Map: Digby Island to Bundaberg. (Click on Images to enlarge)
We pulled up the anchor in Basil’s Bay on Keswick Island and motor sailed the 46 nm to Digby Island, where we anchored in the South bay to shelter from the wind. On the way, Annie caught our favourite fish, a Spanish Mackerel 85 cm long, no scales, no bones and firm white flesh.
South Bay on Digby Island in a howling N-E wind.
The next day on the 26 nm sail to White’s Bay on Middle Percy Island, she landed another Spanish Mackerel – this one 105 cm long. (Queensland Government size limit: 75 cm minimum)
A good sized Spanish Mackerel.
No wind was predicted for the next day, but a sailable 16 knot SW, then SE wind with flat seas, got us 51 nm to Island Head Creek on the mainland. Here we made an embarrassing mistake: we didn’t factor in the 3.6 m tidal range (the biggest on the East coast). The result was us rolling out of bed at 1am, when the boat was lying on her side, on the sand at low tide. We never learn!
Keppel Bay Marina – our first marina in a long while.
We made an early start and left the anchorage at 6:30am, to catch the 2-3 knot rising tide flowing south from here. We did a good 59 nm distance to Keppel Bay Marina at Rosslyn Harbour, where we tied up at 5pm. We booked in for two nights as we had to get gas, diesel and water and most importantly, for me to drain the engine oil and sail drive oil the next day. I also replaced the two fuel filters and the oil filter. This was overdue – I did the last service in Panama in January.
The next day we used the marina courtesy car to go into Yeppoon to stock up at Woolies, the bottle shop and to re-direct parcels from Airlie Beach to Southport. We had two nights of severe thunderstorms and lightning strikes while tied up in the marina. Just as well we were fairly secure in the marina, our only relief was that our boat’s mast was not the tallest.
This brought back the lyrics of Gang Gajang’s iconic Australian song “Sounds of Then”: “Out on the patio we’d sit, And the humidity we’d breathe, We’d watch the lightning crack over cane fields, Laugh and think, this is Australia”
Great Keppel Island.
After filling up with water and diesel, we had a pleasant 10 nm sail to Great Keppel Island, where we anchored at Long Beach on the South side. At 2 am an easterly storm swept in from the sea, which with the forecast of hail had us worried. After a bumpy night at anchor due to the wave build up from out at sea, we motor sailed 24 nm to the northern approach to the Narrows, a passage between Curtis Island and the mainland. Curtis Island is used as a grazing area for cattle and halfway down the Narrows is the famous cattle crossing where at low tide, cattle can walk across the dry crossing.
Lighthouse n Curtis Island at the northern entrance to the Narrows.
You have to get your tides absolutely right to cross a distance of about 6 nm of very shallow water to then complete the next 12 nm to Gladstone. After a night anchored in the main channel opposite Badger Creek at the start of the shallow section, we lifted anchor and slowly motored and used the rising tide to take us to Boat Creek, clearing the bottom in some parts by 200 mm and often so close to the banks, you could touch the trees.
The cattle crossing’s island side
And mainland side.
You can touch the mangrove trees.
Following us was a cat called “Lalapanzi” which is Zulu for “Lie down” or “Place to rest” We started talking to Quentin and Barbara Granger on VHF to establish their South African connection and they led us through the congested Port of Gladstone to anchor off Facing Island for the night.
Leading marks close inshore.
I was gobsmacked by the size and activity of this harbour. Coal exports being the fourth largest the world. There is also two new gasworks exporting LNG, a massive power station for the aluminium smelter fed with bauxite, and various agricultural products like sugar, wheat etc. The next morning sailing down the coast, I counted 24 ships at anchor in the roadstead. We had a close encounter with one of the ships who ignored our under sail right of way.
One of the gas works.
One of a number of coal loaders.
One of the ships “Tiger Lily” leaving Gladstone, crossing our bow 140 m away, doing 16 knots.
We had a swift 27 nm sail to Pancake Creek where we picked up a Marine Parks mooring for a two night stay in order to do the walk to the lighthouse the next day. We had Quentin and Barbara for a Spanish Mackerel BBQ as well as Peter and Sharon who dropped in for a drink after delivering one of our cockpit cushions that had blown overboard during the strong winds. The 6 km walk to Bustard Head lighthouse, which had been beautifully restored by a volunteer group, was well graded on sand and easy.
Crossing the creek to get onto the sand track.
The easy gradient 3,2 km sand track.
Brown boy to baby Black boy: “That’s an impressive spear you have”
Arriving at the lighthouse.
The restored buildings.
The lighthouse cemetery.
The gravestones tell the history.
We sailed from Pancake Creek on Sunday 24th October in a fresh N-W wind, heading for the beautiful Lady Musgrave Island, 38 nm offshore. We were looking forward to revisit this lovely island with it’s fringing reef and lagoon. An hour later the wind turned west and we poled out the jib for a downwind run. This proved to be difficult as the contrary swells were throwing us about, so another 30 minutes later, we altered course for Bundaberg, 60 nm S-E.
Bundaberg marina entrance.
After a 12 hour sail and 68 nm distance we anchored outside Port Bundaberg Marina at the mouth of the Burnett River, at 6 pm. The following morning we discovered that our water pump which circulates water from the water tanks to all the taps and showers, had stopped working. We checked into a berth at the marina where there are water taps at each berth.
The filter, pump, pressure tank and stopcocks for the tanks are located in a small space behind the saloon seats which makes it very awkward to get to. I disconnected the pump, stripped it, checked the diaphragm, and cleaned the electrical spade connections. Meanwhile, Annie was at the local chandlery looking for a diaphragm kit, but could only find a new pump at $365. Long story short, after stripping the pump again, fishing dropped nuts and washers from the bilges and much cursing, I managed to get the pump working again.
The Grand Hotel.
The School of Arts.
The next day looked infinitely brighter despite the overcast sky, so we took a bus into Bundaberg town, 20 km inland, to explore this picturesque town and visit Kalki Moon, the gin, vodka and rum distillery near the airport. We did the distillery tour and learned a lot about the processes as well as tasting their products. We departed with a bottle of their 57% Navy gin which was awarded gold at the International competitions in London and Australia.
Kalki Moon Gin distillery.
The tasting area.
Emma our tour guide, with some of their products.
Bundaberg, named after the Bunda aboriginal tribe, was settled in 1866 by timber getter John Stuart and his brother. Recognising the rich volcanic soil as being ideal for sugar cane, they started an industry that would become Bundaberg’s major income earner. By 1880, the sugar refinery had a serious problem – what to do with a massive surplus of molasses, a byproduct of the sugar refining process.
Entry to the distillery visitors centre.
Why the Bundy Bear? The marketing manager who designed the first bottle and label was Sam McMahon. McMahon means Son of Bear.
In a case of trash to treasure, by 1888 they turned the by-product into rum and Australia’s most iconic drink was born. Today, Bundaberg Distilling Company processes 15,000 tonnes of molasses from the neighbouring Bundaberg Millaquin Sugar Mill to make about 10 million litres of rum per year. This we were to learn the next day when we caught the bus into town again, to do the rum distillery tour. We also learned that only 4% of this production is currently exported – the rest is consumed by Australians!
Different editions of 133 years of production.
Entering the distillery.
Australian’s love of rum comes a long way.
The rum tasting worked – Annie bought 6 bottles of rum varieties.
On the way back to the bus stop, we also popped into the Bundaberg Ginger Beer factory, a family concern that has grown exponentially since the 1960’s. The factory now produces a range of 14 soft drinks, popular with Aussies.
Bundaberg Ginger Beer Brewery.
The Barrel visitors centre.
Part of the brewery – the scale is mind boggling.
The bottling line.
We are now done with distillery tours and enjoyed Bundaberg very much. So tomorrow there is a good N-E wind forecast for the 50 odd nm sail down to Fraser Island and the Great Sandy Strait Passage. We will report again later on our trip from there down to Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. Cheers!
After our second sortie out to the islands, we had a productive week starting Monday the 4th October 2021. Matt brought our water maker pump unit back with new seals, new everything, connected it to the reverse osmosis units and ran the system. It was as good as new, producing sweet tasting fresh water. The parts for the stereo unit arrived and I installed it; Annie polished all the stainless steel on the boat (a huge job) and I unblocked a toilet pipe and zapped both toilets with strong acid to dissolve the calcium and lime buildup in the pipes.
Annie, Tanya, Dirk & Peter.
We rewarded ourselves with the two for one pizza specials at Sorrento’s with Peter, Tanya, John and Annie 2 on Wednesday late arvo. Annie did a final load of washing at the laundromat while I polished and Dubbined the steering wheels, before we did a last shop at Woolies and the BWS bottle shop.
Whitsunday map 3 – heading south now.
On Saturday 9 October, after almost six weeks in and out of Airlie Beach, waiting for the northerly winds to kick in, we sailed 13 nm through the Unsafe Passage to South Molle Island and anchored in Bauer Bay. We were met by the derelict resort and overgrown golf course, which fell prey to cyclone Debbie five years ago. In 2005, when we first chartered a yacht in the islands, we enjoyed the Thursday evening seafood buffet with our girls at this resort.
“Unsafe Passage” between North and South Molle Islands.
New wharf and floating pontoon.
Since then we have visited the island and resort four times, to do the scenic walk up to Spionkop. The name is English for Spioenkop (Spy hill) near Ladysmith in South Africa, where the invading British forces, including Australians, fought against the Boere (farmers) in the Anglo-Boer war of 1899 – 1902. Sir Redvers Buller’s 20,000 men and 36 field guns were defeated by Louis Botha’s 8,000 men and 4 field guns. (Wikipedia)
The remains of the resort buildings.
The overgrown golf course.
Start of the walk – I’m getting quite good at posing with Park signs.
The walk was just as beautiful on this our fifth walk, but the resort and golf course was unrecognisable. The contract for the construction of a new wharf and pontoon had been finalised before the cyclone, so it was built anyway and stands there in all its brand new splendour. Of the quaint cottages and lush gardens there is no sign and only the restaurant’s steel structure remain.
On the way up, we walk through thousands of colourful butterflies – I thought the camera may show them – no?
The view south, on the way up.
This very hard blue flint was traded by the Ngaro people as spear and arrow points, with the other islands.
These Black Boy grass trees only grow 2 cm/year and get up to 450 years old.
The bane of sailor’s lives, a pack of Jet Skis roaring into Bauer Bay.
The view towards Hamilton Island.
Bauer Bay – the white dot at the end of the wharf is Esprit. Jet Skis leaving!
Down again, a sad sight – resort bungalows used to be here.
The new wharf on our way back to our dinghy at the end of the wharf.
Spionkop in the background.
Esprit looking pretty in Bauer Bay.
After lunch, we sailed across the passage to Sawmill Bay for a quiet BBQ. The following morning we left early and were able to take advantage of the South flowing rising tide for a fast 15 nm sail past Dent Island to Coconut Bay on the western side of Lindeman Island. Lindeman is the first of the southern group of Whitsunday Islands that extend down to Keswick and St Bees Islands, north-east of Mackay on the mainland.
Coconut Bay – Lindeman Island.
Whitsunday Southern Group. Click on the maps for a better view.
There are numerous walks on Lindeman, so early the next morning we did the walk from the derelict Club Med along the airstrip up to Mt Oldfield. The Club Med looks worse for wear after being hit by cyclone Yasi ten years ago and then by cyclone Debbie five years ago. Stuart the caretaker, told us that the Chinese company that bought the resort, is planning to demolish it and rebuild.
The former Club Med looking worse for wear.
It’s a long walk along the airstrip before going up to Mount Oldfield.
Danger – UFO coming in to land.
Mt Oldfield – looking towards Pentecost Island.
Annie on top of Mt Oldfield.
After lunch, we motor sailed the 5 nm south to Shaw Island and anchored in the lee, in Billbob Bay, named after the two surveyors of Shaw Island.
Billbob Bay – Shaw Island.
Our neighbour in Billbob Bay – different strokes for different folks.
To the south of Shaw Island, is the Sir James Smith group of islands. Most of the islands have Smith in their names: Ladysmith, Silversmith, Tinsmith, Blacksmith, etc. Despite the northerly wind forecast for our passage through these islands, we had to motor 10 nm before anchoring in the south of Goldsmith Island. Here we had a nice walk on the sandy beach, a swim and lunch, before the northerly wind kicked in.
Goldsmith Island – Southern Bay.
A close up of the crystal clear water of Southern Bay.
The message from the kids were crystal clear – don’t wear Budgie Smugglers! Why?
We had a quick 12 nm passage to Brampton Island in the afternoon, where we anchored in Dinghy Bay. The next morning we attempted to get on the circular island trail, but it was so overgrown that by the time we got to Oak Bay it was like participating in “Survivor”. We gave up after an hour, “Bundu” bashed back to Dinghy Bay, covered in burrs, nettles and blackjacks. It took a while to get these weeds off our clothes and we got back to the boat to treat all the scratches and sandfly bites with Tiger Balm.
Dinghy Bay – Brampton Island.
An overgrown sign that says: Finding your way – which way now? How appropriate!
Oak Bay – overgrown with rocks.
Ego’s deflated, we set sail at 9:45 and had a good sail down to Keswick Island where we anchored in Basil’s Bay. The northerly wind was now pumping at 18 knots, so rather than go ashore for a walk on the lovely beach and watch the boat drag it’s anchor from ashore, we decided to stay put, do some reading and scratch our sandfly bites.
The passage between Keswick and St Bees Islands.
We were now at the most southerly Whitsunday Islands, so this will be the last post on this region. Tomorrow we have a long 45 nm downwind sail to Digby Island, where we hope to get some shelter in the lee of the island. We will report again from further south along the beautiful Queensland coast. Cheers for now.
Click on images to enlarge.
While waiting for the watermaker to be serviced, we also had to send our Fusion radio/hi-fi head unit back to Sydney, after the LCD display faded away. Getting the replacement unit back to Airlie would take about the same time, so on Wednesday the 15th September we set sail for Nara inlet on Hook Island in a brisk 25 knot S-E wind. We were hoping for a week of less wind to explore again, some of our favourite anchorages.
The next day was spot on in terms of our expectations, with the water in Nara inlet as smooth as a mirror. We set out early to walk up to the cave on the hill, where paintings of the Ngaro aboriginal people of this area can be seen. After a relaxed breakfast we motored to the next bay, Macona inlet before crossing from Hook Island to Whitsunday Island, where we anchored in May’s Bay.
Starting up the hill.
View down to the inlet.
The following day it was a short hop to Sawmill Bay on the western shores of Whitsunday Island – so named because of a sawmill that operated here in the 1800’s.
Soon after we anchored, we tackled the hike from Sawmill beach up to Whitsunday Peak, well worth the effort as the views from the top are spectacular.
Water stop on the way up.
View from the peak over Cid island.
Looking south to Hamilton island.
Looking north to Hook island.
The 5 hour round trip resulted in a surprise on our return to the beach, where the substantial 3m tide had left our dinghy high and dry, far from the water. It took some effort with two inflatable fenders, to drag the dinghy down to the water. We were cursing anew the Italian who had stolen our previous dinghy with its excellent fold down wheels in Naples. We will have to buy new wheels.
WTF? – it’s a long way to the water.
After sundowners on the beach with some friends, we returned to our boat for an early night, being quite tired. Not so – a 3 storey high motor cruiser with the quaint name “Exocet Strike” anchored near us (Exocet is an American war missile). The 3m wide television was pumping out music, full blast, day and night, while the happy blinged up people on board uttered shrieks of delight at the powerful underwater blue lights, creating a 10m wide Persil blue halo around the boat. The purpose of these lights weren’t apparent, save to say that sailors have anchor lights, and these lights are known as wanker lights. To keep these systems running, the engine was harmonising with the shrieks.
To quote David Colfelt in his delightful cruising guide “100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef” under the heading Anchoring etiquette: “And for those who may love the comforts of home wherever they are, including microwave ovens, TV’s, dishwashers, etc – all of which require the yacht’s engine to be run constantly to keep the batteries from being sucked inside out – spare a thought for those who have come to the Whitsundays to enjoy a bit of wilderness, away from the constant reminders of urban civilisation.”
Rainforest walk to Dugong beach.
Two days later we did the short rainforest walk from Sawmill Beach to Dugong Beach and afterwards we dinghied to Joe’s Beach for mobile phone reception to phone our daughter Karen on her 33rd birthday.
Secret athlete spotted at Dugong beach.
Some big lizards in this area.
A slow sail took us northwest to Stonehaven Bay to pick up a Parks mooring. Four boats got together on “Freedom” of Rick and Elin Power to celebrate Rick’s 65th birthday. Rick is another one of the Japie boat people (6 months in Oz and he bought a boat). The wind forecasts showed a strong south easterly coming at midnight on the 21st, so we sailed back to Airlie Beach to anchor in the lee of the marina wall. Just as well, as the wind in the islands reached 48 knots – our maximum was 28 knots.
The next week was quite busy socially and sorting out boat issues. We made contact with Peter Varley and his partner Tanya, who until recently owned the same model Jeanneau SO439 as ours. This led to a few liquid occasions on Esprit, Sorrento’s and at their apartment overlooking the marina.
Old friends Kerry and Sue who we last saw in Greece on their Lightwave 45 cat, showed up in Airlie Beach on their friend Peter’s Lightwave 45 cat, as their boat “Billaroo” is currently in the south of Spain. More celebrations called for! We also had Rick and Elin on Freedom for dinner.
Peter, Sue, Dirk, Annie & Kerry.
Next up, we took the opportunity of low winds to sail out to the islands – first night at Blue Pearl Bay on the West side of Hayman Island. On the way, Annie lost a big Spanish Mackerel, while bringing it on board, but soon afterwards landed two decent size Bluefin tuna.
Tuna no. 1
Blue Pearl Bay
Tuna no. 2
The freezer is now full, so I will try and stop her from fishing. We had a pleasant 30 nm sail out to Hook Reef and then we anchored in Bait Reef, where we snorkelled a bit.
Bait Reef – 30 nm out to sea – the back of beyond.
Cyclone Debbie which hit this part of the coast soon after we had been here six years ago, had devastated the coral reefs and we were disappointed at the nominal re-growth of the coral to date and consequently, the lack of fish. We, family and friends who had dived here back then, probably saw the reefs at its best. Hopefully it will recover again in another five years.
Sunset at Bait Reef.
It was a pleasant sail from Bait Reef to Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island in a 11-12 knot N-W wind. We picked up a Parks buoy in Tongue Bay and did the walk up to the scenic lookout above Hill inlet.
New steps at Tongue Bay, constructed after hurricane Debbie.
Welcome information board.
View south along Whitehaven Beach from the lookout.
Secret athlete and his coach, spotted again above Hill Inlet.
Pretty Annie completes the picture.
A light breeze allowed us to sail the 5km length of Whitehaven Beach, before going through the narrow Solway Passage against the tide, and then anchor and spend the night at Turtle Bay.
Sailing along Whitehaven Beach.
The following day we sailed through Fitzalan Passage between Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands, back to Airlie Beach through the “Unsafe Passage” between North and South Molle islands.
Cheers for now!
Before I write about Airlie Beach, I have to apologise to those followers of our blog, who haven’t received our last two posts. I built this website on the cheap six years ago and didn’t realise the content would eventually exceed the capacity of the shared server I used. Enter Danny Longhurst from “Siteshack” (he is good!), the website developer for our business, before our retirement.
Danny explained we needed to get our own server, which would increase the speed with which you can look at this website and would also have adequate capacity for our future posts (the next 20 years?). I also asked him to select a new crisper theme and to design us a new homepage. Your email notifications about new published posts will also be in a new Mailpoet format. So here it is, save for a bit of fine-tuning, for you to read:
Goodbye Shag Islet.
On Monday morning the 30th August 2021 we said our goodbyes at Shag Islet and motored through the Gloucester Passage to Airlie Beach, 20nm to the South. Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. We were quite tired after 4 days at Shaggers and after anchoring outside the Coral Sea Marina with about 80 other boats, we hit the sack early, vowing not to touch the turps again for at least a day.
The history of the Whitsunday name.
Our anchorage outside Coral Coast Marina, Airlie Beach.
Just as well we left on Monday, because the weather turned on Tuesday with gusting S-E winds and bucketing down with rain. We spent the day inside and caught up with admin and writing a post for our blog. Wednesday dawned overcast with fresh winds, but we managed to get the jib down after getting flogged by the sail. We took the sail ashore to the sailmaker for a complete restitching of all the seams between the sail panels.
The Coral Coast Marina on an overcast day.
We bumped into Brian Oldfield on the jetty, who invited us to join him and some friends at the Sorrento Bar on the Quay for late afternoon drinks and pizzas. But first we had to walk to Woolies and the bottle shop for supplies and then take it out to the boat. We met quite a number of new faces at Sorrento’s while enjoying very tasty pizzas on special – two for the price of one. An early night was to follow, again!
Couldn’t resist this beaut old Mustang on the way to Woolies.
In the meantime, Michelle informed us, she had bought a camper van to be more mobile during the Covid-19 pandemic. She is busy doing a contract for the UN in India and works online on her projects from 11am to 7pm, Sydney time. As long as she has good internet connections she can be anywhere in NSW. She has also recently had an arthroscopy on her knee and has recovered well enough to be surfing and cycling before work each day.
Michelle’s home and office van.
Feeding an orphaned kangaroo Joey.
Our daughters, Karen and Michelle on a wine tour in the Hunter valley.
Michelle cycling again, after her knee op.
Airlie Beach, like Cairns, depends on tourism and yachting for its economic well-being and therefore also goes to great lengths to make their town attractive and tourist friendly. We used this anchorage as a base for stocking up with food, drinks and essentials for the boat during the next 10 days. They have an excellent and cheap bus service which takes you all over town and adjoining Cannonvale for 2 hours at $1.90/person on your seniors card.
Airlie Beach waterfront.
Public sculpture of sorts.
I like the provenance of this beachfront seat.
Property prices here are also low compared to Sydney (around $500,000 for a 2 bedroom waterfront apartment), but the town does get hit by the occasional cyclone. This makes investment in property here a bit risky, with high property insurance premiums.
Cyclone Debbie five years ago, didn’t take any lives, but caused extensive damage.
Nevertheless the rental returns are better than Sydney, making us reconsider our rental property strategy in Sydney, to maybe re-investing in Queensland. With Covid-19 limitations, Aussies may just be considering holidays at home, particularly in tropical Northern Queensland.
One of these waterfront 3-bedroom apartments, with rooftop BBQ area, for sale at $800,000.
Slowly, but surely, we attended to our maintenance list while at anchor, giving us more time to enjoy Airlie Beach and relax.
Airlie and Cannonvale from the Honeyeater trail.
Annie at the Honeyeater trail lookout.
Annie set about getting quotes for our boat and public liability insurance along the Australian coast. What a rip-off – the quotes were double that of sailing from the Caribbean, across the Pacific Ocean to Australia. She eventually got an annual premium quote from Pantaenius Insurance, nearer the 1% of boat value norm, subject to a rigging inspection. The rigging inspection we had done in Tahiti was accepted.
A talented youngster playing at the Saturday markets.
Mobile coffee shop.
I had to take a photo of this immaculate Kenworth rig.
Life goes on as normal.
Airlie Beach has zero Covid-19 cases, so here life goes on as normal with no lockdowns or masks and with open air music events. On Saturday the 11th September we had a great time at the Airlie Beach Hotel to listen to a Cold Chisel revival band. The lead singer did a good Jimmy Barnes impersonation.
The bartenders could hardly keep up.
It reminded us of our epic music evenings at the Dee Why RSL – very much schoolies for older people! After two bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, we left elated and bought some chicken falafels on the way back to the boat. On Sunday it was back to reality and we took the opportunity of a windless day to hoist the mainsail at anchor and re-stitch by hand, 5 small seams and fit 2 new sliders.
Apologies for the average sound on “Keh Sanh” (Last train out of Sydney) and “Working class man” `- it’s the best my iPhone can do.
Annie also went up the mast to check, anti-rust treat the main stays and lubricate the mainsail track. Matt, the technician from Rainman watermakers came out to fit a new impeller on the lifting pump, but it turned out the seals in the high pressure pump were leaking, so he had to take the unit back to the workshop to fit new seals. Getting the parts from Sydney and doing the work would take about a week.
Annie up the p – mast.
Cheers for now – we will report on the Whitsunday Islands soon.