The Whitsunday Islands – Can we just stay here?

After spending  two days at Cid Harbour enjoying the beach and the short walk to Dugong Beach, we raised anchor on the 23rd of June and headed for Nara Inlet.  We passed by the Navy Ship, the HMNZS Canterbury which was also anchored in Cid Harbour.  Upon arriving in Nara Inlet we had Lunch while receiving a visit from a White Cockatoo.  We then headed to shore on Hook Island for a short walk up to the indigenous cave site of the Ngaro people.



After anchoring the night in Nara Inlet, on the 24th June we took the opportunity that some lighter winds gave to stop by Langford Island on the way to the northern bays of Hook Island.  After wrestling with a mooring due to a tricky wind against tide situation, we had lunch and went ashore at the sand spit of Langford Island.  Of course, Eli had to take a bucket and spade and thoroughly enjoyed the trip to the beach as always.




We departed Langford Island and headed through the passage between Hook Island and Hayman Island around to the northern bays of Hook Island.  We picked up a mooring in Maureen’s Cove and again went ashore with Eli for some fun on the beach.


After a very peaceful evening on the mooring, on the morning of Thursday 25th June, we motored back around to Stonehaven Bay.  While here, Geoff snorkelled around the boat to check the hulls, antifouling, fittings and saildrives/props.  Rod managed to get some last fishing in before we headed off for Airlie Beach.  The wind was initially over 20 knots but it calmed down a little as we got closer to the mainland.  In idyllic conditions, we had some of the most enjoyable sailing we have had this whole trip with the boat doing 7.5 – 8 knots under screecher on a beam reach in only 11-12 knots of wind.  Before we put the screecher up, Eli even got to enjoy a special treat of sailing along at the front of the boat.  Once we arrived at Abell Point Marina in Airlie Beach it was great to be able to go out to a restaurant and enjoy some gourmet Pizza at Sorrentos.


Airlie Beach gave us the opportunity to eat out a little, for Rod and Lynne to take Eli to the Lagoon and play in the sand / water and for us to restock for the next part of our trip.  It also gave us some respite from the 20 – 30 knot winds and showers that would soon be upon us and last for days.

The morning of Saturday the 27th of June saw us saying goodbye to Rod and Lynne as they headed off to Proserpine Airport to catch a plane back to Brisbane.  It was wonderful to have them aboard for nearly four weeks to share the experience as we journeyed up the coast.  Eli has certainly missed them these past few days since they left.

Having waited another few days in Airlie Beach for the wind to drop below 20 knots, today we set off for Gloucester Island near Bowen.  After departing from Abell Point Marina we noticed squalls approaching from the East.  Although we only had 5-10 knots of wind, we erred on the side of caution and only hoisted a single-reefed mainsail for the time being.  As the squall approached, the wind increased slightly to 15 knots and then rapidly increased.  Geoff initially steered us downwind to run with it but as the wind built to over 30 knots we quickly luffed up into the wind as the strongest burst hit us.  Lasting around 25 – 30 seconds this burst of wind peaked at 44.4 knots (82 km/hr) as the rain started.  We later noticed on the instruments that our peak boat speed hit 10 knots as we were running, and that the air temperature dropped from 23.5 degrees to 19 degrees.

The rest of the day was rather uneventful as we made our way toward Gloucester Island, went through the passage and headed south to anchor in Sinclair Bay in the south-east corner of Edgecumbe Bay.  As often happens, the wind tends to swing to the south a little overnight so this should afford us a bit more protection should that happen.  Tomorrow we will be making for Cape Upstart which will take us past the contentious Abbot Point coal loading facility.


Yeppon to Whitsundays – 237 Nautical Miles in 3 days

After three long days and through both calm and rough waters, we have now arrived in the Whitsunday Islands.  It is such a relief to have calm anchorages and late starts to the day (well, as late as Eli and Amelie will allow).

We left Rosslyn Bay Marina (Yeppoon) at 3 am on Friday morning for a long passage to Middle Percy Island.  It was a reasonably calm passage with hardly any wind.  With only 5-10 knots of wind directly behind us for most of the day we motored the whole day in order to cover the 105 Nautical miles we had to before sundown.

Sunrise after leaving Yeppoon at 3am

After a somewhat restless night from about midnight onward, we left Middle Percy Island for Scawfell on Saturday morning at 6:30 am.  The Bureau of Meteorology prediction was for 15-20 knot winds and 1-1.5 m seas.  What we experienced was 25-30 knots and 2 metre waves with occasional waves up to 3.5 metres across a very exposed patch of water.  Because we had to sail an almost dead run downwind, we sailed on headsail alone achieving speeds averaging between 7.5 – 8.5 knots.  Unfortunately with the rough seas, Eli didn’t fare so well and was a bit seasick along the way.   We anchored at Scawfell Island before sundown and had an amazing vista of stars with a clear sky that evening.  Geoff even saw a falling star (meteorite) which fragmented into a bright shower of sparks.   We had a very welcome peaceful night at anchor.

Eli helping turn the anchor light on.
Eli helping turn the anchor light on.

On Sunday, 21st June we again left early at 6:30 am to continue towards the Whitsundays.  With slightly abated seas, and winds of between 23-26 knots it wasn’t long until we started to enjoy the protection of some islands along the way.  Sailing downwind now with double-reefed main and full headsail we had some great sailing towards the Whitsundays and up through the Whitsunday Channel.  We averaged 8-9 knots of boat speed through this section with peak speeds of 11-12 knots when the wind rose above 25 knots.  Having now arrived in the Whitsundays, our destination was Cid Harbour to shelter from the strong winds and waves.

Once safely at anchor in Cid Harbour, we simply had to take Eli to shore to play in the sand.  We simply wouldn’t get away with not taking him another day.  So, we all piled into the dinghy (baby Amelie included in her special lifejacket) and headed to Sawmill Beach on Whitsunday Island.  Sandy beaches and a bucket and spade are what Eli thinks sailing is all about now.

This is what cruising is all about for Eli
This is what cruising is all about for Eli
Grandma building sandcastles with Eli
Grandma building sandcastles with Eli
The sun setting just aft of "Spy Panda"
The sun setting just behind “Spy Panda”

The Good, the Bad and the Great Keppel Island

It has been a bit of a roller coaster ride this week.  On Monday, we had a good sail from Fraser Island to the Port of Bundaberg.  While here we  were able to get a courtesy bus run by the nearby Burnett Heads IGA to replenish our food stocks.  Brilliant service!  We stayed the night at the Bundaberg Port Marina before getting up at 5:30 am to depart Bundaberg at first light and head for Pancake Creek, just south of Gladstone.  This trip was also very pleasant with 15-20 knot S to SSW winds giving us speeds of between 7.5 – 8.5 knots while sailing with the screecher on a downwind course.

On Wednesday, we again left early to head for Great Keppel Island with predicted winds of 15-20 knots.  By now we should know that the weather forecast is a guestimate as what we actually experienced for most of the day was 23 – 26 knot winds with gusts up to 32 knots and waves up to 2 m high.  The boat handled it well and we made reasonable time but things became rather rough as we headed into Keppel Bay late in the afternoon.  At times, we were surfing down waves at up to 11 knots.  Probably the highlight of this passage was having pods of dolphins ride the bow wave on three separate occasions.  We anchored at Great Keppel Island just on sunset.

While we have made very good progress up the coast, we would now have to wait for a few days for a better weather window before continuing our trip North to Townsville.  The forecast was for a Strong Wind Warning, 25-30 knot winds and 2-3 m waves for the next 3 days (Thur, Fri, Sat).  It turned out that in these conditions a considerable swell of 1.5 m comes across the anchorage at times.  This didn’t make for the peaceful, protected anchorage we hoped for.  To make matters far worse, just as I’d sat down to eat breakfast on Friday morning, a strong wind gust came through, we heard a loud bang and suddenly realised the boat  was drifting sideways downwind.  Thinking that we had just broken our anchor loose from the seafloor (strange with a 7:1 scope), we quickly started the engines and rounded up into the wind to recover the anchor.  What was most alarming was to discover that we no longer had an anchor on the end of the chain and 7 m of chain missing.  Our anchor chain had snapped!  Naomi held the boat in position while I prepared our secondary anchor, chain and rope.  We’ve never had to use our  secondary setup before (a Fortress FX-16 light weight 4.5 kg anchor – highly recommended!, 5 m grade L chain and 100m of 14mm Nylon rope).  The anchor set perfectly first time and held firm and we deployed it with 70 m of rope to give us a 10:1 scope at high tide.  This proved to be an excellent system and for such a lightweight anchor it held fast even in a 38 knot burst of wind that sustained for 15-20 seconds on Saturday night.

Seeing that we had a radically different anchor setup following our re-anchoring, Michael and Kelly on a nearby Lightwave 38, “Catlypso” dropped by to check on us and very kindly offered us help in searching for the lost anchor and 7 m of chain as they had SCUBA gear and a compressor aboard their boat.  After two attempts on Saturday and Sunday in dreadful visibility (20 – 30 cm) no trace of the anchor or chain could be found even with our best attempts at triangulating the GPS position from our anchored swing radius.  We were very grateful for the assistance from Michael and Kelly to search for our anchor but unfortunately it will have to remain where it is for the time being.

Without having recovered our primary anchor, we took advantage of the easing weather to head for the Keppel Bay Marina near Yeppoon.  We still had 1-2 m waves as we motored for an hour from Great Keppel to Rosslyn Bay and surfed down one wave at 12 knots.   Now safely moored in Keppel Bay Marina, our next mission is to replace the anchor chain, and the lost anchor before heading North again.

This is how Amelie likes to travel!



Heading towards anchored ships off Gladstone.




Doc and Grandma doing puzzles with Eli while we sail along.




“Safely” anchored at Great Keppel Island.

Eli meets Fraser Island

Well, we looked forward to a calm evening last night.  Of course, it didn’t mean we were going to get one as the weather rarely does exactly what is predicted.  The wind went back to the South West to give us some beam on seas with the incoming tide.  Anyway, after a restless night we had a very calm day at anchorage today and a shore party of Geoff, Rod and Eli took off to shore in the dinghy (Little Panda) to set foot on Fraser Island while all three ladies stayed aboard.  Eli had a great time playing in the waves and the sand with his new bucket and scoop.  This being his first experience with waves (aside from the Wide Bay Bar) it was quite the adventure for him.  Tomorrow we sail for Bundaberg which should be a nice downwind sail with our screecher.


Spy Panda as seen from the top of the sand cliffs


Eli and his first experience with waves



Eli was very happy after his warm cockpit shower

Fraser Island for some lay days

After a couple of long days making passage up from Brisbane, we are taking a couple of days break at Fraser Island.  We leisurely sailed along at 6 -7 knots in cool 20-25 knot southerly winds across from Big Woody Island to the Arch Cliffs on the western side of Fraser Island.  Anchored just off the beach, we look forward to a calm evening and a trip to the beach tomorrow to explore this part of Fraser Island.



Eli helping Geoff with Navigation


Rod and Lynne enjoying a cuppa at anchor.



Anchored just off the beach at Fraser Island






Eli watching the sunset.


Eli and Geoff watching the sunset.