Going north and making our way into the Whitsundays, we sailed past Pentecost Island. This is actually the only island in the group that Captain Cook named. He sailed through what is name called the Whitsundays group on...Whit Sunday, of course. Whit Sunday is a contraction of White Sunday. For those of you who are not of English descent, the term is used in the UK for the Christian festival of Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter, which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ's disciples.
It is Friday morning now and we awoke to...yep, you guessed it: more rain! As I wait for the skies to clear and the great snorkeling weather to appear... I thought I would use the great Internet access we have to catch up on the various pictures we took when we did not have Internet.
When we left Shaw Island, we passed Lindeman Island, which was just to the north of our anchorage at Shaw.
05/17/2012, Stonehaven Anchorage, Hook Is. AU
When you were a kid did you ever press your nose on the picture window of the local candy store, looking at all the goodies: so close but, without a nickel in your pocket, so far away? You can see it, you can smell it but you just can't put it in your mouth.
Well, that is exactly how I felt all day today. However, instead of candy, I am just sitting here, drooling over the great snorkeling that is so close to us.
It poured cat and dogs most of last night and continued to rain off and on all day today. This weather is just so funny...except I am not laughing. The weather charts on the Bureau of Meteorology's web site indicate that tomorrow and Saturday should improve a bit. Thus, being naturally optimistic, I am telling Mary Margaret that tomorrow we should motor Leu Cat over to be in front of the reef and sand spit at Langford Island so we can just fall off our boat and drift up and down the great coral and numerous fish that are patiently waiting for us. I mean, this rain and crummy weather just has to improve, right?
On the pessimistic side, the same weather charts are showing that starting Saturday afternoon, the weather deteriorates again and we should be getting lots and lots of rain through at least Tuesday. Bah humbug!
The picture that is posted to this blog captures what today was like. At times, there was sun and other times it poured. This picture shows both the sun shining through a break in the dark clouds overhead and next to the sun, lots and lots of rain. What strange weather we are getting.
Keep your fingers crossed for better weather tomorrow so I can stop gripping and snorkel again!!!!
05/16/2012, Hook Is. Stonehaven Anchorage
This morning when we got up, it was a remarkably beautiful day. The skies were blue, the sun was just coming up over the ridge that plunges into the anchorage, and the winds were behaving themselves. It certainly looked like the perfect day to motor the three nm over to the western side of our island so we could start enjoying the various dive spots there.
As my coffee was brewing, I fired up the shortwave radio and my computer so that I could download the latest weather report from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. I do this religiously, every morning. It is a text report and gives a large scale synopsis as well as a local three day forecast. Today's report mimicked the report it gave yesterday. It said: Weather Situation. A high [1028 hPa] near Victoria will continue to move slowly eastwards over the next few days and weaken a little. The high will maintain a ridge along the east. Northern Queensland coast: Central Coast Waters, Bowen to St Lawrence: Wednesday until midnight: Winds: SE 15 to 20 knots, reaching 20 to 25 knots at times offshore during the afternoon and evening. Seas: 1.7 to 2.2 metres. Swell: Less than 1.5 metres. Scattered showers. Thursday: Winds: SE 15 to 20 knots, reaching 20 to 25 knots at times offshore. Seas: 1.7 to 2.2 metres. Swell: Less than 1.5 metres. Scattered showers. Friday: Winds: SE 15 to 20 knots, reaching 20 to 25 knots at times offshore.
By 0900 we were the only ones in the Butterfly Bay anchorage and the winds had stopped and it was just a beautiful day. We sat there enjoying our views and solitude until 1100 when we too said goodbye to our beautiful spot. As we rounded the northern part of the island and made for the channel that runs between Hayman Island and Hook Island, the winds picked up and were blowing against us at 30 knots. We fired up the second engine to keep our speed up at 6 knots.
As we rounded the top of Hook Island, Langford Island came into view just 2 nm in front of us. It has a long reef with a beach that forms a spit trending SE from the island. It is over ½ mile long and it is supposed to have beautiful coral to snorkel on. My mouth was watering with the anticipation of spending hours drifting along the reef with the current.
In no time we were at Stonehaven anchorage and tied up to a free mooring buoy. The winds were still blowing and the waters were rather rolly. Mary Margaret did a great job easing us up to the buoy and holding our position despite the strong winds and choppy seas. Even though it was sunny, the winds and seas ruled out our taking the dinghy over to Langford Island to go diving today. Plus, Mary Margaret's ear really needed another day of staying out of the water.
Oh well, we thought we would just enjoy the sun and this anchorage today and go diving tomorrow....NOT!
In an hour, dark clouds were swooping down from the mountain peaks in front of us and this wet stuff started falling from the skies, pelting our boat with water. Darn! The scattered showers had arrived. However, as it turns out, they were not scattered at all. Since the rain started, it has been just about non-stop and, at times, heavy. Now, we really don't usually mind the rain (however, I do get a bit antsy after a few days of being cooped up on the boat) but we were so looking forward toward some nice diving. After all, that is the main reason we are spending so much time in the Whitsundays.
As I write this, we are getting ready for bed and the rain continues to pour down. I am not hopeful that we will be diving anytime during the next few days... Boo Hoo! On the positive side...we do have great Internet access here. Hooray! I will spend some time catching up on posting the pictures we have taken so far.
05/09/2012, Shaw Island, Near Burning Point
We left Scawfell Island at a "leisurely" hour: 0700. We could have left later but Mary Margaret wanted to get to our next anchorage early in the afternoon. We had thought we would be going to Thomas Island but by 0900 the winds had picked up and were blowing 20 knots from the SE. At 20 knots, we had read that the anchorage there would be rolly. We have had our share of rolly anchorages so we opted to go a bit further and make our anchorage at the SW side of Shaw Island. It is well protected from the swells that typically wrap around many of the islands that lie off Queensland.
It was a great sail as our heading was more WNW than NW so the SE winds were perfect for a wing and wing configuration and we really did not have to keep trimming the sails as we went. While the winds were still behind us (we were running with the wind), they behaved themselves and we were able to make 6.5 knots through the water. We actually went only about 6 to 5.5 knots over the ground since we were bucking a 0.5 to 1.0 current most of the time. However, it was really nice to be sailing and not have the noise of the engine growling in the background.
As we made our passage, S/V Miss Behaving slowly approached us from behind. We were basically on the same course. When it came close to us, I called Justine on the VHF radio and discovered that they were heading to Lindeman Island, which is just north of Shaw. From there, they will be going to Hamilton Island since his wife's mother, Dot, will be leaving them from there.
Miss Behaving is a 55 foot monohull and they were flying their Yankee and Jib in a wing in wing configuration with no main. They were making about 0.1 to 0.2 knots more than us and slowly cut across our stern to pass us. It was a pretty sight to behold. We hope to bump into them again somewhere in the Whitsundays.
As we started to pass some of the southernmost islands of the Whitsunday group, it started to look more and more like the British Virgin Islands. We think the BVI's is one of the best, if not the best sailing grounds in the world. It typically has winds in the 15 to 20 knot range, there are numerous islands with great anchorages, wonderful snorkeling and dive spots, and if you want fine restaurants and marinas, you can find that too. From what we have read about the Whitsundays, it sounds like you can have it all here also!
About 1400 we complete our 44 nm run and pulled into our anchorage. There was just one other catamaran here. After the last two anchorages having about 7 or 8 other boats, this was sheer bliss. While we love to socialize with other cruisers, we really look forward to having an anchorage to ourselves and chillin' as we enjoy the solitude and the raw beauty by ourselves. The other boat is about ¼ mile from us so it is like we have the whole place to ourselves.
As an added benefit, it I take the computer up to the helm and plug in our wifi dongle, we can also get Internet here. Man, are we in seventh heaven or what! If the Internet holds tomorrow, I will start to upload and post the various photos we have taken since we left Keppel Bay Marina. I have a lot to post so tomorrow promises to be a busy day...
05/07/2012, Anchored At Refuge Bay, Scawfwll Is., AU
Once again we had a 60 nm sail in front of us and with anticipated light winds, this meant we were up at 0530 and had the anchor weighed at 0600. For the first hour we pretended that we were a power yacht and motored with one engine making 6 knots at 2600 RPMs. In about an hour, the winds freshened up a bit so we turned into the wind and put up the sails.
As what we are learning to be standard conditions along the eastern coast of Australia for this time of year, the winds were behinds us, from the SE, as we motored sailed to the NW. Our apparent wind was 4 to 7 knots and we averaged about 6.5 knots running against a ¾ knot current. Our sails were in a wing and wind configuration.
S/V Silver Lining II had weighed anchor a few minutes before us and we watched them slowly veer to the east of us. Our destination was Scawfell Island while Paul had mentioned that they would be going to Digby Island. However, in a few hours we watched as Silver Lining sailed past Digby Island and followed a heading to Prudhoe Island, which is a bit NW of Digby. By now they were about 4 nm to our east and we lost sight of them.
The weather and seas were great and around 1500 we were approaching Scawfell Island. However, as we did, we watched three other sailboats converging on the island and a huge super tanker heading in a direction that appeared to be straight for us. A quick glance at the Chartplotter showed the cargo boat was the tanker New Stage and he was following a course that would taken him about 8 tenths of a nm mile past our stern. It was a little bit eerie watching us cross in front of a huge tanker as he was steaming toward us. This is not something I really like. It turned out fine and within an hour, we had made our anchorage and were enjoying the views of the steep, tall hills that surround our quiet anchorage.
We will stay here for a day or two and then be moving on. Our next stop will be one of the islands in the southern most Whitsunday group. I am anxious to sail up to the central part of the group, to Border, Hook and Hayman Islands, as the snorkeling there is support to be awesome!
05/06/2012, Anchored At West Bay, Middle Percy Is., AU
It was another beautiful day today at Middle Percy Island. The sky was blue, the winds were gentle and the swells in the anchorage, for the most part, behaved themselves. However, every now and again a train of big swells made their way in and rocked us some.
Early this afternoon we motored the dinghy into shore. We were greeted by Julie of S/V Silver Lining II and she was kind enough to wade into the small surf and help us pull the dinghy up onto the beach. We were also were helped by Justin, the skipper of a 55 foot monohull called Miss Behaving.
Soon we were joined by Justin's two children, Haley (age 9) and Reilly (age 7). We all walked up the beach together and went into the A frame. A few minutes later Justin's wife and her mother (Dot) came walking down the hill from their walk about. They had returned from visiting Cathy, who is the leasee of the island. She and her husband now manage the island after an ugly lease dispute that started when Andy Martin died about 8 or 9 years ago. A third party had muddied the lease waters and took quite some time and effort for Cathy to win her case. Her husband works on the mainland to earn money to cover their expenses while Cathy stays on the island and grows wheat, mills it for their flour and she tends a garden for their vegetables as well as feeds and cares for their lambs, goats, a milk cow, and chicken. They have a homestead at the top of the hill which is about a 2 mile hike from the beach. It sounds like a tough life and they certainly have our respect and great appreciation. I had wished that I had brought my wallet with us so I could make a donation.
While we talked at the A frame, different people would take turns picking up the perfect coconut, husking it using a spike that has been driven into the ground and then enjoying the sweet coconut milk. Once empty, they would break it open and pry out the coconut meat and pass it around.
Soon Paul of Silver Lining II returned from their boat and then Bill and Sue of S/V Dreamtime returned from the homestead. They were soon followed by the couple from S/V Caliysto. We had met them a few times, going back to Tahiti but I am drawing a blank on the wife's name. The husband is Marion. I tell you, my memory is the second thing to go
We had a wonderful time together and enjoyed everyone's company. Justin and his family will be doing the Sail Indonesia Rally so we expect to get to know them better as we bump into each other at the various anchorages between here and Darwin and then throughout Indonesia.
Tomorrow we will be weighing anchor at dawn and sailing another 60 nm to the next anchorage, Scawfell Island. Justin and his family will also be sailing there tomorrow so we hope to see them there. Paul and Julie will be leaving tomorrow also but may sail to Digby Island, which is about 20 nm NW of here.
Scawfell Island is just south of the Whitsunday Island group, so we will be getting closer to some great swimming and diving spots. Since leaving Lady Musgrave Island, we have not gone swimming because the water has been cloudy. We don't like to swim in cloudy water because we can't see what may be swimming with us (i.e., sharks and crocodiles). The last croc attack in the Whitsundays was in the 1930's. While some sightings have been made in the last few years, it is still considered safe to swim and dive. I will still be following my water safety rule, which is to let Mary Margaret go in first!
Techno-Tip Of The Week; Stainless Steel Scraper
You should have as a tool on your boat a strong stainless steel scrapper. You will be using it to scrape off the barnacles and mollusks that adhere to your hull over the antifouling. These buggers are very persistent and are difficult to remove unless you have a good scraper.
I initially had just a wide bladed steel putty spatula that I bought for next to nothing at a hardware store. However, no matter how well I kept it oiled, the salt water won and it turned to an ugly, rusty thing that fell apart. Our stainless steel scraper cost what I thought was a bundle but it has lasted so well and still has many, many years of life in it. It is an investment well worth the cost.