Monday, 31 August 2015

Heading south to the Whitsundays

Full moon rising at Cape Bowling Green - as drawn by Mr Squiggle (or taken from a bobbing boat).

It’s been a busy week since we tied up in Breakwater Marina last Monday.

Having noticed that the stitching on the front trampolines was perishing in several places, the first job was to undo the lashings holding them in place then deliver the tramps to the sailmaker.

We’d rung Townsville sailmaker Lex Prior the week before to organise a repair and were able to drop them off by 4pm Monday.

In typical fashion, he did the repair and had them ready to reinstall by Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier on Tuesday Royden had hired a trailer and picked up our brand new 80 metres of anchor chain which came in a 40 gallon drum. Getting it was ok as Bullivants, the supplier, had a forklift.

Getting it off the trailer was somewhat more challenging but all credit to Royden who works out the logistics prior to the job. The drum and chain were safely trolleyed into one of the marina’s shipping containers until the high tide when the walkway was closer to level and trolleying the barrel down the ramp was less of a hazard.

But before that the tramps had to be reinstated so that was Wednesday morning’s job.

On Thursday morning we took Sea Piper to the works dock (nearest the container) for the installation of the new anchor chain. But first the old rusty anchor chain had to be unloaded and the anchor removed.

As fate would have it, another yachtie had his boat at the works dock having his hull scraped. He looked at our old anchor chain, decided the bulk of it (the non-rusty end) was better than his and promptly took it off our hands, relieving us of the job of getting rid of it. Win, win!

Just as an aside, our new anchor chain is the tested Australian made variety. It was 2.5 times the price of chain from China however we decided that `cheap’ did not necessarily equal `good’ and seeing it’s our main means of staying in the same place overnight, we opted for the dearer chain. However it’s an indicator of what Australian manufacturer’s are up against in a global market.

With all major jobs complete it was time to restock and ready Sea Piper for her next outing with Rob and Leigh on board.

With perfect conditions forecast for the next few days, we set off yesterday morning (Sunday) to Cape Bowling Green. The wind was almost non-existent when we left the marina, but rounding Cape Cleveland it rose to 9 and 10 knots north-easterly so we were able to sail from there – a great way to start the trip.

A giant turtle stuck its head up as we sailed along. Next thing Leigh called out with great excitement as a whale fully breached out towards the horizon. Sailing through Bowling Green Bay we saw another two pods splashing and blowing. What a wildlife show!

After a blissfully calm night at Bowling Green, we have set off this morning for Cape Upstart with an early whale sighting and some dolphins to start the day. 

Sunrise at Bowling Green ...

... and moon-set on the western side

Monday, 24 August 2015

Happy Anniversary to us

Yesterday's plans to head south from the Palms to Magnetic Island were put on hold when the promised 10 to 15 knot easterly failed to arrive and was instead replaced by a 20 knot south-easterly, which would have meant punching into a head wind and swell for hours.
No thanks!
With time on our side we decided to sit it out and celebrate our 46th wedding anniversary moored safely in Little Pioneer Bay.
The tide chart marks a special day
Time to celebrate.
Royden, bless him, produced a chilled bottle of champagne and some raspberry chocolates he'd managed to find in the limited stocks of Dungeness, while I rustled up some savouries.

A much nicer way to spend the afternoon rather than slugging it out with the elements.
The wind finally died off around 5pm by which time we weren't going anywhere.
After another showery but calm night (this is the area of Australia's highest rainfall) we were both awake at 4.30am and decided to slip our mooring and head off.
It's a little eerie setting off into the pitch black but it's also a beautiful time to be on the water and watch the light slowly define the surroundings.
Rarely have we seen Halifax Bay so calm which has meant motor-sailing all of the way but it's better than flogging Sea Piper, and ourselves.
A beaut mackerel happened to like our lure as well so that's secured dinner for the next few nights.
PS Within  minutes of posting the above, the wind shifted and strengthened  a couple of knots so motor is off and we are sailing along.
Yee hah!
Happy, happy, happy!
An excellent catch

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Dungeness - pre and post

It's hard to believe nearly a week has passed since my last blog entry - probably because each day was pretty much a repeat of the previous ie take in the magnificent views, catch fish, cook fish, eat fish, take in the view, etc. Yep, the fishing was pretty good.
We diversified for a day and a night by heading into Dungeness (behind Lucinda at the southern entry to the Hinchinbrook Channel).
The main reason for our visit was that we were down to our last two mozzie coils. These are essential for warding off the hordes of midges/sandflies that hang around the mangroves.
It also gave us the opportunity to walk on land for the first time in eight or so days
The town consists of a couple of resorts with a restaurant, bar and small shop at one, a newish public dock and boat ramp, some holiday townhouses and a reasonably new set of pontoons hired out as marina berths.
Getting into Dungeness by boat requires a good map, absolute adherence to the shipping markers and a bit of local knowledge. It is extremely shallow and can only be accessed on a rising tide, preferably close to the top of the tide. Fortunately for us the high was close to the middle of the day so access was achievable - but only just as the high was quite a low one.
It was good to stretch our legs and we ended up walking two kms into Lucinda for an ice cream and look around the old jetty that we have passed by sea many times now. The boating channel is only a stone's throw from the jetty and I remember it's proximity freaked us both out a bit the first time we travelled the route back in 2010!
As an extra treat to our land visit, we went to the restaurant and had steak for dinner.
Final anchorage in the Hinchinbrook Channel - Sunday Creek. The fishing wasn't as good here.
With mozzie coils replenished and Sea Piper's water tanks filled, we headed out on the following day's high tide to anchor up in the Channel in preparation for our trip across to the Palm Islands this morning.
Glass out conditions
It was glass-out calm when we left but the Bureau's forecast 15 to 20 knots blew up just as we got near the end of the Lucinda jetty and prepared to cross to the Palms.
Deciding to take a more comfortable (but longer) course across the ditch gave us the bonus of a whale just off the port side. It was slowly meandering northwards weaving its huge bulk in and out of the waves.
We're now snugly moored in Little Pioneer Bay on Orpheus Island with the aim of using the forecast easterly tomorrow to take us south to Magnetic Island then into Townsville Monday where we pick up our new anchor chain - all 80 metres of it (so I guess we won't be literally picking it up).
Visitors Leigh and Rob fly in to join us this Saturday and with a bit of good weather, we hope to sail south to the Whitsundays.
Watch this space!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Hanging around

Catching fish ....

... and watching out for whales.
This week's activities: Catching (cooking and eating) fish (bream, salmon and shark), knitting more Mini Peeps (named by Alexander and Sonny), learning to finger-pick the uke and spotting which mud bank Tic Toc the Croc is sunbaking on today.
Retirement is tough!

Saturday, 15 August 2015



Early morning reflections in the channel

... and who should come along for a photo opportunity

Reflections looking towards Hinchinbrook Island.
I had a sense of deja vu yesterday morning when I took a photo of the perfect morning reflection of the Hinchinbrook mountains in the still waters of the channel.
This place never fails to impress us with it's beauty.
But it was during the night that we saw the reflection that had us both in `Wow!' mode.
There was no moon so it was total blackness all around except for our anchor light and the stars in the cloudless sky.
Those stars were perfectly reflected in the glassy waters giving the sensation that Sea Piper was suspended in the middle of a glass bubble.
It was awesome!
It was also cold. Temperatures have been dropping to single figures which is pretty unusual for mid-August - from our experience anyway.
But with gorgeous days, we're not complaining.

  • Heard on the news yesterday that a fire had broken out (suspected deliberately lit) at the abandoned Hinchinbrook Island resort. We caught a snippet on the tv last night, filmed from a passing helicopter, and it looked ferocious so suspect the main building and nearby cabins are reduced to ash. It's a wonder we didn't see the black smoke across the mountain although the wind would have been blowing it away from us.
Is that a smile Mr Crocodile?

Thursday, 13 August 2015

When to swim - and when not to ...

Sea Piper in the spotlight! Early morning sail.
Sometimes the weather gods smile kindly upon you - and that's certainly been the case for the past week or so cruising and hanging out with Paws.
Dunk Island was excellent - as it always is. The Sunday music sesh is still well-supported by mainlanders with the water taxi doing a booming business all day and the sand spit dotted with private boats from Mission Beach.
When Monday dawned, we had the place virtually to ourselves, save for the workers slowly but surely reclaiming the resort from its Cyclone Yasi devastation over four years ago.
Andi and Gem explore Dunk's clear waters.
Andi and Gem were up at dawn on their paddle boards exploring the reef, nearby Purdaboi Island and Dunk's lagoon.
We joined them ashore and the four of us set off on the walking track to the top of Mt Kootaloo then down again and around to Muggy Muggy Beach.
The view from the Kootaloo lookout is fabulous, taking in all the Family Group of islands with Hinchinbrook's Mt Bowen towering in the background.
The rest of the day was spent doing not much!
Dinghy time
With almost glass out conditions on Tuesday, the four of us took Sea Piper across to the mainland at Mission Beach to top up the grocery stores and check out the sweeping beach.
Wow! Crystal clear water and beautiful white sand. So many places along the tropical coastline have a narrow belt of sandy shoreline that becomes mud, making the water quite murky and uninviting. No wonder the islands are so popular. 
We were able to anchor in closely - a short dinghy trip (or swim) to shore. and, luckily for us, the well-stocked supermarket is just a couple of hundred metres back from the foreshore so the shopping trip was done and dusted quickly (along with a load of washing at the Laundromat which is a little bit further away) - and Mission Beach's economy boosted.
After lunch and a swim, Sea Piper headed back to Dunk for another night.
Yesterday we said our farewells to Paws as they are continuing to head north to who-knows-where with maybe a return to Townsville later in the year - or maybe not.
We headed south, calling in at Cardwell for some (dinghy) outboard motor spares. We anchored off-shore in the muddy waters at low tide and had turtles popping up all around. Lots of sea grass here which is a nice return from (again) Yasi's devastation.
Getting to shore proved pretty tricky with Royden eventually giving up on the muddy foreshore and tying up at the jetty.
With parts purchased and stowed, we headed to one of our favourite anchorages in the Hinchinbrook Channel and were rewarded with a nice bream, followed by a blue threadfin salmon. Yum!
The evening cloud settles like a shawl over Hinchinbrook's peaks.
Having read this blog until now, ours may seem an idyllic lifestyle. But there is a downside. This morning's jobs included unblocking the calcified build-up in the (salt water) plumbing in the bathroom. A most unenviable task. It is when this job and the regular bilge clean-out occur that I am thankful I have lost most of my sense of smell - and that I'm the assistant whose nose isn't closest to the work in progress!
There's always a list of jobs to do on a boat but at the moment, the fishing lines are back as we approach change of tide, and a three-metre croc is sunning itself on the mud bank across from us. No swimming here!
Sleeping now - disappearing into the murky depths later.

Sunday, 9 August 2015


Only one word for today's sail from Hinchinbrook to Dunk Island - AWESOME.
With the early morning wind in the north-west we weren't confident that we could maintain the sails heading due north but Venus must have aligned with Mars and we ripped along at 7.5 knots and more, 20 degrees and less off the nose, and with just 12 knots of breeze.
Total buzz!
Add to that frolicking whales and a pod of dolphins to make up the perfect trifecta.
Arrived at Dunk in time for lunch and the Sunday muso session.
Paws scooting along this morning. Hope they have some pics of Sea Piper doing the same.

Welcome to Dunk - once again.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Return of the Manti

One of the rare occasions that we're both in a photo. Thanks Peter and Mina!
Oh poor neglected Blog – but at last I’m making amends with my first entry for 2015.

Our Sea Piper adventure continues, despite having sold her twice last year – neither experience having put money in our pocket. But I’m not going to dwell on those – one almost-transaction that was sad and the other bloody frustrating.

We have put Sea Piper back on the market but, rather than let her languish in the marina any longer, off we’ve headed for a bit of an adventure, catching up at Hinchinbrook Island with our lovely friends Andi and Gemma on Paws.
Easton Cats Sea Piper and Paws at anchor in Creek 7
Our first anchorage together – our Easton catamarans side by side resembling hovering preying mantis (or is that manti?) – was behind the sand spit at Garden Island off Cardwell. A couple of nice bream ended up in the pan for dinner but the tide wasn’t low enough to allow a decent prising-off of oysters.

Sea Piper’s trip to this meeting point was via Magnetic Island, the Palm Islands and round the outside (east) of Hinchinbrook Island, experiencing two mother and calf whale sightings on the last leg.

Even though we see whales in the ocean each year, each new sighting is just as awesome as the first.

Nearing the Brook Islands at the top of Hinchinbrook was a huge whale (I know, I know, they're all huge) sleeping (or suckling maybe?) with her small calf doing a little roll over every now and then, while mum would emit an occasional soft blow – like she was snoring.

We passed quietly by and she remained undisturbed.

From our meeting point with Paws both yachts headed to Macushla in Missionary Bay at the top of Hinchinbrook Island. Lots of lovely memories of family holidays and walks to Macushla from Cape Richards resort for us and a new place to explore for Andi and Gem. Unfortunately the track from Macushla beach across to Shepherd’s Bay is overgrown (the resort became defunct some years ago with Cyclone Yasi finishing the job) and with only thongs on our feet, it looked a bit rugged to tackle the invading rainforest. Maybe another day – with shoes on!

The eight creeks running into Missionary Bay are reportedly good fishing (and the best cyclone holes) so off we went on a high tide to explore Creek 7 accessed via Creek 6. We lost lots of bait and caught a few catfish and undersize stuff but nothing substantial – yet.

On our second day in the creek (and suitably kitted out to deny the thousands of midges access to our flesh) we dinghied along several kms to where a (Marine Parks) boardwalk provides access across the mangroves and over the dunes to Ramsay Bay.
Hinchinbrook's highest point Mt Bowen and The Thumb in the background while kilometres of white sandy beach stretch out in front of us.
What a delightful day - including a fire on the beach with potatoes and corn in foil cooked on the coals, fresh fruit and great company.
Andi in charge of lunch on the beach
The 15 knot wind off the sea put paid to any midges with Royden even stripping off (not totally) for a swim.
Royden braving the ocean while the wind threatens to blow his trousers away!
Our only disappointment was not finding the remnants of an 1800s wreck embedded in the sand. This was discovered by a couple of fishermen following Cyclone Yasi but as the beach is many kilometres long, and we didn’t know which end to head for, and the tide was rising, it will have to wait for another day and another walk to catch a glimpse of the wreck.

After a couple of nights in Creek 7 we decided to move to Creek 2 – Coral Creek – to see if the fishing was any better. Accessing any of these creeks is tricky as there are huge mud bars right across the entries with Coral Creek having, you guessed it, an added coral bar to one side. Inflowing tide – and a reasonable one at that – is a must. Thankfully the next couple of high tides are a bit bigger than the one we came in on which didn’t leave us much to spare. However the beauty of a catamaran – particularly Eastons – is the shallow draft which gets us tucked into places keelers can only dream about!
Sunsets are pretty good out here.
Right now the Eastons are anchored of Macushla beach once again with a trip to Dunk Island planned for tomorrow.