Barracuda's Blog

The adventures of Kate and Graham and their OVNI 395

24 May 2024 | Mourilyan Harbour, Moresby River, Queensland
22 May 2024 | Gayundah Creek, Hinchinbrook Channel, Queensland
22 May 2024 | Gayundah Creek, Hinchinbrook Channel, Queensland
21 May 2024 | Hinchinbrook Channel, Queensland
20 May 2024 | Orpheus Island, Queensland
19 May 2024
19 May 2024 | Magnetic Island, Queensland
17 May 2024 | Shark Bay, Cape Upstart, Queensland
15 May 2024 | Gloucester Passage, Queensland
14 May 2024 | Stonehaven Bay, Hook Island, Whitsundays
12 May 2024 | Tounge Point, Whitsunday Island
12 May 2024 | Tounge Inlet, Whitsundays
09 May 2024 | Gulnare Inlet, Whitsundays, Queensland
08 May 2024 | Hamilton Island, The Whitsundays, Queensland, Australia
05 May 2024 | Thomas Island, Queensland, Australia
03 May 2024 | Middle Percy Island, Queensland, Australia
01 May 2024 | Pearl Bay, Queensland, Australia
30 April 2024 | Great Keppel Island, Queensland, Australia
29 April 2024 | Great Keppel Island, Queensland, Australia
28 April 2024 | Pancake Creek, Queensland, Australia

So, let’s talk about sugar.

24 May 2024 | Mourilyan Harbour, Moresby River, Queensland
Graham Walker
There is nothing like a good night’s sleep, and last night was nothing like a good night’s sleep. We were anchored in the shelter of Dunk Island, but the south easterly swell crept round into the bay and shook us around all night. Hey ho. We were going to stay there for a bit, but left in a huff.

After a fast and bumpy 20 mile reach north, we are now anchored in Mourilyan Harbour, a river inlet which is flat calm. There is a winding estuary with local moorings and piles, bordered by mangroves as far as the eye can see. We will go out and explore later. The dominant feature of the harbour is a large sugar export terminal. We have seen numerous such terminals in our trip up the coast and we are starting to realise what a big export sugar is for Australia. It generates over $2billion in annual export earnings; 95% of the sugar produced in Australia is grown in Queensland, and almost all the fields around Bundaberg were sugar cane. The cost and extent of these facilities is staggering; the terminal at Lucinda, at the entrance to the Hinchinbrook Channel, has a dock that extends 5km out to sea. All is quiet just now, though, as the harvesting season won’t start till July. Sweet!

Our first Croc

22 May 2024 | Gayundah Creek, Hinchinbrook Channel, Queensland
Graham Walker
One of the reasons we wanted to come up the Hinchinbrook Channel, apart from the sheer beauty of the place, is that it has the reputation of being a good place to see crocodiles. We have been scanning the shoreline for the last couple of days looking for them, but to no avail.

Mid-afternoon today, though, we saw a log in the distance and then realised it was moving… Bingo! Our first croc! We flew the drone over the top of it to get this picture – we were a couple of hundred meters away on Barracuda, just in case you think we got too close.

Gayundah Creek - deep in the mangroves

22 May 2024 | Gayundah Creek, Hinchinbrook Channel, Queensland
Graham Walker
After the most peaceful night at anchor, today we drift-sailed downriver about seven miles north to another muddy side-cut on the Hinchinbrook Channel. We sneaked in carefully through the shallows between the sandbanks, till we were out of sight of the main channel and there was just enough room for us to anchor. It is unbelievably peaceful here; we are surrounded by mangroves on mudbanks with patient herons and diving terns, and sheltered from wind and current. Small channels head off through the mangroves, who knows where, and there is a backdrop of mist-capped hills. Today’s picture shows the anchorage. (G is having fun with the drone.)

Hinchinbrook Channel

21 May 2024 | Hinchinbrook Channel, Queensland
Graham Walker
We started out today with a plan to visit the waterfall at Zoe Bay on the west side of Hinchinbrook Island. Our travelling companion Zoe (Into the Blue) was very keen to get there. However, when we got over there it was clear that the anchorage gave no shelter on this lee shore and it was looking horribly rolly, so we abandoned the plan. Our two companion boats headed north round the top of the island to find another anchorage, but we headed south - bashing against the ebb and a headwind - as we knew we could get Barracuda in over the shallows to enter the Hinchinbrook Channel, between the island and the mainland. The entrance, at low water springs, was a bit nervy due to the depths but it was exactly as charted so there was no problem. Ah, the joy of a lifting keel.

Meandering up the channel was a total delight. To the left were sandbanks and mangrove flats, with little creeks and waterways weaving in and out. To the right are the steep, thickly wooded hills of Hinchinbrook Island, fringed with mangroves and thin low-tide beaches. This is serious croc country so we are keenly on the look-out - scanning the shoreline with our binoculars. Lots of sand bars and lots of birds, and a visit from a pair of dolphins, but no crocs yet. As we write we are sitting at anchor in a totally still part of the river, tucked in behind a little island with the cicadas humming and the sun going down. There are splashes in the mangroves, and interesting animal noises. I think we have found our happy place.

Orpheus Island

20 May 2024 | Orpheus Island, Queensland
Graham Walker
Orpheus island is one of a cluster of islands called the Palms, and was named after a naval ship wrecked in New Zealand – sounds a bit random. We made an early start and enjoyed a stunning, fast 40-mile ParaSailor run over here from Magnetic. The island is relatively isolated but is home to a small luxury resort and to the James Cook Research Station, which provides a research facility for academics to come to do clever scientific things with marine science. We managed to get a tour round the facility and heard about the great research that’s being done into corals and how they are adapting to the warming climate. Some years ago, someone established a giant clam farm here and it was fairly successful, so part of the bay is covered in really big clams (up to four feet long), visible at low water. Whatever you do, don’t put your hand into one.

Today's Bonus Photo

19 May 2024
Graham Walker
An unreal sunset.

Magnetic Attraction

19 May 2024 | Magnetic Island, Queensland
Graham Walker
A full day and another 70 miles further up the coast to Magnetic Island. The island got its name when Lt James Cook thought the island was interfering with the ship’s compass on the Endeavour. Studies have since shown this not to be the case; but the name stuck.

Suddenly, we have left behind all the uninhabited remote islands and are in a bit of a buzzy tourist hot spot. People come over here by ferry from Townsville, a city on the Aussie east coast close by. We took the local bus from Horseshoe Bay, the main trade-wind anchorage, for a run round the island. The bus seemed to do every road and alleyway on the island, so we feel we got to know it fairly well. Back home, on the Horseshoe Bay beach there is a stinger net ‘pool’ which protects swimmers from the extremely nasty venomous jelly fish, so it was finally time for a swim in the sea. In high season it must be pretty mobbed here but at the moment it’s comfortable. And it’s an extremely settled, swell-free anchorage.

On our second day here we walked a few kilometres up to the old WWII forts to enjoy some breath-taking views, and saw our first koala in the wild, curled up in a sleepy ball in a gum tree. Tonight’s sundowners were accompanied by one of the most beautiful and unreal sunsets we’ve ever seen. Magnetic Island may not alter the compass needle but it certainly has amazing attraction.

Shark Bay

17 May 2024 | Shark Bay, Cape Upstart, Queensland
Graham Walker
Another great sail north with the wind behind us until we rounded the great lump of Cape Upstart into the tranquillity of Shark Bay. This is quite a remote bay but the shore line has a few ‘baches’ – basic holiday cottages on the shore. There is no road in here; people come and go by boat. We went ashore for a walk along the beach, keeping a close eye out for crocs in the mangrove lagoon at the back of the beach. We met one of the bach owners who told us a bit about the bay. The small shacks are on sites that cost a hundred pounds decades ago, and are now trading for closer to a million Aussie dollars. They stay in families for generations. There had been a pair of crocs in the lagoon but some of the young locals had shot them. They bragged about it on Instagram and were promptly fined A$12,000 each. The bay does have sharks including tigers but the locals all swim and play on the water in the season – no one seems to worry about it. A friend on another boat said he had watched a tiger shark drown a turtle in the bay – he was firmly of the view not to swim here, as if we would be tempted! The clue is in the name.

Leaving the Whitsundays

15 May 2024 | Gloucester Passage, Queensland
Graham Walker
A 25 mile brisk sail brought us back to the mainland at Gloucester Passage today. We have started on our run up to Cairns now and are expecting to arrive there in about 12 days.

Something we have not discussed yet in this series is the tidal issues here in Queensland. They have some quite large tides – generally around 4m (more than we have been used to for a while), and with this comes some strong tidal flows. Mostly we just have to allow for the change in depth when anchoring but on this passage today we needed to time our arrival for slack water in the very narrow channel in Gloucester Passage, otherwise it could get a bit rough. The channel here is very shallow and we were coming in at low water; we calculated we would just get over the sand bank in the middle of the passage, but we wanted the calmest water possible so that we could do this under control. We were standing by to lift our keel up if needed, but it turned out there was just enough depth for us to scrape over. We were rewarded by a very calm and sheltered area to spend the night - but not before we enjoyed the lunchtime facilities at the Gloucester Passage Resort with fellow travellers. By the end of the day there were three boats in our group heading north.

Aboriginal Art and Sand Spits

14 May 2024 | Stonehaven Bay, Hook Island, Whitsundays
Graham Walker
Our next stop on our tour of the Whitsundays was Hook Island, just a step north of Whitsunday Island. First, we wanted to visit an ancient aboriginal site to look at some cave paintings. We headed into the depths of narrow Nara Inlet and found the right spot, dropped anchor close to the shore and climbed up the steep steps to the cave. It was very interesting to see, and it was only afterwards we realised that they have recorded habitation on this site for up to 9,000 years. That is way longer than any archaeological evidence we have in all the sites at Kilmartin Glen back at home. In fact, it got us thinking about the very ancient indigenous inhabitants who seem to barely get a mention here.

Then it was round to the north side of Hook Island to find some shelter for the night. The south easterly trade winds here are pretty relentless at the moment and you need to pick your overnight spot with care. Stonehaven Bay has free public moorings, so we picked up one of these instead of anchoring. We met up with Into the Blue and headed off for a snorkel on the nearby reef. Just as we were about to get in the water a shark appeared. We’ve all swum with sharks before in French Polynesia but this time we were a bit concerned, not knowing our way around Australian sharks, which have a bit of a reputation – so – sharkarama – we decided to stay dry this time.

A bit of an early awakening today, as in a sudden strong squall the (very long) mooring pennant wrapped itself round our keel with a bit of a thump, leaving us side-on to the wind. Luckily it unwrapped itself shortly afterwards. Then our last visit here was a walk on a nearby sand spit that dries out at low tide, this time dodging the extreme rain showers – it never rains but it pours. But at least the rain is warm.
Vessel Name: Barracuda of Islay
Vessel Make/Model: OVNI 395
Crew: Graham and Kate
About: Learning as we go
Extra: One day at a time
Barracuda of Islay's Photos - Main
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Created 10 January 2024
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a pre-retirement holiday
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2 great weeks with Steve and Bibi Rainey.
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Created 18 July 2014
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Barracuda, K & G head south to a new home.
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Created 18 July 2014
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Kate and Graham Chillin'
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