Shaw Island, where we’ve taken refuge because of a strong wind warning here in the southern Whitsunday islands. Facing west, the full moon. Facing east, the advancing front. We awoke in dead calm, but within 30 minutes the wind is in the 20s and strengthening. We are well hooked along with our six anchorage mates, making coffee and planning a day of reading and cooking.
We boat people are very good at not poisoning the oceans with our trash but we sure do like to leave our mark in various places. We’ve been looking forward to visiting Middle Percy Island where an A-frame structure houses a constantly growing collection of yacht signatures on all manner of boards, driftwood or other media.
The local residents keep bees and sell the honey from a display with an honesty box. We bought a few jars for the pantry.
We meant to stay and watch the sun go down from the beach but a wicked swell started moving into the anchorage and we thought it prudent to get the dinghy off the beach before we got swamped.
By morning the swell was so bad we left at first light and pointed the boat back toward the mainland when we learned some foul weather was moving in. We took shelter at Digby Island overnight, one of those anchorages you swear will be miserable but ended up being calm and restful.
As we approached MacKay the AIS reminded us of Panama with so many ships waiting to come into the harbor, but at least here they were all anchored and we didn’t have to dodge them in a shipping lane.
We took a berth at the marina to wait out the weather and spend our social security checks on coffee and eggs Benedict. As you do.
As we made our way up the Sandy Straits we learned that Sue Owen of Macushla has died after a long struggle with cancer.
We met her and Mark early in our life afloat and we immediately became fast friends. We shared sundowners and meals in many anchorages, celebrated birthdays and holidays, sought each other’s company in good times and bad. So many of our best memories include them, in particular our magical sojourn at Minerva Reef on the way to New Zealand. She was warm, funny, compassionate and beautiful. We will never forget her.
We dropped anchor in the calm Burnett River and made Dark and Stormies to toast our dear friend. There’s a curry simmering on the stove in honor of the many delicious curry dinners we enjoyed aboard Macushla in anchorages from St. Martin to New Zealand. Wish you were here, Sue.
As soon as we were able we left Scarborough for Mooloolaba, spent a couple of days patronizing our favorite gelato emporium, then continued our campaign northward.
After a day of motorsailing in very light wind directly behind us we knew we weren’t fast enough to get over the Wide Bay Bar and into the Sandy Straits by high tide and darkness, so just like last year we anchored overnight at Rainbow Beach. It’s rolly and not a restful anchorage, but a necessary evil in order to cross the hated bar in daylight and on the right tide.
Ideally you cross during the latter part of the incoming tide, but on that day it was also when the wind was predicted to pipe up from a doable 10-12 kts. on the beam to a decidedly uncomfortable 20-25 kts. We figured out how far we could push the entrance to beat the wind and timed it perfectly, with the wind just starting to increase dramatically during our last two miles into the straits. It also helped that the volunteer Coast Guard tracked us on AIS and talked us in. We never saw less than 11 ft. under the keel, but oh, some of the swells were a little sickening, especially watching the wild rolling of the boat that followed on our tail, and the breakers to the left of us.
No worries now. We’re just going to find a quiet anchorage, crack a few beers and bid a not-so-fond farewell to Wide Bay Bar forever. We won’t miss it at all.
By 08:30 our lines were eased and the morning sun began to peek out from behind Manly’s early morning dissipating clouds. The reason for such a civilized departure time was our goal just 25nm up the coast, still in Moreton Bay. Not without its hazards, the bay is huge but shallow with lots of things you can fetch up on if you’re not paying attention. The weather report looks good for sailing but we’ve heard that before.
First we thought we’d serpentine around Green Island and run the pass at St. Helena under power, where the water can get a little thin. As soon as we cleared St. Helena the breeze met us and we rounded up into the wind. With all standard sail flying I switched off Charlize, feeling that little tingle I always feel when the press of sail takes over.
This is just glorious in 9-15 kts of SE breeze doing 6-7kts. Soon we passed Mud Island and, in a first, we sailed right past the Brisbane ship channel where we usually turn and head up River to Brissie. Just a lazy sail past Bramble Bay in 25 feet of water now so no worries. Too soon, giving Castlereagh Point a wide berth, we entered Deception Bay where it gets seriously shallow very quickly.
Now Yours Truly doesn’t particularly care for creeping up closer and closer to a beach watching the depth sounder numbers get smaller and smaller and you’re never really sure about the state of the tides around here so at a certain point my courage ran out and we dropped the hook. With weather moving in we knew we hadn’t bought much protection from the expected 30kts of wind and the inevitable swell but I’d had enough. The problem is it’s said that waves will curve around a headland up to 30 degrees but my experience has been it’ll do more than that.
That night the squalls got well into the high twenties and we definitely weren’t in far enough to escape the worst of the swell so in the morning, after a rocky night, we decided to sneak in closer to Scarborough Marina, which friends in Manly told us was doable. Sometimes when they dredge out a channel they deposit the spoil right beside the channel, so if we approached the area in the channel, near where we wanted to anchor, we might not be able to cross over that suspected spoil area.
We came in beside the marked channel as far as we dared and dropped the hook, not as close as several catamarans had, but all that day we could hear it blowing but it hardly affected us. Like Bert Lahr used to say, “What have they got that I have not? Courage.”