One thing I forgot to tell you all about was the cargo vessel SUNJO I encountered off Ballina. On the AIS receiver I noticed this vessel coming south on a course that would meet us some ten nautical miles ahead. I changed course slightly to the west to run parallel with him. That information came from the AIS. I then called him up and a very polite gentleman with an Indian accent identified me by my speed [6.4 knots] and that I had just altered course. He said I was fine on that course and we eventually passed each other about a mile away. Not much later a yacht ahead of us called up "the large fishing boat" or anybody that could see it. I let him go on for a while; this must be a game with these large cargo vessels, before calling him and giving him the name of the vessel which of course got an immediate response. He had been seen and was well clear, but when these large ships approach from astern at around 15 knots it is disquieting to see them getting nearing all the time without knowing their intent as they pass you. Every yacht should at least have an AIS receiver and every commercial fishing boat should be equipped with a 'Class A' AIS. It is so rare to see a fishing boat with AIS, I have only seen two, and one of those two turned his AIS off when he started fishing!
So, on Thursday 15th October we motored down from Maclean to the Haywood Bridge on the Pacific Highway. I was on time but there seemed to be a problem and eventually 35 minutes later they raised the bridge. In fact they forgot about me and I proceeded under the bridge without the lights. The bridge was raised all the way up, something I have never seen before and they kept it there for almost 15 minutes. Anyway I was through and on my way to Iluka Bay at the river mouth. On the way down I saw a 2.5 metre shark which could have been a Grey Nurse or a White Pointer Shark. Once anchored up I sorted all the gear for tomorrow and just to see what was around cast a plastic lure for a bit and got a nice Taylor for tea.
We rose before daylight the next morning and soon got underway, crossing the bar around 0600. We moved out to get some sea room and into the East Australian Current after which the sea flatten out and with very little wind we motored south. We saw a few sharks on the surface but nothing else. As we approached the Solitary Islands the winds went around to the north east and quickly strengthen to around 15 knots. As the winds strengthen the seas built up till we had at times 2 metre waves. This is hard sailing as we now had a rough sea and the wind directly behind us. Eventually I took down the Genoa and we motor sailed on with just the main with two reefs in it.
So have I got enough problems? No not quite. I next saw a pod of whales ahead and slightly to port [left side for you landlubbers]. As I got closer they started to Breach with the youngsters being the most active. What was concerning was that they were on a converging course. Eventually I couldn't drift to the west anymore and I had to reverse course for a bit then head east to get clear of them. The last three miles into Coffs Harbour were very rough and I was glad to enter the Marina and dock in bay B23. There I was met by the marina staff that it turns out, used to own the Top Hat called "Pippin", now I believe in Jervis Bay.
The next morning at 0349 my phone started ringing, as I didn't know the number I didn't answer, but they left a message on 101. I called that in and its Marine Rescue Port Macquarie saying I'm 50 minutes overdue and would I please call them. Turns out that when I logged off at Coffs Harbour I said I would be sailing for Camden Haven next SUNDAY afternoon. Somebody got it into their head that meant that I was sailing 'NOW'! How they worked the reporting times out I have no idea. I did not log on to start the journey and that alone should have had alarm bells ringing.
So, Saturday was spent relaxing and preparing Seaka for the final leg. I didn't cook in Coffs Harbour but had 'fish & chips' on both nights. Sunday dawned and we were greeted with a clear almost windless hot day. By 1430 I had had enough and retrieved my mooring lines and departed from the marina. Outside we found a SE breeze that we were just able to use towards Smoky Cape. There was little if no swell and only a slight wind chop so we made good time heading south. Before we made Smoky Cape we had another yacht approach us from the south with his 'Class B' AIS going. It was interesting to see how my plotter showed him and we eventually passed port to port about half a mile apart. After that we encountered no other vessels but the AIS receiver showed plenty passing us out beyond the horizon and the 100 metre depth line.
We settled down quite easily for the night with no real signs that I was as tied as on previous overnight sails. I had reduced the main sail by two reefs before nightfall and with the Genoa we averaged the required speed to see us over the bar at 0830 on Monday morning. During the night we were visited by Dolphins, a terrific sight as they were all lit up by the efflorescence. When dawn broke we found a larger than expected south east swell but no wind-chop at all. The south east swell would not affect our passage over the bar which is protected from that direction by Camden Head.
As we approached the Camden Haven Bar we were surrounded by a large pod of Dolphins for the last time, as in if they were welcoming us home. The bar was flat and on the end of the north wall was fellow Top Hatter Shaun and further in my wife. By 0900 we were at the Laurieton wharf and tied up. I would take off two ute loads of gear, most of which will not be going back onboard, home before I moved Seaka to her home mooring at Dunbogan the next morning. Seaka is now a good 10 cm up on her waterline!
This trip took 7 months [212 days] and covered 2,773 nautical miles [5,100 km]. Only 2 days were spent off Seaka during the trip on two separate occasions with friends.
My thanks to all of you who have been following my adventure and I hope you have all enjoyed these Blogs.
Dolphins greet us we come back into NSW.
On Saturday 10th October we left the Horizon Shores Marina at 0545. We proceeded to the Goldcoast Seaway with only one incident when an approaching large motor boat crossed to my starboard side, the wrong side of the channel for him, to ensure I got his large wake. Unfortunately, or fortunately for him, I could discern no name or registration numbers on him. We logged on with Marine Rescue for the trip to Yamba by phone and called up on the VHF to confirm our departure from the Seaway at 1000 hours. With an outgoing tide fully developed it was very rough in the Seaway and it here that I think we hit 9.1 knots as the maximum for this trip. Once clear of the Seaway things settled down and we sailed for Danger Point arriving off there at 1400 hours and so we slipped back into NSW with the clocks going forward one hour.
We now settled into a very fast trip with speeds of 6 and up to 8 knots, arriving off Cape Byron just before dusk at 1800 hours. Here we found that some northern Marine Rescue stations were lacking enough radio operators to operate 24/7 with Kingscliff closed down and Ballina, Yamba and possible Coffs Harbour only operating between 6 am and 6 pm. For the rest of the night we reported our progress to Marine Rescue Bryon Bay.
Just before midnight a check of our progress discovered that over the last 18.5 hours we had covered 100 nautical miles at an average speed of 5.4 knots. This is a record for Seaka and I. Just after 0200 hours, when 4 nautical miles offshore, we observed a meteorite fall between us and the land. I was later to learn that the sonic boom from this meteorite had shaken towns well south of us. By 0430 we were off Yamba but with the large swell running I decided that it would be best to wait for daylight before crossing the bar. Eventually around 0600 we headed in and found that the bar was smooth but with that swell from the NE present. About a mile off we got a fright as two large whales surfaced almost alongside Seaka, they sounded and we didn't see them again. The only other whale seen was a full breach just south of the Seaway. Safely crossing the bar, we moved upriver and soon anchored in Iluka Bay where we hit the sack for a well-deserved sleep until noon. We did the 120 nautical miles [Jacobs Well to Yamba] in 24 hours and 20 minutes with an average speed of 5 knots. This includes the time spent hanging around waiting for dawn.
On Monday 12th October our plans of getting home this week crumbled with the latest BOM weather predictions. I decided then to go up to Maclean where I could tie up to the town pontoon which gave me better access to the shops than at Iluka Bay, where I would have to get the dinghy out. We got a booking for the Haywood Bridge on the Pacific Highway at 1800 hours and motored up there during the afternoon. Once under the bridge we moved up to Maclean and moored to the pontoon just on dark. Over the last two days we have been doing small jobs and reading. We have had visitors of course, being on the pontoon.
On Thursday 15th October we have a 1000 booking to return under the Haywood Bridge to Iluka Bay. Because of the weather we plan to leave Iluka Bay on the same day around 2000 for an overnight sail to Coffs Harbour where we will await the next lot of northerly winds.
09/10/15, Moreton Bay
Fog about to lift on Moreton Bay.
On Monday 28th September we set off from the Burnett River at 0300. We at first had a wind from the SW and Seaka was doing 5 to 6 knots but this gradually backed to the SE over the morning. Eventually the wind died and I pulled the jib down, leaving the main up to steady the boat. We only saw three boats all day until we reached the Fairway Light into the Great Sandy Strait. By then the sea was mirror flat with storms all around us but some 10 miles away, these eventually collapsed late afternoon. When we entered the Great Sandy Strait the tide was still against us and it looked like we would only make it to the Kingfisher Resort. By the time we had made the first starboard buoy off Long Island the tide changed and we were doing 6 to 7 knots. A quick replan of how far we could go before dark saw us aiming to anchor for the night off Ungowa. We did get there by 1730 but the ground was so foul I decided to go the extra mile and anchor where we had anchored on the way north. This we did, juggling between the other eight boats to have the anchor set just on dusk.
Next morning we got under way around 0800, had to wait a bit for the high tide, and proceeded to Pelican Point where we anchored at noon and a review of the weather saw us putting off the voyage to Mooloolaba till next Thursday. Today, for once, I saw plenty of Dolphins and large turtles. There was a lot of motor boat traffic today around high tide as everyone scrabbled to get through the shallow section of the strait. For once there were only a couple of idiots who did not slow down as they went past. That night at Pelican Point we and ten other boats were threatened by a large thunder storm that missed us. On Wednesday night I was invited for 4.30pm drinks but decided not to go as we had a rather large storm approaching us again. Well we didn't get any rain but it blew around 20 knots till 0200 the next morning so not much sleep was had by all as the yachts all danced around in the wind. That is except for one guy whose anchor light did not move all night. The next morning I was able to wave to him as he sheepishly wave back from aground on the sand bank. At least he had a good night's sleep.
On Thursday 1st October we crossed the Wide Bay Bar at 0715 and the largest waves we encountered were from passing speed boats going offshore to fish. Crossing Wide Bay we encountered several whales, one in particular was a baby whale which kept breaching almost its whole length out of the water. After rounding Double Island Point we settled into the groove of motor sailing in very very light winds. We arrived in Mooloolaba's Duck Pond thirteen hours after we left Pelican Point and we had just enough light to enable us to anchor safely. We passed Warren in 'Wunjo' as we entered the Duck Pond. By Saturday, 3rd October, we had replenished the fuel, water and food. The next day was spent clearing a blocked toilet, don't ask, and scrubbing the waterline at Seaka's stern to remove green weed.
On Monday 5th October we, in company with 'Wunjo', left the Duck Pond at 0600 for Scarborough in Moreton Bay. This proved to be another light wind and flat sea day; hence the motor was once again in demand. Initially we saw a few whales but not inside Moreton Bay. We were unable to raise the Scarborough Marina, being Labour Day holiday, so opted to anchor outside Newport. One feature of the VHF radio in this part of the world is that for a couple of hours after 0600 you can hear all the Marine Rescue stations coming on air. Most only operate for twelve hours a day. With the lighter winds I removed the Jib and hanked the Genoa on. Next morning I set out at 0545 and not long after that the whole area, as far north as Wide Bay at least, was blanketed in fog. With visibility down to 10 metres I was able to practice that ancient act of "blowing my horn!" Well, it was not quiet that easy as I had to pump up the horn canister first and I suppose that's also where the saying "to pump one's self up" comes from. After half an hour the fog started to lift and as the day progressed I lowered the Genoa as the sea became like a mirror. In the Bay the biggest waves in these conditions are the wakes of boats and the wakes can travel for miles. At 1400 hours we were anchored off the Ferry wharf at Russell Island. Here I visited friends and picked up the gear I had left behind after doing Seaka's anti-fouling back in early April. The next day I packed away all that gear and did a bit of shopping. That night the strong winds that BOM had been promising us arrived and we spent the early part of the evening watching the adjacent boats to ensure we didn't drag onto them. Seaka didn't move at all but did swing north on her anchor.
Thursday, 8th October, was not a good day. As we cleared Russell Island and turned south we were greeted by a 30 plus knot wind...... yep it was a battle, four hours to do eight miles, with the tide, and at one stage Seaka was doing less than one knot. The waves weren't big, just 0.75 m high but only 2 to 3 metres between them. That meant that as Seaka's bow greeted a wave her stern was up on top of the previous wave and the bow lost out as it drove right through the wave shoving water up onto the foredeck. That day Seaka saw more green water on her deck, than the whole of the rest of the trip. We eventually made the Horizon Shores Marina where I intended to refuel. Having got into the marina I decided that it would be safer to stay which has turned into two nights moored to a pontoon. Mind you, I have been real glad about that decision as it has continued to blow and it did rain rather heavily overnight. It has also meant that I will get two good night's sleep before doing a 24 hour sail to Yamba.
We had a bit of excitement in the marina last night when the Police and the local Jacobs Wells Marine Rescue turned up, seems someone's EPIRB had malfunctioned and gone off. The boats berth number must have been in the system as they went straight to the boat concerned. I have now tied the Yankee onto the foredeck in case I need a smaller sail, the Genoa is hanked on at present. Tomorrow looks good for a smooth if not rolly ride to Yamba. The sun is out now and the wind is easing and backing to the east. Perfect for tomorrow.
26/09/15, Off Pancake Creek
Well on Monday morning we did move down to the Gladstone Marina for 20 hours. On arrival we couldn't get on the fuel wharf so I eventually used a marina trolley to take three 10 litre fuel containers to the fuel wharf for filling. At 1030 I was on the Marina courtesy bus into town for a little bit of shopping. I had a complete list that, apart from fresh food, should see me all the way home. Back at the marina I used the laundry to wash some clothes and generally cleaned Seaka up for sailing the next day. I also topped the water off again.
At first light we were underway out of the Marina and heading south at 6 knots with the ebbing tide. That was the first time I've got the tide going in the right direction when entering or leaving Gladstone. With a southwesterly wind and the tide we were forced out to the east so that as we were approaching the Boyne Cutting we had to cut across the Bypass Cutting to avoid clashing with two large ships entering the port. It was interesting to note that in their unladen state they had a smaller wake than some of the motor boats I have encountered.
Once we cleared the shipping channels we were on course for Pancake Creek in a smooth sea and just enough wind to counter the tidal stream heading north. I saw a sea snake coming up for air where it's only about 15 metres deep. By noon we were off Pancake Creek and it looked like about twelve yachts had spent time there over the previous few rough days. As conditions were very good I decided to push onto 1770 which would reduce tomorrows sail by 10 nautical miles.
At 1500 we were off 1770 and with the great conditions I decided to push onto Burnett Heads some 50 nautical miles south. This turned out to be the right thing to do as a couple hours later a strong wind warning was issued for the area south of Burnett Heads for tomorrow afternoon. With that strong wind warning out I decided to log onto Marine Rescue Bundaberg for the overnight passage. Well that worked out fine, I spoke to them at 1730 and then they closed down at 1800 until 0600 the next morning, but they didn't open to a lot later as the radio operator did not turn up for his shift. I logged off by phone about 0800. I needn't have bothered.
Late that afternoon we were the only vessel in sight and even the AIS had the nearest boat way over on Lady Musgrove Island. I started to lie down and rest at this time with checks every 15 to 20 minutes for shipping. Nothing was seen apart from a few of the very shy Queensland Dolphins. That was until we were 30 nautical miles out from Burnett Heads when I noticed on the AIS a vessel doing 13 knots coming down my track from the north. I waited a while and then they moved to the west of me which meant they had to come back across my track to get to the pilot pickup area off Burnett Heads. The question was how close would they come? From the AIS I was able to get their details and calling the 'Eco Discovery', a sugar ship, on channel 16 I inquired if they had spotted me some 10 nautical miles ahead and would they need me to change course. They came back very quickly saying that yes they had seen me and would call if I needed to change course. They didn't call back and moved to the east crossing our track some 3 nautical miles behind us. I must say thou that I don't think they saw the other yacht behind me as they seem to come very close to it as they moved east.
We were now approaching Burnett Heads and it was going to be a race to see if I got in before the moon set, a race we lost. But before the moon did set we were suddenly confronted with a roll cloud, representing a wind front, rapidly approaching from the south west. As we were only 5 nautical miles out I decided to remove all sail. Once this was done the roll cloud dissipated! Oh well you can't win them all and then I discovered that there really was a steep wave formation occurring which now meant that we were rolling from side to side and we just had to put up with it. At 0130 on Wednesday morning we entered the Burnett River and by 0200 we had anchored and I had gone to bed. I didn't even hear or feel the 'Eco Discovery' go up to the sugar wharf.
Awaking on Wednesday morning I discovered we hadn't anchored where I thought I was but we were in fact just outside the old marina. The first job at 0800 was to phone Marine Rescue Bundaberg and log off and that's when I found that they weren't even on the air at that time. Checking the weather I realized that we weren't going anywhere for a few days, especially not today. Next I raised the anchor and proceeded up river to the new marina where we topped off the fuel tank. There I spoke to another cruiser who advised that the best area to anchor for a few days was just over a mile upriver.
On the way up we passed the 'Eco Discovery' loading at the sugar wharf. Also in that area were a large number of runabouts casting nets for prawns. I would try near where I anchored a couple of days later, but speaking to an old local he said the prawns were off now because of the moon. I haven't caught any fish here either.
The wind today is quite strong and cool from the south east. I had looked at trying to get to the Great Sandy Strait, our next destination, on last Friday but called it off because of high winds in the late afternoon. Our next opportunity is on Monday and I plan to leave at 0330 with the intention of getting as far through the Great Sandy Strait as possible before dark sets in. The tide will be with us again. Tuesday I plan to get to Wide Bay with intention of going across the bar on Wednesday morning to Mooloolaba. On Thursday I hope to get to Scarborough Marina just before the next round of south east winds set in for a few days.
New photos in Gallery
19/09/15, Sunrise beyond Round Island at the entrance to Port Clinton.
After a week in Island Head Creek it was time to go with the better weather. We lifted the anchor at daylight and motored out of the creek. When we exited we were greeted with very black clouds that reached all the way down to the sea about 10 nautical miles ahead. While I had turned south I assessed the situation for some time and then I noticed that really, we were sitting in the same place! Yep, we were trying to head a 4 knot tidal current into the river and it wasn't working. Oh well, so turning Seaka's head around we headed back into the creek, at 6 knots!
Now every time I've visited Island Head Creek I have always got text messages just as I came in and this was about to be explained. Terry in "San-t-y" was anchored in just about that location and as I returned he was setting off north so I anchored in 3-4 meters where he had just been. What I found was the best phone and internet connection area of Island Head Creek.
For those who may need it the location is: Lat S 22⁰ 21.215'; Long E 150⁰ 39.464'
For general reference it's just past the third rock outcrop as you enter on the south side of the creek.
After a couple of phone calls and a check of the weather the rain had passed over us so I decided to try again. This time I moved further off shore before turning south. A lot better! After we cleared the immediate area of the creek the sea settled down and we started to make progress. We were heading for Port Clinton 11 nautical miles to the south. By doing this shorter trip we would be able to do the next section to Yeppoon in daylight. We eventually arrived at 1300 hours and found a new situation where large motor boats actually out numbered the yachts anchored there.
At daylight we again went to sea, but the conditions were now a lot better, even more so than yesterday. We went out in company of two other yachts and both got to Yeppoon some two hours before Seaka. We were all motoring and only getting about 1.5 knots out of our sails. During the early part of the day we saw a few pods of whales but as we moved deeper into the discharge area of the Fitzroy River the water became greener in colour and the whales moved off shore to avoid it. We had only one crash change of course to avoid whales today.
On arrival at Yeppoon we first tied to get on the fuel wharf but it was occupied by a large vessel so we went to our marina berth. Deciding I need a walk I went up and paid, then grabbing a marina trolley walked over to the petrol station to get 20 litres of diesel. So while I had a shower I put the washing on and the topped off the water tank in Seaka. That made us ready for The Narrows tomorrow.
I rose at daylight  on Thursday and after a quick shower we were soon on our way. The sea was flat. Hence we motored the whole way with only a little lift from the sails at time. Compared to our last trip across this section of water it was a very calm deal. Now it had been my intention to go into Yellow Patch, but I was disappointed to hear that all vessels had been kicked out of Yellow Patch and the vicinity of Cape Capricorn by the Queensland National Parks as they are doing pest eradication work in the area. Seems I was always fated to not go into Yellow Patch. On the way into The Narrows we passed a large cargo ship [dangerous goods] anchored at the entrance. Eight hours after leaving Yeppoon we anchored in the last bit of water deep enough for the next two tide changes until we could go through with the noon high tide tomorrow.
The next morning at 1100 we lifted the anchor and at 3 knots proceeded south through The Narrows. Before I got to the first turn I had two large catamarans on my tail. As I passed the Cattle Crossing I saw a large motor boat heading north towards us. I have never seen so much traffic in The Narrows before and all at the shallowest part; well it was high tide I suppose. The motor boat steamed ahead with a large wake, as usual, they never look behind to see the carnage they cause. The first catamaran passed me and then we were into the shallowest part that dries to 2 metres above low water. I had thought that the strong SE winds may push water up The Narrows but was surprised by how much. The shallowest we had was 50 cm below the keel where when last heading north I reckoned I scraped the barnacles off the bottom of the keel. The second catamaran passed us then and we were on our own again.
As we moved south towards Gladstone I looked at places to anchor up for a few days. I considered two but seeing the catamarans anchored in Grahams Creek I decided to try there. After I anchored up I got on the internet [5 bars 4G] and checked the weather. Frankly it's not a good week to be cruising. Grahams Creek I quickly discovered is subject to tidal currents, the wind coming off the hills and whiffs of the flare in the gas works. No good, so I decided to retreat 2 nautical miles to Targinie Creek. We anchored in 5 metres with plenty of room to swing. There is only one other here, a motor boat.
A review of the weather today has us moving to Gladstone Marina on Monday morning for 24 hours to refuel and get some fresh food. We will sail for Pancake Creek on Tuesday and then Burnett Heads on Wednesday. The weather will, at this time, cause us to spend a day there before going up to Rooney Point on Fraser Island or into The Great Sandy Strait.
13/09/15, Island Head Creek
New photos added 15/09/2015
After a day in the Newry Group the weather looked like I could head south again so I took the opportunity to get down to MacKay. The trip down was by sail for the first 5 nautical miles and then, as the very light wind was dead on the nose, we motored the other 22 nautical miles. On arrival I went straight to the fuel wharf and topped off the fuel tank and the extra containers. I went up and paid for the fuel and one night at the marina office and got some milk and bread from the takeaway shop. After mooring up I hit the showers for the first time, I would have another before crashing for the night. Tea that night was fish and chips and I got a bag of ice at the same time. I also got rid of the rubbish and topped off the water tank.
I planned for an early start at 0400. This was because we had 44 nautical miles to go and the port was to be closed for a while around dawn to allow a ship to leave port. We managed to clear the marina walls by 0445 and with a SW wind blowing off the land we set sail for Curlew Island. The sea state was very good and we experienced good conditions for the entire trip. Just after passing the Hay Point Coal Loaders, I had come up into the cockpit and looking forward when the sea suddenly erupted with a huge slash from a whales tail slap 25 meters in front of Seaka! The whale went to port and I swung 90⁰ to starboard, I could see where he had dived to the sea bed some 25 meters below but I never did see the whale again. Must have been asleep.
This was starting to be a good sail to Curlew Island when one of the fishing lines went off and I got a Spotted Mackerel into the boat, just the right size, legal and not too big. So do I put the lures back in? What the hell I thought and back in they went. About an hour later I looked at one of the lines and thought why is that going straight down into the sea? Oh, another fish and it was a big one too. After a bit of a struggle, using the gaff for the first time, I got the 1.5 meter Cobia, or Black Kingfish on board. Once onboard it gave up, which is good as my autohelm power connection is low in the cockpit and vulnerable to damage from struggling fish. One of the home jobs will be to move it to a better location. But wait the other line is going off too! That one came in easily with another Cobia but this one was only about 50cm long, so it went back. Well from nothing to three fish in one morning I decided enough was enough and the lures were brought in.
When we arrived at Curlew Island there were three other boats and I quickly let everyone know that there was fish for the offering. The crew of one mono said they would take me ashore to clean the Cobia but after waiting for an hour I gave up and started to divide the Cobia up. I was all but finished when they finally arrived so I got them to distribute the fish around the other boats. In future, when giving fish away, it will be whole uncleaned fish, less what I want. Interesting to note is that one of the yachts, All The Colours, was owned by Jenny who is technically blind and whom I had met at MacKay Marina back in 2011. I later went on board for drinks and met her 'sighted' crew. This is the only yacht this trip that I met previously on my 2011 trip.
The next morning [Monday 7th September] after a rolly night we set off east to round Curlew Island for the Duke Group some 38 nautical miles to the south. Things didn't go well at first as it was very rough, which in hindsight was only between the islands, and I had actually turned north again for MacKay when I realized that having moved east a couple of miles to clear some rocks that I COULD now sail for the Dukes. Once clear of the islands the sea conditions calmed down and we set off on a broad reach for Hunter Island in the Duke Group.
With nothing around I was taking time below when I heard an aircraft approaching; no make that a Border Patrol aircraft call sign 211 at mast height over flying us. Within five minutes they had read Seaka's name off their digital images and were calling me on channel 16 on the radio. They were very friendly asking only for my last and next major port of call and our home port. The patrol went onto contact all the yachts in the area but had no success with about fifty percent of them as they must have been listening on channels 80 and 21, the local repeater frequencies. The only foreign yacht contacted was not asked for their home port as they must have had it in their data base.
Closer to Hunter Island the wind shifted a bit to allow me to come in on the east side and enter the anchorage via the Lola Mantes Passage. This was brought to a sudden stop when we were hit by a squall [first of the trip] in which I decided it would be better to drop all sail. That was soon done but now the seas were very rough, bit of tide against wind in there as well, and we had over 3 nautical miles to go to the Lola Mantes Passage. So the helm was put over to starboard and with the seas now going our way the action was much easier. I was later to hear from All The Colours, who was in sight at the time, that the squall had been well over 20 knots. Approaching the anchorage from the west side now I noticed two yachts anchored down on Marble Island and thinking that would save time in the morning went down with the intention of anchoring near them. Once there I could only find deep water, they must have been anchored on an underwater ridge, and both were rolling around, a definite no-go anchorage for a Top Hat. So I went back to the normal Hunter Island anchorage and settled in for the night. Soon after the two yachts turned up and speaking to them I discovered a connection in that they knew Bill of Misty Blue. As they had a freezer, I sent them on their way with the rest of the Cobia, hope you enjoyed some Bill.
The next morning [Tuesday] we set off at daylight for Island Head Creek. The forecast was for easterlies but these tended to be more like EES which wasn't quite on the nose. Eventually I only had the main sail up to stabilize us in the easterly roll. We saw a few whale pods early on with a small course change required to avoid only one pod. Outside Island Head Creek we saw a rare pigmy whale.
We entered Island Head Creek and, even though it was low water, found plenty of depth to get up to the anchorage. The next day we started in on the jobs I had to do. The major one was to fix the toilet where water was coming back into the bowl when all sea cocks were off. I first replaced a flapper valve at the toilet but still found the water was coming in. I decide that I would have to install an extra ball valve [I'd brought one if I had to do this] in the outlet line. Once that was done I found the toilet wouldn't pump out. A bit confused over this I decided to sleep on it and have another go in the morning. I started to strip it all down and finally found that I had a blockage just before the outlet seacock. Once that was sorted it worked without leaking back into the bowl, which is a relief in more ways than one!
Later that day as low tide approached, I raised the anchor and proceeded up the creek with the intention of anchoring at the western most anchorage. About two nautical miles up, as we approached a couple of yachts, one of them came on the radio to warn me about a rock reef ahead. I anchored up and at Terry's invitation went over and he showed me where I should be, which was on the other side of the creek. After the tide had risen a meter [tidal range is 3.5 meters at the moment here] we had sufficient depth to cross over the central sand bar and proceed up to the anchorage.
It's very calm up here, compared with down at the creek entrance. The next day Terry turned up and then three other yachts as well. On the second day here I moved out from the shore a bit as I was too close at low tide. I have the two crab traps out, but as yet have not got any. Mind you Terry has only got two, one of which I had the small half and that was really too much crab for one meal. It was 36 cm across! Probably worth heaps in a restaurant, just because of the size! The second one was not that much smaller either. Terry has a catamaran called SAN-E-T and during my stay here he has given me two lots of fish from his freezer and the smaller half of that large mud crab. Much has been discussed over his home brew each day from 1500 hours. Many thanks Terry.
Today I lifted the mud crab pots and brought the dinghy onboard. To post this and do the emails I have moved back down the creek to where we stopped on the way up. We have a better signal here. Later I will move down to the entrance for a 0500 departure on Tuesday 15th September to Great Keppel Island some 55 nautical miles away.
From Great Keppel Island I will sail 28 nautical miles for The Narrows and go through on Thursday. I will only stop at the Gladstone Marina for fuel and water before going on to overnight at Catcombe Head on Facing Island. The next day we will sail 30 nautical miles for Pancake Creek where I will rest for a day before sailing 60 nautical miles to the Port of Bundaberg. There I will have to reprovision before going on through the Great Sandy Strait.