Thursday, 15 September 2016

Mackay Northbound or from rock art to a scary lee shore

From Mackay, we headed north into the Whitsunday group of islands for the second time.

First stop was the Scawfell in the South Cumberland group of islands.  The crossing was a good one and we sailed almost all the way.  The anchorage is a deep bay on the North West side of the island with good protection from the trade winds.  It took two attempts to anchor and we stayed two nights in the end along with 5 or 6 other boats including SeaSay who we have shared anchorages with before.  Crystal clear waters and a lovely beach.

We took the dinghy into the beach and had a bit of a walk around.

Entering the anchorage at Scawfell Island
Absolutely deserted beach at Scawfell Island.  A beautiful spot!

Dry creek just off the beach

We followed it inland a bit till it got too rough for our old legs.

Lonely dinghy on the beach

And lonely Dave :-)

I had to help Terry the artist with this..  It's something we've done in a few places now and I find it fascinating to find the balance points of different rocks.  Good fun!

A curious mix of physics and art
We moved on to Brampton Island which was where we met a whole bunch of butterflys last time we came through.  It's a lovely spot but quite eerie as the resort has been closed for years and so it's very neglected.  We stopped in at Western Beach this time on the (you guessed it) west side of the island.  The fringing reef is separated from the beaches by a narrow and shallow channel.  After we anchored, a bunch of Macgregor trailer sailors came past us and went right over the reef into the channel behind and anchored there. 

We hopped into the dinghy and went ashore.  The tide was falling at the time and we planned to be away for a couple of hours which would have made it high tide when we got back so we pulled the dinghy up the beach a bit and put the anchor in the tree line.  We followed a walking trail to Dinghy Bay on the south east of the island.  It was a lot further than we thought :-)  A lovely walk though.  We've found Brampton to be a great spot to visit!  It's a national park and the trails are easy to follow and reasonably well signed. 

However, it took a lot longer than we thought so when we got back, the dinghy was about 100 metres from the sea.  Bugger..  The beach there shelves really slowly so even after we'd dragged it down to the sea, we still had to drag it about 20 metres further before the bloody thing would float.  We were both exhausted by the time we got back to the boat so we crashed and had a late tea.

Venture is out there somewhere :-)

Over the hill to Dinghy Beach

A walkway over one of the creeks
The following day, we headed off to Stingray Bay on Goldsmith Island.

This anchorage is on the south side of the island and we chose it because the expected weather overnight was 5 to 10 knots from the North.  Boy did we get a surprise!

A front came through in the early hours and the wind swung round to the south at 20kts gusting 25 or more putting us on a lee shore in rising seas.  We were woken by the anchor alarm at 2am and when we turned the instruments on, we found ourselves with 1m under the keel when we had anchored in 10m of water at near low tide! We decided to get out of there and head around to the other side of the island so we started the engine and headed up towards the anchor.  We bumped the sand a couple of times as we headed out into deeper water.

I went forward and started pulling the anchor up while Terry stayed by the wheel.  But I could not get the anchor to break free of the sea bed!  The seas were mounting and the bow was pitching about 2 meters when the waves came through.  I tried pulling on the anchor when the bow was down but as it came up, the chain was pulled back over the gypsy (see below).  The anchor was properly wedged or the chain had wrapped around a rock.  I gave up and went back to the cockpit to find Terry in a right state..  She had been panicking as it was pitch black and the plot showed rocks off the starboard bow but she couldn't see them.

We talked it over and decided she would go back to bed while I kept station over the anchor until daylight.  The only other option really was to slip the anchor entirely (let all the chain out) with a buoy attached so we could pick it up another day.  But I was confident that worst of the weather had passed us so I was happy to hang there until it calmed down again.  Amazingly enough, Terry actually went back to sleep!

So I spent nearly 3 hours at the helm watching the plot and trying to keep the boat in one place over the anchor using the engine.  It was actually not that difficult once I figured out that with the engine just above idle and left rudder, it basically sat there head to the wind.  The engine just counterbalanced the wind and we were basically hove-to using the engine.  Occasionally I'd have to give it a squirt of power to bring the bow back into the wind but on the whole, it was relatively easy, just really tedious.. 

In the morning, I got Terry up and we freed the anchor by giving it about 10 meters of slack and motoring slowly against the pull of the anchor chain.  It didn't work first time round (clockwise) but second time round (anti-clockwise) it unwound from whatever it was stuck on and the anchor came up cleanly but with a 5 degree bend in the shank!

We went around the other side of the island to Western Beach and anchored again with a sigh of relief.  I had a kip..

Our anchor winch..  The "gypsy" is on the right hand side with the chain going over it.  The chain disappears into the anchor locker just behind and below the gypsy.

This was the track recorded on our plotter of the 3 hours or so I spent keeping station over the anchor.

Location: Brampton Island, Queensland 4805, Australia
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