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