Category Archives: Coral Coast 11

Our trip North in 2011.

A Favourite Spot: Percy Island

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One question that inevitably comes up when we talk to people about cruising the Great Barrier Reef is what spots we absolutely loved.

While there were easily several places in this part of the world that we really enjoyed, one that was certainly right up there is Middle Percy Island.

Pretty infamous in cruising circles Middle Percy Island is the quintessential island cruising experience.

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West Bay is a white sandy, inviting beach complete wih coconut palms and the ” Percy Hilton’ an A frame structure that serves as a meeting point and hangout for cruisers. Full of momentos from passing yachts and complete with the ‘swing’ and hammocks. A decent walk up the hill and you will find the homestead, where the current custodians of the island live. Refreshments and some fresh produce might be available, these guys are doing a great job of looking after the island.

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Frowned on by Alan Lucas in his cruising guides as a uncomfortable anchorage we were lucky during our time there and only experienced some minor swell typical of any island anchorage in this area.

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Warm days at Middle Percy  swimming in clear blue water, cooking fresh fish in coconut and watching a magic sunset every night made it a hard spot to leave. If you wanted to be social there were always other cruisers to get together with.  If not then watching life pass by pleasantly seemed to fill up  day.

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The history of this island is umm well interesting, To find out more it about this fascinaing place visit

http://percyisland.com.au

Heading Home

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Our last night in Coffs started with sundowners on Whimaway and then Kristi and Rick came around for a night of wine and cheese. Local cruisers we had met last time we were in Coffs when they had grabbed our lines back then and shown two very tired and stressed parents/newbie cruisers overwhelming hospitality, they are truly the kind of people that represent everything cruising should be about.

Sitting back with them in the saloon and talking about the passages and experiences we had been through seemed like a very fitting last night.

With the Pied Piper now knocking loudly on the side of the hull beckoning us, we decided to head from Coffs Harbour straight to Pittwater to get home as soon as possible. Slightly worse for wear (the second bottle of wine was probably not a good idea) we again left in company with Whimaway. It proved to be another magic overnighter, dolphins and whales close to the boat (a little too close!) and a fast sail with a near full moon.

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By sunrise we were past Port Stephens and spoke with Mix’d Nutz on the radio as they were leaving Shoal Bay. Almost 36 hours after leaving Coffs we were inside Pittwater. The sight of Lion island brought tears to both of our eyes, we were home, but also our time aboard our beautiful boat was, for the moment, nearly over.

We pulled into our old berth, not exactly gracefully, knocking the fire hydrant at the end of the berth, in our only berthing incident in months of cruising. Being very wide, easy to approach and very familiar, the irony was not exactly appreciated by all at the time. None the less, we were home, arriving in the middle of the “festival of sail” with boats and people everywhere, we were dismissed as been just another boat out for a day on Pittwater.

The band in the bar started playing “sitting on the dock of the bay” as we turned off the engine and opened a bottle of wine. The grandparents would be here shortly, eager to see Sophie after months away, then there were friends to see, errands to run and that piper character seemed to now be standing up at the bow shaking a finger at us and tut-tutting loudly. For the moment, however, we just sat and listened to the music and chatted, laughing as we watched our gorgeous daughter attempt, yet again, to dismantle the autopilot.

“Josie, You know if we headed up there and left from Coffs Harbour in April we could go across to Vanuatu and do the pacific thing…..”

“Yes honey, but maybe we should go and get some more corn chips and avocado first”…

Southport- Coffs Harbour

After a few carefree days in Southport which also included couple of anxious phone calls home to work contacts and parents we were now very much behind our “intended cruise plan” ( the word schedule is very taboo in cruising circles, to use it even in whsipered tones is to tempt weather fate and most certainly doom one to all manner of storms and mechanical hold ups).

We left Southport in the middle of Melbourne Cup festivities in company with Whimaway to again take advantage of a very small weather window and had an uncomfortable start to the passage beating into large but decreasing seas. By the time Jo and Sophie went to bed however conditions aboard had improved considerably, by the early hours of the morning we had a warm westerly at 15 knots and with sheets eased and the moon shining as Dolphins swam past us and it was a magic sail. I put in my Ipod and decided to not wake Jo for her watch.

In planning this trip I had expected to enjoy the pretty places we would see, the islands and the beaches, to have fun meeting the new people we would meet, however it was these quiet but magic moments on sailboat moving easily before the wind and the moon that I had not expected.

We entered Coffs Harbour in the afternoon, had a very enjoyable dinner at the Yacht Club with Whimawa yand thought about how much had changed in the months since we had last arrived tired and terrified in Coffs Harbour after our first overnight passage.Sophboat

Mooloolaba- Southport

After crossing the bar early in the morning we arrived into Mooloolaba in the afternoon after another great sail down in lively conditions.

After tying up at the Marina we had a BBQ ashore with the other Alfreds boats, to celebrate what for some would be the end of their cruise. While it was not quite the end for us, it was the end of a stage. No longer were our thoughts on pretty anchorages and new adventures, for us and for the remainder of our little fleet the focus was now on getting the boat back home.

With a delay again because of weather we enjoyed a couple of carefree days in Mooloolaba, including catching up with Jo’s brother Adrian, wife Anna and Sophie’s Cuz’ William.

With time now a real factor, we had a small window of weather on the weekend to get to Southport. We left Mooloolaba early in the morning and just made it in through the Gold Coast Seaway on Sunset. Luckily friends came in handy again and as we pulled into Southport Yacht Club in the dark Silk Road were there to take our lines. Southport would mean another weather delay, however again we made the best of the situation, enjoying a roast at the yachtclub with Silk Road and walks along the beach.

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Great Sandy Straits

Finally, after waiting and waiting the weather was looking ok to leave Bundaberg. An easy morning departure in company with the ‘Alfreds Armada’ saw us beating into some still reasonably steep seas for a while until we managed to get far enough across to receive some protection from Fraser Island. By lunchtime we were enjoying a nice sail in flat water as we were coming into the Great Sandy Straits.

That night we all anchored in South White Cliffs with sundowners aboard Mix’d Nutz as we discussed our proposed assault on Sheridan Flats the next day. The shallowest part of the Great Sandy Straits it requires spot on timing to take full advantage of tide in order to cross in a keel boat. Given that we had 7 keel boats to get through, and we had heard reports from other boats of possible issues with the marker buoys we were a little apprehensive. With Cariad the shallowest boat going first and calling depth soundings back to the rest of us we all made it through ok and anchored at Elbow Point for early sundowners on Windsong before literally queing up early the next morning to cross the Wide Bay Bar with several other yachts in rolly but otherwise benign conditions.

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Hanging around in Bundy

Within a hour of being at the dock, with the latest weather forecast in one hand and a Gin and Tonic in the other( Storm Recovery) it became very apparent that we would be spending some quality time in Bundy. The forecast predicted various levels of doom and gloom for at least a week.

So we did what cruisers do in such situations. We took our cleverly devised, foolproof plan to have the boat back in Sydney at a certain time and ripped it up all over the cockpit floor, poured ourselves another G & T and launched into an extended period of eating, drinking and socializing. With 8 other boats from Alfreds tied up in the Marina in a similar situation, The Port to Port Rally in full swing, A friendly little Yacht Club, small town charm(and prices!) and a bunch of other cruisers we had met up and down the coast it was an easy enough accomplishment.

Our time passed relatively easily, a trip to the local markets, a BBQ with the Port 2 Port sailors, The Coral Coast Rendezvous dinner, 2 for 1 Steaks at the Lighthouse Tavern with the boys off Cloud Nine…..meeting sailors from all over the world, some who were circumnavigating others who were on their second/third circumnavigation…..sundowners every night with the Alfreds clan……..and talking all the time to everyone about the weather!

Storms, winds and bad stuff

There’s some “weather” coming was the summary of the forecast for the next few days.

So the decision was made to continue to ge as far south as we could be before the big SE winds arrived. The weather forecast also read, as it had done for a few days, isolated thunderstorms, but we had barely seen any storm activity so we made for Burnett Heads (Bundaberg) the next day.

As we left Pancake Creek in the morning you guessed it. A storm smashed us. There’s something about being on the water, in a small boat, in a big sea, with wild winds and a storm coming that makes you realise how little control we have of the world, on land it is easier to get caught up in daily life and feel in control; on a boat: waves, wind, and weather there is little we can do about it.

So what do you do in a situation like this? We’d made preparations and decisions months ago. Plan A: don’t go out in a storm or if we knew one was coming. Plan B: if we were out there anyway and the storm was coming we needed a solid boat with the correct sails and safety equipment, amongst a large list of other items… check. Then more immediate preparations are made at the dock- life jackets and safety harnesses on, all items secured, hatches closed, the boat ship shape, make sure we had the passaged planned out with all contingencies and then all that can be done from there is to keep a weather eye. So as the storm approached we decreased the sail area that we had up and waited…

So storms are a little scary in a small boat,  but the preparations had been made and all that we could do was trust the vessel that we were in and sit through it and hope that our mast didn’t become a lightening rod, panic only makes it difficult to make good, clear decisions.

So we got a little wet and it was a lit windy… oh well, no harm done. We battled on through the larger waves and swell, due to the storm, to Bundaberg; glad that another storm that was building had somehow gone completely over us and was all around us at one stage, but that didn’t effect us at all.

Port Bundaberg Marina was a welcome sight, our marina berth was a little interesting, however, the depth sounder showing 1.8m of water and the tide was still ebbing for a little longer… that’s only 10cm of water under the keel! We arrived just in time for Sundowners with the Alfreds boats that were already there to wait out the weather… how long we would be there, who would know?

Sophiewet