What have we been doing when hiding?

I have finally got the explanation of what we have been doing together to go with yesterdays photos. I have divided it into sections to make it a bit easier to read as its a bit long! Go make a cup of tea before you start it!

Keppel – Port Clinton

We pulled up into Svendsons Beach at Great Keppel, dropping anchor just on sunset. It was a lot cooler, so we ate below, but the rolling got so bad we needed non-slip mats on the table to keep our dinner still! It was a horrible night, the rolling worse than anywhere, even Hummocky seemed to pale into insignificance. I tried sleeping in the saloon, but even that was uncomfortable, and we were both up early looking haggard! Tellingly, almost all the other boats who had been anchored here overnight had gone or were in the process of departing, as the breeze had gone round to the east, exacerbating the swell.

We decided to check out fishermans beach, near the resort, as its westerly aspect gave every possibility that it would be sheltered there. However, we knew that it was shallower, so we would need to approach carefully, making full use of our sonar live charting. We quickly prepared for sea, and had two coffees, then headed off around Miall and Middle Islands, to make the approach. Despite several attempts from different angles, we couldn’t get anywhere close enough to the shore to get out of the swell, seeing depths too shallow from a great way offshore. Reluctantly, we decided to head back into Keppel Bay Marina.

We were still waiting for one parcel of coffee to arrive, but knew it wasn’t there today so had hoped to stay at anchor until we needed to go in to collect it. However, the advantage of heading into the marina was dead flat water and no boat creaks and groans, so we had an afternoon of napping to catch up on our lack of sleep. We took it very easy and had a very early night and both slept like logs, waking the next morning ready for a full day of cleaning topsides and below. While Pete slaved above decks, hosing, scrubbing and polishing, I worked my way bow to stern below, dusting, vacuuming, polishing and cleaning, as well as doing a couple of loads of laundry.

We had a brief stop for a sandwich for lunch and basically worked until just before sunset, when we stoped for a shower. We then headed over to the Capricornia Cruising Yacht Club, to treat ourselves to one sundowner, before heading back to the boat for Rockhampton Rump Steak Fest! A round or two of gin rummy in the cockpit, then another early night.

Fridays plan was to do a big provisioning shop with the marina courtesy car from 8-10, then to head north to Island Head Creek or Port Clinton, to be anchored in a sheltered spot to wait for a blow to go through on the weekend. We jumped in the car and headed to the Veggie Barn to gather all our fresh fruit and veg, then popped to Coles for the dry goods. Out of Coles and into the butcher for a selection of meat, then back to the marina just in time. We were planning on not stopping at Mackay, so this would need to last us for up to 4 weeks, so there was a fair bit to pack away. Pete started prepping the boat for departure as I started stowing, as we were running out of tide in which to leave. In the end it was a mad rush to get out with enough water under the keel, but we had arranged to have the coffee sent on to Fran and Choppa if it ever turned up, as well as got rid of all our rubbish and stowed most of the shopping as we exited the marina.

Eventually I had completed fridge and freezer stowage, as well as anything that would roll about, and we could put some sails up and take advantage of the 10-15 knot reach to get us up to Port Clinton in daylight. Once settled, cruising along nicely around 8-9 knots, I completed stowing, finding I had once again doubled up on a couple of items! Not the end of the world, especially as we will be out a while, but when you have limited storage, it’s so important to make sure you have the right amount of things! We made good progress up the coast, Pete even caught a huge mackerel tuna, which he had to keep as it had swallowed his lure. We decided we would attempt the recipe found on the web, that suggested long soaking and then smoking would produce the best fish meal ever. The off cuts Pete would use for bait.

We were a little reluctant to go into Port Clinton as our experience last left us with memories of nothing but being shut below to avoid the mozzies and midges. We had only stopped overnight and headed off very early the next morning and the boat had been covered in millions of dead insects until we had arrived at Yeppoon and washed them away! We had however spoken to several people this trip, who said it was a great anchorage and that we should try again. As we were familiar with it, and it would provide good shelter, we decided to risk it, and hopefully get a better look at the dugongs that had been everywhere last time.

We pulled into the entrance around 4 pm, and worked our way as far up the creek as we could, keeping enough depth to keep us well afloat on the low tide, as there were still 4 hours of ebb to go. There was one other yacht, a catamaran, in the anchorage, but no sign of anyone else and no sign of mozzies or dugongs. Delightfully, there was also no swell at all, and we set the anchor with a sundowner of a cup of tea to fortify us against the chill that had set in as the sun set. After dinner, we decided to learn a new card game, so we started to teach ourselves cribbage, which I remember playing many years ago, in a car! It may have been at uni, or it may have been going to the snow here, but I remember we had a cribbage board with the pegs replaced by matches! Needless to say, we have no board, so we made do with a note book and pencil! We think we got the hang of it, but decided that practice would make perfect and that we would have to play for a couple of nights to embed the rules!

The wind came up as forecast, overnight, but we slept so well it was hardly noticeable. It was probably even better than being in a marina, as we had no extraneous noises from other boats, and with all our halyards forward, there was very little to disturb us. The water stayed flat due to the proximity of the mangroves and the wind direction, and it was one of the best nights sleep I have had on the trip so far! By dawn it was blowing a solid 20 plus knots, with gusts heading up to 30, but we were comfy, warm and secure. So much so, that I was able to have my coffee curled up in my bunk, and get up late, with no real jobs to get done.

We spent a really relaxing day, listening to local radio, where everyone’s darling Pauline Hanson was visiting a local fish and chip shop to help them out, and everyone was having their picture taken with her! I cooked up pea and ham soup, as it was that kind of weather, and also had a go at the sesame crackers recipe that Janet, from Koonya had given me. I think I made the crackers a little thick, but they tasted good, and we had them with some Boursin cheese as a pre-dinner snack. After a homely dinner of pea and ham soup (which was delicious!), we set to embedding cribbage, and I beat the pants off Pete, in a game to 131, despite the need for a little mathematics!

We had another great nights sleep, despite a persistent breeze, and on checking the forecast decided to give it another day to blow itself out. Pete did a heap of rewiring in the engine bay and water maker, and I read a lot and did some reorganising downstairs. We contemplated launching the Goon Bag, but the wind didn’t make it an attractive option, plus there wasn’t really much to explore other than Draining Bay, which was pretty well drained for most of the day. This was our name for the creek on the right, below Mount Flinders, where we had anchored on our last visit. We had come in at dusk, dropped the anchor, and then watched what had been a beautiful wide bay drain to an ugly, mangrove lined, mud flat! It finished about 50 meters from where we had anchored, so lucky we had not gone further! The only advantage was that we had seen heaps of dugongs, but this time, being further up and in deeper water, we saw none.

After dinner Pete refused to get beaten at cribbage again and so we watched a film – Dr Strange. I am not a fan of the Marvel films, but this was actually really good, a little different and not too ridiculous superhero. The forecast for the next few days had by now resolved into light winds, so we had a conference about where we would head to next. We had been intending to check out Island Head Creek, as we had never been there and we have spoken to lots of people this trip who tell us it’s fabulous. The entrance looked a little tricky, but we figured if we timed it right, we would be ok. However, having spent the last 2 nights in a very sheltered location, we considered that we should take advantage of the settled, light winds and smoother seas to see some of the islands, that we might not have visited in more boisterous conditions. Added to this, tide times were not ideal for an entry to Island Head Creek, so we agreed that we would look at islands instead, and hopefully get some walking in. We would make decisions about where on the morning forecast.

Overnight, the wind went to nothing and we had a fantastic nights sleep. The morning forecast gave us light conditions until the weekend, and so we decided we would take a look at Cheviot, High Peak and Hexham islands, then probably head into Hunter in the Dukes. We may not stay at all of them, but we would see what conditions were like, as they are all subject to surge or swell. So we had breakfast and then weighed anchor and headed out of the flat sheltered calm of Port Clinton, through some pretty interesting chop at the entrance to the bay, and thence out to sea.

Port Clinton – Hexham Island

The coastline in this region is really interesting, from tall wooded hills and mountain ranges, sandy beaches, mangroves to rocky outcrops. It’s practically all held by the Defence Forces forming the Shoalwater Bay Military Zone, often closed for live firing, but at this time it was open, and anchoring allowed, though going ashore was not. We headed north along the coast at first, passing close to Island Head Creek, which did look interesting, but was not to be for us this trip. Our first island was Cheviot, and as we approached we saw our first whale of the day, cavorting just south of the island. Closing the western side, where the anchorage was supposed to be, all we could see was sloping rock faces, right down to the water. We started our approach, looking for shallow enough depth to drop an anchor, but it remained stubbornly deep until we were within biscuit toss of the formidable sloping shoreline. It was also impossible to make out the seabed, and feeling uncomfortable about it, we both agreed to push on to High Peak Island, which the cruising guides indicate had a sand bottom anchorage.

Another hour later, we started our approach to the beach at High Peak. It looked like it would be an attractive stop, with high, wooded hills and a pretty beach, though there was a fair swell apparent. I steered while Pete did Nav on the tablet, making use of our new found favourite tool, the sonar live. However, when using the tablet, Pete wears his non- polarised sunnies, so he was unable to make out the coral patches that I could see quite well. Trying to head towards the point suggested in the cruising guides seemed to be taking us toward what I thought was a large coral bommie, but Pete at the front of the boat called me in towards it. Luckily, we nudged that bommie going very slowly indeed, because I could see it, so despite our full stop, I was able to rapidly reverse us away, back into deep water. A quick check of the keel bolts showed no damage there, and we spent a short time recovering from the shock, before deciding that this would not be a viable anchorage.

So with 2 hours to go until sunset, we decided to head flat out to Hexham, which was 2 hours away, and with the little wind there had been dying, we pushed the engine hard, to arrive at Hexham as the sun was sinking into the sea. To our dismay, there were already 2 boats anchored and another coming in, so it was a bit squeezy, and we were not sure of our location. It was however very pretty, and seemed to have no surge or tidal influence, so we settled in, had dinner, a game of crib then an early night. We did however agree to get up for anchor watches, with me taking the low tide shift at 1 am, and Pete the rising tide at 4 am. Neither of these checks gave us any reason to worry, so other than the anchor watches, we had a good nights sleep.

We woke to a beautiful morning, just three of us in the anchorage now, and breakfast on deck watching the whales leaping, spouting and tail flapping as they passed the island. This is the way to breakfast, not standing at your work desk checking your 1000 emails received overnight and trying to decide which was the most important to deal with right away! After breakfast we launched the Goon Bag and headed into the beach to see if we could see a walking track. Some exploring showed us a sort of track, but we would need proper shoes. Back in the dinghy, we explored the coral area in the eastern bay, and the rock pool behind the Cathedral Rocks on the western side. We decided to go back to the boat and get snorkelling gear and then have a spot of snorkelling in the pool on the west as it looked clearer. We were disappointed to find mostly weed on the bottom, with just a few patches of coral and very few fish. Despite extensive exploring it didn’t improve, so we checked the eastern shore, to find a similar sight. We could see that the people on the cat closest to us had come back from the beach, so we headed over to ask them if they knew of a walking track.

Greg and Jenny were happy to chat and said yes, there was a rough track, but helpfully, you could get a phone signal atop the hill! They also invited us to join them on the beach for sundowners, with the couple from the other cat. We were happy to accept. Returning to WDS, we picked up hiking shoes, phones and water, and headed into the beach to find the track. It was a very rough, almost non-existent track, marked by a couple of cairns and little else. It was grassy and rocky, with a preponderance of small grass trees, which made footing difficult. It was critical to watch where you put each foot or you would slide awkwardly off a grass tree hummock or a gravelly patch hidden under grass. We made it safely to the top and got enough signal for Pete to make a few work calls, we both picked up emails and messages and had a chat to Pete’s parents. Photo opportunities from the top were too good to walk away from, so we snapped the Percy’s to the north, the Dukes to the west, the mainland to the south and of course the beautiful bay we were anchored in.

Scrambling back down the hill we returned to the boat, and Pete decided to dive the anchor to check it. The check showed that we were likely to catch on a rock, so we decided to pick it up and reset it, as conditions were very benign, plus it was low water. This accomplished, we settled in to a lazy afternoon of reading (for me) and doing something to the electric toilet plumbing (for Pete!). We headed into the beach around 4:30, where we made the proper acquaintance of Greg and Jennie in Leilani and Rob and Jo in Double Trouble. Both Rob and Jo knew Swansea well, having been involved in theatre and played at the Grand on many occasions! We had a lovely evening on the beach and Greg and Jenny cooked up some of their tuna over the fire and served us slices of delicious seared tuna! We all discussed where we were next headed, Jo and Rob were thinking about Hunter Island, and Greg and Jennie were heading for Mackay, perhaps via Curlew. We said we were going to go the Middle Percy for just one night, just so we had been there in WDS. Both couples were interested, never having been to the Percy’s before, and with the forecast for very light winds, it looked like it may be relatively comfortable in West Bay. We parted, saying we may see them tomorrow.

Hexham to the Percys

When we woke to another glorious morning, Greg and Jennie had already left. I paddled into the beach to do some Pilates, and popped by Jo and Rob, who had decided to go to Hunter to meet up with some friends. They headed off about 8:30 and we eventually got under way around 9, taking the long route around South Percy to get the 22 miles to Middle Percy. There was almost no breeze, so we motored and Pete fished, but to no avail. However, we did stop at Dolphin Beach for a nudie swim, the place being deserted and quite beautiful, with huge multi coloured sand dunes surrounding the small, white sand beach. The water was incredibly clear, and we could see the anchor with about 20 meters of chain out.

Refreshed after our half hour interlude, we recommenced the route and saw a whale in the channel. We seemed to be getting close to it so we slowed and watched him spouting and surfacing. He then dived, but kept his tail just above the surface and stayed like this for about fifteen minutes, as we motored around him. It was extraordinary, and something we hadn’t seen before. We could not think of a reason why he would do this, and resolved to google it once we had signal!

As we rounded the headland into West Bay, there were of course numerous yachts anchored. We saw that Greg and Jennie were in, and a few other boats we had seen at various times around the traps. There were also a couple of catamarans in the boat harbour, just beginning to float as we arrived just after low water. We headed ashore around 4 to have a bit of a walk and explore, and take a good look at the famous Aframe, where every passing boat of any description have left memorabilia, from boat name plaques, to mooring buoys, tee shirts and caps. It’s a fantastic place with heaps of atmosphere, and now has a new roof and great fireplace. We left a WDS mug, with our names and date inscribed, and were delighted to see Wakanui had left a board hanging over the ladder to the upstairs.

We chatted to an older guy camping on the beach with his son and grandsons, having come out from Mackay in a small fishing boat for a couple of days. Gradually the other yachties made their way ashore as the sun sank and there was a huge crowd by the time the sky was turning pink and gold with the remains of the sunset. We met up with Greg and Jennie who were delighted that they came, loving the place. We also met up with Marlene and Graeme from As If, who had been the other boat in Port Clinton with us. We headed back to WDS for dinner, but everyone else stayed ashore to cook on the fire.

Middle Percy

We had a great night, with no wind or swell, very unusual for Middle Percy. In the morning, we decided to head ashore and walk, possibly up to the homestead, but first we took the Goon Bag into the boat harbour, as it was high tide. It’s quite a large area when the tide is in and there were five boats in there – 3 against the jetty and the two cats, anchored in the middle. It has to be one of the most picturesque harbours on the coast, with a narrow entrance, surrounded by wooded hills and backed by mangroves.

The walk we decided on was a loop, with a steep section and a gentle section, choosing the steep section first. It was interesting as we wound our way first through mangroves and dry lagoon, then up and up through differing vegetation until we reached pines and the top. We found the homestead gate, but thought we would not disturb them, and started down what we thought was the gentle track. However, it disappeared to nothing, so we walked back up thinking we had missed a turn. As we approached the original track, we saw Marlene and Graeme, who had unintentionally wandered up the steep the track, and we explained we had lost the gentle track back down. They headed off on a fork, and we headed back towards the homestead, as finding a phone signal, Pete located a map on his phone. The gentle track starts the other side of the homestead.

As we entered through the gate, we were greeted by Geoff, who introduced us to Cate, who is the leaseholder, and they insisted that we stop for a cup of tea and to see the homestead and the many items of history and memorabilia kept on the veranda. Cate is an amazing lady, who fought to inherit the leasehold and won, continuing her cousins work in maintaining the island and its welcoming persona for the yachting and boating community. Cate is originally English, but now seems to be the quintessential Aussie, committed to keeping the island pristine. Geoff also lives on the island and was originally one of the four sons of the lighthouse keeper on Pine Islet. As we read the many articles about life on the island, so Marlene and Graeme arrived to join us for tea and history! As we looked out from the verandah, we could see down to Pine Islet, and out towards the other islands. The sea was so calm, it was hard to make out any horizon, and as the neighbouring islands had cumulus over them, the islands appeared to be long stratus clouds, with a cumulus over the top – islands floating in the sky! It was an incredible phenomenon, and one that took me a while to get my head around, as i thought I was just looking at clouds!

On the return trip down the easy track, we passed a couple of other boaties, mostly trying for phone reception, and we got back to the beach at 1:30, starving and very hot. Back at WDS, we jumped straight in to swim and cool down, then had lunch and a long afternoon snooze. We headed in to the beach again as the sun set, this time to cook ashore, and meet some new comers. We were told that on Friday night, Cate was going to provide a goat for goat curry, and we were invited to stay and join the fun. As the forecast seemed to be remaining favourable with just a light northerly forecast, then variable again, we decided we would stay and contribute some veggies for a dish of goat curry.

Overnight, the northerly developed and whilst it was light, it did make the night noisy. We didn’t sleep well, but decided that we would still stay, as it wasn’t so bad, and the forecast seemed to indicate it would drop out again. In any event, Curlew wasn’t the ideal anchorage in these conditions, and that was going to be our next stop. Plus we didn’t want to miss out on goat curry! Greg and Jennie had told us that there was fantastic snorkelling at Pine Islet, so we thought we would head over there around lunch time, when the tide was low, so we had a lazy morning, defrosting the freezer and doing some housework. Almost reluctantly, because it was not really as warm, still and sunny as yesterday, we donned wetsuits and jumped into the Goon Bag to head into the wind and slight chop out to Pine Islet with our snorkelling gear. We eventually found the bay, and headed in towards a rocky beach, locating a sand patch amongst what appeared to be coral, where we could drop the anchor. We slowly got into the water and were disappointed to see a lot of weed, not unlike the little cove at Hexham, however, we persisted and found a patch of good coral, and then found so much more we were aghast. It truly was excellent, though we had poor visibility, with a big tidal flow and the northerly breeze, the coral was incredible and the fish life as varied as anywhere we had been yet. When we were finally too cold to stay in, we headed back as reluctantly as we had set off, but for the opposite reason!

Arriving back at WDS, we had time to shower, grab our veggies and shore gear and head into the beach. We helped Rick get the fire going while we waited for Linda with the goat. Linda had been up since dawn, first helping to butcher the goat, then assisting with the honey harvest and finally getting the goat in the pressure cooker! She then arrived to direct veggie operations, as a number of us helped with the chopping of all contributed veg, before Linda plonked it all in a huge cauldron over the fire and added her secret Sri Lankan curry spices.

It was a spectacular sunset as we waited for the goat curry to mature. Some high cloud had come over, leaving a small gap just above the horizon, and we watched as the sun gradually revealed itself in the gap in a fabulous blaze of gold and orange, which slowly faded to pink and deep purple, reflecting in the high clouds. I had left my camera on the boat, so no pics of the truly spectacular colour show that went with an utterly delicious goat curry, or the great company in which we enjoyed it all. It took ages to say goodnight as we expected to move on in the morning, so we spent a long time saying au revoir to our Percy anchorage friends, hoping that we would catch up again on the northern route.

Percy to Curlew

It was a glass out night again, and so peaceful on board WDS, where we finished the wine we had opened with dinner. We retired early, and woke early, getting prepared to head off to Curlew Island. We had a last swim, then prepared for sea as we had breakfast. There was a little breeze as we weighed anchor, and we did unfurl the head sail, but not for long. We watched the wind speed rapidly diminish from 9 knots, to 6, then 4, then 2 as the sea absolutely glassed out. I changed the bed and put the bedding on deck to air in the hot sun, but it was too hot to remake the bed! We had to open some hatches to get some air flow through the boat, to enable me to get the bed made again! Strangely, we saw no sea life at all as we motored slowly west, fishing line trolling hopefully behind. There was brief excitement as Pete caught something, and as it got close to the boat, we realised it wasn’t another mackerel tuna! Hoorah! However, as Pete tried to get it on board, and excitedly identified it as spotted mackerel (very good eating) the fish had other ideas and shook itself free, swimming away. Great disappointment for our dinner plan.

As we approached Curlew Island the navigation was a little tricky, the anchorage being off a beach between a sand bank and shallow beach. There were also shoals on our line in to this area, so we took it very slowly, using all the tools, especially as the chart had very little information on it. We basically had to overlay the cruising guide info as the contours revealed themselves on the sonar live, being very careful as we were on a falling tide. We anchored ok in about 8 meters, knowing that this would drop as low as 5.5 m and get as high as 11!  Once anchored, it was straight in for a swim, then get the shade up to have some respite from the heat. We wanted to walk ashore, but needed to wait for the sun to lose some power before we could get the engine on to Goon Bag, and head to the beach.

We walked the whole length of the beach and found no walking trails, though camping is permitted. There was a lovely rock for watching the sunset, decorated with various coral boulders. As we sat and looked at the boats anchored we saw one of the Percy crowd drop anchor. He had been heading to Airlie, but clearly the lack of wind had him pulling in here! We popped by to say hi on our way back to WDS, and watched the almost full moon rise over the beach as the sun set in a blaze of pink, purple, orange and gold.

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