Hi Magnetic Is and Croc spotting in Hinchenbrook.

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August 19th 2016
Published: October 19th 2016
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Hi Magnetic Island

Additional maps: Croc spotting in Hinchenbrook Channel

Hi to Magnetic Island and Croc spotting in the Hinchinbrook.

Captain’s Log, travelled 246.5 nautical miles (456.5 km) overall, with 210.5 nm (390 km) in the Hinchinbrook Channel trip.

This blog covers several separate adventures. The first was 6 nights in the Breakwater Marina in Townsville followed by a 10 nights trip out to Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island. The main part deals with a trip of 10 nights with Arianne and Anne to Hinchinbrook Channel and back, via the Palm Island Group. The final section deals with 19 days in Townsville waiting for the new Spray Dodger, then parts for the anchor wench and finally the combination of weather and crew for the run south to Gladstone.

The main reasons to initially stay in Townsville for 6 days were the repair of the spray dodger, finding new crew to head north to Hinchinbrook Island and to reconnect with an old friend who worked at the James Cook University. Of these the easiest turned out to be the replacement of the spray dodger. I had two companies come and quote on the replacement and with a $1000 difference the choice was also easy. The guys from Stingray Shade come and took the old dodger as a template. The job was going to take several weeks so I needed to deal with no spray dodger. Most of the time this was easy, except on the few occasions when spray and rain made it more difficult. Of course these were the time that the spray dodger was meant to work so you could say I managed when it was not needed and just kept going when it was needed.

On the issue of the next crew, I was not making much progress and this was why I decided to head out to Horseshoe Bay on the northern coast of Magnetic Island to await more crew options. Also it was free to anchor in the bay as opposed to paying for the marina.

On the third issue, it did take several attempts and in the end contact was made and Alistair visited Hakura. It was great to catch up after all those years. We had been on the national advisory committee of a federally funded national marine conservation information extension group in the 1990s and early 2000s. Among many fields of study, Alistair has researched the dwarf minke whales that congregate off the northern Barrier Reefs. It was like we had not been apart for nearly 10 years. In many ways we are very similar, he carries a Swiss army knife and a Leatherman, so do I. He loves the sea and all life in it and really enjoys being out there, so do I. The main difference between us is that he will use tea bags. An issue we on will have to differ, I guest.

After a week in the marina, I headed out to Horseshoe Bay on Saturday morning, fully fuelled, watered and fooded up. It was a slow motor into and then across the trade winds. The sea smoothed out once we were around the northeast corner of Magnetic Island. I dropped anchor in the eastern end of the bay, along with about 20 other vessels. It was a beautiful spot with a little settlement ashore.

The community of Horseshoe Bay was mainly holiday homes and a few shops, including a general store, a couple of bars and cafes and one fish and chip shop. The fish and chip shop sold a very reasonable “Beach Fish and Chips” being a good piece of mackerel and a small sever of chips, just right for me. Yep I did row ashore a few times for fish and chips and an ice cream.

I was planning to head up to Hinchinbrook during this time but the trade winds were due to return when I was planning to return so it would have been a very long solo sail into a stiff breeze. Not my idea of a good time. So I decided to stay till the weekend when Alistair and his family were coming out to the island and might come for a sail and look for humpback whales.

There was only one night of strong winds, that made for a bumpy night of limited sleep but Hakura did not drag the anchor at all.

Alistair and two of his kids and their partners came for a morning sail on Sunday 7 August, unfortunately the wind was back up and only Alistair and I enjoyed the sail. We did not see any whales and to be fair, after a few hours most of the crew did not wish for anything except to be on land. After getting everybody ashore we had a picnic on the foreshore. Surprisingly everybody’s apatite’s had returned.

Another development that occurred during my stay in Horseshoe Bay was a new crew for a 2-week trip north to Hinchinbrook Channel. They were two twenty something lases who were travelling together through Queensland. Anne was from Denmark and Arianne was from Scotland. They had meet in New Zealand and been travelling together since. They were going to join me on Monday night and we were going to food up and head out on Tuesday.

So I headed back into Townsville on Monday morning, this time going into the Ross Creek to the Townsville Yacht Club Marina, a marina in the middle of Townsville with its own bar and restaurant. The arrival went well, albeit with the timely assistance of a man working on one of the nearby vessels.

Come Tuesday early afternoon, we were back in Horseshoe Bay and planning on sailing to Palm Island early the next morning. A trip of 30 nautical miles, which should take about 5 to 6 hours with a tail wind.

We were up early the next day, washed and breakfasted, and ready to be off. The trade winds were soft though they should still push us along. Shortly after leaving the Bay, Big Red Sail made a welcome appearance and we had a good sail to Palm Island. We anchored in Casement Bay on the southwest corner of Palm Island. We saw a couple of distant humpback whales but not fish or dolphins on the sail. This anchorage was close to the airport and we enjoyed the frequent flights into and out of the island. Thankfully the airport was a daylight only field.

The next day was a slow day of motor sailing through the Palm Isles ending up at Little Pioneer Bay on the western side of Orpheus Island. Again, we did see some whales off in the distance.

The morning of 13th of August dawned clear and with little wind. We left Little Pioneer Bay about lunch time as we needed to arrive off the southern entrance to Hinchinbrook Channel at Lucinda Point in the early afternoon to cross the bar on a half rising tide. It was a big entrance with a very long sugar-loading wharf (7 km long). There were a few waves but nothing rough and after half an hour we had crossing into the Channel and after another 2 hours of steaming we arrived at our first anchorage in the channel at Haycock Island.

Some of the many attractive features of the channel included its stillness, the extensive mangrove forests on both sides of the channel, the many side channels, and the wildlife. The two main members of the latter were crocodiles and mosquitoes. The former meant no swimming, even though a guy in Townsville had said it was OK and the latter meant lots of repellent and anti-mosquito smoke. We did meet the mosquitoes first, and by a very long way, most often and they had a much greater physical effect on us all. For the next five days the mosquitoes did not leave us alone and the thought of the crocodiles did not go far away either.

The next day was spent steaming along the main channel for a few miles then we took a side channel. This is where I saw a log on the mud banks. As we got closer I started to think, that could be a crocodile. Yep it was. Arianne and Anne estimated it to be about 3 to 4 metres and they had seem some in a farm, 3 to 4 metres it was.

As we pasted it, the crocodile slipped noiselessly into the water. There was not a ripple to say it had ever been around. The only sign was the slide marks on the mud. We stopped shortly afterwards for lunch. Following lunch as we headed off and I became a bit confused and took a different channel to the one I had just planned. No problem, they all come out in the smaller main channel – called the boat channel. This is opposed to the big main channel, which is the shipping channel. Cargo vessels use to use the shipping channel to load sugar at Lucinda Point before one hit the wharf damaging it too much leading to the building of the present really long wharf.

On the way out of the side channels I miss judged the best route and <em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Hakura struck a mud bank. The hardest part of getting her off was knowing in which direction lay deeper water. Arianne and Anne were a bit concerned, largely as we had seen the crocodile not far away. After a few minutes I got Hakura back into deep water and we were off. There was no real problem as we had a rising tide. Really there was no problem.

We spent our second night in larger side channel, which was not far from the rest of the world judging by the number of small recreational fishing boats passing us.

After a good sleep (apart from the odd mosquito or twenty) we headed north out the Boat Channel. Along the way we saw lots of sea birds and osprey and sea eagles but no more crocodiles. We also caught a small blue mackerel that made for very good eating over the next two nights.

During this day we reached the most northerly position on the Australian leg of the trip at 18 degrees 14.770 minutes south, 146 degrees 03.630 minutes east. This was the most western point in the overall trip. The furthest north in the whole trip was Manta Ray resort in the Yasawa Island of western Fiji at 17 degrees 09.812 minutes south and 177 degrees 11.386 minutes east.

We turned south and headed back into the Channel, eventually stopping for the night in a side channel called Gayandal Creek. This was very popular, with seven other vessels tucked up out of the wind. Until this point the weather had been fine with mainly sunny periods. It rained hard on and off for the next few days.

The next day I motored Hakura back to Haycock Island in preparation for the crossing out of the Channel. I say “I” because Anne and Arianne stayed below out of the worst weather. They were busy getting me cups of tea and warm soup during the couple of hours I was standing in the rain.

The plan was to get up at 4 am next morning and cross out of the Channel with a near high tide at 7 am, allowing an hour to get underway and two hours steaming to the entrance. When it was 4am none of us woke up so we spent the next day inside with the heavy rain. Next morning a 5 am start.

Yep, you guess it; we did not get up, so another day in the channel. All this time the wind and rain were declining plus the tide was getting to be at a better time of the day.

On the morning of 17 August we did get up and head out of the channel. The crossing at Lucinda Point went well and by 11:30 we were outside the channel and started the tack across to Orpheus Island. We finally arrived in Hazard Bay at 14:10. It was good to be back in the clear water of the Palm Isles, though we did not feel much like swimming, the thought of the crocodiles was still on us.

Next day we moved to Jumo Bay on Fantome Island for lunch and a snorkel, though Anne was the only one to get into the water. We then decided to make an evening sail to Horseshoe Island on Magnetic Island as the forecast was for little SE winds.

As we headed out past Fantome Island we saw a whale lining at the surface with a calf playing around her. We stayed a while and watched them. Little did I know that such activity would become the norm for the next leg of Hakura’s adventures off Queensland.

The sail started quietly with a good sail through the southern Palms Isles though as we entered open water the waves built up. We meet some very big waves for such a wind; I suspect it was the opposing tide currents that added to their height. The effect on my crew was that one became very sick forming a close attachment to Bucky and the other just a little better. I sent both below and managed the sail solo back to Horseshoe Bay. We arrived there at 02 00 on the 19th of August. I did enjoy my sleep that morning.

After a late start we headed into the beach for a walk and fish and chip lunch to celebrate our arrival. Late on Sunday morning we headed back into Townsville and arrived at the Townsville Yacht Club Marina, where Arianne and Anne left me. I think they were very glade to be ashore finally.

I enjoyed the voyage and their company. They were bright bubbly young women who have bright futures in front of them.

Over the rest of the next week I did some jobs, including changing the engine and gearbox oils, servicing the anchor winch and cleaning Hakura. All went well except for the anchor winch. I got it back together OK but it would not take any load. So I pulled out all the anchor chain, placing it along the marina dock. I finally found that the key was missing. The key is small piece of metal that fits into a slot in the drive shaft of the winch and also into a slot in the outer drum of the gearbox that connects the two of them thus making one turn when the other one is moving. I did find the missing key in the anchor well but not the butterfly clip that keeps the key in place. A local mechanic ordered the part for me and said it would be here in a few days. Nearly a week later it arrived and I put the key in place and fitted the clip into its place and voilà the anchor winch was working. We could be mobile now.

Also during this period the new spray dodger had been fitted. It is a beauty.

Hakura was now ready for the next leg of heading south to Gladstone with the idea of sailing to east to New Caledonia.

The crew were the next issue. I had several enquires but the strongest was a call from a young Texan who was in Hobart having just finished a “Competent Crew” sailing course.

We agreed that he would come up for the trip from Townsville to Gladstone with the possibility of staying on for the legs to Noumea in New Caledonia and to Whangarei in New Zealand.

Alistair, thus making the next leg an unofficial whale research cruise on Hakura, took the other position.

Additional photos below
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