Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Remote Paradise that is Pancake Creek

September 24-25, 2015

Pancake Creek has no bar to cross and the channel is well marked permitting entry day or night. Once inside it is also a very protected anchorage and simply a magnificent place to stay for a few days or longer. It is accessible only by boat or via a very serious trek on foot through the national park. There is no vehicular access to any point close, not even a macho man attracting 4WD track.

Our anchorage in Pancake Creek with Clew Point at top, Bustard Head at right and Aircraft Beach between them.
We had entered in the late afternoon near high tide with the creek appearing as a very, very wide river mouth. When we awoke next morning the tide was closer to low with the massive sand banks shining in the sunlight. Pelicans swam on the glassy water around Our Dreamtime and sea turtles regularly surfaced to take deep breath near us. It was magical sitting on the stern eating our breakfast of mackerel fillets caught the previous afternoon and soaking in our surroundings.

There's nothing better than a breakfast of fresh caught fish.
Huge sandbanks appearing as the tide runs out.

 
We had heard very promising stories about Pancake being well populated with mud crab so after breakfast we lowered the dinghy and prepared to see if we could entice a few into our crab pots. We were soon making our way past anchored neighbours upstream towards some very promising areas of mangroves. There were about ten boats spread around the spacious anchorage, enough for company but far from a crowd. Still, we decided to put our pots down way over the far side of the estuary, well away from everyone where we figured Mr and Mrs Mudcrab would be enjoying an undisturbed life.

Karen preparing the first two crab pots.

When the tide goes out it goes waaaayyyy out.
We put two pots down in water filled holes on the sand banks then discovered a small hidden creek lined with overhanging mangroves that held about a metre of water even at low tide. It had all the earmarks of being mud crab heaven so we were very confident of gaining a good catch overnight with the pair of pots we set in there.

From out at the dinghy the very shallow creek didn't look all that promising.

We quickly changed our minds once we took a walk to have a better look. It had all the trademarks of crab heaven.
The rest of the afternoon was spent doing what we do so well, a fair load of not much. With small bait fish surrounding the boat, we did decide we should drop a line in the water in case any larger fish wanted to donate its body for breakfast. It is safe to say it was a fairly casual form of fishing with lines dangling and paperback novels in hand. That was until there was a splash, from behind the boat followed by a thud and flap, flap, flap. Forget the fishing line. A good sized mackerel had just jumped out of the water and landed in our dinghy floating off the stern. Thank you very much! Next morning’s breakfast was now in hand. The people on the two boats nearest to us couldn’t believe our luck. If we didn’t have the fish in hand we would not have believed it ourselves. By next day it was the talk of the anchorage.


Exhibit A: The kamikaze mackerel.


Exhibit B: One innocent looking dinghy.
Karen just had time to fillet our kamikaze fish before sundowners time when the nibbles and wine came out and we sat in the cockpit doing a fair load of not much again except eat, drink and enjoy another remarkable sunset. This cruising life can be so strenuous.


The anchorage was far from crowded.
We were up early the next morning to retrieve our huge haul of crabs. Except there weren’t any.Zip. Zilch.  Not even a single undersized one to throw back. We were stunned. It was the very first time on Our Dreamtime that we have come up totally empty handed with our pots. To have it happen in what looked like and was reported to be perfect crab territory was more than disappointing. We later spoke to two other boaties in the anchorage who had put pots out with the same result. Either the place has been over fished by professional crabbers or the local muddies are very elusive.

Our Dreamtime swinging peacefully on her anchor
With the pots all packed away back on the boat, we headed ashore to walk up to the Bustard Head Lighthouse for a look. It’s a 2.8 kilometre walk through the bush up to the lighthouse. The trail is fairly easy walking and pleasantly lined with native grass trees and assorted wildflowers. As you climb towards the lighthouse reserve itself you get a fantastic view of Aircraft Beach which stretches from Clews Point at the mouth of Pancake Creek back to Bustard Head.


 



Aircraft Beach is magnificent and not a soul on it.
Except pelicans. There's always pelicans.
The lighthouse is now fully automated but an enthusiastic group of volunteers each spend a month at a time living onsite as caretakers of the restored keepers cottages and grounds. For a modest $10 fee they also conduct guided tours up the spiral stairs to the light. The views from the circular balcony are spectacular.

 
This prism has now been replaced by a more powerful light the size of a beer bottle
 
Looking back over Pancake Creek. Our Dreamtime is the yacht furthest to the right.

The view south to Round Hill Head and the Town of 1770.

North

The Inner, Middles and Outer Rocks off Bustard Head
The tour also includes a small museum established in one of the cottages and a very comprehensive rundown of the history of the place. It was established in 1868 and was in fact the very first lighthouse commissioned by the then fledgling colony of Queensland. (Cape Moreton lighthouse does predate it but was built when the whole colony was New South Wales).  The lighthouse itself was constructed in England of heavy steel sections. It was test assembled at the factory then all the numbered pieces unbolted and shipped over for reassembly. It was far from happy days for the early lighthouse keepers and their families with murders, drownings and disease claiming a number of lives. Most of the victims now rest in a small graveyard on site.


A nice model of HMS Endeavour that Cpt James Cook sailed past here in 1770 naming the Headland in the process.
We certainly enjoyed the tour and the walk back through the bush. We stopped along the way for Karen to do some sketching of some of the sights including an area where rising sea levels has seen what was previously an area of bush become a salt pan full of spectacularly shaped dead gum trees.

Karen sketching on the walk back from the lighthouse

 
We were invited by cruisers we met on the walk, Elaine and Andy for sundowners that afternoon on their catamaran Twoflower. It was a very pleasant way to cap off what had been a very enjoyable day far from normal civilisation.

Pancake Creek was really so quiet, peaceful and naturally beautiful that we would have loved to have stayed a few more days. However, we really wanted to push on into the tropics. With a favourable weather  forecast for the next day it was time to go. Pancake Creek is definitely in our plans for the return trip south though.

We’ve said all along that this was to be our shakedown cruise although we never expected to get shaken down this much. Here’s the report card.

What worked.

Our cunning dinghy fish trap.

What didn’t work.

Our crab pots

What we did right.

Stayed a couple of days in Pancake Creek. It’s beautiful.

How we screwed up.

Didn’t stay long enough.

Good night from Pancake Creek!

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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

On to Pancake Creek – underway again at last.

September 21-22, 2015

After a stay of 29 days in Port of Bundaberg Marina due to our recalcitrant transmission, we finally slipped the lines and moved away from the dock late morning on Monday the 21st. It was a very short trip though as all we did was drop anchor in the river just outside the shipping channel ready for an early departure just predawn next morning. It also provided us with a relaxing afternoon which we both enjoyed.
 
Dutch friends we made in the marina motored past  on 'King's Legend' on their way out to sail around the outside of Fraser Island and down to Mooloolaba before heading further South to contest this year's Sydney Hobart.
We did say we anchored 'just' outside the shipping channel.

Bundaberg turned on another stunning sunset over the river shortly followed by a short but spectacular sugar cane fire as they burnt off a field ready for harvest.  A huge ball of thick, acrid smoke rose about eighty to a hundred metres vertically into the still air until a very slight wind arose unfortunately blowing the dark pall directly over the river and our boat. We closed every porthole and zipped up the cockpit enclosure and watched helplessly as black leaf ash rained down all over the decks. So much for the nice clean boat we left the marina with.

Another stunning Bundaberg sunset

This sugarcane fire was spectacular but we could have done without all the ash falling on us.
We arose in the dark next morning and did our final preparations before upping the anchor as the Eastern sky began to lighten. Both the chain and anchor came out of the water caked in dark mud to join the previous evening’s black ash. Despite giving the deck hose on the bow a serious workout we knew we’d just have to live with the grime on the decks until later.

 After clearing the channel we motored out into clear water, headed up into the wind to raise the main and mizzen and turned onto our course North towards our destination of Pancake Creek. The genoa was unfurled and at last we were underway again.

The early wind was a fairly light South Westerly but was strong enough to keep the sails filled and provide a little boost as we motor-sailed in the early light with a one to one and half metre following swell. The sun gained height in the sky and  things got a little messy as the breeze swung through the South and then directly aft from the South East as predicted. Fortunately the weather guys got it wrong and it kept swinging more to the East giving us a reasonable wind angle for a long, uneventful run up to Round Hill Head.


It's so good to finally but under sail again heading north.
Swells splashing up on the rocks of Round Hill Head

It was here that the monotony was broken by a nice school mackerel taking our trailed lure. It was quickly aboard, cleaned, filleted and in the fridge for the next morning’s breakfast. Thank you fish.

First fish of the trip.


We would have liked to have been able to stop in 1770 but the entrance is very shallow which would only allow us to cross on the high tide and we had been told that there is now very little available room to anchor in any reasonable depths in the creek.

1770 certainly looked as crowded as we'd been lead to believe.
Crossing the bay from Round Hill Head to Bustard Heads we sailed through yet another huge patch of disgusting sludge that we have been coming across all too often. We believe it’s ballast water discharged from bulk carriers before they take on their loads of coal etc but whatever, it’s awful.

Yuk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It stretched for hundreds of metres on the other side of the boat.
Bustard Head Lighthouse
We carefully picked our way through rocks off Bustard Heads. They are clearly marked on the charts and quite visible in daylight particularly with a decent South East Swell breaking over them. Down came all sail and we motored in through the narrow channels of Pancake Creek. Three boats were anchored not far inside the mouth but, as we were planning on staying a couple of days, we went further in and were rewarded with a very flat, peaceful spot to anchor off a palmed lined, white sand beach.
 
We were able to anchor in good holding just off the beach. Very nice.

Add caption
 
After securing the boat we relaxed with our traditional after passage cold beers.  Karen then produced an amazing Asian Duck Breast Noodle Salad for dinner with a nice cold bottle of Sav Blanc while Pancake Creek provided a stunning sunset.  

We normally treat ourselves to a cold beer once the anchor goes down after a passage.
Yum!!!! You can see many of Karen's recipes on the Our Galley page of the blog
 
We may not quite be in the tropics yet but it’s starting to feel like it.

Burnett Heads to Pancake Creek: 65.0 Nautical Miles – 10 Hours 32 Minutes
Average Speed 6.2 Knots – Highest Speed 7.5knots
We’ve said all along that this was to be our shakedown cruise although we never expected to get shaken down this much. Here’s the report card

What Worked

The rebuilt transmission, new water pump and aft head. Yay!!!!!!!!!!

What didn’t work.


Nothing – touch wood.

What we did right.


Went to Pancake Creek. It’s beautiful and very sheltered in most conditions.

How we screwed up.


It’s nice to report no screw ups for this chapter of our blog.



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We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.



 


Thursday, 17 September 2015

We’re ready to go after an unplanned month in the Port of Bundaberg


September 19, 2015

So how was Bundaberg?
Other than the frustration of being dock bound with a broken boat when we should have been sailing amongst Australia’s best tropical islands, Bundaberg has been a very pleasant stop. The Port of Bundaberg marina has proved to be the friendliest and most accommodating we have encountered anywhere in our travels in Australia, Asia or Europe. Gary from Marine Torque here at the port performed the work in our engine room. He came highly recommended by other cruisers and we can only echo their praise. He was helpful, efficient and reasonable with his charges. Best of all, he was very reliable. Our pet hate is tradespeople who don’t turn up when he or she say they will. A more complete review of the marina appears at the end of this blog.

It's a very friendly atmosphere at Port of Bundaberg. Rob with Chris & Sally from Sea Whiskers tucking into a feast of fresh seafood with hosts John & Kathy on Mystic Moon. Karen was behind the camera for a change.

Overall the weather has been good and we’ve made many new friends here. The city of Bundaberg itself offers all the amenities and services you could want while the Shalom Farmers markets held each Sunday is THE place to go for an abundance of fresh, just picked produce direct from the growers at very good prices. Playing tourists, we visited both the turtle information centre at Mon Repos Beach and the Bert Hinkler Aviation Museum and found them both excellent. We never got around to making our planned visit to the Bundaberg Rum distillery for a tour but everyone assured us that it is well worth a look – and taste.
The Hinkler aviation museum in Bundaberg is excellent.
 
Yep! Bundaberg has been good – but we still can’t wait to get out of here.

Yesterday we warmed the engine, engaged forward, slipped the lines and left berth Purple 13 at Port of Bundaberg Marina for the first time in 25 days. It felt good, very good in fact. We’d love to say that we were finally on our way, continuing on towards the tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef but we are cautious people. This was still to be a small sea trial up the Burnett River. We’d run the motor and transmission at the dock the day before but we wanted to make absolutely sure our repairs were performing properly before we consider heading back to sea.
While in Bundaberg, along with having the transmission reconditioned and the water pump replaced we’d also had to replace the aft head when the electric pump motor on it died. Crazy as it may seem, a replacement electric motor was $280 yet a complete toilet (including the motor) was $219. Go figure. OK. If the old superstition of things always going wrong in threes is correct, at least we’d completed our trio of troubles so hopefully all would be fine now. Karen says she’s not superstitious but still suggested that maybe being moored in berth Purple 13 may have had something to do with our run of misfortune.

It was such a relief to be moving across the water again and we were starting to relax and look forward to a little sightseeing trip up the river. That was until the engine suddenly dropped in revs and stopped just a couple of hundred metres from the marina. Suspecting an airlock in the fuel system, we steered the boat out of the shipping channel while she still had some headway on and dropped anchor. The engine had been moved during the transmission work so we began working along all the fuel lines to find if any may have been loosened or damaged or valves bumped open to create an air leak into the fuel system. After bleeding the air from the system the motor started and ran fine but the temperature rose more quickly than normal. A deeper investigation revealed that the coolant was not circulating through the engine.  We eventually found the culprit was an airlock under the thermostat which caused it to remain closed. That fixed, we refired the engine and all was fine, even after an hour and a half of pottering around in the river to give everything a good test.
Heading back to the marina Rob decided to see if we could move to an outside berth that would be easier to manoeuvre the boat in and out of. The idea of changing berths appealed to Karen however, when we tied up in Black 13, she suggested she wasn’t sure it was an improvement.

We now have an operational boat again and can restart our trek to tropical climes as soon as the current bout of adverse winds abate.  BRING IT ON!!!!!
 
We’ve said all along that this was to be our shakedown cruise although we never expected to get shaken down this much. Here’s the report card

What worked
The lines that held us to the dock.

What didn’t work.

Transmission, water pump and aft head.

What we did right.

We sought recommendations from local boaters regarding reliable tradespeople and good suppliers which proved invaluable.

We didn’t take any shortcuts with repairs and opted for full overhaul by an old school marine transmission specialist well versed with our era Borg Warner.

We sea-trialled the repairs rather than just running things at the dock and saying ‘She’ll be right.’

How we screwed up.

We thought because a container on board we inherited from the previous owners said it was coolant it would be coolant inside. Imagine our surprise when we opened it to use and found it full of oil. So it was off in the dinghy to get more.

We never made it to the rum distillery. Tragic!

Strange we know but we expected this to contain coolant not oil.


 MARINA REVIEW: Port of Bundaberg Marina  *****

 

http://www.bundabergportmarina.com.au/


Weekly rate for our yacht (1m) – $260 AUD  (including GST, water, power and car parking)

 The marina is located just inside the mouth of the Burnett River and is very secure in all winds. The berths are very wide and most easily accessible. The marina staff are extremely friendly and helpful and will happily assist with berthing etc.

 There is a self serve fuel dock on sit and during our stay diesel was $1.27 per litre (same price as the service station in Bundaberg), There is a small but reasonably well stocked chandlery located in the marina and extensive marine services are available including sail maker, haul out and dry storage.. Bathroom facilities modern and clean. Coin operated laundry onsite. Myport WIFI available but not included in charges. Other facilities at the marina include a very popular restaurant/bar and  takeaway fish and chip shop. Cruisers Corner is a nice social hub for cruisers provided by the marina with BBQ, fridge, seating and a television.

 Ocean Pacific Seafoods is located next door to the marina offering exceptional fresh seafood and bait. They have a special for marina clients of a fresh platter for two with smoked salmon, two spanner crabs, two Moreton Bay bugs plus prawns for $30. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!


 An IGA supermarket, Post Office, Bakery, CafĂ© and Hotel are located in the township of Burnett Heads about a kilometre from the marina. The IGA and Hotel both provide a free shuttle bus for customers.

 The marina provides a free shuttle bus into the Bundaberg CBD about 20 minutes away Monday to Saturday and to the Farmers Markets on Sunday Morning.


The facilities and incredibly friendly, helpful nature of the staff sees us give our first ever Five Star ***** rating to this marina.

 
Cruisers Cove is a great amenity for the  local live aboards and visiting cruisers to meet and socialise.


 We love to receive comments on our blog from readers. If you do leave a comment and you also have a blog, please leave a link as well. We'd like to click over for a visit and leave you a comment too.

To stay right up to date with what we’re up to  and see lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail Facebook page at Dreamtime Sail
 https://www.facebook.com/DreamtimeSail/
If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway. 
We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.