Photo: 'A' Frame hut, West Bay, Middle Percy Island.
Port Clinton is surrounded by military land and is closed when the Australian armed forces have exercises in the area; it is isolated, remote and quiet and had just re-opened after extensive exercises with the Americans. We stayed in Port Clinton for a week while a weather system went through, enjoying the peace and tranquility. The area is extensive mangroves with sandy beaches, although the sandy beaches were not in the South Arm which is where we were for the better weather protection. We had the wind but no wave action in the anchorage so were very comfortable. Gordon and Maree put their crab pots out and caught two nice sized mud crabs, which we had for lunch one day, very nice. Other people in the anchorage where quite successful at fishing, although we talked about it we didn't try. We did go for a walk along what appeared to be a public road through the military land, the signs warning of live firing, unexploded missiles and devices seemed to indicate the road was OK but not to venture into the bush.
Without a water maker we don't know what our water usage is, so we are being conservative, maybe too conservative. There is a 'competition' to see who can use the least amount of water for a shower, which leads to who has the first shower, as this is usually quite cold; by the time the water has warmed up, the shower is over. Salt water dips and washes using salt water soap and shampoo are not an option with signs around warning of crocodiles. We haven't seen any, but we think we have heard them.
Finally a week after we arrived; the wind dropped and on a misty, rainy morning we left Port Clinton and dropped anchor 3nm north in Pearl Bay, which according to the cruising guides is one of the nicest bays on this part of the coast, not today though. We stayed in Pearl Bay for 2 nights, the second day the mist and rain cleared and the sun came out, revealing the true beauty of the bay. We took the dinghy ashore for a couple of walks on the long sandy beaches and in the evening listened to the All Blacks playing the Wallabies in the Tri Nations decider on a scratchy am station. Unfortunately Brian thinks the All Blacks lost but says he "still isn't sure" through all the static!!! Very Patriotic. There is no phone, TV or internet reception in Pearl Bay, one of the few isolated places we have discovered, the bay did have at least one dugong and some turtles happily swimming around. Again Pearl Bay is surrounded by military land so we could not venture further than the beaches. We decided at afternoon drinks to leave early the following morning to arrive at Island Head Creek on a rising tide. How plans change, we awoke to thick fog, no way were we going to attempt entering Island Head Creek without clear visibility. After a quick discussion on the radio with Gordon and Maree, Waimea, we decided to abandon Island Head Creek and go to the Percy Islands, so it was anchors up and we were away on a 55nm trip. Unfortunately for us, the auto pilot decided it did not want to go, so we hand steered all the way to West Bay, Middle Percy Island. The following day, however we turned the auto pilot on again and it worked perfectly, ooh the joys of boating. On the way we saw one whale breeching, again we were too slow with the camera and missed the photo, we'll keep trying as the whales will be around until late October as they migrate back to Antarctica after breeding in the warm waters of the Whitsunday Islands.
West Bay, Middle Percy Island, is a must stop for most boaties going up and down the Queensland coast, although the anchorage is very prone to swell and can be very unpleasant. Luckily for us, the conditions were perfect with little to no swell in the bay. Middle Percy Island has a lot of history to it as it is an island that still is inhabited. There is one homestead and a couple of other dwellings, but although it has been farmed in the past, it is now part of the national parks network. We walked up the hill to the homestead and chatted to Kathy, who lives there with her husband, surrounded by goats, chickens, dogs, peacocks and pea hens. Down on the beach there is an A frame hut that was erected back in the 1970's and has hundreds if not thousands of pieces of boat memorabilia, left over the years by boaties with their and their boat names, out the back there is a BBQ area and a shower. It is hard to describe the place, we spent almost an hour reading the messages and looking at all the memorabilia. Next door there is a tree house and another smaller building with older memorabilia. At one end of the beach is a boat harbour that totally dries out at low tide, with tides of 5 metres it is not an issue getting in, but only vessels that can sit on the bottom through low tide could use it with the homesteads permission.
Tuesday 30th August, 06:30 we upped anchor from Middle Percy Island in rain and motor sailed 67 nm to Mackay Marina for reprovisioning, laundry, fuel and water before heading for the Whitsunday Islands. On approaching Mackay, we had to thread our way through 30+ ships anchored and moving outside the port, they are very big when you are close to them, and seeing an AIS target doing 74knots we quickly worked out it was the helicopter transferring pilots between ships.
Next update from the Whitsundays.
Photo: One of the unique signs along the walk to Lighthouse, Gt Keppel Island, placed by a pair of chairs at a spectacular lookout.
09:30 Saturday 6th August we left Urangan Marina and motor sailed to Bundaberg Marina, 41 nm north. Yachts are not encouraged to anchor in the river since the floods earlier in the year as authorities are not certain how much debris is still lying on the river bed. Bundaberg lost one of its marinas including boats plus. Once Dol was sorted we changed into our All Black gear and headed for the restaurant in the marina, owned by Kiwis, with a big TV, where we watched the AB's defeat the Aussies to retain the Bledisloe Cup. We spent 2 days in Bundaberg, each day another yacht on its way to Hamilton Island Race week arrived for a brief stopover, racing starts later in the week. One of the permanent people living in the marina was heard to say "there is a lot of testosterone about the place with the race boats". Monday morning with time to spare before we took the courtesy bus into Bundaberg for a look at the city and the shops, we walked around the marina's chandlery and were surprised to see Gail's old two piece wetsuit that we had 'donated free to a good home' at Bayswater Marina 3 or 4 years ago, for sale in the second hand goods area, it's a small world!!. In Bundaberg we talked to a guy at Middle Town Marina about the devastation the January floods had caused there. On returning to the marina we returned our key, left the marina and anchored 30 metres away ready for an early start the following day to Pancake Creek. Despite our earlier comment about discouraging anchoring, we noticed several others join us the same evening.
Tuesday morning we had the anchor up at 06:00 and were off to Pancake Creek. What a great day, sun shining, flat seas and light to moderate winds. We had a day of sail changes from Yankee and staysail to gennaker on both tacks, with a south east breeze in the morning and a north east breeze in the afternoon. Unfortunately the wind was too light to sail all the way and we did motor sail a bit. Pancake Creek is a lovely sheltered creek, with sandy beaches and bush. The following day we went ashore and walked along the track under the single power line up to the lighthouse on Bustard Head and along Aircraft beach, a delightful, long, wide sandy beach. Our friends from Townsville, Gordon and Maree arrived in the afternoon of the following day on their boat Waimea, so we repeated the walk, this time we continued onto Jenny Lind beach with spectacular views of the sand banks in the estuary between Bustard Head and Town of 1770. The town was renamed in 1970 from Round Hill, to commemorate Captain James Cook's first landing place in Queensland in 1770. They do have some strange names over here. Along the way we spoke to other walkers, the caretaker of the lighthouse and the pilot of a small Cesna aircraft which landed on Aircraft beach. He does that tourist trip several times each day, including dropping off overnight campers. We spent the next day relaxing and taking the dinghy for a ride around the creek, it was a glorious day, sun shining and little or no wind.
Saturday we left Pancake Creek at 06:30 am and had a wonderful gennaker ride up the coast, dodging the ships off Gladstone and crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, 23 30 S. We anchored at Cape Capricorn at the end of another sparkling day and even went for a fish. Unfortunately our fishing gear was to light for the fish and we ended up losing several hooks and soft baits as the fish struck and swam away with them. It turned into a rolly night at Cape Capricorn, so after breakfast the following morning we lifted the anchor and sailed 6nm to Hummocky Island for morning tea and then put the mainsail up, poled out the Yankee and sailed a further 17nm to Great Keppel Island as our next overnight anchorage.
Leeks Beach, Gt Keppel Island, is a beautiful wide sandy beach anchorage with clear blue azure water, which unfortunately is open to the predominant swell. After the first rolly night we went for a walk with Gordon and Maree to the island resort at Fishermans Beach, and decided both boats would move further into the bay and put out a stern anchor to hold us at the correct angle to the swell to avoid the roll. The first night with a stern anchor out was not perfect but better, the following morning both boats reset their stern anchors and that night we all had a perfect night with no roll. Wednesday morning we went ashore early and walked across the high point of the island and out to the lighthouse, approx. 13 -14 kms. Along the way we saw several herds of the biggest wild goats you have ever seen. Thank goodness, although they kept an eye on us, they were slightly skittish and either moved away from us stood still so we couldn't see them. On returning to the boat we had a swim and relaxed for the rest of the day. We left Gt Keppel Island on Thursday morning, 16th August, and motored the 10nm to Keppel Bay Marina for an overnight stop to reprovision and take on water to ensure we could enjoy the next couple of weeks in isolated anchorages. (the water maker finally failed completely whilst we were in Gt Sandy Straits and a new one will be waiting for us to install in Townsville in October)
The following morning we motor sailed to Port Clinton, the predicted winds never arrived so although it was a lovely sunny clear blue day, there was not enough wind to sail. The highlight was 4 humpback whales on their way back south to Antarctica who crossed reasonably close to the boat, another whale was seen breaching in the distance. The dolphins we saw were not in a playful mood and just cruised past. Port Clinton is similar to Pancake Creek and we intend to spend a few days here, fishing and walking. Next blog update in a couple of weeks, further up the east coast.
Photo: Maheno wreck, 75 mile beach, Fraser Island
Kingfisher Bay is home to Kingfisher Bay Resort which is boatie friendly. They made us very welcome, stating we could use all the facilities including bars, restaurants, showers, swimming pools, small shopping complex, dispose of rubbish, as well as partake in any of the resort activities. We walked several of the trails through the native bush and along unspoilt beaches. We met up with other yachting friends, Peter and Lorraine, and enjoyed drinks on their boat. We decided to book ourselves on the all day "island beauty spots tour" for Monday; we don't often get to see inland places. As we were leaving the beach, having secured the dinghy for the day, we met Lee, an Australian we had met 4 years earlier when he had his boat in Bayswater Marina, Auckland, next to Dol - small world!!!!. The day was great, we drove along 75mile beach on the east coast, stopped to look at the coloured sands, Eli Creek and a shipwreck (Maheno). Morning tea was on the beach and then we headed inland to another resort for lunch before going to Central Station, an old "railway station" for the now defunct logging business. From here we went for a walk through the rain forest before heading to Lake Mackenzie for a swim and afternoon tea. Lake Mackenzie is a fresh water lake that is crystal clear and so pure that no life can be sustained, no danger of getting bitten by anything. Our ranger guide for the day, Peter, has lived on Fraser Island for 15 years and told us aboriginal legends and historical information, he is also a famed Fraser Island photographer with a great affinity with the islands nature and wild life, all in all a great day.
The following day with a westerly forecast we motor sailed around to Scarness, Harvey Bay. We sat at anchor of Scarness going for walks on the beach and relaxing until Saturday 23rd July, when with a SE wind change due, we decided to go into Urangan, Gt Sandy Straits Marina a few days early rather than going back around to Kingfisher Bay. The time in the marina was well spent. Those of you who know Brian will appreciate his need for projects, so the galley lighting has been changed, venetian blinds were sent away for cleaning and new soft furnishing were purchased (cushions) for the saloon. Brian also donned his dive gear and dived in the marina to clean the bottom of the boat, the following day the guy off the yacht next door told us a large bull shark has been seen in the marina recently and he was none too friendly!!! Friday 29th July, Gordon and Maree arrived from Gladstone where they had left their yacht, following a social afternoon we went out for dinner and the following day drove to Brisbane for a flight to Sydney.
We met up with Len and Leigh from New Zealand in Sydney, all staying in the same hotel. Sunday was Boat Show day, which was spent looking at the "on the water" boats in the morning, mainly trawler style launches for our old age when we can no longer use the stairs in Dol, and the indoor exhibits in the afternoon. The Sydney Boat show probably has more on the water boats than Auckland but less exhibits. Monday we met up with Len from Newcastle, (Woodstock - we met him in Tasmania) and had a great day catching up. Tuesday we took the ferry to Watsons Bay, walked the lookout and had fish and chips from Doyles fish bar for lunch. We flew back to Brisbane and drove to Hervey Bay on Wednesday. Len, Leigh, Gordon and Maree stayed in Sydney for a family function at the weekend. It was good to spend some time with them as we hadn't seen them since leaving New Zealand 16mths ago.
The Dol is now re-provisioned and we are leaving Hervey Bay for the Bundaberg River, then onto Pancake Creek where Gordon and Maree will meet us for the cruise north to Townsville. There was a near disaster during provisioning when the trolley was being unloaded from the pier onto Dol, it tipped over and a carton of coke (for the rum), a carton of beer and a carton of ginger beer ended up in the water. Luckily for us, as they floated, we were able to retrieve them, hose them down with fresh water and store them on board.
Photo: Maryborough Marina.
It was time to leave Mooloolaba and head to the Great Sandy Straits, a waterway between Fraser Island and the Queensland coast. We needed to leave Mooloolaba on a high tide and be at the entrance to the straits, Wide Bay Bar, on a rising tide, we left Mooloolaba marina at 07:00 on Wednesday 15th June and motor sailed due to lack of wind, arriving at the bar at 15:15. Despite having little or no wind, a rising tide and minimal swell, the entrance was still like a washing machine and it was a good feeling to be past the third entry waypoint and into calmer water. We both agreed we would not like to enter on anything other than a near perfect day. As we motored up to Garrys Anchorage, we think we saw a pilot whale, turtles and a dugong, not bad for our first hour.
Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island; 120km long x 15km wide, and is also heavily forested and has many fresh water lakes, formed by years of foliage compacting to form the lake beds. Fraser Island is known for its wild dingoes, although we never saw any, there was an abundance of bird and marine life. Sitting on Dol at night we would hear what we thought were dugongs, although by the time we got up onto the deck they would be gone. We went for a couple of 3hr "walks to nowhere" as Brian called them, along the 4WD tracks leading from the anchorage. The island has many 4WD tracks which circumnavigate the island; the walking tracks were further north, so we walked for 90mins in a single direction then turned around and walked back. On Sunday we went ashore for sundowners on the beach with people off other cruising boats in the bay.
Wednesday 22nd June it was time for a change of scenery, we upped anchor on a rising tide and motored the 18nm to Tin Can Bay. This was suburbia compared with Garrys Anchorage. Thursday was another clear, sunny day, temperature in the low 20s, the nights are cool but we realised we have had clear sunny days since we arrived on the Gold Coast almost 6 weeks ago. Tin Can is a small, sleepy fishing village, famous for the daily feeding of the dolphins off the boat ramp. We went for a walk around, along the waterfront and watched a local fishing boat rewind its trawling cables, which were laid out along the road with a 4WD attached to the end to provide the strain. As the fisherman wound the reels, the 4WD was towed down the street with a woman using a walkie talkie and steering the car. Then it was off along the Esplanade, something the Australians do very well, many of the towns we have visited have had beautifully laid out, functional Esplanades, with play areas, BBQs and walks. This one even had an outdoor gym, complete with rowing machine, exercise bike, bench presses etc, made out of heavy duty metals and plastics. The equipment used your own body weight as the resistance and overlooked the river, a great place for a gym. The following day, after a walk ashore to the chandlery for fuses, we blew one on the Lectrasan treatment toilet; we headed back to Garrys Anchorage. As we arrived we spotted our friends, Greg and Janie on Skedaddle in the bay and sure enough, no sooner had the anchor hit the bottom, than Greg arrived alongside and drinks were arranged. We spent the weekend catching up with Greg and Janie; it's been a while since we last saw them in Cronulla, Port Hacking.
Monday, Brian again assisted a yacht that had run aground and had been waiting for high tide to refloat itself. This is the second yacht to do this since we have been here, they will anchor too close to the sandbanks. We spent a week at Garrys Anchorage, the wind had picked up and we didn't want to move to the next anchorage or Maryborough on the spring tides. Saturday 2nd July we motored around to White Cliffs for a change of scenery, again on a rising tide as the channel had some shallower spots. Two days later after a relaxing time at White Cliffs, we motored around to Riverhead at the start of the Mary River for the night before going up river, near the top on a rising tide, to Maryborough the following morning.
Tuesday morning, 5th July, we upped anchor at half tide rising and headed up river to Maryborough. We knew there were 2 shallow spots early on and yes, for about 5 mins Dol was firmly on the bottom, we managed to get ourselves off using the bow thruster and main engine, the second shallow spot was a "piece of cake" after that. Motoring up the river, with sugar cane fields on both sides and 4 knots of tide/current pushing us along was pleasant but not very exciting, if this is what canal boating is all about, we won't be trying it.
Maryborough is a small heritage town, with its claim to fame being the birthplace of P.L Travers the author of Mary Poppins and a full size bronze statue of Mary Poppins can be seen in the main street, along with markers to show flood levels. The marina, which runs fore and aft along the river, was devastated in the floods earlier in the year when the pontoons were washed away and the marina buildings were three quarters under water. We heard many stories of boats, still attached to their moorings, floating off down river. The height of the flood reached 9.4 metres, the marina office was under water to the level of the upstairs offices, with the marina sign writing not visible. The marina owners are slowly rebuilding the marina using a pile driller they engineered from old farm machinery and hope to have the marina up and running again in 2-3 months, Dol sat happily on a mooring in the river. As we were sitting reading in the cockpit on Saturday afternoon, the biggest turtle we have ever seen, it was HUGE, surfaced alongside, it had been seen a couple of days previously and no one knows what it is doing this far up river. Saturday evening we went into town for dinner and to watch the final of the Super 15 Rugby, in a sports bar with only two other people. Sunday we walked to the main shopping mall only to find it was closed, doesn't open on Sundays. Tuesday we had a long lunch with Mick and Brenda off Grand Cru, before a final trip to the mall for fresh produce. Early on a foggy Wednesday morning to ensure we could get through the shallows at Middle Bank, we left Maryborough and anchored at Turtle Creek, with the plan to leave early next morning to cross the shallowest part of the river at high tide to finally exit the river. Early Thursday 14th July we left Turtle Creek with no problems through the shallow patch and anchored at Riverhead for breakfast, then across the bay to anchor at North White Cliffs, Kingfisher Bay, Fraser Island. It felt good to be in deep water again, not constrained by tide times, currents and depths.
We will post another shorter blog in a couple of weeks before we start heading further north.
Photo: Gail coming down Ngungun, Glasshouse Mountains.
The Gold Coast Seaway is an inland waterway, of approximately 20nm, with an artificially created entrance just by Seaworld Gold coast finally opening into Morten Bay, near Brisbane. While we were there, the weather was settled, so not sure how it would be in a blow, but it is very protected, with low lying land, lots of mangroves and sandbanks. There are many marked channels to navigate through, with plenty of houseboats and pelicans at every turn. For keelboats, provided you move around at high tide, it is a great place to explore.
We remained anchored in Mariners Stadium for 3 nights, took the dinghy across to Southport for shopping and walked along to Surfers Paradise, the place is all high rise apartments. On Friday 27th May, after a long walk in the morning along to Surfers Paradise, we left and motored the 7 miles through the seaway to Tipplers Passage, where we anchored along the beach. The following afternoon we walked across Tipplers Island, seeing wallabies on the way, to the surf beach on the seaward side and walked along the beach with Surfers Paradise in the distance. After the weekend, we motored, again at high tide, 15nm to anchor between Karragarra and Macleay Islands, this being our closest anchoring point to exiting the waterway the following day. This final stretch was not without its heart in the mouth moments, especially through the "shoal" area of Jacobs Well. Whilst all of our literature, told us it was shallow, having been dredged for some years, we were a little perturbed to learn that it had silted considerably and had only 0.9m of water at Mean Low water, and whilst we were going through at high tide, it actually was a lowish High tide. In fact it transpired we only had 2.1m of water at the shallowest places; Dol'Selene needs 2.0m (draught)! Interestingly, a large dredge was located in the area having just commenced maintenance dredging, a little late for us.
After another High tide start before breakfast we negotiated the final shallows of the Seaway without difficulty, out into Morton Bay, past the entrance to the Brisbane river and city, and up the bay to Scarborough Marina and suburb. Caught up with the washing and went for a walk along the waterfront in the evening. The following morning was overcast and grey as we left at 07:00 and moved further north to Mooloolaba, where we stayed for one week in the marina. We met up with our friends Cheryl and Duncan for lunch on the Thursday, with an invite to their place for a large catch-up for the weekend. They generously lent us one of their cars which we used on Friday to visit Australia Zoo. This was better than either of us could have imagined and we thoroughly enjoyed our day.
On Saturday morning we headed up to Noosa to spend the weekend with Cheryl, Duncan, Darcy and Seisia. We met them at a local fair and happily walked around the various stalls and entertainment venues along the Noosa River. The remainder of the weekend was spent catching up, playing games, visiting the local Farmer's Market on Sunday, a BBQ lunch by the pool and relaxing before heading back to the marina on Sunday afternoon. We decided to stay another week in Mooloolaba as we were ahead of schedule. During the week we went for a drive to the Glasshouse Mountains, did the 2 hour trek up the summit of Mt Ngungun, steep in parts but not too challenging, then onto the Glasshouse Mountains Lookout where we ate lunch and enjoyed the view. The Glasshouse Mountains were named by Cpt James Cook who thought they reminded him of the glass making furnaces in his home town in Yorkshire. The mountains are the hard rock remains of volcanos where the softer soil and rock has been eroded over the years.
The weekend came around again and we headed back to Noosa to see Duncan, Cheryl, Darcy and Seisia. We all headed off to a local tavern for lunch with friends of theirs and then to spend the night with Pop, Cheryl's dad, and Nana Jean on their farm. What a great weekend, we watched a dvd, played card and board games and had a roast dinner on Saturday. On Sunday, after feeding the cattle, we headed into Imbil, the local town for a walk and to see the steam train arrive. We left Pop and Nana Jean and went onto Kenilworth for lunch, before returning to Noosa and then back to the boat.
Finally it was time to prepare to depart Mooloolaba. Monday and Tuesday were spent finalising provisioning and dong final laundry. A weather check indicated that Wednesday's weather and tides would be suitable for our run up the coast to the Great Sandy Straits, our next planned destination.
Photo: Flying man, Iluka Bay
On Thursday we went for a walk out to the end of Mutton Bird Island, Coff's Harbour and on the way back we met an elderly gentleman who wanted to talk about Coff's Harbour, the New South Wales Coast and further north. It was wonderful talking to someone who was so enthusiastic about his part of the world. On Friday 20th May, Brian had us up at 4:45am for an early start to the 54nm trip to Iluka/Yamba, which is a bar entrance to the Clarence River and we needed to time our arrival for a safe crossing. We motored all the way to Iluka and arrived 2 hours before low tide, which allowed for plenty of water over the bar and minimal white, breaking water. We successfully crossed the bar at 13:10 and anchored in Iluka Bay, Clarence River.
Iluka is a quiet fishing port town at the start of the Clarence River on the southern bank; Yamba is across the river on the northern side. It is possible, even in a yacht, to navigate approx. 35 miles up the river, stopping at villages along the way. We anchored inside the seawall, which was shallow but very sheltered. Later in the afternoon a man flying a back pack powered hang glider buzzed the bay. On Saturday after doing the housework, yes it still needs doing even on a yacht, we took the dinghy ashore and walked through the Iluka Rainforest, the last of its kind in New South Wales, and out to the Iluka Bluff, an easy 2.5km walk. The following day was wet, so we stayed aboard Dol doing minor maintenance work and relaxing.
We had decided to leave Iluka on Tuesday afternoon and sail the 94nm to the Gold Coast Seaway overnight. 94nm was too far to go for the hours of daylight available and we did not want to enter the Seaway at night, hence the initial decision to sail overnight and arrive at first light. However on Tuesday morning, to prove the requirement to be flexible, the weather forecast for the coast contained a strong wind warning for Wednesday, so we quickly took the rubbish ashore, bought a few groceries and left Iluka, aiming to reach the Seaway before the winds increased to strong wind level. On the way up the coast, we passed a military base and were buzzed by a couple of fighter jets, boy to they make some noise. The rest of the trip was uneventful and we entered the Seaway at 23:30 with the anchor down outside Seaworld at midnight, and a good night's sleep. The following morning we woke to suburbia having crossed the state border into Queensland.
Farewell New South Wales it has been most enjoyable for the past 6 months, but the warmer weather and waters of Queensland will be our next cruising playground.