Sunday, 14 May 2017

Episode 58 Mackay to The Keppel Islands

Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures

For Episode 57 we spent a few weeks enjoying The Whitsunday Islands with other cruising yachts before racing to Mackay to ride out Tropical Cyclone Debbie.
Debbie crossed 50nm north of Mackay and the area received the most amount of rain but winds of only around 60% of what they received in Airlie Beach, The Whitsundays and Bowen.
Mackay Marina sustained some damage around where Lorelei was moored but she only received minor scrapes and chaffing.
After being stripped on­ deck, we spent 3 days putting her back together before sailing out of Mackay Marina around 4 days after Cyclone Debbie had crossed the coast.

A white-out with rain and 75 knots of wind about
4 hours before Debbie hit the coast.

Large Cyclonic waves off the Mackay Marina Breakwall

Amazing to think this was Mackay Marina just 28 hours
after Cyclone Debbie crossed the coast.

Our location for this episode

Our route for this episode

We sailed from Mackay to Burning Point at Shaw Island on the 2nd April and arrived after dark at 8pm.
In a way we were a little shocked to think that just 5 days prior Lorelei was riding out a Cyclone, and yet 5 days later we were sailing again with just very minor damage.
We felt we came through a lot better than virtually every other cruising boat we know of that was in the general area.
If we’ve said it one, we’ve said it a 100 times – we love our big strong steel boat….

Burning Point has a very protected anchorage in the SE trade winds which was just as well as for the next 3 days it was a strong wind warning with 25-30 knot SE winds.
So we hunkered down for 2 days and continued the post Debbie tidy/fix up.

The next passage was from Burning Point up to Airlie Beach.
It was a super-fast trip with strong following winds and 2-3 knots of current.
Lorelei did the 35nm passage in just 3.5 hours, which for us is flying.

As we sailed past the islands we noticed they were stripped of much of the vegetation.
It was very, very sad to see.

Airlie Beach was like a ghost town – particularly on the water as nearly all of the moorings out the front of the yacht club we either vacant or gone altogether.

The yacht club itself didn’t fare too well.
The floating dingy dock was now in a crumpled mess in the corner of the small harbour.

The once clean and green grassy sailing rigging lawn was now covered with dirt, rock and debris. The grass that did remain was burnt from the wind and salt.

Many of the boats in the club grounds sustained a lot of damage.

For us, the saddest of all was one of the smallest boats – a 19ft Prindle cat that used to race against the much bigger boats every Wednesday arvo by a father and son team who had great pride in their modest little cat.
Sadly it was very badly damaged and was probably a write-off.

Even the sailing club building had damage and there was a large pile of the torn up water damaged carpet.

There were bobcats and heavy machinery already cleaning up the mess around the club grounds.

The town was shocking to see.
The foreshore area used to be such a dense leafy place but now it was stripped of most vegetation and you could clearly see from one side of the beach to the other.

There were 3 yachts that were stranded high and dry a long way up the beach or on the rocky headland.

It was interesting to see the hedges along the towns’ foreshore had the front sections burnt from the sand blasting and salt spray.

The sand around the seat gives you an idea how high up the
storm surge came to the town.

Most businesses were either still closed or had portable generators out the front to power lights and the cash register systems.
It was really depressing, so we quickly got our parcels from the post office, did a final fresh food reprovision from Woolies and got out of there.

With the strong winds still in effect, we couldn’t head south so we hunkered down in the islands.

Most of the islands were in a terrible state and were stripped of most leafy vegetation.

We wanted to find a kiting location for Paul but the 2 best locations were destroyed.
Langford Island used to have a fantastic sand spit to launch off but sadly the sand had all disappeared and now it was a rocky, inhospitable mess that was impossible to launch a kite from.

One upside from all the rain was the island’s valleys had loads of new waterfalls where there were once only trickles.

Kayaking in over the shallow sand flats proved to be the best way to access the shore.

Strong water flow had pushed a lot of the debris and tree foliage down to the lower areas and it was in some spots very thick and rotting.

Some of the falls were small and easy to access, whilst others were running really quickly but difficult to climb.

However the harder to access waterfalls seemed to miss the brunt of the winds and there were still lots of healthy trees around them in the valleys.

Swimming in the different pools was a welcome reward but we had to be very careful of undercurrents in the bigger pools pushing water down though subterranean rock systems.

We finished the day watching the sun’s rays peeking through the clouds as we launched the kayaks and paddled home.

On our last afternoon at Stonehaven, the sun came out, the wind backed a little and the bay filled with holiday makers enjoying the first day of the Easter school holidays.

We celebrated with a BBQ before watching a great sunset.

The full moon rose over the island’s stripped and brown peaks and it looked more like a photo from The Rocky Mountains than from a tropical island.

Despite the wind backing off a little, it was still forecasted at 15-20 knots from the SE and that was the direction we wanted to go.
We simply didn’t want to stay for another 2 weeks waiting for northerly winds (if they were ever going to come) so we decided to start sailing south and tack into the wind for 6 hours every day with the current assistance.

The favourable tides were from 4am to 10am for the first day so we left at 5am and punched south from Stone Haven (at the top of the Whitsunday Islands) to Cid Harbour at the bottom.
The early morning run also meant the wind was a little less before it kicked in for the afternoon.

We were on collision course with a Tug Boat and we called them up on the radio.
Our friend Anthony from Liquid Desire heard the call and was not far away so we arranged to meet up with him one final time that arvo.

Kerry and Sue from the cat Billaroo also turned up unexpectantly that afternoon.
They were the couple that rescued us in Mackay when we were evacuated during Cyclone Debbie and kindly housed and fed us for 5 days during the storm.

In the afternoon we went for a walk with them up to a swimming hole that they knew of.
It also had a great waterfall with all the rain.

That night we all met for drinks on Anthony’s boat.
He had his boat at Able Point Marina (Airlie Beach) for the cyclone and the stories, photos and videos he took were scary.
We sat around his large TV watching them with mouths agape….

We wanted to leave at 4:30am the next morning but we woke to 20-25 knots and decided we weren’t going to punch into that as we decided days ago when planning the trip that 15-20 knots was a reasonable maximum limit when tacking into it.

For 3 days we sat and waited for the wind and swell to subside enough to sail south.
Paul was so frustrated!!
It was windy enough to kite but there was nowhere to launch, it was windy enough to sail but the direction was wrong and the swell was up but there was nowhere to surf.  Arrggghhh!!!!!

So instead, in-between rain squalls, he set to work and did every little job that needed doing on board and polished all the exterior stainless steel from bow to stern. Lisa also helped with the polishing which got the job finished a lot quicker.

Easter rolled around and the boats started to arrive in Cid Harbour.
There were nearly 30 private and charter boats spread throughout the bay.
That many boats meant lots of antics.
Kids having fun jumping off charter cats for hours on end, young groups getting exceedingly drunk on rent-a-yachts, boats dragging anchors (both private and charter…) during squalls and all sorts of watercraft buzzing around.

We stayed on board and Lisa made some yummy Hot Cross Buns on Easter Friday.

Easter Saturday we woke to find a change in the weather forecast and it had backed off enough for us to get going south.
We surmised the hardest part was to get past the wind magnet that is Hamilton Island and get as far south as we could.

So we quickly packed up and took off at 7am.
We tacked down the Whitsunday passage and found we were off Shaw Island before noon so we excitedly pushed on further.
The wind slowly abated and we were able to remove the reefs in the sails and spent the afternoon tacking south with all sails up.

We dodged and weaved past many smaller islands, sometimes going very close to the shoreline.

We were so happy to arrive at the Goldsmith Islands at 5pm and just before a storm passed over. We had sailed door to door covering 62nm.
The post storm clouds in the calm anchorage made for great late arvo and sunset photos.

With high hopes we sailed out again at 7am on Easter Sunday.
It was much bumpier as we sailed east into the east swell and SE wind.

We tacked over to head south hoping for a better run with the swell off our side and the current behind us (as was the situation the day before).
Slowly the wind increased and soon we had our hands full with Lorelei powered up to the limit, heeling over so the toe-rail was constantly in the water and she was slamming into large waves at speed forcing large amounts of water right over the boat.
It was not fun!!!
It was made worse by texts coming in from family and friends enjoying Easter morning with kids munching on chocolate and having a nice time.
Meanwhile Paul was struggling to keep his bland breakfast down…!!!

By 11am it was ugly so we aborted any attempt to sail further south and sailed towards Brampton Island.

Thankfully we did as on the way into the Island, we were hit with a 30+knot storm that had us bearing away and easing sails as quick as we could.

The conditions were much nicer once we sailed into the lee of Carlisle Island which adjoins Brampton Island by a shallow sand spit.

We were so happy to be anchored up by 1pm and we decided on Carlisle Island instead of the nearby Brampton Island anchorage which had a few boats already there.

Feeling better after a feed and a rest, we put the kayaks in and for the afternoon explored the foreshore of Carlisle Island.

The island had a lot of minor cyclone damage with erosion to sand beaches, fallen trees and in the most exposed areas, coarse coral beaches were now completely gone with only rocky foreshores remaining.

It blew all night and despite checking numerous weather websites for some hope of a favourable forecast, it was not to be with reports of high winds, increasing swell and rain. And it was supposed to be like that for 5-7 days!!!

Whilst we were on the Island, we had a look at the shallow passage between Carlisle and Brampton Island and the wind was funnelling through.
It appeared to be suitable for kiteboarding. We had to wait a full day as it rained and rained and was too bumpy in the anchorage to attempt to put the tinny in.

Despite it raining again the next morning, it appeared to be clearing in the arvo so we moved anchorages and put Lorelei in the more protected anchorage at Brampton Island in the hope that we could finally launch the Tinny at low tide.
In the arvo, we braved it and went ashore for Paul to kite the pass.
He took a 10m kite for a run but it was very gusty with 25 knots one minute and 10 knots the next making it difficult.
He managed 2 x 30 minute sessions.

We did a second walk around the side of Carlisle Island that faces the resort and passage the next day.
Once again, we took the kayaks in instead of the tinny as they were much easier to launch.

All the sand that had been stripped from the beaches where we had been 2 days prior, had piled up into the island’s camping and picnic area near the sand spit.
We didn’t realise it was the picnic area until we found one of the picnic tables – or just the top of it poking out through the sand.

Nearby was a National Park sign – upside down!!

There was a second sign but it was in a water course and all but destroyed.

One of the most iconic things on Brampton/Carlisle are the Blue Tiger Butterflies.
They are most prevalent in May & June but we found lots despite it being mid-April.

On the way home we stopped on Brampton Island and had a look for the start of the National park walking trails. We found a sign and the starting point so we decided to return the next day and do the walk to the peak.

It turned into a terrible night and next morning with rain, wind to 30 knots (Hamilton Island further north had gusts to 40 knots!!) and it was very bumpy and rolly.
So we had no choice but to abort and wait for finer weather.

There were some breaks during the day where the sun came out and brought rainbows with it.

One day of waiting for the rain to clear turned into 2 and the frustration grew.
It was even too rough on-board to do anything other than sit or lie down and watch movies or read. Once again Paul was climbing the walls in frustration.
On the low tide it calmed off a bit so he got into the galley and made enough Sushi to fill us up for 2 days.

The next day we braved it and went ashore to do the Brampton Island Peak Walk.
Once again it was too rough for the tinny so we packed 2 dry bags and took the kayaks.
It also meant we could carry them well up above the high tide mark and not have to worry about them for the day.

First we walked along the water’s edge and had a look at the old train tracks that used to link the wharf to the resort.
Since the resort had closed, the tracks have been subjected to a series of cyclones and they are now a twisted mess over an extended rocky area that’s now part of the foreshore.

The train bridge over a water course is about the most intact part of the old rail line.

We started up the 3.8km peak track and it was nothing like the groomed trail it used to be.
The track was not only well overgrown, but there were now 100’s of fallen trees down over it from the cyclone.
Lisa described it as an advanced obstacle course rather than a groomed QLD National Parks Trail.

On the way we saw lots of Butterflies and even a few different species mating.

The walk took as around the side of the island and past the resorts small airstrip and narrow passage between Brampton and Carlisle Islands.

About half way up Paul stopped to take some flower photos.
Lisa was looking around when behind her she spotted a Koala in the trees.
The Island is known to have a small but healthy population of Koalas but it was unknown how they fared during the cyclone.
So it was nice to see one that appeared healthy and happy.

We reached the first of the peaks 2 lookouts 4 hours after we started.
Considering the recommended time for the walk is 3.5 hours return, it was slow and tough going with all the debris.

We were a little concerned because we were really stuffed when we got there and we still had to get back down!!

The first lookout was a little worse for wear with some big splits in the timber posts and even some sheared off pieces.

The view looking west back over the mainland was a little hazy but pretty good.

We ventured over to the other viewing platform that faced east which gave us a fantastic view over the old resort, the channel, Carlisle Island and beyond.
It was much clearer.

We took 30 minutes on the peak to rest, eat and rehydrate before tackling the hike back down.
We arrived at the bottom at 5pm and nearly 8 hours after we started.
It roughly equated to 1km per hour which is pretty slow going.

That night we were unusually stuffed with badly cramping muscles which woke Lisa up a few times.
At about 1am she got a searing cramp right down her leg.
She woke up and rolled out of bed really quickly smashing her head on the stainless pole that is the Mizzen mast compression post.
She was screaming in pain (which she never does….) and Paul thought she’d split her head open but it was the combined pain of the throbbing head and severe leg cramp that had Lisa in tears.
We had a laugh about it the next morning but it wasn’t funny at the time……

We spent two more days hunkered down as it rained and blew 20 knots+ before we had a chance to leave.

Finally on Anzac Day (April 25th) we were able to leave and attempt to get further south.

We watched the sunrise over the tip of island as we motored out of the bay.
We had our own little dawn service and to reflect on Paul’s late grandad Hugh who was a POW during WW2.

It was still choppy, bumpy and a little stormy so we didn’t get very far and after a whole day of sailing whilst tacking into SE winds, we had only made about 30nm in the SE direction.
We had thought about going overnight but with the seas, storms, wind, spring tides (affecting currents) and no moon, we decided against it.

So instead we pulled into the most secure (and one of the most beautiful) anchorages in the area, Scawfell Island.

Despite arriving at 4:30pm, we quickly dropped the kayaks in and had a walk along the beach.

After seeing so many Bush Stone Curlews in the Whitsundays, it was nice to see a few Beach Stone Curlew’s running around on the sand.

We sat on a rock and had a drink on Sunset to finish off Anzac Day.

As we walked back to the kayaks (which were starting to float as the water quickly rushed in on the 6m tidal range) the post sunset colours just got better and better.

The next morning was an early 4am start to take advantage of the tides and currents.
With light and variable winds forecast for the day, we would have to motor to the next destination.
We chose a location that could be reached in just 1 six hour tide session.
Any longer and the tide would turn against us which wouldn’t be economical.
So we took off for a 50nm run and hoped the current assistance would get us there in time.

The sunrise was great whilst underway and the sun rose as we were passing an island.

At 8am Lorelei motored past the “Tanker Parking Lot” for the Coal ships waiting to load at the Hay Point Coal Loader Terminal.
The rail line linking the mines coal storage area to the loader was damaged during Cyclone Debbie so whilst it was being repaired, the coal ships were continuing to arrive and the parking lot was filling up quickly.

We counted 37 coal ships waiting on anchor in the lot.
Our computer screen was filled with the ships AIS transmissions.

We thought the name of this ship was funny – “Four Coal”

We continued to motor all day and finally arrived at Middle Percy Island right on the turn of the tide at 4pm.

Like the day before, we put the kayaks in and went ashore to explore.
On the beach at West Bay is a structure called the Percy Hilton which is home to years’ worth of yachtie memorabilia.

Hundreds of cruising boats have put lots of different things with their boats name on them for over 2 decades.
They range from carved coconuts, shirts, floatsam with names written on it right up to timber plaques that have been specially made for the hut.

We’ve been there 4 times now and one new thing we noticed was a large totem pole style carving out the front that had been professionally made.

The Percy Island’s private lease has been under controversy for over 15 years since long term lease holder Andy Martin died
Sadly the condition of the island seems to have deteriorated.

National parks want to take back the lease and get it under control.
They also want to remove the A-Frame hut with all the memorabilia.
This has come under much criticism from the coastal cruising yachtie community who want the A-Frame to remain.

But on a brighter note….. The sunsets from West Bay are awesome.

That afternoon the wind was supposed to swing around to the N-NW at 10-15 knots for the evening and early next morning.
If it came in before we arrived at Middle Percy, we weren’t going to stop and continue sailing overnight.
However by 7pm we surmised it wasn’t coming so we had dinner and went to bed.
At 12:30am it finally did arrive so we left the bay and set sail south towards Hexham Island and the mainland.

The N-NW winds were supposed to be replaced by a southerly front that was due to hit early morning at around 15-25 knots.
It was a game to see how far south we could sail before it hit and we had to stop.

We sailed through the dark night under a clear sky with lots of stars to Hexham Island for the first leg.
Then we could decide whether to keep going or to stop.

We arrived at daybreak to overcast conditions, rain, dropping wind and a tide turning against us, so we stopped in a small bay on the north side of Hexham Island to wait for clearer weather and the tide to turn in 6 hours.
Paul climbed into a very rocky crow’s nest to take photos of the bay at sunrise.

As we waited we had lots of little Welcome Swallows flying around Lorelei.
They were landing on the life-lines and even flying through the hatches and around inside Lorelei.

We left at 11am to transit 12nm south to the mainland and then hopefully a further 25nm to Pearl Bay which was about 45nm north of Yeppoon, The Keppel Islands and Roslyn Bay Marina – our ultimate destination to meet friends and head out to The Swains Reefs.

The NW-N winds were gone and the southerly had started to fill in but it was only light at around 6-10 knots.
We were about ¾ of the way across to the mainland when the southerly really started to intensify. We had current assistance and were still travelling at around 5 knots but the wind against tide scenario meant rough seas.
We had 4 hours to go so we decided to keep going.

Not 20 minutes had passed and it got really ugly with gusts over 30 knots, wind generated waves crashing over the boat and really messy conditions forcing the speed down to under 4 knots.
We had no choice but to abort, so we turned, put out a bit of headsail and travelled 6nm to a small bay called Supply Bay which is at the top of Cape Townshend.

It was super ugly by the time we arrived so we were happy to be in and safe – just a bit disappointed that once again we were stuck hunkering down and unable to continue further south for a few days at least.
It was becoming a habit…..!!

Supply Bay is within the Shoalwater Bay military exercise area and fortunately the 2 month long exercises with the Singapore Military were finishing that day.

However the land we were anchored next to is a bombing range and going ashore is strictly prohibited.

That night it went really weird as the wind intensified further, the clouds were super low & very black and the temperature plummeted.
It dropped by over 15 degrees to under 12 degrees C and by dark we were in long pants, jumpers, socks and beanies.
We even slept under doonas which is the first time we’ve used them for years.

The sunset was amazing but a little scary.

That night we were on full alert with basically all systems operating like we were sailing overnight. We had all electronics on and alarms set for various things.
We were up and down a lot during the night checking everything was ok as it was so rough and blowing so hard.
It wasn’t gusty like the Whitsunday’s – just very strong cold and constant wind.

One thing we noticed were the poor little Welcome Swallows.
They were all huddled on the rails and looked like little balls of fluff.
Despite how close we went to them, they weren’t moving….
Conditions were so much better in our cockpit and we wished we could have put them inside there for the evening.

We rolled around for a second day and with the wind against tide it wasn’t pleasant.
It was hard enough to walk around inside let alone cook, clean and do any jobs.
Frustratingly, all we could do was relax, read and watch movies.

Paul wanted to leave on the high tide at 2am but Lisa said it still would be too rough so we didn’t go.
Additionally it was pitch black with no moon and overcast skies which wasn’t appealing.
Sure enough by daybreak it was very rough outside as we looked through the binoculars (and Lisa was saying “I told you so….”).
At 1pm we tried again but now it was too windy so we sat out another rolly night!!!

Another yacht turned up that arvo. It was a 40ft fibreglass production boat and they were really getting tossed around.
At least the sunset that night looked a lot better.

Finally on day 3 we left at 5am half-way through the run out tide – with Lisa still saying it was going to be too rough.
The forecast was for a 2 day drop in the weather before it picked back up again to yet another strong wind warning.

Reality was nothing like the prediction and it was much rougher (as Lisa had said….).
We had a very, very rough motor 14nm south as we tried to get to a more protected location.
There was green water all over the deck, some of which had leaked in through an unsealed V-berth hatch. We had to pull a lot of stuff out including the carpets and wash and dry it out over the next 2 days.

With the violent rolling, things were going in all directions downstairs with books, desk fans and kitchen appliances (that normally would never move) ending up on the floor.
We had to be careful opening cupboards as they were a jumbled mess.

There were people on the radio from boats around the Yepoon/Great Keppel Islands area that were swearing and cursing about the wrong forecast and horrible conditions.
Even the marine rescue boat had to save 5 people from a boat that was in trouble.

 So once again we changed our destination from Pearl Bay to the more secure Island Head Creek.
The problem was we would arrived at the Creek entrance at dead low tide which meant the possibility of running aground on the shallow sand bars at the entrance.
The best time to enter for a yacht is towards the top of the tide – not the bottom.

So with that in mind we stopped at a little sandy beach inside Pine Tree Point and waited (and rolled) for 4 hours for the tide to rise.

Paul put a kayak in and went ashore to have a look at the beach.
On the headland was a small inlet with a large sea cave that went a long way into the cliff face.

The beach is rarely visited as it’s a calm weather location only.
The cruising guide says you could land and airliner on the beach as it’s so long, hard and dead flat.

With the low tide, there were lots of areas along the beach with sheens of water over them which made for great reflection photos.

At one end was a rocky headland overlooking the beach.

At 11am we took off for the mouth of Island Head Creek.
Despite being only 4nm away, it took 90 minutes to bash into the swell, wind and current to get there.
The Island at the entrance (hence the creek’s name) looks fantastic with its towering cliff faces and crystal like spires of rock projecting out from each end.

The deepest part of the shallow channel runs right along the side of the island and some other exposed rocks.
Motoring in was very rough being so close to the rocks and getting all the bounce back of the swell from the rock faces.
If there was ever a time we needed a reliable engine – this was it!!

We motored over half way into the creek system where it was smaller, closer to the fishing/crabbing spots and a bit more protected from the wind and chop.
With the big tides, at high tide we looked a long way from shore but at low tide the sand bars were all exposed and we were anchored quite close to them.

We were so thankful to be in safe and anchored! After weeks of rolling around in terrible seas and rolly anchorages it was fantastic to be somewhere safe and flat.
However it came at a cost…
For that first afternoon we could barely stand up.
Even the slightest movement of the boat and our bodies would over-compensate and nearly fall over.
We were bumping into everything and Lisa was even a little sick.
Even sitting at the table, our bodies were still automatically rocking side to side in dead flat conditions. It was terrible!!

So in the end we went to bed.
Paul was so tired anyway after having slept only about 4 hours each night for the past 4 nights that he slept for 15 hours.

We woke the next morning to calm conditions with an awesome sunrise.
It was the calm before the storm….

The dramas continued the next morning when Lisa decided to start tackling the huge pile of clothes washing after not being somewhere flat enough for the washing machine to work for ages.

After the spin cycle on the first load, water started pouring out of the bottom of the machine flooding the laundry.
Fortunately it was only a badly chaffed and split hose (probably from all the violent tossing about) and Paul was able to fix it relatively quickly. The cleaning up and drying out however took a little longer…..

That arvo we dropped the tinny in for the first time in weeks and went and explored further up the creek system on the high tide.
It was much bigger than we thought and we found lots of places to put in crab pots and possibly have a fish.
There weren’t too many areas to go ashore but we found a small island
mid-stream and were able to stretch our legs.

On the low tide the following morning we took a nipper pump over to the sand/mud flats to look for yabbies as bait to catch whiting.
The last time we were here we caught many whiting so we wanted to try again as they taste excellent.

We spent over 90 minutes searching many sand bars for nipper holes and did a few exploratory pumps but we didn’t find any nippers.

We walked a long way up a sandy offshoot arm where we knew we got them last time.
There were loads of Soldier Crabs that were so thick across the sand we couldn’t walk through them.

We had almost given up when we found stacks of holes and 40 minutes of frantic nipper pumping later, we had enough of them in the bucket.

So we started fishing the gutters by walking the sandbanks and casting from the edge.
Within an hour we had more than enough Whiting for a great feed.

Not all the Whiting were keepers….
Lisa with a small one she was about to put back

In the afternoon we had a troll around the rocky headlands at the creek’s Entrance.
Lisa caught an Estuary Cod but it soon got really windy so we aborted and went back to Lorelei.

With the weather deteriorating even further, we moved further up the creek to a side arm that was more protected from the wind and chop.
There was another cruising boat anchored there as well – a 40ft Leopard Cat called EverRest owned by a fantastic couple Titch and Bev.

Over the next 2 days we went crabbing and socialised with Titch and Bev in the evenings.

The crabbing was not so successful.
We tried a few small mangrove tributaries but all we caught were loads of very small Mud Crabs.
Then we noticed pink ribbons tied at the entrance to each inlet and figured the pro-crabbers had recently been here and cleaned the placed out of any decent size crabs.
So we moved our crab pots to another location that was very tight to get into and figured we might have a better chance of success.

Still the crabbing was poor but the one that we did get was huge!!!

There was a small drop in the wind for just one day and we were invited onto Ever Rest for the day to do a little run down to the Island Head Creek Entrance, have a swim and a look around before coming back late in the arvo.

We jumped on-board to find Bev pulling Blueberry Muffins out of the oven.

The motor down to the mouth was fast as it was with the wind and current.

It was shallow at the mouth but Titch managed to weave the cat into a small passage between a few rock islands and a large exposed sand bar and anchor up successfully.

We all went ashore and had a walk and swim – which was a little cold.
Conditions didn’t look too bad until we saw a 60ft Nordhavn Power Cruiser (which are one of the best long range motor cruisers on the market) coming around the Island and it was being tossed around quite a lot in the big swell and wind.

On the way home Bev made hot cuppas and nachos which warmed us all back up.

The sun was just setting as we anchored back up next to Lorelei.

It was a great day out for all of us gave us something different to do whilst riding out the rough and windy weather in a creek.
We are very critical of catamaran designs and layouts, particularly for offshore cruising but we thought Titch and Bev’s 40ft Leopard was excellent and probably the best 40ft coastal cruising cat we’ve ever seen. It’s no surprise it won so many awards when it was released about 12 years ago.
It’s the second Leopard we’ve thought was great as our friends Grant and Glynnis (that we met in The Kimberley) have an awesome 48ft power cat that we thought was the perfect alternative to a sailing vessel.

The next day started out cold and rainy but by mid-morning it had cleared to a sunny day.
So all 4 of us jumped in our Tinny and went down to the sand bars at the creek entrance for the day.

As crazy as it sounds in a muddy mangrove creek with potential for Crocodiles, we worked out that the inlet would be awesome for kite boarding on the low tide. There was miles of room to launch the kite on the hard-packed sandbars. The wind was funnelling down the inlet meaning it was a perfect cross shore wind. It was also consistent, not gusty or too choppy and overall very good conditions.
At first it was a little hard to work upwind with the run out wind and tide but as the tide turned and started running in, it became really easy to get upwind, meaning you could do loads of tricks running downwind before easy heading back upwind on the return leg.

It turned out to be one of the best places to kite we’ve found since coming down from the tip of Australia.
Having said that, Paul’s probably the only person to have ever kited there as it’s so remote, most cruisers (who are basically the only people to visit the area) don’t kite and are so paranoid of Crocodiles in these sorts of areas that they barely put their big toes in, let alone kite across the passage.

While Paul was having an awesome time kiting, Lisa, Titch and Bev walked up a side inlet looking for Nippers to pump so we could fish for Whiting in the afternoon.
Titch and Bev have never pumped Nippers before so it was a novel thing to do for them. They did however get lots of them and when they returned, Paul packed away the kite gear and we all had a fish along the sand bar as the tide flooded in.

It was a slow start but Bev hooked the first fish – a Threadfin Salmon which was unexpected but had us all a bit excited.

The fishing got better towards sunset but it also got colder and started to rain just after the sun had set.

So we packed up and headed home with only about half the Whiting we expected to get. We were cold, tired and a little wet but all happy that we’d filled in yet another day with fun stuff despite being “stuck up a creek in a strong wind warning and huge seas”.

For the next 2 days it blew and rained and blew.
We were checking weather observations on the net every few hours and it was gusting up to 50 knots out at the reef and up to 45 knots on the island just off the coast.
We were sooo glad to be right up in the creek and well protected.
It was also very cold and we spent the days in long pants, jumpers and socks.

It must have been bad outside because even the large fishing charter boats that usually work out at the reefs were hunkered down and anchored up next to us.
We felt sorry for their guests on board who would have been disappointed and frustrated.

When the weather fined up again we picked up Titch and Bev and went down to the sandbars at the mouth for a walk and for Paul to have a kite.

This time Paul started on a small sandbar and kited downwind to the creek entrance.

The wind wasn’t quite as strong as the first kiting session a few days prior and it was a little inconsistent making for a bit of a start-stop for the first 30 minutes.
Lisa stayed close with the Tinny just in case until the wind picked up.

Kiting along the edge of the entrance sandbar was a hoot with the windier conditions.
It was super shallow and a blast to be only a meter or 2 from the dry sandbank.

The tinny anchored on the shore edge made for a lot of close shaves.

Playing in the shallows at high speed is always fraught with danger and more than once the water sucked off the sandbar bringing the board to a screaming halt and Paul still being pulled forward….

The session came to an abrupt end when Paul had a big stack (which was caught on camera) and the kite smashed into the water and an air hose came off the main bladder and deflated the kite.

The stack that ended the session…..

He had to ditch the kite & board, swim ashore and go and get the tinny to retrieve them.
Fortunately it was only a small cable tie that broke and he was able to put a new one on and re-pump the kite up to dry it out and test it for leaks.
It was all good and is ready to go for the next crazy session –
Wherever that will be….

That night we had a combined dinner on-board EverRest.
Lisa and Bev pooled ingredients for Bev to make a chicken curry and Lisa made the dessert.
It was cold but the wind had backed off and it was a nice time around sunset.

It was a great night but we were all stuffed and falling asleep by 9:30pm.

We rode out another 2 days of rain & wind and some pretty miserable and cold conditions.

Finally we had a break in the wind & swell and were able to set sail again.
EverRest left on Sat 13th May and headed north while we left the next day on Mother’s Day, Sunday 14th May to head south.

We had a late start as we had to cross the shallow bar entrance to exit Island Head Creek on the high tide at 10am.
With the winds more from the south in the morning, we sailed out towards the reef and tacked back over to sail south as the winds came from the east in the afternoon.
By sunset the wind was slowly dropping but we ghosted along nicely and watch the sunset over the mainland.

We arrived at Great Keppel Island at 11:30pm.
 It was a full moon which made anchoring easy amongst the other cruising yachts in the bay.

Despite only minimal sleep, Paul woke early for a few sunrise shots at Great Keppel Island to finish off this blog posting.

So that’s it for another Episode.
In our entire 6 years of travel, the last 6 weeks have probably been the most frustrating with strong wind warning after gale warning after strong wind warning – and all from the SE which is the direction we were trying to head.
On top of that there has been multiple swell directions with most days of E-NE and also E-SE meaning most of the islands SE trade anchorages where rolly and uncomfortable.
That combined with big seas (some from Cyclone Donna) and well below average cold temperatures have made it a pretty miserable time in the QLD Central Coast.
And to think we were going to meet up with other cruising boats and try to spend most of this Episode out on The Great Barrier Reef.
That was wishful thinking – we didn’t get anywhere near the place and for the most part were hunkered down waiting and hoping.
Sadly it never came……

Oh well that’s cruising.
Hopefully the next Episode will be a more adventurous and up-beat read for you.

Cheers for now
Paul and Lisa Hogger.
Yacht Lorelei

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