The decision to head to Gladstone was due to Pete having to go back to Sydney for another meeting, as well as our desire not to leave the Bunker and Capricorn Groups unexplored. We had also never been to Gladstone, so we felt it was a good opportunity to see this part of Australia. In addition, the airport was about 10 minutes from the marina – an easy decision really.
The fairway into Gladstone is around 12 miles long, from the start, offshore of Facing Island to the marina. We seemed to be travelling it for a very long time on the way in, and passing no end of ships and loading platforms. Whilst the cruising guides are enthusiastic in comparing Gladstone to Sydney Harbour as a natural deep water port, our feelings were that this enthusiasm was a little misplaced. With the need for a dredged channel which extends for over 15 nautical miles, and generally flat, mangrove areas on the inland side, it’s not very reminiscent of Sydney – more like Botany Bay in appearance. This is emphasised by the extent of the industry and shipping that abounds here, which is now almost non- existent in Sydney. There is however, a lovely mountain backdrop, especially with the distinctive profile of Mount Larcomb, that can be seen from almost everywhere.
Pete and I were both astonished at the extent of the industrial development here. Whilst we were aware that Gladstone is a notable port, with a great queue of ships always waiting for entry as we pass, we had no idea that as well as coal and alumininium, there is also liquified natural gas leaving the port. It was, for me, reminiscent of Port Talbot in its hey day, with the “fairy lights” of the refineries and loaders, making the dusk slightly magical in appearance, as we motored up the fairway!
The Marina is tucked away from the sight of most of this industrialisation, with the exception of the coal loader which runs along the northeastern side of the marina basin. Once we were docked, only the noises of coal loading made us aware of the surrounding activity. We picked up our welcome pack from the marina office and then headed in to the Port Curtis Yacht Club, a short walk from the marina, for dinner. Fortunately we had taken our fleeces with us, because on the walk back to the boat it was pretty cold. In the morning, Pete was up early to head off to the airport on his 8 am flight, so I got up and started on my jobs list. First off was to get some washing done, then while that was going, I hosed the boat, as we had got a real soaking when leaving Lady Musgrave with the heavy breeze and short waves. I also put up and hosed off the #5 as that had got a work out in the salt, both when it was up and down!
Once these chores were done, I decided to have a walk into town to check out what was there and see if there was any provisioning close enough to walk to. It wasn’t a long walk, but from the yacht club, the main street climbed uphill to the area of shops. Not much of interest for provisioning here, lots of closed down shops, and nothing selling food. Over the hill and along a flat section, I finally found a small shopping centre with everything I needed, including a Woolworths. It was a good store, but geared to male shoppers I felt, with a lot of pre-prepared meals on offer. I bought some ham from the deli and had never seen such huge slices! The ten slices I asked for weighed in at about 2 kilos! Definitely man sized portions! I also got some postcards to send to our god children and nieces, a little habit I had started so that they had something tangible from us, and to help them follow our trip.
On return to the boat I fixed myself some lunch then moved back to the list of chores. Next was getting the tube of sika out, and having a go at sealing our fixed windows around the outer frame, to see if this would stop the leaks we were getting in heavy waves. This went ok, despite a wayward tube getting crooked in the gun and making me do some ugly blobs every so often! I didn’t do so well with the deck compasses. The one I managed to lift out of the deck, I completely failed to reseat the screws once I had sikkad it in. The other I could not lift out of the deck at all. Pete had to fix this when he got back. Jobs done for the day, I headed below as it had started to cool as the sun set, and checked through the fruit and veg for what needed to be used up for my dinner. Luckily the pumpkin was starting to go, so I had to have pasta with pumpkin and burnt butter! Had a quick FaceTime with mum and dad to catch up the news of their new spa, and also had a chat with Pete, Fran and Choppa, then off to bed for an early night.
Next morning I decided to grab the courtesy bus to do the provisioning so I wouldn’t have to walk too far with full bags. We needed stuff like milk and heavy veg, so this seemed like the best option. Until the bus was leaving, I resumed the stainless steel polishing I had started in Bundy, and got through all the starboard side staunchions except 2, before I had to go. I had been resistant to doing the courtesy bus run, because it was going to leave me in the mall for 3 hours. I am not a shopper (other than supermarket shopping) and could not imagine what I would do for 3 hours. However, the layout of the mall was such that I had a fair walk between shops, and spent time comparing what was on offer between Coles and Woolies! I got some odds and ends in Coles and did the bulk of the shop in Woolies, as it was cheaper and had a better veg selection. In the bus on the way back I chatted to the couple who had also gone provisioning and they had seen us at Bundaberg. They were also heading north, aiming for Darwin, but maybe stopping for work in Weipa. Arriving a the marina, the driver had even got trolleys ready for us to go from the bus stop to the pontoon – very helpful staff.
After stowing everything and cleaning the fridge and freezer in the process, it was back to stainless steel polishing. During this session, the couple in the boat at the end of our pontoon walked past and started chatting. They had also seen us in Bundy, and were also heading north. They were on their first ever trip north, and keen to hear about our experiences. We may see them more as we progress as it sounds like their plans are similar to ours. As I was finishing the stainless on the starboard side, so Pete arrived back, and headed below to change out of his business attire! A gentlemen came up to the stern and asked if I was Sarah. When I replied in the affirmative, he introduced himself as Tom Barkers dad. We knew Tom from his days racing on Midnight Rambler, when we had raced on Occasional Coarse Language. Tom had mentioned to his dad, Brad, that we were in Gladstone as he was following our blog from Europe, and suggested that Brad pop by to say hi. We were really pleased to meet him and hoped to see he and his wife on their yacht Tuan, up the coast in a few months.
That evening, I decided to take Pete out for dinner to the lightbox, a tapas bar, so we could revel in Friday night out in Gladstone. It was the only place I had seen in my investigation of town, that resembled the sort of bar that may do a decent meal and glass of wine. Turned out I was on the money – we had a delicious tapas meal and great wine, while listening to a great singer and guitarist. We also people-watched avidly, with a constant stream of very interesting groups of people coming and going! We could not understand why people were leaving when the food and wine were great and the singer was still going, but as we headed back to the boat we realised everyone must be going to Gladstones only night club! It was going off, despite the fact that it was barely 10 o’clock.
Not tempted to join in, we headed back home, and decided that we would head off tomorrow, but to anchor at the southern end of Facing Island. There was not enough certainty in the forecast for us to head to reef, so we thought we would stay inside Port Curtis until we could see what the weather was going to do for a few days out. This would get us 8 miles down the fairway, so we were in a position to head off easily when we decided on our destination.
We had a slow start to Saturday and didn’t get up til 8:30. By the time we had breakfasted, showered, visited the fishing shop, it was midday by the time we undocked. We still had outgoing tide though, which would greatly assist our trip downstream. We anchored at Rocky Point, having two goes to set the anchor as the first set felt and sounded like we had dropped the anchor on rock. The second set seemed more comfortable, and we settled in watching the ships come and go. Pete watched the Australia v Fiji rugby game, while I had a go at doing my own leg wax, which was pretty successful! Lamb and veggies for dinner tonight, as we decide what we will do tomorrow.