How many people get to live their dreams? I am..........!

This is my story from the time when Capt'n John and I first decided to sail around the big block, to circumnavigate this great land of ours, AUSTRALIA.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Nice Weather We’re Having – MacKay Marina

Nice Weather We’re Having – MacKay Marina
21’06.888 E – 149’13.509 S
Strong winds howling – constantly blowing 20/25knts with sunshine and some showers, gusting 30/35knts with rainsqualls at times

And now it is the end of the month! MrJ and I have been in the Mackay Marina for three nights and will be in for another night before hauling out o tomorrow, Friday, morning. The weather has been the worst that I have experience in this area. Usually if the weather turns bad it will last for only a few days before changing and clearing up. Not so this time!

Monday 28th May 2012
Into Makay past the big ships
MrJ and I had fun getting onto the dock with the strong winds blow, taking a couple of goes to get settled into our pen. On the walk up and back to the office we ran into a couple of yachties that we knew; Gary and Mercedes off Forever Dreaming and Graham, the WA crew off Endless Dreaming and Simon and Julie of Good On Ya.

What a surprise to see Simon and Julie! The last I heard was that they were back at Keppel Island. Apparently they had decided to make a run for it, doing overnight sails, to the Percy Island but because the weather was so nasty and the wind/seas were pushing them along, their choice was to seek refuge in Mackay Harbour like us. Big fast trip from Great Keppel Island to Mackay; as their boat name is – Good On Ya, Simon and Julie!

We ran into Shelly off Neriki while checking in at the marina office; Shelly was still feeling a little unsettled in herself, still coming to terms with all that has happened, coming to terms with all the new experience, the experience of rough weather and bad seas and the relief of finally being in a safe harbour but also having the worrying thought in the back of her mind about this haul-out business. Shelly was in need of a big hug!

That night MrJ and I arranged with Ric and Shelly for drinks and dinner at the either the Yacht Club or the Pub.  MrJ and I walked up to the southern end of the marina to find that the Yacht Club did not open till 6pm, so the sign said; we walked back to the northern end and down the fingers to Neriki where we stayed for drinks and then ventured up to the Steak House at the Pub for dinner. The steaks were very good at a reasonable price for a nice restaurant/cafe but it still had that awful pub feeling and noise with the big TV scenes putting out different sporting events.

Home to bed where I slept like a log all night; not stirring once till daybreak.

Tuesday 29th May 2012

Up and out early after a restless night with the strong winds pushing AR around in the pen making all the lines grown and creating new noises on the boat. One noise in particular annoyed MrJ and me for the better part of the night; it had us climbing out of bed several time to see what it was. Not an extremely loud noise just a constant tap, tap, tapping. MrJ went up top many times to try to find the cause; I stayed in the warmth of the cabin only to stick my head out of the hatch to give him an idea of which direction the noise was coming from. First we thought it was the fenders and then we thought it was the kayak. Several times we thought it was the kayak! No! The noise happened to be a lose stanchion vibrating oh so ever slightly with the howling wind, vibrating enough to send the tapping noise down through the hull and echoing in the cabin. Bloody thing...........! :o{} As a temporary fix MrJ shoved a piece of cardboard down in beside the offending stanchion and we got another hours sleep before the dawn and our body clock wake us up anyway.

0800h - MrJ and I make a bee line over to Neriki. It is their haul-out day and time to go. MrJ and Ric trot off to see the men at the yard while I am keeping company with Shelly, on board. I was glad that Shelly was able to be on board this time for the haul-out., last year she was not. If you are going to be a yachties then you need to experience all of it, even if it gives you butterflies in the tummy or bad nerves.

On the sling

The boys are back, time to go! I ask Ric if he would like me to single up the lines on the pontoon for leaving the berth. He gives me a strange look. I explain what I mean; taking the line from the boat cleat to the dock cleat around once loosely and then back to the boat cleat so that you can flick the line off from the deck instead of untying from the pontoon. Great idea! (I hear) Shelly is amazed that she does not have to do the lines and then jump back on board. I’m so glad that I have been of help to someone.

Off and away with only one fender to protect the wind generator on the back, Ric steers his boat between the poles and over the slings. He does a very good job of pulling the Neriki up with the wind pushing from behind. Slings on we all hop of to watch Neriki being hauled up by the huge travel lift and carried into the work yard where the boat will be pressure sprayed before sitting down in the yard. This part can take an hour or so and the boys had to have their smoko first. Ric and Shelly’s friend, Wayne had arrived and we all decided to go to the local cafe for food and coffee while they wait.

MrJ and I went back to AR to start doing a few of our own chores. We ran into Simon and Julie again, inviting them around for coffee and a chat before lunch which they did, it was so great to catch up and we didn’t get any chores done. Oh well! That’s boating life for you.

The afternoon I spent cleaning the heads and bathrooms; using up some of the water that we have on board to help lighten the load for our haul-out and because you can’t run any water through the boat drain when the boat is on the hard-stand.

Yes we are hauling out in Mackay! Yes we can live on board! As long as we keep it hush, hush; so don’t you go telling anyone, will you? After helping Neriki with their haul-out MrJ and I went and spoke with Vicki, the lady in the yard office. MrJ had already spoken to her yesterday following a missed call telephone conversation about our haul-out. Things had been sorted and a time was discussed. So our meet up in the office with Vicki confirmed a time for Friday morning when the weather is supposed to be better.

That afternoon MrJ and I wandered around to Good On Ya for sundowners with no sun but the warmth of the inside of the boat and the good friendship of Simon and Julie. As always MrJ and I take our own drinks and some nibbles. These days I am drinking G&Ts and not so much wine and I am not getting the bad headaches that I used to – this is good.
Good On Ya - Simon
Simon makes all his own spirits on board and when he sees that I am about to pour myself a store bought Gin he stops me and suggests that I try one of his. Whoooo! How much, he say, just a little, I say and he proceeds to nearly half fill the tumbler with Gin. Hold up, I say and then fill the rest of my glass with tonic, diet tonic too as I am trying to be good. Yeah right! As I keep taking sips from my strong drink I keep adding more tonic water and do get away with this tactic for this drink and another drink poured the same, but by now the Gin has gone to my head and the third drink let slip and forget to keep topping the tonic. Now with the forth drink, and this is my last drink, I don’t really care. I didn’t feel drunk or even very tiddly and am very surprised that I even made it back to AR along the long fingers in the strong wind without falling into the water; good sea legs and MrJ’s arm to hold onto. What a great evening we had with great friends and great stories.

That night I thought that I would sleep so soundly. But no!  That old stanchion was at it again until MrJ plugged it with a toothpick.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Making a Run for Mackay – Kai’s Birthday

Monday 28th May 2012
Making a Run for Mackay – Kai’s Birthday
21’06.888 E – 149’13.509 S
Strong winds, sunny, cool and running seas.
Another day begins on my adventures (Curlew Island)
Not much sleep was had during the night on anchor at Curlew Island. We were having strong winds with bullet up to 30knt shooting around the western bluff headland all night. At one time I really did think that the anchor chain bridal was about to snap; it was making these horrible big crunch of a noise every time the boat was forcible push around. Not a very good night!

0700h; I was so glad to be underway even if the seas were still running, with sloppy waves crashing everywhere. By the time we had sailed through the shallow shoals a bit SE of Hay Point the sea had settle a fraction; or at least enough to give AR a better ride and we had Neriki following.
Sunrise on the Bluff, Curlew Island
The saga of Neriki’s anchor problems just get worse. Now Ric and Shelly are having to hauling their anchor chain and anchor by hand, in rough seas and high winds. No more once we all get into Mackay.
Ship in Port
It took us seven hours to get to Mackay and another 40 minutes to get into the marina and to come along side. MrJ helms AR out of the sloppy sea in through the break wall to the calm water of the Mackay Harbour where there were a few large ships in the outer port loading or unloading their cargo. We had been given a berth way down the end of the marina, as usual. Our berth was a blow-on to the dock situation but there still was another catamaran in the pen next door being blown towards the middle in the strong breeze. It took MrJ and me a couple of goes at getting into out pen; MrJ playing the wind to his advantage and another boaties did come along to take a line for me.

Once AR had been settled, we changed into some clean clothes and take the long walk up to the marina office to check-in.

My how it felt good to be out of those stormy seas and walking on the level again. And yes, I did get to speak to Kai for his birthday, phoning him through the computer with the use of Skype.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Wild Ride to Curlew Island

Sunday 27th May 2012
Wild Ride to Curlew Island
21’35.596 E – 149’47.915 S
Strong winds, wild sea, cold temperature but nice sunshine.
Leaving Marble Island
MrJ and I pulled anchor just before 0700h to be away from the island, to get enough coverage on the HF for the SICYC Radio Net which I was doing this morning in place of Andy on Paws. Andy was away on a yacht race – how dare he have such fun on a Sunday morning....!!! ;o))))))

HF signal was very good; my broadcast was getting out and I received contact with David off Quinco in Manly, David off Moonglade in the Mary River, Maryborough and a boat named “Rittoure” in Luganville Vanuatu. No time for too much chit-chat, we were underway and the sails needed to be hauled.

Our sail north across to Curlew was under the headsail, genoa with strong winds (up to and above 25knts at times) from the SSW and a running sea of 2.5/3mtrs pushing us hard. MrJ had to do hand steer a lot of the way as our dear George (auto pilot) could not keep up with the constant pushing of the rough seas. I suppose we were lucky that it was a sunny day and not raining like yesterday.

Neriki was following with the main and headsail reefed. Ric had to pull up to put a third reef in his main and wound the headsail in more as it was getting too fierce for so much sail. The seas and having to do so much sail work must have frightened Shelly somewhat as I had her on the VHF radio not too long after this and she did not sound too cool. This was their first real time out in bad running seas and I do know how hard it seems at the time, but they got through it all and can sail again on better days. After a hard day like this you would like to think that a good anchorage would be waiting; not so.
Passing Bluff Island
The anchorage on the northern side of Curlew is supposed to be good for up to 30knts from E – SW, but that depends entirely which part of the bay that you have anchored in, which also depends on how much your boat draws because of the shoaling reefs and beach with a great tide difference of 6/7mtrs at spring and 4mtrs at neaps. These huge tidal differences mean that you cannot anchor too close in shore or you will find yourself high and dry on the long shoaling beaches. T me this anchorage brought back memories of a few years ago when MrJ and I were caught out in very bad weather, huge SE winds and swell with three days of rain stuck in this anchorage at Curlew on a spring tide. For those three days, we recorded doing 9n/m at anchor.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Saturday 26th May 2012
Heading for Hunter, Made it to Marble Island
21’58.338 E – 150’10.433 S
Rain, rain and more rain, cooler temperatures, S/SW winds 10/20knts in the AM
Neriki Passing Cape Townsend
MrJ and I had a restless sleep last night; keeping an ear out for all the numerous noises – wind sounds, waves slapping and boat movements. No ugly crunch sounds though so we knew that AR’s hulls were not hitting the sand shoal.

And then there was the anchor alarm......!!!

It woke me and I give MrJ a shove; he has to get up to see what’s up – “nothing” he says – and then the alarm goes off again. This time for real – last time it was a no satellite reception alarm. Buggar!

MrJ resets the alarm that did sound because AR had shifted at anchor with the change of tide – we had swung around to another direction. Poor feller climbs back into the warm bed – he runs around half dressed and half asleep in the middle of the night while I lay still in the warmth of the doona. Neither of us really gets much sleep.

A cup of tea at 0530h while MrJ was checking the weather patterns for the day on the wi-fi; I took the SICYC radio sked at 0700h, we had a call from Neriki and then after a quick breakfast we were away.

Ric and Shelly on Neriki managed their anchor without our help this morning; had to pull the anchor up by hand and this will be the same at the next anchorage. It was still raining lightly as both boats headed out the creek and I did notice another catamaran following. I think it is Koolaroo (???).

MrJ and I and dressed in our foul weather gear because of the rain and the cold; much cooler this morning that any other morning and it stayed the same all day. Cold and wet! :o{}

We have a good sail in fairly calm sea; the wind picks up as the boat passes Strong Tide Passage and stays there for the rest of the trip. Sailing with a reefed main and four turns on the genoa reaching speed of up to 9/10knts at times.

Out into the rough stuff we go as AR leaves Cape Townsend behind. The seas are not so big just a little confused but between here and Mackay it can be like this due to some of the strong tidal current throughout the whole area. AR is riding well with the choppy sea conditions and the wind is staying from the SW so it was a quick change of plans and direction to head for the top of Marble Island instead of behind Hunter Island.

1320 found MrJ and I dropping anchor on the northern side of Marble Island; anchorage J marked in the Curtis Coast Guide Book in about six meters of sparkling clear water. Within half an hour we were followed in by the other three boats, Neriki, Kularoo and Emma Jane; Kularoo and Emma Jane having to anchor a little further around the western point of this small bay.

The landscape on this side of Marble is very beautiful with large undulating green hill, small white beaches, small rocky points a grand marble headland further westward in the longer bay marked as anchorage K.
Neriki arriving at Marble Island
Marble is a privately owned island, one of several in the Duke Group. The island was settled in the 1800s for agricultural purposes and has been passed down over the years through many owners. The present owner acquired it as a sheep station in the late 1960s and subsequently developed it as a cattle property. While Marble Island  no longer runs as many cattle, this development entailed a major investment to develop the island with basic infrastructure: an airstrip, many dams, cattle yards, refrigeration rooms, generator & working sheds, along with manager's residence, owner's holiday residence, and in a secluded area of the front beach is the 'farmstay' beach cottage. Marble has been used as a hunting resort, mostly by Americans pursuing the island's deer that had been introduced to the islands. I have been told that the deer now roam on most of the Duke Islands as they can swim from island to island. At the turn of the century, 1904, mining started on a part of the island which had a source of iron ore. Iron Island, a small outcrop from the main island, was developed and mined as a source of iron ore which was shipped to the mainland for processing.

Marble Island is named for the pink and white marble found on the island.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Day 10 - Island Head Creek - Strong wind warning

Friday 25th May 2012
Day 10 - Island Head Creek - Strong wind warning
22’22.212 E – 150’38.766
Good anchorage in NE winds
Morning on a dull day
Well here we are still in Island Head Creek not that there is anything wrong with that under better condition it is a fabulous place to stay for an extended period of time with beautiful long golden beaches and glorious wilderness waterways to die for, but now I am getting that “I need to be moving” feeling.

The strong northerlies dropped away during the night leaving calm, calm before the storm I feel. Morning brought the rain, rain by the buckets loads; speaking of which we still haven’t done anything about our rain catching apparatus and it will be raining all day again. With the rain came the wind, strong winds from the SW, 25-30knt winds and they are blowing all day as well. The change in wind direction and wind strength has pushed AR in closer to the southern sand shoal. Here we are again on a Lee Shore!

The day goes by and from inside the saloon and cabins we keep watch and listen to the wind howling about; there is no rest for the wind or for the rain and the day drags on. I pass my time reading through some of the information booklets that I have collected or MrJ has printed on the northern parts of Australia; making special places to be taken note of in future.

We watch and we listen and now that the day is drawing to an end and the tide is flowing out we are now looking as well. Looking at the water receding revealing the sand shoal behind. I even take time to notice the numerous waterbirds along the appearing sand bank but am more concerned about the ever encroaching sand. Looks like there will not be much sleeping tonight!

Day 9 - Island Head creek - Moved Further Upstream

Day 9 - Thursday 24th May 2012
Island Head creek - Moved Further Upstream
NE winds coming in through the creek entrance wiping up the waterway, uncomfortable slapping of the wavelets on the hull

Sunrise in the creek
After MrJ did his weather forecast, we decided to move upstream a bit further to get better protection for the elements, further behind the large sand shoal in front with the high hill/mountains behind. Some of the other boats had done the same. There was a bit of a dilemma; Neriki’s anchor winch was still broken and would need to be pulled up by hand. This was a job better to be done with a couple of extra hand to help.

MrJ and I moved AR up into our new spot; I made sure that our anchor had set fast and then we dropped the dinghy to go back to help Ric and Shelly. Their boat Neriki is also a Leopard like AR but much bigger at45mts. Ric and Shelly were at the anchor station, MrJ was at the helm while I gave directions.

I’m very good at telling people where to go! Hahaha ;o)))))))

It did take some time to get the anchor up to water level; some 60-70mts of chain had been paid out and the strong wind was playing havoc with the direction of the boat. I think we all coped very well; I was ever so pleased to be putting that anchor back down in a nice new spot. We celebrated with tea, coffee and biscuits all round, with lots of laughter and the knowledge that it will make an interesting story to tell and that our true friendship will always be there.

The same process will happen again in a couple of days when both boats do get to sail out of Island Head Creek for parts further north and at every anchorage that we stop until Neriki gets into Mackay.

Day 8 - Island Head Creek – Dinner with the French

Wednesday 23rd May 2012
Day 8 - Island Head Creek – Dinner with the French
Still very overcast, no rain and light winds in the morning getting stronger throughout the day.

In the morning MrJ does his weather report as usual. The internet and HF are becoming scratchy and harder to receive; must have something to do with weather interference or something similar. The decision is made to stay another day with an easterly weather pattern on Thursday making for a better sail. We hope!

A couple more boat head into the creek; this time some international boats, two French catamarans and a sloop from Monaco. Shelly has invites us and the French couple Annie and Daniel for afternoon drinks. Annie speaks fluent English but with a very thick accent, which is at times Shelly finds hard to understand, or maybe it is the arrogance of the lady that Shelly does not gel with. Daniel speaks less English but has a much more pleasant manner which makes for a better flow in conversation even when you have to repeat yourself or refer to a drawing to get a message across.
View from the northern beach - even a stick has a great view
Earlier in the afternoon I decided to finally drop the kayak in the water. The winds had backed off and the tide was calm at the top of high water. I donned my swimmers, a shirt, a yellow rain coat, my large brim hat and lots of sunscreen. The comfy seat I had already attached to my kayak before MrJ helped me lower it into the water. MrJ had also insisted that I pack the handheld VHF radio in my backpack where I had my old camera, which was in a camera bag and raped in a plastic rain bag, along with a bottle of water. He also insisted that I attach a bungie cord from my ankle to the kayak as an added safety measure because of the strong current in this waterway, should the worst happen and I fall off the kayak. Another thing that I always do went taking the kayak out is to attach the bow line to the middle of the paddle by the means of a rolling hitch and then a double hitch back on the standing part of the line . I’m not going to lose this sucker!

Off I go, paddling across the waterway towards the southern side. The wind is a lot stronger than I had first thought making the waves stand up across the shallow sea that is partially covering the sand shoal. I did think this line of angle out; thinking that if I head straight into the wind and wavelets that it will be better for me on the run back. After a bit of a hard slog and a bit of a drenching I finally made the paddle to the rocky south shoreline and then peddled on around to the little beach where I pulled the kayak up on the sand and went exploring.

Someone had been here before me as there were footprints all along the beach. Buggar! This spoiled my planned photo shoot but not to be disheartened I still got some nice shots of the shell and driftwood on the sand and of the beautiful tiny yellow butterflies that were flying in and around the small low eucalypt trees. After walking up and back along this small beach, exploring and taking photos I once again took to the kayak for the return journey. And it was a journey! I had not counted in on the tide changing so fast or that with the tide change the undercurrents of the waterway accompanied with the big swell outside sending some small swell inside the creek would be working against me. This effect on the waterway was trying to push me away from AR, push me further into the entrance of a smaller side creek on the southern shore between the rock and the sand shoal. The whole area around the sand shoal was of confused waters and currents. I had to use all my strength to keep my kayak heading in the desired direction. At least I had the wind pushing from behind and the little wind wave to surf down but I would not have been strong enough to outswim these currents in the event of been in the water. Me and my kayak would just drift to land where I could get back on and try another tactic even if it meant lugging the kayak across the sand shoal after the tide went out more to get a better angle.

As it was I did make it safely back to AR, very much drenched (not the camera), very weary and in need of a warm shower and some dry clothes. It was to be a cold shower (no hot water till MrJ had the genny going) and time to get lunch. I was so hungry!

Tuesday 22nd May 2012
Day 7 - Island Head Creek –the Crab Man arrives.
It is raining again but the wind has died down to nothing.
Forever Dreaming left in the morning, making their way to Hunter Island, Curlew and then Mackay. The same track that we will do. We did see a couple of more boats sailing by, out the front going south. Now that would be very lumpy!
Ric has caught and delivered the mud crabs
After our conversation on Neriki yesterday about where the crabs might be and my suggestion to go further up stream, Ric did exactly that, on the incoming tide to put down his crab pots. He came back with his payload of four huge crabs; giving me three of them. Ric said that he was sure to have more again the following morning. Now this is what sharing with friends is all about!

Crabs are a messy thing to cook and clean. It took a couple of hours of preparation work to cook, crack the shells and prize the juicy meat out. This I then made into a big hot pot with sweet corn and a Thai flavour.

Nancy’s Crab and Sweet Corn
1 egg & 1 tbsp oil in a small bowl
Whisk the egg and oil together, set aside
4C/1litre chicken broth/stock (I used chicken noodle soup)
Place in large pot bring to the boil then add
2 X 400g cans corn kernel drained (I added the liquid because I was adding extra crab meat and dried coconut cream powder)
Simmer and then add
1tbsp rice wine or dry sherry (I used gin)
1tbsp light soy sauce
5cm piece ginger, grated (I used 1tsp dry ginger)
A handful each of fresh coriander & Thai basil
1tsp sugar
Heat through
Stir in 2tbsp cornflour mixed to a smooth paste in 1tbsp of reserved stock
Bring to the boil
Add 1 ½ C crab meat (I used the meat from the 3 crabs)
Stir in
1 X 270g/330g tin of coconut (can be light) cream (I used 2tbsp dry coconut powder)
Stir and keep heated but not boiling
Slowly add the egg mixture, stirring constantly
Season with salt & pepper
Serve or let cool slightly and sink into the bottom of the fridge or freezer for another day

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Day 6 – Island Head creek – Lunch Anyone

Monday 21 May 2012
Day 6 – Island Head creek – Lunch Anyone

The wind is not blowing as hard except for that occasional gust that nearly sends you off your feet but the seas outside the creek are still running fairly strong so. Looks like we are in for another day in Island Head Creek!

I have been a good girls most mornings; getting up at daybreak to do my yoga exercises being able to enjoy the peacefulness of the early morning to wake up the body and soul and to gather my thoughts. If the boat is rocking too much than I will opt for more floor postures rather than doing the full sun salutes or the standing poses.

AR is not the only boat sitting tight waiting out the weather and having fun enjoying the surroundings and the company of other cruising boats. There is a little community of cruising boats scattered along the north and southern side of the creek.
Nancy, Mercedes, Shelly & Jill (shot taken by MrJ)
Today we have been invited to lunch on Neriki along with the crews off Forever Dreaming, Cooee and Prosper. My contribution to the luncheon was to make an Indian Potato Salad and a Moroccan Cous Cous; both a little bit spicy but both very yummy. Shelly had made a fabulous salami pasta dish and Mercedes brought along the cold meat.

Nice friends and nice food is a great combination, it is a great start to a long afternoon of chit-chat and interesting stories of past adventures. This is the first time that MrJ and I have had the pleasure of meeting up with Jill Knight off Cooee. Jill is a very good, long term writer of many articles for the magazine Cruising Helmsman. We have been reading a lot of her fabulous stories for many years. The lady herself is a very lovely and gracious woman of the world and a delight to be with. Jim off Prosper is another very interest character with his fascinating stories of adventures in Japan apart from other things and a good friend of Jill’s.

Stories exchanged and told and now the day was edging towards the night, so it was time for us to leave our friendly gathering as all good children needed to be heading home. MrJ and I wave goodbye and give a friendly wave to a new boat in the anchorage that is beside AR.

MrJ and I always pull our dinghy up every night. Not only because of the old saying “lock it or lose it”, mainly because if we need to move or get going in a hurry the dinghy is already up and that is one less thing to worry about.
Crew of Endless Dreaming
Just as we were settling back into our life on board we get a radio call from the new comers, Endless Dream with some information about that they were also heading up north and down the west coast. Now the only thing to do was to drop the dinghy again and pay these nice people a visit.

Endless Dream had four people on board (4POB); Brian, the owner/skipper and his wife, crew/friends Graham and Elaine (I am getting better with remembering names). These cruisers had picked up their boat from NSW and were taking her back home to Busselton in Western Australia. There was time for more interesting chit-chat and an exchange of boat cards with an offer for any help to us once we reach the SW coast. Now it was really time to go home.

What a great life this cruising thing is!
ALANA ROSE in the afternoon light

Day 5 – Island Head Creek – Nothing like a look around the corner

Sunday 20th May 2012
Day 5 – Island Head Creek – Nothing like a look around the corner
22’21.549 E – 150’38.598 S
Pine Tree Point Beach
The wind is still a blowin’, the seas are still a slopin’ but the warm sun is shining and MrJ can’t get Macca (Australia All Over) on the radio without this terrible noise. This makes an offer from Neriki to take out dinghies around the headland past Pine Tree Point to check out the creeks and beaches for their fishing expeditions very attractive. MrJ and I jump in our dinghy to take off very fast as we see Neriki’s dinghy speeding past with Gary and Mercedes off Forever Dreaming on board too.
The coconut game
Down the creek we fly, out towards the creek mouth, out over the high water that is covering the sand spit between Island Head and the beach on the mainland, over the water covered sand spit, past where we saw the old freezer buried in the sand, across the next little bay where the rolly swell is pushing us along, surfing our dinghy and getting sprayed with seawater. On still we go! We have lost sight of the other four as their dinghy disappears behind the next headland. I am so glad that we are going with these sea but do have in the back of my mind that we still have to come back this way.
Picnic on the sand

 After a bit of a jumping and a jostling to get around Pine Tree Point, our little rubber duckie, dinghy surfs in nicely to the beach where we are welcomed by our friendly beach party who have already set up camp o the shore. Cup of coffee anyone?
Gary and Ric went off fishing while Mercedes, Shelly MrJ and I went exploring along the beach and up one of the small creeks that is marked as having a supply of fresh water. No fresh water was found and no crocs (thank goodness), but we did find a great coconut tree which was loaded down with fruit. Mercedes and MrJ had several goes at trying to knock some of the coconuts down but to no avail. Not to worry; it sure was fun just the same and we did come back with a nice collection of beautiful shells.
Wild ride back to ALANA ROSE

Shelly and Mercedes chose to hike back through the bushland track that had been made by other visiting boaties while the boys and I braved the sea. The trip back to Island Head Creek was a bit more than “ordinary” in fact I would say it was a real drenching and was worth of a well deserved rest back on board AR after stripping off to dry down.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Day3 & 4 - Island Head Creek

Friday 18th May 2012
Day 3 – Island Head Creek - Sitting out the weather
Come out from that umbrella
I wake up early, 0430hrs to the noise of the slapping on the hull as AR has turned with the tide and the wavelets are hitting the bows. I bury my head further down under the cover to pretend that the noise is not happening, to try to get some more wanted sleep. It is not working! I get up!

The wind is still howling, 21knts straight up the creek, the water is still churning and the clouds are still covering the sky with a warmish sun peaking through sometimes. It would be nice to put the kayak in the water, to go for a paddle and see things. The wavelets are putting me off; not too sure how my wrist would handle the rough going so soon after the operation even though the Doc said to use the wrist in day to day things. Is kayaking in heavy going classed as “day to day”? Maybe not! Sigh! :o(

I turn on my computer to find that we have some very low Wi-Fi signal. Only just! The signal keeps dropping in and out. I do manager to get a couple of messages out, post something on the blog and post a couple of photos before the signal drops out completely.
Spilcing a new gateway rail
My afternoon is spent doing some chores around the cabins (keeping up with the de-moulding of the wall is a big job) and while MrJ is doing his chores in the bilge. I know where I prefer to be! ;o)

There is always something to do; next I pull out the reams of copied cruising guides that we have copied from stuff that other people have kindly lent us, to start putting then in plastic sleaves. The one I am doing today is the Western Australian Cruising put out by the Fremantle Yacht Club; reported to be the best guide for the west coast and is nearly 200 pages thick. Luck it has been copied back to back which gives me half the paper.

By now it is late in the afternoon. No shore time today; time for showers drinks (being Friday), dine, a good night’s sleep and great if not better day tomorrow.

Saturday 19th May 2012
Day4 - Island Head Creek – Moved Anchorage

I just about had this internet business! Works when it wants not when I want it too! Drops out on every swinging movement of the boat! Getting pissed off! :o{} I think I will just give up and go home! What am I saying? I am home! ;o) 

Time to get off the boat, even if I do get wet....................................!!!

MrJ saves the day with the suggestion to move AR across the creek; if we can’t get there in the dinghy or me by kayak, then we certainly can in the big boat. So we pull up the anchor and move.

Not so rolly over on this side of the creek with the huge sandbank for protection; still coping the winds but not so much “fetch”, wavelets coming across the water.  The anchorage on the northern side was about 6-7mts at high water; over on the southern side of the creek we are anchored in round 10-12mts at high water (now being spring tides with the new moon).

Later in the afternoon MrJ and I dinghy over to Ric and Shelly’s on Neriki; we end up staying for sundowners and a great chat. I got some stuff to take home and photo copy for Shelly. Some more information of cruising north - you just can't have enough.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Day 2 - Island Head Creek BBQ Lunch Party

Thursday 17th May 2012
Day 2 - Island Head Creek BBQ Lunch Party
The northern beach Island Head Creek
1200hrs some of the boaties, ourselves included, go ashore on the western end of the northern beach for a makeshift BBQ lunch and some friendly chit-chat. The makeshift BBQ is in a small rock cavity with a metal plate over a wood fire.

Brett at the BBQ
 Brett off Swanning Around is our master organizer and BBQ ma; he radios everyone, gets them going and then sets up the BBQ. Brilliant! There is a great rollup; we had the people off Swanning Around (Brett and Deb), Aqua Vista (Phil& ), Shasha B (Brett’s dad &), Sparanza, Annalese, Neriki (Ric & Shelly), and a New Zealand family off a large racing boat and Alana Rose. I’m terrible with names. :o(
The beach party

The conversations had the usual flavour; boating, boating stuff and more about boating and cruising; how to fix something, do something a little better, differently or not at all. Even some talk about fishing, crabbing or cooking fish and crabs filled in with talk about where you have been, where you intend to go or what you would like to do next. This is all the initial “first meet” talk; as the days go by, the longer we all stay, the chit-chat changes, it opens up to a broad range of subjects.
I’m sure all the problems of the world could be solved on one of these beach parties.

Jill Knight’s boat Cooee is in the creek and so is her friend John’s boat. I think the waterway was too lumpy for them to come across. I did see them out and about on the southern sandbank. As for any of the other boats further upstream I don’t think that they would have travelled the distance in such foul conditions. As it was MrJ and I got drenched going ashore in our dinghy.
Raining in the creek

MrJ and I got back to AR just before a nasty big black cloud dropped a payload of wind and rain into the creek. Upstream was a complete whiteout with the driving rain. This rain squall lasted for about an hour before blowing away bring the nice warm sun to shine once more on this glorious natural haven we all know as Island Head Creek.

Hop Around the Corner to Island Head Creek

Wednesday 16th May 2012
Hop Around the Corner to Island Head Creek
22’21.481 E – 150’38.620 S
High winds, messy seas, 1.5mt seas, 2mt swell

It was not the best sleep last night with the slapping of the wavelets on the hull and the running of the swell when AR turned after low tide sometime in the middle of the night. Both MrJ and I were up early, earlier than usual making ready to get underway for a quick hop around the corner to Island Head Creek where we think the protection from the weather will be much better.
Sunrise in Pearl Bay from the cabin hatch
0615hrs AR is heading out of Pearl Bay to do the short 10n/m to Island Head. We are heading out the same way that we came in between the South Hervey Islands and the south headland and not by the suggested second track as shown in the guide books going up the inside of the small island group before heading to sea, just because we can. The seas are heavy but running with us with 18/22knts of wind. Under genoa it takes AR a little over an hour to be at anchor again.

Five minutes to 0700 I switch on the HF radio to see if we can catch the Shag Island Cruising Yacht Club (SICYC) sked or Shagger Net as we know it on HF frequency 8161. I here Andy off PAWS loud and clear start up the sked. I answer Andy’s call; I give our location and our destination for the next anchorage. No one else has come up on the sked; this leaves the radio open for Andy and me to have a short chit-chat. We chat about how AR is going and about how things are back at the Manly Marina. Chit-chat and over we sign off till tomorrow morning at the same time.

To enter the wide entrance of Island Head Creek MrJ and I take the much favoured north passage leaving the Island Head close to STB, skirting past the rocky outcrops to the inside and the cutting around the sand bar following the deep water channel. There is another passage along the southern headland that we have yet to try.
Looking into Island Head Creek

Looks like there are quite a few boats in the creek and some of the best anchorages have been taken. Our first thought is to anchor at one of our past anchorage on passages north, behind the southern headland just off the forth beach but this proves to be not so good this time with 30knt bullets of wind blasting around the hill. Breakfast first and then we move. We move further upstream to tuck in behind the southern sandbank where the wind is howling but there is little or no chop. We try to get in behind Neriki, between Neriki and a small sloop; the feller on the sloop is waving his hands madly. Maybe he thinks that we are too close. We are not but we move again.  MrJ and I finally settle AR on the opposite shore, towards the northern beach in 6-7mts of water in good firm sand where three other boats are anchored. Only trouble is that we have put ourselves on a lee shore with strong winds coming across the wide creek giving us a lot of chop but the long shoaling beach is still about 50mts away off our stern. I am pleased to say that our Rocna anchor has set fast; like a rock and I have paid out 50mts of chain. That should do us.

Island Head is at the northern end of a mountainous peninsula on the Central QLD coast between Yeppoon and St Lawrence. It has two natural harbours, Port Clinton in the south and Island Head Creek in the north. The western side of the peninsula is Shoalwater Bay a well known military training area. Uninhabited Island Head Creek is a more compact and secure anchorage than Port Clinton, one of the safest anchorages on the QLD coast where you can get up stream and hide out in spectacular wilderness. Most passing boats choose to anchor by the sandbank just inside the mouth or a only a short distance up stream giving them less distance to travel when leaving. The creek is also the home of huge Mud Crabs and is a top fishing spot. Not that we lay claim to be able to catch either! The upper reaches of Island Head Creek are a popular spot with many fishing boats, private or charter.
Thinks that get washed up on the beach
Before we have time to settle and before lunch, MrJ and I drop the dinghy and motor to the shore to exercise our sea legs. The long golden beach stretches out to the east, out around the point to a sand spit that nearly reaches out to the outside islands. The tide is still going out making the water’s edge a long way from where the beach meets the tree and brush line. There are ripples of water, almost streams running across the sand in some places and in other places there are millions of sand ball which are the only evidence of the huge crab popular on the beach or should I say under the sand. I do see a tiny crab running so fast across the sand, and then other and other. These tiny crabs are so small that the sand balls are almost bigger. Maybe their bigger cousins are sleeping in their holes, and there are millions of those crab holes too.

On the walk out to the sand spit we meet up with some other boaties on their way back from doing the same long walk. MrJ and I stop and chat to these friendly people off Sasha B. Finally we meet after hearing about then and anchoring beside them at North Keppel. This is what happens in the boating world; one day you will get to see or meet just about everyone who is out there.

Out on the sand I can see that there is a lot of ocean debris and rubbish that has been washed up over a great time. Well buried in the sand we come across an old tucker box freezer, a plastic drum, lots of containers of all descriptions and sizes and plenty of drift wood. MrJ and I have some fun on the sand making tracks and taking photo of these and the shadows that we make plus the shadow shapes that nature has provided. We play around like a couple of kids.
MrJ is trying to look like he is lost in the desert, but to me it looks like he is
doing something else. ;o)))))))

After lunch back on board AR, MrJ and I busy ourselves with our tidying up chores till mid afternoon. It is coffee time, time to sit down and relax, time to do some writing and photo editing.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Sail to Pearl Bay

Tuesday 15th May 2012
Pearl Bay
22’26.601 E – 150’ 44.000 S
Very cool morning, 10/15knt SSW wind, seas SE 1mt, swell ESE 1mt

Keppel Island at sunrise, as we sail away heading north

It is a very cool morning as AR slips out of the Keppel Bay Marina bound for Pearl Bay some 40 odd nautical miles north up the coast. MrJ is wearing his heavy jumper and I have my knitted beanie under my sailor’s hat; we are both wearing our long track suits and the wind chill factor is keeping me cold.

Three other boats are leaving just after us; I hear their call to Coast Guard on the radio some time after I had called in. I have seen two more boat on the horizon but too far away to make out who they are.

MrJ and I have the genoa out and are travelling alone very nicely at 5knts. As we get further along, past the shallows of Roslyn Bay, the swell turns more easterly and the seas have increased in size a little making our passage lumpy. Two boats pass us using the wing-on-wing technique to catch more following wind which can make a boat get along a bit faster but it does not necessarily make the ride any better. The two boats know each other. Maybe the skippers were having a bit of a race? You know what they say – “if there are two boats out there on the sea then it is a race”. Haha!

By early afternoon MrJ steers AR through the rocky inlet between the South Hervey Islands and the unnamed mainland headland east of Mt Gibraltar and into Pearl Bay which opens up to long golden beaches back by lush green wooded hills. We are following another boat in.
Military Training Area on the coast
Pearl Bay is part of the Army’s Shoalwater Bay training area (SWBTA). The Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area encompasses 454,500 hectares (4,545 km²), which includes the Warginburra Peninsula, the Torilla Peninsula east of the Stanage Bay Road, Townshend and Leicester Islands, and a sizable chunk of the Shoalwater Bay hinterland north of the village of Byfield. Suggestions that the Shoalwater Bay region be acquired for the purpose of a training ground first appeared in 1960. The army formally took control of the land on 1 July 1965; by the following year, the last landholder had vacated his property. The training area was used by troops who were deployed to the Vietnam War.

In 2005 the federal government entered into a long-term agreement with the US over the use of Shoalwater Bay for military training purposes. Similar agreements over a shorter time span have been agreed to with the Singapore Ministry of Defense.

Military exercises with the United States have aroused considerable controversy in the Rockhampton-Yeppoon area, due to the threat of environmental damage to the Shoalwater Bay region. In recent years, concern has been raised about the possibility of depleted uranium weaponry been used during training exercises at Shoalwater Bay.  Peace activists protesting Exercise Talisman Saber were arrested in 2009.

Support for a permanent US presence has been expressed by the Rockhampton mayor, Brad Carter in 2011, and by former mayor, Margaret Strelow.

On another note and more environmentally friendly: The bay its self contains one of the most important sea grass habitats in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. A plan of management for the bay's dugong population was released in 1997 to protect the dugong population and reduce impacts on the sea grass meadows.

A 483 km2 area of the bay and its surrounds, covering all the habitat types suitable for migratory waders, or shorebirds, has been identified by Bird Life International as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it supports over 1% of the world populations of Pied Oystercatchers, Far Eastern Curlews and Grey-tailed Tattlers, and over 1% of the East Asian - Australasian Flyway populations of Bar-tailed Godwits, Whimbrels and Terek Sandpipers. It also contains populations of Beach Stone-curlews and Mangrove Honeyeaters.
(information taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Heading into Pearl Bay
There is already another boat, a French boat, in the bay; looks like a small family as we see their dinghy ashore and the children are running up and down one of the beaches. Later that afternoon a dinghy pulls up alongside AR and I am surprised and please to find the skipper, Jean-Michel, and one of the crew, Jonathan, off the French Boat (I think it was call something like Heregre or Hereger).

MrJ suggests (I use the term lightly) that I go out and greet them because I can understand them much better than he. Yeah right and I do speak French – NOT...!

I welcomed them on board; Jean-Michel spoke very good English with a thick French accent (lucky for me) and Jonathan had a popper English accent. These seafarers were from New Caledonia where most people can speak French and English and some people can also speak in a native language. On their boat is Jean-Michel and his family, wife Nauel (I think), children, Johan and Oceane and crew/friend Jonathan. The old brain is not that good – my remembrance and spelling of the names may not be totally correct.

Jean-Michel was asking MrJ and me about the weather and was interested in any reports that we may have as his VHF radio had not been getting good reception. Jean-Michel was also interested in any chart that we could help him with as far as going any further north; he only had a couple of chart of the eastern QLD coast and they did not have a great amount of close up detail. Jean-Michel and his family are heading for Cairns where they will be clearing out of Australia, unless they can get an extension of their visas, and heading for Papua New Guinea on route home.

Why these people sort us out amongst four other boats is a delightful mystery; maybe because we were anchor near them at Great Keppel Island or maybe they think we are great people.

I will believe the later!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Dot and Jono Explore Great Keppel Island

Friday 11th May 2012
Taking Dot and Jono to North Keppel Island
23’03.764 S – 150’53.009 E
Fresh Breeze, 18knts SE, 1mt sea, sunny and warm
0830hrs MrJ and I nick over to the service station again to pick up the ordered bread and some more fuel, this time it is petrol for the genny and outboard motor. Dot and Johno are running late but they arrive around 0930hrs and it is a mad trip into Yeppoon to get the meat and drink for the weekend. I have been good friends with Dot for many year way back in the Dubbo days long before I had met MrJ and we have stayed in touch ever since.
Sunset at North Keppel
Now back on the marina and all on board, Dot and Johno help cast off the lines and MrJ heads AR out of the marina, out into the interesting sea and across to the anchorage on the NW side of North Keppel. MrJ and I chose this anchorage as we have never been to North Keppel Before and we thought that it would be a good chance while we have visitors on board. Wrong...! It was a fast running sea with 18knots of SE wind and 1mt of lively swell on our aft STB quarter pushing us along under first reef mainsail and genoa at 7-8knots. The anchorage itself was not the best with the little bit of chop on the sea and a slight roll off the waves but no one seems to mind. The slight rocking seems to put each one of us to sleep at one point or another during the afternoon – little nana naps.
In the same anchorage is the sloop SASHA B, the dad of Brett on Swanning Around. It is too sloppy to drop the dinghy to go and say G’day.
Our guests seemed to sleep okay that night, especially after our lazy afternoon of a few beers, some snacks followed by a great steak dinner and loads of chit-chat. Even with the not so comfortable condition – but not really that bad – we all were having a great time. This is what happens when you get together with good friends- it outweighs everything else.
Saturday 12th May 2012
Dot and Jono Explore Great Keppel Island
23’09.836 S 150’57’134 E
Very warm, light breeze, calm seas
The wind changed slightly more to the south during the night to make it a bit rockier; it woke me for a toilet visit and the bright moon was shining through the top hatch. This did not worry me and I went straight back to sleep.
MrJ and I were up early as usual having out morning cuppa; he checks the weather on the computer while I do my back exercises. I must have strain my back yesterday in the rush to get the supplies or whatever and now this morning my back is giving me curry, but I don’t tell anyone. Why spoil everyone weekend?
0730hrs our “tourist class” passengers are still below tucked up in their cosy bed when MrJ starts the motors and I begin to winch in the anchor chain. Nice wake up alarm for Dot and Jono! ;o))))) We motor across to GKI (Great Keppel Island).
Looking out the cave on Second Beach
0850hrs I drop anchor off the western headland in Second Bay and all four pitch in with the breakfast cooking – bacon, sausages, pouched eggs with grain bread toast and tea or coffee. Without wasting too much time we ate, washed up and then got ready to go ashore. Johno helped lower the dinghy; everyone hopped in stowing their backpacks with camera, bottles of water and walking shoes. We had already covered ourselves with sunscreen on board. This little party of four was ready for a big adventure; off we puttered to the shore.
The little wavelets were rolling in and breaking on the shore pushing the dinghy sideways. Johno was the first out to save the girls from being swamped. It wasn’t that bad – I’m just getting carried away and it does sound good. Ha-ha!
Jono and Dot
The first walk is along Svendsen’s Beach to the eastern headland and across some of the rocks. We decide to come back and take the track across the point to the beach on the other side of the headland at Butterfish Bay. Someone, whether it was Parks and Wildlife, National Parks or the Svendsen’s themselves, has put in a rough boarded walkway and steps at the beginning of the track making it a little easier to get across the point. We do some more beach and rock walking; we meet a lady who has been coming over to GKI for several year as an escape holiday for the rat-race of the mainland. On the walk back to the dinghy we take a look at the boaties camp on the western end of Svendsen’s Beach. This is where we and several other boaties met up for sundowners and beach night fires last season also on the way north. The camp was still being used by other boaties or visitors to the beach and there is now a good stock of utensil for cooking, homemade tables and a locker and some fold up chairs. Isn’t this so good; no one seems to take any and it is there for anyone to use.
Back in the dinghy to wiz around to Second Beach where we walk the length of the beach and do some more rock walking up to the old cave that was once used by the visiting boaties but is no longer allowed to be occupied due to the park rules. The big tree near Frying Pan Creek with the salvaged and found articles that were washed up on the beach hanging all over is still there and so is the net hammock further back in the trees and the rope and wood swing.
The next beach we explore is Leekes beach further to the west. At the eastern end of this beach is the entrance to Leekes Creek which opens out into the salt Flat Lagoon and dries out at spring low tides. At high tide some boaties take their boats in here to clean the bottom or tie down to the mangroves in big storms or threatening cyclone. Today the tide is at halfway mark and there is a quite a lot of water in the lagoon and we are unable to go in very far.
Leekes Creek
A young family has come across from the mainland in their motorboat runabout and have pulled their boat up on the sand just inside the entrance of the creek. The mum and grandma are set up with an umbrella and shade shelter further up the sand while dad has the kids and the fishing lines along the waterfront. Some of the kids are running and playing all over the sand hill and splashing in the water – not where dad has his fishing lines – having a great time. Their little dog rushes up to greet up and is all excited to meet us receives a pat and runs off. It is great to see a family having so much fun in such a beautiful natural wonderland.
Back to AR for us for a late light lunch and an afternoon relax. That means MrJ has a nana nap while Dot, Johno and I laze about in the shade on the front deck till MrJ stirs and then we get a welcomed visit from Mark off Perfect Solution bearing fish and prawns. Wow I am gob-smacked! Mark has been out fishing for most of the day and has come in here to anchor for the night just to see us. Truly amazing friendship...!
That afternoon we are also blessed with one of those magnificent red sky sunsets.
Sunday 13th May 2012
Mother’s Day
23’09.736 S – 150’47.155 E
Very warm, no or very little wind, calm
This morning I wake up to a dead calm sea; hardly a ripple or roll to be seen and not felt. The sun has just peeped its face over a hill on the island and there is a small tiny with man and dog going ashore. So Peaceful!
Going ashore
MrJ and I kept really quiet to let the “tourist class” sleep in. Round 0800hrs we were all in helping to cook another one of those big breakies. Gotta feed’um good! Can’t have people going away and thinking that we don’t feed them enough then telling the world! Ha-ha!
After breakfast we got underway to motor through the western passage between GKI and Middle Island and drop anchor off Fisher’s Beach. We scramble to the dinghy going ashore to explore this side of the island. Fisherman’s Beach is where the ferry drops people off on the beach, it is where the holiday cabins and accommodations are as well as a couple of cafes and the old disused, fenced off resort still stagnates. The local people from Roslyn Bay and Yeppoon still make the trek across the waterway on warm calm day with their power boats, runabouts and jet skis to use this part of the island as the beaches are so clean and pristine.
Fisherman's Beach
Back on board for lunch and now it is time to be heading back to the marina for Dot and Jono’s “tourist class” weekend has come to an end and all good people need to go home to go back to work tomorrow. AR motors across a dead flat sea, taking our friends for their last ride of the weekend, back to the marina where we say our farewell with lots of hugs. It has been one of the best weekends that we have had in a long time. Thank you my friends!