Cruising log of second time Lightwave owners, John & Pam, on board their LW45 Grande with Trim Tabs, fitted with 180hp aside.
CRUISING AGAIN AT LAST May 27 – June 28
Finally we are on our way north! Sanctuary Cove Boat Show was interesting. As usual, the weather was not the best, with some heavy downpours during which Allikat proved a popular venue for visitors, with her large sheltered cockpit areas. She was definitely shown at her best and some very positive comments were heard. We spent time trawling the pavilions with other stands of boat bits and pieces and John spent a great deal of time talking with techsperts! (At that stage I disappeared to look at more interesting things). Show over, we were back at Coomera for the final fixups with Lightwave and the inevitable provisioning for the first stage of our trip north. In fact, we were so anxious to be on our way, that once Allikat was back in the water in the afternoon, we headed straight out into the Broadwater and anchored for the night at Tipplers Anchorage.
Our trip to Tangalooma on Moreton Island was uneventful, with some sailing once we were clear of the channels, storm clouds developing over the mainland and islands. Once again the anchorage was a little rolly as the currents proved more influential than the breeze on anchor and we lay beam to the swell, but judging by the movement in the masts of the monos anchored nearby, our anchorage really wasn’t too bad! Needless to say, most of these had moved before we left the next morning. One yacht under sail coming out of Tangalooma decided to head straight towards the mainland across the main shipping channel. He must have been optimistic (or ignorant) as a large container ship was bearing down on him. One very loud blast of the container’s horn sent him scurrying into a 180 turn and out of the channel before he took a more leisurely turn to cross the channel behind the freighter! As we know, playing chicken with huge freighters really doesn’t work! The freighters monopolized the main channels out of Moreton Bay, but we headed through the smaller northern channel closer to the island, and then set sail for Mooloolaba, gaining our river anchorage by mid afternoon.
Being Sunday, the entrance into the river channel became quite interesting, as water craft proliferated. However, we managed to avoid the kayakers, the paddle boarders, the fishing boat anchored mid channel between the leads at the mouth of the river, and the small motor boat sitting mid channel doing 3 knots and oblivious to larger boats coming towards and behind him. I don’t think any fish in the river had a chance as the banks were lined with fishermen and tinnies were anchored wherever there was a gap.
We had the final tint put on two replacement curved windows in the saloon on Monday and finished our preparations for the voyage north. With threatening thunder and lightning, we dinghied up to the Fishermen’s Co-op for our favourite fish and chips, making it back to the boat before any rain. We called in on Highland Dancer, another Lightwave also anchored in the river. They too were heading north after spending over a week in Mooloolaba, although they planned a much earlier start than we did.
Tuesday dawned calm, clear and still as we motored out. The winds remained slight most of the day, but we persevered with sails, changing combinations as we headed to Double Island Point. There were several other yachts heading north, and by the time we rounded Double Island Point there was a veritable procession of six yachts and a motor boat crossing Wide Bay Bar late in the afternoon.
With threatening weather coming up from the south we avoided Pelican Bay at the south of Fraser Island and headed up the western side of the island in the gathering gloom to Garry’s Anchorage, a protected haven behind Stewart Island. Only minor problems – there were several boats already anchored (some less well lit than others), the channel markers were not lit and the edges of the bank were littered with tree trunks and other flood debris. Our large torch was very handy in helping us anchor safely. Fortunately the electrical storms stayed on the seaward side of the island, and we had a very calm night, before a relaxing stay-put day on Wednesday.
Morning brought bright and sunny skies without a breath of wind. There were about eight other boats on anchor around us, including Geoff and Penny on Highland Dancer. During the afternoon, sundowners were arranged for crews on the mono nearest to us – about ten of us in the cockpit sipped our drinks and watched the sun disappear behind Stewart Island.
The procession of vessels exited the anchorage the next morning, some heading home to Urangan Harbour, others motoring up the west coast of Fraser Island. We managed to get a screecher run to the shallows, but had to revert to motors as we approached Kingfisher Bay, our anchorage for the next two nights.
Apart from some sharp wavelets across the boat for a couple of hours one morning, this proved to be a very peaceful stopping point. We went ashore and explored the resort, which was almost deserted, with only the coffee/ bar at the pool open for business, so we returned to Allikat for lunch and afternoon maintenance tasks.
There were seven cats and a couple of monos dotted around the jetty, so the crews all went ashore for a get-together late in the afternoon. One cat had spent a week up the Susan River and had managed to catch copious amounts of prawns and crabs, that they generously brought ashore to share.
People living aboard ranged from first timers, trying out the cruising lifestyle, to a family of five taking a year off to cruise before settling back to another business, and old time veterans who had extensively cruised the islands and all points north. You can imagine the experiences and tips that were swapped around. It is likely that we will meet most of them again further north.
Our run across to the mainland was interesting to say the least! We woke to a thick fog- you could only see about 100 metres in front of you. As we were trying to meet high tide on arrival, we decided to head off (under motors – no wind again!) and rely on the charts and instruments to get us there safely.
The radar really came into its own, not only showing up the land and fishermen, but also all the channel markers. Together with the sonar and accurate charts, it made the journey almost foolproof.
We had booked a couple of nights at The Boat Club Marina in Urangan Harbour to give us a chance to catch up with our ex-Goulburn friends, the Lawtons and Tazewells. It was great to see them again after some years, and after a couple of meals, the time seemed to have flown by. We hope to meet up again on the return trip.
It seems to be catch-up time along the coast as we left Hervey Bay for Burrum Heads, once again in brilliant sunshine (22 degrees), but only a whisper of wind. The calm conditions gave us mirror seas, so you could see the dolphins clearly. Gaggles of tinnies and cabin boats crowded the fairway markers and leads into the river mouths along the coast- not much chance for the fish – obviously the best “spots” are well-known. Burrum Heads is the summer base for Chris and Lyn from Out Of The Blue II, as it is a really safe, if shallow, anchorage well protected from strong offshore winds.
We had a wonderful three days catching up on the news from their travels, and spent a day helping each other with labour intensive chores, re-rigging Chris’ screecher halyard. Navigating the sandbanks in the Burrum River requires some local knowledge, especially on a falling tide, so we appreciated their advice, even in our dinghy. It was with some reluctance that we left the sheltered anchorage, but a sailing wind beckoned, our first wind of any real consequence since we had left Moreton Bay.
The run up to Bundaberg was great. We saw over 11 knots even with a reef in the mainsail, and averaged over 8, although the wind must have come from the snowfields as it was freezing. It was a shock to rug up in winter clothes. We overnighted in the Burnett River and headed off early the next morning, originally aiming for The Town of 1770 (Round Hill), but with excellent winds again we sailed the extra miles to Pancake Creek, just south of Gladstone.
Both of these anchorages are better to enter near high tide as the entrances are full of sandbars. Nineteen other boats were anchored in Pancake Creek – must have had something to do with the increasing wind strengths forecast for the coming days. The number of catamarans cruising the coast is increasing. In the popular anchorages, it is quite common to see half the boats are multihulls. Another Lightwave, Nomad, followed us into anchorage, one of a procession of four boats following the markers through the channels.
Roger and his crew from Nomad had left Round Hill earlier in the day, intending to sail up the coast, when they sighted a whale inshore. It apparently decided they were friendly, so spent the next hour or so playing with the cat, diving from stern to bow and riding the pressure waves. It even came up close to the transom, eyeing the crew as their cameras clicked. Eventually it did a spectacular breach behind the boat before continuing its route north. An amazing experience for them!
The weather gurus had forecast 90% chance of rain for Saturday. They were a little out, as it started raining before dawn and bucketed down all day – We collected over 100 litres of water in buckets and containers, which we promptly decanted into the water tanks.
The water collection system from to cockpit roof works really well and it is amazing how much water can be collected in a short time. Even in the anchorage the south west wind whistled through as it increased in strength, and everyone bunkered down for the day, although there were a couple of hardy souls in dinghies who ventured out with fishing rods. Mad! Luckily Sunday started to clear, so all boats had washing fluttering in the breeze, as everyone attempted to dry out, and dinghies were off exploring and visiting other vessels. The best thing about heavy rain is that the boat is cleaned off topsides – no more salt and grime (until you venture offshore again!)
With favourable forecasts for the reef (ie, little wind), we headed east. The seas were still up from the weekend, so we managed a bouncy sail across the Lady Musgrave Island, a coral atoll about 36 nautical miles offshore. This time there were six cats at anchor, as well as a couple of monohulls and several power fishing boats (they were the ones showing on our AIS doing 20 knots in the shipping channels). Being so close to Gladstone, the number of freighters in transit increased. The AIS (Automatic Identification of Ships) shows each vessel on our charts with their speed and heading, making it much easier to avoid them!
In the evening, the wind dropped, and as the tide fell, the water in the lagoon calmed to a mirrored stillness. With almost a full moon overhead, we were privileged to view a rare occurrence – at night, anchored in over ten metres of very clear water, we could clearly see the bottom and the coral outcrops beneath us. It was a breathtaking sight. We stayed at Lady Musgrave for a couple of days, visiting the island and walking the beaches, and renewing acquaintances we had met earlier. In the right weather the Musgrave lagoon is a delight as you can explore it all by dinghy and the water is so clear the details of the coral bommies and fishlife are clearly visible. Allikat was visited by a couple of large green turtles and schools of fish sought protection under the hulls.
Further north, we anchored in the lagoon at Fitzroy Reef. This is an enormous lagoon, with over two thirds full of coral bommies, but it still has some good anchoring spots over sand. The entrance is a little tricky with a dog leg through the coral on either side, with the channel usually marked by buoys and markers. However, the entrance buoys had been shifted by the summer storms, but as we came through at low tide, we could clearly see the passage, which was wide enough for our cat.
The weather here was idyllic – absolutely calm – even at high tide when the ocean comes over the fringing reef, there was only a ripple across the surface. At low tide it was like a mirror – spider water John calls it. For most of our time there we were the only boat at anchor. A power boat joined us for the first night and a large ketch came in for the second. Just sitting alone in this oasis of calm in the middle of the ocean 120 kilometres offshore was slightly surreal!
The winds began to pick up as we headed for North West Island, usually one of our favourite anchorages. Normally at this time of the year the prevailing winds are south east, but for the past month or so the have come from the south west and the evenings have been very cold. That night, the wind unexpectedly howled in from the west, so any protection in the lee of the island was lost, and the anchorage became very rolly with wind against tide, so we upped anchor early in the morning and headed for the calmer waters around Great Keppel Island, only five miles offshore from Yeppoon.
It was apparent on arrival that may other vessels had sought this option, with over twenty boats dotted along the northern beach. We dinghied around to the west coast, and checked out the still-closed resort, all fenced off now for over four years, and showing the signs of neglect. It is a shame, as it is such a pretty place and has close access to the mainland.
Once again, we had visits with other yachties, one of which proved to be quite fortuitous. I had injured my shoulder before we left Mooloolaba (carrying laundry of all things!) and it wasn’t improving much at all, so I had planned to see another doctor in Yeppoon. One of the guests on Highland Dancer was a doctor, and after examination, it was decided that I had torn the rotor cuff on my shoulder, so he left me a list of exercises etc and told me that if it hadn’t improved by the time we arrived in Cairns, to seek a scan. Saved me a trip to a doctor ashore!
It was time to reprovision. Usually there is a courtesy car at Rosslyn Bay Marina that you can book for two hour stints to go the eight kilometer distance into Yeppoon. This makes it much easier to stock the boat with food and fuel. Unfortunately, it had died, and they were waiting for a replacement, so John trollied jerrycans up to the service station many times (and back to our berth right at the end of the marina finger!) and we caught the bus into the supermarket. We met new friends Scott and Suellen from “Samaya” – they hail from Lake Macquarie and were heading south, and also Ian and Louise from “Duette” (friends from Lizard Island in the past). They were making the Yeppoon area their base this year and had just spent several weeks in Island Head Creek.
After three relaxing days in the marina, we ventured out again. The waters around Yeppoon are very shallow and this continues up the coast to Shoalwater Bay. As weather conditions were still quite favourable, we bypassed Port Clinton and headed into Pearl Bay, one of the prettiest anchorages in the area. This was only the second time we had been able to come into this bay, as every other time the anchorage was off limits because of military exercises.
We were lucky as the area was to be closed again for five weeks in a few days’ time. Again, there were many boats hugging the beach, and for once we were outnumbered by the monohulls! We had decided to try a new anchorage, Island Head Creek, on our way north. It, too, has been out of access in the past because of military restrictions. It proved to be a wise decision, as the winds were starting to pick up. We had contacted the Coastguard at Thirsty Sound once we had cleared the anchorage (VHF in this area cannot be accessed once you are in protection of the land), and were told that a strong wind warning had been issued for the weekend, and this anchorage was a safe haven in a storm.
The seas at the entrance were quite turbulent as the winds began to pick up, but you could clearly see a line between the confusion and the calm waters. Using the depth sounder and sonar, we picked our way between the sandbanks to check out possible anchorages indicated in the cruising guides.
The first inlet, close to the entrance, was “occupied”, so we headed for the next, only to find it had an abrupt dropoff, going from 28 metres in depth of water to less than two metres in only a small distance – hardly an ideal place when strong winds were expected, and a very good chance of the anchor losing hold. Another attempt behind a small mangrove island proved too shallow, so we motored for the head of the creek and found an idyllic bolthole out of the wind with consistent depth.
Even though the clouds were racing overhead, there was hardly a ripple around us. Another smaller yacht joined us further down the creek as the sun disappeared. With very steep hills to our west and mangrove channels protecting our south and east, we had a very comfortable evening. At dusk, a sudden noise of rushing air broke our tranquillity – a pod of dolphins had come into the channel to fish. These had white tips on their dorsal fins, and they seemed to be working together to encircle the fish. Several fish broke the surface, jumping high across the water, as they tried to escape.
Scuds of rain showers greeted us the next morning, not enough to wash the salt off the decks, and the sun tried to break through the grey clouds speeding towards the hills. As calm as we were on the water, we could hear the wind rushing through the treetops behind us.
On Sunday, we became very brave and ventured out into the ocean. The alternative of being told to stay in the creek until the army exercises completed in five weeks’ time just didn’t sound too appealing (especially as our fishing skills are almost non-existent and we didn’t have a crab pot!).
At first the going wasn’t too bad, in spite of the washing machine at the mouth of the creek, but as the day progressed, mother nature decided to put on a show, with winds up to 36 knots and 3-4 metre seas – but Allikat handled it like a trouper.
We dropped anchor at South Percy Island just on dusk and enjoyed the relative calm overnight. Oddly enough, there was a tug boat from New Zealand just astern of us, so we had a good overnight reference point as it was lit up like a Christmas tree!
With ongoing forecasts of strong winds for the next week (30 knots+), we tossed a coin and decided to continue north. Much to our surprise, our long sail the next day was quite benign – we gulled the sails and progressed very comfortably downwind with winds of only 20+!
The only other craft we saw was a navy ship steaming south at 23 knots, probably heading for the wargames. Despite a consistent voyage, it was pitch-black when we arrived at Refuge Bay on Scawfell Island, with bullets of wind gusting over the island peaks. We relied heavily on charts to anchor as you couldn’t see a thing (though the big torch helped pick out a couple of other yachts).
Tuesday dawned grey and rainy, still with strong winds coming into the bay, so off we set again, this time only a short hop to Brampton Island – hopefully to be able to get phones and internet. The high point was just off Brampton Island – two whales having a ball frolicking about a mile away, trying to outdo each other in jumps and fluke splashing.