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