Shag Fest and onwards to Townsville

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August 30th 2013
Published: August 30th 2013
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Luna Ray anchored at Little Jonah BayLuna Ray anchored at Little Jonah BayLuna Ray anchored at Little Jonah Bay

Gloucester Island in background
After a mildly rolly night, our usual beach visit, we sailed west across the bay to toward Gloucester Passage. This channel can be shallow and is marked with buoys, seems ages since we've had to use these. As we entered, we joined the queue of other boats heading to Shag Islet, the current was now building in our favour.

An interesting sail as you have to come close the steep rocky ramparts of Gloucester Island which could potentially steal our wind while we navigate the tight course amongst the strong current. The most challenging part being right in front of the hundreds of boats in front of Montes resort, but with a reduction of jib, a huge over-steer after a gybe to counteract the current pushing us now sideways and the wind now more easterly we threaded our way through the markers, into the next bend that was occupied with anchored boats just to add to the difficulty.

We passed a line of blue T-shirted people on Shag Islet, some flying kites, out of the channel and then close hauled north, until we could motor into Bona Bay on Gloucester Island. The evening before we had another visitor from a kiddy boat that came into the anchorage later. He introduced himself as Dale and told us our mutual friend Pippa had told him to keep a look out for us - I then remembered that she had sent us a similar message about them. We anchored next to them in Bona Bay. Stopped by their boat on the way to our beach visit but didn't get too close as they are all suffering some landlubbers bug having only just started their trip from Airlie Beach a few days earlier.

A nice beach under the imposing steep hills with a National Park sign and a table. Two kayakers were camping in the dunes.

Saturday was the big party day for the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club so thought we would go see what we were missing out on. It was about one and half miles across the passage to Montes resort where most of the weekend is hosted. We have noticed recently that the thread on the clamps that hold the outboard on have worn so it mostly just sits on the transom, this spoils the trim of the engine a little so it was slower than usual. Stopped for lunch and a Montes cocktail and bumped into the Newtons and Everitts again.

Went for a motor around the anchorage south of Shag Islet and returned to fill our shower bags. It was at this time we heard the South Pacific drummers start up to welcome to shore the crowd of dinghies that had collected off the beach (is there a collective term for dinghies?). Also at this time, as the procession of dinghies came ashore like a herd of housewives at the New Years shopping sales, we noticed the signs saying we had left our dingy in the firework no-go area. As the Shaggers got their leis (gosh there's so many double entendres going to waste here!) we headed back across the passage.

The wind had picked up so we were getting a little wet, and through a little miscommunication Naomi suggested we swap sides as this might lessen the spray. As we simultaneously lurched to opposite sides Naomi lost her balance, falling to the back of the boat and somehow the engine almost got knocked off the transom. When I recoiled from the violent rocking found the outboard only hanging on by one of the clamps! But with some panic, Naomi got her footing and I pulled the engine back into a more secure position. It would have been a very long one mile paddle into wind if the engine ended up on the sea floor.

That evening, from behind the headland we had a shielded view of the fireworks coming from the festivities while the Shaggers main party raged on, though with an average age of about 60 I'm not sure how raucous it got.

Monday we took the next big jump up the coast, about 45 miles to Cape Upstart. We motored away from Gloucester Island as winds were light and it wasn't long before Naomi thought she could smell burning oil. Oh no what now?! I had a quick look but couldn't see an obvious cause, but the thin plumes highlighted in the sunlight where building, coming from the engine. As I turned back to Naomi we heard a "crack", and on my next look saw that the alternator belt had snapped! So we quickly turned the engine off and coasted along very slowly... not a good start to the trip.

As I let the engine cool down, we had breakfast and I wondered if the collection of belts I found when we bought the boat actually fitted the engine. This replacement should have been pretty straight forward, loosen a few bolts, slip new belt on and tighten up again under some tension. However this was a boat repair so obviously would not be straight forward. We have a separate belt for the raw water pump and this had to come off as the alternator belt sits behind it. As this area had been leaking, which had been my latest engine concern, and probably for some time the bolts to loosen the pump were very rusted. They were also tricky to reach as well, so I had a sweaty oily two hours leaning over the engine while the boat lolled back and forth to make it more challenging. Some WD40 loosened the nuts but the pump still wouldn't budge until I tried turning the head of the bolt itself and the whole pump moved with it! Well seized on or not at least I could move the pump and get the belt off, and in a way made it easier to hold the pump
Beached at Cape UpstartBeached at Cape UpstartBeached at Cape Upstart

at the monument to Cpt Cook
under tension when putting the belt back on.

With the new belt finally on, and the engine running the wind also increased to a decent level too but not enough to get us to Cape Upstart in time. The smoking didn't return and the batteries needed charging so we motor sailed all the way. It was a fairly smooth run for the remaining five hours, with the aptly name Cape Upstart looming slowly closer all the way. By the time we came around the headland late in the afternoon with a couple of catamarans the wind had really picked up, and there was surprisingly little shelter from it behind this steep wall of barren hills.

We dropped anchor and once set, found ourselves uncomfortably close to another boat, so we pull all the chain up again, and moved closer to the beach. Set the anchor and once again settled back equally close to another boat - we obviously still need more practice at this but not tonight.

Most of the other boats had left the next morning. Taking the dinghy to the beach was a wet blustery ride but once there it was a different world. We landed in front of the plaque that told how Cook had named the cape as he passed by in 1770, and sheltered from the wind, the sun felt warm again and we instantly relaxed.

Cape Upstart is a eirie desolate place, dry rocky hilly terrain from out of a spagetti western with a number empty shacks along the string of small beaches. The shacks were variable, some looking quite decent with decked platforms overlooking the sea whilst others were little more than a collection of corrugated iron. Most had a tinnie outside on a trailor with a tractor attached.

After a little nose around, the only person we came across was from another boat - a guy from Woolongong sailing his cat around alone. We returned to the boat via a couple of other beaches and more shacks. That afternoon the wind really picked up again and was blowing 20-25 knots, spinning our wind generator madly and giving us 10 amps at one point. Then it span rediculously fast but was generating no power. We didn't really know why but thought it best to stop it. It was a little nerve racking hanging out the back
beach shacksbeach shacksbeach shacks

Cape Upstart
of the boat in torchlight, in 25 knots of wind trying to grab a bit of string behind a small airplane propellor that wavers around and threatens to remove your hand at any second.

We had a frustrating start to our sailing the next day after motoring away from the anchorage. The wind was light and now from the southwest but enough to push us along. That is until we came out of the shelter of the cape and we had swell from our other side rolling us all over the place. Then the wind dropped further so our sails were just lolling about in the sloppy waves, just when a fishing boat had decided to head straight towards us. So engine back on again until the wind got itself together about half an hour later. Then we had a pleasant sail albeit occasionally rolly under jib alone.

Naomi was later greatly disappointed as the camping shower bag that we had left on the deck to warm up had vanished - presumably rolled off - it was our new one too!

We gave the shallows to the east of Cape Bowling Green a wide berth and got a really good bite on my trolling line with teeth scratches on the lure as proof, but no fish. As we came around the north of this long flat sand spit we drew closer and gybed to bring us around its tip. At this point noticed a floating marker in the water straight ahead of us. It wasn't on the charts, chart-plotter or any of our books and we couldn't recognise it. Naomi was able to identify it from a book as a westerly cardinal though it was missing the usual triangle parts. We were directly to its east. So gybed again to bring us around it, and gybed back to bring around the spit tip.

Despite being under the lee of the cape we still got a bit of spray on the deck as we turned into wind with motor running. Two boats were already anchored but not where the guides recommended which puts you about 2 kms from the beach. They were nestled close to the beach just behind where the spit takes a bend to the northwest. Apparently the sand banks here can shift a lot, so with the keel up and frequent looks
Rustic shackRustic shackRustic shack

Cape Bowling Green
at the depth sounder we eventually anchored nearby. This spot also offers great northeast protection should the wind twist that way (S19 18.41 E 147 23.46 approx 1.5 m depth at chart datum)

We spent three nights at Cape Bowling Green which is an odd exposed anchorage, with just the slither of sand blanketing us from the swell but not the wind. Boats would arrive in the afternoon, anchor much further out than us and by morning were gone, rarely going ashore.

We rowed to the spit and walked up to the tip, an important nesting area apparently, meeting a couple of old fellas on quad bikes that were there to fish. They told us it was a 22kms ride from Ayr that had to be done at low tide. On the way back came across a large bird's nest on the beach and then a sort of bare shelter made from girders and corrugated iron that looked like it had been dropped there out of the sky.

This day I baked my first loaf of bread. I left it too long for its second rising as we were on this walk, and in a tin that was too small, so its top ended up too puffed up and then burst and deflated like a chef's hat... but still tasted so good still warm from the oven.

After my delicious bread we motored the dinghy into the waves and headed down the spit the other way toward the lighthouse but this was too ambitious. Came across a couple more shelters - little unofficial holiday homes. These were better located tucked into the dunes, and though very run down they obviously had some thought put into them. One had carpeted floor (though covered in sand), kitchen/sink area with shelves, hammock, water tank and a port for a 12 volt battery with an adjoining shower room equipped with electric pump. We turned back when Alex started to refuse to walk any further and the lighthouse still looked a long way away, and I'm not sure we could have even reached it now it was high tide.

The next day Naomi decided we would stay another day but we never left the boat as the wind was stronger and the dinghy trip would have been wet. So it was relaxing day cooped up on the boat - not doing much, watching TV, reading and I tried another loaf of bread that came out very nicely. The bigger wind and waves were on the nose so we were still comfortable but I was worried our anchor might drag. With the anchor alarm on the chart plotter I had an interrupted night, woken twice by false alarms that Naomi slept through.

Today we left fairly early and clocked up another 25 miles mostly under jib alone and came around Cape Cleveland. We came into the cute little bay just behind the headland below the lighthouse. It was close to the beach so the waves were still small, which would have made for an easier trip ashore but swell was coming around and hitting us on the side, so we motored south and anchored off Red Rock Point in only 2 metres of water.

The shallow water means we are a long way from the beach, but we might get over there if the wind drops off in the morning as it has done recently.

As evening falls I can see the lights of ships anchored out to sea, the lighthouse and Townsville eleven miles away across the bay, we should get over there to the Breakwater marina sunday morning.

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