Yeppoon

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My last entry a few weeks ago we were at Dunk Island for the night on our journey south. Since then we were blessed with north-easterly breezes making the continuing trip very pleasant. We had a brief stop in Townsville to fill up with fuel and pickup a new raw water pump which Wayne ordered and had delivered to our friend a month earlier. That night we anchored at the relatively calm anchorage at Picnic Point on Magnetic Island. We left early the following morning and continued south covering 120nm until we reached Grassy Island in the Whitsundays at around 1.00am. We stayed in the Whitsundays a couple more days, taking advantage of the north easterly winds to sail by Whitehaven Beach, through the Solway Pass then around the southern side of Whitsunday Island to anchor in the comfortable and good holding within Turtle Bay.

The following day we sailed to Brampton Island some 45nm south. As we approached Brampton, a large dark cloud loomed ahead of us to the south. The forecast suggested thunderstorms in the area and our BOM radar showed large thunderstorms to the south. I was surprised we still had internet access! Our friends aboard Kool Sid were a day ahead of us heading towards the Percy Islands and I’d texted Sue to let them know about the thunderstorms we’d seen on the radar; just in case they hadn’t received the news. As it turned out, we sailed under the heavy, dark sky in relatively calm waters only to have our north easterly breeze quickly transform into a 25knot south easterly! Luckily we were virtually at Brampton Island and managed to get into the anchorage on the northern side. Kool Sid later told me they couldn’t get out of the way of the storm and endured four hours of head on winds.

The following day the winds were back to ENE and we sailed as fast as we could; planning to stop at St Bees/Keswick Islands if needed, but hoping to continue to the Percy Group. As it turned out, we arrived at West Bay on Middle Percy Island at around midnight. Once more we broke the golden rule of arriving at night, but the charts indicated a clear entrance, conditions were good and we could see plenty of anchor lights to further guide us in.

Kool Sid were at Middle Island and left to continue south very early on the morning of the 14th, but we decided to rest a day. David and Helen from the yacht Obelia invited us over for a latte and a chat, then afterwards we dinghied across to the beach where a large A-frame structure filled with mementos and all sorts of reminders left behind from passing yachts. I found one from the MV Cape Moreton – a ship my dad used to work on years ago. I’ll have to remember to drop off a Blue Heeler sign next time we’re up this way.

On the morning of the 15th after a dismal night of rolling and rocking in the anchorage (a NW wind had come up), we were up at 5am and quickly raised anchor and departed. Both of us did not sleep well that night, but each time we got up, the other appeared to be asleep, otherwise we would have left much earlier. Obelia left the evening before, which in hindsight was a better option and we should have gone too. We met an older sailor in his seventies and he was travelling solo. Unfortunately the south easterly the previous day caused him some bother by tossing him around his cockpit resulting in bruises and cuts all over his body and his stack of paper charts washed overboard and he had no chart plotter! Luckily we had a chart of the area which we gave him so he could make his way to Yeppoon to buy new charts.

So off we went at 5am, goose-winged to get the wind up our bum to sail south. We thought of stopping at Port Clinton, but the forecast for Sunday 16th was for south westerly winds while Monday’s forecast was worse with 30 knot southeasterly due! As we were having a ripper of a run, and didn’t want to get caught getting holed up for a week, we bypassed Port Clinton and continued south with two options (a) pull into the anchorage at Great Keppell Island for the night and enter the marina in the morning; or (b) sail directly to the marina. We took the second option only because we were doing 7-8 knots and making great progress. The weather in this part of the world has certainly changed since a month ago, with more thunderstorms and large hail further south. About four hours north of Yeppoon, we watched two large storm clouds pass by with a spectacular lightening show taking place from within. Although the forecast was for 20-25 knots from the north west, it turned out we had around 15 knots maximum. We arrived at the Keppell Bay Marina at around 9.30pm, and luckily I’d phoned ahead a few hours earlier and we had a berth booked to go directly to. The entrance was easy enough and we entered on a high tide. Wayne did an excellent job of berthing Blue Heeler while I quietly jumped off and slipped the lines and tied up. Didn’t want to wake the neighbours!

Yeppoon. What can I say? It’s a pleasant place. Big enough to get shopping and supplies, and Rockhampton was only a $12 bus ride away on Young’s bus lines so we had a day out there too. Yeppoon town is 8kms from the marina making it a little less accessible than I would have liked. We thought about getting the bikes off the boat, but the road to Yeppoon is very narrow in patches. Although my nerves had endured years of cycling on the Nepean Highway in Melbourne with vehices whizzing by, country roads (and drivers) are another thing altogether.

Keppell Bay Marina offers a courtesy car for anyone staying at the marina; a two hour timeslot is enough time to drive to Yeppoon Central and buy supplies. All the usual stores – Big W, Woolies, Coles, but of course it’s always a good idea to support the local suppliers. Meat is really cheap here – rump steak selling for $8 per kilo in many places. I bought a cryovac machine from Big W and vacuum sealed a stack of meat. I can’t freeze but the meat should last a couple of weeks.

Kool Sid meanwhile had toughed it out on anchor at Great Keppell – winds up to 40 knots during the week, while we were snug in our berth! But on our last day there, they pulled into the marina to stock up with supplies, so we had a few drinks aboard Blue Heeler last night.

At the moment I’m sitting inside Blue Heeler, rocking around at the less than perfect anchorage at Second Beach on the northern side of Great Keppell Island. Our next stop is 70nm away – Pancake Creek – although we may hop across to Hummocky Island or Cape Capricorn. Everything is weather dependent and the forecast seems to show an ENE coming through on Wednesday. We’ll see!

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Sailing the world aboard Blue Heeler
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