17 October 2014
I am writing this from Happy Bay, Long Island. It’s a very pretty place, though a fair bit tamer and civilized than we prefer. Being in direct line of sight of Shute Harbour on the mainland it is one of the spots we have discovered that has both excellent Telstra (4G internet modem) and Optus (mobile phones) coverage for us. An added bonus is that visiting yachts are allowed free use of the resort facilities here at Long Island Resort, so we can have a shower or use the pool, tennis courts, mini golf etc. if we wish to. And of course we may also buy a drink at the bar or have a meal.
Last Saturday we sailed over from Stonehaven to Happy Bay as part of our exploration of good work locations. We decided it was a good spot and anchored for lunch, intending looking at other places later. After lunch we figured why not just spend the night here? We had been in contact with our friends from Mahiti who were heading out from Airlie and we arranged for them to meet up with us at Happy Bay. I also had a chat with Mugsy from Shala and he said that they might come and join us too (but they didn’t make it).
We went ashore and were very happy to discover the free facilities and went for a walk to a pretty bay on the other side of the island, followed by a drink at the beach bar. Mahiti arrived and we had sun-downers on the JoliFou. It was great to catch up with James and Leah and Ewyn and Hamish. James had taken on an Italian couple, Mikaeli and Sabrina as extra crew for a few weeks to help out with the boat and the boys as Leah is going to Thailand for a couple of weeks holiday with her mom.
The wind was forecast to blow strong from the North on Monday and Tuesday, then come through strong from the South early hours of Wednesday morning. This presented a bit of an anchoring location challenge, especially as we also needed to retain good internet connection. So on Sunday we set off on a little voyage to investigate anchorages and connectivity. We did a loop through Shute Harbour (great shelter in Northerly, good connection, access to Airlie shops) then across to Gulnare inlet, which is a shallow inlet with good shelter from almost all wind directions and close to Hamilton Island for connectivity. We anchored for lunch in Gulnare in a spot with great connection, not too far in so that we had clear line to Hammo.
After lunch we decided that we would head back to Happy Bay for the night, planning a dinner with Mahiti. A great night was had on Mahiti, with Chicken Curry by Lyn and Thai veg curry by Leah.
Monday morning it was time to resume work – ouch! Actually I am quite enjoying work, it is good to use the brain again in different ways and every now and then one needs a break from mindless fun. If only the world worked like this, where everyone could take a short break from fun, rather than taking short breaks from work.
Around midday the Northerly started building, putting us on an increasingly nasty lee shore at Happy Bay. I used my lunch break for us to motor up and re-locate at Shute Harbour.
Our shallow draft with the board up meant we could have our pick of spots in the inner bay and it is a great anchorage although Shute is not the most scenic of places. We had a comfortable night here and Lyn used the opportunity to catch the bus over to Airlie and stock up on essentials such as beer whilst Silus got plenty of ashore time.
21 October 2014
The wind was forecast to remain quite strong from the North with a Southerly change in the early hours of Wednesday morning, so a good anchorage from all directions was required and at lunch time we sailed over to Gulnare to the spot we had checked out on Sunday. I spent the afternoon working with good internet and we then moved the boat further into the inlet for better shelter from the coming Southerly. At sunset we took the dinghy to an empty beach south of the entrance to Gulnare and Silus had a great time exploring the beach and the mangroves. We then invited ourselves to Mahiti for drinks, which would be our last chance to farewell Leah before her trip to Thailand.
As forecast, the Southerly did indeed come through during the night. It was not too bad but not the best sleep for the JoliFou crew. After a morning of work we sailed back over to Happy Bay where the shelter from the South Easterly is better.
We stayed at Happy Bay for the next 3 nights, enjoying the good internet for Bruce’s work, drinks at the bar at sunset and a couple of walks on the island (without Silus unfortunately). Nothing remarkable but a nice “happy” existence.
The weekend had a forecast of strong South Easterly winds – time for a kite! We set off early Saturday for the Whitehaven beach area. When we arrived the wind was not yet strong enough so we headed down towards the Hill Inlet area.
Esk Island is a beautiful tiny little island just off Hill Inlet which we have always wanted to explore but you need to use a mooring and the two moorings have always been occupied. The moorings were empty, probably due to the strong winds, and we took the opportunity. It was quite a wild mooring location with strong wind and a tidal eddy against it. Beaching the dinghy on the surging coral beach was also a bit wild, but now we had the whole island to ourselves. We decided to try to walk all the way around it on the fringing rocks, a bit of walking, bit of rock hopping and bit of rock climbing was required. We came across some stunning little beaches, set amongst beautiful rocks. About three quarters of the way around we came to a dead end, with high steep cliffs directly into a small cove.
Electing to cut inland rather than swim, we began bush bashing our way in the general direction of the dinghy. I was a bit worried about the dinghy on the beach as we had not intended being away so long, so it was with relief that we eventually were able to make our way down a gully to the first beach we had come across and walk back around to the dinghy beach.
We motored across and into Tongue bay, adjacent to Hill Inlet, where we were fortunate to get one of the three moorings. After lunch the wind was up. Lyn dropped me at the beach and I walked over the hill to the Hill Inlet area with my kiting gear. It was a perfect wind strength for my 12 meter kite and is a fantastic kiting location. I had a great time kiting off the beach, playing in the small breaking waves. The tide was coming in and I got up-wind to the shallow Hill Inlet entrance and was able to kite into Hill Inlet and play in the flat water between the white sand-banks. I bored of this after a while and it was back to the waves. At one point I spotted a large stingray in shallow water just off the beach, shortly followed by a largish yellowy brown coloured shark, a bit disconcerting but probably not the biting kind.
Kited-out, I walked back over to Tongue Bay, radioing Lyn with the hand-held to come and fetch me. She told me of the antics of a catamaran that was anchored fairly close to windward of us. There was duff duff music blaring from the boat and we had earlier noticed a naked man walking on the deck. After Lyn dropped me off and was headed back to JoliFou past the catamaran, there was a naked woman on the front, standing at the forestay and posing. Nothing wrong with a bit of nudity, but this was clearly seeking attention! Back at JoliFou we had a nice cold beer and settled back to enjoy the on-going show. The girl had some clothes on now (a short pixi-dress) and was dancing all around the boat, stripper-style to the loud music. By now she had the attention of all of the anchorage (which seemed to be the intent), especially the nearby back-packer maxi. Free entertainment, excellent.
The audience was distracted somewhat by the appearance of a beautiful 70 foot ketch, which limped into the bay with anchor chain hanging over the bow.
The skipper was dangling over the bow trying to attach a halyard to the anchor and didn’t appear to be getting much able help from the elderly guests on the boat. Lyn suggested I offer assistance. I reluctantly pulled myself away from the strip show and headed over in the dinghy. My offer of assistance was gratefully accepted. Their anchor winch had broken and the anchor was too big to pull up by hand. I was able to help by re-attaching the halyard to the anchor chain multiple times whilst they winched it up and retrieved chain a meter at a time. Eventually we were all very happy to see a big shiny anchor, which we were able to secure with me pushing up and the skipper pulling from the deck.
They handed me a bottle of very nice champagne and headed off for Hamilton Island marina. On delivering my hard-earned payment to the champagne queen of JoliFou I was told that I had missed the climax of the show, which was apparently very loud screams of sexual pleasure, but didn’t last long. (We suspect this may have been part of the financial contract).
As the sun was starting to set the anchorage was getting increasingly rolly as the building swell started to bend into the bay. We had a bit of a thought that we should re-locate for the night, but decided not to. This breaks one of the rules of cruising that we are starting to understand: If you think you should do something (eg. up anchor, reef, extra mooring line) then you should do it! We paid for our mistake with a largely sleepless night with the boat rolling about. At one point in the middle of the night we discussed moving the boat, but on reflection there were really no good safe options nearby. Whitehaven beach would be just as rolly in the strong wind and anchoring in the steep shelving sand close to the reef at Chalkies beach or at the unfamiliar Windy Bay would be highly inadvisable in the dark.
Next morning we were happy to drop that mooring and motor South into the wind, towards Solway passage. We were very amused when the entertainment cat came motoring past us, full throttle, really close, and we had another brief show.
My mother, Joliette was joining us for a week and she was due to arrive at Hamilton Island later in the morning – a great excuse for us to check into the marina and get some rest. Mom had only just arrived back from a trip to South Africa and London for my niece Emily’s wedding (sorry we couldn’t make it) so was a bit reluctant but we love spending time with her and were able to talk her into it. Mom has been at our side assisting us all the way with this adventure and she is the “Jol” in “JoliFou”. Once through Solway we pulled out the jib in really quite rough conditions on the windward side of Whitsunday Island. The depth here is quite shallow, less than 20 meters in places and the 25 + knot winds were causing quite large waves (for the Whitsundays anyway) which were often breaking at the tops. The cowboy quite enjoyed the trip but there was some concern from the rest of the crew. We were very happy to bear away into calmer waters in Fitzalan passage (tide with wind) and be informed that our marina berth had come available early so we were able to go straight into Hammo marina.
It was wonderful to see my mom’s happy face again after quite some time apart. Silus recognized her immediately and bolted across the marina lot to her, barking madly and proceeding to go through his entire repertoire of cute tricks! On our way to the showers later we noticed that Anthem was in the marina and shortly after we bumped into Adrian and his crew. We went out to dinner at the tavern and joined Adrian and his crew of Julie, Nadia and James, followed by Irish coffees on Anthem.
Next morning we set sail for Airlie. It was an excellent sail with 20 knots of wind from behind plus a favorable tide of 2 to 3 knots, we were averaging about 9 knots over ground. That night we got together with Lizzie from Shala (Mugsy is away working at the moment) and the new Anthem crew of Adrian, Julie and Phil at our favourite restaurant, Barcelona. A great feed was had by all, followed by Irish coffees (with or without coffee or Whisky) and Milos on the JoliFou. As we prepare to post this we are all a little jaded from too much of the good stuff. Anthem is heading off into the high winds but we are choosing to remain in Airlie for another night until things moderate a bit.