Past the Biggest Sand Island In the World

With a new crew member on board, we were keen to get an early start and make our way down the 40nm strait that runs between the mainland and Fraser Island, the biggest sand island going. The strait twists and turns through a myriad of channels getting down to 3m at times (and that was with a 1.5m tide) – I wouldn’t like to attempt this at low tide. We’d timed the tides right and got a knot and a half of current right through the whole way. We started on a flood tide pushing us south into the channel and finished with an ebb tide sucking us out – got to love that.

Along the way we passed Kingfisher Resort, which has a nice anchorage out the front, but didn’t stop. Our destination was Pelican Bay down the bottom of the strait, which set us up quite well to get out over wide bay bar the next day.

After a lovely day motoring on flat water, with a bit of a sail at the end, we dropped anchor in Pelican Bay and took the dingy around to the beach at Inskip Point. We had a lovely long walk along the beach, taking a couple of hours to get back to the dingy. Along the way we past the car ferry that runs across to the bottom of Fraser Island and lots of keen fishermen trying their luck off the beach. There’s a huge camping ground running just behind the beach for ages, and lots of 4WDs driving along a lovely wide beach. There were a few people swimming and Phil and I jumped in and had a swim on the way back.

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Hervey Bay

With 72nm to go to Hervey Bay, we were up early. As predicted, pulling 100m of anchor from 20m down below was not fun, but in the end we managed to get it up and off we went.

It turned out to be a lovely motor sail across a flat ocean. We were out of sight of land for most of the way until we sighted the top of Fraser Island off our port side. Cas, in her smokers position on the side of the boat took the prize for seeing the most wide life, including a rather large shark with a freshly caught something in its mouth. Cas was just impressed that the “something” wasn’t her arm as it dangled over the side of the boat.

As we got closer to Urangan, where the marina was, it progressively got shallower, until we got to the sand banks where we needed to follow the channel down to  Urangan. Along the way we passed a couple of Army landing craft with some trucks on board.

Safely tucked up in the marina next to a helpful live aboard couple with two cute dogs on board, we headed up for a meal at the Café at the marina to celebrate a great week of cruising with Kim, Jane and Cas. All three were hopping on planes to head off home. As Cas left, Phil rocked up to take their place. After some shopping and a good nights sleep we were off through Sandy Straits.

The Other Woman

After leaving Lady Musgrave Island, we headed off to The other lady – Lady Elliot. Although not the best anchorage in the world, it got us 20nm closer to Hervey Bay, which we needed to do so we could make it the next day. AND it had a BAR!!! Something required to complete Kim’s island hopping experience.

The sail around the back of Lady Musgrave was spectacular – watching the waves crash across the reef and into the lagoon. It didn’t take us long to cover the 21nm to Lady Elliot and we were soon ready to anchor. Allan Lucas’ cruising guide is a bit out of date as you can no longer anchor in 7m of water as this is now a no anchor zone. We eventually found somewhere out a bit in 20m of water and down the anchor went. It kept going down and down as the anchor windlass completely gave up the ghost and dropped the whole 100m of chain. Pulling that up manually from 20m down was going to be fun.

Very safely anchored up, we headed for shore over reefs with colorful parrot fish feeding in the shallows. We had to walk to the other side of the island to find the resort (and the bar) through hundreds and hundreds of nesting birds, whizzing round our heads as they collected nesting material. It seemed that a leave was a highly valued piece of building material way out here.

Just before the resort we had to cross the airfield, which was a combination of grass and coral – it’s got to be the first airfield ever that I’ve seen with the sprinklers on being watered.

After calling in at reception, we made our way to one of the most scenic bars you could ever imagine. It looked out over the beach and the coral reef, which was beautifully colored by the setting sun. The resort itself looked wonderfully relaxed, a combination of divers, families and quite a few of the younger crowd.

And then there were the seabirds nesting everywhere. The resort had put out cones in places to stop people walking over nests that were right in the middle of a path. There were quite a few chicks around – some wandering around looking lost.

After having our drink and watching the sun go down, we had a quick walk along the beach to see the full moon come up and then back to our rather rolly anchorage for the night.

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Seems Like The Loveliest Marina in the World

After having a quick look around Middle Percy, we took off, heading towards a military exercise in Shoalwater. Luckily the bays were still open in the Military Training Area and we made our way towards Island Head Creek. We made good progress in light ENE winds and half way through the morning decided we would go further down the coast and anchor up at Pearl Bay. It turned out to be a lovely choice, wedged between an island and a bay. Alan Lucas’ bible describes it as one of the prettiest anchorages along the Queensland coast and it certainly lived up to its description.

We anchored with two other yachts and had an interesting afternoon and early morning watching fish jump all around us.

Next morning it was up early again and off to Rosslyn Bay. Again a lovely sail with lots of fish jumping around the boat. The scenery just kept getting better with the KeppelIslands appearing on one side and the mainland mountains on the other. The marina itself is set against a beautiful volcanic plug (very Cape Town-ish). After we negotiated our way past a dredge doing its stuff in the marina entrance, we quickly found our berth and tied up. The marina staff here were so helpful – there’s even a courtesy car you can borrow for a couple of hours.

That night, we had a lovely dinner sitting outside at the Restuarant at the marina to celebrate the two of us making it all the way from Cairns to Rosslyn Bay – we are definitely a cruising couple now!!!

Next day, Kim and Jane flew in and after a shop and a fuel stop it was off to Great Keppel Island.

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Weaving in and out of Yellow Sands

After an early morning stroll and swim around the Great Keppel beachfront (including a visit to the coffee shop), we pulled anchor and headed south.

And when I say “pulled anchor”, I literally mean pulled anchor as our anchor windlass was playing silly buggers. It had started slipping at the whitsundays and now it didn’t have enough grunt to pull the anchor up. We took it apart and cleaned it up thinking it may be the clutch, but over time it got worse until it stopped working all together. The motor wurrrr’ed away but the shaft refused to turn. We will get it replaced/fixed in Brisbane.

We found ourselves running a bit early for a reasonable tide at yellow sands, so we decided to stop off for some lunch at Hummocky Island, which was about half way.

We phoned Gladstone VMR and they kindly gave us some waypoints (5 in all) into Yellow Sands, which is a shallow tricky entrance. We weaved out way around the sand banks, getting down to less than 2m under us at one stage, and made it in.

We first anchored in the deeper water, around from the impressive yellow sand dunes that tumble straight into the water, but a combination of the sand flies and another boat that was too close, drove us to seek an anchorage just the other side of the dunes. We worked out that we had just enough water, give or take a millimeter or two, and were prepared to touch bottom at low tide if it so happened (which it didn’t).

Anchored up, we hoped in the dingy for a short ride across to the dunes. Hoping out of the dingy we ended up up to our knees in the quick sand like sand that lined the shore. It hardened up as we got onto solid land and we got our daily exercise climbing up the steep, high dunes.

We got up there just in time to witness an amazing sunset, looking down over the deep, rich, yellow dunes down to the water far below and across to Camelot. What an amazing end to the day.

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Pancakes at Pancake Creek

Another early start to get us out of the maze out of Yellow Sands and we were off. We’d crossed the Tropic of Capricorn and were now out of the tropics for the first time since May.

Cape Capricorn is so named because it is just below the Tropic of Capricorn and we rounded it going south as we left yellow sands.

The trip down the coast was uneventful right up to when we got outside of Gladstone, where we found half the worlds shipping fleet anchored up outside. The wind was a bit on the nose so we took the opportunity to tack out to sea around them – twice as it turned out as there was a second set of ships anchored a bit further south.

Having successfully avoided them, we were then confronted by a couple of fishing trawlers who were having a nice game of chicken with us. With all this excitement behind us, we made it to pancake creek about 2pm.

We passed a few boats anchored near the mouth of the creek next to a palm lined beach as we headed further into the creek. We anchored off the pancake like sand flats and hopped in the dingy for an explore. First we had a wander on the sand flats before they disappeared under water – it was quite surreal to see them vanish later on.

Then we went and had a look at the mainland. There’s what looks like a nice walk across to the lighthouse and a nice beach that we checked out the start of.

A beautiful place worthy of a longer stay.

PS and we did have pancakes for breakfast!!!

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Tropical Paradise

We left Pancake Creek quite early (as seems to be our norm) and headed out east into an easterly with a bit of chop – not ideal conditions for making our way 40nm out to sea to lady musgrave.

With the sails up and a bit deeper water the seas settled down a bit as we tacked our way out to sea. The land gradually disappeared from view and some dark rain clouds rolled in. We skirted south of them and only got a short sharp shower.

Lady Musgrave is a classic tropical lagoon, almost entirely surrounded by reef, except for a narow entrance that is well marked (thank goodness). It was a bit daunting going in through such a narrow gap, with nasty looking reef each side. The water was rushing in as the tide came in and the overcast conditions made seeing Bommies difficult. Safely inside the lagoon, we found 10m of water over sand interspersed with Bommies scattered around the place.

Next morning, we woke to a beautiful sunny day and what a sight. The sun on the water revealed a clear tropical lagoon with reefs teaming with life. Out came the stand up board and the paddle board and off we went to explore. As well as a fringing reef, Lady Musgrave has a coral island with heaps of bird life and a camping ground. There’s a few walking tracks through the bird nesting areas and you can walk around the whole island via the beaches.

The snorkeling was pretty good as well with some big cod and emporor as well as all the smaller colorful reef fish, swimming amongst the coral. The turtles were in nesting mode and we saw quite a few of them around the lagoon. You can go in at night and watch them nest but we didn’t end up doing this.

There were about 10 other boats in the lagoon, with boats coming and going each day. We had drinks one afternoon with Bill and Susan from Avante, an American couple who’d sailed Alaska, Mexico and then across the pacific to Australia. Interesting stories and experiences to share.

Sadly, after a wonderful day and a half there, we had to push on and leave our tropical paradise and visit the other lady – Lady Elliot Island.

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