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.

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