Monday, December 24, 2012

Keppel Bay, nana Pearl's last stop

 After leaving the sheltered waters of the "Narrows" we experienced choppy waters passing through the Tropic of Capricorn, although 6kts was pretty good! Finally having islands within our reach was exhilarating, so avoiding the only possible anchorage in the Fitzroy River (Rockhampton) we tied up at Rosslyn Bay Marina while we considered our options.

                                         our first "island" in Keppel Bay

                                          the entrance to Rosslyn Bay Marina

We spent a few days exploring Rosslyn and Yeppoon and then headed out to explore the nearest island-Great Keppel. Although conditions were very choppy and we spent a very rolly night at Fishermans Beach, it was fantastic to enjoy all that a semi-tropical island has to offer.

                            dinghy landing on our first island, with Rosslyn in the background

Deciding that as it was too risky to head further north during cyclone season, our beloved Pearl had entered her final stages of life and jobs were plentiful, we decided to head back into the marina and tie up for a while.

We were grateful that Pearl experienced and enjoyed Great Keppel as her condition deteriorated over November. We made the very hard decision to ease her out of this life and the exceptional Yeppoon vet administered the needle under a mango tree. Our feisty girl is buried under the singing ship at Emu Park and we imagine she sings with the ship in high winds.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cruising the Curtis Coast

We departed Gladstone 5th November 2011(my blog entries are way behind!) for the Narrows. Allan Lucas describes the Narrows as "a calm waterway between the mainland and Curtis Island linking Gladstone with Keppel Bay". We were eager to explore this region as proposed developments mean the waterway may be closed to recreational boating. It was a little frightening at first as barges and worker's transport boats ply these waters at breakneck speed. As we passed the coal loader with its enormous mounds of coal just outside the marina breakwater, our various illnesses made sense....we were glad to be heading into cleaner air. The dredge appeared to be sucking up small sand islands located on charts at great speed which made navigating confusing.

                                          leaving industrial Gladstone behind us for.....

For our first night we anchored in Graham Creek away from the barge landing area for workers on Curtis Island. We spent the following day in its secure anchorage cleaning coal dust off Manatee and exploring. We were all revelling in being in the bush again.

                                          ....peaceful Graham Creek

We left on the morning of the 7th with variable winds for Black Swan Creek to wait for an evening high tide to negotiate our first shallow area. We visited Redcliffe Island with its run down orchard and homestead which the dogs thoroughly enjoyed exploring! After spending the day exploring this area we travelled to an anchorage on high tide to catch the next tide over the "cattle crossing."

                                     doesn't look too narrow here

When we first thought of travelling through the Narrows, we researched the area, and we became a little fazed as books show the area as sand, mud and mangroves at low tide. No water! Pretty accurate, but catching the high tide with a reasonably shallow draft and finding "holes" to anchor in ensures a very interesting experience. The midge population is huge so we were happy to spend single nights in anchorages.

              view from Manatee's stern when anchored in a "hole"...the water is only a few inches deep!
We were rearing to go early with the tide on the 8th and travelled through the "cattle crossing" by 7am. At low tide cattle cross the narrows in this area...hence the name "cattle crossing."
"cattle crossing" at high tide 
We passed a few other yachts in this area, all throttling up to cross before water levels sank! At Barker Creek we saw a pod of dolphins, our first for a while. Marine life was scarce around Gladstone, and we were hesitant to fish in the narrows as we had seen too many deformed fish taken from these waters. Crabbing was no longer a local industry and not long after we left the area the local fish markets closed down. It was both heartening and sad to hear recently that fisher people were to be compensated for the loss of their jobs.
We anchored in Pacific Creek (northwest tip of Curtis Island) for a week, not only to relax but to check it out for a cyclone hole for the coming summer months. This area was the pilot station for Rockhampton (and the Fitzroy River) until the 1960's. We all had a great time relaxing, fishing, exploring in our dinghy and looking for crocs. It was the first time, since being in croc country that we felt "watched".
the entrance to Pacific Creek with it's old pilot houses, now holiday homes.
After replenishing our bodies and souls we headed out into Keppel Bay and our first "real islands".

giddy in Gladstone

We left Pancake Creek at first light (ages ago now) to make the most of the high tide. The Beneteau that up anchored after us got stuck but due to Manatee's shallow draft we leapt into open seas. It took what felt like forever to reach Gladstone Harbour and we used the time to do a refresher on radio protocols as Gladstone Port controls entry into the channel and permission is required to enter as the cargo ship traffic is horrendous. As we approached the channel we passed a 'parking lot' of moored cargo ships awaiting their entry times and we entered with trepidation, the channel seeming very narrow and churned. Once in the channel it took hours to reach the harbour, which we almost missed as we were so concerned about looking out for 'traffic'.

We arranged a mooring buoy with Gladstone marina as we were unsure of where we could anchor (nowhere much, we later decided). AK managed to wrench her shoulder in her numerous attempts to pick up the buoy in the fast flowing currents in the harbour. Finally we were secure! Margot headed off into town to provision while AK nursed her shoulder and found that it was a 2km walk to the supermarket from the marina. She heard a 'hey there' from a passing car and Sue screeched to a halt to give her a lift and sightseeing lucky was that!

Gladstone Marina

After a few days recovery we enjoyed all the sights Gladstone had to offer, worked on Manatee (with Roger's help AK climbed the mast to replace the halyard that Kerry was required to cut at Pancake) and socialised with Sue and Rog. Gladstone has a lot to offer, the boardwalks along the waterfront are fantastic as is the parkland. We quickly acclimatised and enjoyed the walk (uphill) into "town".

AK up the mast

We eventually found we had to move on, the air caused heaps of health problems for us all and Marg ended up having tests at the local hospital due to heart problems (which luckily appeared to have sorted itself without intervention).

Hmm ...wonder why we got sick-just around the corner from the marina-and no it's not sugar!
Bye, bye Gladstone

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bustard view

While waiting for calmer seas to head further north we all amused ourselves at Pancake Creek by daily visits to the football field sized low tide sandbar, dinghy rides around the creek and for the humans, a walk to the lighthouse.
The walk starts from the beach we were anchored off with a cruiser erected signpost "to the lighthouse". We crossed a strange patch of low land with dead trees, an area which must flood at low tide and followed markings until we reached a track in the scrub which led us uphill. It felt good to be bushwalking again!
After about an hour of walking we came across a small cemetary and the headstones showed numerous drownings in Pancake Creek. Like most lighthouse keepers, the good folk of Bustard Head would launch their rowboats whenever ships were in trouble in an attempt to rescue people, often without success.
A short stroll up the hill and we reached the lighthouse and numerous sheds and houses, with no people in sight. A little disappointing after the energy expended! The lighthouse does appear beautifully restored.
We wandered over the other side of the hill and found the views we were looking for.
looking south
looking back to Pancake Creek
We walked back up the hill and did a bit of bird watching before heading back (thankfully downhill) to Manatee.
enjoying the birds enjoying the view
heading down the track
We spent a few more days enjoying Pancake Creek before heading up to Gladstone.
Marg & Jacki chilling on the sandbank
Nana Pearl on the bank
creature created sand sculpture

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

and so on to Pancake....

We left Lady Musgrave with the forecast of strong winds and high seas. Passing through the channel in the reef, we were careful to avoid the turtles who seemed to be enjoying the swell.
We had originally planned to head for the Town of 1770 as AK had read a great review of the town in a Hervey Bay local paper. The journalist had boasted that the town held everything you could possibly want.....supermarket, tattooist, liquor store and 'new age shop'. We were eager to visit! Due to the forecast we aimed instead for Pancake Creek which has an all weather bar.
The seas were horribly rolly outside of the now placid reef, so we unfurled our headsail, kept our motor on and gunned it hoping to cross the 34nm in record time.
Once we came within 15nm and in sight of the mainland, the seas calmed and we were able to relax (a little). We were both very tired and having one of our moments of "this is too hard." Of course, our headsail furler again decided to go on strike, so we handfurled the genoa in as much as we could.
We entered the bar of the creek and found we could only scrape through the shallow bits, but decided to get up the creek as far as possible to the "second anchorage." The relief of our anchor setting brought tears of relief/exhaustion. We certainly slept well the first night! The storm didn't appear that night.
Pancake Creek is under the lee of Bustard Head, famously named for the bustard birds shot and eaten by the crew of the Endeavour in 1770. It was recommended to us by Jacki Moore (Slocum Spray Society) as it was her favourite spot in her travels. It became our refuge as we waited out days of very nasty weather.
nasty weather..view from Bustard Head
The next day we were all eager to get off Manatee and stretch our legs, for the furry girls it was the first time on land for days. The strip of beach was gorgeous and at low tide a sand bank that was the size of a football field appeared and became our backyard. Dolphins visited and we kept our eyes open for crocs!
Day 2 saw the wind pick up and of course our headsail flogged and unfurled. The wind increased and it became very nasty on deck as we struggled to fix the problem. We were fighting a losing battle as we didn't have the necessary strength and the halyard was jammed making it impossible to drop the sail. Thoughts of a cottage on a beach were conspicuous!
An inflatable came hurtling across the frothy seas and a couple jumped on deck offering to help- gotta love the generosity of cruisers. Kerry and Lyn had been watching our attempts from "Fayaway" a beautiful Swanson 42. Kerry's muscles couldn't move the furler either, which did make us feel better. We eventually hoisted him up the mast with a knife to cut the halyard, brave man in the wind with the mast swaying. It took the four of us to control the genoa and get it tied down. Hours later they introduced us to cask wine in the comfort of their beautiful saloon...thanks guys!