We departed Hammo at around 1100, after some quick provisioning at the brilliant new IGA, as the last of the wedding crew were heading to Dent Island for lunch. We had a good breeze, and were able to blow away the harbour cobwebs with a pleasant reach across to Woodwark Bay, just north of Airlie. It was revitalising to be away from port again, though it had been great fun to catch up with friends old and new.
We dropped anchor in a little bay with no one else but ourselves for company and settled into on board life quickly and easily. We had a vegetarian dinner followed by a game of cribbage, then an early night because we needed an early start to get the tide approaching high as we went through Gloucester Passage. We had booked for dinner at the Cape Gloucester Eco Resort on Thursday night, so needed to be through the passage on the 1100 high tide.
In the morning, we weighed anchor at 0700, and set off, but less breeze meant we needed to add the motor to our sailing to make sure we made time. We had been through the passage last year and kept good notes of tide times and heights, so we hoped this would be a breeze. Last year we had made it through just after low water, whereas now we were timing it for high. As is always the case with sandy areas though, there had clearly been a lot of movement and we saw depths of 4m for a lot longer than we had seen the shallows last year. Once through, we commented on the fact that we had timed it for high water and were very pleased to have done that!
As we entered the anchorage, the first boat we saw was Double Trouble. We had met Jo and Rob back at Hexham, and seen them again at Shaw, and stayed in touch, but hadnt managed to catch up. We made contact and arranged to see them in the bar for a drink before we had our dinner! We were able to pick up a mooring here, which had a decent chain attached to it, so we were not worried about it wrapping on our keel, especially as the breeze was pretty strong and holding us off nicely. We launched the Goon Bag and decided to head in to the resort to check it out so we would know where to go for dinner. We swung by Double Trouble to say hello, then went into the beach to investigate. The setting is glorious, with the resort on the leeward side of the Cape, looking into Edgcumbe Bay with Gloucester Island to the north. The water is that fantastic turquoise that seems to start in the Whitsundays, and the sand is golden. We landed the dinghy on the beach, crossed the sand and were in the bar and bistro!
After checking we were in the right place – we didnt want to accidentally find ourselves at Montys – we thought it was only right to check out the bar, so had a liquid lunch, looking out at that fantastic view. Returning to WDS, Pete decided it was a good afternoon for servicing the port primary winch, so while he did that, I swam and relaxed and pulled together a late afternoon “picnic” so we could eat before we went to meet Jo and Rob at the bar.
By 1630 we were in the Goon Bag again heading ashore, winch working beautifully and no left over bits! We had a lovely time catching up with Jo and Rob and swapping stories about the last few weeks. We realised were were all heading towards Maggie from here, so agreed we would sail in company with a stop at Cape Upstart to break the trip. We invited them to join us aboard for drinks at Upstart, and then said our good byes as we headed to the other side of the bar for dinner! We had a delightful meal, with great service and a good wine list, and got back to the boat at about 2100, heading straight to bed in anticipation of our 0600 alarm in the morning.
We set off the next morning in pursuit of what seemed to be half the anchorage! Clearly a lot of boats were on the same route, but they all left before us. We were the last to leave by about half an hour, so Pete of course took this as the starting gun, and before long I was also on board, looking for the spinnaker! We put the kite up and had some cracking speeds of 9-10 knots in the 10-15 knot breeze, as we began to reel in the other yachts, but discretion won the day and we did an early drop, just managing to keep the kite dry. Just as we gybed, a whale breached just ahead of us and what seemed to be very close to Double Trouble, who we had now caught up to. We watched for ages as a mother whale and her baby breached and fin slapped about 50 m from us. The wind picked up a little then spent the rest of the afternoon gradually dropping. By the time we had just one to pass, we could see everyone now under motor, so we had to concede and complete the run in to Upstart Bay under power.
We dropped anchor and waited for Double Trouble to catch up, and had a swim. Pete went to chat to Mica, who we had met at Pancake Creek, and turned out to be not just friends of Mark and Janet on Koonya, but also Mike used to work with Choppa, Pete’s dad! Eventually Double Trouble arrived and we had a lovely few hours chatting about the next stages of our trips, and discussing how close Double Trouble had been to the whale we had seen – they didnt realise until they had nearly hit it! As the sun sank, we admired the view which is pretty special here, as the sun sets over the next headland, Cape Bowling Green, a long, very low lying Cape, only identified in the evening by the cane fires burning along its length, as the smoke is backlit by the sunset.
Another early night and another early start as we needed to make the final 70 miles to Magnetic Island. Once again, everyone in the anchorage left ahead of us, and once again we slowly reeled them in. This time the wind was further aft, preventing a long, fast kite run, so we didnt quite overhaul them all. We were a little too keen with the spinnaker and kept it up well above our agreed breeze limit of 15 knots, so trying to drop the kite without it getting wet in 17 knots proved difficult! We did dunk a little of the foot of the sail, but retrieved it ok and spread it on deck to dry! Slowly the threatening clouds burnt off, and the wind clocked around to the east, making the trip almost dead downwind, as the sun and blue sky came back. We were very much looking forward to meeting up with friends again at Maggie, but none more so than Clare and Paul, who we had not seen since March. As we rounded Cape Cleveland, we at last had a view of Magnetic Island, where we would be completing this part of our journey.