Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Sailing to Queensland, Winter 2017 - Part 6
Latest update 7 July 2017
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Thursday 22 June 2017 â Butterfly Bay to Butterfly Bay
The forecast for today is similar to yesterday, so we are going to hang around up the northern end of Hook Island. It was not too bad last night, even though there were some bullets of 20 knots and a little rocking now and then. We also had some mooring knock (when the mooring buoy hits the hull) due to wind and tide being opposite. We wake at 0630 and get up at 0800.
After breakfast, we motor around to Manta Ray Bay. There are two moorings here, but one is taken and the other one is missing its end rope. We motor back to Luncheon Bay and moor there. Kelly takes Rosemary and Graham around in Thunderbird 2 to Manta Ray Bay where they have a snorkel. They come back at 1050 and report that the coral (in the shallows at least) has been devastated by the cyclone and there were no big fish at all. This is the opposite of two years ago. Damn!
|Rosemary and Graham about to go for a snorkel
|The amount of sand missing of the beach in Butterfly Bay is very obvious
We leave Luncheon and motor back to Butterfly Bay. We get one of the end moorings and are moored by 1125. At 1150 the boat on the end mooring leaves and we move to that one. There is some mooring knock so we use one of our long marina mooring lines to tie onto the loop under the buoy rather than the end of the rope. This stops the knock almost totally.
At 1400 the wind increases again with bullets of over 30 knots. Graham and Rosemary went snorkelling again in the bay and when they were getting back on the boat, we saw a tiny manta ray less than 10 metres from us. Amazing!!
|A panoramic photograph of us in Butterfly Bay
Later Michael tries to take them around to the eastern part of the bay to see the butterflies but as it is low tide, there is no way to get to the beach due to the coral. He then takes them to the beach in the main bay and goes back to get Kelly. We have a short walk and then return. It is the usual showers (might as well use the hot water when we have it) and sundowners.
Kelly purchased some crumbed calamari at Hamilton Island on Monday, so Michael cooks this in the frying pan. We have with some salad, a very nice meal. We go to bed at 2100.
Friday 23 June 2017 â Butterfly Bay to Tongue Bay
It was calm last night with only a few strong wind gusts. We get up at 0710 as we want to leave early to try and avoid the wind which we suspect will come up later. We have breakfast and at 0755 motor out. We motor all the way today as we will be heading into the wind all the way. As we pass Pinnacle Bay it gets very rough due to wind against tide, but once we turn around Pinnacle Point it is better, even though we are now heading straight into the wind, waves and tide.
We were thinking of going to Cataran Bay on Border Island, but as it is blowing 20 plus knots, we decide to go straight to Tongue Bay. This will also mean that we can go to the Hill Inlet Lookout today as the tide will be high enough. We get a mooring at 1055. There are at least 11 large tourist boats here and a few private/charter yachts.
|The rock formations in Pinnacle Bay
|Graham, Rosemary, Michael and Kelly with Hill Inlet behind
After morning tea, we go into the beach and walk with the throng to the lookout. This has fabulous views over Hill Inlet down towards Whitehaven Beach. These are probably the two most famous parts of the Whitsunday Islands. After the obligatory photographs, we walk back to the bay and go back to Catlypso.
When we are back on board, all of a sudden we have an awful alarm noise come from our VHF radio. It is a MOB (man overboard) alarm on the DSC (digital select calling). It also comes on our chartplotter and OpenCPN laptop via the AIS. The alarm is on land at first, then the beach and then out towards some boats and then on a boat. I put out a call on the radio to a huge tourist sailing boat called Camira as we think it must be someone from there. They do not answer, even when Michael says that someone has set off a MOB device. None of the other 11 commercial boats here respond either, even though we can hear alarms on at least four nearby boats. VERY SLACK!
|A panoramic photograph from Hill Inlet Lookout
Michael goes over in Thunderbird 2 and they tell him that they do not think it is their MOB but from a yacht called Big Wave Rider as the young bloke off there mentioned to them that they have a missing wind surfer. At first MIchael does not understand how the MOB can be on the land and then back towards the boats, but later he figures out that the wind surfer did not have the MOB, but the young bloke saw that he had some problem and set off his which he was carrying.
When Michael gets back on board, we get a call from Hay Point VTS (the coal loader commercial ship control) asking about the MOB and if everything is okay. We respond that it seems to be a false alarm as it was on land. Big Wave Rider then says that it was one of their passengers in trouble and that their son had set it off as he came back to the boat from the shore. The wind surfer is okay. We are really disappointed in the lack of action by the commercial boats.
|A panoramic photograph of a very crowded Tongue Bay
We are back by 1240 and have lunch. Michael then flushes the watermaker as it is five days since he last did it. He also makes some new yoghurt. Soon after all the tourist boats leave and there are only a couple of yachts left here. Kelly starts preparing her sticky date puddings that we are having tonight for dessert.
There are lots of turtles around the boat, but not as many as in 2015. We see two dugongs many times, what appears to be a female and her baby. Fantastic!
Some of us have showers and we then sit in the saloon and have sundowners as we are facing stern to the wind and it is quite cool in the cockpit. Kelly makes pumpkin gnocchi and we have her home made sticky date puddings with ice cream. We also had to shorten the mooring line as it had caught up right down the port side near the prop. We run one of our mooring lines through the loop under the mooring and tie it off at the bow cleats.
Saturday 24 June 2017 â Tongue Bay to Whitehaven Beach
It was a fairly calm night with some minor mooring knock as the tide changed at 0330. We are awake at 0640 and get up at 0800. After a very relaxed breakfast, we head off at 1015. The wind is only 12 to 15 knots, but as it is still right on the nose, we have to motor the whole way. It is overcast and it has rained a few times since 0800.
Like yesterday we have decided to change our original plan. We were going to go to Whitehaven Beach for lunch and then to Chalkies Beach for the night. However, as it is so calm here, we decide to stop the night right here. Like yesterday, there are lots of tourist boats here.
|A panoramic photograph from Whitehaven Beach
After morning tea, Michael takes Kelly, Graham and Rosemary to shore and they do the Solway Circuit walk. This goes from the southern end of the beach to a great lookout (more about this tomorrow) and then back to the beach. While they are away, Michael looks after Veto and when Kelly calls on the VHF, he goes to collect them.
At 1450 we decide we need to move out a bit more from the beach as we are only 30 metres from where people are standing. If we got strong easterly winds we would be very close to hitting bottom at low tide. We are still close to the beach, but it is much safer.
|You can see the "lake" between the edge of the beach and the water's edge
|The whole of Whitehaven Beach is like this
At 1530 Kelly and Michael go to the beach. As we land, we are swamped by two waves. No damage, but we have a lot of water in the dinghy. and walk 20 minutes to the north. The land behind the beach is devastated by Cyclone Debbie. All the trees are knocked over, every single one for at least 50 metres from the beach. In addition, the beach edge has been pushed back about 20 metres into the bush. Even high up on the hill there is a huge amount of damage, it looks like the salt water spray has been pushed all the way to the top, killing most of the undergrowth. It is very sad to see this.
As well, the beach has been dramatically changed. There is now a sort of long lagoon behind the first part of the beach and there is little beach at all at high tide. Hopefully over the coming years the sand will move back to be how it was before.
We have showers and sundowners and a dinner of roast beef and vegies. It is now calm and clear. We go to bed at 2145.
Sunday 25 June 2017 â Whitehaven Beach to Hamilton Island
It was very calm last night, the wind even went to the north for a little while. We get up at 0710. Today the gas ran out and we have to swap to the second cylinder. This means it lasted about five weeks, which is right on for our average of six weeks for just two of us. The previous one only lasted four weeks, so we suspect it was a poor fill.
After breakfast, Michael, Graham and Rosemary go to the beach. Michael does the Solway Circuit. There is a lot of damage along the track, but most has been cleared up so it looks good for the tourists. The fallen trees nearest the beach have been wood-chipped and placed on the track.
Michael attempts to phone John McPherson who is flying up from Melbourne today to come on board. No luck, even though he has three bars on his phone. He ends up sending an SMS instead, but even this takes ages to go. The lookout has spectacular views, especially to the south.
|A panoramic photograph from the lookout of on Solway Circuit. Solway Pass is out of view to the left, Pentecost Island in the middle and Hamilton Island hidden from view at right
When he gets back to the beach Graham and Rosemary are also almost back to the dinghy. We leave the anchorage at 1000 and motor through Solway Pass. It is not too rough as the tide is not running hard, although it should be running south rather than north like it is. We pull out the screecher and motorsail at 5 to 6 knots in about 8 to 15 knots of wind. We hit 8 knots as we go through Fitzalan Passage between Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands. We pull the sail in soon after and motor to the marina.
As we get closer to Hamilton Island, we get better phone coverage, our first real coverage since last Tuesday. We get an SMS from John to say that his plane from Melbourne has been delayed and he will now not make the connecting flight. He will arrive tomorrow. Bugger, we will now need to reassess what we do tomorrow at the marina
|Pentecost Island from the lookout
|Approaching Hamilton island from the east,
the hills are striped of most vegetation
Kelly calls the marina then and we are told to rig for a starboard side tie up. When we are outside the marina, the boat comes out and leads us to our spot. This is on H arm which is where we tied up for an hour back in 2015. This arm is "parallel parking", so it is a bit harder to get into. However, like last time Michael does it without any problems.
Kelly goes off to do two loads of washing and Michael fills the water tanks and washes some of the decks. He also cleans the sand out of T2. Graham and Rosemary take the rubbish and recycling to the bins and Graham then gets us some pies for lunch. After this Michael updates the web site till Kelly returns at 1445.
We then walk to the main resort which is on the eastern side of the island. This only takes 15 minutes. We have a look around and also see some more damage from the cyclone, especially to the trees. One of the large apartment blocks (a monstrosity) has dozens of broken glass panels on its verandahs. We walk back to the marina.
Michael then walks to the airport, it only takes 10 minutes via the boardwalk to the south of the marina. We think Rosemary and Graham will be able to walk there and also John can come to the marina that way. Michael and Kelly then take Veto to the marina retaining wall for a run. You have to transport your dog by dinghy, you cannot walk there! As it is about low tide, we have to go outside the marina as inside is way too shallow and muddy.
We all have long, luxurious showers, wow it is so great to be able to leave the water running. This is our first long shower in a month. We then walk over to the tavern which is on the opposite side of the marina. Here we have a nice dinner (not a big selection) and some excellent beers, first time Michael has had James Squire Hop Thief, an American pale ale.
We walk back to the boat. It is almost the end of Graham and Rosemaryâs time with us, it has been great to have them on board.
Monday 26 June 2017 â Hamilton Island
We get up at 0800 and Michael takes Veto to the retaining wall. This time he can access it via the marina side, but he has to go to near the channel to get deep enough water to pull the dinghy up. Today is the best day weather wise for over a week, typical, we are stuck in the marina. We have breakfast and then later Kelly does some more washing.
At 1130 we walk to the airport with Graham and Rosemary. You can go via the boardwalk to the south of the marina and then a couple of roads. We use our small trolley to take their two smaller bags. It is only about 10 minutes walk. After they book in, we walk back to the marina and Kelly goes to check the drying, one load is finished but the other one needs another run.
Michael walks over to the other side of the marina where the cafes and restaurants are and gets fish and chips for Kelly and a hamburger for himself. Kelly then goes food shopping and at 1445 we see Johnâs plane land, 15 minutes early. We walk over, this time taking a stronger trolley from the marina to carry Johnâs dive gear bag.
John is ready when we get there and we walk back. After John puts some of his things away, we walk to Mango Tree Hill and catch the free blue bus. This circulates every 20 minutes to the southern and northern ends of the island as well as the resort side. We get off at One Tree Hill as Kelly wants to have a $10 cocktail and watch the sunset (well at least some of it).
There are probably over a hundred people here and dozens of golf carts (this is the mode of transport on the island). John and I have a beer as well and we watch the sun as it sets. However, we decide to leave before the actual sunset as we have to catch the bus back to get to the marina and if we wait till after sunset, we figure we may have problems getting on a bus as two full buses have come here and there will only be one leaving.
We are back by 1735 and while John and Kelly have showers, Michael takes Veto to the sand spit for a walk. Michael then has a shower. Kelly orders pizza from Manta Ray and Michael walks over to collect them. They are very good, albeit a little expensive at $28 each. We read and talk a bit and go to bed at 2200.
Tuesday 27 June 2017 â Hamilton Island to Cid Harbour
We get up at 0815 and have breakfast. Michael then takes Veto to the sand spit (it was too shallow earlier). After this Kelly goes to get some last minute provisions and Michael washes the boat, flushes the watermaker and refills the water tank we have been using.
At 1035 we leave and motor out to the north. The P&O cruise ship Pacific Aria is anchored between Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands and we pass fairly close to her. We then put the genoa and motorsail. We round the south-western point of Whitsunday and are passed by Madiba. Kelly talks to Edward and discovers they are going to the marina for a couple of nights.
We anchor in Cid Harbour at 1230 very close to where we anchored last Monday. We have lunch and then Michael takes Kelly and John to Sawmill Beach and they walk to Dugong Beach and back. While they are away it pours rain for about 10 minutes.
|A panoramic photograph from Naris Beach
At 1600 Kelly and Michael go to the beach for a swim. We then have showers and sundowners and Kelly makes tacos for dinner. We go to bed at 2200. There were at least 34 boats here tonight.
Wednesday 28 June 2017 â Cid Harbour
It was very calm overnight. It is overcast at 0710 when we get up and later it rains a little. We have breakfast and at 0910 we go to Sawmill Beach and then walk to Whitsunday Peak. At 437 metres this is the highest point on Whitsunday Island. The track is very steep in parts and quite rough. It takes Michael 80 minutes and Kelly and John 90 minutes to get to the top.
|The track to Whitsunday Peak
|Michael, John and Kelly on Whitsunday Peak with Cid Harbour behind
The views from here are spectacular! You can see down over Cid Harbour and off towards Airlie Beach. From the southern side of the peak you can see Hamilton, Pentecost and Shaw Islands to the south and Chalkies and a tiny bit of Whitehaven Beaches to the east. We cannot see Catlypso as we are anchored too close to the shore.
|A panoramic photograph from Whitsunday Peak looking over Cid Harbour with Hook Island top right
On the walk we meet a group from Channel 7âs Queensland Weekender TV show. They are filming a segment on the walk and when we are at the top they use a drone to film as well (John later saw this on the Melbourne Weekender version).
Michael and Kelly take 60 minutes to walk back to the beach. Once back on Catlypso we have a swim, fantastic as we have some sore legs! Michael then does some clothes washing while Kelly makes lunch. We relax and later go to Naris Beach which is outside Sawmill Bay to the south. It has been sunny since about 1300. This is a really nice little beach with a small camping area. We have another swim or two before returning back.
|A panoramic photograph from Whitsunday Peak looking south towards Hamilton Island
We spend some more time relaxing and then have sundowners. It is very calm, about 40 boats are anchored here tonight and there is still heaps of room. We have pork chop and sausages cooked on the barbecue with salad. A nice way to end a great day. We go to bed at 2130.
Thursday 29 June 2017 â Cid Harbour to Stonehaven
It was another very calm night, with the anchor alarm only going off once at the change of tide. It is overcast and looking like rain when we get up at 0710. After breakfast, we leave for Stonehaven. We have the tide against us (as we end up doing most of the time) so we have to motorsail.
Once out of the anchorage, we pull out the screecher and do about 4.5 knots in a light 8 to 12 knot wind. As we near the south-western corner of Hook Island, the wind increases to 18 to 26 knots, but we get no extra speed as the current is almost three knots against us. We swap to the genoa when we turn more to the north as we have to swap the sail from starboard to port.
|A panoramic photograph from the beach at Stonehaven
We get the same mooring as we had in 2015 south of Anchor Point. It is still fairly windy and there is a slight swell coming in from the south-west making us roll a little. We attach a mooring line to the mooring under the buoy so that we shorten the whole mooring so we can stop mooring knock (let alone making sure we do not end up with the rope caught on our keel or prop or rudder like in 2015). This is hard work and takes 15 minutes.
We have lunch and then relax as we are all still a bit sore from yesterdayâs walk. At 1430 we go to the nearest beach and have a swim. It has been mostly sunny since noon but there is a rain cloud over Hook Peak (the highest point on the island) which lasts till sunset.
|Sunset as John relaxes on the back seat
We have showers and sundowners and then Kelly makes chicken pesto pasta. There are about 15 other boats now in this part of the anchorage (there is a northern section which we cannot see), at least six are backpacker tourist boats. It later rains for a few minutes, but it is still very calm.
The weather is turning bad from about 1000 tomorrow, so we are aiming for an early start to head to Butterfly Bay where we will probably be stuck for the next three nights. After that it is looking good to head out to Bait Reef which is part of the Great Barrier Reef. We go to bed at 2100.
Friday 30 June 2017 â Stonehaven to Butterfly Bay
It was very calm till 0330 when a little rolling happened and at 0500 when some strong winds hit for 30 minutes. We got up at 0705 and after breakfast, we head off for Butterfly Bay. We want to get there early to get a mooring as the forecast for the day is not good, so we think there might be lots of people headed that way.
We motorsail in less than 10 knots, with the screecher out. We are only doing 4.8 knots. We end up pulling in the sail soon after as it is just flapping around. We round the north-western point of Hook Island and as we do, we see quite a few boats come out of Butterfly Bay.
|A damaged channel marker between Hayman and Hook Islands
|Looking north from our mooring at the southern end of Butterfly Bay, not often there are no other boats here
We head in and get the choice of many moorings. We pick the southern most one as this is the most protected from any sort of swell. We are moored by 0910, again shortening the mooring line to stop mooring knock. It is very overcast and threatening to rain. Soon we are the only boat here.
As we came into the anchorage, the starboard engine would not start. It has been doing this a bit, but normally after a few goes it works. This time it does not, so we have to moor using one engine. Michael checks it once we are settled in. As suspected, it is the solenoid that provides power to the starter motor. Normally going it a whack with an adjustable spanner fixes it, but not this time. We can start the engine by shorting out the connectors, so we have use of the engine, albeit in an inconvenient way. Michael will look at it in more detail in coming days.
The forecast for the next few days is awful, with winds up to 30 knots and lots of rain. We figure we will be stuck here for a while. After this it is looking good, so we plan to head out to Bait Reef on Tuesday or Wednesday for a few days.
While here we hear that Cumberland Yacht Charters is looking for a boat that has not checked in for over 24 hours. It is called Mary Ann. We radio them that we saw it two days ago at Cid Harbour and they say this is the last time they heard from them. Later on we find that they have been at Hamilton Island and did not listen to the radio skeds all the charter boats have to do each morning and afternoon.
|One of the more colourful fish we see, a beaked coralfish
|Catlypso from in the water
We then go for a snorkel. We swim over to the reef to the west of the boat and then to the south and then over to the eastern side. This last side is better. There is quite a lot of fish, including some very large ones. Once back on board, we have lunch.
We have drizzly rain from 1215, so we put up all the rear protectors. The rain stops at 1400 but is back again later. We have bullets of wind coming over the hills to the south of us, reaching 26 knots at times. Later we put on the generator to make some steamed rice. Even though we have the rear curtains up, it is quite cool sitting in the cockpit.
We have sundowners and then a green pork curry that Kelly makes. We head to bed at 2130. Tonight there are many empty moorings in the bay, the first time I think we have ever seen this.
Saturday 1 July 2017 â Butterfly Bay
It was very windy till about 0300 and then a lot calmer till 0500 when the wind came back up. Despite this, the water was calmish. We are awake at 0700 but do not get up till 0800. We have breakfast. It is overcast and threatening to rain and quite cool at 20â°C.
The batteries are low due to four days of very overcast skies, so we put on the generator and Michael also decides to make water while it is on. We run the generator for three and a half hours and the watermaker for four hours. We make about 90 litres of water, a bit less than normal as the water is a coolish 21â°C.
The wind is blowing up to 25 to 28 knots at times (bullets) but under 10 at others. Boats come and go all day, but there are still a few moorings vacant at dusk. We hear a call from VMR Whitsunday asking everyone to look for a yacht that has lost its rudder. They are not really sure where it is as the skipper cannot be properly understood.
As their VMR boat is out of commission, they have to bring in the one from Midge Point which is about 50 miles to the south! Someone reports seeing a boat matching the description near Double Cone Island which is between Hayman Island and Gloucester Passage (roughly). The rescue helicopter later arrives and finds the yacht near Eshelby Island which is north-west of Double Cone. The VMR boat finally gets there at 1230 and tows it back to Airlie Beach. Hard to see why the police boat at Airlie Beach did not do this work.
Today is a day of entertainment, as at 1445 a Queensland Yacht Charters catamaran called Ulysses comes into Butterfly Bay. Their first almost fatal error is when they follow the western shore in towards the bay. The problem with this is there is a large reef that extends out about half the way across the entrance. It is above water at any sort of low tide. Michael calls them on 82 (the repeater channel for here) and 16 to warn them but they do not answer.
Luckily they seem to realise their error and stop, then follow the edge of the reef into the bay. This is not the end of the problems they have. It takes them seven (yes seven) tries before they finally successfully pick up a mooring. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, they go too close to another mooring and, without even realising it, they hook it onto one keel. Michael radios them again to warn them but they do not answer. After going around in another circle, the mooring comes free.
They then try again for a mooring. This time they pull up the mooring but when the skipper does not slow down, they lose overboard their boat hook. It is attached to the mooring which then proceeds right under the boat between the keels and the mooring line hooks onto one of the outboards or perhaps a rudder. Again, they do not realise this at first. Finally, when they turn in a tight circle a few times, they discover they are hooked up by the stern.
They all disappear for a while, till a woman comes out in her bikini and eventually jumps in the water. We decide to head over to help, as we are scared that she will get run over by their own boat considering what they have done so far. However, as we set off, they come free. Another couple of attempts and they finally get the mooring line on board.
Honestly, it is really amazing that more people do not die and more boats run aground up here (we heard another charter yacht run aground two days ago on a very well charted reef and we saw one do it two years ago).
|A rainy day in Butterfly Bay
John and Michael go to the beach at 1600 and while they are there it starts raining. Kelly puts up the rear curtains and we sit in the cockpit. Eventually we go inside as it is so cool out there. The wind hits 36 knots at one time and the rain continues into the evening. We have sundowners (but no grog) and Michael cooks Scotch fillet steak to go with the beetroot salad Kelly makes.
We later remove the rear curtains as the wind is flapping them around too much. We go to bed at 2100.
Sunday 2 July 2017 â Butterfly Bay
It rains all night and does not stop till about 0930. Not much wind overnight and also during the day. We wake at 0700 and get up at 0800. We have breakfast and then do some tidying up. Michael tries to take John around to Butterfly Bay East but again the tide is too low.
On the way there they check the depth of the water off the point in between the two parts of the bay. The depth is 16 metres out off the point and 12 metres closer in. They decide to do a dive later on today, probably on the incoming tide. Kelly cleans the stove and oven while Michael and John put their dive gear together and onto Thunderbird 2.
|Still raining this morning, miserable
|Michael and John dived from this point back inside the bay to right
After lunch Kelly takes Michael and John out to the point in T2. They drop in off the point and start back. There is little assistance from the tide and navigation at first was pretty hard as there are only isolated coral bommies. They head west and then south and finally come a bit shallower to the main reef wall.
Along the way they see a huge crayfish, a large barramundi cod, some red bass and a few other large fish including a small stingray. They also see a huge clam, the biggest Michael says he has ever seen. There are all the normal tropical fish, including butterflyfish. They also see a large flatworm. The visibility is pretty awful at first but as they came into the bay, it improves dramatically. After 45 minutes they ascend and are picked up by Kelly who had been following them.
|A huge flatworm they saw
|John in the denuded creek bed
Back on the boat they wash the regulators and computers and Michael fills the tanks using the dive compressor. They attempt to dry the gear as best they can considering there is no sun at all.
At 1550 Michael takes John to Butterflyfish Bay East. They walk up the creek bed. What a disaster! The cyclone has ripped all the vegetation off the trees and many have been washed over and died in the subsequent flood from the heavy rain (which overall caused more damage than the wind). Later we run the port engine for an hour to heat water for showers and also to add some power as we have been heading out the back door with six days of totally overcast weather.
In the afternoon we listen to South Sydney play Penrith. After a very average start, Souths really kick and win convincingly 42 to 16. A few good games now in a row, hope they can keep this up.
Michael is cooking dinner tonight, crumbed calamari and potato and sweet potato chips. He cuts the chips and then gives them a first frying. Later he cooks it all up, a bit hard to do on such a small stove top, but it works. The weather is improving and we even see a few stars and the moon after dark. We go to bed at 2100.
Monday 3 July 2017 â Butterfly Bay
A very calm night, no rain or wind. We get up at 0710 and after a run to the beach for a walk, Michael adds some of the last bits of petrol to Thunderbird 2âs fuel tank. It was sunny when we first got up but the cloud comes over by 0745. Michael puts the generator on as we need some power as all batteries are under 12 volts. Hopefully we will have a sunny day and we can get a good boost. Kelly moves all the frozen food into one freezer and we turn the other one off.
Michael then looks at the problem with the starboard engine not starting. We thought it was related to the solenoid so he pulled this off and attempted to disassemble it. However, he could not get it apart. He hit it a few times here and there and then puts it back in place. The engine still will not kick over.
|Michael celebrating Souths' win last night
|Finally a sunny day!
You may recall that Michael has attempted a few times to work out why one starting battery is linked to the house batteries and to undo this. However, he has not figured out yet how this is happening. According to everything we have worked out, this battery is the port battery. As the house batteries are low, then this battery is also low. Michael wonders if somehow things have been reversed and it is actually the starboard starting battery that is low.
He starts the port engine and then links the batteries using the switch on the electrical control panel. The starboard engine then starts! It seems likely that when the diesel lines were replaced in April and the batteries removed to give access to the lines, the batteries were connected back up opposite to the way they were before. Problem solved (well partially, still cannot work out how the house battery is linked to the starboard start battery).
We then run the starboard engine for just over an hour to charge the batteries. While this is happening, we go for a snorkel on the eastern side of the bay. We have a nice time, seeing at least three very large hump-headed wrasse. There may have been more, as we saw at least six overall. There are also three large red bass.
On the way back to Catlypso we stop off and speak to Russell and Carolyn on Rhythm. Russell has the flu, caught from their son Zack who arrived a few days ago. They are also going to head out to Bait Reef tomorrow, so we make plans to have drinks out there tomorrow night.
We have lunch, a swim and read our books in the sun. It is nice to have some sunshine. Michael puts all the water we have in containers into the forward starboard tank as tomorrow we will make water on the way out to the reef. At 1615 Kelly and Michael go to the small coral beach to the south of us for a short walk.
Tonight the moorings are all taken, the first time since we have been here. In fact, many boats arrived very late and expected to get a mooring! We have sundowners and dinner is a flat chicken with vegies. We go to bed at 2100.
Tuesday 4 July 2017 â Butterfly Bay to Bait Reef
A very calm night and the sky is clear when we get up. We make tea and coffee and then pull up the main sail. At 0725 we leave the mooring and motor out. Once in the open sea, we pull out the screecher. There is about 10 to 15 knots of south-easterly wind and we are doing 5.5 to 6.0 knots into a 1.0 knot current and one engine running. We could have sailed all the way, but we need to boost our power and also we want to get to Bait Reef as early as we can as there are a limited number of moorings and you cannot anchor there.
Later the wind picks up to 18 knots and we reduce our revs as we were doing almost 7.5 knots. There are dozens of humpback whales around, one surfaces 15 metres off the port side and then again off the stern. At one stage we have to alter course to avoid four whales right in our way. We dump the toilet holding tank as we go. The sea is on the beam and it is a tiny bit uncomfortable, but as we approach Bait Reef it is much better.
There are at least four other boats behind us, most appear to be heading to Bait Reef. We can see that there is one boat already moored there and another comes from Hook Reef. There are six moorings, but as we will later find out, really only five that are usable by the public.
|Leaving Hook Island behind
|The anchorage at Bait Reef as the tourist boat comes in
We enter inside the reef using the green stick with an orange top as the guide (it is a starboard channel marker). We take the first mooring to our right as we enter. It is 1030. Shortly after a large tourist boat called Reef Explorer arrives and takes the commercial mooring near us.
Two of the other moorings get taken. The remaining one is inside a sort of inner lagoon which has no obvious way to get into it from first looks. Kelly goes in T2 to look at it and figure out how to get into it. Around this time a large power boat comes towards the reef and overtakes Rhythm, entering first and tries to go to it. They abandon the attempt as it looks very shallow and narrow. However, we radio Rhythm and tell them that we will take our portable depth sounder and check it out. Turns out the entrance is 14 metres and closer in it is 10 metres. Another dinghy also comes and we guide Rhythm into the mooring.
Soon after the dinghy from the tourist boat goes over and tells Rhythm that the mooring is theirâs and they will want to move there shortly. What the! It is marked like the other public moorings as far as we can see. The tag on it is overgrown and not readable. Rhythm moves and goes outside the reef and anchors to the north. They will come back at 1430 when the tourist boat leaves.
|A panoramic photograph of the anchorage at Bait Reef
We all put our dive gear together and after morning tea head off for a dive at The Stepping Stones. This is where we dived twice in 2015. We ask Kathmaria to watch our dinghy while we are diving but they say they are going to snorkel and hooka dive so will watch it for us while we are under (to make sure it does not drift off).
We do a 45 minute dive, the visibility was about 20 metres. We follow the reef to the south and then back to the north. The cyclone has damaged a lot of the reef, it seems to us that some huge coral bommies have been overturned, but we are not certain of this. There are certainly some sections that are very badly damaged.
However, there are some parts that are quite good. We see some large gorgonias, sea whips and other hard corals. There are a few large fish and lots of small ones. We see some very nice nudibranchs (Michael forgot the camera) and one anemone with clownfish. We can hear humpback whales singing the whole dive. The top of the reef near where we anchored was in pretty good condition, strange, you would think this would be the worst hit.
After we get back on the boat, we watch as some whales pass right over where we were diving! Michael sets up the compressor and fills the tanks as we plan to dive again tomorrow. Later Carolyn and Zack come over for sundowners (Russell is too sick). We have curried sausages and rice for dinner.
It is a bit lumpy as high tide approaches, hopefully by 0930 it should calm back down. Also the wind came up a little, about 15 knots from the under 10 knots during the afternoon. By 2000 it is about 12 knots. We go to bed at 2100.
Wednesday 5 July 2017 â Bait Reef
It was a bit rolly till 2200 or so and then much better. The wind was a constant 12 knots till 0300 when it dropped under 10 but it was back to 12 by 0800 when we get up. It is sunny again!
Ilakai came in from Line Reef so Michael goes over and asks them to watch T2 as we go for another scuba dive outside the reef. This time we dive the reef to the south-west of where we are moored. What a current! It is very strong and Kelly and Michael use lots of air moving the anchor to a better location.
|Kelly in between two large bommies
|A nice nudibranch
We head south into the current and see that the coral is much better here. We see a huge eel and some more nice nudibranchs. There are also quite a few more anemones, all of which have clownfish in them. The visibility is also much better, probably 25 metres.
We end the dive on the top of one of the bommies, it is amazing that this is untouched by the cyclone but deeper parts are destroyed. It was very nice here. Due to the current it is a bit of an effort to get back in T2, we have to stagger it so only one person is on the surface at a time. However, we do it without any incidents.
|Kelly with clownfish in an anemone
|A very large eel
After the dive Michael fills the scuba tanks and then Tiara cames in. We tell them how to get into the inner mooring and they go there without any problems. Later Richard comes over and Michael fills his tiny scuba tank by decanting from a couple of our filled tanks. He uses this to clean his hull or in case his anchor is jammed into coral.
Soon Madiba arrives off the reef. Michael goes out in T2 and tells them that at least two boats will be leaving soon, so they wait till there is a spare mooring. Soon Rhythm leaves and they get their mooring.
|Kelly and Michael out snorkelling
|The boats from our snorkelling site
After lunch we take T2 to the reef to the east, sort of to an inner lagoon. We snorkel along this section of reef and have a great time. The reef is in very good condition and there are lots of fish. We even see a large hump-headed wrasse! We cross over the shallow reef top and also snorkel the eastern side of this reef. This goes a lot deeper so we decide to come back here tomorrow and scuba dive it.
Back on the boat we watch more whales, some coming within metres of the reef. We have seen at least 50 today we reckon.
|The coral while snorkelling
|Kelly and John snorkelling
Later Edward from Madiba comes over and we swap some more books (we last did this about four weeks ago on Middle Percy Island). He tells us that they are heading home in late July as he has to return to work and his parents are taking over (it is their boat).
There is a huge giant trevally under the boat (called Gary apparently) and lots of batfish. Kelly decides to try to get some photographs and she uses the underwater camera from the rear steps and takes many (many) photos. She gets some really good ones too!
|Kelly photographing the batfish under the boat
|Some of the batfish
We run our port engine to heat up water for a shower and some of us have one. We then have sundowners on the foredeck, it is so calm and very little wind. The sunset is one of the best for a few weeks.
|Kelly and Michael as the sun sets
|Michael and John enjoying a beer on the foredeck
We have Scotch fillet with pasta for dinner and also cook up some sausages for lunch tomorrow. We watch the stars for a while but the moon is too bright to see them at their best (it is almost full). We finally get some internet by putting the iPhone up the mast. We go to bed at 2115.
Thursday 6 July 2017 â Bait Reef to Blue Pearl Bay
Last night was as calm as any night we have had outside a marina. There is less than five knots of wind and the seas are millpond. We get up at 0710 and have breakfast. We want to do another dive this morning before we leave. Kelly is a bit clogged up so will not be diving.
Michael and John head off to the inner reef area. As the sun is still rising it is a bit hard to see the reefs, but they end up in the spot we snorkelled yesterday. They dive to the south-east and south along the reef. It is in a much better condition overall than the outside reef. The maximum depth was about 12 metres. The visibility is down a bit due to sand floating, but still at least 15 metres.
|Sunrise from the cabin
|A glass shrimp on an anemone
They see a lot of fish, nothing huge, but many different species. They also see many anemones, but none have clownfish. However, one has at least six glass shrimp in it. Fantastic!
After they get back, Michael fills the tanks. Halycon comes in and they later come over for a chat just before we leave. The large tourist boat arrives again (it was not here yesterday) and soon all moorings are taken. We tell a power boat that they can have ours in about an hour once we have packed everything away.
|Catlypso from the beach
|The channel markers to the beach have been bent over by the cyclone
We motor out at 1125 and at first we do not bother with the sails as the wind is only four knots. However, we soon get 8 to 12 knots on the beam, so we put out the screecher to get another 0.75 of a knot. The seas are flat, although the current causes a slight chop on our beam which is annoying for about an hour. On the way we run the watermaker and make 76 litres.
We arrive at Blue Pearl Bay on the western side of Hayman Island and get a mooring when Fluffy Muffy, another Lightwave 38 (in charter) leaves. It is 1450. We later go to the beach for a swim, we are very hot as there is little wind here.
We have showers and then sundowners watching another nice sunset. Kelly makes a creamy chicken pasta for dinner. The past few days have been as good as any days we have had sailing! We go to bed at 2115.
Friday 7 July 2017 â Blue Pearl Bay to Cannonvale
It was a very calm night. We get up at 0800 and after breakfast, we watch mother and calf humpback whales swim between us and the shore. Fantastic! It is sunny and a beautiful day, the wind is about 4 knots at the most.
We then take T2 to the main beach and then snorkel to the north along the beach. The damage is unbelieveable, there are overturned bommies and the ones that are upright are stripped of all soft corals and sponges. Despite this, the fishlife is very good. There are lots of different species, some cleaning stations and plenty of action.
We then go to the southern beach for a walk and a swim. We see some more whales from here, swimming north along the reef edge but they are not seen again. Back on Catlypso we prepare to depart. At 1155 we leave the mooring and motor out. The wind is still only 4 or 5 knots.
We have pulled up the main but it is probably not doing anything as the wind is on the nose at first before going a bit more to the starboard. We pull out the genoa but in the end have to take it back in as the wind is so light and variable. We motor at 3000 rpm doing 4.1 knots into a 1.5 to 2.0 knot tidal current.
Our plan was to go to Funnel Bay but once there, we decide we would go to Cannonvale as it did not look all that good with mud flats at the end of the bay. We weave our way through the moorings off Abel Point Marina and at 1600 we anchor off the Whisper Bay Boat Ramp.
On the way over we run the watermaker and make 85 litres of water. Michael moves this to the rear starboard water tank. Also, Kelly phones a few people about replacing our screecher furler line, replacing the cover on the dinghy and putting a new UV cover on the screecher.
Michael also calls a couple of businesses about purchasing a new refrigerator. Our existing one is running all the time, using a huge amount of power. There must be a problem with the compressor or motor as it is not even freezing. We get a replacement price of $2520 for an Isotherm CR130 which is similar to our existing one. no way considering we can get one on line for About $1550 delivered. This business only had an answering machine so he left a message which was not returned till much later when we are ashore. The first business also said they could repair the fridge, so we might look at that.
We then go to the shore. Since we were last here in September 2015, the boat ramp has been totally changed. They were working on it then. Another lane has been added, a floating wharf installed and a huge rock wall built that protects the ramp from any swell. However, it is not a good design, with a very cramped wharf and ramp area, and there are boats everywhere and some ramp rage.
We dispose of rubbish in bins and give Veto a walk. Michael also gets a menu from the Chinese restaurant near the ramp as we are going to have this for dinner tomorrow night when our friend Therese and her family come on board for the night.
Back on the boat John spots two dugongs right next to the boat. It looks like a mother and baby. We see them a few times. We then have showers, sundowners and Kelly cooks lasagne for dinner. Tonight is very mild and the wind is still extremely light. After dinner we watch South Sydney play the Roosters. This is the first game we have been able to watch on TV for months. Souths lose a close match 14 to 12.
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