VOYAGE 2011 - THREE INTREPARD SAILORS HEAD NORTH – REPORT WEEK 1
Challenges & sharp learning curves:
Saturday 14/5/11 - We started from Victoria Point with Avon, Shirley & David on board. All gear was stowed by 12 noon and ready to go. The wind dropped so we motored to Tangalooma in fine weather. Avon is more confident with steering and anchoring and Shirley is improving. We all thought we had done well for our first day.
Sunday 15/5/11 - Lesson – Anchor Dragging 101 - The wind blew hard during the night and at 5am Sunday we dragged anchor down onto another boat, “K Sirah”. We took a couple of glancing blows from their bowsprit that caused minor gouges to the paint work but thought we got off lucky. The winds blew 20-30kts all day so we stayed at Tangaloomba.
Monday 16/5/11 - We sailed north to Mooloolabar with 20kts S/SW winds but this eased during the day which made it a pleasant sail. After anchoring Avon and I went ashore to the chandlery and ordered a new, heavier anchor, (Manson 45lb Supreme, with greater folding power) but had to wait a day for it to be delivered.
Tuesday 17/5/11 – We walked around town and the girls went shopping. I picked up and installed the new anchor that afternoon then we went out to dinner. Mooloolaba has a good sheltered anchorage near town with pleasant settings.
Wednesday 18/5/11 – Sailed for Double Island Point – 15/20kts S/SW but wind & swells increased during the day. Lesson – Swells 101 – When the weather bureau says 2 to 3 metre swells this can be translated into “lumpy seas”. We need to pay more attention to forecast swells heights and not just wind speed in future. Dolphins kept jumping in front of the bow for a mile or so and Avon and Shirley tried to take their picture but the dolphins were too quick. It was a 7 ˝ hour trip with 25kts for the last 2 hours and rain to finish off as we anchored. The girls were not impressed with the rough weather or the length of the day’s trip. The anchorage behind Double Island Point is good when winds are S/SW but we were to find that it is a very uncomfortable anchorage when the wind swings to the SE. Shirley caught lots of whiting under the boat just on dark but they were all too small.
Thursday 19/5/11 – We spent a very pleasant day ashore exploring the place and talking to people. The girls collected shells and found a cast net on the sand as we walked around the lagoon. We then walked over to the seaward side where we found a man catching worms. We managed to dig up about 30 pippies for bait then climbed up to the light house for a look. We then returned to the dinghy for our lesson of the day – Surf Launching 101. We were quite proud of ourselves when we timed the small waves along the beach when landing and passed that lesson with flying colours but launching was another matter. In the end we managed it but seemed to end up with more water in the dinghy than was left it the ocean. The wind picked up and swung to the SE and that was the end of our comfortable anchorage. It rained half the night with swells coming around the headland and slapping the hull about every 30 seconds.
Friday 20/5/11 – The 4 other boats in the bay left early heading for the Wide Bay Bar and in hindsight we should have left too. The forecast was for better conditions for the next day so we decided to stay. Conditions in the bay however got worst with the swell on the beach preventing us from landing that day and we were confined to the boat. There was lots of wind, rain and hull slapping after dark and no one got any sleep.
Saturday 21/5/11 – We were only too glad to leave and set off to cross the bar. The wind had dropped to 10/15kts S/SE early in the morning leaving sloppy seas but still not bad considering. We radioed the Tin Can Bay Coast Guard before crossing the bar. I managed to miss judge one wave and turned the boat into a rather large surf board. Lesson – Bar Surfing 101 - Avon says don’t do that again, I’m not impressed. Fortunately the swell was not that high and I had plenty of control but I would avoid it in future even though it was an exhilarating rocket ride at the time. We radioed the coast guard to tell them we were safely across then motored to the town of Tin Can Bay, dropped the anchor and went to bed at 11 am and slept the rest of the day. It rained again that night, in fact it has rained at least once a day since the trip began and we have had quite a few windy days and nights. The girls have been anxious at times but tolerated the not so pleasant conditions so we are all looking forward to spending about a week in the smoother waters of Sandy Straight behind Fraser Island.
VOYAGE 2011 – BLUE HORIZON – REPORT WEEK 2
The adventure continues:
Sunday 22/5/11 – The day started miserable and showery but improved about 9 am. I checked the crab pots but no crabs live in Tin Can Bay. We then went ashore and had a walk around town, bought some supplies and filled water tanks. We had steak burgers and chips at the cafe near the harbour for lunch but the burgers were a bit of a disappointment. Once back on board we upped anchor and headed back down Tin Can Bay inlet then north to Brown’s Gutter for our night anchorage. This trip has the best sailing conditions we have had yet with a 10kt tight reach with flat water and for once the sun was out. We set the pots and caught 1 muddy over night.
Monday 23/5/11 – We woke next morning to find the wind had swung around to the NW and was blowing 15kts into the anchorage. It is protected by sand banks, but we can’t believe the wind has found us again even though we are tucked in on the inside of Fraser Island. Our batteries were low from all the overcast and rainy weather so we fired up the generator to charge them while we went ashore on a beach to have a look around but could not be enticed to have a swim as it turned into a bleak windy day.
The weather forecast predicted similar weather conditions for the next couple of days so we decided to move on to Garry’s Anchorage for more shelter. To our surprise we caught 3 more mud crabs when we picked up the pots. As soon as we raised the anchor at about 12.30pm the wind picked up to 20-25kts and we had to motor straight into it for a while. We then used several sandbanks to find smoother water and the wind dropped back to 15kts after about half an hour.
There was only one other boat in the anchorage when we arrived so we picked out the best spot in the place, dropped our anchor, and set the crab pots. A couple of other boats arrived during the afternoon but it is a big anchorage so there was plenty of room. We cooked up and had a big feed of mud crab that night. Despite rain again that night the girls commented that they were happier to be in smoother waters.
Tuesday 24/5/11 – The weather was better in the morning. We only caught undersize crabs and jennies in the pots and lots of very small whiting under the boat. Shirley and I decided to go exploring in the dinghy in search of bigger fish. We found a good yabby bed and pumped some monster yabbies but no fish. That afternoon we all went ashore with the intension of having a good walk around but had to beat a hasty retreat as the mosquitoes and sandflies were so savage. It turned overcast again in the afternoon and 3 houseboats and about as many yachts joined us in the anchorage. Mossies and sandflies attacked the boat at dusk and forced us indoors.
Wednesday 25/5/11 – The day of the fish and our first full day of sunshine. It’s cool and windy from the SW but you can’t have everything and at least the mossies and sandflies are blown away. The day started with two more mud crabs in the pots as well as many undersize sand crabs. About midmorning I caught a 3kg golden trevally on a small live bait and Shirley caught garfish, numerous small whiting, and a monster toad fish that straightened out her whiting hook and got away. She then claimed the fishing tournament championship by finishing the day with a 40cm school mackerel and a small gummy shark, still with the same whiting hook, & was still crowing about it 2 days later.
More houseboats and yachts arrived during the afternoon and there were 7 yachts and 6 houseboats at anchor by nightfall. The wind picked up in the afternoon, SW straight into the anchorage of course, but we were still comfortable as the sand banks do not allow the seas to build up. When the wind got to about 20-25kts the houseboat next to us started to drag anchor. It has now been several days since we have had any anxious moments and we were starting to feel at peace with the world but I suppose this could not last forever and it was time for our next lesson.
Houseboats 102 – Any houseboat anchored within half a mile of you is still half a mile too close. These things are made for the comfort of tourists but have enormous wind-age. They tow a fairly large aluminium dinghy and are driven by someone who can’t drive it a straight line but has at least one mate who comes to visit this luxury afloat in his runabout which is at least 14’ long. This small floatilla is hung off the backend of the houseboat and so much confidence it placed the anchor that running out extra chain is considered unnecessary.
Our neighbourly houseboat was about 60 metres downwind of us when he started to drag. He got his anchor up, drifted sideways, tentatively tried to steer his little foatilla into the wind with little effect then finally realized an all out effort was required or he would be driven ashore. With motors full throttle he came straight at us trying to build up steerage speed and at the very last moment desperately reefed the wheel around and missed us by less than a metre. It was enough to make a bloke go weak in the knees and Avon, who just happened to be on deck on that side of the boat thought she was a gonna.
I got up in the middle of the night for a pee. The wind had dropped and it was a clear starry night, absolutely glorious. It makes you pause for a moment and reflect that life isn’t so bad after all.
Thursday 26/5/11 – Well it finally happened. The wind’s gone and the sun’s out all in the same day. I picked up the pots and the anchor and we set course through the shallow part of the straights and headed for Urangan in Hervey Bay. There was not enough wind to sail so it was a sight-seeing motor cruise past some very flash waterside houses just north of Garry’s anchorage, an old logging camp, a wreck, a ranger station & camping ground at Deep Creek, a far off glimpse of Kingfisher Bay Resort and barges going to and from Fraser Island. We would have liked to stop at more places along the way but are falling behind our schedule and will have to leave some places for our return trip.
The wind picked up enough near Big Woody Island so we rolled out the genoa and motor sailed to Urangan Boat Harbour. We rang ahead to book a berth and set up the mooring lines and fenders before entering the harbour. We nosed into the berth and things went well till we realised the finger pontoon was not long enough for someone to just step off the transom step and tie the ropes to the cleats. We drifted around the berth in confusion for a while then got Avon to hop off from the front deck. It was a bit of a scrappy tie up but considering the girls had never berthed a boat before and I was giving directions that they didn’t always understand we just scraped in with a pass.
Avon used to live in Hervey Bay so she rang a few locals to invite them out to the boat. They were all in their 70s and we had no way for them to simple just step onto the boat so we went to the marina office and arranged to shift the boat across to the longer finger pontoon on the other side of our bay. It cost extra for the longer berth but was worth. I thought the whole exercise was a bit like buying a house with no front stairs.
It should have been a straight forward exercise to shift the boat. Simply untie the fenders & mooring lines one at a time and move them to the opposite side of the boat, throw the end across to someone on the other finger to tie around a cleat, then just pull the boat across. Of course this was far too simple to work first time and some lessons must be learnt the hard way.
Pontoon Jumping 102- We were all back on the boat shifting the fenders across and Avon volunteered to hop off and go to the opposite finger to catch the lines. I got back to my job then heard a ‘funny’ noise then silence. I called out “Avon, are you all right”, - silence. This is not good, “AVON”, -silence. Definitely not good. I rushed over in a bit of a panic to find a bewildered wife with her bum stuck in the bottom of a dinghy and her legs in the air.
The front deck was about 700mm higher than the pontoon below and Avon had decided to ‘hop’ off the deck with more gusto than her first effort when tying up. She jumped off, promptly lost her balance, bounced; rolled across the pontoon then over the edge into a dinghy on the other side which just happened to be half full of water. She now knows floating boats move slightly when you jump off them. Floating pontoon move slightly when you land on them, and half full dinghies soften the landing.
Lucky Avon is pretty tuff. She got out of the dinghy, dusted, sponged herself off, then went across to catch the ropes. The rest of the manouver went well. We walked to the shop for supplies and got back just in time for our first visitors, Jan and George. We caught up on old times then went to the boat club for dinner afterwards.
Friday 27/5/11 – Another pleasant day – light winds and sunshine. Did the washing, topped up the water, refuelled the boat and did a couple of odd jobs. Ron came to visit then Coral a little later and we all sat round having a good yarn for most of the morning. I bought two more up to date charts then spent the afternoon doing odd jobs, looking at boats in the harbour, and writing this report. We plan is to leave after breakfast tomorrow the try to catch some whiting in the bay then sail to Burrum Heads for our next anchorage.
Voyage 2011 - Blue Horizon – Week 3
Saturday 28/5/11 – The dawn was very overcast with wind 10kts S/SW. We left the marina about 8am. Finally the seas are calm enough to calibrate and commission the auto pilot so we tested it while motoring to Gatakers Bay then stopped for a fish amoung all the locals. Most of the whiting were very small so we went another mile and tried again. After 4 stops we had caught about 40 whiting but only 6 barely legal; just enough for a feed. The afternoon was still heavily overcast with showers all about but they all missed us. We caught a school mackerel on the trolling lines while motor sailing to Burrum Heads then went in and anchored for the night. Had a walk around town to the shops and the pub and was very impressed with atmosphere and presentation of the place both along the foreshore and the neat and tidy houses. Shirley caught the usual undersize whiting and a catfish under the boat and I caught a jenny and undersize buck in the pot overnight.
Sunday 29/5/11 – We upped anchor at 7.30. It is 10-15kts S/SW with fine weather. It was good sailing at about 4.5 to 5.5kts making a 7 hr trip To Burnett Heads. We trolled but no fish and arrived at 2.30 pm. We all fell in love with the auto pilot and have christened him “Jumby”. The boat steered itself all day and sails a straighter course than the average helmsperson. We anchored 2 nm upstream, just past the marina and sugar wharf and set one crab pot off the boat. This night will go down in history as “The night of the crab”. I caught 14 mud crabs and one small rock cod in the one pot overnight. Sadly they were 11 jennies, 2 undersize bucks and 1 keeper. I nearly threw the keeper back as most of the jennies were about 7 to 8 inches across the shell and made the keeper look undersize.
Monday 30/5/11- There is cloud about but mainly fine. We have a long way to go today, 40nm to 1770 so we got underway at 6.30. Slight seas with wind 15kts S/SW. Sailed for 3 hrs on a broad reach then the wind dropped. We pulled the sails down and motored as we were only doing 3kts and still have a long way to go. The seas have flattened right out with about 5kts breeze, Shirley is on lookout, Jumby is steering the boat and it’s a nice day.
We motor sailed the last hour as the wind got better and I am starting to think I have got this cruising thing just about right. Not so it would appear. I have noticed I have blisters on the bottom of my toes and am literally wearing off the souls of my feet on the nonskid deck of the boat. I made the deck very grippy so as not to skid when it is wet and have not had a problem when sailing the boat for a week but 2 weeks is an entirely different matter. I will have to wear deck shoes or socks if I am to survive. We also have another problem. The girls like the weather but do not like travelling 7 and 8 hour a day. They want shorter distances per day and more rest days to do shore based activities. I had told them I would try to sail only 4 to 5 hours a day but of course the reality is the safe anchorages require longer days travel. We are now going to spend a day or so at 1770 and do the shorter hops along the coast instead of going to the reef even though the weather is as perfect as it is liable to get. There is going to be a problem on the return trip when sailing into the wind and distances and times are longer. We also need a ‘pinger’ that chimes every 15 minutes to remind the person on watch to scan 360 degrees of the horizon. We need to look over our shoulder more often.
Tuesday 31/5/11 – It is cold by fine. It will warm up with the sun. Anne emailed us the seabreeze web site. The weather forecast says 5 days of good weather ahead. Bloody ripper. No crabs live in 1770. We went ashore and met Des and Bruce who are both ‘Seawind 23’ sailors with their boats anchored near the shore. We first met Des at Double Island Point. Bruce is a colourful and friendly local who gave us all a lift to the Agnes Waters shopping centre and back in this comby van.
Later that morning we walked along the headland up to the point to study the bar at the entrance of the creek to confirm the best approach for future reference. The channel has changed yet again and is back near its 1986 location. The channel is hard up against the headland about 25metres from the rocks. The main sandbar is still to the west and there is lots of shallow water, (2 metres deep), about half a mile out to sea that is no problem in fine conditions but may lump up in heavy weather. The channel near the rocks is only about 40 to 50 metres wide. The anchorage is good and the marina has water, fuel, bait and a small chandlery. There is a good boat ramp, public jetty & pontoon , and a pub nearby. There is no lockup compound for cars. Day visitors and campers leave their cars at the marina carpark which is pretty much on the street in front of the office. The staff check on them daily but there are no guarantees.
We checked out the Captain Cook monument on the way back then ran into Des & Bruce again and got invited to a fish BBQ the next day. Went to the pub for lunch then walked back across the sandbanks to the boat as it was high and dry. Relaxed for the afternoon then I swam back to collect the dinghy. It was only a 60 metre swim but I will have to get fitter or not do that again as I was buggered by the time I got to the shore.
Wednesday 1/6/11 – Filled the water and fuel tanks during the morning and checked for the best anchoring spots in the creek. I tried to shift the boat off the sandbank by walking over and shifting the anchor by hand as the tide ran out but left it a bit late and the boat grounded again before I could complete the manouver. It means being woken in the night as the boat bounces off the sand and probably scraping off a little antifoul paint. We had sweetlip at the BBQ and a few beers then invited Des, Bruce & his partner out to the boat to round off the afternoon.
Thursday 2/6/11 – Left 1770 and trolled just offshore along the beach in Bustard Bay and around the headland into Pancake Creek. Boats come and go with an average of 12 boats at anchor at any one time. One sand crab in the pot for entrey. There were lots of rocks under the boat and we kept losing fishing tackle so we shifted the boat. Shirley caught one stingray which went in the pots but no more crabs.
Friday 3/6/11 – The weather is now great, just what we ordered. We went ashore and had a talk to some campers then climbed the track to Bustard Head lighthouse. It was a nice easy climb through shady trees with a good view to match when we got there. We talked to the voluntary caretaker about the place and how it was rebuilt after years of neglect and vandalism. We went to an isolated beach to comb but it was full of backpackers. The beach doubles as an airstrip. We spent the afternoon on the boat and I typed up this report. I am having a frustrating time selecting our next anchorage as short hops only end up at less desirable anchorages. I am conspiring to sweet talk the girls into going to the reef but will have to check the weather forecast in the morning. It looks like this good weather will hold for 4 or 5 days at least and it is too good an opportunity to miss. Masthead Island or bust.
And by the way, did I mention I love the autopilot. Me and Jumby are great mates. Regards, David
VOYAGE 2011 – BLUE HORIZON WK 4
Saturday – 4/6/11 - We left Pancake Creek at 6.45am and headed for Masthead Island. Set the trolling lines but no fish. 3 dolphins came to investigate the boat but the girls were too slow to take their picture. I tried to motor sail but gave up after 2 hours as the wind was too light. Arrived at 12.30 and went straight to the fishing spot which was easy to find as there was at least 6 boats there. We caught 4 parrot, (Venus Tuskfish) and 1 sweetlip & lots of iodine bream for bait. We had to throw back lots of fish just undersized and our keepers were just oversize so I think the reef is well fished. We anchored the boat on the NW corner of the reef for the night. A slight NE breeze came up after dark but only lasted 2 hours then total calm all night.
Sunday – 5/6/11 – We went ashore after a leasurely breakfast and walked around the island. The girls collected shells and we found an old turtle nest half washed out by the tide and dug up by birds to get at the eggs. I scavenged through the campsite and came up with lots of treasures. It’s amazing how careless some people can be. The best find was a cast iron tea pot. The next best was a heavy duty snatch-um strap in near new condition, another tie down strap and a safety cap for a gas bottle. The campsite was one of the best I have seen along the coast with lots of shady trees and a good wind break from the SE trade winds. There is lots of bird life and a pleasant atmosphere. We finished off with a swim then back to the boat for lunch.
We went to go fishing but found the anchor chained fouled around a bommie. It took 10 minutes of ‘ginning’ around to free it then off we went. In two and a half hours we caught 8 parrot, and 3 sweetlip with lots of throwbacks. We saw more dolphins and turtles then anchored in a slightly different spot and managed to catch 3 more parrot at anchor overnight. I also tried again to email out Week 3 report but no go. We did manage 2 text messages and phoned Tom but the conversation was very disjointed then it dropped out.
Monday – 6/6/11 – Chops and eggs for breakfast. Tidied up then pulled the anchor up at 7.45am and headed for Cape Capricorn 28nm away. Absolutely no wind, flat seas, motor cruising at 5.5kts on one motor and no fish. Cappuccino & tim tams for morning smoko so not down to hard tack yet. I rolled out the genoa at 10.50 and picked up .3kts of speed but within half an hour I had to roll it away as the wind had gone again. We arrived at 13.00 and went ashore to explore. The shore where my brother and I camped 25 years ago is all eroded away now with only a sand bar then a lagoon behind. I started eyeing off the best spots to put the crabpots then saw someone was camped behind the lagoon and had staked the place out with their own pots so I left it to them. The place does not look as inviting as I remember it so we have decided to move on tomorrow. I had to shift the boat as the tide went out and we started bouncing on the bottom. I also caught a sucker fish and we had another quite night at anchor.
Tuesday – 7/6/11 – We left Cape Capricorn at 7.15 and motor sailed past Hommocky Island to Lisa Jane Shoals. We stopped for a fish but no fish live there. We were then able to sail at 4kts for an hour before the wind dropped out so back to the motor. We finally got within range to email last week’s report and booked our marina berth for a month at Roslyn Bay.
Arrived at Great Keppel at 13.00 and went ashore. Keppel Island in my old stamping ground and the place has changed a lot from a bustling resort for young adults to a docile ghost town. There are 3 boat crews and 20 day visitors off the tourist cat on the island. The resort is fenced off and abandoned with only a caretaker and the camping/beach hut area is barely functioning. The weekend camper has been given the short shift with a redevelopment building more beach huts but no one is there. The place has 6 foot high picket fences everywhere with alley ways through the scrub and corrals the tourists into compounds and looks more like a detention centre than a resort. Water views are scarce and the picnic area where everyone gathered to party at night is gone. The weather remains calm and we had another quiet night.
Wednesday – 8/6/11 – Shirley and I went fishing in the morning and ended up as the far end of Putney beach where we got a whiting and a bream. Back to the boat for lunch and I drained 2 of the water tanks to 20lt each and added vinegar to remove the plastic taint we have had since launching the boat. I will flush it out after a day and refill at Roslyn Bay. We have had to use separate drinking water containers till now.
I am typing this report and my big line with a whiting frame on it has just gone off. After 5 minutes the fish has wrapped the line around the anchor so it is only a matter of time before the line breaks. Avon is at the front of the boat near the anchor telling me it is a 12 foot shark. I have been able to stop it with 40lb line and you can’t do that with a 12 foot shark. I suspect it was about a 6 foot shovel nose ray but Avon is sticking to her version. I told her only yesterday that it was safe to swim off the back of the boat.
Some idiot is now driving up and down towing a rubber tyre with kids on and about 10 more lined up waiting their turn on the beach. The girls are trying to have a rest and the wash is bouncing our boat and dinghy all over the place. After half an hour of this Avon is on the front deck waiting for them to get closer so she can give then an earful but fortune favours them and they stay just out of range. She may have even tried to rustle up her pet shark.
Half an hour later and the idiot has gone and we are all peacefully resting when we hear plop, plop, plop and wonder what the bloody hell is going on now? I investigate and discover a swimmer in the water 20m from the boat. A bloke about 40 yells out that our boat is a good aiming point for his adventurous swim. We are anchored 200m from the shore. Avon is hopping around the cockpit very concerned with ants in her pants just itching to tell him about her pet 12 foot shark just under the boat. I have to step in before the situation gets out of control and point out a few things. 1- A 5 metre start is probably not going to help him that much. 2- If he is smart he will make a bee line for our boat and my offer to take him ashore in the 8 foot dinghy will be justifiably refused as 12 foot sharks have 8 foot dinghies for entree so I will never get rid of him. 3 – The shark turned down 10 tender children so why settle for 1 forty year old boiler. 4- If she tells him about the shark he will most likely have a heart attack on the spot then I will have to dive in and save him and by this time even I am not entirely convinced I don’t have a 12 foot shark under the boat. Needless to say after five minutes of chatting up my wife he eventually plop, plopped away with no serious injuries and life settled back to normal with him blissfully unaware of his near demise. Another quiet night.
Thursday - 9/6/11 – Another beautiful day. We can’t get into the marina till after 10 o’clock so we spend the morning cleaning and doing odd jobs in preparation for laying up the boat for 6 weeks. We pulled up the anchor at 9.45 and set sails for a nice broad reach to Roslyn Bay. Berthed at about 12.00 noon, had lunch then went to the office to sort out to bill. We had a walk around to check out the place after lunch. Roslyn Bay Marina has a reasonable amount of facilities and I rate it as a good anchorage. I rang my brother, Neville and he arranged a car for us, (thanks Tam & Gene). Nev, Mel, Avon, Shirley, & I went to the Keppel Bay Sailing Club for dinner.
Friday – 10/6/11 – Bleak, cold and miserable day. Sorted out fuel tanks. Drained carburettors on all motors and put the cover on dinghy. I then walked around the marina looking at all the boats and ran into my nephew Ben, who just happened to be on a job on one of the boats. The girls did all the washing then we went to Yeppoon to do some shopping. I did a couple of odd jobs when we got back then R & R. Ben came around for a couple of beers after work and we had a good chat. That wraps up our adventures for the last four weeks but stay tuned for when the voyage continues sometime in July.
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