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Published: December 14th 2013
Well I did manage to stick a pic of me in front of Keswick Island as we passed it early Thursday morning, on what became a very long day. We set out with the already challenging distance of 70 miles to the Percy Isles before 5 am and motored the first couple of hours at a good speed as winds were light. Naomi went back to sleep soon after we left and joined me at about 8 am.
It was a bright sunny day and the water was a curious mix. The northerly waves would bob up catching the light as they approached the back of the boat riding up on the southeasterly swell.
When the wind increased we sailed for a couple of hours but rarely went more than 3.5 knots. With our big distance to travel before nightfall we relied on the engine again and wondered if stopping at Digby Island might be an option as one book described it as an all round anchorage if winds were not "developed".... whatever that means?.... well I know what it means but what is the cut off, how strong does the wind have to be?
The engine bore
us on at a steady 7 knots and the wind increased to about 15 knots as we came to the collection of islands around Digby at about 1 pm. We passed it by as we could see a mess of breaking water in the anchorage. With the swell we weren't sure if the anchorages on the south side of Middle Percy would be that great. After some playing with the chart plotter I could see with the good speed we had been making we could make the more secure Duke Islands before nightfall....just. As the Percy's were never more than just an overnight detour we set course for the Dukes, which were still over the horizon, hoping the tide change wouldn't slow us down too much.
The wind now picked up to 20 knots, a good speed for down wind sailing so let out the jib and it gave us an extra half knot. However the breeze was right up the bum and as we rocked about in the growing waves it became prone to gybing, so disappointedly we took it down. If we had time to sail without the engine it might have worked better but we had
a schedule. What a waste of that beautiful wind.
The wind built to 25 knots and with some opposing current from the 5 m tides it created steep 2 metre waves, giving us a rolly blustery ride. This pushed us south fast, frequently going over 8 knots down waves, but the motion became quite tiresome and we both wished we could " just be there already" ... How do we expect to do ocean passages?
Finally as the sun was getting low we were coming down the east side of the Duke Islands, steering a course to avoid some shoals and into the Lola-Mantes Passage. The waves steepened again and I took over from the autopilot as it had a tendency to make us broach, but once in the passage we could relax at last in the flat water. We passed a boat anchored in the south facing anchorage on Hunter Island and went around to see how our usual anchorage on the west side was looking. It was looking haggered with wind and waves so with our tail between our legs turned back to join the other boat. Eventually managed to find a spot not too close
to the rocky shore and the current that gushes out of the passage just before it was dark. Phew... our longest ever day sail at 14 hours and 89 miles... As the crow flies its only another 80 miles back to Yeppoon from here.
We had a rolly night, and got disturbed a couple of times by the anchor alarm, but woke to dead calm under a humid cloudy sky. We knew that strong southeasters were coming so we would have to move round to the west facing bay. Took a ride on the dinghy first to check it was OK and then moved Luna Ray to get ourselves settled for the next few days. It was actually pretty rolly from the residual northerly waves, strange we hadn't noticed this in the dinghy, but we had the bay to ourselves.
Took a trip to the beach and found we could get sketchy phone and internet reception from the top of the hill. On our return the outboard wouldn't start and then we realised we had forgotten a frisby and my thongs. Paddled back to the beach and Naomi hopped out and collected them. As she stepped
into the back of the dinghy I took a strong paddle stroke to get us away from the breaking waves quickly, Naomi lost her grip and fell backwards into the water! Pretty funny until we remembered her iPhone was in her breast pocket. It seems ok except that it thinks the headphones are in so cuts out the speakers.
We had a few quiet windy days behind Hunter Island - occasional visits to the beach, climbing some of the hills to get weak Internet connections for weather reports, putting up Xmas decorations. Irritations between us rose their ugly heads.... cruising together is a very intense way, perhaps abnormally so, for a family to spend time together. I took a long walk alone one day to the northern tip of the island. Over dry rocky ground lizards would scurry underfoot, across long grassed hillocks crickets would bound in front with each crunching step, and on a small wooded promonentry I came close to some deer on my way back, while in the bay below I spied some turtles and a shark.
We left when the promise of easterlies and north easterlies arrived. I got us
Island Head Inlet
underway before 6 am to get the best of the strong currents and motored across the confused water between Marble and Danger Island, just behind a catamaran that had anchored in the same bay the night before. Pounding through the waves woke Naomi, and as they settled we started sailing quite close to the wind in about 15 knots and eventually overtook the catamaran! There was quite a gentle rock as we made good speed so I went for a nap.
When I returned the cat was ahead of us again as the wind had decreased. We came around Cape Townsend and were aware of the military live firing exclusion zone currently in force just to the south that we would easily bypass on our current course. The winds were getting shifty though and after a while I checked the chart plotter to see that we were half a mile inside the zone... a bit careless! We tacked and slowly left the zone without getting shot.
With the winds and the current now against us progress was getting tediously slow, so we put on the engine for the last few miles to Island Head. Naomi steered as I
A palm amongst the mangroves
On walk at Island Head Inlet
navigated us using the cruising guide around rocks and shoals. We came in with following swell and I was worried if it would break as we got to shallower water, but as we came to the current of water on our starboard side, coming in between the island and mainland, the waves were dissolved. We paralleled the beach and came into the flat wide open inlet, occasional small white beaches and mangrove lined bays, surrounded by low lying hills fringed with bright green trees, their colour becoming more autumnal brown toward their peaks.
We anchored about half way down the channel, working out to shallower water using the depth sounder to guide us when to drop. We both appreciated the flat water. There were no other boats in the whole inlet.
Later that night just before low tide Naomi got a shock when she took a look outside to find we were about 10 metres from a massive sand bank that was now about half a metre above the water. Fortunately the current has a tendency to swing you into deeper water so we haven't felt the need to move, though its a bit unnerving.
The next day at a higher tide we crossed the sand bank on the dinghy to a brilliant white beach with some dead white trees. Walked inland along the bald stretches of mangrove creeks until we felt like we weren't really going anywhere. Across the inlet to another beach, where by coincidence a couple from a cat had just landed. They were returning from Mackay, where they had been working in the sugar cane industry (she, as a train drivers assistant), to Tin Can Bay.
The next day we took the dinghy to a few spots to fish and though we saw some, and some turtles, we caught none. Stayed on the boat for the rest of the day and next morning motored out of the inlet and down five miles to delightful Pearl Bay.
We had the pretty bay to ourselves and in the afternoon rowed the dinghy ashore. It had an excellent firm gently sloping sandy beach, ideal for pulling the dinghy up on its wheels. Burnt some rubbish while Naomi went hunting for the reported fresh water source. It started raining and she dug a few holes which collected water but seemed more
like drinking out of a puddle that devining water properly.
Couldn't find much shelter so walked along the beach getting very wet. Headed back to the dinghy when the rising tide threatened to cut us off from where we left the dinghy. Of course once we were back at the boat drying off, the sun suddenly broke out, making a nice rainbow out to sea. Went to bed early as some swell worked into the bay and the rolling got annoying.
Saturday we left early to catch the ebbing tide current -it turned out to be an hour earlier than needed as I had calculated them badly - heading for Port Clinton provisionally. Both winds and waves were bigger than expected and we bashed on motorsailing. As we came passed Port Clinton we decided the wind was Ok to push on further, especially as its supposed to be strengthening for the next few days.
Once passed Cape Manifold we relied apon sail alone and found the wind direction wasn't great and we were slowly heading into land. Had to keep a close eye on the depth at times but it was good to have a
close view of the coast as the last two times here we have sailed by at night. We managed to pass the headland at Corio Bay and by this time the wind and waves had settled and we were nodding along nicely at a steady 6 knots. Put in a couple of tacks and the wind shifted slightly in our favour - would have been better if it had moved a few hours earlier !- and we motored the last couple of miles into Considine Bay.
With Yeppoon in sight and radio/phone/Internet available we felt we have return to civilisation for the first time in a couple of weeks since leaving Airlie Beach. We anchored here for a few days when we left Yeppoon in July, and we'll head to the marina tomorrow, so it now feels like our trip is very much coming to an end.... for now.....
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