Sometimes when you least expect it, long passages can be fun and full of surprises.
We have crossed the “paddock” many times in The Bossa. It’s the stretch of water between Great Keppel Island and the Whitsundays. No mainland anchorages, all remote and most are uninhabited islands.
It’s usually a 4/5-day stretch from ‘start to finish’ with very rare phone coverage hence a reliance on the various coastguards for weather updates. It’s very tempting to just keep sailing north each day from island to island, repeatedly departing at “stupid o’clock”. But this area has many picturesque anchorages, so we decided to spend a few nights at some rather than pushing on day after day.
Our plan this season was to bypass Middle Percy Island (a very popular stopover) as we’d been many times before and it’s not a great anchorage in strong SE winds, which was our forecast. South easterlies as far as we could see, and mostly 20 knots. Perfect direction and as we were without our screecher we were happy with the stronger winds. Our planned passage included Island Head Creek, Marble Island in the Dukes, Curlew Island, Scawfell Island (the ‘official’ beginning of the Whitsundays) and Brampton Island (and maybe Goldsmith Island).
We’ve often sailed this stretch on our own, so it was a pleasant surprise to find a few friends who we’d caught up with earlier, planning the same. The weather does dictate our plans so we often find we are all of similar mind. We even met a few yachts we knew unexpectedly along the way. So there were a few gatherings on the beach or on a boat after a day’s sail.
We left GKI in the company of two Lagoon 41s – Ilikai and Zenitude, two Fusions – Fusion Magic and The Bossa and a Lightwave 45 – Gemini Lady … and about twenty others in a mixed fleet of cats, power boats and monohulls from a Gold Coast boat club. There were certainly some busy anchorages
The passages were fun sailing in company, even the lumpy ones. Boat to boat banter on the radio and sail trimming keeps us all amused. Must be quite lonely out there in front Ilikai! To date I think the only time we reached our destination ahead of Ilikai was when we left Island Head Creek in 25+k winds, with an 8-mile head start.
The whale season is here and while we had seen a few whales in the distance, my camera which is always on ‘standby’ hadn’t been required … until we entered Island Head Creek.
Island Head Creek is aptly named with a big chunky rocky island at the northern head of the creek (it’s really an inlet size wise) as well as a rocky outcrop at the southern end of the entrance. We were eyeballing this rocky outcrop as we were about to turn to the port side and enter the inlet. “Hmm … is that a rock?” It was a whale, a juvenile humpback whale. The whale breached right next to us on our port side, right in line with the sun. I grabbed the camera but with the incredibly bright glare on the water it was guess work. I bolted to the other side of our boat to try to avoid the sun’s glare and as I did so, the whale had crossed our bow (our engine was already in idle and we had slowed right down) and it breached again on our starboard side, splashing Neville in the face! It was that close. I captured the “ker-plunk” as this very active whale thumped the water with gusto. As well as the delight we experienced it was also unnerving being that close. I spotted mum some time later, trying to keep up.
After our catchup with Gemini Lady for a broccoli drop we had a very lively sail from Island Head Creek, with gusts of 28 knots at times. Did Tim (Gemini Lady) say it was 15 knots out there?! The boat to boat radio was in overdrive with wind updates circulating constantly. Reefed mainsails all round. I haven’t seen our boat’s cockpit covered with so much saltwater in a long time. It was a long passage but with the strong winds, it was a quick one. It did calm down as we approached Marble Island fortunately, where we enjoyed an afternoon of sunshine and calm winds, and a lovely sunset, all in a pretty setting before departing for Curlew Island the next day.
Curlew Island is a favourite stopover. Its very picturesque with a long sandy beach and a high rocky outcrop towering above on the western end. It’s quite stunning. We counted 22 boats the first night, but many departed the next morning whereas we stayed on for a second night.
This season’s visit to Curlew will be remembered for it’s ab-so-lute-ly stunning sunset! Such amazing colour. These phones were all taken with my iphone. (I think my camera was actually overwhelmed with the colour onslaught.)
Here’s some more …
From Curlew Island we sailed on to Scawfell Island, the southern most island of the Whitsundays … and what a sail it was! Strong SE winds following us. Fusion Magic, Ilikai and The Bossa, all with different sail combinations. With the wind behind us we launched our kite, Ilikai with a mainsail and poled out screecher and Fusion Magic with three sails! A mainsail, a screecher AND a jib. It wasn’t a race though 🙂
I got some great close-up photos of John on Fusion Magic (yes a lone sailor until Jane arrives). Not many close ups of Janine and Pearce as Ilikai was further away … and behind us! But it wasn’t a race though. After 46 nautical miles all three cats were so close together as we reached Scawfell Island. Neville sounded the horn through the radio. The race that wasn’t a race was over! Placings – Bossa Nova, followed by a very close Fusion Magic, with Ilikai a close third (at last!). Lots of fun.
We stopped over at Brampton Island where we unexpectedly caught up with Chris and Wade on Anui. (Our first fish caught too … yuk … a Mac Tuna … back to the deep!) We also lucked some TV reception to watch the Dees beat West Coast. It was a bizarre game with with a lightning interruption but we managed to hang on and jump to the top of the table. Go Dees!
The 20 knot SE trade winds have firmly set in with the same as far as we can see. Next stop, Airlie Beach for our second AZ jab, some provisioning, haircuts, collection of our screecher and a catch up with Marg and Ross on their new boat Adagio and Barb and Terry on Whiskers, both boats from our home port in Victoria.
(Our thoughts are with our family and friends back home as we have just heard that lockdown has been extended by two weeks. We feel very lucky to have got back to our boat this year and can only imagine how difficult these lockdowns have made life back home. Take care everyone!)