Friday 2nd May - Three other boats left the anchorage this morning and headed north, whilst we upped anchor and headed deeper down into the South Arm of Port Clinton to find a safe haven from the variable strong winds coming. The chart plotter came into it own guiding us along the deeper channels of these unmarked wide indistinct mangrove expanses. We came across two other boats at anchor, one of them we knew from Yeppoon Marina as Naomi had helped make his bimini canopy. We chose to anchor a little further around the bend within sight of the army ramp to afford us better northerly protection, scouted the depths around and dropped anchor in 6m of water just before high tide.
Thankfully there are less sandflies here and the breeze is starting to pick up gently, cooling us down in the heat of the midday sun. Sitting in the cockpit shade, I watch line after line of wavelets roll down the channel towards us glistening in the sunlight, patting the hull gently when they arrive. There is sense of great calm and security in the flat water of this well protected anchorage.
15th May - I am now writing this at Brampton Island almost two weeks later. The lack of sandflies did not last in that anchorage and that night we were besieged. Every light source inside had a swarm of sandflies hovering around and they did not seem to find mossie coils a deterrent. At least by the next night we were ready and had a complete lock down before dusk. The strong winds never really came. We took a couple of dinghy rides around the mangroves and I had a look up the large army ramp. From the dinghy I noticed our mast mounted TV ariel was not looking straight, and found one of the sides of its mounting bracket had corroded through so it was just hanging on by the other side. The flat anchorage was a perfect place to go up the mast so up Naomi went to take a closer inspection and secure the ariel better with some string.
After a few days we headed out to the entrance of Port Clinton. The winds were very variable but it was a nice sail up the estuary. The winds dropped out around lunchtime so anchored
right in the middle of the main channel - there were no other boats about. After this, we headed out to sea with the help of the engine. We saw the coast guard from Yeppoon heading back south and heard them on the radio saying something about not being able to retrieve a boat from Island Head Creek. After about an hour of gentle rolling in the swell came around to Pearl Bay where 13 other boats were anchored. There was so little swell it didn’t matter that we couldn’t tuck ourselves behind the headland. We found the two boats from the south arm of Port Clinton there. A group were having a fire on the beach and dogs on different boats were barking at each other.
The next morning I looked out to see the two boats from Port Clinton heading out of the bay in line… except there weren’t. I could see the exhaust from their engines and a sail up each but not moving. They were both grounded. There’s a reef that extends from small island in the north of the bay, but according to our chart plotter they clear of this, so maybe
a sand bank had built up around it. This would have been wonderful entertainment for the whole bay of boaties. They were obviously trying to heel their boats by filling their sails and half an hour later one broke free and anchored nearby. The other struggled on. They could have waited an hour or two for the tide to change and float off but instead some others in a dinghy pulled a rope from the top of the mast sideways to get the yacht to lean over more and eventually it worked and they were free and headed north.
We had a stroll on the beach and left once the tidal current was going our way. As we passed the mouth of Island Head Creek we heard a call on the radio from SV Pinvin for boats in our area. The female voice explained that they had been beached 4 days earlier in the creek and would not be able to get off the beach for another 11 days when the tides would be high enough again! She was putting out a call for any passing yachts that might be able to give them some food for
cash to last this period. I explained we were not entering the creek but we had seen another yacht heading in, and that we would pass on the message. I wondered if we should make the detour to help them out but decided not to as they were not desperate yet. After we came around Island Head we saw the beached yacht actually between Island Head and Pinetrees Point. As we passed we called to say that we would anchor nearby at Pinetrees and planned to bring them some food but they said they would dinghy to us.
We anchored alone in the easterly Pinetree Bay and about an hour later a tinnie came zooming around the headland, helmed by a middle-aged weatherworn lady. We welcomed her aboard and Naomi gave her the bag of food we had prepared but she was quick to reject the tins of sardines and some beef tortellini! We had a little chat whereby she explained that they lost engine power when something wrapped around their prop and they got washed ashore. The coast guard tried to pull them off but they were too high up the beach. I did ask how
low on supplies they were and she exclaimed they were fine and had 10kg of dried mince beef and lots of water, so I was left wondering why they were putting out emergency calls for help. She didn’t hang around long and left without offering the promised money, not that we would have taken it.
We has a pleasant explore on the beach that afternoon and cruised away in the morning. We narrowly skirted the 2 mile exclusion army zone around Raynham Island and stopped at Supply Beach at the tip of Cape Townshend. And indeed we saw an army barge land at the beach to meet a couple of vehicles next to a very large “live firing” sign. We explored the entrance to Canoe Pass a little in the dinghy and then landed on the beach. I was struck by the beautiful colours - the bright green trees sitting above the red earth cliffs, led to blue tinged rocks that dipped into sea silvered by the reflection of the setting sun. Hopefully my photo will do it justice.
At the end of the beach I found a tall palm tree surrounded by brown and green
coconuts. I collected a couple of big brown ones which Naomi later told me was the wrong choice. We spent the next morning taking apart the drainage plugs of our two sinks. We had taken these apart in Yeppoon but not aligned them properly when we put them back together and now this had lead to one of the drain pipes becoming kinked. This is what happens when you don’t make a good note of how things were arranged before you take them apart.
By the time for a break at 11 am the wind had picked up and we headed north away from the mainland. The winds were a bit light and about 10 miles away from the Duke Islands dropped out, giving us a good excuse to put the engine on and charge the batteries. Also a good time to reseal up the sinks so that they would be ready to use again by the morning.
This island group for a long time been a favourite spot for us since it gave us such great respite from crappy anchorages on our way south the first time on Limpopo. However more recent visits
had been plagued with problems - we had lost the dinghy anchor, I had cast half my fishing rod into the same bay, almost stranded on the beach by a dropping tide, and of course we lost the dinghy at Marble Island, and had big arguments at our last visit. It had now become somewhere we both thought we should avoid but I thought it was important we challenge the bad omen and I was keen to visit nearby Iron Island which a couple of my favourite radio DJs, Hamish & Andy, were apparently buying to make “The People’s Island”. The anchorage on the west of Hunter Island was not as smooth as we remembered it once the wind picked up over the next few days but we both got on well.
Dinghy’d over to Iron Island and found a protected sloping shingle beach at its northern end. Walked over to the remains of a pier and then tried to climb the hill but it became too steep to carry Alex up. I hadn’t heard the radio show for a few weeks as we had not had reception so didn’t know if the sale had gone through
yet or if we were trespassing so was preferring to keep out of view of the homestead on Marble Island. However this was not possible using the easiest approach which Naomi & Alex soon gave up on anyway, scared off by the tall grass and threat of hidden snakes. I climbed to the peak and explored its potential for habitation, finding a pleasant tree lined burrow, a cliff lined flat area on the south of the island, and a pensive collection of trees at the summit. Also came across a couple of deer, one with impressive antlers but they bolted too fast for me to take a picture.
Naomi caught 7 whiting off the beach, including one that was the largest she’s ever seen, so we had a small fish lunch twice with fried potato slices (less work than chips). Our first fish caught on the boat that we have been able to eat! We also caught a small grunter which the book says is not great for eating but I couldn’t tell much difference - one advantage of my unrefined palate.
We were hoping the wind would calm down so that we could
visit The Percy Islands in comfort but it was not complying. I spent an hour preparing our plaque to leave at the A-frame hut but on the morning we decided to skip the Percys and head for Curlew Island to avoid either bad seasickness for Naomi in West Bay or bashing the 8 miles into headwinds to reach Northeast Island anchorage. We also thought this would give us a better wind angle for sailing our next long leg.
After a rocky ride to Curlew we were met by another empty anchorage and took advantage of the solitude by burning off some of our rubbish on the beach. The next day we set off for Scawfell at 7 am and the wind had shifted southerly so not the better angle we hoped for. It was annoyingly rolly to begin with but as the wind increased we had a smoother fast ride passing the anchored ships off Hay Point. As we approached Scawfell the wind increased to 25 knots and we had some large waves to surf down, frequently reaching 8.5 knots. We noticed a bit a diesel smell in the cabin when we arrived but couldn’t find an obvious cause
for it on the engine or around the tanks.
We spent 3 days at Scawfell with the strong winds and frequent rains funnelling down into the bay. When one of the 2 catamarans left the next day we motored over to their spot to drop anchor, as we thought we might have less swell effect there and again the diesel smell occurred but with the engine running it was easy to see it pouring from the bottom of the fine fuel filter. Tightening it on firmer did not help. I took the filter off and found the large O ring on top of the filter had a split in it - surprising as it had only replaced a month ago. Fitted a new filter and O rings and problem solved.
The beach of this National Park was pleasant with a picnic hut, rainwater tank, dunnie and its own little creek which had little tight clouds of bait fish. On Wednesday we returned to the beach with a plan. We had some laundry to wash, water containers to fill and some more rubbish to burn. We left the water maker on
while we were away, as it only make 5-6 lts per hour, filling a 20 lt jerry can thinking we would only be a few hours at most. All was going well until the showers started so Naomi was constantly putting up and taking down her clothes to dry and it didn’t help my small fire. Then the showers turned to a consistent downpour, so we spent the last hour hiding in the picnic hut trying to keep warm. When it finally lifted the tide was out so had a long way to trolly the dinghy and all the water we had collected. Fortunately the gap in the fringing reef was easy to see but when we returned we found we had been away 4 hours and the water was spilling over the floor from the water maker! Well at least this helped flush some diesel out of the bilge.
The strong winds showed no sign of abating so we left for a boisterous passage yesterday in winds gusting to 30 knots to Goldsmith Island, but decided to turn in early at Brampton after four hours. An empty anchorage again with a nasty looking swell coming into
the bay but much more shelter from the wind as the sky cleared, giving us our first nice day in a while. We mostly hung into the swell so it was quite comfortable and Naomi actually woke up not
feeling dreary and seasick today.
Winds up to 30 knots are predicted, earning a “strong wind warning” from BOM, but we plan to ride the dropping tide north again today to either Goldsmith or Shaw Island. Hopefully we’ll have some shelter from waves as we will be passing islands.
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