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.

Bundaberg town.

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.

I agree.

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.

The history.

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!