I never thought we’d be saying “let’s get outta here” only after a few days at Great Keppel Island. But we did!
We arrived at GKI after a visit to the Gladstone Marina with AQ, where we provisioned, washed and even did some sight-seeing with a drive to the town of 1770. We said goodbye to Gerry and Robyn at Gladstone. We will certainly catch up with them again soon.
With the tides just not quite right for a stop-over at one of my favourite anchorages at Yellow Patch on Curtis Island, we decided to use the high tide through The Narrows and sail on to Great Keppel Island instead.
It was great to catch up with Brian and Eva on Zofia (fellow New Cal 2017 participants). Fire gatherings at Svendsen’s Beach, snorkeling at Monkey Beach and the infamous hamburgers at Fisherman’s Beach made for the usual relaxed GKI experience. No No NO! We unfortunately arrived at GKI smack bang on very big spring tides. The wind and tide combination was not fun. We rocked and rolled at every anchorage. There was some limited relief at low tide but I was so over feeling queasy at anchor. Yet there were so many boats here … go figure!
I had two snorkels at Monkey Beach so all was not lost. Last year the coral here was covered in algae. This year the water was so murky visibility even at low tide was poor. It may have been from the combination of high winds and big tides, or from the Fitzroy River run-off. Either way it is so sad to see what was such a pretty spot with healthy coral, look so damaged and murky. There were plenty of fish and as I always say, I always find something lurking beneath to capture my interest.
Here’s a slideshow …
Decision time. Do we stay here and then turn south? Or do we sail north? Our timing this year is so out of whack. The tides decided for us.
At first light we left GKI and sailed north. We had a good SE forecast. Even the spinnaker got to throw off the mothballs. This stretch of water, between The Keppels and the Whitsundays, is a four-day minimum sail. Long days. And we knew … big tide equals big current! We also needed to be in touch with home by phone as soon as we could so a quick trip suited us (no phone reception in this stretch).
So we logged on with CG Yeppoon. Arghhhh! Only to find out the Military had closed the Shoalwater Bay area until midnight. This closure included our planned anchorage for the night. Their recommendation was to transit through to Supply Bay on Townsend Island, a further two hours. Never been there. But we knew it was in the vicinity of some of the strongest tidal flow on this coast. We anchored at 5 pm in Supply Bay, right on low tide. Safe and secure.
Little did we know the freight train was arriving in the middle night! At high tide (6 metre tide) the boat felt like we were caught up in the rapids at Niagra Falls. There had to be a 3 knot current whipping us around like a ragdoll as it raced through the bay. Someone had turned on the tap. So much for sleep!
Do demonstrate how big our tides were … along with the current …
So it was a very early departure from Supply Bay. No surprise there! Curlew Island was our next destination.
Some places you visit bring back strong memories. In 2016 we left Middle Percy Island for Curlew Island. It was so calm. Fog set in. A whale breached right in front of us and scared the heebies out of me. As we approached Curlew Island we passed Bluff Rock, a majestic and humongous steep rock island. Fog was engulfing the island with only the northern steep tip exposed. Right at the bottom of this steep incline was a tinnie. A tinnie with two fisherman in it. It was such an evocative scene. I framed this photo and for many years it has been the only sailing photo we’ve had on our walls at home.
From Bluff Rock we then entered the anchorage at Curlew Island. Curlew has a towering rugged steep peak that embodies its bay. It is very picturesque. We were greeted not only by dolphins, but by two catamarans, the only two boats in the bay. These two boats were both Fusion 40’s, like ours. Amazing! Brenda and Marty on Waterfront have been cruising buddies ever since that meeting at Curlew Island. (Oh yes, I forgot to mention, those two fisherman? They gave us some fish a bit later on!)
Once again Curlew Island did not disappoint. We did have a 5 metre tide, but the wind had eased, the drizzle cleared, and it was a remarkably calm night … at last!
So we have arrived at the Whitsundays. The Tiger Blue butterflies have announced our arrival, greeting us at Scawfell Island. It is a later arrival this year, but perhaps one that will be so much more appreciated. This will be as far north as we venture. The winds have eased … and the tides too!
And … well done Abbie for finding that tiny shrimp in my Fitzroy Reef anemone photo!