Keppel Bay

Our first task on arrival at Keppel Bay Marina was to stop by the fuel dock and fill up with diesel. Whilst untying us to leave, I tripped over one of the huge dock cleats, and gave my foot a big clout. It hurt like crazy, but I had to get on with the berthing, so tried to ignore it. However, once we were safely moored in our berth, the pain got the better of me and I sat on the deck and bawled while Pete got me an ice brick. He then left me lying on a bunch of cushions on deck, with my foot elevated and iced, while he went to check in at the office and see if any of our mail had arrived yet.

When he got back, we checked through the whiteboard to do list. We have a whiteboard near the Nav station on which we record any jobs that we need to remember to do and other chores or items to remember. Usually it’s a key to do list for reaching port, so we always check to see what we can achieve while dockside. This time there was quite a list, including making some alterations to the Bimini, for which we had to get hold of some stainless steel tubing. We thought that it would be useful to hire a car for a day to help us achieve some of our to do list, and maybe to have a look around the area. We knew the marina had courtesy cars, but these were limited to 2 hour use only. Through Paul and Clare we had a met a local guy called John, a sailor we follow on Facebook, and we sent him a Facebook message to see if he knew of any local car hire.

Once settled in, we had showers, luxuriating in being able to stay under a hot water stream indefinitely, then refreshed, we headed over to the Capricornia Cruising Yacht Club for sundowners. I have loved this club ever since my first visit to Rosslyn Bay, delivering Occasional Coarse Language to Hammo in 2005. It has changed a bit since then, but the people are just as friendly and the view at sunset just as good. We settled in with a bottle of rose and a $10 cheese board, watching the sun set over the marina and the distant hills. The rose helped ease the throbbing in my foot, and I was able to walk back to the boat without too much trouble.

Next morning we started on the chores, with a couple of loads of washing, but treated ourselves to breakfast at the Marina restaurant, Waterline. After breakfast, we went into the office to enquire about stainless tubing and courtesy cars, and came away with a cheapy hire car booked on Wednesday for 24 hours from midday. They have a similar deal to Bundy here, which made it pretty convenient, and less limiting than having a 2 hour deadline. We texted John to let him know car hire was all sorted. Around 2 pm we finally heard from him with an invitation to dinner at his place. We accepted gratefully, as it would be wonderful to have a land-based family dinner for a change. John was out sailing and would pick us up on his way home from the sailing club, and then run us back to the marina after dinner. John arrived about 4 pm, and was keen to head off so he could show us the scenery between Yeppoon and Rockhampton while it was still daylight.

John pointed out his sailmaker, who he said would be able to get stainless for us if the boatyard couldn’t, and then gave us a guided tour of the area. From the subsided road, that had slipped to the ocean over a year ago, to the super volcano on the Rockhampton road and all its remaining trachyte hills, we learned heaps about the area. Arriving at Johns place at dusk, we met his wife Cherie and daughter Francesca in the backyard with the new pony. It is a brilliant backyard, with horses, ponies, a miniature pony, pet duck and many other animals on hand to pet and say hi to.

After a fabulous steak dinner, John and Cherie wanted to take us to Westerns, a pub that holds rodeos, on the way back to Rosslyn Bay. We all jumped in the Land Rover, but unluckily the pub was closed, so it was straight back to the boat. Poor Fran was yawning by now, but she had a guided tour of WDS on arrival and snuggled in a blanket while Pete and I introduced John and Cherie to Diamonds over ice, to say thanks for a lovely evening. It had been most enjoyable to have a home visit, and meet the extended family!

On Monday, we resolved to have a walk around the local area. I had been researching the Capricornia Coast National Park and found a couple of areas of the park on our doorstep. Both Double Head and Bluff Point, are part of the Park and have well marked walking tracks. Between the two, we could walk along Kemps Beach, rather than taking the road. We set off to Double Head first, which is the headland bounding the marina. It was a short walk to find the trail, then a well maintained and sealed path up to the top of the headland. Near the top there was a path to the side and we were taken to “Fan Rock”, a fantastic formation created from the volcanic activity of the area, 60 million years ago. From the top of Double Head, we had a great view down over the marina, and out to Great Keppel, as well as up and down the coast. After the flat landscape further south, it was lovely to see such an interesting backdrop of hills and outcrops stretching north and south.

Descending, we headed for the beach for the next section of the walk to Bluff Point. The tide was out, so we could follow the low water line, looking at the shells and crab activity. The first section of the beach was covered in the tiny balls of sand that we have seen in many places at low water. These appear to be the activity of tiny crabs, not the soldier crabs that we see in the muddier areas. Shazam that crab tells me these are “sand bubblers” native to tropical Indo-Pacific regions. We also saw heaps of tiny conical shells washed up in piles. The shells appeared to be empty, and we later found out that this was correct. The little creatures live just below the low water line, but get eaten by other creatures, resulting in the empty shells washing in.

Reaching the end of the beach, we entered the Park again, and took the steep route to the top of the Bluff, electing the easier downhill for the return. We stoped at Turtle Lookout on the way up and spotted two or three turtles paddling around the rocks below. Apparently someone had seen a whale from her earlier in the day, but we are yet to spot our first whale. Again the view from the top was stunning, we could see Hummocky Island in the distance, the multitude of rocks and islands of Keppel Bay, as well as the chain of volcanic plugs inland toward Rockhampton.

The path down was gentler and then it was back along the beach, with a stop at the fish co-op to buy some prawns for our paella. We also had a stop in a Waterline for a well earned beer, before retiring to the boat to cook dinner and watch a film.

On Tuesday morning we got a few jobs completed before heading in to pick up the car. First stop was John’s sailmaker buddy to pick up the stainless tubes for the Bimini extension. Next stop was to try to get hose, but nowhere locally seems to do the right size. Pete ended up calling a place in Rockhampton who had it, so we would need to head there. On the way, we stopped at BCF and Pete got a new rod and reel to help his casting. We also got a couple of new lures. On the road to Rocky we passed Mount Jim Crow, that John had pointed out to us, and decided to check it out on the way back to see if we would be able to climb it the next morning. It is an isolated peak in an otherwise flat landscape, being the remains of a super volcano, whose weathered plugs are scattered across the landscape.

We picked up the hose and then went into the centre of Rocky to find somewhere for lunch and have a look around. It is an interesting town, with some beautiful old buildings, particularly those fronting the Fitzroy River. This area is under redevelopment – it needs it, as many of the buildings have become run down and of course been converted into offices, so lost their original style. The most fantastic building was the old customs house, thankfully still in its original condition and well preserved. I am sorry we didn’t take any photos.

We checked out Jim Crow on the way home and resolved to come early tomorrow to climb it, despite the warning signs saying not to! We then popped into Yeppoon to get the dry goods shopping out of the way, to give us more time in the morning.

We were up early on Wednesday and on the road to Jim Crow by 8:30. We had climbed up and down by 10, despite a tough vertical ascent, marked only by blue paint daubs, with no path to speak of. There was a lot of scrambling up rock faces and scree, but we did it relatively quickly and easily, and it was well worth it for the view. We could see out to Great Keppel Island, and inland to the hills separating Rocky from the coastal plain. We had a quick coffee at the Lazy Cow cafe in the car park, then headed into Yeppoon for the last of the fresh food shopping. On the return to Rosslyn Bay, we stoped to have a look at the massive catamaran in Fig Tree Creek, and visited the Shell Club, where a lovely lady told me about the little conical shells on Kemps Beach as well as chatting about the local area.


That afternoon, Pete relaxed in the sun by extending the Bimini struts with the stainless tubes, while I stowed the shopping and got another load of washing done. We headed to CCYC for sundowners and to celebrate it being the shortest day of the year, before having a delightful dinner at Waterline, then heading back to CCYC to watch the State of Origin game! There was a good turnout at the club and some good natured ribbing, but disappointing that the QLD team won in the end!

Thursday morning was a bit of a struggle to get going, especially as we needed to be out of the marina before 10 to ensure we had enough water under the keel. We had decided that the conditions looked right for another go at the reef, after a stopover at Great Keppel. Despite it being warm and pleasant on the sail over to Keppel, it seemed to get cooler once we had anchored. Probably something to do with the large amount of wine consumed yesterday, neither of us had the energy to bother launching the dinghy, and I tried to snooze while Pete caught up on work. The breeze picked up a bit during the afternoon, and though we had a quick swim, it was not warm enough to stay in or even think about snorkelling.

We bunkered down for the evening which turned very cool, and though we cooked the roast pork on the BBQ, we ate downstairs and even got the big blanket out for the bed. It was decidedly cooler, with the wind gusting in around 15 knots, and a nasty swell making its way around to us. It was not the most comfortable of nights as the swell tended to hit us beam on to our angle to the wind, so we didn’t sleep all that well. Needless to say, we were even less keen to get going in the morning than we had been yesterday.
The breeze seemed to have picked up over night and we were seeing the odd gust up to 17 knots while anchored. Once we were under way, and cleared the island, the wind was closer to 20 knots and as near as dammit on the nose. Combined with a short steep swell, conditions were less than ideal. After about an hour and a half of bashing into this, with no prospect of it easing soon, we made the decision to head back to the relative comfort of Keppel. The observations at Heron Island showed no appreciable lessening of the wind out there, and there was solid cloud cover both where we were and offshore, so it seemed futile to keep going. It was so much more pleasant once we gybed, though we were now seeing solid 20 knots of breeze, and congratulated ourselves on making the right decision.

Back at Keppel, we used our new found sonar mapping to squeeze ourselves close in to Leekes Beach to try to get out of as much of the swell as possible, and were astonished at how close in we could get. We will stay overnight and see what conditions bring tomorrow, and if not favourable, we will stay and explore more here.






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