Mackay to Keppel Bay

Departed around midday heading south east. As we passed the first set of ships anchored off Hay Point, we saw a sailing vessel heading north. We waved, shortly after Pete’s phone rang. It was a friend of Pete’s parents, Peter Rochaix on Chinook, heading to the Whitsundays! We had said we would look out for them and we passed with about 50 meters between us!

Unfortunately, our late departure from Mackay meant that we would be arriving in the dark at Curlew, and despite sailing – yes we finally got the main up – and getting along at around 9 knots, we could only do about 6 over the ground. It was a pleasant afternoon, though overcast, but very humid.

We could see Curlew Island from about 6 miles out, as the light started to fade, and realised that there were several boats in the primary anchorage for SE winds. We had decided to do a small anchorage on the western side, which looked better for the N to NE winds that were persisting. We questioned whether to join the crowd, or go with the isolated anchorage, but decided to go with the plan. It was fully dark by the time we were on approach, and we were expecting a steep shelving, but we suddenly went from 12 meters to 5 very quickly. We reversed out, and came in more slowly, completing a circle to give Pete on Nav a clear view of the sea bed on the forward scanning sonar, then made our final approach, to drop anchor in just over six meters.

It was overcast so we didn’t even have the benefit of a moon or stars to help us see, so we had to gauge whether or not the anchor was down by feel and instruments. The breeze was light, so we did a couple of reverses, and seemed to be well in, so Pete dropped out to 50 meters of chain, as we were expecting 5 meters of tide which would take us up to 12 meters. We then settled in to have dinner as we watched the breeze and tice fight for supremacy of our positioning which alternated from north facing to south facing. The depth steadied at around 6 or so meters and then started to increase as the tide turned. We headed to bed at 9 with an alarm set for 1 am high water.

We both slept fitfully until the alarm went, all seemed OK, though Pete watched for a good hour. Eventually we did sleep ok, waking when it was light and rushing on deck to check out the anchorage! We were much closer to the southern headland than I would have been comfortable with in daylight, but we were comfortable enough, and saw no depth less than 6 meters on the morning low tide. We had a shorter trip ahead for the day, so Pete was keen to head into the beach for a look at the shore before we left. It was a pretty spot, with a steep but sandy beach enclosed in rocky headlands. We headed in to the beach in Mini-wine the dinghy and had a walk along the sand, but were inundated with midges, so had a quick swim, took some pics and then headed back to the boat.

We weighed anchor shortly after that, as the cloud cleared and it turned into another glorious day. We had to negotiate some interesting shoals and shallows to exit the Guardfish Cluster. Pete said it should have been called the Garfish Cluster as he saw so many garfish hanging in our wake as he cooked dinner last night!

We arrived at Hunter Island in the Duke Islands after a roasting hot morning at around 1:15. After taking some time to anchor because it was just after high water with a 5 meter drop, we had a salad for lunch, then I snoozed for a while. Pete had installed our cabin fans on the trip down from Curlew, so I was very comfortable with a air circulating around me, allowing me to get a good sleep! Around 5, we headed into the beach for a look around, but it was very shallow getting there, and once we were ashore we watched the tide just draining away, even though it was getting on for low water. Rather than hang around and wreck the dinghy dragging it over the corally bottom, we didn’t walk and headed back to the boat. We saw a low depth of 4.3 meters, which was somewhat below my comfort zone, but as we ate pizza for dinner and the tide started to turn, the wind disappeared and the depth started to increase again. I knew I would sleep ok, with low water likely to be no lower and around 8 in the morning.

Slept well, and woke to a glassy morning, with the other boats around us having left already. We had coffee, then weighed anchor and picked our way out of the Duke Islands towards Port Clinton. We needed to go the long way around as we heard on the radio that Shoalwater Bay Military Firing Range was active, so we had a 40 plus mile day ahead. As it was already scorching, we decided to leave the awning up until we saw any breeze.

It was a long slog to Port Clinton, but we had plenty of whale activity to keep us interested and then lots of interesting navigating to get into the anchorage. As we approached we could see lots of midges, but the reality didn’t bite (literally) until we were anchored. Swarms of midges and mosquitos, however did not spoil the dugong watching as Pete tried in vain to fish. So many dugongs swimming around us it was hard to know which to watch! We decided to BBQ dinner to try to keep the swarms away, but Pete got eaten alive anyway. Thank goodness for the cabin fans as we would be boiled alive without! Also tested out a new location for the awning to allow some windows to be open in the rain, and it works well.

By morning, the rain had cleared, but not the midges! We left at around 6 am to ride the ebb tide out of the bay and to ensure entry to Keppel Bay Marina at close to high tide. A cool south easterly breeze allowed us to sail for a while, but it shifted ahead, then became very light. A few more whales, but all were camera shy!

We had to enter the marina past a dredge, and went straight into the fuel dock to replenish supplies. As we left the fuel dock a hot north westerly breeze piped up, making our docking a little interesting, but no issues. It was odd to be back in a marina, but I was keen to get some laundry done. We planned for just one night, hoping we may be able to get out to the reef tomorrow, before having to make Bundaberg for a few nights while Pete flies back to Sydney.

We planned to have sundowners at my favourite Capricornia Cruising Yacht Club before dinner at the Marina. I got the laundry done, Pete got oil and we met at the yacht club to watch the beautiful sunset. Got chatting to a couple of locals plus the couple delivering Cocomo back to Sydney, then we had dinner at the Waterline. Really good meal, Pete raved about the crab of which there was a massive pile and it was yummy! We managed to get through a bottle of wine, more than we have drunk in ages over dinner, so felt a little tired in the morning!

The weather is still looking fine for Fitzroy Reef, so we are going to make an overnight passage there tonight to get in around low water tomorrow morning. If all is well, we will overnight there and if not then we will head to Pancake Creek, before heading to Bundaberg for Sunday night.

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