Monday 31 October 2016

South around Capes Cleveland and Bowling Green to Cape Upstart

18 October 2016

These blogs of our cruising life are packed with reports and photos of fantastic sailing passages in South East Asia, the Mediterranean, and Australia, great food and drinks accompanied by brilliantly colourful sunsets, exploring wonderful new anchorages, cities, towns, villages, deserted islands, coral cays and reef systems, making new friends from all over the world and generally living the dream.  

But it’s not all fun. Sometimes the weather is really crap and, more often than we like,  we find ourselves hot, filthy and stressed fixing something on the boat that shouldn’t need fixing but broke, failed or blocked up at the worst possible time and which is always located in the worst possible place on the boat to get at. At least when the wind blows up , a stormhits or the steering breaks it provides interesting content to blog about.

Unfortunately we also have passages that can only be described as boring deliveries.  We rise up in the morning, get underway under motor and drone along all day with little or no wind and little of consequence to see or do until we eventually deliver Our Dreamtime to another anchorage closer to where we want to be.

The 67 nautical miles from Magnetic Island to Cape Upstart turned out to be eleven hours of just such a tedium.

The moon and lights of Picnic Bay jetty on Magnetic Island in the pre-dawn.
With such a long way to go it was always going to be a long day so we were up before the sun. We were rewarded with a glorious still morning in Picnic Bay and had hopes of a nice sail with a modest north east wind predicted to develop through the day.

Cape Cleveland in the distance was the first of our three capes for the day.
The sea remained calm and the air still as we motored across Cleveland Bay and Townsville disappeared astern before rounding Cape Cleveland with its lighthouse high on the granite headland two hours after lifting the anchor.  The dangers of Samander Reef lurking just under the surface south of the cape are normally easy to identify by the white of water breaking waves but on this occasion they were invisible with the sea’s surface almost glassed out.

Castle Hill and the city of Townsville disappearing astern.

Windless conditions as we motor past Cape Cleveland lighthouse.
Having reached our waypoint set almost half a mile clear, we successfully avoided any bumping against coral. We then fed the new heading to Ben & Gerry (our B&G auto-pilot) and settled back in the cockpit for three and a half hours as the boat drove itself in straight line over the next 21 mile leg to the low sand spit of Cape Bowling Green. Thank goodness we carry plenty of books on board. To be fair there was a little wind by now but it was under five knots blowing from just forward of the beam. Under sail alone, we may have been able to manage two knots or so if we’d been happy to spend the next day and half to cover our 67 miles.

Just enough air over the decks to fill the tightly sheeted in sails as we motor-sail along.

Not even the fish co-operated to break our boredom as our lures failed to attract as much as seaweed.
By the time we motored into it at six knots the apparent wind speed was around ten knots at an angle of about 35 degrees which was enough to fill tightly sheeted in stay, main and mizzen sails so at least we looked good. Mind you we never saw another soul until we rounded Bowling Green.

The low sand spit of Cape Bowling stretches for miles and seems to take forever to round.
Unbelievably the north bound boat we then passed was a catamaran called The Great South East that we had been berthed a few spots down from at East Coast Marina in Manly for two years. It may be a big ocean but it’s still a small world. Five hours down, another auto-pilot adjustment now completed and we ONLY had thirty one miles (about another five hours) to go. OK, excitement over, back to our books.

After not seeing a soul all day the only boat we finally came across was our ex-neighbour. Small world!
Thankfully, the breeze built a little in the mid-afternoon.  We turned the motor off and trimmed the sails to suit the new wind strength and direction. Adding the genoa to the stay, main and mizzen sails already up, we found we could manage just on four knots. Fourteen miles to go. Two hours motoring or three and half sailing. No contest. Sail wins.

On approach to Cape Upstart under sail at last.  It's nice when we can have all four of our white sails up.

Karen coping well with a good book.
It was much more pleasant reading our paperbacks in near silence as the low lands of the Burdekin River delta slid past of too starboard.

Picnic Bay, Magnetic Island to Cape Upstart - 67.0 Nautical Miles - 11 Hours 01 Minutes
Average Speed 6.1 Knots - Max Speed 7.7 Knots

We enjoyed a very peaceful night in the lee of Cape Upstart.
Our Dreamtime was successfully delivered to her overnight anchorage close to the high cliffs in the lee of Cape Upstart a bit before 5.00 PM.  We would have liked to have been able to spend a day exploring the beaches of Cape Upstart but the weather gurus were tipping 12-15 knots of easterly for the next day to be followed by over a week of strong south easterlies. We would have to travel another fifty miles to Cape Cloucester in the morning or stay at Cape Upstart until they blew through.

Anchored off one of Cape Upstart's many beaches.
So it would be just a very short stay at Cape Upstart and then off to Cape Gloucester but hopefully not as another delivery.

Good night from Cape Upstart.

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Saturday 29 October 2016

Magical Magnetic Island

17 October 2016

Magnetic Island is just  five miles (8 kilometres) offshore from Townsville making it a natural getaway for its citizens. Maggie, as it’s known locally, is a place we have fond memories of spending  a lot of time on during our years living in this tropical city during the 1980s. We were very keen to re-visit the island and see what had changed in the last 25 or so years.

The island is a haven for wildlife with over half its area National Park, which is mostly located on the steep hilly interior and rugged north-western side. There are over 800 koalas estimated to be present on the island. The highest point on the island is Mount Cook reaching 497 m (1,631 ft) above sea level. Magnetic Island is easily accessible from the mainland via both passenger and vehicular ferries and has effectively become a suburb of Townsville, with over 2,000 permanent residents.

Picnic Bay at Magnetic Island is picture perfect.
The name of the island came about because of the apparent "magnetic" effect it had on the ship's compass of Captain Cook as he passed the island when sailing up the east coast of Australia in 1770. People have since explored the general area of Magnetic Island with various instruments to discover what might have caused the effect that Cook reported, but nothing has been discovered.

The most popular anchorage on Magnetic Island is Horseshoe Bay on the northern side. It is wide, welcoming and well protected from the prevailing south easterly trade winds. However on the morning we were heading over from Townsville the forecast indicated modest northerlies strengthening through the evening so we elected to anchor in Picnic Bay on the south eastern end of the island.

We motored over to discover only one other boat anchored in the shallow bay. We took our time finding  a spot to anchor with suitable depth to keep us afloat during the low tide that night then went ashore to spend the rest of the day re-discovering Maggie.

Townsville to Picnic Bay, Magnetic Island – 5.1 Nautical Miles – 1 Hour 12 Minutes 
Average Speed 4.3 Knots Max Speed 6.1 Knots

When we lived here, Picnic Bay was the busiest place on the island as all the ferries used its long jetty. Since then a new harbour and marina built at Nelly Bay has taken over all that marine traffic transforming Picnic Bay into a very relaxed, quiet spot. With its long sand beach framed by massive granite boulders it is very beautiful.

Once a hive of ferry activity, Picnic Bay's jetty is now a mecca for fisherman and  kids jumping off into the clear water.

Our dinghy on the beach at Picnic Bay with Townsville just five miles distant.

Picnic Bay proved a very peaceful anchorage in a northerly.

There is a very good bus service on the island with a cheap all day ticket available. After a nice wander around Picnic Bay we jumped aboard with all the other tourists and rode the bus to the end of the line at Horseshoe Bay where we spent an hour or so walking the delightful beach, checking out the boats at anchor and roaming the shops.

Catamaran owners often take advantage of Horseshoe Bay's nice sand to sit high and dry at low tide.

Horseshoe Bay is Magnetic Islands most popular anchorage.

The glorious beach at Horseshoe Bay stretching away to the west.
Then it was back on the bus to the favourite swimming spot on the island at picturesque Alma Bay before making the very short walk to the Arcadia Hotel for some timely rehydration.

Alma Bay is Magnetic Island's favourite swimming beach.

The pool at the Arcadia Hotel is open to the public making it very popular with cruisers - and the beer is good too.
This tree at the Arcadia pub has been in bikinis since at least the early 70's.
Apparently dressing up trees is catching on in Alma Bay too.
We checked out  the Nelly Bay Marina on the way back on the bus and agreed owning an apartment in the complex with your yacht moored at your doorstep would provide a pretty nice lifestyle. Then it was back to Picnic Bay and Our Dreamtime to enjoy sundowners on the stern under a magnificent orange sky.

Late afternoon fishermen at the Picnic Bay jetty.
We would be up early the next morning to take advantage of the forecast northerly wind to make some miles. On this occasion we may have only had a short time on Magic Maggie but it was an extremely enjoyable time.
Good night from magical Magnetic Island.

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Friday 28 October 2016

Anchored in Townsville under an awesome Air Show

12-16 October 2016

We dropped the mooring in Pioneer Bay soon after first light and motored south in almost windless conditions along the western shores of Orpheus Island towards Townsville where we planned to spend a few days before continuing our trek south.
We lived in this North Queensland city in the 1980’s. It was where we bought our first house and all our children were born. Although not having been back for quite a while, we still had a number of friends here we were hoping to catch up with. We also discovered we had arrived just in time for the coming weekend’s T150 Celebrations to mark the City’s 150th Birthday. This included a massive Australian Defence Force Airshow followed by an enormous fireworks display. Best of all it was all going to happen over the water off the beaches where Our Dreamtime at anchor would have the best seats in town. Talk about perfect timing.
Motoring on glassy seas through the Palm Group of Islands.
The run through the Palm group of island was quite pleasant as we cruised past many attractive small islets. Much of this area is a designated Air Force live firing range centred on Rattle Snake Island but it was inoperative at this time so we could take the shortcut right through the middle of it.

Rattle Snake Island is a RAAF practice range for fast jets.
It took quite a while before the wind strengthened enough to sail but when it did we had a very nice square reach in through the West Channel between Cape Pallarenda and Magnetic Island .
It was fantastic when the wind picked up enough to turn the engine off and enjoy the sailing.
Our Dreamtime loves the wind square on the beam making good speed in light conditions.
The light and shadows combined to produce a very grumpy emojo face on Townsville's Castle Hill as we approached.
The water here is quite shallow so we kept a close eye on the depth gauge as we made our way towards our planned anchorage in an area known locally as ‘The Duck Pond’ between breakwaters at the shipping harbour’s entrance. This area beside the Breakwater Casino is earmarked for future reclamation but in the meantime offers a good, free and reasonably well sheltered anchorage.

Orpheus Island to Townsville - 45.0 Nautical Miles - 8 Hours 02 Minutes
Average Speed 5.6 Knots - Max Speed 7.8 Knots

Townsville's Duck Pond can provide a shallow but free anchorage adjacent to the centre of the city.
However it is very shallow with only the quarter of the area further most from the Casino offering depths of more than of 1 to 1.5 metres at low tide. The sea bed is very soft, fine mud which is very forgiving if you do touch, or in our case, sit in, the bottom. We draw 1.5 metres and on a couple of low tides during our stay our keel was buried about 30cm in the mud without any problems. The soft bottom does require putting out more anchor chain than you’d normally use in such shallow depths. Many people have been caught out here with boats dragging in moderate winds. Access to the shore is available via a dinghy dock next to the fuel dock in the marina for a $10 a day charge.

Sunset from Townsville's Duck Pond anchorage.
A stark reminder that we were in Crocodile country was this trap complete with pig's head bait in Townsville's Duck Pond.
On our first day ashore we walked the length of ‘The Strand’ along the waterfront checking out the great job the city has done redeveloping this area. ANZAC Park located at the eastern end was established shortly after WW1 but has been enhanced as a very fitting memorial to those who have served our country in uniform without detracting from the heritage aspects of the area.

Beside the marina the Tobrook Memorial Baths which were originally built back in 1950 have been expanded once again while preserving its heritage. Because of Townsville’s warmer climate, the Tobruk Pool was used as a training venue for the Australian swimming squad for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games and 1960 Rome Olympic Games. Team members included Australian swimming legends Dawn Fraser, Murray Rose and Lorraine Crapp. Six world records and 13 Australian records were set there in one night in 1956, with the footage featured on the first day of television broadcast in Melbourne.
Continuing west, The Strand is now full of new public amenities including a water park, excellent children’s playgrounds, exercise equipment, outdoor stage area, public art, cafes and the excellent rock pool swimming facility at the western end. On the headland at Kissing Point the old Army Reserve Barracks has also been redeveloped with a military museum, parkland walks, art gallery and lookouts.  We enjoyed the best part of a day exploring Townsville foreshore including an excellent lunch at a Greek CafĂ©.

We were very impressed with Townsville's redeveloped Strand.

The public facilities such as this BBQ area are first class.

No need for a gym membership when there is such good outdoor exercise equipment in the park.

Not all is at it first seems.

A fun piece of public art.
No shortage of fun for the kids here.


Townsville's Strand provides plenty of options for a dip.

The rock pool is excellent.

A couple of the Townsville locals we came across.
Great Townsville friends Peter and Mariane joined us on board Our Dreamtime on Saturday morning to get set for the big airshow. As we enjoyed a great lunch of fresh seafood on the stern, we were provided with plenty of entertainment as vessels both great and small filled the duck pond jockeying for the best view. With all the action happening overhead we really didn’t think it mattered that a number of boats anchored in front of us. Sure enough ALL the huge range of aircraft taking part across the five hour show flew low directly over our boat at different points of their demonstrations.

Fresh prawns, Moreton Bay bugs and bubbles waiting for the air show to start.
An hour earlier there was not one boat anchored behind us.
Heritage warbirds such as a P51 Mustang, Catalina Flying Boat, Lockheed Hudson and Neptune Maritime Surveillance aircraft were joined by the RAAF’s latest and greatest including  FA18 Super Hornet, C17, Wedgetail and of course the Roulettes aerobatic team. A great bonus were two unbelievable demonstrations by a Major Richard ‘Punch’ Smeeding from Misawa Air Force Base in Japan in the cockpit of a USAF F16 Fighting Falcon. The fast jets were certainly the stars of the show. We’ve only included a few shots of the planes here but if you’re a aircraft nut and would like to see more you can have a look at almost 80 shots Rob took in our T150 Air Show Facebook Album.

We could not have asked for a better view of the T150 Air Show.
The sound of the V12 Merlin engine in this P51 Mustang in RAAF colours was glorious.
The very LOUD  RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet put on a brilliant display
Vapour pours off the USAF F16 Fighting Falcon in a loop over our boat.
The RAAF Roulettes in tight formation flying the PC-9/A

Flares fired off by a C130 Hercules and PC3 Orion were the perfect way to launch very long and spectacular fireworks.

The reflections over the water added a great dimension to the fireworks.

On Sunday morning we were able to catch up with our old neighbours Phil and Anne over brunch and drinks at the Townsville Yacht Club. Although we hadn’t seen each other for 16 years we had kept in touch over recent times via Facebook. The fantastic thing was we found ourselves sitting and chatting as comfortably as if it had only been days since our last conversation rather than a decade and a half. If they hadn’t had another previous commitment we probably would have been there late into the night.

After our goodbyes we strolled to the nearby Maritime Museum on the banks of the Ross Creek and were very pleasantly surprised about how good a job this volunteer organisation has done in presenting the marine history of the region. There is a very good area dedicated to World War Two Townsville and the pivotal Battle of the Coral Sea that occurred uncomfortably close to these shores.
Townsville's Maritime Museum was well worth the visit.

The WW2 exhibit was very informative.

This model of HMS Pandora that sank on the Great Barrier Reef after arresting Bounty mutineers was one of many.

An excellent display details the loss in 1911 of the luxury passenger vessel SS Yongala in a cyclone south of Townsville. One hundred and twenty two people had been on board, and none of them survived. It was not until 1958 that divers discovered the wreck site.

The Yongala steamed from Mackay for Townsville in the afternoon of March 23 carrying 49 passengers and 73 crew. She was still in sight of land when the signal station at Flat Top (Mackay) received a telegram warning of a cyclone in the area between Townsville and Mackay. Although the shore-based wireless station was capable of wireless communication few ships carried wireless in 1911. Ironically, a wireless destined for installation on the Yongala had recently been dispatched from the Marconi company in England but was yet to reach Australia. Five hours later, the lighthouse keeper on Dent Island in the Whitsunday Passage watched Yongala steam past into the worsening weather. It was the last sighting.
Karen with a model of the SS Yongala which foundered south of Townsville in a cyclone.

In 1943, a Royal Australian Navy minesweeper corvette, on a passage from Townsville to Brisbane clearing the shipping lanes off the Queensland coast mined at the beginning of the Second World War, fouled on an obstruction believed to be a shoal, but which was not investigated at this time.

In 1947, the Royal Australian Navy hydrographic vessel HMAS Lachlan examined the obstruction using anti-submarine equipment and an echo sounder. The obstruction was thought to be a sunken ship, and presumed to be that of SS Yongala. No further action was taken, leaving Yongala in peace for another eleven years. It wasn’t until 1958 that Townsville divers rediscovered the wrecks location and the Yongala was positively identified. 

The museum’s display includes a very good video presentation and many artefacts from the wreck including the ships bell. The Yongala is now fully protected  as an historic wreck under federal law and has become a world famous site .

We did like the sense of humour of museum's volunteer staff.

All too soon our time in Townsville came to end. There were many other people we would have loved to have spent time with. It also would have been great to take a look at what has become of our first home but  the south easterlies were giving way to some predicted north easterlies opening a weather window for us to continue south. The wind dictates how long we stay somewhere and when we move on .

We would spend one day reacquainting ourselves with the delights of  Magnetic Island then we would be underway again.

Good afternoon from Townsville.


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