Wednesday 18 January 2017

Off to Masthead Island for some reef hopping South.

December 1 - 2016

The sky began to lighten nice and early at Great Keppel Island as the calendar ticked over to December first. It was now well and truly into summer and we were enjoying nice long days. Despite having fifteen or so hours  of daylight available to us, we still raised the anchor in the predawn for our fifty nautical mile passage offshore to Masthead Island on the outer Great Barrier Reef. We wanted to arrive early enough to have time to go ashore and do some exploring as we only planned to spend the night there before moving onto Fitzroy Reef for a couple of nights before sailing further south to Lady Musgrave Island.
On our way from Great Keppel Island as the sun climbs into the sky.
Only a very weak north easterly breeze blew in the early morning. Hopefully it would strengthen enough later in the day for us to sail but the engine stayed on as we began the passage on flat seas. Fortunately the wind angle generated as we motored along was such that we were able to fill the sails and gain a small lift. We also look a lot better with the sails up, very important of course.
Light winds and calm seas en-route to Mast Head Island.

Our Whitby 42 ketch does well motor sailing in light conditions.
As hoped, the wind did fill in enough in the late morning for us to silence our 80HP Ford Lehman and glide along nicely maintaining better than five knots. Karen took advantage of the calm sea state to spend some time in the galley teaching Kristian how to make his own sushi rolls for lunch which proved a smash hit – highlight of the very laid back passage in fact.
At last, enough wind to silence the engine.

Kristian constructing his own sushi rolls for lunch.

They're a winner.

Great Keppel Island to Masthead Island 49.9 Nautical Miles – 9 Hours 17 Minutes
Average Speed 5.4 - Max Speed 7.9 Knots
To see our track in a zoom-able format click HERE
The pilot guide suggests the best depths to anchor in are to be found off the north west corner of the island’s fringing reef and the Google Earth imagery also indicated this was also where the most sand was to be found. However, the wind was forecast to continue from the north east before swinging slightly more northerly over night. The tide was very low when we arrived and the reef was totally exposed but we were concerned that the high tide overnight could see any swell sweep over the reef so we anchored in 7 metres a little further in along the reef edge in attempt to gain some more protection from the island itself.
Masthead Island has good sand for southerlies through to north easterlies but we pushed the anchoring envelope with an overnight northerly predicted.
Dinghy access to the beach was impossible with the low tide so that ruled out our planned afternoon’s exploration of the island. Rob decided to see if he could spear us some dinner instead so we dropped the dinghy off the davits and zoomed over to a likely looking section of reef. He was only in the water a few minutes before surfacing with a nice coral trout.
Hunter-gatherer about to do his thing.

One coral trout headed for the dinghy.
Next he spied two crayfish hiding under a coral ledge and was soon passing the first one into the dinghy before heading back for the second. Unfortunately this larger specimen managed to evade him scurrying into a deep inaccessible hole in the coral. Keen to add to the catch to provide a decent dinner of crustacean, a long but ultimately unsuccessful search for more crayfish followed.

The fringing reef at Masthead Island provides incredible snorkelling
La Jorja arrives at Masthead Island
Having enjoyed a sleep in and later start from Great Keppel, our friends, Matt and Debbie on La Jorja had arrived while Rob roaming the reef was chasing shellfish. They anchored up nearby and while a visit for another sundowners session was inviting, we opted to get the dinghy back up on the davits as the wind and swell was building. We also had another early start planned next morning to arrive at the right point of the tide to pass through the narrow entrance into the lagoon at Fitzroy Reef.
Rob's snorkelling yielded a good sized coral trout and crayfish.

A couple of visitors on the bow.
We enjoyed a nice feed on the very fresh coral trout done on the BBQ that evening and were treated to a truly awesome sunset that went on forever evolving through a number of stages. That night the wind did swing more from the north at about 15 knots with a bit of swell finding its way over or around the reef at high tide. We also spun 180 degrees when the tidal flow reversed but still enjoyed a reasonably comfortable night.
The Masthead Island beaches were lined with the tracks of nesting turtles. We look forward to exploring ashore next time.
Next morning both us and La Jorja found our anchors/chains fouled and took a fair bit of time and effort to free ourselves. We both paid that price for choosing the additional protection of anchoring further behind the island rather than over the clearer sand bottom to the north west. Regardless, we are very keen to return to Masthead Island sometime in the future and explore underwater more of the great fringing reef and get to land on the island itself. A few more crayfish would be good too.
We hope you enjoy the evolution of a magnificent sunset below. Good night from Masthead Island.

Cape Capricorn in the distance.

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.
If you like our photos and would like to see more follow us on Instagram
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 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.


Friday 13 January 2017

Great Keppel Island + Great Weather & Great Friends = Great Times!

28- 30 November 2016

With strongish winds blowing predominantly from the east-south-east were comfortably anchored off Fisherman’s Beach on Great Keppel Island’s western end and quite happy to stay for as long as the weather dictated. With our eight year old grandson, Kristian, on board we couldn’t ask for a better place to shelter for a few days. We simply love GKI. This was our fourth visit on Our Dreamtime and on each occasion we have had an amazing time.
Great Keppel Island's golden sand beaches, clear water and abundant natural beauty make it one of our favourites.
There was certainly no problem finding things to do to keep our youngest crewmember occupied. We started by continuing his introduction to the world underwater. He’d had his introduction to snorkelling at Middle Percy Island and as this was to be only his third foray with mask, snorkel and fins we commenced with a easy session along the rocks and coral bordering Fisherman Beach’s southern point. Our caution was probably not needed as he was very quickly chasing fish across the bottom and exploring any crevice that looked like it may conceal marine life. His weekly swimming lessons since infancy his mother has spent so much time taking him to have certainly paid off.
Kristian couldn't wait to get in the water again.
Captain Rob, Master Kristian and Admiral Karen lined up for an underwater selfie at Fisherman's Beach.
Kristian has proved a natural underwater.

A school of fish - before Kristian scattered them

Karen snorkelling at Fisherman's Beach on Great Keppel Island.

Parrot fish

A nice clam amongst the coral at GKI.
After an hour and a half in the water Master Kristian may not have wanted a break but the poor old Skipper and Admiral did. A suggestion of ice-cream from the small store behind the beach rapidly convinced him a leisurely  stroll along the glorious sand was a good idea.
Great Keppel Island's Fisherman's Beach is spectacular.

That's a mouthfull

Gardens outside the store on GKI.
After lunch we very content with a quiet afternoon on board with Rob downloading and sorting his underwater photos and Karen able to manage a bit of reading while Kristian wrote his journal then watched a movie. Yep! Even on a boat the TV can be a good child care tool.  Later on, Matt and Debbie from La Jorja joined us on Our Dreamtime for another very enjoyable sundowners session. Being a big fan of the crackers, cheeses and other snacks Karen serves up, Master Kristian has quickly taken to this cruising tradition and is usually an active participant in the conversation.
Great Keppel Island sunset.
We enjoyed an awesome breakfast of mackerel in panko and eggs for breakfast on the stern next morning but, having discovered the wonders to be found below the sea’s surface, the plates were barely cleared away before not surprisingly, the ‘Can we go snorkelling now,’ question was asked by the small man.
Fresh spotty mackerel complete with roe done in panko for breakfast
We did manage to enforce a short wait to let our food settle before piling into the dinghy. This time we ventured a little further afield round into Shelving Beach in the next bay. After spending an hour snorkelling the northern side of the bay, Karen elected to relax under a tree with her book leaving Rob and Kristian to explore the reef off the southern point.
We found far more good coral here than on our previous morning’s dive but the real highlight was the marine life. Fish were both plentiful and very colourful while they were a good number of juvenile leopard sharks scattered on the bottom amongst the coral. We spotted plenty of stingrays in the sand beside the reef including a couple of very large examples well over two metres long.
The clams have many vibrant colours

Competition for hiding spot can be fierce amongst the fish

One of many stingrays we saw swimming near the reef
This huge ray was well concealed in the sand until it raised its tail slightly
The biggest thrill though was watching Kristian swim with turtles for the first time. The turtles we discovered seemed totally unconcerned by our presence as they glided slowly through the clear water despite Kristian getting a little closer than we would normally like a couple of times as his excitement got the better of him. Even after almost two hours in the water, his enthusiasm didn’t waiver and so it was finally a tiring Rob who called time on the session.
Swimming with turtles is an experience unlikely to ever be forgotten
After such an active morning, our afternoon was virtually a repeat of the previous day although instead of a movie, Kristian occupied himself with a fishing rod.
Day three at Great Keppel Island again dawned bright and clear but the winds had eased considerably  making conditions on the water even more pleasant. The Skipper and Master Kristian boarded our kayak for some exploration around the spit along Putney Beach. Admiral Nanny arranged to follow in the dinghy later and rendezvous for a swim on the beach at the Hideaway Resort.
Can we go yet? Can we go yet?

The erosion at the Hideaway Resort Tavern has got worse. We hope it will still be there on our next visit.
Soon after meeting up as planned, Kristian was fortunate enough to experience a stand up paddle board for the first time. A lovely woman was running the hire equipment there and her two young boys were both paddling around having a ball. When she spotted K-man looking on enviously she generously invited him to have a go. We had the camera ready to catch the funny, falling off footage but should have known better. After one slight wobble, the sporty little bugger was soon buzzing around all over the place as if he’d been boarding for years.
Admiral Karen rendezvoused with the rest of the crew for a swim at Putney Beach.

Who could resist warm, clear water like this.

The it was time for a quick trip back to the boat where we secured the kayak and re-loaded the snorkelling gear for a trip around to check out the reef off Monkey Beach on the island’s south western corner.
The return trip on the kayak was a bit faster.
This was by far the best snorkelling we experienced at GKI. The coral was excellent with an abundance of colourful clams interspersed. Being a ‘Green’ conservation zone, no fishing of any sort is permitted. The fish are clearly aware of this protection as the entire area was thick with much larger examples than we had seen in the other bays. They were also far less bashful and we found we could swim up very close to them without a problem.
The top fish appears to be asking 'What are you looking at".

Kristian photo bombing another shot.


The coral on the Monkey Beach reef looked very healthy
Again we were able to swim with turtles that let us get nice and close again for some more great photos and video.  However, Kristian did inadvertently wake up one turtle that was snoozing on the bottom which proved less inclined to hang around for a selfie.
We will never tire of spending time with these guys on or under the water.
A real highlight was finding about a metre long Wobbegong Shark settled on the bottom amongst the coral. It wasn’t until we dived down to have a closer look that we realised it was laying nose to nose with a large crayfish that was hiding under some coral. As it was a green zone, we unfortunately couldn’t grab the cray to mornay later but it did make for some cool photos.
A wobbegong shark laying on the bottom between the long feelers of a big crayfish

Our Great Keppel Island snorkelling spots - 1. Fisherman's Beach 2.Shelving Beach 3 Monkey Beach
The water was nice and warm with excellent clarity and a couple of hours flew by while the three of us were immersed in exploring the reef. It was yet another experience to cement Great Keppel Island as one of our favourite spots on the Great Barrier Reef. The wind could have blown for a week and we wouldn’t have minded staying put one little bit. However, the forecast showed we were in for some very calm weather which would be a perfect opportunity to reef hop south rather than sticking to the coast. This was a chance not to be missed so our time at GKI was near an end – this time.
Back on the boat, Karen whipped up a cheesecake to take over to La Jorja for afternoon coffee. They too were going to make for the reefs so we had jointly decided on an early night ahead of the next day’s sailing.
Cake and coffee on board La Jorja with Matt and Debbie.
Aren’t good intentions wonderful? Talk over coffee and cake of our plans for the next few days stretched to a full blown conversation about the coming seasons and before we knew it we were toasting  our long term sailing plans with beers and cider. Oh look that’s a lovely sunset we should open a bottle of wine.
Our Dreamtime anchored not far off La Jorja's stern.


Then the drinks came out.

Nec minute!  Goodnight from gorgeous Great Keppel Island.


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.
If you like our photos and would like to see more follow us on Instagram
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 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.