Sunday, 28 September 2014

Slaying a dragon

The ever-so-long sandspit at Cape Bowling Green.
At last we've put some demons to rest by anchoring overnight at Cape Bowling Green. It feels more like having slayed a dragon.
Cape Bowling Green lies between Bowen and Townsville. It's a long, long, long sand spit that takes forever to get around whether you are heading north or south. The shifting sand near the Cape results in random shallow spots where many a boat has run aground.
We have heard so many stories about Cape Bowling Green experiences, mostly bad - so it put us off ever anchoring there - until now.
Peaceful times at Cape Bowling Green
With dead calm conditions forecast, we decided to give it a go and were amazed when we rounded the spit on Thursday afternoon to find this beautiful lagoon with the sea shut off by that long high sand dune. A lone palm tree stands sentinel at the southern most point of the anchorage - the same palm tree taunts you as you spend hour after hour sailing around the Cape trying to leave it in the rear view mirror (if your boat has one).
Birds and fish abound in the `lagoon' and we spent a lovely evening taking it all in. Next morning, with conditions still glassy, we bid it farewell and set off north to Magnetic Island. Breaking the trip at Bowling Green meant an easy six hour trip to Magnetic instead of the usual gruelling 14 hours from Cape Upstart.
While we wouldn't like to be stuck out at Bowling Green in anything over 15 knots, we now have the confidence to stopover on any future journeys and spend three easier days travelling to the Whitsundays instead of two hard ones.
After a beaut sail from Double Bay the previous day, we left Gloucester Island early last Wednesday and were rewarded with a couple of pods of pilot whales frolicking near the boat for a while. Most of the bigger humpback whales are already well south so it was an unexpected treat to see these little gems. After an easy day's sail, we overnighted at the lower end of Cape Upstart where the dugongs and turtles play.
Out where the big ships anchor off Abbott Point, north of Bowen.
We're now at Magnetic Island enjoying music and a busy foreshore market, which includes a sand sculpture competition.
Interestingly, the sculpture happening near our dinghy is a flying dragon.
Very fitting I thought.
Calm seas and beautiful sunsets marked our journey north.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Gold - to share

Silver one minute - gold the next!
Lucky neighbours enjoyed half the spoils from this fishing expedition yesterday at low tide. A beaut golden trevally - great eating fresh but not much good after freezing.
Excellent for Nummus though (ie raw fish `cooked' by massaging through with vinegar, lemon and salt laced with oodles of garlic and chilli), which brings back great memories of the Wiligi mob and lots of good times in Arnhem Land. Also more recent good times gorging on Nummus in the Hinchinbrook Channel.
Being a bit slow with the camera these days, I failed to capture the transformation of this fish from silvery white to rich gold - hence the name I guess.
We also managed to land several rock cod but each was too small and went back to the sea to grow bigger for next time.
The predicted storm front came through last night giving the boat a good wash. For a while we thought the rain was going to miss us as we watched it sheeting across the water to the south. Then the wind changed ....
More rain and strong winds are predicted for today so baking, reading and fishing are again on our agenda till the front passes and we head to another bay - perhaps tomorrow.
Storm clouds brewing.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Chilling out and whetting our taste buds

There could be worse places to be than sitting in a beautiful bay waiting for a strong weather front to pass - and baking a big fat loaf of sourdough that we can barely keep our hands off while it cools.
We spent a few days in and around Airlie, discovering it was peak season for charter boats with most popular anchorages proving over popular!
It was great to see the Airlie region kicking some tourism goals again. Lots of people on the streets and not so many shop vacancies - assisted no doubt by the completion of the streetscape project which must have been the bane of business owners last year.
While the main Whitsunday Islands are indeed beautiful, our favourite places are proving to be to the north between Airlie and Gloucester Island. There's many beaut islands, bays and beaches to explore along here - so that's where we're hanging out.
Sailing north of Airlie

This cute little character joined us for a sail out of Airlie - with his owners.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Anchorages new and old

Glassy morning in Double Bay today.
It's incredible that we can be anchored in a secluded little bay with no access to phone or TV but, lo and behold, we have internet (albeit slow and intermittent) thanks to that thingy on the top of the mast that runs down and connects to our plug-in wireless that connects to our laptop.
Allelujah! How else would we keep up with the world?
Since the last blog, we have had an easy trip south through to a lovely (and new to us) anchorage off Gloucester Island.
Bona Bay proved peaceful and calm - a great overnight stop and with a long sandy beach for a morning walk. The shady area beyond the beach, complete with pit toilets and picnic tables, is obviously popular with campers and we had a laugh at the big sign `No Fires" with camp fire debris all around it. I often think that National Parks campsites like this would fare better if there was one reasonably sized fireplace where people could have a fire on or near the beach rather than the litter of a dozen half-covered piles of burnt debris.
Backing onto the beach at Bona Bay

Looking across the bay towards Bowen

Bona Bay beach

Sea Piper
Yesterday, in glassy conditions, we caught the last of the incoming tide through the Gloucester Passage and stopped for lunch at Olden Island.
Yay! We're officially in the Whitsundays.
After a lazy hour or so a freshening breeze enable us to sail around to Double Bay, one of our favourites and where we plan to spend the next couple of days before heading around to Airlie.
The fishing is generally good here but I don't want to jinx us at this point. We caught a nice size (three meals) mackerel as we approached Bowen the other day so we're not short of fish.


Back-tracking once again after downloading photos from my camera - I'd forgotten about the croc sightings in the Hinchinbrook Channel during Leigh and Rob's visit, so thought I'd plonk in a photo of one that hit the water as we ambled up the channel.

The `No Swimming - Achtung' sign is everywhere in northern parts - does that mean German people are the preferred delicacy for crocs?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Neglected - but not forgotten

OK, I accept this blog is suffering from a serious case of neglect which I am about to rectify - at least once for this year anyway.
I'm inspired by our current anchorage at Cape Upstart, which is about half way between Townsville and the northern end of the Whitsundays. It's a good 13 to 14 hour sail from Townsville with not much chance of a comfy anchorage in between. After a 4am start (from Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island) yesterday we welcomed lowering the sails and our anchor hitting the sandy/mud at the lower end of the Cape, just as the sun dipped over the horizon. It was not much more than an hour later that our own eyelids dipped.
The weather forecast and sheer weariness led us to declare today a rest day. And what a great decision. We've just been watching dugongs feeding around us as the tide slips out for one of the year's lowest - 0.02 metres. The bird life is beautiful and we are protected by craggy mountains fringed with mangroves.
We haven't anchored down this far into the Cape before, but it will be getting marked on our navigation system as a preferred spot.
The southern end of Cape Upstart - and there's a dugong or two in there somewhere.
I suppose I'd better backtrack a bit to fill in Sea Piper's travels to date.
We didn't return to Townsville from Victoria until mid-May and then needed to do the usual season-starting odd jobs on the boat, which we interspersed with some trips out to Horseshoe Bay and fun music jam sessions, most memorably the marina Pirate Party and on the beach with a crackling fire at White Lady Bay.
Luckily for us, Royden's next Melbourne meeting coincided with the start of school holidays so Zander and Sonny were able to fly back with him and spend about 10 days on the boat. Stu also joined us for a few days at the end and insisted on taking the boys back!
We had so much fun around Townsville and out on Magnetic Island. The only down side was catching no fish, in fact not even losing a bait.
Studying marina marine life.

Fun - but no fish.
David was our next visitor, joining us for two weeks around the Palm Islands and Hinchinbrook, which included a trip into Zoe Bay and the waterfall which we hadn't been to for over 20 years!
The fish had started biting by then and mackerel and bream were on the menu plenty of nights.

No prizes for guessing what's for dinner.

We haven't spotted many whales this year but this pod came so close we couldn't help but see them.
Shells and seeds

The clear waters of Zoe Falls are also very cold as Royden found out.
Morning in Horseshoe Bay
We made it back to Townsville with a few hours to spare before greeting Leigh and Rob for a three week Sea Piper adventure. Our plans to go to the Whitsundays went out the window with the strong south-easterlies so we again headed north to the Palms, Hinchinbrook, Gould and Garden Islands and Dunk Island.
Dunk was a delight. After being wrecked by Cyclone Yasi in Feb 2011, work restoring the resort is underway and the public areas have been rebuilt by the local council. It sports a new jetty, campground, shower and toilet block (all in place when we came through in November last year) and the walking tracks are also cleared and open again. But more importantly, the cafĂ©/bar and Sunday music sessions are in full swing.
The locals are embracing the place and the water taxis and ferries were busy all day during our visit.
Early morning Hinchinbrook
Bream ...
... and more bream
Dunk's walking track is well worth the climb
Drunk on Dunk? Now who coined that phrase?
Hmmm ...
Great music, great location, great weather, great company, who could ask for more?

Another memorable moment came in the Hinchinbrook Channel where we caught up with two other boats from Townsville and had a jam session on Sea Piper.
Our return journey included another visit to the former leper colony on Fantome Island and and overnight anchorage in Juno Bay. We must have been right over a reef as Royden's fishing catches were like a snorkelling bonanza - however they were also small and went back to their mates in moments.
We arrived back in Townsville on the day we were all to fly out to Melbourne. Talk about cutting it fine! But then it was amazing how quickly four people could clean up a boat compared to two.
After a week seeing all our kids, partners and grandchildren, plus many of our friends, we headed back to Townsville and our current trip heading for the Whitsundays.