Friday, 30 October 2015

Holding on Herald

Royden's just about got the big cast-net conquered.

Clear, clear waters off Orpheus Island and plenty of sea life to go with it.

Orpheus waters again.

There's always new anchorages to discover - particularly when the weather gods are feeling benevolent and sending light breezes and smooth seas our way.
After a couple of relaxing days on Orpheus Island we hoisted the sails and headed south, making our way along the Palm Islands then down past Havannah and Acheron Islands to Rattlesnake and Herald Islands where we're now anchored.
With an average of 10 knots of breeze (sometimes 12, sometimes 4!) coming from the east then slightly north-east, we managed to maintain 4 to 7 knots. A very relaxed and peaceful sail. 
Both Herald and Rattlesnake are used for military training and are largely denuded of vegetation. When planning a trip through here, sailors must first check that there's no training exercises - if there are, there's usually a five nautical mile (or more) exclusion zone.
Our usual course towards Townsville takes us via Horseshore Bay on Magnetic Island but with the present conditions (and no bombing planned) we thought we'd pay these isles a visit.
Despite their barren-looking state (except for magnificent white sand spits and extensive reef), a decent colony of curlews exist on both islands along with the odd coucal pheasant. Their calls echoed across the water last night. It was beautiful.
When we arrived we must have disturbed the entire turtle population as turtle after turtle came up around the boat to have a look at us. There would have been at least a dozen, possibly more. Then they all moved away and we didn't see another.
The fishing is also rumoured to be good - but up to this point the catch has been small in number and too small in size.
Herald Island sandspit with Magnetic Island in the background.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Tasty morsels

The two week stopover for Sea Piper in Dungeness (two road-hours north of Townsville) worked a treat with the usual October hull-growth thwarted by the fast running tidal flows in the Herbert River.
It also worked as a great option for our recent visitors, Julie and Keith, who flew back from Victoria with us to spend a few days sailing.
With sea sickness blighting most of Julie's trips on water, spending the first two nights in the calm waters of the channel (even though the wind was blowing over 20 knots at times) paid off and we were able to take advantage of the lighter winds on Saturday to sail up to Dunk Island for an overnighter and enjoy a walk to the lookout on Mount Kootaloo and a little of the Sunday music session on the foreshore before taking the rising tide and light easterly back towards Hinchinbrook Island to anchor at Garden Island for Sunday night.
We dined on fresh fish on three out of the five nights - bream, trevally and shark. All delicious.
Sand flies/midges found our visitors delicious also despite them donning long sleeve tops and long pants along with the burning of numerous mozzie coils around the cockpit. Luckily Sea Piper's insect screens kept the little wretches from inside or I'm sure we'd all be itching.

One fish ...

two fish ...

My fish ...
... your fish.
 We farewelled our visitors in Dungeness last night and this morning motored across to Orpheus Island in millpond conditions. In fact the crystal clear water is beckoning me for a snorkel and swim around the coral reef here so this is the end of this blog.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Fish once more.

Golden Schnapper from the Hinchinbrook Channel
The fish are biting again!
We're currently in the Hinchinbrook Channel, near Haycock Island, and yesterday afternoon Royden caught a beautiful golden schnapper - the biggest he's ever caught. It followed landing two nice bream (and the odd catfish which went straight back in).
The previous day, on our way across from the Palm Islands to the channel, we snagged a huge tuna mackerel which we were really excited about. It was a beautiful looking fish with plenty of meat on it.
However our fishing books informed us that it wasn't much good for eating. Reluctant to give in, we cut fine slivers of meat then marinated it in a spicy mix for several hours before searing it in a hot pan - all to no avail. It was chewy and had an odd taste (once you got past the marinade).
However, it has made excellent bait so it's not been wasted!
It's been so excellent in fact that just minutes ago something big grabbed the bait and took off, whipping the reel from the rod and bending the first carrier before breaking the line. Our guess is a shark!
Since my last Blog entry, we've had a week of land time before heading to sea once more.
While on land we took a trip south (half an hour away) to the small fishing village of Cungulla on the edge of Cape Bowling Green National Park to see what the cape looks like from `the other side'.
It was low tide and the sand and mudflats stretched for kilometres with the sea on the distant horizon. No chance of getting a catamaran in close to shore!
The view from Cungulla, on the edge of Cape Bowling Green
On the other side of the highway the mountains house a large camp ground on the Alligator Creek. Despite its name, the creek is way above sea level here and has some beaut swimming holes - with no crocs (or alligators).
Alligator Creek bordering the Cape Bowling Green National Park campground.
On the day we set out from Breakwater Marina the wind was howling and the waves breaking. Two years ago we would not have entertained the thought of going out in those conditions, but as we were only heading to Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island, these days it's bearable (though we did end up anchoring for a few hours off West Beach until the tide changed and the north-east swell eased a bit).
We anchored in Horseshoe on sunset and spent a lovely couple of days lolling about, including a bus trip to Nellie Bay and going to the Sunday morning handcraft market on the foreshore in Horseshoe. 
With the wind, tide and swell all in our favour we had a beaut sail through to the Palms on Monday but finding all the moorings taken in Little Pioneer Bay we pushed on to the Hinchinbrook Channel as the tide change favoured our entry - just!
Morning in Haycock Island in the Hinchinbrook Channel



Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Bye bye crew

Our three weeks with Leigh and Rob on board flew by and, thank goodness, we managed to snare a mackerel the day before we tied up back in Townsville.
Our sail from Bowen to Cape Bowling Green ended up as a motor-sail as the wind dropped out almost completely (so different from the previous day's super sailing) but the weather was glorious and we soaked up the colours of the sky and the sea, the odd dolphin and one sea snake as we made our way north.
It must have been cruisers' migration week as we saw several other yachts on this stretch whereas we saw not one as we came south three weeks prior.
Cutting out Cape Upstart from our usual anchorages proved a good move as we saved at least 10 nautical miles and easily reached the sandspit of Bowling Green before sunset - mind you we started out at 4.30 am as that's when both Royden and I woke up.
The mackerel patch outside Bowen yielded no fish however one unlucky mackerel found our lure in the deep water off Bowling Green and was relegated to the barbecue that night.
It was delicious.
At last, a mackerel for dinner. Perfect size too.
Bowling Green once again provided a delightful overnight anchorage with dead calm conditions and a beautiful sunset.
Hot showers all round and a fish dinner equalled a pretty good last night at sea!
Again, lots of yachts on the move as six others came into anchor after us, all heading south.
No whales performing breaches or flipper slaps this time though.
A car carrier cruises by in the deep water the other side of the Cape Bowling Green sandspit.
Another beautiful Bowling Green sunset.
With Thursday's total lack of wind we didn't even bother to put the main sail up. With tide and a slight swell rolling us forward, we motored around Cape Cleveland and into Townsville by mid-afternoon to be greeted by the Double Vision crew to assist with the customary bottle of champagne to toast the end of another excellent adventure.  
A becalmed catamaran is dwarfed by a warship doing manoeuvres off Cape Cleveland. There's a helicopter in there somewhere as well
Great weather for little fishing boats around the reefs off Cape Cleveland.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Keeping ourselves entertained

There was also baking to be done. Yum, fresh bread!
Our stay in Macona came to an end yesterday as the wind began to ease. We headed out in the early morning and ducked into beautiful Nara Inlet (next to Macona) for a look before heading up to the northern reaches of Hook Island and Butterfly Bay.
Entertaining ourselves in Macona with Barry, the pineapple top - This is livin' Barry
Pandanus fruit In Macona Inlet
There were sails out on the water everywhere in the light breezes and low swells.
It was delightful.
Much to our surprise there were moorings available in Butterfly Bay (there's no anchoring in this part of the islands) and so snorkels and goggles were donned to explore the fringing reef and bommies.
Luckily Rob doesn't have to move around far on the boat with his injured ankle.
 An angel fish must have fallen in love with our ladder as it remained within a metre of it for the whole time it was in the water.
Luckily we were back on board before a thunderstorm hit and sent a chilling set of bullet winds through the bay.

Snorkelling a bommie in Butterfly Bay.
The angel fish and the ladder - a love story?
This bay is renowned for its bullet winds and we reckon the tourism industry probably had the bay renamed from Bullet to Butterfly to make it less threatening.
Setting a mackerel line this morning.
This morning we farewelled the Whitsundays and headed north towards Bowen expecting winds of around 10 to 15 knots. Instead they were 15 to 20kts with a following sea so we were flying along hitting over 9 knots at one point. Fortunately we'd started out with a reduced mainsail and just a little head sail which turned out to be perfect for the conditions.
We've dropped anchor in Queens Bay off Bowen and plan to set off at daybreak tomorrow for either Cape Upstart or Cape Bowling Green depending on the wind, tide and our sailing speed.

Rob has found new and innovative ways to get his bait.

Sunday, 13 September 2015


Happy Birthday Mog!

The discovery of a small creek behind the beach opposite our anchorage proved too much for Royden's curiosity yesterday.
With a small backpack carrying necessities like Allan's Snakes and a camera, off he went up the mountainside, returning a couple of hour's later with some beaut photos of the lagoon we are anchored in and of the caves he found.
Here's an example:

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Hiding out in Macona

Our stay in Cid Harbour was tranquil, despite the weather forecast of a freshening south-easterly.
Royden and Rob climbed to the Whitsunday Peak while Leigh and I decided the walk to Dugong Bay was our preferred option.
A number of little trailer sailers were beached at Dugong and their owners were enjoying a laid-back afternoon in the shade of the foreshore trees. A further explore beyond the boats unearthed a couple of very big goannas devouring a fish.
Unfortunately I'd left my camera behind so missed the opportunity to take a photo of these two, or the boats or the beautiful pitta bird we disturbed along the track.
A chat to one of the trailer-sailer owners revealed that he and his twin brother (both incidentally hailing from Beaumaris where Leigh and I grew up) had got lost on their way down from the Whitsunday Peak about nine years ago before the track was marked or well-tramped. They'd watched the Hamilton Island yacht races from their mountain view then couldn't find the path down and ended up (separately) in Gulnare Inlet on the south side of the peak. The brother was rescued when he managed to hail an anchored boat but the fellow we spoke to ended up sleeping on a rock then climbing back to the peak in the morning, where he was rescued by emergency crews alerted the previous night by his wife.
What a story!
Subsequently, Marine Parks marked the track and warning signs greet would-be climbers.
Unfortunately the boys return from their climb included Rob's ankle giving out as he reached the sand and he's been somewhat immobilised ever since, so these enforced rest days are probably well-timed.
Macona Inlet at low tide - time for some hunter-gathering.

Plenty of oysters for pre-dinners
With Cid Harbour filling up as the winds increased on Thursday morning, we decided to make the shift to Macona Inlet, at the southern end of Hook Island. This inlet is off-limits to  some charter boats because of its extensive reef at the entry and in the bay however it's well protected from the worst of the wind and swell so it wasn't surprising to catch up with some fellow yachties already anchored here.
Macona Inlet
With winds gusting from 20 to 30 knots we look like being here for another day or two yet! The only boats that seem to be moving around are the charterers making the most of their  days in the Whitsundays.
Just on dusk last night a big cabin cruiser came roaring in and ground to a halt when it hit the reef. Unbelievable assuming that this new-looking multi-million dollar boat would have the latest navigation systems and warnings. The skipper managed to back it off the reef before heading out to deeper waters to anchor.

There are many caves and eroded rock formations along the beach in Macona. Leigh looks like she's in the jaws of a giant hippo!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Blue skies, blue seas and perfect tell-tales

Hill Inlet at the top of Whitehaven Beach
A week has past since my last Blog entry because the weather has been so beautiful it seemed a shame to sit inside on the computer. Also because internet and phone connections are spasmodic depending which side of the islands we are on.

After leaving Gloucester Island we sailed south (again with northerlies) to Double Bay West for an overnight anchorage and the chance of some fish for dinner.

They continued to elude us!

We moved the next day around to Double Bay East with a similar result despite the boys’ best efforts trolling the bay morning and evening.

The locations more than made up for it though.
Reasonably relaxed in Double Bay.
Lazy Saturday arvo
On Saturday morning we grabbed an early start and sailed around to Airlie Beach in time to get some fresh fruit and veges from the weekly market, and to meet up with David and Vikki who had driven down from Townsville for the weekend.

We all spent the afternoon on Sea Piper and planned a sail for the Sunday.
Please explain David Kirkpatrick - mini-tinnies instead of man-cans?
We couldn’t have picked a more perfect day. The wind took us around to Woodwark Bay (with a perfect tack off the point!) and pods of dolphins greeted us as we headed deep into the bay for a lunchtime stopover.

The sky was cloud free and the sea was aquamarine and crystal clear. Superb!
Please note: Perfect tell-tails on the headsail. Ditto the main though you can't spot them in the photo.
Take up relaxation positions
We managed to get back into Airlie around 3.30pm and dropped David and Vikki off at the public jetty where we topped up our water tanks before heading to Funnel Bay for an overnight anchorage.

Big mistake.

The bay lived up to its name and funnelled bullets of wind down on us for the first half of the night. The rest of the night the anchor chain scraped on the rocky bottom. It was nice to up-anchor at daybreak and head for Whitsunday Island and the famous Whitehaven Beach.

Just like the brochure!
The `Wow' factor was in full force as we passed through the passage between Whitsunday and Hook Islands. The outer face of the islands is quite different to the inland side. Hoop pines grow prolifically in the rockiest, barest locations and the rocks have an array of colours from black, to brown, cream and green.

Many of them now have new names – Cow Face Rock, Bambi Rock, etc.

Securing the dinghy in Tongue Bay
We anchored off the northern end of Whitehaven but the sea was pretty lumpy so we opted to tuck into nearby Tongue Bay and dinghy across to its beach which has a walking track to both a lookout and Whitehaven.

The tides were perfect for this manoeuvre and we spent a lovely couple of hours walking and swimming in this pristine place.
The clear waters of Windy Bay made spotting turtles and stingrays easy.
The view from Windy Bay across to the top of Whitsunday Island
Yesterday morning we moved anchor to the east, across to Windy Bay on Haslewood Island – a gem we hadn’t discovered before. It would appear the charter boats aren’t allowed to go there as we had it all to ourselves before another private catamaran Mojo came in.

It was a great island to explore with a huge sandy beach, especially at low tide, stingrays, turtles and a rough track across to the south side of the island. The bay emptied out quickly at  low tide so we had to keep moving the dinghy to keep water under it.
Windy Bay beach
The boys had much fun trying to dislodge (unsuccessfully) some coconuts from the one palm tree on the beach. It involved a long rope found in the scrub and a rock swung like a hammerthrow. Hilarious!
Fishing proved a little more successful and tonight's menu will include some fillets.

Newly named no-name-island - Cutest Island Ever
This morning we’ve come back through the Hook Passage as the winds are going to increase to 20 knots plus today and remain so for the next few days.

We’ve anchored in Cid Harbour, off Whitsunday Island, amongst at least 50 other boats with numbers set to increase throughout the day.

On previous trips over the past five years, we have never seen so many boats around the Whitsundays. Great for Airlie and Hamilton Island’s economy!