Monday, 19 August 2013

Whitsundays - Visitors Week!

I cant help but feel proud that we have arrived in the Whitsundays under our own steam - we are here and it feels great!

The crew sailed from Scawfell Island bound for Shaw Island in a very strong breeze and a nasty wind against tide action for much of the way.  I have made a mental note to myself to be careful where we anchor next time at Scawfell as we spent 1/2 an hour cleaning the thickest and slimiest green weed off the chain before leaving - not such a great way to start the morning!

The forecast for the next few days was a very strong 30-35 knots so the crew elected to anchor behind Shaw Island which has good protection - and blow it did!  For 48 hours it was between 25-40 knots and the 6-8 boats in the anchorage barely put there heads out the companionway except to check on anchors.  I must admit to wondering if the Whitsundays was always 25 knots or above?

The wind slowly eased to 18-20 knots and we motor sailed across to Hamilton Island as we were due to meet Tim and Pam - originally the plan was to pick them up and anchor at various non touristy places but due to the still strong breeze we decided to spend the time at the marina and use it as a base for Tim and Pam to organise their following week of sightseeing.

Tim and Pam preparing for the day

Pam gets the big Aunty's thumbs up however.  Walking down the marina surrounded by very (very!) expensive large boats, Tim asks 'if I owned any of these boats, which one would you want me to have?' Pam quickly responds - 'that one' and points to the Pod....Pam should have been a politician but it earnt her brownie points none the less!

Tim and Pam stayed with us for a few days and then it was time to head to Airlie Beach to reprovision and meet some of Pete's friends who were bringing out their trailer boat for a spot of fishing on the outer reef - whilst using the Pod as the mother ship.  Doug and Jason have been part of the 'crew' who Pete has been on many fishing charters with over the last few years including Fiji, Nomad etc.

The crew headed out to Nara Inlet to anchor in preparation of the teams arrival - we wanted to ensure we had a safe anchorage so that whilst the guys were out fishing I didn't have to re-anchor if the breeze changed.  After such strong weather, the weather gods shone and the second day was a spectacular day of sun and barely any wind.  They had a great fishing day with Spanish Mackerel, Coral Trout and Red Fish caught.  One of the Mac's was tooooo big for the Esky so off came his head!

A Mac without his head - still tastes great!

The crew enjoyed the guys company for two nights and a great meal was enjoyed, cooked by the captain, of Mac for entrée and Coral Trout for main.

Coral Trout - one of gods gifts to the kitchen

After saying a fond farewell - the crew has moved around to Stonehaven which is a lovely anchorage and we have spent an afternoon paddle boarding over the coral and zipping around in the dinghy exploring the surrounding beaches.  It was an amazing day of light breeze and clear water.
The crew then moved onto Whitehaven/Hill Inlet as the forecast was for very light breezes for the next week and this is a good opportunity to explore the area which can be exposed to the trade winds when blowing.  Unfortunately after arriving at a mooring, the Captain went off to explore the fishing opportunities.  The fishing was so good (3-4 Golden Trevalley and 2 Queenies in about 15 minutes!!) that being the great Captain he is, he came back to get me so I could enjoy the fishing.  Not such a good move...first cast I caught a good size Queenie, cast out a second time and hooked up just beside the dinghy as I was retrieving...the hook didn't quite set and the hook flung back and went straight into my middle finger. 
Upon first glance the captain thought we could get it out but once we got back to the Pod we realised it was a bit deeper than first thought, so we sailed/motored back to Airlie so I could go up to Proserpine hospital.  It turned out to be a rather long night as it took 4 hours to get back, and hour or so at the hospital and I finally got back around 1am!  No harm done really - a local injection and a good doctor and I have already healed up no more than 2 days later.
So the crew have headed back out again - we will try the same area, because there is fish still uncaught by the captain....

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Bundaberg, Pancake Creek, and the Amazing Percy's

Pancake Creek

With a reasonable breeze forecast the crew headed off from Bundaberg to Pancake Creek as we needed to make up some distance to ensure we were in the Whitsundays for a visit from our Nephew and Neice (in law) Tim and Pam in 2 weeks.

The Pod sailed really well after leaving at 6am to ensure we made the best of the slack tide getting out of the marina and through the long channel of Bundaberg.  Pancake Creek is a wide expanse of water (it is actually a creek) which if you follow the markers has a deep high tide channel that allows boats to enter from the outer anchorage into a larger more protected area.  The outer anchorage has land on one side and a sand spit on the other - it can be a little rolly but generally is quite good.  If you enter through the channel - there is more protection from the swell and wind as well and that is where most cruising folk end up. Due to a fuel blockage (yes again!) literally at the entry we only anchored just inside the headland - we spent two nights here and did a lot of exploring in the dinghy.  This is a well known East Coast anchorage for cruising boats and I look forward to spending some more time there on the return trip - there is good mud crabs here and some good fishing I am told.
Pancake Creek - Second anchorage
Great Keppel Island

With the continuing good breeze (20-25 knots) we headed off to Great Keppel Island.  Originally the crew planned to break the trip up with a different anchorage about 15 NM from GKI but upon arrival the swing to a more Easterly breeze throughout the day meant this would not be comfortable so we arrived well after dark at GKI. A late arrival to a new anchorage (for us anyway) means anchoring outside the shelter of the Island and that means a rolly night at anchor....this is the type of night that cruising people dread!

First thing in the moning we picked up the anchor and made our way further into the bay - what a lovely island this is!  It has many walks over the island and a couple of resident live aboards who have lived on their boats at GKI for years!  The crew did many hours of beach combing for shells and whilst the captain tried to drown the crew a few times getting ashore in the swell we had a great time none the less. 

Percy Islands

After three nights at GKI the crew decided to head off to the Percys as the forecast was for a declining breeze for the next three days.  At 4pm we headed off for an overnighter - arrival mid morning the next day.  Normally most cruisers will break up the trip anchoring over at Island Head meaning an overnighter is not required but the defence forces were having 'war games' and therefore a significant area (including anchorages and some distance out to sea) is closed to all boat traffic...this is definitely on our list for the return trip as it is an amazing area!  Isolated and serene!

The breeze completely died overnight and we motor sailed the last half of the leg.  The crew arrived to an almost glassy anchorage known as Middle Percy.....ahhh the serenity!  This anchorage is a very well known place for cruisers and is a number of Islands literally in the middle of no where.  It has a long maritime history that includes a very large A frame which passing boats for decades have left their memorabilia.  The captain recalls his parents doing the same about 23 years ago!  Some of the memorabilia is very elaborate and often has 3-4 different dates on the same plaque as boats come back year after year. 
Middle Percy - The Serenity of a Beautiful Anchorage
The Big A Frame
The fishing was amazing - literally in a few feet of water there was Spanish Mackeral chasing huge schools of Gar Fish in beautiful clear water.  I kept the crew of a cat entertained when we motored into a large school being chased and the Gar Fish were hitting the side of the dinghy and nearly jumping aboard to escape the Mackeral - needless to say I was head down, screaming trying to escape the jumping fish to the great delight of the cat beside us!  We did enjoy a lovely evening with some new friends on the yacht Gilly who we have passed a number of times at different anchorages.  The crew also enjoyed walks along deserted beaches and a few paddles along the edge.
Gilly anchoraged at Digby
All wonderful things can not last - and we decided to head off for a quick day sail to Digby Island and then onto Scawfell Island whilst a small breeze was forecasted - mmmm there was no breeze for both legs but we did enjoy both anchorages very much.  Digby had some good fishing but alas the captain with his sprained hand just couldn't get them onto the boat (it was night as well which didn't help!)
Sailing to Digby - Breeze - what Breeze?
The last leg has now seen the crew arrive in the Whitsundays proper (also known as the Cumberland group) just in time to meet with Tim and Pam.

Plenty to write about on the next post...

Until then


Monday, 5 August 2013

The Sandy Straights and Running Aground....

My apologies to everyone for my tardiness on providing updates on our recent progress..

So the crew left Mooloolaba very early Thursday morning with a steady wind and swell wasn't a perfect forecast for the 'mad mile run' but the crew all agreed that the pod could handle those conditions without a problem. 
In actual fact there was very little concern until one of the boats about an hour ahead of the Pod reported that they had been knocked down by two rogue waves on way point 2 - the poor fellow was very distraught when reporting into the VMR.  This particular boat reported they would need to spend the next few hours mopping up water and putting their boat back in order. 
The VMR did report that the second way point should be taken about 50 meters to the North of the marker as the bar had moved around a bit further since it was put down - unfortunately this boat may have taken the waypoint a bit to finely as there was significant swell and waves breaking on both sides of the Pod when we entered.  The crew even took the precaution of putting in the storm boards and of course all the crew (including Miss Charlotte) put on our life jackets just in case.  We navigated the bar without mishap and the Pod handled the confused seas like the gem that she is.

The crew studying the 'cruising bible' for the best anchorages after the Mad Mile 
Note the life jacket

The crew then spent the next few nights at an anchorage called Pelican Bay - I particularly like this anchorage as the water is clean with a nice sand spit for exploring and there is many boats coming and going to peruse from the cockpit. 

Charlotte attracts attention at Pelican Bay on the Stand Up Paddle Board
(as she does at the Lake) - the crew are never allowed to leave without her aboard.
Due to the high tide times (early morning and latish afternoons) we decided on the spare of the moment to proceed down the straights (this is behind Fraser Island) late one afternoon headed for a very popular anchorage known as Gary's Anchorage.  We had planned only to stay the one night before continuing the journey through the straights, but a very slow moving morning fog prevented us from leaving for two days.  Gary's anchorage is very well known for the Mud Crabs that can be caught but alas we didn't have mud crab for dinner that night - however we did enjoy the two nights free of midggies (the other thing this anchorage is well known for!)
So this is when it got interesting - due to the fog in the morning the crew decided to run the gauntlet on the afternoon high tide.  In order to get to the next anchorage (White cliffs) before dark we would need to leave Gary's about an hour after the turn from low tide (tides run roughly in 1 x 12th in first hour, 2 x 12th second hour, 3 x 12th 3rd hour and then it reverses itself for the 4 to the 6th hour to give you some idea)
All was going well until faced with a buoy that is a bit odd on the GPS and due to the water clarity not possible to visually confirm - so we ran aground.  The Pod was very high and dry on a -.7 feet reading on the depth sounder.  The crew put the anchor out to prevent the Pod from coming adrift onto the buoy as the tide rose, but it didn't take long before we were afloat again (about 45 minutes) - the problem however was it was now very, very dark and finding your way through the sandy straights in the dark is...well interesting to say the least!  Eventually the Pod found the anchorage but we decided to stay out wide as judging the lights on other boats at night is actually quite difficult.

The crew running aground - only kidding I will explain this later!
The next day the crew sailed out to Platypus Bay.  Now this is what I signed up for - a very long stretch of sandy beach, crystal clear water and a turtle or two to keep us entertained. On the second afternoon, the crew decided to meander down the beach a bit further to find an anchorage called lagoon anchorage.  After a little while - the captain says...
Captain: That mast you can see down about 1/2 a mile must be a boat in the lagoon. 
Me: Mmmmm...looks more like a small catamaran pulled up on the beach to me
Captain: No cant be - it has two spreaders - it must be a bigger boat
Out come the binoculars - imagine our surprise when we realise the boat in the picture above and below was very, very high and dry on this magical expanse of sand.  I have googled the yachts name to find out the story behind the grounding but have yet to find anything.  The boat appears to be approximately 35 foot long, a centre cockpit ferro yacht(cement for those not sure what that means).  It is actually really eerie as there is still a main sail attached, a furler for the headsail and when you look inside there is buckets and life jackets just sitting on the sand inside!

This was certainly a different way to spend our last afternoon in Harvey Bay before heading over to the Port of Bundaberg.  The crew headed off mid morning with a heavy weather forecast of 30 knots plus in the next 24 hours - we needed to provision and refuel so Bundaberg was the preferred port of call.
Bundaberg - is quite interesting both for the setup of the marina and for the history relating to the flooding experienced twice in the last 2.5 years.
The marina itself is quite a long way from the town of Bundaberg so we hired a car to do the provisioning (and the captain had sprained his wrist so a quick visit to the hospital for a check up were on the cards as well) but also enjoyed a delightful meal at the dog friendly café/restaurant located in the marina building.  It was very interesting to talk to the shipwright and other locals regarding the damage the floods have caused - in the hardstand area, we noticed that there was heaps of boats just sitting there not being worked on.  Upon investigation, the vast majority of the boats are sitting there severely damaged after the floods - they are divided into two groups - those insured and those not insured and most are up for sale.  Certainly if you are after a cheap boat to rebuild this is where you should head!
After a few days at Bundaberg waiting for the front to go through (and again enjoying a sunset with the crew from Allusive) we headed off to Pancake Creek....but you will have to wait for that instalment till tomorrow