All posts by geoff

The end of this journey, the beginning of life aboard in Townsville.

4-7 July – We have decided that Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island is one of the top anchorages along the coast.  We enjoyed a couple of nights here, going to the beach for fish & chips and for Eli to play on the swings and the beach.  We really like the Gelati shop on the esplanade – they had a dairy free Cherry-Choc flavour which was so delicious we had to go back the next day for more!  Because of a few cloudy days we had to run the engines to charge our batteries, so we decided to go for a motor around to Radical Bay instead of sitting in one spot with the engines running.  Radical Bay is a lovely bay with a sandy beach and clear water, but it is not particularly well protected from the easterly swell we have at the moment so we weren’t able to stay the night there returning instead to Horseshoe Bay for the night.

7-8 July – After a couple more nights at anchor in Horseshoe Bay, we decided to overnight in Norris Bay while the weather was calm.  Norris Bay is one of the bays in ‘5 Beaches Bay’ on the northern side of Magnetic Island, further west of Horseshoe Bay.  We had the bay to ourselves and while not as calm as Horseshoe Bay, we had a pleasant  overnight stay before Eli and Geoff went ashore in the dinghy.  Eli was very impressed to have his very own beach to build sand castles on.  Once back aboard Spy Panda it was time to sail into the Breakwater Marina in Townsville.  There was only 10-15 knots of wind, so we decided to sail around the Eastern side of Magnetic Island into Townsville.  Although going into the waves was a little bumpy at the start, we had a good sail across the wind towards Townsville keeping the boat going at a comfortable 8-9 knots most of the way.  We had come into the Marina many times before on our previous boat “Ever After”, so it felt a little odd to be on “Spy Panda” this time.  One thing is for sure, it felt a lot easier pulling up to the fuel dock with the catamaran.  Refuelled and sorted with keys, we were welcomed back onto our familiar home of E finger by Kerrie from the Breakwater Marina helping us with our lines.

IMG_6671Norris Bay, Magnetic Island – Eli’s own beach


Spy Panda anchored in Norris Bay, Magnetic Island.  

It has certainly been an adventure bringing our home, home to Townsville.  We have had a very busy time since Naomi finished up work in March through until now.  Over the past 3 months we have had the birth of our baby girl, moved out of our rented apartment, flown to Brisbane, hauled the boat out and antifouled, moved onto the boat, sailed from Gold Coast to Brisbane, organised the installation of helm clears, many jobs on the boat to install new things and sorting out some other things prior to our trip and finally, completing our trip up the coast with Naomi’s parents, an 8 week old baby and a 2 year old.  From Manly to Townsville we sailed a total of 858 Nautical Miles (1,589 km ) and used only one tank full of diesel.

12-July – Our good friend Heather was visiting Townsville for her holidays so it was a real treat to have great weather to take her for a  Sunday afternoon sail.  After some Pizza Capers for Lunch, we set out across the bay toward the north and initially there wasn’t much wind so were very nearly overtaken by some youngsters from the Sailing Club in their dinghys.  Eli had a lot of fun waving to the kids in their boats who were also vigorously waving  back.  We were very impressed to see a smiley young girl leading the race – good on her!  We were able to oblige Heather with some lovely sailing under screecher across the bay as the wind built a little as we got further offshore.  With the rough weather and exposed waters that we have been sailing up the coast, we haven’t had much opportunity to enjoy the foredeck while sailing.  But as Heather found out, it is a great spot to be whilst going along and hearing the water splashing on the front of the hulls.  We had a great day having a leisurely sail and getting to spend some time with Heather before she left for Hervey Bay.


Eli waving to the sailors 


Heather enjoying the great sailing weather


Heather and Eli – It’s hard to get him to stay still long enough to look at the camera!


Amelie enjoying some time in the play gym.  

Deja Vu – Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island two years later

After a barely tolerable overnight stay at Cape Bowling Green, we departed early for Magnetic Island.  Eli and Amelie were up early as usual, so we decided the boat would probably be more comfortable sailing along rather than rocking at anchor.  We sailed at 8-9 knots north west across the bay passing offshore from the A.I.M.S. site at Cape Ferguson.  Once we rounded Cape Cleveland, Eli was very excited that we could finally see Townsville (feature photo above).  We had to tell him we weren’t going there yet as we were going to Magnetic Island for him to play on some more sandy beaches.  We sailed into Horseshoe Bay and after a little trouble furling the screecher because the line jammed, we anchored in one of the calmest anchorages between Townsville and Brisbane.  Amelie was born 12 weeks ago yesterday, and interestingly, the last time we were anchored in Horseshoe Bay was two years ago (23-June-2013) aboard “Ever After” when Eli was exactly 12 weeks old.

Eli just loves going to shore in the dinghy,  so after some lunch it was off to the beach to play in the sand and water again.  We noticed another Lightwave 38, “Salacia” sitting on the sand at low tide, so Eli and Geoff went to see the “Spy Panda” that wasn’t Spy Panda. They were drying out on the sand to redo the anti-foul paint after 12 months.  Back to Spy Panda before sunset, Eli was very happy to have a hosey bath (deck shower) before a Dinner of Hotsy Dotsy Sausage Pasta and bed.  We are rather tired after some consecutive long days sailing up from the Whitsundays (and Naomi also waking at 5:30 am to feed Amelie), so we had an easy Bacon and Eggs for Dinner.  We now get to enjoy a few days rest and relaxation at Magnetic Island before we head into the Breakwater Marina some time next week (pretty much whenever we run out of water, but we’ve still got ~380 L out of the 500 L we carried from the Whitsundays).


Naomi keeping watch while Eli ties tricky knots


Eli racing off to look at Spy Panda that’s not “Spy Panda”.


2 years ago! – Eli was 12 weeks old aboard “Ever After”

1000 Nautical Miles under the keels

Raising the anchor at 6:45 am, it was an early start to the day on Wednesday, 1st July as we headed for Cape Upstart.  Sailing under screecher alone, we headed across the bay towards Bowen making 7.5 – 8 knots.  Before turning around the point and heading towards Abbott Point and Cape Upstart we raised the mainsail and were soon maintaining 9-10 knots broad reaching in 20 – 22 knots of wind.  The fastest we got to was 12 knots at one point.  It was a very pleasant and relatively fast passage for the 52 nm with ~1 m waves.  Eli took a nap around lunchtime as we went along but clearly we mustn’t have given him enough lunch as he decided to chew a piece off our cork matts/trivets.  Finding anchorage at Shark Bay on the western side of Cape Upstart we watched the moon rise before Dinner and had an early night.


Abbott Point coal loading wharf

Today we had a more leisurely start to the day leaving our calm anchorage at Cape Upstart at 8 am as we headed for Cape Bowling Green.  We started sailing at 7.5-8.5 knots on a broad reach with full mainsail and screecher in 15-20 knot winds before the wind dropped to around 7 knots dead behind us after a couple of hours.  So, we doused the sails and motored the rest of the way.  As we rounded Cape Bowling Green, our log ticked over 1000 nm meaning we have now sailed over 1000 nm with Spy Panda over the last 6 months.

We had always avoided anchoring at Cape Bowling Green with our last boat as we had a draft of ~2 m and didn’t fancy getting stuck on sandbars for what has been described to us as a particularly uncomfortable anchorage.  We thought we’d give it a try with the catamaran to break up the trip between Cape Upstart and Magnetic Island.  We made our way to the inner anchorage but after 2 attempts to get our anchor to hold we gave up realising it is only soft mud and the anchor is just ploughing through it.  Trying 3 subsequent spots as we made our way further out of the anchorage, we finally found somewhere 2 nautical miles from where we started where the echosounder indicated a harder substrate and we could get the anchor to hold.  Can’t say I agree with both guidebooks indicating good holding in sand and mud in the inner anchorage.  Due to tide against wind and the boat turning every which way to the waves across the bay, it is likely to be an uncomfortable night.  We regret not having tried the first anchorage closer to the end of the cape.  We are expecting an offshore southerly or south-westerly land breeze early in the morning which is why we sought an anchorage closer to the south of the bay.

Tomorrow will be our last coastal passage of this voyage as we make for Magnetic Island, just offshore from Townsville.  We will spend a few days relaxing at Magnetic Island (taking Eli to the beach to play in the sand) before moving back into the Breakwater Marina in Townsville on our new residence, Spy Panda.

IMG_6642Rounding Cape Bowling Green with Cape Cleveland in the background (and the site of Geoff’s work, The Australian Institute of Marine Science)

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”