Akuna Bay Cruising Club

Latitude Dancer & Dionysus.....Part 3 (still going north)

Tuesday 04 July, 2006

Friday June 2nd, it was time to leave Lady Musgrave Island, so at 8.30am we upped anchor and carefully head for the opening in the reef, and the trip to Gladstone, about 50 miles west. Again, traveling in great conditions, but out of sight of land, we rightly trusted the GPS and found Gladstone Harbour exactly where it was supposed to be. After zig zagging through the flotilla of tankers at anchor offshore, we made our way to the comfort of Gladstone Marina, arriving at about 1.30pm. A walk around the town, a bit of shopping and a baked dinner on 'Latitude Dancer' finished another great day.

Discussion with a local fisherman whilst refueling on Saturday morning ($1.51 litre), prompted a change in plans, as the tide seemed right we decided to take the most direct route to Keppel Bay, via 'The Narrows'. As the name implies this is a narrow channel, separating Curtis Island from the mainland and at extreme low tides, parts are actually dry. There is one area called 'cattle crossing', where they lead the cattle across the sand and the fences disappear into the water at high tides! As the tidal range in the area is some 3 metres, we felt reasonably comfortable in tackling this route, though on the way we 'tweaked our bums' on a couple of occasions as we stirred up the bottom with our props. This was a slow but satisfying trip, which saved a lot of time and allowed us to reach beautiful Keppel Bay Marina right on sunset. A lovely dinner at the local resort provided an appropriate end to another great day on the water.

Keppel Bay Marina claim to be the friendliest Marina in Queensland, we heartily agreed! They even provide a courtesy car, free of charge to marina patrons, which we used on Sunday to visit nearby Yeppoon, replenishing our groceries and checking out the local sights. We could have easily spent another day or two here.

11am on Monday we fired up for the next leg, destination Pearl Bay, a remote bay 40 miles north and protected from the south easterly that was blowing. The trip was a little bumpy and getting worse as we arrived at Pearl Bay, but we forgot about the weather as we turned into the bay, another tropical paradise. The sun was shining and the sky was blue as we dropped anchor a hundred metres from the pristine white beach, there were only another five boats in the large bay (all yachts). The dinghy was launched and we headed to the beach, which was as beautiful as it looked and went on forever. The plan was to spend only one night there, then move further north to the Percy Islands, but the weather had other plans!

Our first night in Pearl Bay was a little unpleasant, as the wind and the waves chose to work at 90 degrees to one another, which meant with the wind on the nose, the waves were on the beam. Very bloody uncomfortable! To make matters considerably worse, we awoke next morning to find the dinghy (complete with outboard), missing. Whilst we have no proof, we are convinced it was stolen during the night, as there is no way it could have untied itself. There was one 'suspect' boat in the bay and we believe is it was stolen by them and hidden somewhere for later retrieval.

We spent another three days at anchor, as the weather just refused to cooperate with our plans. During this time we met some wonderful and interesting 'boatie folk', it certainly makes you realize the options we have in this world and how little you need to be happy. It seems clearly a case of 'different strokes for different folks'. After all who decides which of us are right and which are wrong in what we choose to do?

The four days in Pearl Bay, were not too bad, though the weather was very changeable, with continued promise of improvement, which never came. We were constantly in touch with the local Coast Guard at Thirsty Sound, but had no phone or internet reception to contact friends or family. The nights were terrible, with the wind and waves making for very unpleasant sleeping conditions. Being mindful of our rapidly diminishing water and food situation, by Friday morning we were ready to leave, almost regardless of the weather (short of cyclone warnings).

So at 9.15am on Friday, we headed out of the relative safety of Pearl Bay, towards Hunter Island, about 45 miles north west. Whilst conditions were far from ideal we had no problems for the first hour or so, until we encountered a 'washing machine' effect off Shoalwater Bay. This was caused by a combination of tide, wind and weather and caused most uncomfortable sea conditions of about 2 metres for an hour or so The seas came from every direction on the compass, but despite a couple of 'controlled' broaches, we made it through. We had donned our life jackets during this time and we also watched as the GPS died on us, leaving us without a positional fix, oh shit! Fortunately 'Dionysus' was always in sight and in radio contact, so we felt fairly safe.

We reached the safety of Hunter Island at about 12.45pm, anchored separately had a bite to eat then tried our hand (unsuccessfully) at fishing for a while. During this time, after a bit of fiddling, the GPS came back on line, thankfully!
A relatively peaceful night prepared us for the next leg, 80 miles to Mackay.

Having opted for an early start, we left Hunter Island at 8.00am, expecting to encounter rough conditions once we left the lee of the island. We were pleasantly surprised that the seas remained moderate for most of the trip, the only problem being the rain and the visibility, which at times was probably only about half a mile. Again we were heavily dependent on the GPS for our directions and again they proved perfect, Mackay Harbour was exactly where it was supposed to be. In view of these better than expected conditions, we had increased the cruise speed and covered the 80 miles to Mackay in 4 hours. The only issue we had when approaching the harbour, were a number of cargo ships at anchor off the coast, fortunately the radar gave us adequate warning, so with a couple of minor deviations we made it comfortably into our berths at Mackay Marina.

How lucky we were! That night (Saturday), the wind increased to about 30 knots and hardly eased for the next few. We shelved our plans to continue to Hamilton Island, about 60 miles north, confirmed our marina berths for 4 weeks and flew home to Sydney on the Wednesday evening. At which time the weather was predicted to continue for a few more days, making us grateful that were at least on the mainland and unlikely to run out of food or water.

to be continued.............