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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Great, Great Keppel

We had a short 10nm sail across to Great Keppel Island to get Kim and Jane in the mood. Great Keppel has a great swimming beach and we certainly took advantage of that. Out came the stand up paddle board for the first time since lizard as well.

Next morning, we had a good wander up and down the main beach. The main resort is shut but there are some smaller rental places around plus a Bar and Restuarant so still a pretty good place to visit. Going on Kim’s criteria, any island with a bar is worth a visit, but this time we didn’t visit the bar, instead staying on the boat and downing a few there.

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Percy Paradise

We reluctantly left Whitsunday’s feeling a bit worse for wear and pointed Camelot towards the Percy’s. We’d worked out it was too far for a day sail, which was a pity because a SE change was coming in on Tuesday.

So we stopped off at Scawfell Island which was 45nm away, leaving us 62nm for the next day.

The SE change came in as expected and we battled through a swelly day, but managed to do it on a single tack without having to reef down at all. So it wasn’t that bad. To me – Cas on the other hand started to hate me after a few hours and didn’t enjoy the bumpy ride with water coming over the top at all!!!

We got to west bay on middle Percy at 5pm and had a batten car come loose so first item once the anchor was down was a temporary fix with a shackle – need to visit a chanderly in Rosslyn bay to replace broken bit. Talking of broken, our anchor windlass started to play up in the whitsundays and there’s been a lot of manual lifting of anchors. Mmm. The manual wasn’t too helpful so need to get someone to look at it in Rosslyn as well.

Anyway, after completing repairs/diagnosis we headed in to join 3 other couples (2 aussies, one usa) for a sundowner in the A Framed Beach Hut, filled full of yachtie memorabilia. Theres also an old hut down the beach with some older yachtie memorabilia going back to the fifties. The other couples Imparted some good local knowledge about the island and the journey south. One of the guys who was living on the island came down later, he was staying at the treehouse for a month and had been visiting and staying on the island on and off for years. He filled us in on the islands long and checkered history as we sat on the beach with moonlight dancing across the bay. Much of the island is owned under a leasehold arrangement, the rest is now National Park.

At one stage, the old owner was getting quite old and a nit demented and a smooth talking con man with all sorts of dubious connections talked him into handing over the island for $10. The owner’s daughter took it to court and won and now she lives on the island selling fresh produce to yachties who are made to feel most welcome. Rightful order is restored although the Conman left the island in a sad state taking a lot of stuff with him when he was finally kicked off.

Next morning we were up early and into shore to have a good look around before we left for Pearl Bay. But first, we took the dingy into the rather unique lagoon thats off to the northern side of the beach. We went in at high tide and its truly beautiful and fascinating. People take their yachts and cats in there to careen them. last time we were there in 2008 we met a Perth yachtie who had his cat in there for a couple of months. then it was back to the beach to firstly check out both the A Frame and the original hut and left a wooden block with “Camelot Cas and Steve November 2012” on it. Not quite as ornate and clever as some of the memorabilia there. It was great looking at it all. Next stop was the Tree House. The guys had left early in the morning for Mackay but welcomed us to look around. It was a wonderful big boys cubbie house – very livable. Our last stop was the plaque on the rocks with an extract from Matthew Flinders log, saying it was one of the most beautiful places he had ever visited.

And I think he might have been onto something. As we walked back down the lovely white sandy beach, next to the crystal clear water, we thought its the sort of place that needed a lot more time than just a night. We will be back for a lot longer next time!

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Sailing to the Whitsundays

Saturday

We left magnetic island early, heading for Cape Upstart. With one motor running and a gentle northerly pushing us along, we made good time. We caught up with two monos around the shallow sand banks off Cape Bowling Green (got to love that name).

The wind had picked up at that stage and we had time up our sleeve, so off went the motors and we had a very pleasant sail into our anchorage for the night. The anchorage proved to be a bit rocky courtesy of the northerlies but quite okay none the less.

Next morning, another early start as we wanted to make it all the way to the whitsundays in one go. unfortunately, this meant missing Monte’s, which was a petty – especially after smiley’s rave reviews. But we are on a mission to get to sydney by the 14th and we need to make the most of the favorable northerlies.

again it was a lovely sail in the afternoon as the wind picked up. Rounding Gloucester island on the outside, the seas smoothed right out and we had one of those magical sails all the way to Nara inlet. As we got closer the number of yachts increased – a bit of a culture shock after sailing in such remote places.

Nara Inlet was as beautiful as ever. Flat calm with a beautiful sunset looking back down the inlet across to the mountains on the mainland. It was good to be back in one of the great cruising grounds in the world – albeit quite briefly.

After a leisurely morning for a change, we left Nara and headed for Hamilton for fuel, coffee and beer. Then it was off to Whitehaven Beach. However we as we got closer to Solway passage, we noticed an awful lot of boats in Chance Bay, including all the day tripper boats that you would expect to see at Whitehaven. The wind was picking up and by the time we got to Solway, it was obvious that this was not the day to visit Whitehaven. So back we went to Chance Bay, where we saw lots of people swimming without stinger suits. So we took a chance and had a quick Cas swim off the beach. Actually, we had three quick Cas swims.

Then it was back to the boat via strange looking object quite a way out in the water. It turned out to be one of those floating footies. As we scooped it up, we asked the guys on a 44 foot sunsail cat called Seduction if it was theirs and they said yes. They invited us on for a drink, only to find one of the day tripper boats go past and ask for their footy. The six guys on Seduction thought it was quite funny – I think Cas was a bit mortified. Anyway we ended up having a great night with them, six young guys having a ball on a boat. In between, I managed to go across to R&R who had just anchored next to us and have a chat.

Next morning, the effects of the previous night made for a slow morning, but we still managed to get away at 6.30am, on route to Scawfell Island.

A short, but sweet visit to the Whitsundays.

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