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AUSTRALIA Queensland - MORTON BAY, GREAT SANDY STRAIT & KEPPEL ISLANDS
TANGALOOMA WRECKS

May 4
We sailed across Morton Bay and arrived at Tangalooma Wrecks just as the sun was setting. This small boat anchorage was formed off Morton Island by scuttling some workboats on a shoal bank. Comprising of 15 vessels ranging from dredges to barges, a wall 300 meters long paralleling the Morton coast was commenced in 1963.

The project was unsuccessful however and the anchorage does not offer much protection from the swell. We rocked the night away and in the morning investigated the snorkeling with the dinghy. Although the water was quite clear, it was cold and the fish did not look all that interesting. After a walk along the beach, also serving as the road for 4x4's, we pulled up anchor at 7 pm and headed for an overnight sail to the Great Sandy Strait.

The seas were calm but there was heavy shipping in Morton Bay so we had an anxious night on watch.

 

GREAT SANDY STRAIT

In 20 knots of wind, we sailed to Wide Bay where we would cross the bar between the mainland and Fraser Island into the waters known as The Great Sandy Straits. We were able to time the entrance well and crossing the bar was easy.

Fraser Island is the world's biggest sand Island and the beginning of the world's longest coral chain, the Great Barrier Reef. A series of low hills hold the coast being replaced by the marginally low densely wooded sandhills of Fraser Island.

The area consists of shallow estuaries bordered by mangroves so prudent navigation was necessary. Our first stop was Gary's Anchorage which caused a bit of a fright as we skimmed over water that shallowed to inches under our keel.


Dingo Dogs

Ashore, a sign warned of the Dingo Dogs that frequented the area. We walked down a trail through the bush, Gord carrying a big stick taking heed of the messages on the sign! Although the area was peppered with dingo tracks, we did not see any wildlife and the landscape was pretty nondescript. The sandflies were unrelenting.

At night, amidst the howling of the dingoes, we were visited by hundreds of flying foxes that attempted to roost in our rigging. We could hear them skittering around the spreaders and sliding down the stays, one flew right through the cockpit making for entertaining evenings.

KINGFISHER BAY RESORT
At sunrise, timing the tide to negotiate the passage, we sailed for the South White Cliffs, where we spent the night. It did not look like there was anything intriguing onshore so we moved on to Kingfisher Bay Resort where we anchored near Calibar, another Canadian boat, also entered in the Rally.

On shore we met up with Barb and David (Calibar) for lunch. After exploring the facilities, we ventured on a little hike through bushland to a great lookout that afforded a great view of the anchorage.

Those troublesome tides

When we returned to the pier it was late and the tide had risen substantially. Our painters were tied way below the water so Dave stripped down and plunged into the cold water to untie the lines. and Voila! we were able to return to our boats.


May 10
We left Fraser Island and headed across Hervey Bay on an overnighter to Pancake Creek. The weather had been unsettled so we forego our plans to stop at Lady Musgrave. It was not long before the wind built steadily and
by midmorning we were faced with unbelievably strong winds and seas so high and steep that we were thrown on our side time and time again. It seemed that everything on the boat that could break did. First, the wind speed instrument stopped working. Then the engine wasn't pumping water so we had to shut it off. Very soon the autopilot quit. This was our backup one that we had just purchased on ebay because our original one stopped working before we arrived in Manly. The control head, being 20 years old, is unrepairable and any newer models are not compatible with our linear drive and steering mechanism (that work fine) and it would cost thousands of $'s to replace the entire unit.

PANCAKE CREEK

Pancake Creek  looked very protected being that the anchorage is up the river. It was quite a challenge entering the head of the pass through driving rain and no visibility but with the help of the VMR we got into more settled water. The depth was too shallow to venture into the inner anchorage where we could see other boats, so we had the channel to ourselves.

I was having dizzy spells so severe that I just had to get off the boat so we managed to get the dinghy off the foredeck in the relentless winds and make it to a deserted beach. We walked along the shoreline but were constantly on guard for the illusive salt water crocs that love the taste of Canadians. We are now in Croc country so must be very cautious in our dinghy and close to the shoreline, especially near mangroves.

But I was more concerned with the onslaught of sand flies that I have discovered I am allergic to. My body is covered with hundreds of itchy red lumps that look like bites but are actually a reaction to only a few actually bites. DEET is not even a deterrent to these nasty no seeums.

While anchored in Pancake Creek awaiting better weather, we attempted to repair our Wind Speed Indicator as well as our Auto Pilot, both of which were "knackered".


The shoreline was rough and rocky, the shape of the rocks perhaps giving Pancake Creek its name.

May 14 Cape Capricorn
Although the wind was still blowing 30 knots,
we managed to rig up a temporary steering solution and clawed our way through huge breaking seas and some torrential rains and finally reached an anchorage called Cape Capricorn. As we attempted to roll in the furling it hung up on the top of the forestay and Gord had to go forward in the pitching seas to try to free it. The furling has been giving us continued problems that are becoming much too frequent.  It seems that everything is breaking at once, a result of the years of heavy use our boat has seen these past 3 years. It was a rough, wet and challenging sail, with the usual steep square waves, tide against current and blustery winds that we were starting to think was the norm for Australian coastal waters!

We arrived at the anchorage just before dark. Cape Capricorn is a small indentation behind a point, named because it lies right on the Tropic of Capricorn. It supports a major lighthouse with the cape being grass capped and rock-bound. As with most capes, it was windy and unsettled so we had another rolly night in another turbulent anchorage, trying to sleep, clinging to the settees and listening to the howl of the wind in the rigging.

May 15 Keppel Island

After Gord managed to rebuild the water pump on the engine, we set off for Keppel Island, about 25 miles away. Immediately away from the cape the seas were extremely steep and close together and we prayed that conditions would improve as we moved away from the headland. But things only got worse. The wind built to velocity far beyond those forecasted and the threatening seas was very foreboding. We had a double reefed main only and were doing 8.5 knots, the boat shuddering as it skid down the waves. The mountainous steep swell kept throwing us on our side as we were spun around by waves that were the biggest we have seen since the Oregon coast.

We were so happy to see Keppel Island ahead but while attempting to jibe and drop the main sheet we were again faced with another situation as the lazy jacks were jammed between the mast and the spreader. As if taking the sail down on the foredeck wasn't difficult enough in the large seas, we now had no way to secure the sail on the boom. We finally managed to take refuge in the bay dropping our anchor amidst 7 other boats.

We desperately needed to drain all the excess adrenalin from our bodies brought about by the sheer terror of the past 4 hours.  The wind was blowing more than 35 knots in the anchorage. We only know this because, without wind instruments, we are able to tell when the wind reaches 35 knots, because that is when our wind generator goes into emergency shut down. We unsuccessfully attempted to release the jammed lazyjacks, finally deciding to leave it until more settled conditions.

Although we were secure, unfortunately the anchorage was extremely uncomfortable and we were rocking and rolling, pitching and twisting, again making sleeping impossible as we attempted to cling to the narrow settees. Morning did not bring any relief from the wind, the sound of it in the rigging deafening. I know that we need to take the bad with the good but at that point we were both ready to call it quits! I longed for a bed that didnít move, a day without a frightening knot in my stomach, an oven that worked, food to put in the oven (we hadnít seen a store for 10 days so no fresh stuff or bread) and a BATH!

May 16
We just really needed to get off the boat so made our way to shore, skirting around to the other side of the island, which was basically a barren and parched sand island. There we found a peaceful resort, the crystal clear waters protected from the swell.

Pesky Lorikeets!
We had a hamburger for lunch at the resort but had to share our meal with the determined lorikeets, who would steal a piece of food faster than you could get it to your mouth! The hamburgers made them thirsty and they next proceeded to knock over our glasses and have a nice drink from the spilled water.

Lazy Camels

We spent several hours wandering around the area with its pretty white sand beach and camels leisurely waiting for someone to come along and take a ride.

Eventually we had to face the task of taking the long wet dinghy ride back to the boat. It was hard to believe that the other side of the island could be so turbulent.

We made another stop along the beach where we searched for some shells and enjoyed the fine white sand.

The day ended with another beautiful sunset and the hope for better weather conditions ahead.

When we could stand no more of the rough and rolly anchorage we set sail for the Island Head Point, leaving at first light with another Canadian boat, Egress II.

We had a most uncomfortable sail, dead down wind, rolling side to side in 25 knots. The landscape changed around us becoming somewhat greener and hillier. We finally reaching Island Head, where we dropped the hook near the mouth of the Creek.

After another rolly, uncomfortable night we moved on. Our next stop was in the Duke Isles, at Hunter Island. This anchorage, tucked between Marble Island and Hunter Island proved to be quite comfortable and we finally got some sleep! The islands were used for cattle grazing and were not picturesque so we did not go ashore.

May 23

Our next stop was to be Percy Isles but the recent cyclone had devastated the island so we continued our boisterous sail on to Curlew Island, the largest island in the Guardfish Cluster. Again, the anchorage was rolling and uncomfortable.

Onward the following morning, we made our way to Refuge Bay on Scawfell Island. It offered some protection, although we were blasted with 50 km+ "wind bullets" that bombarded us from the steep surrounding hills of the rocky island. We did not go ashore here either, anxious to move on to the protected sheltered waters of the Whitsundays.

May 24

We had a short day sail to the Brampton-Carlise Group of Islands, which is actually part of the Whitsunday Group of Islands. On shore there is a resort, but it is off limits to cruising boats. We managed to tie the dinghy to a high public jetty in spite of the huge surge that made landing difficult. We hiked partially around the island to a beach on the far side but did not take the time to hike to the top of the mountain. 

We left Brampton-Carlise and sailed direct to the Whitsundays, our destination Cid Harbour, where a number of our friends were at anchor.

PHOTO ALBUM QUEENSLAND

NEXT>>> WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS

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