Friday, 31 July 2015

Island Head Creek to Port Clinton Once in a Blue Moon

Approaching Port Clinton

This morning the winds are below 10 knots at Island Head Creek.  They will be higher outside and there will still be swell that's whipped up over the past few days.  We've been here five days, it's a good day to leave.

As expected it's a bumpy ride, wind from the southeast, in our face, and we're motoring.  It could always be worse so there's no complaining.

The calmness of the Port Clinton anchorage is a welcome relief this afternoon.  I've made an easy lunch of fried rice which we enjoy sitting in the sun in the cockpit.  We can hear the turtles breathing on the surface close by.

Tonight we watch the blue moon rise over the mangroves in a calm, peaceful anchorage.  A blue moon happens when two full moons occur in one month.  It's positively blissful.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club

Thursday arrives and it's not a good day to sail.  Gusty winds, rain, chop; it's a good day to polish some stainless steel fittings in the main cabin.  Satisfied I've achieved something we accept an invitation to a get together on the beach.

We're all getting cabin fever.

Our new acquaintenances tell us they are members of the "Shaggers Club".  Mercifully, before I embarrass myself by asking if the club is inspired by Austin Powers, it's explained that the club is supporting the Prostrate Cancer Foundation.  The proper name is Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club.  They are all headed up to Gloucester Island for the club's annual rendezvous.  Warwick tells us we are heading in the wrong direction and should be sailing north with them.  Yes we know, but we've had our fun early in the cruising season and need to get back home and pay for our sins.  I'm thinking about how tall the weeds will be by the time we get there!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Wind and Waves

Island Head Creek

Overnight we registered 32 knots here in the creek where it's protected.  We felt it!  Just have to wonder about the conditions out on the ocean.  The forward berth was too uncomfortable with the hobby horse, sometimes bucking horse, action as waves rolled up the arm of the creek, current in the opposite direction, putting us broadside to the waves.  We each took up a seaberth in the main cabin and slept quite well, waking occasionally to check on how we were holding.  It's sand and mud here.  All good!

I'm grateful for small mercies.  With the wind in the high 20's all day the bouncing has been nothing compared to what it would be outside.  We will wait and see how things look tomorrow morning before deciding when we leave for Rosslyn Bay.  Hopefully we can get a weather update from someone as boats continue to come into the creek.  Once the wind dies it will be another couple of tides before the sea calms down.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

I Surrender

Sunrise at Island Head Creek
It's a windy old day today and I've surrendered to my lazy bones.  Just hanging out aboard Bristol Rose reading, writing and taking photographs.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Cut Off and Part of the Island Head Creek Crowd

We are thanking our lucky stars we got to Island Head Creek early enough yesterday to find a great spot to anchor.  Through the day we've seen around 20 boats heading up creek.  This is a very remote area, part of the Dept of Defence Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area .  Talisman Sabre, the joint US and Australian exercises finished a couple of weeks ago so we are able to be here.  It's a good idea to check the site before thinking about passing through this area.

We have no connection by phone and also no weather updates by radio but we've learned from another boat the Bureau of Meteorology has this morning issued a strong wind warning, winds expected to reach 35 knots.  The winds have picked up from nothing to 19 knots since this morning.  We will be here another 4 days, till Thursday or Friday.

We have a good little "hole" here to wait it out and there's time to explore a little and do some fishing before the winds really kick in.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Island Head Creek Soundings

At 10am we enter Island Head Creek.  Low tide is 11:30am.  I have to keep a look out, watching the depth closely as Robert steers his way around the shoals.  It's so clear I can see the sand ripples under 15-20 feet of water.  The Lucas guide "Cruising the Coral Coast" provides soundings for anchoraes along the creek but our copy is old and shoals may have shifted over the years.  We can't take anything for granted just because it appears in print.

There are three boats anchored just inside but we want more protection than that.  The most promising arm we think is much further up the creek.  Slowly motoring Bristol Rose in from the main channel we find 8 feet of water under the keel.  No, that won't work at low tide.

Daisie waits patiently.

We drop the anchor back down the creek near an arm we had earlier dismissed as too difficult to navigate and Robert takes the dinghy through to take soundings.  He's found a way in to a "hole" with sufficient depth and enough swing room.  We are confident this will work for us to ride out the high winds we're expecting to arrive either late Monday or early Tuesday.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Overnighting to Island Head Creek

Foggy morning Keswick and St. Bees

The decision is made.  We will overnight heading SE to Middle Percy Island to avoid adverse currents and continue on to Island Head Creek expecting to reach the bar on high tide in the morning, Sunday.  While we have a connection I send text messages to update family and friends of our plan.

It's slow going through the day but we are making progress motor sailing.  We are joined by pods of dolphins which race over to ride our bow wave, weaving from starboard to port side, back and forth, back and forth.  I can't think of anything more delightful!  The sailor's companions.  They bring an instant smile and seem to smile back as they turn their heads skyward.  Are they looking at me?  I feel they accept our presence in their world and want to have some fun with us for a while.

We've seen quite a few Humpback whales since we started this ourney over a month ago.  They are calving in these northern waters at this time of year.

Through the night we get a few hours of north easterlies which compensate for the earlier slow speeds we've been making.  That was a nice surprise and could help put our arrival at a good time for the tide.

Friday, 24 July 2015

South Molle Island to Keswick Island

Approaching South Molle Island from Airlie Beach

We are away at 4am, with very little wind to sail.  We have to motor to Keswick and hope to make it in daylight to pick up a mooring ball.  It won't be a long stay.  We want to be back home in a couple of weeks.

We're in luck, we make good time and we settle in for the night at Keswick.  We are constantly monitoring weather forecasts on, and the Bureau of meteorology site and we're aware that strong winds 25-30 knots SE are expected to hit late Monday 27th, lasting three or four days.  We can't sail or motor directly into those kinds of winds and need to find a safe anchorage to wait it out.

Considering all our options we decide that Island Head Creek will be our best option, about 110 nautical miles to the southeast.  In favourable conditions we could sail 6-8 knots/hr, making it a 14 hour passage at best.  We could do it in stages leaving tomorrow, Saturday, sailing only in daylight hours and arrive on Monday morning.

Light winds are forecast for Saturday, Sunday and most of Monday, reducing our chances of making good time.  Motoring and adverse currents could reduce our speed to 3 or 4 knots per hour, or worse. We'll sleep on it.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Airlie Beach to South Molle Island Out of Sync

The time with Elliot went by much too fast.  We didn't get to explore all the islands we would have liked to but we did travel a lot of miles and do a lot more than most.  It's time for Robert and I to get moving south again.

The season is really only beginning for many cruisers to the Whitsundays who take advantage of the south easterly winds through winter to travel north.  The northerlies kick in around October/November so we are a bit out of sync with the prevailing winds but we have a chance of picking up an occasional northerly or south westerly that could help us.  The Coastal Cruising Club of Australia has a helpful rundown of weather patterns by Roger Smith on 

Leaving Airlee Beach late in the day we made it to South Molle Island as the sun set.  

South Molle is one of the Queensland Resort islands I remember seeing so beautifully and romantically advertised many years ago.  The resort is still operating and the friendly people there confirmed we could indeed anchor safely in the bay for a very early morning departure.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Airlie Beach

"Resonance" by Bonnie Bombach
During the past week or so we have picked up our sail from the sail loft in Airlie Beach, hired a car to return Elliot to Mackay to pick up the car for his drive back to Townsville and done some provisioning and re-fueling.

We found that our propeller should be replaced, a legacy of the damage back in Panama.

With Bristol Rose waiting in Airlie Beach, our good friend Roger provided us a welcome reprive from boat jobs.  He hosted us at his home for a couple of days and also picked up Daisie from the kennel.  You can bet  Daisie is happy to be with us again and all is forgiven.

While in Airlie Beach I've done quite a bit of polishing and cleaning.  And you thought it was all cocktails at sunset!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Great Barrier Reef

Bristol Rose anchored at Line Reef, Great Barrier Reef
Waking up on the reef is pretty special when conditions are as calm as we have had.  We heave anchor at Line and motor the five miles or so over to Bait Reef for a snorkel.  The Steppings Stones are clearly visible above the water at low tide.  The fish and coral truly are beautiful and the water clear enough to see from the dinghy.  It seems important to many of us to think we have the best of the world here in Australia.  At about 2300 kilometres long the Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef system.  Is it the best?  It is always safe to say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Great Barrier Reef Fish On

Elliot dinghies around the reef looking for the entrance to the lagoon.

The winds have dropped to below 10 knots, perfect for an overnight trip to the outer reefs, Hook, Hardy, Line and Bait Reefs.

From Hook Island to Bait Reef is about 17 miles and although we left early in the morning we just missed out on one of the five mooring balls at The Stepping Stones.

Anchoring even in the designated areas is tricky among the coral bommies but here it's absolutely out of the question as much for protection of the coral reef as for preservation of boat and crew.  Bareboat  charterers are not permitted to sail themselves to the outer reef.

We find a suitable sand patch to anchor off Hook Reef for some fishing.  Fishing is allowed in a (yellow) Conservation Park Zone, under certain restrictions.  The sight of the coral and large reef fish was some consolation for the fact we caught nothing we could keep.

In very calm conditions and with the latest edition (2014) of the cruising guide "100 Magic Miles" in hand we otor over to Hardy Reef intending to anchr inside the lagoon for the night.  The guide indicates that with our draft (1.5m) we could enter at a gap in the reef aptly named "The Waterfall".  We don't know how long it has been since the author hs tried it himself but we would not dare!

We have navigated some challenging waters in the "Dangerous Archipelago", the Tuamotus but this lagoon "entrance" has to be seen to be believed.  We would not risk taking our inflatable dinghy through the narrow gap at high tide.  The marker pole can be clearly seen below the surface, lying atop a bommie.

The anchorage at Line Reef is our best bet for the night with the bonus being that we can fish the less restricted blue "Habitat Protection Zone" classification.

It's a perfectly calm, magic night, disturbed only by the call "fish on"!

Friday, 10 July 2015

Broad Horizons

Whitehaven Beach

It's a glorious morning so we motor across Whitehaven Bay and anchor Bristol Rose off the northern end and dinghy to the southern corner of Whitehaven Beach where we see some kayakers preparing to leave.  We strike up a conversation with a couple from the Marquesas.  Their business is Kayak Polynesia.  Their companion is Zack Kruzins.  Yep that really is his name, pretty easy to remember as he's cruizin around in his kayak!

Crossing an ocean in a sailboat is one thing.  Paddling a kayak across the ocean, even island to island in the Whitsundays, is entirely different.  These adventurers have my utmost respect.  I wonder about the little things such as comfort levels, energy levels, keeping well hydrated and managing basic bodily functions over long periods of time.  Best not to think too much about it!

We can check the boxes from one exotic location to the next but travel is more than the sights.  For me it's about the people we meet along the way and the experiences shared.  Spending even a short time with someone who looks at life and the life around us from a different perspective can broaden our horizons.  I love how travel presents opportunities to meet some amazing people along the way.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Chalkies Beach and a Classic View of Whitehaven Beach

Bristol Rose anchored off Whitehaven.  Note the rock & roll, pretty typical around these islands.

Chalkies Beach on Haslewood Island is an easy anchorage in white sand.  We can see the bottom in crystal clear water 20 feet (6 metres) below us.  It feels like we've really arrived in the idyllic tropical Whitsundays.  There's the long white sand beach, the over-powering scent of flowering melaleuca trees in the air, the screeching of Rainbow Lorikeets and Cockatoos, people paddle boarding just off the shore, sailors relaxing onboard, and across the bay, an equally inviting but somewhat longer, more crowded white sand beach.

In any other place Chalkies would be deemed magnificent but here, this special spot plays second fiddle to another.  We are watching the tourist boats spill hordes of day trippers on the opposite shore.  Everyone wants to walk along this iconic beach, to check it off their list of gotta sees.  I can't say we are any different.  The fine, powdery silica sand beach stretches seven kilometres along the South East of Whitsunday Island.  It's the truly magnificent Whitehaven Beach.  Soon the white sand is littered with people walking, lying, playing.  It's the classic picture of a fun day at the beach.  But this is the beach dreams of made of; reputed to be the most photographed beach in Australia.   The sand really is that white, the water that blue and that clear.

Tonight we pay the price of anchoring in such natural beauty.  Bristol Rose rocks and rolls all night as the currents move around with the change of tides.  Small price to pay really.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Shaw Island

We anchored off Shaw Island and took the dinghy ashore to explore Burning Point.  It's obviously the thing to do.  Earlier visitors have tested their artistic balancing skills on the red granite rocks.  Set against the blue seas and the tall flower spikes of the native grass trees, the effect is beautiful.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Linne and Goldsmith Islands

Enroute to Goldsmith Island we put the anchor down at Linne Island.  I had to see this island on Australia's East Coast, named after Swedish botanist, physician, zoologist, the father of modern taxonomy and modern ecology, Carl Von Linne (Linnaeus).   He formulated the Latin system of naming all living things.   I have read that at the age of five he had his own garden about which he later said "inflamed my soul with an unquenchable love of plants".  I can identify with this man in that regard.

In 1802 Lieutenant John Murray and crew of the Lady Nelson were assisting Matthew Flinders in his coastal explorations.  "They made several landings and found evidence of Aboriginal visitation" (according to the cruising guide "One Hundred Magic Miles" by David Colfelt, in which the author cites his source, Historian Ray Blackwood).  I'm tempted to find out more but this reference is just a teaser.

The island's vegetation seems typical of others in the Whitsundays with pandanus at the high water mark, craggy points supporting tall Hoop Pines, often oddly bent by the wind, and sandy beaches interrupted by rocky shorelines.

Most interesting are the rocks, conglomerate and Coquina with bits of shell, coral, pebbles, etc. all held together by sandy, muddy "glue" that over time (thousands, millions of years?) becomes rock.  I could search for hours finding odd shapes and colours to photograph.

But this is not an overnight stop and we dinghy back aboard and sail on to Goldsmith Island.  We're easily entertained by the naming of many of the islands and reefs in The Whitsundays.  Close by Goldsmith is Silversmith, Coppersmith Rock, Tinsmith, Ingot Islets, Farrier Island, the Anchor Islands (Anchorsmith, Blacksmith, Hammer, Bellows Islet and Ladysmith Islet).  Could there be buried treasure in these parts?  Doubtful, I decided to stay aboard while Robert and Elliot explored Goldsmith Island.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Keswick Island to Brampton Island

The water around Keswick and St. Bees is clean and clear.  This seems to be a popular spot for recreational fishermen.  The fish caught by the Bristol Rose crew are interesting but none are keeper-sized.

We'd like to get to as many islands as possible while Elliot is aboard so we sail to Brampton Island with the wind directly behind us; southeasterly 15-20 knots.

Anchored a short way off the jetty, we jump in the dinghy and soon find the jetty is a complete wreck, separated from the land during the last cyclone.  Getting ashore is now a little challenging due to the rocky shoreline but we manage to tie to a rock and clamber up to the path.  The sun is setting and the path is very overgrown but it looks like a place we'd like to explore tomorrow.

Growing up in Australia I knew Brampton Island as one of Queensland's premier resort islands, just 20 miles north of Mackay.  Those days are gone for Brampton and a few others in the Whitsundays.  Natural disasters, Australia's mining "boom", high wages, high currency rates and relatively cheap overseas vacations have hit home-grown tourism hard.  It's quite a sad sight, looking just as if everyone simply stopped what they were doing, got up and left.  There are some reports that a Chinese group has purchased and will re-develop.  For now, Brampton Is. offers a National Park with a couple of walks and an off-limits resort wasteland.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Keswick and St. Bees

The first islands we visit are Keswick and St. Bees, 15 miles north east of Mackay and part of the group called the Cumberland Islands.  The Whitsundays Group is 45 miles further north.

The two islands are separated by the narrow Egremont Passage with strong tidal currents of 3-4 knots.  With the prevailing winds being east-southeast at 15-20 knots we choose an anchorage protected in those conditions.  We are happy to pick up a mooring ball.  This does not lessen the roll in the anchorage but does allow us to be secure in an area with a mostly coral bottom, deep water and sand patches too small to risk dropping an anchor.

We have time this afternoon to explore one of the beaches on St. Bees.  Tomorrow morning Robert and Elliot want to fish along the northern side.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Rosslyn Bay to Mackay

The next pick up point for me is Mackay, almost 4 hours drive, where I will visit Deb and Roger while waiting for the sailors to catch up.  It should take Bristol Rose 3 days with overnight stops to reach Mackay.

Elliot after a hard night sailing.

Finding the currents against them off Port Clinton, Robert and Elliot decided to do an overnight and arrived in Mackay a day early, the morning of July 2nd.  We've all been looking froward to reaching Mackay.  If the weather is favourable Roger will show us some of his favourite anchorages off the coast.  Roger and Deb are helping us out by keeping the car safely at their place while we sail further north.

The weather has other plans and we won't be getting out to the islands this weekend.  So Roger and Deb drive us all up to Airlie Beach where we'd arranged for a sail loft to replace the sacrificial cover on our genoa.  We constantly use this sail so it's not surprising that although we'd had it re-stitched in Tahiti, the thread has perished.  The sail is in good shape though.  When we sail Bristol Rose north we'll pick up it up, ready to fly again.  

We also made a stop at Proserpine and had a great day checking out some of Deb's favourite spots.  Thanks to Deb we discovered in Mackay one of the best farmers markets anywhere.  The market stalls sell the usual European and tropical vegies, plus local red papaya, sweet mandarines (it's winter here), avocados, and also a wide variety of Asian vegetables, some of which I've only seeen on a TV cooking program.  One of these is Pandan.  It's used to flavour rice.  The friendly Filipino grower went to pains to describe all its uses and looked through the bunches to find a piece with roots attached so I can try growing my own.  We came away with all the fresh fruits and vegies we need for the next stage of the journey north to The Whitsundays.

Because the islands of the Whitsundays are zoned conservation or national park dogs are not allowed.  We've taken Daisie to a "Canine Lodge" north of Mackay, or as Robert puts it (despite the best care of and attention to the canines) "jail".  It's hard to think of it as anything else.  The environment is so far removed from Daisie's usual accommodations.  A comfy cosy bed by the lounge, a dog futon in the sunroom, a soft warm fluffy thing by our bed, and a floor pillow on the boat are usually available for her sleeping comfort.  Spoilt?  Maybe just a bit spoilt for choice.

Daisie comes from a country with many outdoor dangers, bears, coyotes, porcupines, raccoons, rabies, severe cold.  Any of these could mean injury or death for a dog left outside.   Even in rural Australia the outdoors at night can present dangers for a small dog.  Daisie's routine is as regular as clockwork; out for a walk in the morning, helping with sailing or other activities with us, a walk last thing before the sun goes down and then it's in for the night.   She's well trained, well adjusted, gentle and loving.  If anything she may be too well socialised, approaching everyone and every living thing as a friend.  She's a perfect boat dog.