May 122022
 
lizard island

lizard island

 

next off we headed out to lizard island, another famous place in cook’s trials and tribulations. its here he climbed to the 380m peak and was able to at last see a passage out of the great barrier reef, a passage he named providence passage. so again dave and i climbed in cook’s footsteps to the peak, thankfully he had painted white arrows and carved steps in the steeper parts of the track which made it a bit easier.

 

lizard is also home to a very exclusive resort, so cook would have had somewhere nice to have a beer after the climb. its a stunning island, one of the prettiest on the queensland coast, 2 very safe anchorages to suit all conditions, lovely white beaches, stunning coral and fish life and stunning scenery. we only really had time for 2 nights and a full day, we easily could have spent a week or so here. all the outer ribbon reefs are close by too and places like the cod hole so there is plenty to occupy the time. anyway, we have to press on in order to get home when planned so we are off again tomorrow headed to cape melville.

Conditions were so favourable we decided to sail on thru the night and head all the way to restoration island, home of david glasheen for the last 30 years, named by bligh after he made landfall in his dingy having sailed from tonga after being thrown adrift following the mutiny on the bounty. it was as we made landfall ourselves that a tragedy befitting the great mariners of the past became apparent, we started the engines to motor in and drop anchor and discovered we had no drive from either engine! 

we managed to sail in close enough to drop anchor and assess the situation, a quick dive over the side into the crocodilian waters revealed the starboard propeller was gone, worse still the thread on the end of the shaft for the lock nut had been sheared off. we can only assume we hit a lump of semi submerged timber with the prop and it was torn off. so the spare props we have were of no use.

things then got worse when dave checked the port engine, me having confirmed we at least still had that prop intact. the sail drive had come apart from the flywheel housing on the back of the engine, disconnecting the drive from the engine. we knew these threads were in poor shape from the work we did on this sail drive in brisbane, but this was an unexpected disaster. presumably the sail drive on the port side had also taken a severe bump from something in the water, forcing the separation. 

our initial belief was that neither side would we be able to repair an engine and saildrive to working condition, leaving us just with sail for propulsion. this seemed a totally untenable situation so our thoughts turned to trying to arrange a tow back to cairns so that we could haul the boat out and fix these issues. aside from the potential expense, the thought of being towed hundreds of miles south, against the tradewinds and then trying to organise everything in cairns was depressing to say the least.

we went ashore and met dave glasheen, we had an introduction from our mutual friend bruce davey, owner of wildcard and i had emailed dave to let him know we were headed his way. after telling dave our woes he suggested we talk to the skipper of a prawn trawler, cape moreton, that was also anchored in the bay as he might offer to tow us or know someone who could. 

we borrowed dave’s tinny to try to tow lumiel to a better anchorage, more out of the swell and closer to the beach. we had some success, but dave’s tinny was just too small to manoeuvre us where we really wanted to be

later in the day when phil, the skipper woke up, we had a brief chat about our dilemma and he said he might be able to help, but he wouldn’t be heading to cairns for a couple of weeks. exhausted after our long overnight sail and all the dramas upon our arrival we had probably a couple too many wines and collapsed into bed!

 

the next morning brought good news on two fronts, further investigation by dave had revealed that the port engine was not as badly damaged as he had initially thought and that maybe it would be feasible to get it back together and available for emergency use only. the second part was that meanwhile i had studied the charts and realised we only had about 160 miles to go and we would be round cape york and in the gulf of carpentaria. this meant we could consider the possibility of setting sail, with the port motor in emergency use mode, and we only had a bit over 24 hours sailing, with the south east trades behind us, and we would be in the gulf and just 2 or 3 days sailing in open waters to be home.

so that became our focus, work out the tides, currents, times, speeds and routing to safely sail up the rest of the queensland coast, round cape york and into the gulf and home in one go. it would be around 4-5 days total non stop, but easy going once we were in the gulf and save an enormous amount of expense and logistical problems with a tow back south.

that morning we saw a jet ski and big tinny arrive from portland roads and land at dave’s house so we went ashore to see if they might help us move lumiel to where we wanted to be anchored so that the boat was sitting in calm waters while dave did all the work on the engine and sail drive. jason and katey were the owners of the jetski and boat and had bought 2 couples staying in their guest house in portland roads, over to the island for breakfast on the island with dave. they were cooking up a feed for everyone on the biggest paella pan i have ever seen, over an open fire! it was an impressive bit of bush cooking.

jason was more than happy to help us move, so we quickly had lumiel anchored in the best possible location, the middle of the channel between the beach on restoration island and the mainland.

we spent a lazy day with dave today, roasted a chook in the morning and took it in for lunch. sal and i took our heavy screecher in and got the twists out of it and re-rolled it, the sail had got tangled up on our trip up from lizard. sal also mowed some of the ‘lawn ‘ around dave’s house, otherwise we just hung around talking, eating and drinking a little wine. our departure for the run home is in the morning and we returned to the boat late afternoon to discover the 240v inverter has died now! keeps tripping on a high temp alarm as soon as it starts so that is the end of the coffee machine! 

 

 Posted by at 3:49 pm



May 122022
 
hope island

hope island

after port douglas we decided to head north to hope island, a local yachty in port douglas had told us it was one of his favourite anchorages on the east coast, its a small island with a large surrounding reef, the snorkelling is very good and the little island very pretty. we managed to pick up a mooring as we were once again the only boat there! i had some reasonable success with the spear gun so fresh fish tacos were on the menu! it was a peaceful couple of days, swimming on the beach on the island, snorkelling, fishing and generally relaxing. sadly the weather wasn’t the best with frequent showers, particularly at night.

hope island

hope island

the trip from port douglas to hope island took us past cape tribulation – my home nearly 50 years ago, it was a sentimental moment for me, so many happy memories from so long ago. i had been back by road, but seeing it from the sea was special. 

so the rain continued and the move further north from the hope islands to cooktown did nothing to help clear it up! we did have a rollicking sail up, 20-25k south easterly with a rolliing sea, so at least lance and cheryl got to enjoy a day of champagne sailing. we were fortunate in being able to tie up to the fuel jetty at cooktown and stay there for the 3 days. 

they say cooktown is the windiest place in australia, and it certainly reinforced its reputation while we were there, along with frequent and heavy rain storms. 

for me it was a very humbling experience, to follow in the sails of two of the world’s greatest navigators and seamen, cook on the endeavour and slocum on the spray, they both visited cooktown – cook to repair the endevour after she had run aground on the reef and slocum during his solo circumnavigation. 

cooktown from cook's lookout

cooktown from cook’s lookout

dave & i walked up to the top of cook’s lookout above the harbour, where he tried to make sense of the labyrinth of reefs and foul ground to plot a course out of the reef. we also visited the museum which has a canon and an anchor recovered from the reef where endevour ran aground, they were dumped to lighten the boat in an attempt to float her off.

for sal revisiting cooktown was very nostalgic, she had lived here nearly 40 years ago as a young woman, helping to build a house with her boyfriend, rakam, and his parents. she was able to catch up with all of them and revisit the house. 

its a funny sort of place, and the weather made it hard to really enjoy it. I am reminded again, that while we live in an extremely remote place, its much more cosmopolitan and sophisticated than most similar sized places in rural and regional australia. cooktown just felt really backward, little things like a number of businesses that didn’t have eftpos, a post office/comm bank that couldn’t change money, a lot of closed businesses and a general feeling that life was pretty tough for a lot of people. 

overall i enjoyed the few days there and i am glad we stopped there, we had a couple of nice meals and it has always been somewhere i wanted to visit for its vital part in australia’s white history. the bonus was i helped a trawler tie up on the public wharf and scored a box of huge U10 tiger prawns from the skipper, rob, so that was much appreciated.

we also met a couple sailing on another fountaine pajot, theirs was an athena which is the 38’ model, but built around the same time and very much a smaller model of ours, so it was fun to have a look over her.

fountaine pajot athena in cooktown

fountaine pajot athena in cooktown

lance and cheryl also left us in cooktown, so its back to just the 3 of us for the rest of the trip! it was fabulous having them with us and i think great for sal to have some female company! we will miss them.

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the main street of cooktown, 7:30pm saturday!

 Posted by at 3:24 pm



Apr 252022
 
personal water feature, innisfail wharf.

personal water feature, innisfail wharf.

water has been very much the feature for the last week or so, while queensland has had a dry wet season this year, it decided it would have a late attempt to get up to speed and has been dumping huge amounts of rain all over far north queensland.

as i posted in the last entry, we headed up to innisfail from dunk island, after negotiating the entrance to the johnstone river we wound our way up to the pretty old town of innisfail and dropped our pick about 100m off the town jetty which runs along the foreshore right in front of the shops, its a very picturesque setting.

our track up to innisfail

our track up to innisfail

the first couple of days we were anchored just downstream from the bridge, in the middle of the river, but as the rain started one of the locals told us that we would be in trouble if there was significant rain as the anchor chain would become fouled with debris floating down the river and we would drag. he suggested we just go in and tie up on the jetty along the foreshore, behind a commercial fishing boat as it would be out of the main stream and protected from floating debris in a flood.

we asked who we had to get permission from and he said, “no one, the council dont seem to care.” – he had tied up for 2 weeks while he was doing some work on his boat. this was sort of confirmed by the fact that the trawler we tied up behind was actually on the public jetty that had a big sign saying ‘2 hour limit’ – and he was there the whole 4 days we were in innisfail and who knows how much longer!

we did the laundry, some provisioning, explored the town and its lovely old buildings and sampled some of the local restaurants. we also had a surprise visit from some old gove friends, brian had been speaking to them on the phone and they decided to drive over and visit. vernon ‘skin’ chessels, his wife di, paul davies and his wife tanya. they all live in the region now having left gove.

after a tour of the boat we all headed out to dinner and had a great night, it was a lot of fun to catch up with them after so long – paul & tanya in particular i hadnt seen for about 15 years.

we spent 4 days in innisfail and then decided it was time to make the run up to cairns, our friends lance and cheryl thomas were flying up from the sunshine coast to join us for a while, and sadly brian had to depart and head back home. we had hoped brian might be able to do the rest of the trip with us he has been great company and an excellent breakfast chef!

with lance and cheryl getting into cairns midday on the friday, and us needing high tide to get out of the johnstone river and a rising tide to get into the tricky moon river entrance to the bluewater marina north of cairns, we set off at 11:30pm and motored the whole way.

it was very light breeze with some dry patches but mainly drizzle thru to heavy rain at times, we had a strong current pushing us along tho and made very good time, in fact we had to slow the boat down in order not to get in too early.

we slipped into yorkey’s knob and fuelled up before tackling the scary entrance to moon river, the channel is shallow and very narrow, winding, with breaking sandbanks either side of the boat. it appears to be only a couple of metres wider than the boat and is the most challenging bar entrance i have ever attempted in a big boat. to complicate matters the dredge was working in the channel so we had to stop and go round in circles while we moved to one side to make enough room for us to squeeze by!

we only ended up spending one night in cairns as bluewater marina is miles from anything so no shopping or eating out was really feasible, and after lunch on saturday afternoon we decided the rain and wind had eased enough to make the dash to port douglas. so we said our goodbyes to brian as he headed home to yeppoon and sal drove us out through the scary moon river entrance and we had a cracking sail up to port douglas, avoiding nearly all the rain squalls and getting into our marina berth and tied up just before the heavens opened and washed us away!

we have been here a couple of days and the weather continues to be miserable, at least there are more restaurants close by here! although being school holidays most are booked out, so we have actually struggled to get into some of the old favourites. i went for a walk on 4 mile beach yesterday and it looked forlorn, covered in sea weed, grey, wet, miserable, beach closed for swimming and almost no one on it.

we are getting sick of being tied up in marinas or on wharfs, while it rains and blows rather than being out sailing and exploring, so we will probably head off tomorrow and go up to hope islands, south of cooktown. hopefully the weather will improve and we can get some snorkelling in on the reef.

 Posted by at 9:41 am



Apr 182022
 
Lumiel from half way up Mt Kootaloo.

Lumiel from half way up Mt Kootaloo.

after leaving fantome island we had a great sail over to hinchinbrook island where we just stopped the night in the mouth of second creek in missionary bay, before heading off to dunk island where we planned to stop a couple of days. on the way we passed by the longest jetty in australia, the lucinda jetty, nearly 6kms long! its so long the jetty had to be built with a curve to allow for the curvature in the earth’s surface over the long distance.

sal cooked up a smashing chicken biryani for our first night here. its a nostalgic visit for me because i came here about 25 years ago with michelle when we chartered a cat out of cardwell. we also anchored here and went ashore and ate at plantations, the resort restaurant after drinks at the famous spit bar on the sand spit. all of the resort, bars and even the foreshore were destroyed and devestated by cyclone yasi in 2011. sadly the resort has laid idle ever since despite a couple of attempts to rebuild.

today, dave, brian and I went ashore and did the walk to the peak of mt kootaloo and the long walk around the island – a bit over 10km in total which took us 3 ½ hours. in the morning i prepped a goat curry made with the legs of wild goat we got from rob & annie at middle percy island. i made a couple of masalas the day before, cooked up the basic curry and added them in. dave is making dhal now and we will have goat curry, rice, naan & dhal for dinner! tomorrow we head to innasfail for more supplies and refuel before picking up our friends lance & cheryl who will join us for a week or so.

enough curry & dhal to last about a week!

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 6:07 am



Apr 152022
 

IMG_4240

still at fantome island, headed out for a dive this morning and shot a spotted sweetlip and a blue bone, again the corals were just astounding, some of the best i have seen anywhere. distinct lack of big fish for the table though. knocked up a guac and had fish tortillas for lunch with a cheeky french rose.

after lunch we headed into the lock hospital site and explored that, the cemetery was much smaller than the lazaret one, but a couple of proper headstones. the stone walls are incredible, 1.3m wide and 1m high creating both paths and pens for horses, pigs & cows. the amount of labour to create the rock walls is almost unimaginable – and presumably slave labour by the aboriginal inmates. there were less ruins and remnants than the lazaret but it was still impressive in its scale. the eastern beach looks across to palm island and the community there can be clearly seen.

IMG_4242

layout of hospital site, we are anchored off the top left hand side of the picture.

hopefully this video gives some sense of the scale and size of the walls and pens.

 

again, click on the ‘i‘ for captions, and read the wikipedia article for details about the lock hospital, HERE

the eastern beach of the hospital site looks across to palm island and the community there,

thats it for fantome island for us, after an amazing 3 days we are heading off to hinchinbrook island tomorrow.

 Posted by at 5:54 am



Apr 142022
 

 

IMG_4184

Lumiel at anchor at Fantome Island, taken from the top of the hill at the leprosarium.

we spent most of today off lumiel, we packed the dinghy with all our dive gear, water, cameras and oyster collecting tools and after breakfast headed into the beach on the north west tip of fantome island. there is a basic camp built by palm island residents that we could set up in, shaded by big trees, a big firepit, a little mooring for the dinghy, reef for snorkelling accessible off the beach and oyster covered rocks a short walk down the beach!

IMG_4157

after unloading our gear we set off to explore the lazaret or leprosarium using the wikipedia article (link) as our guide to finding the elements. as i said in the last post, this site is a stark reminder of australia’s institutional racism, but its also such a picturesque site so there is a certain conflict evident while walking the ruins.

i will post some of the commentary for the photos from the article below,

IMG_4160

The remains of the lazaret hospital are located 53 metres (174 ft) west of the main lazaret pathway. The beginning of the complex is marked by a low dry stone and coral wall extending perpendicular to the beach front. The remains of the hospital buildings include: numerous timber building stumps and a rectangular concrete pad which was part of the hospital’s septic system. Two concrete sets of stairs survive – one set climbs to the north, suggesting that these were rear access stairs to the hospital complex and the second set is located towards the far west of the hospital complex and climbs to the east to a position that closely corresponds with the known location of the laboratory. At the rear of the hospital complex are two concrete pads. One pad contains the remains of a stove, fridge, and concrete wash tub. These pads are possibly remnants of the hospital laundry and medical sample collection site.

The remains of St Mary’s Catholic Church are located adjacent to and immediately west of the main lazaret pathway. The remains include a large concrete pad. A low wall with a small square recessed section on the outer side, presumably for the placement of a plaque, is located on the end of the pad. In line with and south of the church building pad is a circular concrete feature with a rectangular plinth at its centre.

 

 

“The remains of the sisters’ quarters are situated parallel to the north beach front and immediately east of the main lazaret pathway. An extensive scatter of building rubble is found across the site, particularly asbestos fibro fragment, CGI sheets, galvanised iron, steel pipes, and some bricks. The most intact remains are those associated with the nuns’ changing rooms. The site is marked by a concrete pad which is recessed into the ground, with raised concrete surrounds. Internal spaces can be read through the presence of the bases of room dividers, marked by concrete strips. Two iron bath tubs are situated side by side in the centre of the floor area. Adjacent to and east of the changing rooms pad, is a CGI water tank and timber stumps representing a collapsed tank stand. An iron pipe runs from this tank and parallel to the beach front towards a second set of concrete pads. These pads contain the remains of an iron stove and system of concrete spoon drains. Their location set back from the access track and behind another, since-removed building suggests an ancillary use such as a kitchen or laundry.”

“Located east of the visitors’ quarters are the remains of the grotto. The grotto is accessed by a stone-lined path that leads off the main path in front of the remains of the visitors’ quarters. The grotto contains a large shrine consisting of a tall mound of local stone. The shrine features a statuary platform close to the apex though a statue is no longer present. Adjacent to and to the north-west is a concrete altar. The face of the altar is marked with three arched shallow recesses. The largest central arch features a rough outline of Australia that has been constructed of small shells applied to the surface. The path to the grotto terminates at the site of a small steep pyramid-shaped shrine constructed of stone. The shrine has a flat concreted top section probably for a statue, though a statue is no longer present.”

approach path to grotto

“Located at the southern end of the main lazaret pathway are the remains of multiple structures that comprised the supply centre for the lazaret. The supply centre complex consists of a cluster of attached concrete pads comprising: office and store, sewing room, oil room, butcher, and open-air cinema (between the sewing room and the office/store). Immediately east of this complex are the remains of a vehicle garage. Remnants include a concrete pad with a short ramp on the northern end. East of the garage are the remains of the lazaret’s school. Abandoned and partially deconstructed machinery (generator) is bolted to school building pad.”

 

The married quarters are located immediately adjacent to the single men’s quarters and include huts, two communal kitchens (one later converted into accommodation), a garden area, cess pits, a midden, and general laundry buildings. Former structures are marked by concrete pads. East of the married quarters and 160 metres (520 ft) along a small creek line, are the remains of several wells and pumping equipment. The area includes four circular concrete wells, one rectangular timber-lined well, the remains of a single piston water pump, and a scatter of steel water pipes.

 

“The cemetery is located on the southern bank of a tidal creek 60 metres (200 ft) from the married quarters. Positioned within a small bend of the creek, the cemetery is bordered by water to the north and east with resulting erosion problems, particularly at the northern end. The cemetery is marked on the east side by an incomplete line of timber fence posts. The individual graves are orientated east–west and are organised into six rows running north–south. The total number of marked graves is 120. Many of the graves are lined by stone surrounds, however, according to the oral history of a former patient these are possibly later additions and may not accurately reflect the number, size and/or location of all the graves. There are some timber crosses marking graves but none of the extant markers retain the name of the deceased; many of the timber crosses now also lack the horizontal member.”

Fantome_Island_-_aerial_1_(2012)

our exploration of the lazaret took a couple of hours and we were glad to return to the shade of our camp site and the fresh water in the esky! after a rest we went snorkelling on the beautiful coral gardens around the north west tip of the island, full of stunning soft and hard corals and many small fish varieties, turtles and sting rays. the tides are pretty big here, about 5m at the moment so the current rips thru the narrow channel between fantome and orphelia islands making for a fast and furious drift dive!

after snorkelling it was back to camp, build a fire and collect oysters to cook. green casuarina fronds provided the smoke to achieve the extra flavour for the oysters!

after pigging out on oysters it was back to the boat for pre-dinner drinks and sunset, todays special was mojitos!

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a long and amazing day, we were all deeply impressed, but in quite different ways, for sal the highlight of the day was finding the grotto and the powerful feelings it evoked about what life might have been like for the unfortunate souls incarcerated in the lazaret. for dave the confrontation of the cemetery and it’s stark statement about the horrors of fantome island was his main takeaway. brian was struck by the sheer scale of the site – its much bigger than we expected and sprawls over a large tract of the northern end of the island. it was obvious it must have been a significant population in total.

being a more shallow and simpler soul, my highlight was collecting, cooking and eating the oysters on the beach. for me that connection with country and environment of wild food collection and cooking is always an emotional high.

tomorrow we will explore the lock hospital site and see what we find there.

 

 Posted by at 4:41 pm



Apr 122022
 
IMG_4054

breakwater marina, townsville.

its been a hectic week since the last update from cape upstart, we had a rollicking sail up to townsville, we left at 11.30pm and sailed thru the night arriving in the marina in townsville at about 10;30am, 73nm in 11h averaging nearly 7k. we had 3 days in townsville and really enjoyed it, ran around in the marina courtesy car re-provisioning and getting a few things we needed for the usual running repairs on the boat. our berth was literally right on the strand so it was definitely like a waterside apartment.

we had some great meals, found a wonderful brazilian restaurant, a really good vietnamese and finally had a long sunday lunch at shorehouse, the nearest townsville has to fine dining!

we left monday morning (11/4/22) and refuelled on our way out of the marina before sailing over to magnetic island, we were going to anchor the night in horseshoe bay, but there were about 20 yachts there already so we headed round to maud bay, which is actually prettier and we had it to ourselves for the night. there are a couple of fishing camps on the beach here, they are only accessible by boat and are surrounded by national park.

after a pleasant night we pulled anchor and set sail for the palm group, our destination was fandome island, the former leper colony and lock hospital site. we were recommended the anchorage by a yachtie at the marina in townsville who rated it one of his favourite places anywhere.

the history of fandome island is one of horrific institutional racism by the bigoted queensland government, its barely believable that this sort of sordid racism existed as recently as the mid 1970’s. its a blight on our country and a stark reminder of the scale of the horrors of the genocide waged on aboriginal people. you can read more about it here,

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantome_Island_Lock_Hospital_and_Lazaret_Sites

ironically its also the most beautiful place with some of the best coral reef in queensland, huge oysters, mud crabs, loads of fish, crayfish, manta rays, turtles and stunning scenery. we are going to hang out here for a couple of days.

while we were sailing past havannah island today, a tiny bird landed on the cabin top, he found a better perch on the sheet and stayed with us until we were passing brisk island when he flew off again!

 

 Posted by at 8:01 pm



Apr 072022
 
rob smart's lovely photo of Lumiel in moonlight bay, cape upstart

rob smart’s lovely photo of Lumiel in moonlight bay, cape upstart

so just a quick post with an update on cape upstart! we decided to stay an extra day and head off at midnight the next night to sail all the way through to townsville, this would avoid having to anchor at cape bowling green, known as cape rolling green for a good reason! when i woke up this morning i had a new comment on the blog from a robert smart suggesting we should walk up shark bay creek to the fresh water rock pools. he posted his phone number and so i texted him to thank him and ask what else he knew about the community.

turns out rob lives here, is 82 years old and has fascinating history of his life in england and then australia. he told us to come ashore and he would show us around. dave and i went in and he walked us through a couple of the beaches and filled us in with a lot more info about the amazing little community here, we also met a few other residents.

rob had taken a beautiful photo of lumiel at anchor this morning, as you can see above, he took it from the beach with a big telephoto lens and then searched lumiel, gove nt and stumbled on the blog, hence his comment and offer to show us around!!

we brought him back to the boat for a look as he had built and sailed a wharram cat in the uk, he had done a lot of interesting sailing and his whole life sounded like an amazing adventure. his father had made a number of well known films in australia after a career with the raaf filming for them.

so despite our initial fears about intruding on the locals here in their little paradise we found a very warm reception.

sal’s archilles tendon is still a bit sore so she stayed on the boat while dave, brian and i climbed up the massive water course to the fresh water rock pools. its hard to imagine what the torrent of water must be like in the wet season, but the boulder strewn waterway gives a fair impression!

 Posted by at 3:24 pm



Apr 062022
 
the money shot!

the money shot!

we had a lovely motor sail up from thomas island, through whitsunday passage, past airlie beach and up through gloucester passage to drop anchor 50m off the beach beside the gloucester resort. although we had to motor sail due to the direction and lightness of breeze, we still averaged 6 knots for the 55nm trip. we picked the achorage not just for its suitable location but also for the chance to have a meal ashore at the resort which was a nice change and no one had to do the dishes!

we had a very pleasant sail in the morning up past the abbott point coal loading facility, until the wind gradually died and we had to motor the last couple of hours, rounded cape upstart as we enjoyed lunch and dropped anchor off some of the beach houses.

lunch

lunch

cape upstart is an amazing community, dozens of houses on the beach, many quite large and elaborate, but there is no road access! everything has to come in by boat. named by captain cook, painted by edwin augustus porcher in 1843 and then settled by burdekin residents in the 1920’s, somehow converted to freehold at some point and now surrounded by ocean on one side and national park on the other.

beach huts

beach huts

most of the houses are not permanently occupied, beach houses you need a boat to use! i think there are about 60 permanent residents. it has a strong outlaw feeling and a bit eerie. we almost expected someone to come out and shoot at us.

gawd knows what it would cost to build here, everything would have to be barged from bowen i imagine.

you can see there was even some sort of camp there in 1843!

edwin augustus porcher

‘cape upstart’ edwin augustus porcher

i tried looking online but there is very little info about cape upstart and its odd little community!

 Posted by at 3:52 pm



Apr 052022
 
rosslyn bay marina

rosslyn bay marina

well there is a lot to catch up on! while we have been making great progress, internet access has been patchy at best so no updates for nearly a week, so lots of photos coming up and some basic commentary to go with it! we left you last at great keppel island where we spent a night anchored in second bay.

the next day we sailed into rosslyn bay marina, the marina servicing yeppoon. we went straight to the fuel wharf and refilled the tank before docking in our berth and meeting our old mate brian ‘livo’ livingtone.

livo used to live in gove and comes up every year for a fishing trip – this years trip was to be a few weeks cruising on lumiel with us! after a quick look at the boat and his cabin, we went and had lunch at the restaurant at the marina. the next couple of days were a mad rush of catching up with brian’s family – penny his wife, cate, his daughter and dave, his brother, all of whom have joined us on the annual fishing trips over the years. it was also a quick provisioning stop and grab a couple of hardware items needed for the boat.

we were itching to get going again so a couple of days later we slipped lines and headed up to island head creek for an overnight before the run out to the percy group of islands.

Stunning sail from 0700-1200h 7-8k mainly, a top speed of 8.3k – broad reach SW of about 10-12k. as predicted breeze dropped and backed all the way, S, SE, E, and NE! We motor sailed a bit, then motored, then a bit more motor sailing when we got to port clinton. 

managed to run aground in island head creek looking for anchorage. luckily it was right on low tide. discovered gear selection on port sail drive had failed again. dave fixed without really knowing what he did! 

the sail up to middle percy from island head creek was the best we have had yet, hit 9k at one stage and only had to motor sail the last couple of hours as the breeze dropped out again. 

on april fool’s day we arrived at middle percy island in the mid afternoon and went ashore to visit the famous a-frame on the beach with all the names of all the yachts that have visited over the years. its become a mecca for cruising yachties on the east coast.

we had a comfortable night anchored in west bay at middle percy island and after breakfast did some exploring of the lagoon in the dinghy and then brian and i headed up the hills for the 2 km climb to the homestead where the new leaseholders, robin and annie, live. its an amazing walk firstly along the edge of the lagoon, and then at high tide, across a fair section of it with only the old poles from the redundant telephone line to follow! after that the path climbs up thru rain forest filled with thousands of tiger blue butterflies which was amazing. 

arriving at the homestead after an hour, we were warmly greeted by robin and annie and after signing up for our membership of the percy island yacht club and having our dog tags printed off on the korean war printer, and presented with a plaque and burgee for the boat, we accepted their offer off a lift back down to the beach in their ute along the long track which takes a different path and has stunning views across the ocean to the south.

we would have loved to stay longer, but we must keep moving and the 2 nights and one full day was really all we could afford.

i highly recommend researching the story of percy island and the lease, its a fascinating one and its good to see the re-energisation that rob and annie are bringing there with kerry’s help.

of course we had to add to the tradition, we settled on using one our gove boat club stubbie coolers as our name plate.

our contribution to the percy island yacht club

our contribution to the percy island yacht club

 

behind the a-shed there is a treehouse nestled in the side of the hill and it can be rented out as accomodation, its quite an amazing setup with 3 levels, a pizza oven and and escape ladder!

when rob & annie gave us a lift back down to the beach, we stopped to enjoy this view from the top of middle percy looking south.

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view from the long track.

after a very happy, if short stay at middle percy we set sail for scrawfell island in the southern whitsundays for an overnight stop before heading on to thomas island for another night which would set us up for an early start to sail up thru the whitsunday passage and up to cape gloucester where we plan to spend a day or two. both scrawfell and thomas islands were stunning anchorages with beautiful rainforest and hoop pines on their steep slopes, unfortunately the camera doesnt do these sort of landscapes much justice!

ok, will post a couple of videos on the end of this post if i keep reception long enough! hope you enjoy.

 

 

 Posted by at 9:10 am



Mar 292022
 
approaching lady musgrave

approaching lady musgrave

we had a lovely couple of days anchored in the lagoon at lady musgrave island, i got plenty of practice with my new speargun and managed to nail a few fish for the hungry sailors! the weather was very settled and pleasant with light breezes most of the time.

here are some maps that show our track so far,

day01

day01

day02

day02

day03

day03

day04-05

day04-05

after a couple of days at lady musgrave island we pulled anchor and headed north again, thinking to either anchor at north west island or masthead island, depending on what winds we got. as it turned out the wind was very light for most of the day so we had to motor sail most of it, the only excitement for the day i noted in the ship’s log,

very light ESE winds, motor sailed with big screecher. Only notable event was I moved some boxes under the aft, port bunk and must have moved something metallic too near the fluxgate compass which is on the bulkhead under the bunk – as we discovered, this gave the compass an error of about 100% so the autopilot rounded the boat up into the wind, the speed took off and the screecher started luffing. At first we thought it was a big wind shift, but then realised the gps, autopilot and fluxgate compass all thought we were heading west instead of north!

we got the iphone out with zulu waterways on it so we could see where we were really heading and hand steered while we tried to work out what the hell was going on! After a few minutes i realised it was co-incidental with me moving stuff around in the locker so i went down and pulled it all out again and sure enough the compass came to its senses!

this adventure put us a bit behind where we had expected to be so we settled for picking up the mooring at masthead island and so we are snuggly hanging on it while weathering a fresh easterly that has sprung up with the sun going down.

next we head to keppel island for an overnight then into rosslyn bay marina where our good friend, brian ‘livo’ livingston will join us for a couple of weeks.

we had a lovely morning under full main and the lightweight screecher, sailing into great keppel island, but by the early afternoon the wind dropped out completely and we had to motor the rest of the way. we got into second bay, late afternoon and dropped the hook.

the highlight of the day was i caught my first fish trolling off the back of the boat, a stonking mackerel! the rest of the coral trout i shot yesterday was thrown overboard to the sharks and we had sashimi for lunch and will have fresh mackerel for dinner.

a little video to show the conditions!

 

 

 

 Posted by at 6:54 am



Mar 272022
 
lumiel on the jetty

lumiel on the jetty

so the journey begins! on thursday the 10th of march, sal, dave & I flew down to brisbane to bring our boat, lumiel, back home to gove. i have titled this blog entry, voyage01 and will try to make regular updates with the titles in sequence. we had planned about a week in birkdale on the jetty before starting the trip home, this was to allow for a couple of jobs we were aware of and provisioning.

unfortunately it ended up being about 2 weeks due to some unexpected issues we had to deal with (boats!). we went out for a sail with the previous owner, john, on the saturday after our arrival, and while we were out on the water john noticed that the port engine was no longer giving us drive. this necessitated disconnecting the engine from the sail drive and moving it forward to allow disassembly of the pinion drive shaft. john had broken a shaft 3 years ago in fiji and had it replaced by an authorised yanmar service agent there.

as incredible as it seems, it appears the mechanic never replaced the bearing lock nut that holds the shaft in place, and finally after 3 years it moved far enough forward to disengage from the engine! it was a lot of stress and time, but in the end it was an easy fix that only cost a few dollars in parts.

other jobs were repairing the dinghy which had some leaks, and installing a cell-fi aerial for extended mobile range. the aerial cable proved to be impossible to run in the mast at this time, but while up the mast i identified the masthead sheaves needed replacing. luckily i found a rigger nearby who was able to make up some new ones for us. finally we had to replace the house batteries 2 banks of 4 12v deep cycle batteries.

while dave & i dealt with all these issues, sal was constantly shopping for everything we felt we needed both for the trip home and for our use of the boat – as well as the actual provisions. this kept her busy most days! she also carted loads of washing to the laundromat.

special mention for a few people, the previous owners of lumiel, john & trish, who were fabulous, they never stopped helping us, looking after her while we waited for the right time to pick her up, being our personal post office for lots of stuff we got sent to them for the boat, and always happy to help and explain anything to us. their love for lumiel shone through and it was a night of mixed emotions when we all went to dinner for the last time before we departed.

john, trish, me, sal & dav

john, trish, me, sal & dav

also robyn, our taxi driver, since our first trip down in january when we ‘discovered’ her, she has been at our beck and call taking us where ever we needed to go to do whatever we wanted. always full of helpful advice about where to get stuff, good humoured kind and considerate. a lovely person.

finally, carmel anne and wayne who owned the dock lumiel was moored on. they were always friendly, super supportive of our needs given we needed to live on the boat while we waited to depart which you are not really meant to do. we are so grateful for their putting up with us in their backyard! special mention to their grand daughter who picked a big bowl of mexican cucumbers from carmel anne’s vine for us – which i then pickled and go so well with a nice cheese and bit of salami!.

after nearly 2 weeks we finally had everything in order and on monday 21st march we left birkdale, popped over to manly, filled up the fuel tank and then motored over to belinda bay on moreton island for our first night of the voyage.

i am writing this sitting in the lagoon at lady musgrave island, just 4 days after leaving birkdale! after a night at belinda bay we set off for noosa heads at 5:30am. we had a pleasant motor sail with the lightweight screecher and dropped anchor just off laguna beach for the night. the surf life saving club on the beach didn’t like us anchoring so close in and called us on the loudspeaker telling us to move further out as the water was full of pretentious wankers who didn’t appreciate a yacht in their midst. we sort of moved out a little bit and ignored them. 

we wanted another early start as we needed to make double island point and get across wide bay bar around 11:30 for the tide. we had not intended to go thru the great sandy straits but rather round the outside of fraser island but the weather conditions and forecast led us to change our minds. there was almost no wind all day and we just kept going, noosa, wide bay bar, great sandy straits and all the way up to within sight of hervey bay and dropped anchor off big woody island. 

 

the forecast was for light easterly to northerly breezes for the next few days so after some discussion over a few drinks we decided to spend the night and most of the rest of the next day anchored at big woody island and then weigh anchor and head off for lady musgrave island. we needed to be there at about 10am for the tide to get in thru the channel into the atoll and i calculated it was about an 18hr sail. we had a stunning sail thru the night with 8-12k ENE winds pushing us along and a magnificent moon rise on sal’s watch, a couple of passing trawlers on my watch and we arrived right on time at lady musgrave.

my only job was to spear a fish for dinner, so dave ran me out to the outside of the reef in the tender and i managed to spear a decent fish for dinner, so i was allowed back on board!

thats probably enough for a first post, so i will leave it there and send this one off!

(remember to click on the ‘i‘ if you want the captions for the photos in the galleries)

 Posted by at 4:45 pm



Jan 242022
 

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for those that dont know, we have bought a new boat and sold our old boat, dhamaku.

we had planned for some time to buy a bigger boat and I have talked about this process in my decision journal on my forum, I will just quote that post to save time.

“We have been looking for a bigger boat for about 12 months, it grew out of a desire of mine and our friend Dave, to cruise the NT coast from Gove to Darwin, exploring all the rivers, bays, islands, reefs etc and developed into a realisation that the 3 of us wanted a bigger boat not just for this trip but to spend more time cruising our coastline over more of the year. This meant a boat big enough to do more thru the windier dry season and initially our thinking was a 12-15m monohull motor boat with an economical motor like a Gardner or John Deere. We slowly developed a set of essential criteria in terms of fuel economy, range, galley location, seperate accomodation spaces, outdoor living spaces, and so on.

We built a process of searching for boats that seemed to suit most of our criteria, and then creating lists of everything we could find wrong with each one and in particular any issues that breeched our initial criteria. This was dont to avoid the likelihood of talking ourselves into buying something because we liked a lot about it, while missing something critical that would have been a problem once we owned it. It also helped prevent FOMO and impulsive purchasing in what is a red hot sellers market.

What we discovered as we looked at boat after boat, is they all had quite a long list of things that we found problematic or in outright contradiction with our criteria. Then one day, only a month or so ago, i somehow came across a sailing catamaran for sale in Darwin, and it got me thinking about how well a sailing cat met our criteria and after a while I built up enough nerve to ask sal to hear me out and after explaining my thinking, asked her if there was anyway she would consider a sailing cat. She was like, sure, “looks great, as long as it doesnt lean over I am fine with it” so then I had the same discussion with Dave and he was “Oh yes, well I have always thought a cat would be great up here”.

So we pivoted and started looking at sailing cats and one thing became really obvious quickly, our list of negatives and things we couldn’t live with became very, very short – for every cat we looked at!

In the end we settled on a Foutaine Pajot Bahia 46, a 46′ or 14m French built cat. She is built in 1997 and has been owned by an Aussie couple who bought her in the Caribbean and lived on her for 8 years before ending up back in Australia. I flew down to Brisbane and did a quick sea trial, and the deal was done. I feel we got her at a reasonable price in a very hot market,  Its a lot of boat for the money and one of the things that influenced our decision was that Lumiel is a production boat which does help with resale – not just value but liquidity.

Also buying in a seller’s market meant we were selling our old boat in the same market, i very much doubt we would get nearly as good a price and in fact may have had great trouble selling it in a soft or buyers market so it evens out to some extent.”

So dhamaku has gone to Kununurra in WA and after she sold Sal and I went down to Queensland to visit our new boat and spent a week on her in Moreton Bay, mainly anchored at Myora Bay hiding from the remnants of a cyclone that followed us down from home!

We are flying down to Brisbane on March 10th to start the voyage home to Gove Harbour, we expect to take about 2 months.

We will probably spend about a week getting her provisioned and ready for the trip, as well as doing a couple of sails with the previous owners, Trish & John who have been very generous with their time and support after selling her to us.
Below is a short video, when I went down and did the sea trial before purchase.
https://vimeo.com/645059927
and a few more pics,
and one last photo of dhamaku, our pride and joy for the last 4 ½ years and an amazing credit to Cairns Custom Craft, it was a sad day when I towed her out to the barge and sent her on her way to WA.
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 Posted by at 5:54 pm



Feb 272021
 
heading out hunting

heading out hunting

At the end of year 11 Kai won the Lynne Walker Literature Prize at school, this is the piece that won him the prize. The words in italics are from a poem that Djawa (Timmy) Burrrawanga’s mother in law, Gelung Gondarra Bukulatjpi wrote when he was born, about him. My proudest moment as a father.

kai

poem

 

 Posted by at 9:06 pm



Jan 062021
 

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december has been a busy month, some of the highlights were kai spearing a magpie goose while hunting with his mate jacob, they cleaned and plucked it and i grilled it on grillzilla, sal & I had 10 days in darwin and then after christmas we had 5 days on the big boat in the wessel islands while kai went to darwin for 2 weeks to stay with his mates over there for new years & his birthday.

our trip to darwin was also to visit the oncologist for a 12 month followup appointment for sal’s radiation treatment and hormone treatment for breast cancer, everything was fine as we expected and they were very happy with her health.

we treated it as our holiday this year, as we wont be going anywhere else! we rented a very smart apartment in wood st in the middle of darwin, but in a quiet area of the city. it was very comfortable and super convenient with a nice roof top pool on the 9th floor and underground parking. we ate most meals out and visited some old favourites as well as lots of new places.

i had a day out fishing with an old mate, don whyte & a friend of his markus spazzapan out of leaders creek, it was an early start, heading off at 4;30am. while we didn’t have any luck with the elusive barra, despite have a few follows and touchs, but it was a beautiful day and i got to see a lot of new country as well as having a lot of fun with don & markus.

our annual trip to the wessels was not without its dramas, on launching the boat on boxing day i discovered i still had a leak into the engine room that i believed i had fixed when i overhauled the stern drive recently. luckily it turned out to be a leak from one of the trim tabs where the hydraulics comes thru the transom at the water line – so although i couldn’t stop the leak, i knew it wouldn’t get worse and it was just a matter of the bilge pump running regularly to pump out what leaked in.

we had a lovely trip up there with light breezes and flat seas, we arrived at cumberland strait at about lunch time and decided to proceed through and anchor off survivors beach – where the survivors of the japanese sinking of the Patricia Cam drifted ashore. its an amazing story, i am sure most aussies dont know that the japanese bombed and sank an australian ship as well as taking one of the crew captive and then executing him. if you havent read the story here are some links,

Pat Cam 1

Pat Cam 2

Pat Cam 3

Pat Cam 4

we found the plaque on survivors beach that the past masters had placed in rememberance, as well as exploring the surrounding area including some small rock art sites.

it was quite awe inspiring to be at this historical site, and it was hard not to think about the hardships these people faced and the incredible luck that they had picked up narritjan & the other yolngu at gali’winku – i doubt anyone would have survived without their specific local knowledge.

after a fairly uncomfortable night due to swell across wind, we decided to go back thru cumberland strait and visit another important historical point of interest, australian’s bay.

cumberland strait is a scary passage of water between marchinbar and guluwuru islands, its got a hole over 110m deep on the eastern side which comes up to about 6m in a very short distance, like the gulgari rip (hole in the wall), there is an enormous amount of water trying to get from one side of the wessels to the other thru these tiny passages – we tried to time it near slack water but still had up to 8kts of tide under us, its full of tidal overfalls, rips and whirlpools – and thats on calm days with small tides! the australian nautical pilot basically tells you how to navigate the strait and then tells you if you have any other option, take it!

australian’s bay gets its name from matthew flinder’s visit there in 1803, he landed there for the night after deciding cumberland strait was too dangerous to navigate when he arrived in the afternoon having sailed up from malay roads. (his boat, that he was heading to england on was called the cumberland), flinders & his men were ashore cutting up a wrecked makasser prow for firewood when some yolngu came to meet them, flinders gifted them some axes and other tools and in his journal referred to them as  “the australians” – the first time in all the years of his circumnavigation of australia that he called them anything other than “indians”! so his final act on australian soil was to document aboriginal people as australians.

 

Screen Shot 2021-01-06 at 3.14.02 pm

Excerpt From: “A Voyage to Terra Australis.” Matthew Flinders

we also had some of our best fishing at the wessels this trip, I think we are slowly starting to work it out!

we also saw a pied manta ray swimming round the boat early one morning, I have never seen one this colour before, i have also put on a video of me catching a queeny, some pigmy killer whales balling up bait and a view of australian’s bay.

on the trip up we had developed a small issue with the engine, it was running a bit hot and the temp warning light was on, i decided this was likely a worn impeller in the sea water cooling pump, and on inspection I realised that although i had a spare impeller on board, it was not a job to do at sea by choice as it involved dismantling a fair bit of stuff and then removing the whole pump to replace the impeller, so we decided to limit any further exploring and just stay in australians bay until we were ready to go home.

we left on new years day and had a good passage back most of the way, it was a fresh NW wind but thats pretty well offshore on that course and from the aft quarter so it was quite comfortable.

unfortunately as we approached gove harbour a large storm developed over the harbour and the winds increased to 25kts+ and the seas stood up as the tide had started running the other way against the wind, it was soon a white out in driving rain and sloppy seas so we slowed down to make it more comfortable, suddenly the low battery light and high coolant temp lights came on and I knew instantly that the fanbelt on the alternator and fresh water pump had blown!

this meant i had to stop the engine as soon as possible to prevent permanent damage, so i turned into the wind and nasty seas and dropped the anchor and all the chain – but in 20m+ in those conditions I suspected it would be unlikely to hold, i called a friend who lives aboard a boat in the harbour and told him the situation, we were partially holding and partially dragging, but had probably 2nm sea room from the coast, so i felt I had time to replace the belt and get going again, I asked him to be on standby in case we needed a tow into safety.

in the end I was able to change the belt in about 30 minutes- of course you have to take off the power steering belt to get the alternator belt on and off so it was a bit fraught! anyway, we got it done, restarted the engine, winched up 60m of chain and made our way slowly into port in white out conditions.

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about 100m from the ship on the export wharf!

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rough track from gove to cumberland

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details of where we stayed

11.4 hrs 115nm 265lt 2.3lt per nm.

 

 

 

May 172020
 

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well its been eleventy months since i updated the blog, more than a year in fact. what a whirlwind of a year, sal was diagnosed with, treated for and recovered from breast cancer, kai started playing rugby union and ended up representing the NT, playing two years above his age group, we all went down to melbourne for a relly run and sal & kai went on to tassie as well.

sal and i spent over a month living in darwin while she had radiation treatment.

livo & katie came up in feb and we had our annual week pilgrimage to bawaka fishing and camping.

kai started a school based apprenticeship in carpentry with a local construction company., sadly one of my fathers passed away, bob matches, the epitome of a gentleman, left us in march.

then kai’s beloved rugby coach passed away suddenly leaving another huge hole in his life. snogga had been an absolute legend in our town, not just for his tireless work with rugby but also with the surf club, and as captain of the fire services.

of course we have also had our world changed forever by the impact of cover-19 – we got off lightly here with no cases, but the impacts of lockdown have kept sal working from home for a couple of months and stopped our travel plans for this year.

i have created a movie slideshow of the last year or so, and I will try to post more often going forward!

 Posted by at 1:56 pm



Mar 182019
 
gfc-20

miller island

so this weekend past was the Gove Women’s Fishing Competition, and as many will know, I refuse to be on the same boat as a group of competitive fishers, especially if one of them is my wife! sal teamed up with her friend deb and her husband, marco, took on the role of skipper for them.

my compromise was to offer to bring the big boat so they could stay out on the water on saturday night, to that end sal & i launched on friday afternoon and spent the night at the granites enjoying a few beers, a nice steak and a glass or two of red.

sal was picked up by deb & marco at 6:30 on saturday morning and they headed out fishing, we agreed to meet up at breakfast island for lunch, so i made my way up there, and anchored up to enjoy a morning swimming and relaxing while the girls fished!

after lunch the fishers headed off and i cleaned up and then headed off to the dinner and overnight rendevous, the north side of wigram island. we enjoyed a dinner of fish tacos and spent a very comfortable night anchored in behind a sand spit and a couple of islands. we had a rain squall in the morning as we made coffees which lasted an hour or so and delayed the start to fishing slightly.

sunday morning the girls decided to fish the north side of wigram and around miller island so i steamed over to miller island and set up for lunch, we had a haloumi and chorizo salad with a cold beer for good luck!

after lunch i set sail for home and the girls headed off to fish attack shoal and the bromby islands before making their way back to the ramp at the end of the comp. while the girls probably wont win any prizes, as they didnt really get amongst as many big fish as they would have liked, they had a great time and a lot of fun, and from my perspective we had a lovely weekend away and it was very relaxing for me!

we did about 90nm in dhamuku, and 9 hrs of motoring, we used 144l of fuel for 1.6l per nm and 16l per hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 242019
 
new tinny

new tinny

i was pondering what to title this blog post and settled on ‘sabbatical’ because the main point of the post is to describe our bienniel retreat at bawaka when my old mate brian livingstone makes his way back to nhulun from queensland for 10 days catchup, holiday, fishing and adventuring.

last time he brought his daughter and this time it was his brother, dave, who came with him. as dave butterworth is always part of this bienniel bludge, we had to rename him barry to save confusion.

so dave, brian, myself and barry had a few days in town before heading out to bawaka, this allowed for some great nights at rick’s bar and grill, including a memorable night when timmy djawa burarrwanga joined us with his nephew. dadaynga. he was heading off to sydney at short notice so was unable to join us at bawaka for the cultural education segment of the retreat, so dinner at the grill was the best we could do. he played my djalu stick, and even did the healing yidaki on dave’s chest which is always a powerful introduction to NE arnhem land! (unfortunately the torrential downpour drowns out the yidaki somewhat!)

as you will notice above, we have a new tinny, she is an absolute ripper and has already done quite a few hours! its a blue fin wrangler, 4.75m, running a 60HP yamaha. Its a plate boat, 4mm sides and bottom, widened gunnels, extra handrails and a pod. its beautifully built, comfortable, roomy, strong, quiet and very easily driven. As sad as it was to lose the old tinny, this is a definite step up.

so some food porn to kick the photos off, (remember, click on the”i” if you want to see the captions.)

 

sal, kai and I had taken a load of gear and dry stores down in the troopy the weekend before, so we stocked the boats up with fuel, fresh food, barry’s coffee machine and other essentials of rough living. we then launched at yirrkala and set off for the hour or so run down to bawaka.

our days were much the same, up around 6:30 to stoke the fire and fire up the coffee machine for a couple of rounds of lattes, barry the barista pulled great shots all week, although I only brought 1kg of my beans and we had to eake it out towards the end of the week! we would then have a hearty breakfast, we had things like mushrooms, eggplant and yellow capsicum stew with bacon and poached egg; omelettes; chilli beans with bacon, egg and pita bread; halloumi, chorizo and mint and others i have forgotten!

after breakfast it was off to chase jack and barra in the creeks and on the rocky headlands. we usually put in a good 3 or 4 hours fishing and also exploring the creek systems to try to unlock the secret to fishing them. we spent mornings in the wonga river, mosquito creek and holly’s inlet as well as exploring most of the coastline of port bradshaw.

then it was back to bawaka for lunch, i had taken a couple of kilos of pulled slow cooked, smoked beef, so wraps with salad and the pulled beef was a staple, we also did amazing fish tacos a couple of times with lime & chilli mayo, pan fried coral trout or jack, jalapenos, onion and lashings of vietnamese mint.

after lunch we either went offshore for a troll or bottom bounce, or did some more exploring of the inshore waters. sometimes we squeezed in a nanna nap and we usually got up to lonely beach for a swim.

dinner was everything from steaks grilled over the fire, whole coral trout wrapped in paperbark and grilled on the fire; whole red emporer wrapped in foil and grilled on the fire; spagetti bolognese; pan fried mangrove jack fillets with kumera chips and I think the fish tacos got a run one night too.

then it was sit around the fire talking about the sort of things 4 philosophers stranded on a tropical island talk about before heading inside to a very deep nights sleep!

on friday sal and kai drove down in the troopy to spend the weekend with us, on saturday sal, barry, brian and dave headed out on barry’s boat down to the 3 hummocks and dudley shoal to try their hand at some bottom fishing, kai and I had a day on the tinny do some hunting and a bit of work round the camp.

aaron, rohan and their partners came down for the weekend also, to provide some cultural education in timmy’s absense. on sunday we took them out hunting on the tinny, first we went looking for turtle to harpoon, but although we did find a big one, my boat driving skills were not up to the task and we lost him before rohan could get a harpoon in it. it was pretty hilarious, rohan screaming instructions from the bow of the boat in yolngu matha, aaron translating into english – and me finally doing what was required about 30 seconds earlier!!

after failing to harpoon a turtle our efforts turned to stingray, kai joined the boys in wading through the croc infested shallows spearing stingray, he got 4 and was taught the correct way to remove the barbs after spearing. its bloody hard work, the water is at least knee deep, its often walking through deep sticky mud and you cover a lot of distance. dave and i would get in as close as we could in the tinny and drop them off, then we would move maybe 500m or more along the mangroves in the deeper water and wait for them to get abreast of us and then motor in as close as we could so they could walk out with their catch and get back in the boat.

monday we spent a day exploring the upper reaches of the creek that extends out of holly’s inlet, it was a successful day from the fishing point of view with plenty of jack caught, but it came close to disaster on several, consequential fronts. firstly, after following the incoming tide upstream as far as we could go, we fished the falling tide back down, but I had made an error with not watching the depths closely enough on the way up and retracing our course we ran out of water. it looked like we were going to be stuck for the whole of the falling tide and half of the rising tide before we would be able to get out. luckily brian found a path with just enough water for us to get back out into the deeper channel again.

then a complication arose from a dead battery on the electric trolling motor, this had necessitated my bodgy wiring of the minn kota to the main starting battery and when we went to start the main motor again we discovered we had a flat starting battery as well. luckily after pulling the cover off the motor and fabricating a starter rope from some trolling line, i was able to pull start the engine.

things always come in 3’s dont they?! not long after this the motor spluttered and cut out and refused to start. we were still 5 miles upstream from dhanaya, the community at the mouth of the inlet, no one knew we were up there anyway, the electric motor would flatten the battery long before we covered the 5 miles, the outgoing tide would move us downstream – but it also had no chance of taking us 5 miles – and then when it turned it would push us upstream again!

without going into all the details, and the discussions about what we should do, we finally got the motor running again, the fuel line had a small split and it had started sucking air. it was as a reminder of how isolated you can be in this part of the world, we really had only one option if had been unable to get it going again – we would have had to set off the epirb.

our last full day was spent exploring the upper reaches of the wonga river, this was a real surprise to all of us, it was stunningly beautiful, the fresh water was pushing right down the river towards the mouth and the banks were covered with rain forest, paper barks, gum trees and steep rocky banks. there were frequent rock bars to navigate  and it was more reminicsent of the katherine gorge than an arnhem land creek.

our week was at an end, it just remained to pack everything up and steam home. it was a very special time, aside from the obvious point that staying in a tropical paradise like this where you have a proper bed, running water, solar battery power for fridges and freezers as well as access to amazing fishing and exploring is pretty amazing; not to mention the opportunity to engage in traditional hunting and food preparation with yolngu, and spend time with a few really special friends and share part of it with my lovely family…..there is something special about spending a week in the bush with no phone service, no internet, no tv…a week with out all that ‘noise’ and distraction really focusses your mind and its a really powerful force for mental health IMO. It was hard to leave and all of us were a bit displaced for a couple of days when we got home. its taken me 4 days before I could approach writing about it. I spent the first 24 hours refusing to open the laptop or turn the tv on to try to hang on to the quiet magic.

anyway, there are a few more random photos, brian made djawa a steel sign for bawaka with the anchor and stingray symbol from their flag design, we will have to wait until he is back to work out where to hang it, but its waiting for him at bawaka. our plan is to make it an annual retreat, 2 years is too long between gigs!

thanks to djawa and family for your welcoming and generous access to bawaka, thanks to brian, dave, and dave for making the adventure so fulfilling, entertaining and bloody funny.

bawa-27crop

 

 Posted by at 8:21 pm  Tagged with:



Dec 312018
 
dhamuku anchored in lighthouse bay

dhamuku anchored in lighthouse bay

the week between xmas and new years is time we usually try and have away on the boat together, and our plan this year had been to head to the top of the wessel islands and explore from burston bay round past the cape wessel lighthouse and down to twin island bay. we had thought to head out boxing day and come back on new years day, going up in our big boat and dave coming along in his boat for 5 of the days that he had off.

well, best laid plans of mice and men etc, dave ended up with a crook back and the weather was pretty nasty on boxing day with a fair amount of rain and unsettled weather predicted, so we decided to shorten up the trip, head to truant island to be closer to home, and tow our tinny in dave’s absence.

we had a pleasant steam up to truant island on thursday morning, we got up there in the late morning and anchored up round on the north side of the island in a bay where there is an old oyster lease, it has a resident pair of large estuarine cod and a huge barracuda we call barry! they always hang around the boat waiting for any scraps to feed on.

we spent a couple of days enjoying the pleasures of truant – crystal clear water, good fishing, swimming, snorkelling and exploring the beaches of the island for shells, driftwood and other treasures. this was indispersed with afternoon beers, fresh fish dinners with salads and wine and afternoon naps!

kai also spent much time practising his hunting skills with his yolngu spear, he earnt the title of djambatj with his first kill of a decent mullet!

after a couple of nights on the north side of the island we decided to shift to the south side to get a way from a bit of nw swell that had started to create a little discomfort in our original anchorage, we also discovered that the commercial barra boat, ruby, was anchored off one of the other beaches, cooch and katie had also decided to spend a few days at truant instead of heading to the wessels as they also had intended.

saturday came to a close, we were intending to steam home sunday morning so it was to be our last dinner, we were getting dinner ready and enjoying a beer while watching a large storm front roll in from the south just before sunset. we had watched many storms over the 4 days and it was like we were in a storm shadow, it didnt seem to matter where they formed, they always just missed us so we had actually had very little rain. this one looked to be pretty big though, and it rolled in from the south slowly.

there was no real indication of what was coming, the breeze stayed very light NW and it looked like we would get some rain but nothing much else, but just after dark it hit and within minutes we had driving rain and 30kt southerly winds. the 180deg change in wind direction meant we were now anchored off a lee shore with the wind driving us onshore. we dragged anchor once, but it held and dug in again, then 10 minutes later it dragged again and we made the decision to pull anchor.

we discussed whether just to motor round to the other side of the island and sit it out there, but given that we had already planned to head home in the morning, and not knowing how long the storm would last or what the conditions would be like, we decided that having already pulled anchor we may as well steam home slowly through the night.

the next dilemma was that the tinny was only tied off on a short line, to tow it home we had to pay out a line with a float off the back of the tinny that keeps it tracking straight, and also attach the heavy tow line to the front of the tinny, so while sal drove the boat and held it slowly head into wind, i managed to climb on the tinny, deploy the trailling rope, jump back on the big boat, attach the long tow line and feed it out so the tinny was in the proper position to tow. we had to do all of this in pitch blackness, driving rain, howling wind and steep seas!

thankfully sal and kai worked with me to do what was needed and get the situation under control and we set off at about 6-7kts slowly punching into the gale force wind and high seas towards home!

we got about 5 miles out, on the south side of barricade shoal and i asked sal to check the tinny, she had trouble seeing much with the torch out the back of the boat with the spray and rain, so a bit later she took over the helm and i went back to have a look myself. to my horror when i pulled on the main tow line it was obvious there was no longer a tinny attached!

i pulled the 40m 20mm diameter tow line into the back of the boat and discovered the snap shackle had failed, so the tinny was drifting somewhere in the pitch blackness behind us – with no certainty about when and where it came adrift.

we quickly decided there was no point in turning around to look for it, it would have been an impossible task in the conditions. so we pressed on through the night and got back into gove harbour at about 11:30pm and anchored off the yacht club for the rest of the night.

the next morning the weather had cleared, and after some discussion sal and i decided we would take the big boat back out and run up to truant island again to see if we could find the tinny. we dropped kai off at the yacht club so a friend could take him home to spare him the trip! so we did another 80 something miles up to truant, round the island a couple of times and back home.

in effect all we achieved was confirming that it hadnt washed up on the island. meanwhile dave had reported it to the water police in darwin and they sent back a computer modelled predicitive chart of the area with the higher probability of drift path given the tides and winds – this information suggested the tinny would have been out of sight to the east of our track up and back – but it wasnt information we had on sunday because we were out of contact on the water!

so in hindsight we made the best decision we could with the information we had, but nfortunately it effectively wasted the best chance we had for finding and recovering the boat, the weather rapidly deteriorated over night and monday morning we had a tropical low over cape york expected to develop into a cyclone, and persistent rain. I spoke to a friend who owns an aviation company and asked about the chances of locating the tinny if we put a plane up for a few hours on a search pattern.

in the end we decided it wasnt viable, the odds of the tinny still floating were high, but still less than 100%, the odds of finding the tinny were under 50% in the conditions, sal and I would have had to refuel the big boat, put it back in the water, steam out to the search area and then have the plane conduct the search, if he was lucky enough to spot the tinny, he then had to find us visually – the plane’s radio is different to the boat radio – which was no certainty so maybe a 75% chance, then we have to be able to find the tinny by following the plane back – something less than a 100% chance too, and then we have to successfully recover the tinny and tow it home – so when you do the calculation, its probably less than a 30% chance of a successful search, discovery and recovery.

in the end we decided that in worsening weather, a cyslone threatening, tired from what we had already been though, and with something less than a 30%  chance of success, we just werent prepared to spend maybe thousands of dollars on a risky operation.

as i put it, if you asked would i spend the day out on the water i those conditions in the big boat, my answer would be ‘absolutely, if someones life was at risk, but if there was a suitcase floating out there with $20k in it, and a 30% chance i could find it and recover it, then no, the boat would stay in the driveway!”

so, now i guess you know why the blog post is titled “lost”!

at the end of the day the mechanical failure of a $40 snap shackle has caused us a large loss, and given that all our fishing rods and gear as well as all the snorkelling gear was on the tinny it really is quite significant, but its beyond our control and more importantly the 3 of us are safe and well, we had a fantastic 4 days, and we will remember our little tinny with great fondness.

i have to end the post there as i need to look for a nice 4.5m tinny with all the gear on it!

happy new year to all and sundry!

 

we did 13.8 hrs motoring covering 167.6 nm 0r 1.8lt per nm

 

UPDATE – i think we have closure now, tinny is too far away wih no chance of finding and recovering, here is the update this afternoon from the amazingly helpful John Piri at the NT Water Police,

Hi Rick, happy to help if we can.  I have run a calculation just now.   It uses actual BOM data up to now and predictions from here on in.   The prediction cans are show as 1530 today.  The black line is the most probable track.   After loitering for the first couple of days south of Truant Island it really is likely to have picked up speed to the east (ENE) which is not helpful.    QPOL have been advised.

image001

Prediction for 2 days time.   Likely to reach the tip of Cape York in 8 days.   Of course filling with water may affect the drift rate even if it does not sink it.

Again ignore the date markers on the black line as above.  The variation to the south is possible but has a lower probability.

image002

 

Nov 252018
 
truant-1

truant island

we had our first trip in the big boat for the season this weekend, we headed out on friday morning to truant island, towing the tinny. we have been waiting for the dry season winds to really abate and finally this weekend looked like the break, with the winds shifting round to the north and even into the north west on sunday.

despite the fairly long interval between trips, nearly everything worked well on the boat and we didnt forget anything other than a couple of minor items! our last trip was back in may, so it was quite a break over the dry season.

we had a gold spot trevally we caught after arriving on friday for dinner the first night, a sploosh of chipotle mayo, salad with greens from the garden and a nice bottle of white were the perfect companions as we watched the full moon rise. we had hoped we would see the turtles hatching given the full moon, but there were no signs when we checked about 10pm and no tracks in the morning.

we had a quite varied weekend, kai & I did quite a bit of snorkelling as the water was very clear, given that young sean whitcomb nearly most his arm in a shark attack here last weekend, we were a little cautious in the water! kai and I also spent a fair bit of time chasing fish from the boat with our spears, kai hit a couple of mullet but they got off before we could recover the spears. Sal and i spent saturday morning bottom fishing the reefs around truant banks without much success but caught a couple of mackerel to keep us fed!

we also did our usual beachcombing and brought home some more floatsom and jetsom for the decorations at rick’s bar and grill!

coffee time!

coffee time!

we had a leisurely trip home on sunday, as you can see kai slept the whole way, i am making a coffee while the auto pilot steers us homewards!

we covered 71.2nm and motored for 5.5hrs using 165lt for fuel consumption of exactly 30lt per hour and 2.3lt/nm