Entering the Whitsundays

Despite a comfortable night at Curlew, we decided that we would close the Curtis Coast cruising guide, and open the 100 Magic Miles of the Whitsundays. We wanted to ensure we had plenty of time to explore as much of the Whitsundays as possible before Al and Larissa’s wedding. After the wedding, we would need to ensure we were at Magnetic Island with time to help Paul and Clare prepare for Hammo, as well as settle WDS for a 10 day holiday at Maggie Marina! We therefore decided to make the longish trip to Scawfell, as soon as we had finished breakfast, exiting on the last of the rising tide and hopefully taking a magic carpet north on the ebb tide.

We had hoped to sail, but again, there was almost no breeze and we spent a hot, still day, mostly sheltering under the cockpit shade, which made the day bearable. Another terrible day for fishing, and no sign of whales or dolphins, just a couple of turtles as we pulled into Refuge Bay. The most exciting thing we saw was probably the shipping lined up awaiting a turn at the Hay Point Coal Loader! However, pulling in to Refuge, the peace and tranquility returned as we lost phone and internet, and the bird calls became our background music. There were a few boats anchored, but everyone was keeping to themselves, and we were happy to do the same after the liveliness at Percy!

We were able to get a forecast which looked like there may be a blow coming through on Wednesday. We thought that we may stay at Scawfell and shelter there, moving on after that. It was a beautiful evening, and we were able to have dinner on deck and watch the full moon rise over steep hills of Scawfell. The little breeze that had sprung up on sunset died away and there were no bullets overnight to keep us from sleeping comfortably.

Morning brought clouds in the west and despite getting up at 6.30 am to watch the full moon set, there was no sign of it. It was still warm, but more cloud cover than the day before and we were not terribly tempted to swim or even go ashore. Over breakfast we discussed whether or not to stay as planned, and started to check through 100 MM to see what other options there were for anchoring in 20-25 knots of SE. Of course there are plenty, though many with the fateful warning “though there will likely be swell with a developed southeasterly”! Not ideal, but when you are anchoring in islands, its usual to have some swell or surge, we have just been spoiled this last week. We knew we would be ok at Scawfell, but there was little walking, and with it being spring tides, the snorkelling wouldnt be great either, with midday high tides. We had spent two nights here last year, so felt we had seen what Scawfell had to offer. Pete was very keen to revisit Brampton, so we decided to head there and then recheck the weather.

Most of the other boats who had been anchored had already gone by the time we weighed anchor, but there was a little breeze, so we prepared to hoist the main. As we were getting organised, I spotted a whale breaching about 300 meters away. It turned out there were 3 of them, and we watched with cameras ready for about 20 minutes, but we didnt get any good pictures, because every time we thought they had gone and we put down the cameras, they breached! We finally moved through the pod and left them behind, and got the main up, poled out the heady and gently wafted along at about 4 knots, with the fishing rod out. Pete had put in a long route to cover the 20 odd miles to Brampton, so that he could have the best chance to catch fish, but the whales must have chased the fish away, we saw so many. It was a veritable whale playground between Scawfell and Brampton.

As we approached the anchorage near the old resort, we could see two catamarans, and realised one was Greg and Jennie! They popped over to say G’day as we were settling the anchor, asking our plans. Greg was desperate to find a TV to watch the State of Origin game on Wednesday! One of the useful things about being in the Whitsundays is listening to the charter fleet radio skeds, as you get the weather forecast really quickly and easily! The updated forecast sounded like we probably wanted to stay put for a day or two and we were keen to try to stay here as there are supposed to be some good walks ashore. Pete made pasta for dinner and we had the delish butternut pumpkin and burnt butter sauce with handmade papardelle. It was devine.

In the morning, we found ourselves once more alone in the anchorage, as we prepared to head ashore for a walk. We werent sure what we would find, as all the websites we checked seemed to have the resort still running (though we know it closed in 2012) and the National Parks of Queensland were not keen to put maps of the walks on their site, though some were apparently open. Obviously there had been damage with cyclone Debbie in view of the mooring issue at Keswick, but there was no where that could tell us if this affected Brampton. We landed near the old Jetty, expecting to find the road to the resort, but we found nothing but an overgrown trail, with an old sign showing the walks. The little railway that used to run from the jetty to the resort, had been decimated by a high tidal surge, with the tracks almost completely washed away, lying twisted and broken over the beach. We walked along the rocky beachfront towards the old resort, which from a distance, almost looked undamaged behind its palm tree foreground.

We reached the resort pool first, on a plinth built into a small outcrop so it was surrounded by the shallow turquoise waters of Brampton Roads. Whilst there was water in it, it was also full of debris, clearly washed in by storms, and the surrounding paving was broken up, with large chunks sitting in the pool. The resort was halfheartedly fenced off, so we were able to get a look into some of the beachfront units. Whilst one was clearly inhabited, probably by a caretaker, the others had smashed windows and were full of sand, as well as garden furniture which looked like it had been blown or washed in through the windows. We wandered through the buildings, golf course, tennis courts an maintenance area, seeing no one and hearing just the low tone of a generator, clearly powering the caretaker units. At the back of the airstrip, we located signs for the island circuit walk and decided to try to follow the track.

At first, the track was ok, though a little overgrown. There were a few butterflies, but nothing I couldnt cope with. However, as we started to climb, the track got more overgrown and the butterflies more prolific. Eventually, I was unable to go further, frozen in terror by what seemed to me a swarm of beautiful but terrifying blue butterflies. We also found green tree ants on our shoes and socks and not having worn long pants, we headed quickly back down the track, with me sheltering behind Pete, who gallantly fought off the butterflies for me! Once out of the bush, we cleared the tree ants from our feet and legs and headed back through the resort. We thought we would see if there was a track to West Bay near the jetty site, as suggested by National Parks.

As we retraced our steps along the beach we noticed that two more boats had joined us at the anchorage. Back at the jetty, we started up the overgrown trail near the sign, but again the butterflies thwarted us in our attempt to follow the trail. We were by now pretty hot and decided to take the Goon bag over the reef to see if the snorkelling may be worthwhile. Again we were disappointed. There didnt seem to be much in the way of coral at all, it was mainly rock and sand. it was also high tide, so not the best time to snorkel anyway, so we headed back to have a swim off the boat, via the new arrivals. We coudnt see anyone on the monohull, but there was a couple o the catamaran so we swung past to say hi.

Barbara and Mike on De La Mer had been at Scawfell, near us and told us that they hadnt wanted to leave as the fishing had been excellent! Pete was devastated! We chatted for quite a while and invited them over for sundowners to carry on the conversation! Back at WDS, I had a quick swim while Pete decided to head off for a fish, being inspired after talking to Barbara and Mike. He returned empty handed but complaining of a severe headache, so took some panadol and headed to bed to lie down. He was still not feeling great when Barabara and Mike arrived and was very quiet through our natter about sailing further up the coast and around the top end, which our guests had done previously. As darkness fell we farewelled or guests and headed downstairs as it had become quite chilly. Pete got into his fluffy PJs and said he wasnt really hungry, so we thought we would just finish off the sunset snacks. However, after a long Facetime call with my parents, he rallied enough to want to cook the steak on the BBQ, so we had a late dinner of steak and salad.

By morning we knew the breeze had arrived as we were getting regular bullets through the anchorage, so we didnt rush out of bed. We had a lazy morning and a late brunch, and Pete did some admin work. Whilst I was reading on deck, Pete said he could hear whale song through the hull, and shortly after I heard a big breath and a blow. Grabbing my glasses, I could see a number of whales within about 100 meters of the boat! We spent a good half hour watching a pod of humpbacks circle about the bay, surfacing to breathe, but not leaping about. It was lovely to see and hear them so near. Later we also saw and heard dolphins, and a small pod passed us very close. Despite all this activity in the water, Pete remained unsuccessful with the fishing, even heading off for another afternoon fish. This made us decide that it was time to move on again, and we looked at the chart and cruising guide to decide where.

We had lots of options close by, and we thought we would try Goldsmith, which looked good, though neither Lucas or 100 MM really raved about it. If it didnt look ok then we would head to the northern side of Thomas. We knew Thomas was pretty as we had stayed last year, though in the southern bay, getting caught by the southerly wind switch in the middle of the night at change of tide! That wasnt going to happen this time, with a very settled southeasterly forecast.

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