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