13 July 2016 | MacKay Marina
12 July 2016 | Whitehaven Bay
05 July 2016 | Sawmill Bay, Whitsunday Island
05 June 2016 | Refuge Bay
21 May 2016 | Port Bundaberg Marina
21 July 2016 | MacKay
We've been here for over a week. We've explored the town, rode the bus to Caneland Mall and toured the region by car, we've walked through the stunning wetlands of the Maleleuca Forest (leaving with a thousand mosquito bites as a memento), and we must have gained 10 pounds from the irresistible 'all-you-can-eat' daily special at Angelo's Italian restaurant at the Marina. Thankfully, a break from the windy, rainy weather has arrived and we're more than ready to move (or waddle) on.
We're fueled up, water tanks are full, pre-cooked passage meals are ready to be popped in the oven, gear is stowed and secured and our course is plotted. We're all set for an early morning departure to Lady Musgrave Island. Except for one glitch.
It's nearly 9:00pm and Tom is taking the forward head apart in a third attempt to fix a siphoning issue which began earlier today. The timing is a bit ironic, don't you think? Strangely, he doesn't seem to see much humor in it...
The big question: will we have a case of 'third time lucky' with the head fixed in time for our departure? Or we be stuck here for a while longer and miss our weather window?
The Ultimate Surge Protector
15 July 2016
The breakwater here is so high that from our slip at the Marina it feels like we're peering up at the world from inside a well! At low tide, cars driving along the top of the breakwater look like little dinky toys. Coming here seems to be a favourite pastime for locals, who drive to the end of the breakwater to take in the expansive views of the open ocean and listen to the roaring waves crashing below, before stopping for fish & chips and a pint at one of the Marina eateries.
The road entrance to the breakwater is closed in rough weather, but it doesn't stop people from storm watching at the gate entrance (or from up at the Yacht Club), where you can get a great view of steep curling waves pelting the long sandy beach. Reminds us a bit of winter storms at home!
Big storms are a reality here, particularly in the summer. Seventy seven recorded cyclones have hit the MacKay region since the town was settled in 1862. Damage caused by wild winds and huge sea surge from the most recent events resulted in major enhancements to the breakwater and Marina area itself in 2015. So it's been a good place for us to wait out the weather. The fortification priority of this Harbour is understandable, since MacKay is a major port and centre for the sugar and coal mining industries.
Tides are extreme here too - reaching as high as 8.5 meters (that's a whopping 28 feet!). No wonder the breakwater is so tall!
13 July 2016 | MacKay Marina
We are presently tied up in the MacKay Marina waiting out the weather. We have started our long Southeasterly trip back to Brisbane to leave the boat while we head home for awhile. The image above says it all. Red means winds over 25 knots, and the arrows are pointing North, which means tons of wind blowing in the wrong direction for a comfortable sail south.
One of the problems with heading this direction is that the prevailing winds (trade winds) here are from the Southeast. As I have said many times before 'Gentlemen do not sail to windward'. This means a lot of waiting for the right weather window and then getting as far south as possible before the window closes with more SE winds. It is also imperative to plan our destinations to be close enough to get there within the short time the window is open. We keep our cruising guides handy and have the distances between anchorages and/or marinas calculated in advance, so we can duck into a place with good protection before the inevitable return of the Southeasterlies.
Right now the forecast is for 25-30 knot winds from the Southeast for the next 3 days and then 15-20 knots from the same direction for another 2-3 days. As we have been here two days already you can see that a week goes by rather quickly in this game.
One also has to consider swell or waves caused by the wind that can last a day or two after the wind dies. Lastly there is the issue of wind against tide so even a light 10-15 knot breeze against the current can cause large short waves making progress slow and uncomfortable. We had two short trips in the Whitsundays where moderate wind blowing north against a Southerly current brought waves over the deck and slowed the boat from a normal 5 knots down to 2.
So we will wait at least another 5 days and hope for an opportunity to inch Southward. We still have more than 500 miles to Brisbane. That is a lot of inches!! In the meantime we plan to rent a car and explore this area. There are apparently a couple of nice parks with hiking trails to keep us busy. And there are always the boat projects...
Action Packed Days
12 July 2016 | Whitehaven Bay
We had an ambitious plan for two days. We finally had some calm weather.
0830 Leave the dock at Hamilton Marina to catch the ebb tide through Solway Passage
1030 Arrive at Whitehaven Beach
1035 Anchor down
1038 Drop Dingy
1040 Attach Outboard
1042 Pack backpack for beach walk
1045 Dingy ride to beach.
1050 Begin beach walk
1051 One hour ten minutes unscheduled leisure time
1200 Consider swim
1201 Wade in to waist
1202 Abort plan to swim!
1210 Dingy ride back to boat.
1215 Outboard up,
1218 Dingy up
1220 Anchor up
1225 Off to Shaw Island on flood tide. (14 miles South)
1430 Anchor at Shaw for overnight.
0530 Out of bed
0630 Raise anchor and head for MacKay Marina (42 miles South).
1600 Arrive, fuel and tie up at MacKay Marina.
Why the rush? Check out the picture for our next blog for the answer.
We actually had a great time on Whitehaven Beach. The sand is so fine it squeaks when you walk on it. Apparently the finest sand on earth. While we were there, a ferry beached itself to drop off one load of passengers and pick up another, a float plane landed and dropped off it’s passengers for a beach picnic and a dive boat arrived with a load of snorkelers. There were also campers, kayakers and other cruising boats anchored in the bay. This is a busy place! But it is not hard to see why. The beach is one of the most impressive we have seen and everyone was having a great time. As it goes on for miles there was lots of room for everyone.
Over The Top
10 July 2016
We lucked out. We had been told to book at least a week in advance to get a slip at Hamilton Island's Resort Marina. But one of the cardinal rules of sailing is to never to impose time constraints on your cruising plans. We work hard to never violate this rule.
So we waited until the last minute, enjoying the end of a nice spell of sunny warm weather before calling for a booking. After all, you can enjoy a resort in any weather, right? Snorkelling, hiking, and relaxing at anchor in a picturesque bay are much more weather dependent. Somehow we managed to get a slip, in spite of it being a school holiday.
After powering into the wind and battling steep choppy waves in Dent Passage (strong tidal flow and wind against tide), we arrived outside the Marina entrance and waited for the concierge to meet us and guide us to our slip. We found ourselves waiting in a queue with a handful of other boats while helicopters and jets roared above us transporting tourists to and from the Resort. The concierge buzzed between us in one of the Marina's inflatables, apologizing for the wait and reminding us to stay out of the Resort's airport's flight path.
This was not your average Marina.
After being personally guided into our slip and handing the concierge our lines to tie us up to the dock, we were provided with an overview of the Resort's amenities and were officially checked-in, right there at the dock.
At over $100 per night the Marina is pricey, but sometimes you get what you pay for. We had full access to the Resort including free shuttle buses to amenities and activities spread across the Island (but that wasn't how most people got themselves around - more on that later). We were welcome to join in on the fun, swimming in various resort pools or off the beach, go kayaking, paddle boarding, hike various trails, rent ATV's, play tennis or squash, rent go-karts, take an art class, bowl, try target shooting, golf, get pampered at the spa, indulge in retail therapy, and wine & dine to our heart's content at numerous bars and restaurants. This included the Yacht Club which was the most impressive venue by far. It was architecturally stunning. I've never seen a Club that even compares to it. And the service was top notch.
But I'd say the quirkiest thing about Hamilton was the golf carts. The Island is hilly and there are no sidewalks outside of the main shopping and dining area, so rather than hop on one of the shuttle buses (which come every 15 minutes), most people drive themselves around in electric golf carts. Imagine hundreds of tourists from nearly every region around the world (with a broad range of driving experience, skill, and knowledge of local 'rules of the road') all driving at top speed around mini-traffic circles and across intersections, weaving around each other and dodging pedestrians crossing the road. Mayhem!
06 July 2016
Our private bays have been taken over by charter boats!
Last night we were with 36 other boats in Cid Harbour. Quite a different experience compared to a few weeks ago when there were only a handful of us.
This morning we wove our way out of the anchorage and booted it up to Hook Island to grab a mooring ball before the rush. The weather forecast looked good for a day of snorkeling in Butterfly Bay so we were keen to get there early.
Three of us entered the bay at full throddle in a race to grab the last remaining mooring balls. Fortunately there were 'no dramas' as three of the nine balls were still available. Scores of people with the same idea streamed in over the rest of the afternoon, but nobody seems to take the '2 hour limit' on mooring balls seriously, so most newcomers ended up streaming straight back out again to find another option for the night.
Having to share our favorite anchorages isn't much of a hardship after so much solitude over the past month, and all the action is actually quite entertaining. Everyone's eager to make the most of their holidays and we have front row seats to watch it all from the cockpit.
Drying off in the warm sun after snorkeling we watched kids splashing around, kayakers and paddle boarders drifting along the shore, and dingies buzzing back and forth across the bay (one was even towing a water skier on a paddle board!)
But the sun is slipping over the horizon now and everyone's back on board. Their stereos are on, glasses are clinking, I can smell meat on 'the barby'...
Hmmm... what did I take out for dinner tonight?