Helios | Integrity 380 – Part 2

Janey and Peter join us.

BPM still has a car hire business – $49 per day for an aged Toyota, but it is ideal for driving the 20+ kilometres into the Bundaberg to shop and the following day to pick up Janey and Peter from the airport.

After settling in and just about catching their breath, we announce that the conditions are ideal to sail over to Lady Musgrave Island, 60 nm NE. Peter is somewhat daunted by being so far of the coast.

The next morning we set off at 6.50 and eight hours later motored carefully into the lagoon, avoiding several large bommies, the no anchoring zone and a variety of other boats. We found the sandy bottom and dropped the anchor, being very cautious about ensuring it was well dug in. The cruisers ‘bibles’ emphasise the dangers of dragging and having to move during the night. I can well believe it.

The lagoon is beautiful and although there are other boats we are all well scattered across the lagoon. The water beside our boat is crystal clear and the anchor chain is clearly visible. Brightly coloured fish swim around us and the water beckons. Even the water temperature is an acceptable 23.5 degrees.

The following day we jump into the dinghy, using our new Torquedo outboard and head for the little island or cay home, at certain times, for a vast colony of noddies. These birds are responsible for the access to the lagoon as an entrance was blown through by guano collectors in days gone by.

The cay is covered thickly in pissonia trees and funny little platforms that pass for noddy nests are all over the branches, On the ground are shearwater burrows. The bird life is varied even without these annual visitors, Peter, a passionate birder, was kept busy photographing various birds to identify later.

We walked around the island along the beach, that is fringed by reef, and back to the boat, as the tourists arrive from the mainland for a few hours experience.

To snorkel off one of the closer bommies, we dinghy over with Peter – a non-swimmer – watching over us. I remember the coral being more brilliant last time, 8 years ago. Mostly it is stag horn coral with bursts of colour here and there. However, the fish were everywhere – all colours, sizes and shapes. Angel fish darted to hide as soon as we swam near them, but others took absolutely no notice. It is indeed a privilege to float over these lovely coral reefs and see the fish and I do so hope that our grandchildren will have a good experience when they are old enough.

The weather remained calm and we stayed another day, snorkelling, exploring, relaxing. The temperature was perfect and the company was good.

The following day we prepared to leave and others were doing the same. The winds were coming in a bit stronger, so. It seemed wise to up anchor and slowly make our way out and across to Pancake Creek, 45 nm away. The sea was pretty lumpy and the passage was uncomfortable so we were glad to motor in through the entrance of Pancake Creek and make our way a little upstream to anchor. Despite extreme care we managed to find either hard sand or a rock and a bang brought us all to attention. It was only a glancing blow and no damage, but a useful reminder that the plotter does not know everything!

With four people on board we are aware that we will probably need more water before we are at the next planned marina in Keppel Bay. So we leave the next morning for Gladstone, which is sad really as there is good bird life and a lovely beach to explore. As we enter the shipping channel, large ships can be seen waiting out at sea for their turn to enter and load coal. Port control gives us instructions and we head into this large channel leaving red to starboard (which is a little weird, but it keeps us just out of the way).

Motoring past the vast industrial complex that is now Gladstone, we see the aluminium smelter and its stockpile of bauxite, enormous infrastructure that is now part of Curtis Island and a LNG plant and finally the coal loading area. The marina is an oasis of calm. The shopping area is a couple of kms away and so it is worth stocking up with a few things. John fills up with water and we take the opportunity to sort the boat out a bit – chaos has reigned a little with four on board.

Gladstone is a quiet place at 4pm. The one Main Street looks prosperous enough and is tidy and well landscaped. There is a theatre and an art gallery and some good shops, quite different from the usual high street ones. A RM Williams shop with a great sale keeps us all occupied for a while and finally we find Woolworths and hoof it back to the marina with more food.

That evening John is deep in calculations as we plan to go through the ‘Narrows’. This is an area of about 6 miles between the mainland and the northern part of Curtis island. It is famous for its cattle crossing – halfway along – which dries to 2 metres at low water. A high tide, preferably high spring tide, is needed to enable a safe crossing. John has always wanted to do this and in Selene it was just too risky. He assures me that with the high spring tides it will be fine! He calculates everything so carefully – timing is essential and the following morning we head off, not too early as we will have to wait for the tide to be at a certain point. We arrive at the beginning and anchor for a half hour or so until the appointed time. With the help of Alan Lucas and the plotter and John’s careful calculations we progress towards the crossing. To see the cattle race disappearing into the water is somewhat sobering, but the lowest depth the echo sounder gives us is 1.3 metres.

After 2 hours of concentration, we are through with no bumps and we find an anchorage for the night just inside Badger Creek (which should be known as Sandfly Creek!). It is a quiet still spot, but for Peter it is terrifying as he is being nibbled at.

The sunset and sunrise at this place is totally gorgeous. We have experienced so many beautiful sunrises and sunsets, but this one is spectacular. No lights anywhere to distract from it. The next morning a heavy dew covers all the outside areas and stuck to most of it are a zillion sand flies – revenge is sweet!

Another calm and sunny day ???proceeds the spectacular sunrise and we head for Great Keppel Island. With the strong SE winds still blowing, the northern anchorages are ideal and we settle down in Second Beach for a few nights. The SE winds keep everything just that bit too cool and I am surprised to see no-one swimming. The water is just over 20o, whereas Lady Musgrave Island lagoon was 23o. What GK Island did have to offer was lovely walks and varied bird life. Right across from us Peter spotted an osprey nest and two adults. We watched as they swapped places and saw off any birds that came to close and speculated that they had eggs or chicks. The beach is beautiful, the bush is home to masses of blue butterflies and the sea is crystal clear – what a paradise.

But time ticks on and by Sunday we have to leave and make our way 15 nm across to Keppel Bay marina. The SE has really got going and it is about 20 knots and concerns about entering the marina are laid to rest by Molly who gives us a large berth with no one alongside! This marina has been enlarged since we were last here and there are lots of spaces. The facilities are good and the Waterline Restaurant serves excellent food and live music at lunchtimes. They also have a hire car system which is just such good news as the following day we have to take J & P to Rockhampton airport for their flight home to the UK.

End of Part 2 of cruise.