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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