Goat Stew and Census
It's been two months since leaving and we're now sitting in Airlie Beach, 1200 kms north of Brisbane - (speed around 60 kms/day) with around 2,500 kms to Darwin, our planned stop for the end of this season.
So what's taken us so long? Moreton Bay was cleared in two days, the anchorage behind the wrecks at Tangalooma not being very secure gave us our first introduction to the Queensland coast - strong south easterly winds and rolly anchorages. We were told that Mooloolaba would afford us great protection, however the wind was so benign we motored to the anchorage in the pool up river past the marinas, a lovely spot! On the way we decided to get rid of the first 25m of our anchor chain. We continued to have problems with it jumping off the gypsy - we worked out the links were work-worn after so much use! Anchoring in Moreton Bay had reminded us of this so, in flat calm conditions as we motored north, Keith got out the loppers and chopped of the offending amount and added this to the sea bed. This action improved matters no end. In Mooloolaba we met up with Murray and Toby and spent a great evening on board over dinner and a few bottles of wine. Our stay here was cut short as the good weather continued - again light winds meant that we were motoring and headed for Fraser Island. After a still night at anchor at Double Island Point, we entered the Sandy Straights through the notorious Wide Bay Bar. Cruiser tales abound about this regularly moving sand bar with rolling surf and numerous ship wrecks. Our experience was far from this, with help from the local Volunteer Marine Rescue, who gave us specific waypoints to get through, although we did surf a little as we
entered the Straights but an easy crossing. We were now into tidal waters, a bit like the UK really. Having done our homework we took the tide through the shallow Sandy Straights and ended up at Kingfisher Resort in Harvey Bay, our planned stop. Following the advice from Keith's daughter, we organised a day trip around Fraser Island for the next day.
Fraser Island is purported to be the largest sand island in the world - some 100kms long. The ocean side is a long beach that is used as a main highway. Surprisingly although the island is one big beach it is covered in sub tropical rainforest with towering pines and eucalyptus trees, huge fresh water lakes and streams - an amazing place. The tracks are treacherous and four wheel drive is a must.
Rob and Gemma
from "Orinoco Flow" have settled in Gladstone after their
trip across the Pacific a few years earlier so this was our next main
stopover. We were now in day cruising mode and planning to get to get
as far north as we could in day hops. Bundaberg and Pancake Creek were
our intermediate stops before we pulled up in Gladstone Marina. It was
lovely to catch up with Rob and Gem, we spent nearly a week there doing
a bit of maintenance and helping them "landscape" their garden,
mainly by applying layers of mulch on their extensive garden beds. Gladstone
is in the midst of a mining boom with coal, natural gas and aluminum being
their main resource. Surprisingly these huge industries are totally unintrusive
and on the outside Gladstone is just a sleepy mid-sized Australian town.
We were now in the Northumberland Island group commonly known as the Whitsundays. Captain Cook named many of these islets after geographical locations in the north of England, such as Penrith, St Bees, Carlisle, Keswick, etc. We decided to stop off at Scawfell Island then Brampton. Brampton was another resort island now closed pending redevelopment. There was one lonely caretaker on the island stopping looters from taking items. We couldn't see the attraction of this island - it was ok, but we had seen much nicer ones on the way so the development into a five star resort didn't make sense to us. We had been receiving news via the ABC during our trip and one item intrigued us - Australia's five yearly census. They gave out a phone number for people to call if they had not received a form, we were interested in how they coped with people like us - in Australia, there is a large population of transients: Grey Nomads, cruisers, back packers and workers in remote locations. So, as a test, Christine phoned the Help Line. The first question was the hardest, what is your address!!! Unsurprisingly, they couldn't cope with "at anchor off Brampton Island" and settled for "Beach Road, Brampton Island"!! Eventually we were given a password so that we could fill the form in on-line. When we did eventually complete the form it was apparent that this transient sector of society has been overlooked and basically we will be classed as homeless, and living on the streets, which I am sure will not correlate to the income level stated!! Interesting!
We were now in the southern Whitsunday Islands and winds were forecast to move to the north. To await the return of the southerly air stream we anchored on the south side of Goldsmith Island. This was a lovely anchorage, hardly visited. At low tide the beach was covered in blue soldier crabs marching along the beach and in the shallows large rays patrolled. We spent three days here with two other boats Cutty Wren and Elysion (another long term cruising couple). The wind turn southerly in the middle of the third night so we upped anchor under bright moonlight and moved 5 miles around to the sheltered north of the island before moving to Shaw island further north. This was a good anchorage to stop a while in order to do some laundry and chores. The new washing machine proved great - especially at spinning the laundry which reduced drying time. The 20 knot winds also helped!
After these and in settled weather we headed for Lindeman Island where we sited a humpbacked whale and her new calf surprisingly close. Although we'd seen whales regularly on our trip north, they were too far away to get good photos; this pair were within a 100m so we stopped a while to watch. Following a lovely walk on the island we sailed passed Hamilton Island and anchored in Cid Harbour on Whitsunday Island. Here we caught up with Magic Carpet - we had crossed the Pacific with Chris and Karen in 2005 so it was great to catch up. They were moving to Nara Inlet on Hook Island to ride out more northerly winds and here we had a great evening swapping news over dinner.
We were now
running out of fresh supplies so decided to run to Airlie Beach to stock
up, which we have now done and are now sitting out some reinforced trades
(around 30 knots) before heading out to the Whitsundays again and then
continuing our trip north.