August 5, 2010


I'm home! Apologies for the long silence, but once we reached Airlie nothing would do for me but pressing on for Townsville as fast as we could, and that didn't leave time to write. But I mustn't get ahead of myself..

The strong weather that had us stuck in Mackay continued, and we were there for almost a week in the end. Mackay marina isn't nearly as scenic as some of the places I've been stuck, and is a way out of the town proper, so it was a long week. Luckily for us, Tshinta, a yacht we'd kept encountering since Bundy, was tied up right next door, similarly stuck in with the weather, so we had good company - there were a few late nights at the Mackay Yacht Club. Peter, Feargus, Andy and Kate were taking Tshinta from Hervey Bay to Bowen, I imagine they've arrived by now.

When the weather finally eased off, we made a lunchtime start from Mackay (thanks to one of those late nights at the yacht club) and did a short sail to Brampton Island, where we anchored for the night. It's a popular anchorage - we were, amazingly, the first boat out the next morning, bound for Airlie Beach. The cruise up through the Whitsundays has to be one of the prettier passages I've made:


Airlie Beach is a beautiful spot, I can see what all the fuss is about. It's a backpacker haven, with a marina largely populated with cruise and dive boats of various kinds, and a bustling main drag, but we spent our evenings at the Yacht Club, naturally. We went looking for Kate and Andy's boat, Windale, on the hard there, but couldn't find it.

Bowen, the last proper boat harbour before Townsville, was our next stop. It was an easy day sail from Airlie, through Gloucester Passage, where we saw the North Queensland Cruising Yacht Club all out for a race - the Tshintas had warned us that the club would be deserted as the locals would be out at Monte's resort for the night, celebrating after the race. Sure enough, I couldn't get through to the club (I'd been hoping to borrow a berth for the night, from someone out at the race), so we ended up mooring in the Marina Pool. We dinghied ashore for meal at the club all the same.

After Bowen, we were looking at anchoring at Cape Upstart and Cape Bowling Green, making the final passage in three days. Being so close to Townsville, though, I was feeling an urge to press on. We arrived at Cape Upstart before sunset, but I decided to go on to Cape Bowling Green and make it a two day trip - then, when we reached Cape Bowling Green around midnight, we decided we'd just carry on through the night and into Townsville in the morning.

So, the final passage ended up being a bit of a long one, 22 hours to cover about 100nm. We spotted Castle Hill and Magnetic Island a couple of hours before dawn, and slowed ourselves down, reaching the Ross Creek entrance at about 0630. By 1000, we'd showered, arranged Contessa II's home for the next six months, and settled in at the bar. It felt so good!

July 24, 2010

Rosslyn Bay to Mackay

Well, the local advice was quite correct - we would have been mad to pass by without visiting the islands going north from Keppel Bay. We spent four nights out, making short (well, all-day, but shorter than previous) passages and anchoring overnight at Great Keppel Island, Port Clinton, Hexham Island and Middle Percy Island. Five days, four nights is the longest I've been out away from shore power, water and amenities. Water was our limiting factor, a minor nuisance, because I forgot to actually check the tank before we left.

With two cameras aboard and Em's photographic knowhow, the most recent set of photos is a bit larger than usual. No apologies for that - I could go on and on about how beautiful the passage was, but the photos probably do a better job:

Rosslyn Bay to Mackay

West Bay on Middle Percy Island probably warrants a little description, though: there's a homestead on the island, and the last few generations of occupants have all encouraged passing yachts to stop by. The homesteaders and the visiting yachties have built a big treehouse, some outdoorsy amenities, a shack and a big "A" frame hut, the latter two of which are decorated (festooned, even) with plaques, flags, messages in bottles, spare liferings, flotsam and jetsam and innumerable other bits of boaty miscellanea, all inscribed with the details of visiting yachts and bits of nautical doggerel. It's lovely. The homesteaders will sell local produce, too, so if you're running low on victuals you can pick up some fresh fruit and veg, their local honey and lime juice, bread, goat (whole or leg of), peacock and chicken.

West Bay was where I spent my birthday, actually - we dinghied over to the beach for a swim and a picnic, and wandered around and explored, and of course left our own bit of jetsam in the hut. And thanks for all the birthday wishes, everybody! We were out of touch at the time, so I got them all at once when we arrived in Mackay.

We're still in Mackay - coming in on Tuesday evening, we just beat some really strong weather that was building and has been blowing hard ever since. So we're well and truly recharged and resupplied - without much prospect of getting away until Monday, at the earliest.

July 16, 2010

Bundy to Rosslyn Bay

We spent much longer in Bundy than I'd expected, caught by weather, which was a bit frustrating but did give us the chance to meet Noah and Vicky F., a lovely Canadian couple who are settling here and selling their beautiful Cape Dory 33 Serenus (I can't link to listings directly but it's worth a looking her up) after cruising all the way from Canada, over a couple of years. They had us over for dinner then took us into town to resupply, and to Bundy's local Shalom Markets for fresh stuff - Noah helped me out with my alternator, too.

When the weather finally cleared I was keen to make up some distance, so Em got to start her sailing career with a 24 hour, 130nm passage with a moonless night. Amazingly, she's not refusing to ever get on a boat again. We left Bundy just before sunset and set off for Cape Capricorn (so named because it's right on the Tropic), motoring as there was no wind. Decent sailing weather came up in the morning, but only an hour after hoisting the main the vang tore itself out of the boom on an accidental jybe.

At Cape Capricorn we anchored overnight, then set off the next morning for Rosslyn Bay, going inside through Keppel Bay. With light airs and the boom vang broken, we ended up motoring all the way. It was a pleasant trip all the same - gorgeous clear water and constant sunshine, with the sea calm in the lee of the islands. We sighted mother and juvenile dolphin (and plenty of others), and a sea turtle sunning itself on the surface.

I was quite lucky with repairs - the local rigger, Mal Whyte of Queensland Yachtcraft, was around the marina when I rang him the afternoon we arrived and popped out to look at the boom, then picked it up and patched it up and got it back to me all in the next day - and did a great job, too. I was expecting to be held up much longer, so I was very grateful to be ready to go again so soon.

We caught the bus into Yeppoon the day after to resupply - it's a lovely little town, with a big yacht club, pretty views from the strand and some decent little boutiques, where Em was able to find a stripey shirt and some bellbottom trousers.

The Capricornia Cruising Yacht Club in Rosslyn Bay is a fantastic little place, and the marina crowd is friendly. We ran into a few familiar faces from Bundy, and further down the way, and made some new friends. Our next stop was going to be Pearl Bay or Island Head Creek, both approximately Townsville-wards, but the locals and other cruisers persuaded us we'd be mad to go on without stopping off at Great Keppel Island, so we're bound there this afternoon.

Bundy to Rosslyn Bay

July 9, 2010

One for the geeks

Briefly, we're still in Bundaberg - it's blowing about 25kt here in harbour. It doesn't look like we'll get away until Sunday, so we'll probably go right on to the Keppel Islands or Rosslyn Bay in one passage.

So, pottering around in port, I took the time to work out how to transfer data from my chartplotter to the PC, and convert it to Google Earth format. I've taken a quick look at the tracks, and can't make much sense of them, but the waypoints are clear enough... the last four are for a trip we haven't made yet. Also, I didn't start plotting waypoints until Port Stephens, so for the very start of the trip there aren't any. Anyway, here's the file, which you ought to be able to simply open in Google Earth:

My GPS waypoints so far

July 7, 2010


After all the motorsailing I did on the way here, I'd been feeling (that Contessa II was probably) overdue for an engine service, so I decided I'd have to sort that out before leaving Bundaberg. The local marine diesel guy (Gary of Marine Torque, very reasonable) wasn't available until this (Wednesday) morning, so I've ended up staying in Bundaberg a week.

Em and I have been making ourselves familiar faces at the Blue Water Sports Club and the Lighthouse Hotel, both of Burnett Heads (which is where we actually are, more accurately), and exploring Bundy. And, yes, sampling the rum. Waiting for the mechanic gave us time to do a few odd jobs, revictual and pick up some equipment. We meant to go for a swim, too, but the lady in Target looked at me like I was mad when I tried to buy swimmers, it being the middle of winter, and the pool was closed... iced up, presumably.

It's cane processing time here (as it is about half the year, I think), so the big trucks and ferries of cane are running to and from the refineries, the fields are being burnt off and there's generally a sort of molassesy atmosphere about the place.

We'll be trying to day-sail as much as we can from here on in - our next stop should be an overnight anchorage at Pancake Creek, or Gladsone if the weather turns unfriendly (as it looks as though it might), then on to somewhere in Keppel Bay.

July 2, 2010

Southport to Bundaberg

Steve's new boat, Castanet, is lovely - I'm really happy for him. She's large, forty feet, and spacious with it, but in many ways is a cousin to Contessa II, with the same classic lines.

In between tinkering with the alternator and inspecting Castanet, I was treated to a tour of the HMAS Bundaberg, which was tied up at the Soutport Yacht Club. A friend of Jo C. and my brothers' happened to be on board, and when I looked him up he showed me around the ship, leaving me with a severe case of navigational instrument envy.

I have another recommendation to make: Joe Gergay of Mojo Marine was working with Steve on his boat, and kindly took some time to look at my alternator. He helped out and gave lots of good advice - anyone looking at marine electronics in the Southport/Brisbane area should certainly give him a ring on 0434375375.

From Southport we made pretty good time, and I'm now more like two-thirds of my way to Townsville. I expect to slow down a bit from here on in, as the better weather, the Whitsundays and the reef will probably encourage dawdling - especially as Emma is joining me here in Bundaberg.

Eugene and I stopped in Mooloolaba for one night. It's a strange town - home to Jessica Watson and Steve Irwin, if that gives any idea. There's a few Mooloolaba photos in the latest set:

Yamba to Bundaberg

Most of the photos, though, are of the Great Sandy Straights and Hervey Bay. We went inside Fraser Island to Bundaberg, rather than around the top - trading stronger offshore winds and easier navigation for a shorter but far more scenic route and tricky inshore pilotage. We started late in the day from Mooloolaba and made it to Wide Bay Bar the next morning, then moved about half-way through the Straights to the South White Cliffs and the anchorage known as "Ceratodus", where we stopped for the night. It's a beautiful spot, I could have lazed there for days.

I didn't, though. The next morning we got off early, and spent the day racing to Bundaberg as best we could with no wind. We got in after dark, with no moon and a tidal current running quite strong, which was a bit tricky, but there's a shipping "runway" (Eugene's mot juste), so there was no chance of missing the entrance. I sort of expected rum piped to berths here, along with water and power, but as it turned out we had to wander all the way to Burnett Heads before we found an open pub, the Lighthouse. We had to find a pub, though, because after over a fortnight Eugene was disembarking and heading back to work - a great shame, we made a good team.

I'll be resting up here for a few days, doing some maintenance and cleaning and resupplying. And drinking some rum, I expect.

June 26, 2010

Yamba to Southport

Queensland, at last! Southport isn't quite half way to Townsville, but as a psychological milestone, it'll do. We're tied up round the corner from Seaworld, in a forest of highrises and resorts - quite a contrast to the last few stops. Hopefully somewhere around here I can find a new alternator. Steve Y. is up here buying himself a boat (which is a relief, I've been feeling bad about taking his), so we had a friendly face to meet us when we arrived.

The trip from Yamba was the longest passage I've made so far, and one of the most beautiful - after a rough start, the weather turned very fair, with a decent breeze. There was a near-full moon that lasted most of the night, and mild seas, and of the 30 hours we spent, berth-to-berth, we only had the engine running for 9. With some offshore hazards and a bit of set-and-drift, I got to do some decent navigation work, too.

We were particularly well-favoured by dolphins (attentive readers might remind me here that in 'Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour' I said I'd stop going on and on about dolphins, to which: I didn't mean it), particularly off Cape Byron. I was happily reminded of my one-time brother-in-law Andy plunging into the surf to swim with them in his wedding clothes in Byron - I wonder if we encountered any of the same ones? Resting with the engine off, you could hear them through the hull - I reckon I can rig myself a bedside bathyphone by stickytaping on a stethoscope down below the waterline. That's one to add to the list.