Thursday, 23 July 2015

No emus but plenty of cheek.

Straw Backed Ibis on the lawns at Rosslyn/Keppel Bay Marina.
Rosslyn and Emu Bays
After a bit of a rough passage north, our next stop off was at the lovely port of Rosslyn, and the lovely Keppel Bay marina therein. The marina is in a sheltered 'bay' overlooked by the bluff (which looks very much like the Bluff at Encounter Bay in SA).

With a great coffee shop/restaurant, small chandlery, friendly people in the boats, even friendlier and helpful  people working there, and a bus right at the front door, we had no problem staying a few days. Fully self-contained bathrooms and a couple of laundry rooms made it nicer still although, for the first couple of days we used the public showers (not as nice) before realising there was a whole other block of roomy and very private facilities specially for marina users. D'oh!! There is also an excellent fisherman's market close to the marina. Well worth checking out.

Plenty of space to sit, relax and enjoy a coffee and cake.

View of the bluff from the marina

I needed to see a doctor while I was there and the marina staff not only recommended one for me, they also made the appointment, which was awesome. What wasn't so awesome was the bike ride to get there, much of which was up some quite steep, long hills, although that had the advantage of being downhill on the way back. I keep telling myself that riding the bike is a great way to keep fit, and it will be if it doesn't kill me first.
The view between Keppel Bay Marina and Emu Bay; The Keppel Group.
The bus service that passes through Keppel Bay is also fantastic, stopping right outside the marina entrance. From there, we caught the bus that took us along the esplanade that looked out to the Keppel Islands and on to Emu Bay, a gorgeous, very pretty little town with an interesting boardwalk and war memorials and a lovely surprise, a sculpture called the 'Singing Ship'. Unfortunately for us, the ship was not singing on that particular day due to lack of wind, but it was still interesting to look at. I think a visit to YouTube might be in order so that I can check out the tune.
The Singing Ship: Emu Bay
The singing part of the Singing Ship, silent when we were there but apparently awesome when the wind blows.

One part of the War Memorial that depicts the ill-fated Gallipoli landing. Painted on glass, if you line up the horizon at sunrise and the photo, the effect is both quite sad and profoundly beautiful.
War Memorial, Emu Bay.
Emu Bay also has a really great bakery where everything is straight-out-of-the-oven fresh. Sadly, though, the whole area around Rosslyn and Emu bays are not quite far enough south to escape cyclones and signs of the latest one was evident in a few places.
Fresh sausage rolls being made in store.
Cyclone damage in Emu Bay. We saw a lot of damage around Rosslyn as well.
Thar she blows!! Remnants of bygone whale stuff.
 We also caught the bus the other way, to Rosslyn Bay where we needed to do a bit of a shop. Again, we found Rosslyn to be a really nice place but one that we didn't explore as much as we'd have liked due to the knee goblins. Oh well. :)

While we were still in the marina I was lucky enough to be invited to coffee with a great bunch of local women and spent a good couple of hours chatting while Dave got a break from me.

P.S. The marina café has some amazing cakes, but be on guard and protect your pastries at all times from the cheeky blue faced honey-eaters that clean up all of the scraps, much like little, brightly coloured seagulls and who seem to enjoy eating a whole lot more than just honey.
One of the offending honey-eaters. How these little buggers aren't podgy is beyond me, given the amount of food they eat, and not one bit of it is honey. :)

Location: Rosslyn Bay, Rosslyn QLD 4703, Australia
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Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Pancakes and Yellow Patches

We left Bundaberg on Monday 13 July heading North again.

We were heading for Pancake Creek which everyone says is the best stop heading north from Bundy and they were not wrong!

As we expected the weather was quite strong so I raised the main with a single reef in it and with the yankee out as well, we turned off the engine and relaxed.  Terry may have relaxed too much as she ended up in the V-berth having a kip while I tweaked sails trying to go as fast as possible, as you do..

The wind picked up quite a bit over the next few hours and I would have liked to put another reef in the main as we were a bit over-powered and heeling quite a bit at times.  But we have a rule that you absolutely do not leave the cockpit when on watch by yourself and we have to reef at the mast so I ended up spilling some wind from the main to take the pressure off and we powered on hitting nearly 8 knots at times.

The wind swung around to the North as we got closer to Pancake Creek and we had to drop the sails and motor into the creek where we dropped anchor at about 16:30 after quite a tiring day.  Pancake creek was very sheltered and we spent 4 days there in the end exploring and hiding from the strong weather that came through.

Venture in Pancake Creek

Our original plan was to take the inside route past Gladstone up through a place called The Narrows between Curtis Island and the mainland. Tides up this way are quite big (3 or 4 meters) and they need to be to get through here as the shallowest spot known as the cattle crossing is -2m.  Yep, that's dry ground, 2 meters above sea level at spring low tides meaning we would need a 4 meter tide to get through with 300mm to spare under the keel :-)  That's very skinny water!

An image of the Narrows taken from Google Earth.  Thanks to Gary Harris.

This appealed to the adventurer in me as you have to get there just before high tide and move quickly through before you run out of water as the tide goes out.  The low spot is about 5 miles long so it's about an hour of motoring..  But in the end, tides big enough for us to get through were all occurring at night and I might be adventurous but I'm not stupid :-)  So we elected to go outside Curtis Island instead.

We left on Friday 17th heading for a place called Yellow Patch.  This was suggested to us by a really nice couple we met in Pancake creek from a boat called Bamboozle.  They said it was a bit tricky to get into but once you were in, it was a great place to spend some time.

We anchored overnight at Cape Capricorn which is a big bay at the northern end of Curtis Island providing some shelter from the South Easterly trade winds.  It's a bit exposed but we had to wait for the morning high tide to get into Yellow Patch and the wind was quite mild.  It was a rather rolly night but we were both tired so it didn't worry us too much.  In the morning, we went into Yellow patch starting from a waypoint given to use by Marine Rescue Yeppoon. I won't publish the waypoint as the sand is shifting quite a lot so it's far better to get the latest from Marine Rescue than use an old one.

We started in at about 3/4 incoming tide high enough to get through but with enough time and a rising tide to get out of trouble again if we grounded.  The "low water alarm" went off a few times and our keel got within 100mm of the sandy bottom at the worst spot but once we were over the shallows, it deepened again to about 8 meters at some points and we motored over to a spot where we had enough swinging room to put out 40 meters of anchor chain.

That sounds like a lot but with a 4 meter tide and a conservative 1 meter of water at low tide, you have to let out enough chain to cope with 5 meters of water at high tide.  That's 36 meters when you take into account that our anchor roller is another meter above water level and you need a 6:1 scope to ensure a good set.

Venture in Yellow Patch

Yellow patch was awesome!  We were both really happy that we'd decided to take the risk and come in.  This was even after we sat on the ground at low tide at one point :-)  The wind had blown us away from the beach and put the boat into the shallows.  It was quite calm at the time and I remember us both thinking, this is too calm before we popped up into the cockpit and had a good look around.  I got into the dingy and sounded the depths around the boat with a weight and some knotted string.  Yep, hard aground and I could see the boat was leaning a bit to confirm it.

So I put the kedge anchor (a fortress) into the dingy and took it towards the beach on about 100m of old yankee sheet.  After dropping it in, we wound the sheet onto the primary winch and took up the slack.  This was mainly as an exercise in handling grounding events as there was very little chance we would get blown further into the shallows.  About an hour later, we felt the boat start floating again and I wound the kedge anchor in using the winch until it broke free and we took it back on board.

In the meantime, I'd taken the dingy and sounded out the area towards the beach and found a spot with a good 2.5 meters of water for 50 meters in all directions.  I pinpointed the position by noting two sights at right angles and when we pulled up the main anchor, we motored over to this position and anchored again.  Some drama always helps to keep you awake in paradise :-)

Leaving Yellow patch was another adventure this time a bit more freaky..  We had to wait out some bad weather and that meant that the tides we needed to get out were getting later and later in the day and we needed about 6 hours to get to our next stop (Roslyn Bay).  Neither of us like arriving somewhere new in the dark so we took the earliest possible exit window.

The tide was about 2.2 this time which was just enough for us to get out.  However, there was a bit of a swell still running after the bad weather and from the anchorage, it looked like an unbroken line of low breakers right across the bay!   We headed out anyway for a better look and found there were no breakers in the exit route so we decided to go and headed out very slowly.

Looking back at Yellow Patch after our bumpy exit

The swell meant that the boat was going up and down a bit as well as forwards and at the shallow spot we found on the way in, we bounced off the sand a few times..  Heart stopping is the only way I can describe it as if we ran hard aground with any sort of swell, we'd be banging around for quite a while waiting for the tide to float us off.  We bounced about 4 times in all.  Three of them were quite light touches but the 4th was a hard thump that you could feel through your feet.  And then as we got into deeper water, the bilge pump started cycling..

A quick look (read jumping down the hatch in a panic to find a torch) into the bilge showed that the sensor had dislodged and was too far down in the bilge.. There is always some water in the bilge as the pump pushes the water up 4 feet of pipe to get it overboard.  The water left in the pipe when the pump stops flows back down into the bilge.  I have often thought of adding a check valve at the pump but the risk of it jamming closed preventing the bilge pump from working is a risk I'm not prepared to take.

Anyway, the sensor was kicking the bilge pump off which pumped till it sucked air then stopped and the water flowing back into the bilge was just enough to reach the lowered sensor so rinse and repeat..

I turned the bilge pump off for the time being and moved the sensor back to it's rightful spot the following day this time with an extra screw!

Anyway, we got out and made it to Roslyn Bay (Kepple Bay Marina) just before dark as planned.

In all, we were quite pleased with ourselves.  We had made the right decisions all along measuring risks calmly and properly always with a Plan B in mind.  We had some issues but we coped well and succeeded in spending time in a pretty awesome spot!  Go us!

Location: Capricorn, QLD, Australia
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Monday, 13 July 2015

Pancake Creek... sans pancakes

Easter Osprey checking us out.
In the last post I think I had mentioned that we were once again headed for yet another early morning departure. Leaving at 5.30am to be exact, which means getting up at around 4.30. Seriously... this is messing with my head! Since when is 4.30am a legitimate time anyway? Not even the birds get up at that time! 

I slept part of the way after taking another happy-not-to-purge pill and twelve hours later we arrived at our destination... Pancake Creek (named after the cutter Pancake that anchored there in 1862.) Even coming around the corner in the evening light we could see that it was a lovely spot. With only a few other boats in the large bay, we chose a spot fairly close in to shore and set anchor for the next few days. We knew that the tides were quite large and that the beaches dried out to some distance and so we picked our anchorage carefully.

Tide's out! Closer to the beach than we anticipated but still safe.
The following morning we dropped the dinghy and went ashore to find the path that would lead us to the Pancake Creek lighthouse. We knew that whilst we were to be away, the tide was going way, way out and since the hundred metre dinghy drag isn't our favourite sport, we came prepared with food, water and a picnic blanket on which to snooze and await the incoming tide.

Ducking through a hole in the trees, we found ourselves following a series of 'markers' that led to the main path. These 'markers' consisted of anything orange hanging in trees....ribbons, string, hats, an old drink bottle, small buoys, shoes... whatever could be found that happened to be orange... ingenious (remember kiddies, recycling is important)!

Lacewing Butterfly
The first place it led was through the remains of a large stand of trees. The ground beneath them was flat and bleached and completely devoid of growth and, in death, the ghostly white tree trunks stood as silent sentinels to an untold story. Not a sound was heard in this part of the journey, and when we spoke, the words sounded muffled in the air, which was simply weird. 

An Eastern Osprey and nest near the ghostly forest of dead trees.

Following the orange detritus, we easily found the narrow, grassy path and set to, occasionally dodging huge dangling spiders and breaking through webs as we went (Dave led the way... yay!) towards the lighthouse. It was a fairly easy walk around the headland, with a nice variety of birds to spot and apart from the spiders, was really pleasant. Along the way we saw signs towards other areas, which we decided to explore on the way back if we weren't too knackered.  

Sorry about all of the bird photos but I did say we saw a few :)

One of those dangling bloody spiders!
Rainbow Bee Eater.
Fantail Cuckoo
Grey Fantail
Leaden Flycatcher
Little Brown Cuckoo with his lunch.
Noisy Friar Bird on a large Black Boy stalk.
Spangled Drongo (seriously, what an awesome name!)
Varied Triller.
Silver gull immature.

Pied Oyster Catchers,

Sorry about all of the bird photos but I did say we saw a few :)
An absolutely wonderful Beach Stone Curlew.

At the lighthouse, we found that we weren't able to go up close because there was a tour group (the paying customer always comes first) that had arrived from 1770 (the town, not the era) in a big, pink aquaduck but the caretaker did tell us about a vantage point a bit further along where the views were awesome, so we we snapped a few pictures of the lighthouse and then to take in the sweeping vistas of the gorgeous Jenny Lind Creek (named after the schooner Jenny Lind which ran aground on Feb 2nd 1857). She was right.... it was awesome.
The stunning view towards 1770.

After doing the paparazzi thing, we backtracked and popped in to the small cemetery (I LOVE wandering cemeteries and anyone who knows me will know that I have an absolutely wonderful fascination (some may call it morbid, I call it an interest in history) with them and whenever I come across one, I will most likely put in a lot of information and/or photos.) 

Whilst there, the tour group and their very knowledgeable guide arrived, which was great because we got to hear all about the tragic histories of those who were buried there. Surprisingly, very few of the interred had died a natural death.

There were multiple incidences of accidental drowning in the creek and on the seaward side, one 16 year old lad became lost in the bush after hitting his head whilst cutting trees and perished there, there were deaths from illness and accidents, a baby was scalded with a pot of boiling water and treated with butter on the burns, as was a common but useless treatment back then. She died in agony nine hours later... that poor baby.

One woman (Kate Gibson) it was said, had committed suicide and so, considering it a sinful act, her name was omitted from the family grave. However, it was more likely that she had been murdered by her husband as there was apparently a lot of evidence that, had it happened nowadays, would have convicted him. The story goes that she was living in Bustard Head with her husband, Nils Gibson, and four daughters. In 1877, for some unknown reason, she just left the cottage one morning and walked out into the bush. Next morning, one of her daughters found her. Her throat was slashed from ear to ear. Her husband alleged that she had taken her his cutthroat razor, just walked out of the house and committed suicide. However, the fact Nils always had the razor on him, even when he went out in his boat (where he claimed he was when his wife died, even though there were no witnesses to that), should have aroused suspicion but for some reason Nils apparently hadn't noticed it missing. Kate was found the following day by one of her daughters, lying flat on the blood soaked ground with one arm lying across her chest. The fact that it is almost impossible to slit one's own throat from ear to ear was not taken into account. Nor was the fact that the razor, which had been missing was, days later, found beneath a tree root near the tragic scene. A mystery indeed. One of Kate's daughters was also a drowning victim and another died from epilepsy. Nils himself eventually died from cirrhosis of the liver. On the family headstone, Kate's name is omitted as 'suicide' was seen as being against the church. She is just 'Dear Mother'.

Bustard Head has always been marred by tragedy, with its first victim being a workman who suffered a blow to his head during the lighthouse’s construction and who died the next day. With his passing came a bizarre series of shipwrecks, drownings, an abduction, a murder, Kate Gibson’s 'suicide' and several other unusual deaths. There are a total of nine graves in the cemetery, with a couple of them child sized and unmarked. Very sad but also interesting.

After leaving the cemetery we decided to take the slight detour to Aircraft Beach, a wide, long expanse of flat, solid, golden sand on which, you guessed it, aircraft have been landed. It was yet another stunningly gorgeous, empty beach.

Aircraft beach... simply gorgeous.
One of thousands of tiny crabs to be building little piles of sand.

Petrified fungi

Well up the beach.

When we got back to the dinghy the tide was well out and so the blanket was spread, snacks and water came out and we picnicked and Dave snoozed and I took photos on the beach until the tide had come in enough so that we didn't have to traverse the worst of the mud. We again felt so lucky to be able to see somewhere that is not ordinarily seen.

When stranded, take a nap.

Slashes across a deep blue sky.

Whilst in Pancake Creek we met up with a whole bunch of people for sundowners (which is drinks, nibbles and more drinks as the sun goes down :) )... Erica and Dallas from "Momentum', Warwick and Judi from 'Bamboozle' and a lovely lone sailor named Alan.  We also met some new friends, Trish and Andrew from the vessel 'Sengo' a huge Leopard catamaran where they live and sail with their two gorgeous cats.

From Left: Judi, Alan, Cap'n Tweaky, Erica, Dallas and Warwick.
I regret to say that not a single pancake was cooked that week (how could we have neglected to make pancakes in the most obvious place to eat them??) Methinks that it may happen in the not too distant future now that my taste buds have been piqued, then again, when is it ever the wrong time for pancakes? :)

And now it's time to once again hit the ocean and find ourselves a little swatch of sunshine in Yellow Patch... stay tuned.

Location: Bustard Head, Eurimbula QLD 4677, Australia
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Friday, 10 July 2015

Bundy but no Rum.

Though we were in Bundaberg for a couple days, we really didn't do an awful lot there, at least not as much as we'd hoped, but what we did do was fun. The marina is lovely, with good facilities but is fairly out of the way from everything, and so we hired their car for while. We had intended to buy a heap of fresh fruit and veg from the markets but the problem is, when you get there fairly late in the day, there's not a lot left, in fact where food is concerned, there's none, so we had to make a contingency plan to go to the Shalom Market on the Sunday morning. The Market is held at the Shalom Catholic School (is it just me or is there something kind of ironic in that name?)

Sugar cane fields. Ah that sweet, sweeeeeet sugar!
The Burnet River that flows through Bundaberg. Following record floods here in 2013, the popular Midtown Marina closed when the banks collapsed beneath it and washed a section of it down the river.

In the meantime, we took a diversionary trip to a swamp, which is nowhere near as dire as it sounds although, with all good swamp stories, there were HEAPS of bats! Mwahahahahahahaaaa! Granted, they were fruit bats (or flying foxes for the pedantic) but bats none the less. Awesome!!

Bats, bats and more bats. So cute I could just give them all a cuddle!

The Baldwin Swamp Environmental Park isn't strictly the true swamp it may have begun its life as as it is surrounded by well maintained paths and large expanses of mown lawn, but it is still a large and beautiful area with some of the waterways thickly covered with matted water plants. Towering gums harboured more bird life and the birdy sounds around us were glorious, but the little buggers making the sounds were elusive and camera shy. Even the light rain we had that afternoon only added to the atmosphere and, for a change, we'd remembered to bring the umbrella.

Raindrops on the water.  So beautiful!
A lovely Purple Swamp Hen
Not grass, it's a type of water lilly I think.
Peace, quiet, beauty and tranquility right in the middle of suburbia!
Hopping Goose!
A Leeeetle Theeestle (Barb will understand!)

Hungry Honey-eater
After a good couple of hours wandering the swamplands, we made our way back through the sugar cane fields to the marina where, that night, we caught up for sundowners with our friends Peter and Cathy on their boat 'Acropora'.  For the uninitiated, sundowners is where you get together on someone's boat, or a beach, or pretty much anywhere and have a drink and nibbles, and usually another couple of drinks as the sun goes down. It has been known for sundowners to end in the wee small hours of the following morning. :)

Cathy and Peter. We first met Peter in Port Fairy and once again met up down the line. Small world.

Unfortunately the one thing we didn't end up doing in Bundaberg, was to visit the distillery where the famous Bundaberg Rum is made. Perhaps next time.

Tomorrow we get up early (again??!... double ugh!!) to head for Pancake Creek.

Location: Burnett Heads QLD 4670, Australia
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