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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 23, 24, 2012 - Great Keppel Island

Today we delighted in sleeping until 7:00 AM, no early wakeup call today because our trip today is a mere 20 miles to Great Keppel Island. This anchorage at Hummocky Island is just a stopover to spend the night. We've no wind, and a bit of a swell as we set off again. No baking on this one, so we motored and read our books. We are experiencing a 2-knot current against us as before which makes for expensive motor sailing (burns more fuel).

Arrived at Great Keppel Island around noon, set the hook in 2.5 meters and within 30 minutes realized the tide was going out so quickly we had lost 2 feet under the keel already. We moved twice before we found suitable anchoring. The bay here on the north side has great holding on a sandy bottom, and a long pretty and very appealing golden sand beach. Lack of sleep had caught up with me, so I opted for a nap while Frank, Paul and Glor set off for a walk on shore.  Frank returned a couple of hours later to report to me that it is just as well I didn't go with them. As they neared shore in the dinghy, the breakers got big and a particularly large one caught them astern, pouring water into the dinghy and dumping little Glor over the side. They all jumped in, swimming the dinghy to shore. It was no picnic for them. They walked the beach to dry off a bit and then found an inland trail that presumably led to the resort on the other side of the island. They did not reach the resort, however, because the trailhead led down a steep cliff face that they were not eager to negotiate, and besides the signpost indicated that the walk would take another hour.
Scallywag anchored at Great Keppel

That evening, we had sundowners on Scallywag and more fresh sashimi and grilled fish (I made veggies). They had caught a spotted Mackerel on the way over. It was so delicious we all agreed the sashimi was like butter. The downside to the evening is that Paul had wrenched his back and was in a lot of pain, so we left just after Glor and I cleaned up the dishes. Back on board, I killed Frank in a game of Baja Rummy.

Tuesday, the 24th, we had work to do. I tried programming our VHF's DSC mode and Frank continued his vain attempts to get Sailmail working. I completed other housecleaning bits and asked Frank if he wanted to go to the beach. He looked down at his legs and said, "No, I do not". That is when I noticed he was completely covered in bites from either sand fleas or mossies. Every inch of his lower legs is red and covered with bumps. Poor Frank! It's a good thing there is no malaria or Dengue in these parts. He added that he wasn't interested in navigating the swells for a safe landing. A chat with The Scallys later revealed that they as well had been chewed up and were miserably itching all over. I'm so happy I took that nap! 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 21 – 22, 2012 Pancake Creek, then Hummocky Island

As we motored free of the encircling reef of Lady Musgrave, Destiny picked up a 15-knot wind abeam and just flew. She loves this point of sail. We love this point of sail; it is a smooth and fast ride for us. We comfortably reached 8 – 9 knots and sped toward our next destination of Pancake Creek.

Well, crikey! At just about 11:00 AM, the wind began to slack, slowing us to less than 4 knots. Ha ha, as Frank says: BOHICA! Bend Over Here It comes Again! On came the motor as we sallied forth.  Pancake Creek is a riverbed that offers safe harbor and good holding; however, the Lucas Guide mentions that the tide differential is approximately 2 ½ - 3 meters.  We were settled in by 1:00, had a bite of lunch and then at around 3:00 PM (30 minutes after low tide), Paul and Glor picked us up in their dinghy for a visit to shore and a walk along the shoreline.  The tide was quite far out, so we dragged the dinghy far up onto nearly to the beach and set the anchor into the sand before trekking off. By the time we had walked 15 minutes we looked back toward the dinghy to note that the anchor was already well under water.  Our exploratory hike didn't last much beyond about 45 minutes before we were wading back out to the dinghy. Good grief, we knew there was a big tide wash but didn't realize it rushed in this fast. We returned to Scallywag for sundowners and then back to Destiny for an early dinner, because we had another 5:15 AM wake up call to look forward to.

April 22nd, anchors aweigh 6 AM. NO WIND today. The seas are as calm as a mountain lake. Destination: Cape Capricorn.  As we neared Gladstone, which unfortunately doesn't even rate a paragraph in the Lonely Planet guide, we spotted dozens of tanker ships resting on the hook outside the entrance to the harbor. What I do know (which is not much) is Gladstone is a large shipping port that is not a venue for private yachts. In fact we would have to apply for a permit to even enter there.  We passed on by and at around 11:00 AM, The Scallys called on the VHF wondering if we should just push on to Hummocky Island, bypassing Cape Capricorn altogether. 
Hummocky Island
 There was plenty of daylight, and if we push ourselves a bit further we can afford the time to spend a couple of days on Great Keppel's pretty sandy beach get away. We voted "Yes", and so onward we roam.  I got fidgety which for me leads to boredom that generally inspires me to DO SOMETHING. That something ended up being chocolate chip cookie baking.  I baked two dozen and froze the rest of my dough. Then I made a dilly dip and cut up vegetables for our sundowner tonight. As soon as we dropped the hook, Paul radioed to ask what time is Happy Hour. Well, it's 4:00, naturally!  We enjoyed another beautiful sunset commenting on how fortunate we have been to enjoy this lovely weather for the last couple of weeks. The days are very warm, but the nights offer cloudless star-filled skies and a cool tropical breeze.  This particular anchorage is very rolly but we were so tired it didn't matter. By 8:30 we were both falling asleep.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April 17 – 21, 2012 – Lady Musgrave Island

5 AM wakeup call…someone please set up my IV for coffee. Lord, God, please get us out of here without incident. Attempting to leave the berth, we were immediately caught by the current. Even this close to shore the current flows righteously; and although Frank had full control of the helm we were immediately pushed stern-to straight toward the rock jetty that lines the shore.  Maneuvering away from the shore, the current grabbed us abeam, pushing our keel sideways back into the pylons of the wharf berth.  Calamity was averted by the skillful helm handling of Captain Frank, and we broke free just shy of the sandbar behind our slip.

Fortunately the bar was fairly settled when we crossed and we only suffered a few jolts and jerks before clearing the bay. The wind was a surprising 25+ knots over the predicted 10-15, and so we quickly raised the sails and bucked and thrashed, climbing 2 meter swells to get to open ocean hoping for a smoother ride. The rodeo was on, however, and we continued to rock and roll at a swift 7.5 – 9 knots. Fast and hard we rode for several hours. Scallywag was just behind us, leap-frogging over the waves. We were off to a great start and anticipated arriving at Lady Musgrave by Wednesday mid morning.  As the day wore on the winds slowly died away and a 2-knot current began working against us. On came the iron jib and we motor-sailed the rocky seas.  We had two little episodes of excitement along the way. At some point Frank mis-stepped and fell full on into the dodger, ripping a fairly long L-shape out of it with his elbow. We both stared at the flapping canvas and thought – we sure hope this stuff will last until we get to Thailand, because we really really don't want to pay for new canvas in Australia. As we were contemplating covering the breach, a rouge wave hit us, and at the same time my peripheral vision picked up a massively swinging dinghy on our davits. Uh-oh, what's going on there?  I said, "Frank the dinghy is really swinging about wildly." Frank immediately snapped on the safety line, grabbed a dock line and stomped out to the flailing dinghy. He eventually got it secured and then noticed that the arm holding the outboard motor to the rail was also slamming about. He tended to that and plopped back into the cockpit crossing his fingers. Since misfortunes tend to run in threes we felt that we had four behind us now and all would be well for the duration of our trip.

The days are becoming much shorter as winter approaches. At around 5:30 PM we enjoyed a brilliant sunset and settled into a black as pitch night. As we continued offshore, the stars came out by the billions. The Milky Way was clearly defined and the seas seemed to be competing for attention setting off the lovely sparkling plankton in an iridescent glittering along the wake. It was indeed a lovely night for passage making. Our blustery wind did not return although the 2-knot counter current persisted pushing back our arrival time to late afternoon. We were fine with the later arrival as long as we had enough light to spot the bombies within the atoll.  

Approach to Lady Musgrave can be a bit dodgy because the entrance markers are so close together making it wise to have someone spotting on the foredeck, so I went on deck to call the track. After passing through the markers, the lagoon appears wide open, but we had to pick our way through the bombies to a good sandy spot to drop the hook. There were only about 3 other yachts here leaving us quite happy to have this ostensible paradise to ourselves. The Scallys arrived soon thereafter and announced that dinner was on them. They had caught a beautiful 2-½ meter Spanish mackerel. We enjoyed a lovely sundowner with fresh sashimi and then dinner of grilled mackerel.  It was a perfect end to our little 2 days at sea. We were excited about exploring the area because it is touted for it's diving, snorkeling and turtle watching. The island is also a seasonal breeding ground for local sea turtles. We enjoyed the quiet solitude, watching the tiny ripples play across the stunningly clear blue water below us, listening to the distant sound of surf crashing over the reef about us.  Frank commented to me, "Barbara, this is what I wish our friends could enjoy with us. They don't get to do this part when they fly into the cities to visit". I agreed that this is something special that very few of us get to do.

The next morning, everyone was tired after not getting much rest on that one-night sail, so it was agreed that the day would get off to a lazy start.  Frank and I were sipping coffee in the cockpit gazing out at the lovely little island across the incredibly crystal clear water while contemplating our day…should we snorkel, swim or go exploring…when out of the horizon appeared a large vessel filled to overflowing with PEOPLE. Gasp! Look at all of those PEOPLE! What are they doing HERE? We had read in Lonely Planet that there were day trips to the island and that camping was permitted in small numbers by reservation (nearly a year in advance), but we did not expect a hoard to converge on our serenity.  Eegads! They poured off the cruise boat like ants. Some loaded onto fishing boats, some into glass-bottom tour boats and some into other vessels heading either to shore or to somewhere else within the atoll. The lagoon came alive with teeming boats of tourists. There goes the neighborhood! That pretty much settled that. We stayed onboard and set about chores that we had both been dreading . Mine was repairing the ripped dodger, so out came the sewing machine. Frank worked on repairing our lifeline buoy cover that was falling to pieces and barely hanging on the rail, and then took a look at the dinghy straps.

By late afternoon the cruise ship loaded up the masses and departed, leaving us in peace once again. Paul and Glor dropped by on their way over to explore the island. I was still elbow deep in sewing projects (I had now moved on to the other sewing odds and ends that had been piling up), and Frank was still working on the dinghy straps, so we passed on going to shore. They returned to inform us that there really isn't much to see and that the island is filled with birds and their droppings.  On Friday morning we did a little strategy/chart meeting with the Scallys and then returned to our chores on Destiny. We knew that the cruise ship would be bringing heaps of tourists again, so we waited until they departed to go exploring. While I was still finishing up some odd jobs, Frank jumped in for a snorkel around. He returned to report that there wasn't much to see. Very few fish, and the reef was devoid of color. I crossed that off my list and we set off for shore because we simply could not come all the way here not to at least go to shore. The island is very small; some 15 hectares, and utterly rimmed in coral meaning that there is no real sand beach, therefore, one must wear reef walkers and anchor the dingy just off the coral skirting and then wade to shore crunching on loose calcified coral bits and sharp shards of broken shell.  You can walk around it at low tide, but it is crunchy.  We chose to walk inland to find the camping area, setting off first along the sand path through the trees. 

Immediately we were assaulted on three fronts: the near deafening sounds of screeching White-capped Noddies (birds) nesting overhead, the overpowering stench of bird droppings, and the dive-bombing efforts of hundreds these little black birds that were threatened by our presence. I could hear constant splatting of bird-poo all around me as I hurried through the groves dodging the fairly large burrows of the island's population of Shearwaters. All I could think of was getting the heck through the grove of shitting birds to the beach on the other side. The entire flora was covered in streaming white odoriferous bird crap. I seriously thought I would gag before we emerged from this disgusting place. How on earth could someone camp here for an entire week????? Time to move on.

We needed an early start to catch the morning winds before they tapered off, as they tend to do in these parts. The 5:15 AM alarm shattered my dream filled sleep and we both stumbled out of bed. We were anchors aweigh by 6:00 and slipping out of the anchorage quietly so we didn't disturb the sleeping yachts around us. By now it had filled to 14 yachts. As I was keeping a sharp eye out for bombies on the foredeck, a sea turtle bobbed to the surface just beside me and swam along with us toward the pass. Just as we approached the channel markers he silently dipped beneath the surface and was gone in a flash. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 8 – 17, 2012 Mooloolaba – Our final Goodbye to Friends and the Familiar

Easter dinner for us was a feast at Thai Seasons, our favorite! We had contacted Kerri and Erwin Schlomm (Jan Meggitt's sister), and called Paul and Glor of Scallywag to let them know we are here.  We continued our jogging regime, but on Monday Frank confessed that he had been having knee pain that had now intensified to the point he could no longer run. I'd been telling him for ages that he needs new shoes, which to his ears is nagging, and so his response was generally a "yeah, yeah, yeah." accompanied by a wave off of the hand. He was in such pain, however, that he couldn't even go for walks with me so I tried not to pull the "I told you so" card; rather I insisted that he get new shoes before even attempting again. It took us a few days but we found an actual running store that fitted him out beautifully with a new pair of Asics.

The rest of our time in Mooloolaba was a treat. We hooked up with the Scallys for several meals. Kerri invited us for lunch one day at her daughter, Inga, and son in law, Todd's large and beautiful beach house at Kawana.  She arrived to pick us up, escorted by Erwin's parents, Doris and Egon, who wanted to see our beloved Destiny. We welcomed them aboard, gave them a quick tour and then piled into Kerri car heading for the beach house. Egon and Doris are German immigrants with whom we immediately fell in love. They live south of Sydney, having moved to Australia when Erwin was young. Egon is quite the German chef and both he and Doris are heavily involved in the Aussie-German community in Wollongong. Doris served us a snack plate of beef rolls that Egon had cooked for them the previous night. They were delicious! Todd, Inga and Erwin prepared a lovely barbequed calamari/prawn lunch. We ate and then spent the afternoon kicking back and enjoying one another's company. We never even went out to the beach we were having such a great visit.

A couple of days later Kerri and I had a girl-day, starting with coffee a short walk, then lunch and tea at her house followed by haircut appointments and a stroll through the Esplanade. It was a perfect day. Every day in Mooloolaba is a perfect day. Except when it rains. We had a few drizzly days when we would stroll along the covered walkways of the esplanade to seek out the best meal du jour. One night we rented the movie "Red Dog", that EVERYONE had told us is a must see. We thoroughly enjoyed that and highly recommend it to viewers young and old.

Gwynn, friend of most of our Kiwi cruising mates who now lives in Mooloolaba, joined the Scallys and us for one last dinner at Thai Seasons before our departure. Afterwards they all returned to Destiny for a cleansing ale that has now become ritual introduced to Frank by Mark Dent. And the rains poured down on our friends as they left that night.

Early to bed now for an early wakeup to catch that outgoing tide in the morning. This is the beginning of a new chapter of adventures for us. We will be cruising waters we have not known before, and that promise to offer the loveliest anchorages and best cruising in all of Oz.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

April 6 – 7, 2012 – Onward to Tangalooma and Mooloolaba One Last Time

Wind, weather and tides looked good for heading over to Tangalooma, which we weren't keen on going to but needed to break up the trip to Mooloolaba. We had a sneaking feeling that, being Good Friday, we would not be the only people heading for beautiful Moreton Island.  On approach we noted the already filling anchorage with dismay. Water skiers, jet-boaters, jet-skiers, and the parachute boats we being heavily employed. Before sunset we'd made the decision to break away from here after breakfast.

Saturday morning we hurried away from Moreton Island, enjoying a nice sail up to Mooloolaba. As we neared the river entrance, Frank radioed the coast guard for instructions crossing the bar. We noted the entrance had been moved over significantly from the former coordinates, and in fact had us overshooting the former, then running back parallel to the beach and threading narrowly through the jetty. We were told that due to recent floods, the dredger was working 24/7 to keep the entrance passable but that we would not be able to enter until mid flood tide. So this must be why so many yachts are bobbing at anchor out here. We dropped the hook and waited the requisite 2 hours before attempting approach. We watched a few others navigate ahead of us and realized as one nearly buried rails in the water, he had not timed the waves of the incoming tide that were breaking over the bar. He got slammed not once but twice throwing the poor yacht into a painful to watch 45° roll.  Yikes! Frank and I continued to observe and to count until finally we found the sweet spot and revved our way through. Easy as.

Getting into the marina was yet another story. We'd been assigned a berth that appeared easy enough to get into, but with this incoming tide pushing at us perpendicular to our objective and a cardinal post marking a sandbar not 100 feet behind the berth we cut too short and ended up sitting on the sand bar. Thankfully the tide was so strong it helped us maneuver off quickly before we got thrown into the rock jetty on shore just adjacent to the berth. At about this time a man and woman motored up in their dinghy offering to give us a hand. Angels they were. Locals who knew the drill, they expertly helped us tie up and then jumped back into their dinghy and sped away wishing us a Happy Easter.
It's good to be back. We love this little beach town and all that it has to offer. We cleaned ourselves up and set off to the Mooloolaba Surf Club for dinner.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

March 22 - April 6, 2012 – Brisbane, The Spencers, Frankie Valli, and The Gabba

Frank looked at me after breakfast and declared that today we would begin running to get ourselves in shape for running with the Hash. I laughed and said we certainly do not have to get in shape to run with the Hash House Harriers! But in his mind we do and he will not settle for walking or not being able to run the entire course next time. We designated the run/bike/walking trail from Dockside Marina, around the end of Kangaroo Point and down to Southbank as our training ground. Amazingly that first day I couldn't believe I ran (jogged) the entire way. We think it is approximately 5km. On completion we waded into the pool at Southbank rather I waded; Frank fully dunked himself. Then we had lunch at one of the local cafés before walking back. We made a circuitous route of it, walking the return, via Southbank trail as far as the steep stair climb up the climbing wall to The Cliffs café and then down to the Story Bridge and back over to Dockside. That night we realized we had pushed ourselves a bit much on this first attempt. Geez, I hadn't run since last July in Denver. We both popped a couple of Aleve's before going to bed. The next morning I stumbled out of bed and literally felt like I'd been clubbed from hip to toe. I could hardly move my legs. My motions were so herky-jerky I was immediately reminded of the scene from "Men in Black" of The Bug, who invaded the farmer's body. Oh my gosh, I was walking like him! Trying to walk just up the dock to the boardwalk was so painful and my legs so twitchy I looked like I'd never had legs attached to my body before.  All I could do was laugh at myself and wonder what other people must be thinking as they passed me by. Frank declared that the only way to deal with this is to run. So we set off again after breakfast, me jerking like I was having electro-shock therapy with every step. How could he just take off like that? He did. He set right off as though he hadn't a care in the world. I thought surely I was in better shape than him! Not in the legs, however, and so I jerked along behind him until, about 2/3 of the way I finally had to just try to walk for survival to the pools. This became our ritual for the next two weeks. I had to take a day off here and there to just walk, but we were getting our lard-asses moving which was the objective.

Saturday afternoon, Scott and Muriel picked us up for a big night out on the Gold Coast. We had tickets for the Frankie Valli show at the casino.  We arrived at the casino early for dinner before the show, and as we were standing around one of the foyers pondering our food choices, who walked right by us, but a tiny little man with big hair swept back from a tall forehead? Himself. I stood rooted staring at him gape-mouthed as Muriel said, "Well there's Frankie Valli, coming right at us!" I knew he was of small stature but never realized how frail he appeared at close range.  He had a spry step, however, as he passed me making direct eye contact probably wondering, "What's wrong with her mouth?"  We enjoyed an amazingly good show by him and his studly foursome of back-up singer dancers. Oh What a Night! He really got the crowd going, clever trick really so that he wouldn't have to hit the high notes, wink, wink. It was truly a memorable night and great fun to actually put on some heels and a black dress for a change.

The following week we met the Spencers and Will (Lauren's guy), for dinner at our new favorite Chinese place in West End. Then because we were planning to head out on Friday, we lunched with them again on Thursday.  During lunch, Frank and Muriel decided that because we had not yet seen a live Australian Rules Footy game at The Gabba, we had better stick around a little while longer to catch one. Muriel had gone online and found that Carlton would be playing the Brisbane Lions the following Thursday night. Although we are by nature of knowing these guys and the Wises, Collingwood fans we swallowed our pride to attend this match. It was worth the thrill of getting to be present at the Gabba, especially with these guys who are expert fans. Once again, although Carton just killed the Lions, we had such a wonderful time with Scott, Muriel and Lauren. When it was time to say goodbye and goodnight I choked up. We love them so, and seriously pray this is just "See you later".

On Good Friday, we departed Brisbane with deep sadness, and as we rode the ebbing tide out the Brisbane River we heard that faint click of yet another door closing behind us.