Airlie Beach to Great Keppel Island

Wednesday afternoon (20th October) we decided to stay on board for the rest of the day because the conditions quickly deteriored. Then the heavens opened and we had torrential rain and thunderstorms all around but thankfully nothing hit too close. We only saw 37 knots in one squall when we popped our heads up to check all was well.

But, compared to what others endured, this was nothing. Nearby in Shute Harbour they saw 67 knots and boats dragged and bumped into each other with some damage sustained. Check out this poor ‘tinny’ tender which got squished under its mother ship’s stern as she violently nodded up and down in the swell. Further south suffered too with winds in Mackay so fierce that planes were flipped over at the airport and there were record-breaking hailstones at 16cm which were named ‘widow makers’ by pundits. Phew, storm season in Queensland is dramatic or what?!?

Thursday morning it was still muggy and stormy but, thankfully, storms were a reducing threat. We headed out for some coffee and a cake – checking out the fuel dock at the same time from the promenade cafe – before picking up our courtesy vehicle, which turned out to be a large UTE.

Firstly we drove to Cannonvale stopping at the bottle shop; butchers; bakers and finally the supermarket for fresh fruit and vegetables. And then round the corner to Coles for our pre-ordered ‘click and collect’ order. We returned back to the marina, found a cart, and dragged it to down to our dock and then onto Morphie. We then unpacked and stowed all our goodies. It was so hot we both felt absolutely exhausted and drained after all this effort so spent the rest of the day down below chilling out.

Friday we had coffee and cake on the way to the pool and Richard made friends with the smallest ghekko ever! So cute.

It was a lovely sunny day for a change – things just look so much better without the ominous clouds!

We then walked to the resort and got ourselves settled down on a couple of sunbeds and that was it for the day, although I did make the most of the pool-side spa and treated myself to an absolutely amazing back massage! We were not interested – or inspired enough – to consider joining in with the complimentary yoga class on the pier LOL. And we had fun watching the blue helicopter that landed at the end of the marina wall – presumably another superyacht owner / charterer has arrived?!? Before we returned to Morphie for the night we had showers in the hotel complex and then, back onboard, we had a quiet night in.

Saturday, on another cloudy, hot and steamy day, we had an early start and treated ourselves to breakfast out in another marina cafe (more like a small grocery store really). We then walked to the pool where we stayed until around 2pm.

We then headed back to Morphie to do some jobs in preparation for our departure on Sunday. The showers were busy at the resort so we used the marina ones this time on the way back. On board, we stripped everything and got the laundry together, packed an esky with sundowner and dinner ingredients, and then headed to the Ocean Club. We put all the washing on in the laundry and then headed upstairs to the sun deck and got ourselves settled in. Again, we were the only people there – not sure why people don’t use this facility much, but definitely not complaining! I put the sausages on the BBQ and started downloading more Netflix content before returning to the laundry to move the washing into the driers. By this time the sausages were done so we had our supper. Laundry and downloads finished we then returned to Morphie for an early night.

Sunday we were up at a reasonable time and Richard did engine checks; removed the canvas; washed the boat down; topped up the water; flushed the watermaker; rinsed fresh water through the bilges; and topped up the coolant. I got busy stowing everything down below ready for going back to sea and also checked out our route / tide times etc. At 11am we slipped away from the dock and headed to the fuel dock. Richard started refuelling whilst I returned the security gate keys and got rid of the rubbish. Back on board we departed around 11.30 am and headed out towards Lindeman Island.

The winds were light and it was a downwind run so we poled out the genoa and went wing-on-wing for the 31 mile trip to our anchorage.

Was a really good trip and we had anchor down by 5.30 pm. Such a shame to see another abandoned resort ashore – this time it was a Club Med facility. We had a quiet night on board enjoying being back on anchor yet again.

Monday we were up early and by 6.20 am we had weighed anchor for the sail to Keswick Island 39 miles further south. The wind was slight with glassed out seas but the wind kicked in as promised and gave us a 60-90 degree angle on the wind which Morphie absolutely just loves…. At one point we were doing 7.4 knots in only 13 knots of breeze under a full main and genoa. It was the most fantastic sailing day, just perfect!

By 1.20pm we had our anchor down at Keswick Island with lots of chain out as it was pretty deep – luckily it was pretty quiet so plenty of swinging room available. We then had a movie night before turning in early in preparation for our departure the following morning.

Tuesday, by 5.20 am, we had picked up our anchor and were motoring out in flat seas to a grim looking day although the sun managed to rise through the dark and threatening clouds around us.

The wind was supposed to be from the north east – the same as the day before – except it wasn’t. Instead it was on the nose….and the wind built….and the seas built….so we had to resort to motor sailing to maintain momentum as we kept getting stopped dead by waves hitting us on the bow. And the clouds were ever more threatening with some nasty rain squalls around so we had the radar on to check for storm cells around us just in case we needed to divert.

The wind was so fickle we couldn’t hold the genoa at the much too-tight angle of 30 degrees so we motor sailed along with full main and staysail instead which added a bit to our speed. We managed to get across the shipping lines without any problems spotting one tanker leaving crossing our bow and one arriving to cross our stern with about 20 others anchored off waiting to be loaded with coal. Quite fun to listen to the helicopter on the VHF as he gives instructions to the captains of when he is going to drop pilots / officials off.

Of course, the sea continued to build, we hit some adverse current, and it was very bouncy to say the least. Such a contrast to the day before! But we persevered and managed to arrive at Middle Percy Island by 4.40 pm which wasn’t too bad considering we had covered almost 67 miles. We had planned to go to Rescue Bay – which is protected from the forecast northerly winds – but, as the wind was now due east, we headed into West Bay instead and found a good spot and anchored for the night at the back of the fleet.

Wednesday, we awoke to a lovely sunny day with fickle winds in terms of both strength and direction so we decided to stay put. I started blogging – although the spotty internet was not good enough to upload / publish what I had done – whilst Richard kept busy with boat jobs. He cleaned out the shower drain box; worked the Y-valves; and removed the old burner caps on the Force 10 cooker as they are pitted and we want to buy some new ones; he also cleaned and flushed through the waste pipes from the sink to the overboard discharge. Very industrious or what?!? Later on we headed out in dink to explore the creek as it was just after high tide – last time we had walked this area. We then went ashore to the A-frame and chatted to some cruisers over sundowners. A new addition to the memorabilia left behind by cruisers was this solar powered light, with built in AIS, which are normally attached to drift nets to aid mariners regarding their position and obviously found floating off somewhere by Phoenix 9. Had been a lovely day.

Thursday morning we had a leisurely breakfast and then, at 10 am, we picked up anchor for an overnight sail of 110 miles to Great Keppel Island. We motor sailed, initially, in light airs and by noon we were sailing along at 60 degrees to the wind with full main and genoa deployed. By 3pm the chop in the sea had built which was slowing us down but we continued on and enjoyed dinner together in the cockpit and a lovely sunset before going into our overnight shifts and yes it gets chilly when the sun goes down LOL.

During my first shift the winds just died….so we ended up motor sailing yet again….sigh. Not much traffic as we passed the Shoalwater Military Exercise Exclusion Zone other than one tanker running parallel for a while. By 9pm the wind had shifted and was now off our port quarter so we put the main away, engine off, and ran downwind under the genoa alone. At midnight the wind picked up and we were going really well – unfortunately too well – as our estimated arrival time was now during the night! So around 1am on Friday morning we reduced sail to slow down as the wind continued to build. We were both up again by 5.30 am as we were approaching the narrow and shallow cut between islands so we enjoyed a lovely sunrise together too.

By 6.50 am this morning we had our anchor down on the south side of Great Keppel Island where we are going to shelter from the northerly winds. We both felt a bit sleep deprived as the strong swells had made the journey pretty bouncy for the last six hours or so….. So we are now just recovering and relaxing and will go ashore to explore the beach later.

Next week there are some feisty winds forecast so we have booked into Keppel Bay Marina (Yeppoon) on Sunday to sit them out there. A couple of other boats we know also have the same plans so expecting some socialising as well as really important things like getting a hair cut LOL.

Nothing to report otherwise really – although Queensland have announced that they will open their borders to New South Wales on 17 December – so fingers crossed that we can go visit my nephew and his family in January for the school holidays again. But this ‘opening’ depends upon a certain percentage of QLD residents being vaccinated. Being cynical we think that the border opening ‘news’ was the proverbial carrot to encourage people to get jabbed as Queensland are seriously lagging behind other states. But only time will tell! Anyway, fingers and all things flexible crossed for another family reunion in early 2022.

Anyway, that’s about it for now, we hope you are all safe and well. Take care of each other – sending love and hugs. Today’s Australian cuties are some kangaroos as it has been a while. Enjoy.

Bye for now, Jan

Having fun in Airlie Beach

Wednesday (13 October) we dropped our marine parks mooring ball and headed out towards Airlie beach inside the passage alongside Daydream Island which gave us a better sailing angle across the top. We sailed along slowly and approached the marina by which time they gave us our allocated berth so we put the sails away and spent time stooging around getting our lines and fenders ready. The anchorage outside of the marina was very choppy with boats rocking and rolling around so we were pleased to pull inside the walls.

We got ourselves settled into our berth and Richard washed Morphie down while I sorted out all the paperwork we needed to take with us. We then had quick showers and took ourselves off to Airlie. We had a list of things to do – doctors, get our prescriptions filled, ATM, and a bit of shopping. We managed to achieve all those and, to our complete surprise, the pharmacy actually had some repeat prescriptions waiting for us to collect (as they promised back in July) so we were now good to go for about three months or so.

On our travels we came across a nest of baby swifts waiting to be fed – not sure it is ideal to build a nest under the roof of a shop on top of a security light but guess it will just have to do and at least it is protected from the rain LOL.

Anyway, all jobs completed, we headed back to the marina and had a quiet night in.

Thursday morning we were up early and got on with some boat jobs – Richard did a few repairs like fixing the outboard motor mount which resides on the rail; fixed some lights in the heads; and checked engine oil levels; whilst I defrosted the freezer (which was pretty iced up). Then Richard re-gassed the freezer and we got it up and running again quickly. At this point I went off to the laundry only to find a big queue – of the five machines only three were working – and there were two ladies (each with three loads) in front of me. But there were people turning up after me so I sat it out and waited not wanting to relinquish my place in the queue. While I was away Richard cleaned the boat down below. Finally after a few hours I returned and we relaxed on board for a little while. At 5pm we headed to the Ocean Club and met up with Lynne and Andrew from SV Mischief and we had a BBQ on the sun deck. It was lovely to catch up with them again.

Friday morning was Richard’s 64th birthday.

To start the day off right we headed again to the sun deck at the Ocean Club and Lynne and I cooked a bacon and egg breakfast on the BBQ for the lads. We even tried out the complimentary bean-to-cup coffee machine which was very nice. Lynne and Andrew then headed off as they had lots to do before departing from the marina in the morning – we spent a few hours doing downloads in the Ocean Club’s ‘business lounge’ which had surprisingly fast wifi so we made the most of it. In the evening we headed out into town and to La Tabella Trattoria for dinner. First, though, we had a drink in the Pub next door which was manically busy before going to our table in the restaurant.

Our table in the restaurant was on the pavement overlooking the shoreline – very nice.

We really enjoyed our dinner and even had three courses – although, have to say, the meal could have done with being a bit hotter. But the deserts were amazing, the service was very good and the wine delicious – with thanks to Carolyn and Ron for their generous contribution to Richard’s birthday celebrations. We stayed put until the restaurant closed around 9pm (as people in Australia eat ridiculously early with dinner service often starting at 5pm).

We then walked down the street looking for a place to have a night cap – the Pub remained very busy and we weren’t that impressed by their live music that evening. We came across this steakhouse / bar called KCs which also had live music so we popped in there – it was pretty busy with a relatively older crowd – and we found a seat and listened. The guy was great, very versatile with a really good voice. We had a lot of fun people watching and I even got up and danced a few times! Around midnight we returned to Morphie….

Saturday morning we headed over to the next pier to help SV Mischief cast off.

They were going to the fuel dock so we climbed on board to help them with that manoeuvre only to find that the boat on the fuel dock was still sitting there…so we stooged….and then we were told that a very large superyacht was going to be leaving so could we keep clear so we moved around the corner out of the way and carried on stooging. After he had left we pulled back around to the fuel dock only to find a motorboat had slipped onto it quickly despite us shouting at him that we were next in line! So we had to change all the lines over and pull into another fuel dock on the other side of the marina which, because of the wind direction, was actually going to be quite difficult to depart from so not a happy crew! Lynne did a brilliant job on the helm despite all this going on around her but was definitely not happy when the motorboat captain came over and apologised to Andrew but not her!

After they were refuelled we helped them off the dock and then walked up to the Garden Bar and Bistro. The intention had been to have breakfast out but, by now, it was 12.30 pm and we were starving so decided to have lunch….and a hair of the dog…. And that was where we stayed for the rest of the afternoon as Richard declared it his birthday weekend and we went a bit crazy! Great food and good fun but straight to bed once we got back onboard LOL.

Sunday we had planned to go to the pool but we were both a little under the weather – no sympathy, completely self-inflicted – so decided to have a recovery day on board. And so we just relaxed, read books, watched movies and literally did nothing.

Monday we headed to the Coral Sea Resort along the boardwalk.

It was pretty busy when we got there but we were lucky to get sunbeds under the slatted cover so enjoyed a lovely day by the pool. We did have some lunch but this was decidedly expensive and below average so won’t be eating there again! The winds had picked up significantly during the day and I watched one boat in the anchorage which I was sure was dragging….later on, the owners came back on board, and immediately picked up anchor and reset, so guess I was right! The anchorage was looking particularly rough and nasty again.

Later in the afternoon the heavens opened so we took to the bar and had a drink before packing up and returning to Morphie for another quiet night in.

Tuesday morning we headed to the resort and pool again and enjoyed another lovely day relaxing and bobbing.

On the way back – around 4pm as forecast – the skies darkened and the storm clouds built up.

We ducked into Sorrento to get some shelter and sat out the thunderstorm there – didn’t seem that close although the thunder was so loud it did make me jump every time…. So we had to have a selfie (ignore my post-swimming hairdo LOL).

Check out these holidaymakers on their balcony during the storm!

Eventually we returned to Morphie and had another quiet night down below. At this point we picked up the news that a charter catamaran had been hit by lightning. These boats are moored on balls just outside the marina entrance when not on charter. So very very close to us! Phew….

This morning, Wednesday, and there is a severe weather warning about dangerous thunderstorms all day with ‘gorilla’ hail forecast for the whole of the coast. It is incredibly hot and humid! So people are being warned to stay undercover and to get their cars out of the open as this type of hail is potentially life-threatening and certainly damaging for property. So we have decided to stay on board today just in case one of these storms does actually come through this area. We had our first thunderstorm at 7am this morning, there has been the odd sharp rain squall come through. The clouds are building and it is clearly very unstable out there right now as the wind has picked up and we can hear it whistling through the rigging. Fingers crossed that these storms don’t come too close!

Tomorrow we have a marina courtesy car for two hours so we are going to be doing a provisioning run as we plan to leave here on Sunday to continue south. There is, however, the chance of some strong winds from the wrong direction on Tuesday so we’ll probably have to just sit that out on anchor somewhere….. We are enjoying our time in Coral Sea Marina and definitely making the most of the lovely facilities here and feel relieved that this stormy weather has come through whilst here and not out on anchor.

To keep Morphie legal in Australia, we have just extended our Australian Border Force control permit for the final period, so she can remain here until October 2022 – which is the maximum time allowed. So, at that point, we either have to import her to continue cruising in Australia (5% import duty + 10% GST) or leave the country. Boats have already left to go to Indonesia (which is now open) or further afield (such as the Maldives) but the cyclone season is almost upon us and we certainly don’t fancy going to a third-world country (who still have Covid problems). So, in these uncertain times, we know that our circumnavigation will be effectively coming to an end here in the southern hemisphere. This is sad but inevitable, especially after Richard’s heart attack and both of us now needing to have access to regular medication and check-ups. We continue to hope that New Zealand will open its borders again so we could return there and bumble around the nearby islands for a while – but that is looking increasingly unlikely for cruising yachts in the near future. We had to inform our yacht insurance company of our cruising plans for the next year (in preparation for a November renewal) so we have declared the East Coast of Australia again. We are now closer to the point of having to make a decision about what we are going to do going forward. The options are limited and we just have to go through the pros and cons of each approach and adapt them as more information becomes available.

Anyway, enough of all that, hope you are all well and sending lots of love and hugs. So today’s Australian cutie is a baby wombat and mum….just to finish on a smile.

Bye for now, Jan

Exploring the Whitsunday Islands

Wednesday (6 October) we left our overnight mooring ball at Stonehaven Bay, Hook Island, and moved around to Butterfly Bay on the north coast. This is a no-anchoring zone so we picked up another mooring ball and were settled by lunchtime having done a huge passage of 4.25 miles LOL. And, as anticipated, we no longer had any phone / internet coverage so I was glad to have blogged before we left.

Sitting there quietly bobbing on our anchor ball we had a turtle visitation which was lovely.

Then we watched three sea eagles swooping and swirling and fighting in the sky then suddenly one plummeted into the water. The sea eagle started trying to get aloft but was obviously water logged and couldn’t manage it. So we started to get the dinghy ready to go into the water to attempt a rescue. At this point another dinghy came out trying to help with a net but then, luckily, a marine parks landing craft came into the bay and took over the rescue. He lowered his ramp into the water near the sea eagle but it started to swim away clearly frightened. Thankfully the marina parks guys were determined to get him to safety and eventually they had him on the boat with a blanket over his head to calm him before they took him off to dry land. Was very relieved for the poor bird!

During all this excitement, we were being bothered by March flies (large horseflies) who are blood suckers with a prominent proboscis. Yuck! Very annoying (and painful when they get you) so we spent much of the time trying to keep them away. Later on, we decided not to bother snorkelling so headed out for a bit of a dinghy explore instead, enjoyed another turtle visitation, checked out a rather large neighbour and even spotted some wild mountain goats. Back on board we had a movie night although it did get a bit rolly overnight.

Thursday morning it would have been Mum’s 91st birthday – she was such a big part of our lives we both continue to miss her a lot. RIP Mum, love you so much.

At 9.30 am having had a leisurely breakfast in the cockpit, we headed back around the corner to Black Island and were lucky enough to find a vacant mooring ball. So we dropped dink and headed over to explore One Foot Island first. Quite spectacular scenery in this part of the world…..

Afterwards we headed off to explore Black Island.

By this time we had been slightly longer than the two hour limit on the mooring ball so we quickly got ourselves back on board and dropped the ball for someone else to enjoy this area. Motoring away in very light airs we decided to continue down the west coast of Hook Island and came across Cave’s Cove which had a single mooring ball free for the night. Excellent! This has to be one of our favourite spots we have found this season….just beautiful….

Later on we decided to go ashore to our own private beach for sundowners but found the way blocked by rocks with no easy access – so we headed further down the bay to the other small beach near the trawler behind us but this was blocked too. Oh well, never mind. The people on MV Turtle waved at us and we headed over to say hi – and they then invited us on board for sundowners. As we had supplies with us we gratefully accepted and had a really nice few hours with them. A fun time had by all.

Friday morning we left Cave’s Cove and travelled through the Hook Passage which goes between the bottom of Hook Island and the top of Whitsunday Island. We had timed this to go through one hour before high tide so there was some current / overfalls and eddies at the exit but nothing too bad or uncomfortable. We then worked our way down the east coast of Whitsunday Island and pulled into Tongue Point. SV Island Girl were already in the bay so on our way ashore we went by their boat to say hello.

Going ashore we had to navigate some rocks on the beach as the tide was falling. We then made the trek up the 360 steps to the Hill Inlet Lookout and were the only people there – absolutely stunning and well worth the trip although my legs probably wouldn’t agree LOL.

We then returned to dink who by now, was even harder aground than when we left so had to navigate even more rocks to get back out into the bay passing through the navigational withies very slowly as it was getting shallower by the minute. Thankfully we made it out and back to Morphie for another quiet night on board.

Saturday we left Tongue Point and went down to Whitehaven Beach passing close to Hill Inlet enroute. We had a lovely time sunbathing, people watching and bobbing at Whitehaven before then inviting Mike, Karen and Dudley (yes Dudley not Douglas as I reported last blog – oops!) on board for sundowners. Had another lovely evening with them.

Sunday we spotted someone departing their mooring ball at Chalkies over on Haslewood Island (where we had hoped to have visited yesterday) so we quickly picked up anchor and headed over. Annoyingly we were chased down by a charter catamaran who drove his boat hard and fast so won the race and took the ball – so we stooged around for a little while to see if anyone else would leave – and after about 15 minutes we managed to snaffle a ball. Was very happy as this is not a good anchoring spot. Funnily enough our mooring ball did not have a time limit on it and, checking out the boats around us, it was clear that they were staying for 24 hours at a time. So we decided to do the same….

In the afternoon we headed ashore and the family from the catamaran – who were on the beach when we arrived – quickly departed. Think they might have been a bit embarrassed by their behaviour earlier….. So we had the beach pretty much to ourselves. The water was a bit warmer than the day before and we enjoyed a bobbing afternoon ashore. We didn’t realise that the sand flies were out and about until we got back to find we had both been bitten…oh well, never mind…. Oh yes, as we left the beach, the catamaran family returned to play – obviously trying to avoid us LOL. We had had an absolutely lovely day.

Monday morning we timed our trip through the Solway Passage which runs between Whitsunday Island and Haslewood Island – so were under way early at 7.40 am to get the best conditions through this area which can be a bit tricky if you get it wrong. Thankfully all good for us this time although continue to be surprised by these swirling waters as we come through them. As we came through the Passage we spotted a large trawler Rous Explorer hard aground on the rocks – oops! The chart here is quite detailed so obviously they got caught out either by a tide or wind change. Hopefully they were OK as we didn’t hear any urgent call outs on the VHF.

We arrived into Turtle Bay at the south end of Whitehaven Island and enjoyed the scenery. We had planned to go ashore in the afternoon but neither of us felt like it so we just had a lazy day on board and used the opportunity to put the phone up the mast to get some internet coverage after a few days offline. Later on we were joined by a few other boats but there was plenty of room in this wide-open bay. We then had a quiet night on board.

This morning, Tuesday, we picked up anchor and came around Hamilton and Dent Islands towards the mainland, picking up a mooring ball at a little bay on South Molle Island. There is a scrubby beach ashore so we are not planning on exploring – tonight’s stop was really just to stage for our return to the Coral Sea Marina tomorrow morning. So having a relaxing day aboard.

So that’s about it from us for the moment. We are looking forward to some marina time in Airlie Beach over the next 10 days or so. It’s Richard’s birthday on Friday so we have booked a table in a nice Italian restaurant to celebrate his 64th trip around the sun. We hope that everyone remains safe and well and looks after themselves. We love you and miss you all. So to make you smile here is this week’s Australian cutie, a dingo puppy. Bye for now


Magnetic Island, Cape Gloucester and Hook Island

Thursday (30 September) morning, after another rocking and rolling sort of night onboard, the winds and swells finally abated and it became much more comfortable. So we took the opportunity to go ashore, to get rid of our rubbish, and hoped to treat ourselves to some coffee and a piece of cake. But the cafes were closing (it was around 2pm) so we ended up having lunch at the tavern instead.

The food was average at best – which was a shame – so we walked to the end of the road to purchase ice creams and enjoyed sitting on the foreshore whilst we devoured them.

Whilst we were out we checked out the latest Queensland Covid contact tracing list as some had just been published for Townsville – luckily we had not been to any of the establishments at the times / dates listed. Phew! We then returned to Morphie checking out our neighbours before settling down to a movie night on board.

Friday we were preparing to leave Magnetic Island so Richard did engine checks while I got the passage plan saved into the plotter. And we both tidied the boat up ready for an overnight run, including pre-cooking our evening meal. And before you ask, whatever happened to our resolution never to go on a passage on a Friday?!? Not sure we even thought about it to be honest LOL.

It was cloudy and drizzly day with very little wind so, as we had to motor anyway, we decided to make water to start with so got that running while the engine was warming up. We picked up anchor at 10.15 am and headed south toward Cape Gloucester.

At lunchtime we had a couple of ships running parallel with us but they were of no concern as shipping lanes are well defined on this part of the coast and we were not planning anything other than crossing them at various points of the journey. At 2pm we turned the watermaker off and by 5pm we were eating dinner in the cockpit. Just before 6pm the sun went down and gave us a glorious red sky which mingled with some fires burning on the mainland – obviously controlled burns rather than anything more sinister.

We then started our overnight three-hourly shifts with me taking the first 6-9pm. After the sun had gone down it was an intense black night with no star cover and, suddenly, I’ve got the company of four prawn boats. They go fast, go slow, change direction at any time and are lit up so brightly you can’t see their navigation lights and, of course, they don’t have AIS so you can’t track them. So I started to track them via radar and was doing OK until I got a “dangerous radar target warning alarm” of a potential collision as one of the boats turned towards me so I called Richard to help me. Suffice to say he wasn’t impressed that I needed assistance! Anyway, eventually the danger passed with a couple passing ahead of us and a couple passing behind. Phew…. Was glad when that shift was over.

Richard then had an uneventful few hours and I came back on shift just as we approached Abbot Point which is a major coal loading depot. I had been expecting this to be quiet at night – but it was clearly fully operational with six ships sitting at anchor with lots of lights on waiting for their turn with one being filled up on the wharf. AIS is definitely my friend in these circumstances as I was able to keep an eye on them all (including the two tug boats) and cross the shipping channel without any problems. Made for an interesting shift! To get the idea of the scale of this operation, check out this picture I found online.

By the time I came back on shift again we were approaching Cape Gloucester on a completely flat and calm sea and had anchor down by 6.20 am on Saturday having covered 111 miles.

Once secure we went down below, got cleaned up, and caught up on our sleep for a few hours. In the afternoon we headed ashore to the Cape Gloucester Eco Resort and had a couple of drinks and listened to the songster.

We could look out to sea to watch Morphie at anchor so was quite chilled. Then, like a switch had been thrown, the wind picked up and the swell started and Morphie started nodding viciously.

Well, we had had a couple of drinks so we weren’t going to think about moving on, so looked like we have another potentially uncomfortable night ahead. Oh well, never mind. But Morphie was holding her own on anchor so we decided to stay out and enjoyed the next act before the final act, who was the best of them all. So was a lovely afternoon.

We then headed back to Morphie and got back on board as quickly as we could and got dink straight back onto the arch as we could see him going under the stern in the mayhem. But, funnily enough, in the cockpit the movement wasn’t anywhere near as bad as we had anticipated from shore and we were actually happy to stay put. As there were no other boats around we put out more anchor chain to keep us secure and settled down. By the time the sun went down the sea had calmed, the wind had died, and it was back to a glassed-out anchorage again. So we had a lovely night’s sleep after all.

We awoke on Sunday just as the rocking and rolling started again so we decided to move on and picked up anchor and motored around Shag Islet and into the Gloucester Passage where there were other boats sheltering from the conditions. We decided we would stay in this protected spot too so made sure we were out of the channel and dropped our hook – having travelled a huge 1.82 miles. As we started to anchor we spotted another Island Packet yacht in the anchorage – SV Island Girl an IP 380 – whom we had met in Great Keppel Island on our way north. They were actually also in Townsville at the same time as us but had gone on a road trip so we never caught up with them there. We got ourselves settled in and Mike and Karen came by to say hi – so we arranged to go to Montes resort for lunch to have a catch up with them later.

So just before 1pm we headed over to Montes in dink and caught up with them in the bar – we had some cold plates for lunch and had a really social afternoon. Was really lovely. Back on board for a movie night and the anchorage was so calm it was like being tied into a marina so we had a very good sleep.

Monday morning we headed back (in dink) to the Cape Gloucester resort to get rid of some rubbish and have a coffee. We were very surprised, particularly as it was a Bank Holiday, to find both Montes and Cape Gloucester closed for the day! Oh well, no coffee for us, but at least we disposed of our trash.

In the afternoon we headed ashore to the nearby beach to clean dink and planned to have sundowners with Mike and Karen. Dink got the spa treatment, we even polished him off with a UV Protector spray. We had just finished when Mike, Karen and Douglas the dog came ashore to meet us. By now the horseflies were buzzing around, being incredibly annoying and I got bitten a couple of times – so we decided it would be more comfortable onboard so decamped back to SV Island Girl for sundowners (and doggie cuddles) instead. Had been another nice day.

Tuesday morning, at 7 am, we were picking up our anchor and motor sailing under genoa downwind whilst we made water. SV Island Girl followed us out and started to sail – trying out lots of different sail configurations to get up some speed in the very light airs – and here is a picture of them wing-on-wing behind us.

At 10 am we turned the watermaker off, turned off the motor and sailed along with the main and the genoa as the wind – although still very light – had switched so we were now on a nice beam reach. We went slowly along and enjoyed the ride. By 1pm we had picked up a marine national parks mooring ball in Stonehaven Bay, Hook Island, having sailed 26 miles. The anchorage is beautiful with boulders coming out of the abundant growth – completely deserted, nothing here, but just lovely.

We enjoyed our afternoon in the cockpit watching the mooring ball shenanigans of the charter boats as they started to fill up the anchorage later in the afternoon. We were also very surprised to see people snorkelling along the shore at 5pm – that’s shark activity time here in Australia – thankfully they came back with all their arms and legs intact LOL. We sat on the coach roof for an hour or so at the end of the day so that we could really enjoy the spectacular sunset before dinner and another movie night.

This morning, Wednesday, we remain at Stonehaven checking out our new very large neighbour with all the toys….

We are thinking about where to go next but, as we don’t expect to get internet coverage in our next anchorages, I am making the most of a reasonable signal here to blog before we move on later today. Looking forward to exploring more secluded and beautiful anchorages over the next week or so before we return to the fancy Coral Sea Marina in Airlie Beach for doctors / prescriptions and to celebrate Richard’s birthday!

So there was some news in Australia this week with Scott Morrison announcing that the international borders will reopen in November – but only for those states that are 80% vaccinated – and, the bit that was missing from much of the news coverage was that the borders are only reopening for Australian residents / citizens with home quarantine now allowed for the double vaccinated (rather than the compulsory hotel quarantine that is the regime at the moment).

So the situation becomes more confused as time passes rather than real clarity. So, trying to make sense of the new rules, it means we can visit my nephew in New South Wales but are not allowed to cross the interstate border to return to Morphie in Queensland. My nephew is not allowed to visit us in Queensland but he will be able to fly to and from the UK (from Sydney). We can fly to the UK but are not allowed to return to Australia. There are elections coming up here so guess many of these ‘announcements’ may actually be political sound bites….. Anyway, enough of all that, hope all our friends and family are safe and well and here is an Australian cutie to make you smile.

Bye for now, Jan