Friday 15 January 2016

Goodbye to the Tropics – Great Keppel Island to Bundaberg

November 29 – December 2, 2015

We spent three nights and two very relaxing days anchored off Great Keppel Island’s Long Beach. Marc spent some time exploring a couple of the island’s walking tracks while we organized ourselves a very full schedule of not a lot. Perfect.

On the second afternoon we did manage to get ourselves over to Seabreeze for a very enjoyable sundowners session with David, Nerida, Rick plus a few other cruisers anchored in the bay. It was also a chance to say ‘See you later’ to the trio as they were leaving the next morning while we had decided to wait an extra day before pushing further south. They had been great cruising companions for the last few days and no doubt our tracks will cross again.

Sundowners on Seabreeze at Great Keppel Island

When we did weigh anchor it was an early start again as we had another long passage ahead of us for a day hop. Our anchorage for the night was going to be in Pancake Creek almost Seventy Nautical Miles away. While the creek mouth is well marked and can be entered at night it’s not something we’d do by choice so leaving before sunrise improved our chances of arriving before sunset.
By the time the sun was up so was enough wind to sail.
Initially we needed to motor sail in the still conditions but soon after the sun made an appearance so did around 10 knots of North Easterly breeze filling our sails and providing us with a nice square reach.  

Very happy with 6.1 knots of boat speed in 9.3 knots ow wind.

Before long we were passing Hummocky Island which had been one of our most favorite anchorages on the way north. Check our blog about it here Naked Nirvana - Hummocky Island We would have loved to have been able to stop in the island’s delightful bay again but it faces north and would have been very uncomfortable in the nor-easter.

Hummocky Island was calling to us loudly but the anchorage there is only good in winds from the Southern quadrant.

The next major landmark we left astern was Cape Capricorn and its picturesque lighthouse and, reluctantly, crossed over the Tropic of Capricorn. There were long faces all around as we officially exited the tropics. (For now. We will be back to stay as soon as possible.)

Karen sketching Cape Capricorn as we depart the tropics

Our melancholy mood was blown away very shortly afterwards when we landed a nice spotted mackerel just in time for lunch. Karen quickly converted most of the fish into mackerel steaks but within ten minutes of being caught, the tail section was on the BBQ for lunch. You can’t get much fresher than that.
11.30am Marc and Karen show off the nice spotted mackerel that had just been landed
11.40am - Rob has the tail portion of the fish in the BBQ and baking nicely
12.05 - Mackerel lunch is served with a nice spicy salsa Karen whipped up. You can't get fresher than that.

The wind held in the 10-15 knot range all day. The boat loved the conditions and cruised nicely above six knots on our long, single tack all the way from Great Keppel to Clews Point and the mouth of Pancake Creek. The tide was running out colliding with the northerly wind and swell which made the waves stand up sharply as we turned into the wind to drop our main and mizzen. We then had a fairly slow trip into the creek and up to our anchorage motoring against current.

Our anchorage well inside the sandy channels of Pancake Creek

We were securely anchored up well before sunset. It was a good thing to as we just had time for our traditional post passage beers and to BBQ some of our newly acquired mackerel steaks before the sandflies began to make their presence known on deck. We are very thankful the boat is fully screened and we can zip down our clears totally enclosing the cockpit. No bug worries amongst the mangroves for us.

Great Keppel Island to Pancake Creek – 68.2 Nautical Miles – 11 Hours 34 Minutes 
Average Speed 5.9 Knots – Highest Speed 8.2 Knots
The entrance to Pancake Creek is well marked which is a good thing as the channels between the sandbanks are narrow.

Pancake Creek sunsets are always spectacular.

The North Easterly winds were predicted to last one more day before being replaced by a strong South Easterly system expected to produce near gale force winds so our stay in Pancake creek was restricted to overnight. By now our early morning departures were wearing thin on some of the crew (ie. Karen and Marc) but Captain Rob knew the trick to getting all hands on deck. The smell of strong coffee brewing in the galley would be wafting through the boat before he made any attempt to rouse anyone.

A single dose of caffiene administered immediately on rising was followed by the promise of a second once the anchor was up and the boat underway. It proved to be the perfect strategy to prevent a mutiny and we had cleared the creek and rounded Clews Point by the time the sun was above the horizon.

Clews Point rounded and on our way to Bustard Head
Bustard Head Lighthouse

We carefully threaded our way between Inner and Middle Rocks beneath the Bustard Head lighthouse and set our course for Burnett Heads Sixty Nautical Miles Distant. This morning the wind was blowing from North North East aft of our beam. We elected to experiment with leaving the mizzen in its bag in the downwind conditions and compliment the full mainsail with our asymmetric spinnaker.  Up she went and we were soon making good speed despite the very modest wind strength.

We love flying this baby.

We did altar course briefly to a square reach giving us the opportunity to directly compare the performance of the spinnaker/mainsail combination compared to the previous day’s genoa/mainsail. Let’s hear it for the asymmetric spinnaker which was a knot faster despite having less wind strength. No wonder we love that sail. That was about the full extent of the trips excitement for most of the day as we ran South East for hour after hour.

The spinnaker was faster in less wind. What more could we ask.

The wind strengthened mid afternoon and began shifting towards the East so we dropped the spinnaker and unfurled the genoa. It kept on swinging and what had been an easy downwind run through most of the day turned into a close hauled beat to windward to clear the shallows off the mouth of the Burnett River. It was clear the coming strong South Easterly system was going to arrive earlier than expected so we were very pleased to tie up nice and secure in a pen at the Port of Bundaberg Marina just inside the mouth of the river. You couldn’t ask for a much nicer spot to sit out some crap weather.

Pancake Creek to Burnett River – 65.1 Nautical Miles – 11 Hours 44 Minutes 
Average Speed 6.1 knots – Highest Speed 8.3 Knots

We were nice and snug in Port of Bundaberg Marina before the strong South Easterlies arrived.

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