms right around the bay once the $40m restoration of the town, foreshore and road is complete.

Early morning start to catch the tide on Day 1

Taking up sailing position A

Everyone gets a turn at catching bream.


Leaving one's daughter on the tip of the Garden Island sand spit

Beautiful Britomart

A gargoyle on the reef. Who would have thought?

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Clear skies, calm seas - perfect!

Doesn't get much better - at Britomart Reef
There could not have been a greater contrast in the weather between Cristy and Johnno’s visit this year and last year.

Idyllic would best describe the conditions we’ve had so far. Beautiful days, light winds and gentle seas.

We spent the first day exploring a couple of creeks in the Hinchinbrook Channel with both Johnno and Cristy catching a nice selection of bream for dinner.

Day two and we headed out of the channel for the short trip across to Garden Island. This tiny island has a big sand spit jutting out into the water creating a calm lagoon for anchoring. 

This was our jump off point for an early start on the long journey out to Britomart Reef on Monday. Britomart is part of the Great Barrier Reef and is 40 nautical miles (approx 75kms) – or around seven hours for us - from the mainland. The sea was relatively flat with a light breeze so we motor-sailed on one motor and the headsail, arriving just after 1pm, right on low tide (a very low one) so we could see the entry into the reef lagoon.

It was like entering a lake in the middle of the ocean. Waves were breaking over the outer reef but inside it was glass-like – and teeming with fish big and small. A pod of dolphins lazily dipped feeding around the lagoon entry before making their way in with the tide.

Johnno and I manned the front hulls looking for stray bommies. It’s unnerving when one suddenly appears right in front of you – too late to avoid. You can only hope there’s enough water between it and you to sail over the top!
Unbelievable -  the lagoon at Britomart Reef, 40 nautical miles out.

We anchored in 20 metres of crystal clear water and while Johnno stayed on board to fish, Cristy, Royden and I headed off to snorkel the bommies. The fish were amazing in their variety, volume and size. It was like swimming in a giant aquarium.

A bit unnerving was the appearance of several black-tipped reef sharks near the dinghy moments before we went over the side but these are generally shy creatures and, true to form, disappeared as soon as we jumped in.
Snorkelling in the aquarium.
All was going really well until late in the afternoon when the rising tide brought the sea over the reef along with the ocean swell. Alright for some but a sure recipe for sea sickness for others.

With Cristy prone on the back seat and looking green we made the decision at dusk to return to more sheltered waters rather than subject her to at least six more hours of rolling swell before the tide retreated.

Getting back out through the reef on a rising tide proved more tricky than coming in but suffice to say we made it with scraping any barnacles off the boat bottom – just!

It was a glorious sail back to the lee side of Hinchinbrook Island. A full moon, a following swell and a light breeze blowing us in the right direction assisted in Cristy being upright again two-thirds into the trip. We dropped anchor into the still waters off Macushla Beach in Missionary Bay shortly after midnight and all retreated to bed and a sleep-in.
Floating and fishing off Gould Island
With Gould Island on the doorstep of Missionary Bay we decided to float across there on Tuesday and drift around fishing. We spent a delightful few hours lolling around, losing bait but not catching much, before returning to the tip of Hinchinbrook at Cape Richards and going ashore to look at the wreckage of what was once the Hinchinbrook Island resort with its dozen tree housed dotted into the hillside. The resort was abandoned long before Yasi hit and we suspect that vandals have done more damage than the cyclone did. It was quite disturbing and is such a waste.

We returned to Missionary Bay for an overnight anchorage so that we could take this morning's rising tide into one of eight creeks off the bay. The creeks are several metres deep but the entries are inaccessible at low tide.

The creeks run almost parallel with each other and we're currently anchored in Creek #7 which has a boardwalk at the end leading to Ramsay Bay and its extensive beach, which is the beginning, or end, of the 32 km Thorsborne walking track that runs down the east coast of the island.
Number 6 creek off Missionary Bay which links into Number 7 creek and a boardwalk through to the eastern beach at Ramsay Bay.






Thursday, 8 August 2013

Sunny with a chance of smoke

We should have suspected something when we heard the helicopter go over.
But it wasn't until we saw the first wisps of smoke appearing from the craggy peaks of Hinchinbrook Island that we twigged that Queensland National Parks were setting the place alight.
It was an awesome sight at night with the flames creeping down the mountain sides.
In the morning, the low-hanging smoke gave the surroundings a mystical effect but, ewww, it stank and those clean crisp photos of the previous days were no longer possible.
At least we could understand a controlled burn-off in an area the size of Hinchinbrook (Australia's largest National Park island), unlike some of the tiny Whitsunday islands that were fire-bombed from a helicopter last month.

Soon after the helicopter's visit the smoke tendrils appeared from the mountain tops.
The next morning - looks like fog, smells like smoke.
The weather has been, and still is, glorious and I was tempted to take a photo of the Seabreeze 7-day forecast which shows the current pattern continuing for at least another week, something we have never seen in the three years we've had Sea Piper.
Fingers crossed for a similar weather pattern for Cristy and Johnno's visit at the end of next week.
Before leaving the channel, another nice bream made itself available for dinner.
We've now left the channel and headed back into the Cardwell mooring for Royden's upcoming flight south.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Moving right along

We dropped anchor here this morning.
Another day, another gorgeous view.
We've been moving on the morning high tides exploring the many creeks that make up the Hinchinbrook Channel. We spent yesterday in a creek midway along Boat Passage (the alternative route between Cardwell and Lucinda) and this morning moved along that creek to where it joins the main channel.
It's absolutely beautiful and in this morning's calm, fish were jumping everywhere.
A nice bream just in time for tea. Royden had baited the line and gone for a shower when the fish took hold and nearly ran the line out ... so I had to pull it in, didn't I.
All but one have proved elusive. It was delicious.
Over the past few days we've seen numerous small boats darting around checking crab pots and fishing, but this morning was the first time we've seen other yachts. Two of them in fact, along this creek.
Sea Piper's location looked pretty impressive from the dinghy.
I guess most people don't buy a yacht to hang out in a creek system!

Tranquil waters again. Note the non-movement of the wind generator. Not only is there no wind to turn it, it has been switched off for over a week. Friends gave us a spare pair of new blades to try and the noise was just as bad as with the old blades. The new battery charger Royden installed in the Whitsundays is doing such a good job that the wind generator is redundant (for the present). Yay!!!!!!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Here comes the sun, doot'n doo doo

The Tully-Cardwell range area is reputed to be the wettest in Australia.
I don't doubt that.
We've been around here for two weeks now and it has rained to some extent on around half those days.
No wonder the waterfalls still flow and the tropical growth stays so lush.
Crossing the Cardwell range by bus last Monday, heading for Townsville, we drove from cloud into clear skies and sunshine.
But sunshine and clear skies greeted our return on Tuesday (tooth fixed).
We threw off the mooring lines on Wednesday and headed back to Gayundah Creek on the rising tide.
It was a slick trip up the Channel yesterday morning, greatly contrasting with the choppy conditions the day before.

The channel was a bit choppy but the side creeks were a haven of calmness, with enough of a light breeze to keep the midges at bay.
Barramundi jumped and teased us but refused to be lured by our fishing lines.
Yesterday we moved camp southwards to what is locally known as Waterfall Creek. (The real Waterfall Creek lies further south and on the other side of the channel.) We puzzled over the duplication of names until we crossed the bar of the creek and rounded the bend. Staring back at us was a spill of water down a rock face on the Cardwell range.
It's flowing a bit stronger this morning after heavy rain last night.
Again it's a beautiful outlook and our plan from here is to have a bit of a fish around the run-offs then explore the alternate `Boat Passage' on the high tides through the numerous creeks that make up the Hinchinbrook Channel as we head back towards Cardwell.
Locally known as Waterfall Creek. Luckily the man-made structure came afterwards. Power-tower Creek doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

The bird life has been wonderful. We can hear mangrove robins but they have remained out of sight so far.
Heavy rain last night and this morning ...

... but the sun is breaking through.