Going Back to the Great Barrier Reef


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Oceania » Australia
June 11th 2016
Published: July 29th 2016
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The Cruise of Alison and Simon.

Brisbane to Airlie Beach 2016

Captain’s Log:- The voyage began on the 3rdof May and ended 32 days later, with a moving average of 4.8 knots over a distance of 695 nautical miles (1287.14 km).



Well after 6 months working around Brisbane that involved a lot of driving around Brisbane and the great Brisbane area to the different houses where I worked it was time to head north to the tropics.



The first job was to get Hakura’s bottom cleaned and re antifouled, but where to go to do this? Some of the haul-out places in Brisbane were very expensive while one of the cheaper ones was several days travel away. In the end I settled on the Scarborough Boat Harbour. It was not the cheapest but it was close by and they had space available when I wanted it.



One of the other jobs that I had to finish before departure was finding a crew – a young French couple cycling from New Zealand back to France via Southeast Asia, India Mongolia and then following the Silk Road. As there was no room for their bikes on Hakura (in fact I had to find room for my bike), Simon and Alison rode up to Airlie Beach and then came back to sail up to their bikes. They had arrived back on Hakura just as I stopped work so we were ready to take the long trip to Scarborough Marina from Newport Marina, all of 4 nautical miles. Thus early on Tuesday 3 May we headed out. This was the first time Hakura had moved in 6 months. It was a slow trip with Hakura only getting up to a maximum of 4 knots, not her usual 7 in flat conditions. A sure sign that the bottom needed cleaning.



Well we were hauled-out by 11 am and after a power-wash Hakura looked like new. Then it was time for the rubdown and prep before the first coat of antifouling. I was hoping to get 2 costs on and be back in the water on the Friday morning. Well, Simon and Alison turned out to be very willing and able workers and had all the prep work done by the end of the first day and we had the two coats on by the end of the third day.



Come Friday morning, we were back in the water and Hakura was off, and boy she could easily doing the 5 to 6 knots, and even hit the 7 mark. As there was a light wind we tried out the new red sail – a MPS (Multi-purpose Sail or Genica), affectionately known as the BRS (Big Red Sail). It is a light down wind sail. We got it up and we were sailing. It felt great to be back out there.



While we were enjoying the sail the tide had continued to go out so that when we headed back in it was close to the bottom, thus there was very little water in the channel to the Newport Marina. Added to this it was mid week race day so several yachts were coming out. I moved over to the starboard side of the channel as I’m supposed to do.



“What, oh no”, we were on the mud and my fresh paint too. The tide clock showed 2 hours till low so it appeared that we had at least four hours to wait. However, after 2 hours Hakura started to float and we made it back in the channel. The tide clock was out. No damage done.



Over the weekend we stocked up the food, fuel and water. The other big job was getting rid of my trusty car – a 2002 Toyota Avalon. None of the car yards wanted it and the wreakers only offered $80. Then, at the suggestion of Campbell, I listed it on an Internet trading site for $500 or near offer. That worked and within an half hour it was sold. So on Tuesday morning a guy came with the money and a car carrying truck and took her away. I hope he gets lots of driving out of her like I did.



So at 3 pm on Tuesday 10 May we were finally ready and had cast off all lines and were heading out of the marina, this time for the warmth and sun of the tropics. The next stop was inside the Great Sandy Strait, about 20 hours and 100+ nautical miles to the north. We were going to do an over night sail to arrive at the Wide Bay Bar with half rising tide around late morning on the Wednesday.



The weather was fine with a light west to southwest wind so a motor sail was called for. Simon and Alison took to the shifts and life at sea with great enthusiasm. Over night we passed up the Sunshine Coast, and again there were quite a few vessels off Mooloolaba.



The only issue came during the early hours of the morning when Alison asked me if it was OK if we were well inside the course line on the GPS. They had became concerned that we where heading into the coast not along it. I had explained that the person on the helm needed to use the handheld GPS, the ships compass and visual aids from the coast to stay on course, however, they had been only using the compass, which had become set on the wrong heading.



Well the answer was no and after a slight change of course, of about 90 degrees, we were quickly back on the track and heading for Double Island Point and the turn westward for the bar. It was a quit morning with next to no swell so the bar was a comfortable crossing and after another few hours motoring we were well into the Great Sandy Strait at our first anchorage.



After the long night sail I wanted to rest, while Alison and Simon wanted, and needed, to do something. So off in EII they went and had a short walk on Fraser Island. On the way back they thought they saw something. A large slow animal in the water, so back on Hakura they announced that they had seen a seal, maybe an elephant seal. Now I know that such animals do not come anywhere near this far north.



Oh bugger, they had seen a dugong, and without me, the bastards. It was a very still evening so there were no problems in seeing it. Bugger again, I have never seen one of them. And when I went and had a look, there was nothing disturbing the water anywhere.



So from then onwards, Simon and Alison would point behind me and say “Is that a dugong? Oh no this time.”



Next day we had an easy motor through the rest of the Great Sand Straits and came out on the eastern side of the northern entrance. We were out in Harvey Bay and getting closer to the tropics. Over the next couple of days we headed north (with several occasions to set the BRS and it worked fanatically).



The next major target was Lady Musgrave Reef, part of the Capricorn Bunker Group. After a quit overnight sail we arrived at the reef.



Entering the lagoon went well, with Simon spotting bombies from up the mast. He was very good a spotting them, though most of the ones he saw where next to us, we have to start somewhere. We stayed in the lagoon, along with about 10 to 15 other vessels, for four days. We filled our time with snorkelling and exploring the island. One of the major features where the frequent sightings of turtles, including finding six or seven around one bombie while snorkelling.



The next leg was to Pan Cake Creek, which turned into a very enjoyable reaching sail and we arrived late afternoon. The only two things of note were that the Cap’n missing a channel marker within the Creek, thereby cutting a large corner off the entrance channel, but as the depth beneath Hakura was never least than 2 metres no problem. The other was the question of whether or not we were in crocodile country yet. A quick call to the Gladstone VMR and the answer was there have been no reports of crocs in this system. About the best answer one can give. We did not go swimming though, as the tidal current was very strong, often over 2 knots.



After a lay day we were off to Great Keppel Island, which was a good 12 hours away. We had a solid SE wind and made good progress under headsail only. In the end, it took less than the 12 hours through still a long day. The next issue was where to anchor. The main cruising guide talked about good anchorages on the northwestern side but with a slight issue of a roll developing at times.



Well, I think we were there during a period of more than slight swell as I didn’t get much sleep during the first night and I think Simon also had difficulty. Next day we moved bays and did manage to be less exposed to the swell and got a better night’s sleep.



Well, we had eaten and drunk our way through our stores so it was time for a top-up. The nearest shops were in Yeppon and there was a marina near by, so after a very gentle sail we were in the Yeppon Marina. We used their courtesy car to drive into Yeppon to do our shopping. Yeppon is a small place but it has a good butcher with lovely sausages. I went into by 6 beef and 6 lamb and came out with an additional 6 pork sausages. It just happened.



After a couple of days we were back out at Great Keppel Island and waiting a few days for the northerlies to change back into the SE Trades. Alison was into snorkelling but Simon had just washed his hair and finally got it dry. Such is the life of a modern man (with dreadlocks). Again, I stayed on board and they went walking but this time, I rowed them ashore and came back to pick them up. This way was good all round.



Well, on the 27th of May we were supposed to have light northerlies turning easterly during the day so it was time to head north and we would need an early start. So next morning we were up with the sun and about to head out when both Simon and I heard and then saw a Dugong. Yes I saw it so it was real. It stayed in the same area for the next 30 minutes (and maybe more as we left). I had finally seen one.



As you have most likely guess, the wind did not follow the forecast and stayed north-westerly most of the day so it was an on-the-wind tack up the coast to our next anchorage in Port Clinton. It took so long we arrived after dark and I used the handheld GPS, the navigation program on the tablet and the radar. We anchored about quarter past 8 at night.



The area is a military training ground so there are no navigation lights, no coastal shacks or towns, but there are strange lights that occasionally light up the sky and we even saw some flares (we hoped they were part of a training programme, as we do not raise the alarm and they were inland).



From what little we saw of Port Clinton, it appeared to be a beautiful spot and because of the lack of coastal development, it may still appear like it was before us white fellers invaded Australia.



The next morning, 28 May, saw us up and breakfasted early, again, so as to get a good start on the next long leg, to Middle Percy Island. This island was 12 hours away and the winds were light so a full day of motoring was likely. The wind died altogether around late morning so it was a long noisy day. We passed several islands, some of which had possible anchorages, but I only found this out afterwards. Note to self, possible places to go on the way south.



We reached the anchorage in West Bay on Middle Island in the Percy Group, generally called Middle Percy Island, just after dark. We dropped anchor with no wind butthere was a small swell rolling into the anchorage which lead to another night of broken sleep all round. Next
The Crew - Alison and SimonThe Crew - Alison and SimonThe Crew - Alison and Simon

All the was from Normandy, France, via NZ.
morning we moved closed to the beach and out of the roll hopping for a better sleep on that night. This day was a lay day as we still had a couple of long days before we made the southern end of the Whitsundays.



Middle Percy is famous among cursing yachties due to the “Telephone Shed” that has been receiving mementos from the yachties since the 1960s. When I was on “Rebels Riser” in 1979 we stopped there, though I don’t think we left anything. Many years ago the locals built the “A-frame” to house even more gifts, signs and stuff from the yachties.



Alison and Simon, after visiting the A-frame, decided Hakura should provide a memento of our visit and they set about making one out of coconut shell, string and paint. That afternoon we all went ashore to add our gift to the collection.



They headed of on walk and went back to Hakura. On my way back I passed a big cat where the skipper was cleaning a couple of large fish. After a quick chat, he offered me some fish. I said yep and thanks, in part knowing how much Alison and Simon wanted to catch a fish. We ate very well that night and for the next couple as well.



The last day of May saw us with another early start and 12 hours before us. The winds were kind and we were able to use the BRS for some of the day. Another event was that we caught our first fish, a small Spanish Mackerel. I’m not sure why I put the line out given we had at least one meal from the fish we had been given still to eat. Anyway, we now had fish dinners for several nights to come.



My hardest job was to stop my French cooks from cooking the fish in sauces. I kept telling them this was some of the freshes fish they are ever likely to get and as such it needs simple cooking to get the best from it. We settled on panfrying a couple of times and then bread crumbs. They did a great job of cooking it.



On June 1 we headed off to an island called Thomas Is, the southern most island of the Whitsundays. We arrived after a good sail in 15 to 20 knot SE winds, though they started at 10 to 15 and we had put up the BRS, only to bring it down shortly after as the wind strengthened. This sounds easy but was not. But I did get it down with only minor rope burns around my right wrist.



Thomas Island was not the greatest anchorage last year and that provided to be the case again this year. We had just anchored and were settling down to a good cup of tea when, bang! The keel had dropped onto the top of the coral head (called a bombie). At the same time the sky was clouding over with big black clouds. It was going to rain. I decided to head to the next island to the north, Shaw Island where there was a very good safe anchored.



Yep, after about 10 minutes the rain came down in buckets and big ones at that. I was wet through really quickly and then put on my wet weather jacket. Sometimes the order I do things does not work out. I told Simon and Alison to stay dry inside and in 45 minutes the rain had stopped and we could anchor in the southern end of Shaw Island.



We had arrived in the Whitsundays, yippee.



Over the next 3 days we worked our way through the main anchorages and beaches, enjoying several swims and a much more relaxed pace of travel. This leg ended when we arrived at Airlie Beach about midday on the 4th.





I really enjoyed travelling with Simon and Alison, their cooking was great, but it did not help downsize me. They were willing helpers throughout and learned quickly. I hope the rest of their journey of riding their bikes back to Normandy via Southeast Asia, mainland Asia and the Silk Road goes well.


Additional photos below
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Our gift for the A Frame.Our gift for the A Frame.
Our gift for the A Frame.

Made by Alison and Simon.
Nara Inlet, Hook IslandNara Inlet, Hook Island
Nara Inlet, Hook Island

The edge of the big storm that went on to cause damage and flooding from Queensland through NSW to Tasmania. We had a few hours of heavy rain, thats all.


Tot: 0.11s; Tpl: 0.031s; cc: 12; qc: 28; dbt: 0.0091s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.3mb