Great Keppel Island and the Capricorn coast

Saturday afternoon (19 June) Chris and Sharon came onboard Morphie for sundowners. They supplied the food and drinks and we supplied the cockpit LOL. Was a lovely evening and I thoroughly enjoyed the bubbles! Thanks.

Sunday morning we headed ashore to Great Keppel Island after breakfast. We went exploring up the little creek at one end of the anchorage and spoke to the guy who lived on the trimaran that was happily sitting in the mud. We then headed to the other end of the beach and found quite a few sunbathers who had managed to find a warm sunny spot out of the cold wind. We wanted to go around to the resort and found a cliff path which, for the first part, had a rope hanging down to help people climb up. So we decided to go for it!

I managed to get to the top and then we walked through the bush, down to the beach, and finally to the resort where we enjoyed the sights from this vantage point.

We came across Chris and Sharon so joined them for a coffee before we all made the trek back and said our sad farewells. Back on board we rested up and had a quiet evening aboard.

Monday the weather changed again with strong winds forecast for the next few days so we decided that this was as good a time as any to head into the Keppel Bay Marina over at Rosslyn Bay on the mainland. But first we headed to our neighbour in the anchorage as Greg (who we had met in the Boatworks) had helped the owners of this boat bring it up the coast. So was lovely to catch up over a cup of tea with him.

Back on board Morphie we picked up anchor and timed our arrival into the marina for a couple of hours after low tide so that we would have enough depth in the entrance channel. This worked out great and we were given assistance on the dock and got ourselves settled. We washed all the salt off Morphie, checked in, and then had a wander around the facilities. Whilst we were in the office we found out that there was no nearby car hire company so we would mainly have to rely on the local buses to get out and about. To celebrate our safe arrival here in Rosslyn Bay we headed over to the local yacht club for a couple of cold ones but we didn’t stay long as it was pretty cold out on their deck!

Tuesday morning we got the bus into the local town of Yeppoon. We did a bit of shopping for the freezer (wanting to freeze stuff down whilst we were attached to shore power) and walked between two small shopping malls. We had some lunch out in the food court before heading back to Morphie on the bus. All very exciting!

Back at the marina we did some laundry and sat outside the on-site restaurant (which closes at 2pm on weekdays) so that we could use the wifi. We did some downloads but it was a really slow internet speed and we found it very cold in the strong and biting winds so we definitely didn’t linger longer than necessary. Back on board I checked our general grocery supplies and then did some on-line shopping for a ‘click and collect’ service from the local supermarket in preparation for our run into town with the marina’s courtesy car on Wednesday. We then started to plan our next anchoring stops on our run north. We also ran the weather models again and were seriously unimpressed by the forecast! There was the possibility of a reasonable Thursday and Friday (although a chance of showers), then a wet weekend (with a chance of thunderstorms), followed by really strong winds for at least the first three days of the following week. So we were contemplating sitting on the boat at anchor out in the cold and the wet for quite a while and looking for somewhere to hide if the wind changed direction. So we made the decision to extend our stay here in the marina. Oh well, never mind….

Wednesday morning we had a leisurely start and then went to the office and extended our stay. We then picked up our courtesy car and did a run to the bottle shop; the supermarket to collect the order; popped into the supermarket for fresh fruit and vegetables (preferring to select these ourselves); and then headed back via the scenic lookout over the islands. Back on board we stowed everything away and then had a quiet evening on board.

Thursday morning we decided to head back out to Yeppoon again on the bus. This time we explored the beach, the promenade and more of the town. Whilst wandering the beach we were keeping a careful eye out for saltwater crocodiles as there had been a large one spotted here only a couple of weeks ago surfing in the shallows – check out this photo taken by a local fisherman! Before we returned to the boat we had a coffee out and then caught the bus back. We then tried our luck at the internet downloads again before returning to Morphie for the night.

Friday morning were up and about early and got the bus to Rockhampton just over an hour away on the bus. This is the fourth largest city in Queensland and started life as a frontier town which then turned into a bustling river port before becoming a gold rush city. Currently it is now famous for its links to the beef industry. As a result, it has some interesting colonial architecture along the river waterfront. It was raining on our arrival so we took shelter for a while before heading to Quay Street and checked out the Fitzroy River and the historic district.

We then wandered the city streets for a while before heading back to the bus stop and our trip back to Rosslyn Bay. Was a good trip out. Back on Morphie we rested up before heading out to the local yacht club for their Friday night ‘special’ which was a fish and chip supper. We sat with some other cruisers so it was quite social and we had fun.

This morning, Saturday, we awoke to the sound of rain on the coachroof and it is definitely in for the day. So we are glad we are staying here safe, dry and warm!

So that’s it for now. There has been another covid outbreak so the Queensland border with New South Wales has completely closed again. If these sporadic outbreaks continue we can’t see there being any appetite for opening the international borders anytime soon, especially as most cases can be linked back to the restricted numbers of international arrivals (currently Australian citizens only) and their stay in quarantine hotels. Chatting to locals they strongly support this position too so politically there is some pressure to keep the borders closed until at least late 2022. So we are just ‘parking’ any difficult decisions (as none of the options currently available are particularly to our liking) and will continue to enjoy tropical Queensland whilst we can. So, on that note, it’s time for another Australian cutie to make you smile.


Lady Elliot and Great Keppel islands

Friday evening (11 June) we headed to the Lighthouse Hotel in Burnett Heads for our last evening in Bundaberg. We enjoyed a spectacular sunset on our walk – about 30 minutes – but, sadly, there were no kangaroos to be found. Perhaps it was too chilly for them too?!? Anyway, the tavern was pretty busy as it was steak night and there was even a log burning stove warming up the place. We were lucky to get a seat and enjoyed our meals and a few drinks. Due to the download failures I had experienced in the marina, I had brought my laptop with me and set it up on the edge of our table. There was a high speed public network available and, during our few hours in the pub, we managed to download quite a lot of Netflix content which should keep us going for a while. Result! When we were ready we got the courtesy bus back to the marina and had an early night.

Saturday morning we got ready and slipped away from the marina at 8am. There was no wind so we motorsailed towards Lady Elliot Island. This is the southernmost coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef and is 46 miles north east of Bundaberg and covers an area of approximately 45 hectares. The seas were flat calm so we made really good time and even got a lift from the current once we had cleared the Burnett River entrance.

By 3pm we had arrived and were delighted to find a Marine Parks mooring ball available (which are free of charge and available for 24 hour periods only). So we quickly headed over and picked that up. As we were doing so a small ray jumped completely out of the water and we had a dolphin swim by, so a pretty special welcoming committee! It was slack water at this point so the mooring ball started bumping along the hull. We then decided to read the mooring instructions (which would have been a good idea earlier LOL) and it said that the pennant should be pulled onto the bow of the boat. Well, it was a huge rope, so we pulled it up, through the spare anchor bow roller, and put the loop over the windlass capstan. Then to secure it we tied it off with two ropes to the cleats on either side so that the the capstan would not be taking the full weight of the boat. Thankfully the tide filled in and the ball floated away from the hull so we were finally set. Woo hoo, we had arrived!

There is an eco resort island and we were welcome ashore (just having to radio for permission first) but, having checked out the shore line at low water, we decided that we didn’t fancy it as it was very rocky and we would have to carry the dinghy across the foreshore. As the wind was non-existent it was actually quite warm in the sun so we enjoyed sundowners and supper in the cockpit having watched the spectacular sunset and the thousands of sea birds returning to roost on the island. We then had a movie night down below before bed.

We had a very disturbed night’s sleep because when the tide changed the mooring ball banged really hard against the hull. Thankfully the mooring ball moved away again once the tide had changed and the current kicked in and held us off.

After Sunday morning’s breakfast in the cockpit we got out our 1mm dive suits and slipped into the water. It was a bit chilly but we got used to it pretty quickly. We then checked Morphie’s hull and was relieved that all was well, as both of us were convinced the mooring ball would have left it’s mark. We had already decided that once we had finished snorkelling we would drop the ball and anchor off instead. So, how brave are we, snorkelling in the waters off the Great Barrier Reef???

We were comfortable being back in the water and we took off looking for some critters armed with our GoPro in it’s underwater housing. The first sight was a school of squid swimming in front of us. Now that is not something you see every day so that was quite joyous.

Then we spotted a small turtle but he was clearly nervous of us as he shot under a coral outcrop. The coral was in reasonable condition although not particularly colourful. We saw the usual suspects of parrot fish and lots and lots of brilliantly coloured nursery fish on the reef. There were signs of bleaching of the reef in places but it seemed to be recovering which is great news. Not sure how long we were in the water but when we had had enough we swam against the current back to Morphie.

Back on board we showered on the back transom, rinsed all our gear off, and got ourselves warmed up. We were just having a hot chocolate in the cockpit when suddenly these big shapes turned up and we realised we were watching manta rays disturbing the water. Then suddenly there were five or six of them swimming towards us. We did consider getting back into the water but a couple of swimmers from the resort tried to get close and the rays swam off immediately. So we decided to sit on the coachroof and just enjoy the beauty of these majestic creatures swim backwards and forwards by us and they entertained us for about an hour. OMG what an experience – absolutely fantastic! We were so happy.

Around 1.30 pm we dropped the mooring ball (before the tide change) and anchored off in about 20m over sand. We were now ready for an early morning departure to Lady Musgrave island as we needed to arrive there for slack water at around 10am to get through the reef into the centre of the lagoon. So we rested up for the rest of the day and just sat watching more dolphin and ray encounters and another lovely sunset before retiring down below for dinner and more Netflix content.

In the early hours of Monday morning we woke to the sound of torrential rain on the coachroof! What?!? We immediately started up the Iridium Go! and downloaded the latest weather. The wind had picked up and we were rocking and rolling around a bit. Downloads completed and it was bad news – rain, thunderstorms and clouds were forecast for the entire day. Which meant Lady Musgrave was not an option as we needed sun to be able to eyeball navigate inside the lagoon to avoid the coral bombies. Disappointed we mulled over our options. The anchorage became increasingly uncomfortable so staying put was certainly not one of them.

By 9am on Monday morning we had planned our escape to Great Keppel Island almost 120 miles away so this was going to be our first overnight passage for a while. We sorted out something to eat for that evening’s passage dinner and boiled some eggs for the following morning, Not sure why we always have egg mayo rolls for breakfast on passage but hey ho, they are tasty LOL.

We picked up our anchor, relieved that it was not being held captive by a random coral bombie, and headed out of the anchorage before raising our genoa and sailed downwind at about 3 knots in light airs. Annoyingly the earlier strong winds had eased considerably. We were very slowly making our way then the wind died off so we motorsailed – and then we saw the huge black clouds rolling in and watched this thunderstorm on the radar go across our bow and head straight at Lady Musgrave. Would not have wanted to be anchored inside that lagoon through a thunderstorm so glad we had decided to abort our trip there!

Squalls and storms continued for the whole night as we got into our passage routine of three hour shifts and we had no moon to assist us at all on this wet night. We also had to cross shipping channels near Gladstone and had quite a few cargo ship encounters – ahead of us, behind us, across us and alongside us. Certainly kept us on our toes!

As we continued towards Great Keppel we were treated to a fabulous jumping and diving display by two dolphins who put on a show just for us – could they have escaped from SeaWorld?? Was absolutely fantastic and seeing dolphins always makes us smile.

When we arrived around Tuesday lunchtime we quickly found an anchoring spot at Fisherman’s beach in lovely water which was so clear I could see the chain all the way to the bottom. Happy that we had a good set we then got cleaned up and went to bed for a few hours. Feeling refreshed we decided to stay on board and just enjoyed watching the comings and goings in the anchorage. Great spot, nice beach, and we looked forward to exploring the following day.

Wednesday morning and it was eerily quiet and grey outside so we popped our heads up to find that it was foggy and drizzly. Really?!? Never mind, we both had a list of small jobs to do so got on with them before finally relaxing down below for the rest of the day.

Thursday morning the weather started clearing and we were visited by Mike and Karen from Island Girl (an IP 380) who were anchored in the bay. Accompanied by their cute poodle boat dog Dudley. So we had a cup of tea with them and organised to go ashore for sundowners later. After they had gone I went back to bed as I was feeling quite poorly. Not sure what brought that on…. Later on I did feel marginally better so we headed ashore to meet the other cruisers for sundowners on the beach. Was a fun evening but, of course, I completely forgot to take any photos!

Friday morning we awoke to some serious nodding movement as the wind had switched to the SW so we had no protection from the fetch and waves which were steadily increasing.

So we picked up anchor and headed around the corner, through a narrow cut, to the north side of the island to an anchorage called Leeke’s Bay. We got our anchor down and the difference was huge – flat calm – and it wasn’t long before we were joined by all the other boats coming round the corner too. This is known as the Keppel Island Shuffle LOL. Leeke’s Bay has a beautiful beach and we decided to go ashore just before high tide so we wouldn’t have to drag the dinghy up the shore too far. So, in the meantime, we enjoyed relaxing in the cockpit.

At this point a Border Force boat came through the anchorage and was checking out all non-Queensland registered vessels. We were about their third stop – they just wanted to know when and where Morpheus had arrived in Australia; were we still on a control permit and when did it expire; had we met the regular reporting requirements of said permit etc. They took photos of us (presumably so they could check against their records) and asked us about our movements going forward. Obviously satisfied with our responses they went on their merry way. They were very polite although we always find it a bit disconcerting when an ‘official’ boat comes by for a chat!

It was lovely and sunny and we enjoyed sitting in the cockpit watching the world go by and I even did some hand washing. Richard did a few other jobs too like greasing the rudder bearing and clearing out the port lazarette. During the afternoon Chris and Sharon on Watusi came into the anchorage so we made arrangements with them for a reunion on the beach later. Heading over to the beach we stopped by Island Girl to wish them safe passage as they are leaving in the morning.

Hopefully we’ll see them again on our continued journey north. We then had a lovely time on the beach catching up with Chris and Sharon and enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the glorious beach.

This morning, Saturday, although the sun is out the wind has strengthened so the wind generator might actually earn his keep today! So I’m blogging while Richard continues keeping busy on boat jobs – he’s cleaned the shower bilge; done some sewing; filtered some 2-stroke petrol that had water in it; checked how much water we had left in the tank; and is now relaxing in the cockpit reading. Think we’ll probably stay on board today as Chris and Sharon are coming by for sundowners later.

Next stop? Well, obviously we haven’t really checked out Great Keppel Island yet, instead we have just enjoyed being back on the hook in such gorgeous surroundings. So we’ll definitely spend some more time on this beautiful beach and, when the wind switches back to its normal SE direction, we’ll go back round the corner and check out the facilities there too. There is also good snorkelling so we might even get brave and get back in the water LOL. Sadly the bush walks are beyond me and my dodgy hip. At some point we’ll pop into the nearby marina at Yeppoon for fresh provisions before we continue heading north.

Hope you are all keeping fit and healthy. Every week we seem to get more and more sad news from home with people passing and our hearts go out to all those affected families as they go through this difficult time. Please take care of each other and sending lots of love and hugs your way and here is an Australian cutie to make you smile.

Bye for now, Jan

Boat repairs in Bundaberg

Monday (7 June) having finished the blog, we chilled out and just waited for emails to come in with the quote for the work plus an acknowledgement from our insurance company of receipt of the documentation. We then had a quiet evening on board catching up with Netflix.

Tuesday we headed out in the Marina’s courtesy bus and got dropped off at Bobby’s car hire and picked up our car for the day. We proceeded into the town centre and stopped first at Coles and Liquorland to do a provisioning run before returning to Morphie where we stowed everything away.

Then we went out again to the large central shopping mall. Bundaberg centre is around 30 minutes drive from here through farm land which is quite flat and it is harvest time for the sugar and sweet potatoes if the activity in the fields is anything to go by.

The town centre seemed a bit depressed with lots of closing down sales and boarded up shops so I guess the lack of international students, backpackers and tourists has hit this area quite hard. We picked up a few things and I managed to get my hair cut before we headed back to the marina via the scenic route, including Burnett Heads, which hadn’t changed much since our last visit in October 2019.

Back at the marina we were relieved to hear that the insurance company had received all our documentation and were covering all the damages (minus our excess of course). The quote from the stainless fabricator came in under our excess so that’s down to us but at least our insurance company are going to deal directly with the third party claims so we don’t have to get involved, which was great news! So despite the nightmare of getting the documentation to them in the first place they have been very responsive.

Wednesday we were up early and headed out and did our customary run to Bunnings before returning the car. Was a wet, windy and stormy sort of day. Check out this sky.

We were lucky when we returned our hire car as another couple were picking up a car and were returning straight to the marina so we got a lift back. Back at the marina we headed over to the workshop to find that a lot of our work had been done and they had even fabricated replacement connectors to match the undamaged side as these original (US-manufactured ones) are not available in Australia. Very happy with the work so far….

We then took ourselves off to sit at the benches near the office (which is where the best marina internet is to be found) but it was so cold we gave up pretty quickly and returned to Morphie admiring the cormorant who had made himself at home on top of our neighbour’s mast. Guess it is a good vantage point to spot those pesky fish! We then had a movie night tucked up down below with blankets as the temperature continues to plummet.

Thursday we got busy on some other minor jobs while we waited to hear from the engineering shop. So I took the rugs off the boat and scrubbed them clean, then dried and hoovered them on the dock. Richard re-bedded the screws on the hoyt boom; fixed the zip on the canvas that had been damaged; got a top up of diesel; and soldered the new cockpit light wires that had been snapped in the collision so got them working again. Woo hoo!

I continued on a bit of a clean up and washed all the floors down below. We then left Morphie and checked in on the engineering company – they were coming by later to polish out (as best they could) the damaged arch rail and the rest will be ready for installation on Friday. So we confirmed with the office that we will now be leaving here on Saturday if all goes well.

We tried to download some more Netflix content but, again, got driven back to the boat by the cold so gave it up as a bad job. We were both hungry so got some fish and chips again to bring back as they are just so delicious they just can’t be ignored.

Later on, as promised, Trevor came by and worked hard on polishing out the damage on the 2-inch arch rail. The only way to “fix” this rail would be to remove the whole structure; remove all the wiring that goes inside it to our solar panels, AIS, GPS, satellite communications etc; and then to get the damaged piece cut, a new piece welded in, and the whole structure reinstalled. This would probably mean living on the hard for a couple of months and would still not be perfect so we had decided that Morphie will live instead with a ‘battle wound’. Anyway, here is the ‘before’ picture followed by the ‘after’ pictures – we were amazed at how good Trevor got it to look actually.

We then had another quiet night on board and checked out the latest on the weather to see that snow had fallen heavily in some parts of New South Wales. Some of the locals had never actually seen snow before so this was quite an exciting event for them LOL. Because it was so cold we added some more blankets to our bed before we had an early night.

This morning, Friday, and Richard went over to the engineering shop to collect our steel which was now finished and to pay the bill. He then came back and we worked hard to put it all together and, yay, we are all fixed and ready to go back out there! It had been a stressful week but we were very pleased with the work that had been done and the speed in which they fitted us in. So kudos to Trevor and his team at All Quality Engineering – thank you so much! Here are some before and after shots.

After we had done the initial install of the steel I headed into Burnett Heads to have a facial as a bit of a treat. Richard stayed behind and got on with reinstalling the canvas, the cockpit lights and then moved onto engine checks; a water top up. He also did the final bits of laundry. So here is a final picture of the cockpit ready to go once more.

We had a few more jobs to do today which we have just finished – we have planned our passage for tomorrow; we have taken the outboard off the dinghy and onto the rail. So once this blog is published we are ready to go

Tonight we are going into Burnett Heads for a celebratory dinner at the Lighthouse Hotel Tavern and then we’ll be having an early night in preparation for our departure tomorrow. Hoping to see some big red kangaroos too on the walk….fingers crossed.

Wow, what a week! So very glad to be putting this behind us and we are both looking forward to more adventures in new destinations in the weeks to come. When we leave tomorrow we’ll be off line while we visit Lady Elliott Island (followed by Lady Musgrave Island) so don’t be worried as we will not be able to get a signal out there, although we will have our satellite communications of course to check weather etc.

If you want to find out where we are check out our live tracker on the ‘Where are we now’ page of this blog. After that the itinerary is a bit flexible at this stage, as so much depends upon the weather conditions. We are very excited to be heading out to island anchorages and even hope to go snorkelling, although I think we might need to wear our wetsuits LOL. Take care everybody and we will be in touch as soon as we get back online. Hopefully the restrictions will continue to ease and you’ll be able to get back to some sort of normality. Sending lots of love and hugs


Tin Can Bay, Fraser Island and into Bundaberg

Sunday morning (30 May) the wind eased and was more favourable for us to move on. So we picked up anchor and headed out of Tin Can Bay. We weren’t going very far, just 19 miles to Garry’s anchorage at the bottom of Fraser Island. The next stretch has to navigated at or near high tide because of the shallows through the Sheridan Flats so we were going to stage ourselves in preparation for going through this tricky area the following morning. So decision made we upped anchor and had a lovely downwind sail in light airs under genoa alone. Was really lovely and we thoroughly enjoyed it despite the real chill in the air.

We had our anchor down by 1.50 pm and we took particular care to watch the swinging circles of the other boats as everyone moves through almost 360 degrees in this narrow, shallow and tidal anchorage. Happy that all was well we headed down below and warmed up the saloon by cooking dinner and put all the companion way boards in to retain the heat overnight.

Monday morning our intention was to head out about 10.15 to ensure we were at Sheridan Flats one hour before high tide. As we left the anchorage we were being followed by a catamaran who was obviously heading the same way and, in fact, he kept behind us all the way. We sailed under genoa in flat seas and light airs until we reached Sheridan Flats then motored slowly and carefully through before hoisting the genoa again for the remainder of the trip to Kingfisher Resort, Fraser Island. We got our anchor down in 6m of beautiful sand at 3.15pm having sailed 21 miles and settled down to watch the sunset. Just a beautiful place and quite serene in the anchorage apart from when the barge comes and goes each day bringing day trippers and guests to the resort.

Tuesday morning we went ashore and walked the boardwalk up to the resort keeping an eye out for dingos. Yes there are wild ones here on Fraser Island….

We then gathered information on how to explore the island. We had been considering hiring a small 4WD but we thought that $400 a day was a bit rich, especially when we could do the 4WD Bus Tour (including lunch) for not much more in total. So decision made we booked the full-day tour for Wednesday. We asked at the hotel reception whether there were any restrictions on our use of the facilities and they said that we had complete access for no charge – definitely a very cruiser-friendly place. Here’s dink on the beautiful beach.

The rest of the day we spent by one of the pools, relaxing in the jacuzzi, had some lunch and then made our way back down to the beach and to the rustic (but oh so powerful) showers at the Sand Bar before walking onto the large jetty for sundowners at the Sunset bar. We enjoyed a couple of cold ones before returning to Morphie for dinner just as it was getting dark.

Wednesday we were up really early and by 7am we were dragging dink all the way up the beach to lock him to a fallen log as we were going to be out all day so wanted to make sure he stayed safe above the high water mark.

We then walked the planked boardwalk to the resort, picked up pool towels, and headed to the ‘Village store’ where we picked up some breakfast and coffee whilst we waited for the bus. The tour bus driver/guide turned up on time at 7.50 am and we climbed on board this brand new vehicle which has been specifically designed for the terrain here on Fraser Island. We were lucky that this tour was only about 30% full so it felt quite personal.

As we drove out of the resort we quickly ended up on sand roads which were fun / interesting / scary all at the same time with the first part being called the ‘rollercoaster’ as we headed across the island to the west coast. Fraser Island’s traditional name is K’gari and is the land of the Butchulla people. It is 76 miles long and 14 miles wide and is considered to be the largest sand island in the world at 710 square miles. It became a World Heritage listed site in 1992 as it is pretty unique with rainforests, woodland, mangrove forests, peat swamps, sand dunes and coastal heaths. The sand has been accumulating here for approximately 750k years on volcanic bedrock and the island has some unique geographic features such as fresh water barrage dune lakes which are formed by sandblows damming a natural watercourse and, in terms of quality, this region has the freshest naturally running water in the world. There are all types of critters living here and the majority of them are very dangerous such as great white sharks, salt water crocodiles, wild dingos, brown snakes and huge monitor lizards. And that’s without the spiders LOL. They call this the most dangerous island in Australia!

As we drove across the island towards the west coast we saw evidence of the huge forest fires that had wreaked havoc when the whole island had had to be evacuated for two weeks and despite lots of manpower and machinery the fire was only put out eventually by heavy rainfull. But there were signs of some new shoots of growth admist the blackened tree stumps although the guide thought it would probably take a decade to fully recover. As we drove along we stopped for our first glimpses of a sandblow which is where strong onshore winds erode and transport sand inland. Weak points in the shoreline dunes develop into ‘blow outs’ where sand is blown inland from the coast spreading grain by grain engulfing vegetation in its path. The power of nature is just so awe inspiring at times…..

We arrived on 70 mile beach and it was completely amazing with huge breakers coming into shore. This beach is navigable by 4WD vehicles and there were plenty of ‘wild campers’ around as we drove along.

Then we suddenly came across a small aircraft sitting on the sand – this is one of only two places in the world where you can take off and land on the beach (the other being on Barra, Scotland).

Jerrod (our tour guide and driver) was happy for us to take some time out to do the scenic 15 minute flight and to pick us further down the beach afterwards so we quickly put our hands up and climbed on for the most amazing trip with Rafe, the English pilot. Wow what a fantastic thing to do. We were just blown away by this trip. Photos don’t do it justice but it gives you an idea of what a special place Fraser Island is.

Landing back on the beach, while some more of our fellow tourists climbed on for their plane ride, we went off to check out Wadi creek and, as we took a detour from the beach to avoid some large rock outcrops, we spotted a wild dingo sunning himself on a slope. Wow, just wow!

Arriving at Wadi Creek we did have a paddle in the cold water and enjoyed watching the families floating down in the current in their inflatables (including bizarrely a cactus) towards the beach….and then walked the boardwalk back to do it all again.

At this point the plane landed again and with our full complement back on board we continued on the beach drive to the wreck of the SS Maheno which had an interesting history of being a 122m luxury liner on its launch in 1905 plying its trade between New Zealand and Australia (at an impressive 18 knots) before being pressed into hospital duties in 1915 playing a major role by picking up Anzac troups from Gallipoli and transporting them to Malta. Eventually it was decommissioned in 1935 and was being towed along the coast of Queensland when a major storm came up and, as the ship had no means of independent propulsion at the time, it was wrecked on the beach when the tow rope snapped. What a sad end to a mighty ship….

After visiting the wreck we continued driving on the beach and then stopped off at some coloured sand mounds before finally arriving at the Eurong resort where we had a pre-organised lunch. Afterwards we had a quick coffee and bun at the bakery for our desert before rejoining the bus and our fellow tourists. Then another quick trip along 70 mile beach before we started travelling back inland. Oh yes and no swimming is recommended on this side of the island with its strong currents, rip tides and vast numbers of sharks and there have been shark attacks in the area resulting in fatalities.

After lunch we started travelling back inland and the next stop was to the majestic freshwater Lake Mackenzie (which we had glimpsed from the plane) where we braved the elements and had a bob in the water. Was very refreshing and very different because this lake water is so pure there is virtually no buoyancy offered by the water.

Moving on we headed into the rainforest and did a walk around the boardwalk through the forest which was eerily quiet. There was a small creek running through but even this water was silent. Was really interesting and we were pleased to note that the Queen was involved in recognising the conservation of this ancient land. Back at the bus we were treated to tea and cakes before climbing onto the bus for the final time and returning to the resort.

Back at Kingfisher we walked back down to the beach and had sundowners before we returned to Morphie having had such a special day. Pretty shattered we had an early night.

Thursday we enjoyed the resort again spending time at the pool and in the jacuzzi. We stayed a bit longer than planned and, when we got back to the beach, we found that dink was actually floating on his anchor as the tide had come in, so Richard was brave and went for a paddle not realising that he would have to swim the last bit trying not to think about sharks, although to be honest, they are not present in huge numbers on the sandy straights side of the island and it is considered safe to swim here. He then clambered in and drove dink back to the beach to collect me. My hero! Suffice to say once we were back on board safely we didn’t venture out again, instead having a quiet night in enjoying, once again, a beautiful night sky.

Friday morning we were up at 4am and left the anchorage in light airs. We motored for a little while in the dark just to get through a couple of skinny passages and sand/mud banks until eventually we were on our rhumb line to go all the way to Bundaberg Port Marina.

The sea was calm and the wind was fickle with spells of light airs of 8-9 knots and other times we were seeing 23 knots. Was a pretty cloudy and chilly day. But we were on a beam reach and we both thoroughly enjoyed our sail. It felt really good to be out there remembering our first time through this area with the wild fires raging around us in November 2019

We had been allocated a berth (Grey 2) in the marina and so, as we turned head to wind into the leading channel into the river, we furled the main and the genoa and motored in. At this point the wind died too which was helpful although we were getting a lift from the incoming tide. We phoned the marina to ask for assistance on the dock to be told there wasn’t anyone available but, luckily, Sharon and Chris (SV Watusi) were still in the marina so we phoned them and they agreed to be our line handlers. Phew!

We turned to port into the fairway between the Grey and Purple docks with the wind (at around 10 knots) on our starboard beam and the tide on our port beam so Richard reduced speed and kept us to the port side of the channel to ensure we could make the turn into our slip which was virtually at the end without being pushed over too far towards it as there was little turning room beyond our allocated berth.

Then it all went pear shaped! A strong gust of wind came out of nowhere and we were pushed sideways towards Purple dock. In Australia most marinas ensure that boats fit perfectly well within their pens so if this happens (which is not an uncommon occurrence in a river marina with strong tides) you come to rest on the pilings and avoid damaging other boats. Well, Bundaberg are not actually doing this and, of course, at the moment the wind blew us sideways towards the dock it was alongside a huge 21m Galeon which was overhanging his 18m berth by quite a way. We took a picture later – check out how far this guy sticks out into the fairway.

Richard was powerless to do anything and the next thing we know we are heading towards this boat’s bow and his huge stainless steel anchor. There was no chance of avoiding the impact as it happened so quickly and so unexpectedly and, before we knew it, we were pinned. The stainless steel bimini frame took the brunt of the anchor coming into our cockpit and so it snapped and bent in places. Our canvas looked like it had been ripped as it was hanging down and our new cockpit lights were broken. Our bow was resting on the front of another motor boat and the owner was holding us off with a broom but we were pinned for a while.

Eventually there was a lull in the wind and Richard was able to physically extricate us and we finally went into our berth without any difficulty. Sharon and Chris had watched the whole thing and were as shocked as we were by what had just happened. They saw that we were going along just fine until we literally went sideways as the wind caught us. It was clearly sickening to watch and hear the noise as our bimini steel was ripped apart on the port side by this monster anchor. After that ordeal we were so grateful they were there to help us!

By the time we were safely secured, the captain of the large motor yacht had come over to give us his details and we said that we would be over once we had checked into the marina office. We then went over to the two boats involved to take photos of the damage and share our insurance and contact details. The motor yacht’s anchor roller was bent out of shape and a few gel coat marks but, thankfully, they were still able to deploy the anchor. So that was a big relief.

The other motor yacht had a small scratch at the top of his bow (along with numerous earlier ones) and the guy was very relaxed about it, so we don’t expect a claim from him.

After exchanging contact details we headed out to see some trades and found one guy who was happy to come along on Monday to give us a quote for the repairs. Looks like we’ll be staying in Bundaberg a little longer than we had planned….sigh….. Here is a picture of poor Morphie and her bimini frame damage. We both feel so sad. But, as Richard said, we got off lightly really as we could easily have lost our shrouds and mast if we had been pinned in a slightly different position. And, of course, a few feet back and it would have been our solar panels and our electronics at risk too. We think that there is a possibility that the damage to the two-inch arch stainless steel arm may not be repairable but it has not affected the strength of the structure so we’ll have a good go at polishing it out and see what it looks like then.

And if you want a reminder of what it is supposed to look like from the cockpit, here is a picture of the starboard side of the frame.

After all that excitement – and still feeling quite shocked by it all – we headed to the Cruisers Cove for the Friday night BBQ and enjoyed spending time with Sharon and Chris. Back on board for the night but neither of us slept much….

Saturday morning and we started the day off properly by having a great breakfast in the marina cafe.

Returning to Morphie we started the insurance claim process. We filled in the interactive online claim form and then started producing all the documents (including embedded pictures and sketches) to go along with it in response to their questions. Eventually five documents had been created and saved. They just needed to be sent to the right people. So we started emailing and got ‘undeliverable’ messages from the claims team at our insurance company. Hmmm…..not good! So I did a bit more research and found an SOS email address that could be used out of hours – well it was the middle of the night in the UK – so tried that instead. The first email went through with an attachment but, after that, all the other documents were rejected as too large by our internet provider. So we started cutting them up and saving them into smaller chunks and even compressed the files, but again they refused to send.

So by now we were losing patience but didn’t resort to extreme measures…although certainly felt like it a few times….

We decided, eventually, to get round the email sizing issue by uploading the documents to the cloud – which took hours with our slow internet speed. We then gave appropriate read-only access to the SOS email and sent the link to them. Feeling very relieved until this bounced back too! So I decided to send an email to our main contact at the company – the guy who had sold us the policy – asking him to pass it on to the appropriate team. Well, he did, and finally I got an email from the claims guy who said that a new IT system had meant that the original (published) emails were no longer working. Thanks for that, seriously?!?! Oh yes and his system wouldn’t accept my microsoft cloud provider either so could we please send them via WeTransfer instead. Great, yes we’ll do that, but of course by now it was late and we had just had enough. We were invited out to dinner with Sharon, Chris and their friends but decided not to go as we would definitely not have been good company. We both felt a bit sick actually with the stress of it all. So we just called it a day and went to bed.

Sunday morning and we couldn’t sleep worried about these documents needing to get into the right hands asap. So got up around 6am and started uploading the files again to their preferred system. This wasn’t a quick job either but finally I managed to get them to upload completely. Then I was provided with a link to access them so sent this through to the insurance company. So hopefully that is done for now.

Afterwards we did a few other online chores before heading to the laundry. We sat outside in the sun chatting to some day trippers who had come to the marina for fish and chips while we waited for the laundry to finish. Finally, all done, we headed back to Morphie but had to make a detour via the fish and chip shop as we had watched everyone munching for the last few hours and we were hungry LOL. They were absolutely delicious!

Richard then tidied up the boat, did a few jobs like filling up the water tank and washed the salt off Morphie while I started blogging. As the internet was so slow uploading photos eventually I gave up and put it off for another day. Oh yes and there is a cold snap coming and some areas of Queensland even had frost overnight – shocking or what LOL?!?

This morning, Monday, and Richard has started to dismantle the damaged steel pieces and has found that the joining bracket which have been torn apart (which are from the US) are probably not available in Australia. But the guy we have found is confident he can help us (on the basis of seeing some photos we sent him over the weekend) and he has just visited us and can fabricate new ones so that’s good news. The quote will be coming later tonight and we can then take this forward. There is not a great variety of trades here in Bundaberg so we hope that the insurance company will accept this on the basis of one quote only.

Anyway that’s our news. Oh yes, something to ponder. There is a sailing superstition about heading out to sea on a Friday and, yes, we did break this rule and sail to Bundaberg on a Friday. So guess we’ll be more superstitious in future! Don’t know how long we will be here for but it will take as long as it takes. Probably just as well we are not on a schedule right now….

Bye for now folks. Sending lots of love and hugs to you all.