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Sailing around Australian East Coast  Sydney — Cairns — Sydney , July-December 2007

Sailing from Whitsundays to North-West Island



Today is our lucky day. The wind is SE and that’s what we need. We are moving ahead at 5 knots at beam reach. We were getting close to our planned anchorage at Irving Islet; it was 5:30 pm, about an hour to sunset when the fishing reel made a noise – we got a fish!

We always trawl a line when we sail just in case. The fish was Spanish Mackerel and it was big enough to make 3 fish-steak meals. It has this white and tender flesh which is very tasty.



The wind is ENE and we continue to make way south at 5 knots sailing a bit closer to the wind. Anchored by Hunter Island (Duke Island group). The island looks red and bald, very similar to Rattlesnake up north. Looks like it is a military exercise area again, but we haven’t heard any warnings on VHF and decided it was ok to stay.  



In the morning we slept in and missed a couple of hours of NE wind. By midday the wind veered E and then SE. It was blowing around 15 knots and we are motor-sailing 20° to apparent wind with just the main sail up. The waves are 3 meters or higher sometimes and we are not making much headway today. The waves are breaking on the deck making it white like a shark tooth.

Autopilot is not coping and we take turns steering again. I wouldn’t mind steering if the wind was at a bigger angle, but going 15-20 degrees to the wind is annoying.

Tired of fighting  against the wind and the waves we came under protection of the shores and anchored by Townshend Island. It is a big island, earlier used as a pasture for cows and now there is a Military Base Camp near Cape Townshend, right opposite the anchorage.

The island looks deserted and uninviting, also there is a big sign “DANGER”  on the shore with something written underneath with smaller letters.

The two military people fishing in their tinny nearby drove to us and said we couldn’t anchor here as there are military firings planned for tomorrow. Oh, not again!
The plane is coming at 9 am next morning and if they find us here they can’t do the exercise, they will take a photo and send us a fine instead. Gonzie tried to explain to the guys that  the wind is wrong and our boat can’t go against the wind, the waves are too high and the current is against us – we had nowhere else to go as military exercise area on the chart stretches over 50 miles. We heard no warnings on Channel 16 and no Coastguard answers our calls on VHF. Finally we agreed that we will leave at 5am next morning and by the time the plane comes we will be at least 15 miles away from the area.



The anchorage didn’t give enough protection from the easterly swell and we didn’t get much sleep. Therefore getting up at 4 am wasn’t too bad.


We lifted the anchor and left. It was a calm morning and the waves seem to be smaller than yesterday. At 4:30 the sun started to come up. The sunrises at sea are as beautiful as sunsets; however Gonzalo and I don’t get to see the much as we are not early morning types. The sun steadily rises and, oh no, it is red! Red in the morning – sailors take warning.


With the sun up the wind got stronger and the waves got bigger. 

The wind is ESE and we are trying to go as close to it as possible, the current is pushing us back and we are not making much way again. We were a way out of the military exercise zone by 9am, but saw no plane coming to Cape Townshend.


Later at 2pm we saw two jets heading towards the place where we were anchored at night and saw the explosions and black smoke, but we were already far away.


In the afternoon the wind got stronger and backed to east a little. Now we can steer around 45 degrees to the wind and took a course to Great Keppel Island.

Gonzie lifted the genoa (main sail was already up from the morning) and went to bed and I took the helm. Later on I was able to steer 60 degrees to the wind – my favourite, and the boat goes faster this way. We are finally sailing in the right direction without taking around and making 6-7 knots.

The wind is from the port and the bunk where Gonzie is sleeping is on starboard. He is probably getting a good nap.

Shortly after the sunset a moon went up. It is a full moon and I can see all the rocks with my eyes without having to trust the GPS and chart plotter.


We arrived to Great Keppel Island at around midnight and anchored opposite Leeke’s Beach. To recap we had started this passage at 4:30am, arrived at midnight and only covered 57 miles, one of our worst run yet. The night was very rolly again as we were not quite inside the bay as we arrived in the dark.



The next day we decided to stop in Keppel Bay marina. Gonzie changed the oil and filters on the engine and I took a bus to Yepoon to get more fresh fruit and vegetables.

The marina is quite big and there are lots of big expensive boats there.

Right next to the marina there are several nice houses for sale, each has its own pier where you can keep your own boat. Gonzie and I would love to get a house like this some day when we are rich enough.



Next night we spent at Great Keppel Island again. This time we went further inside the bay and the rolling wasn’t as bad as the other night.


29. 11.2007

We couldn’t wait till the weather is right to go to North West Island. We needed northerly weather and the waves to calm down.

And today is not the day. The wind is E. We are trying out the heading towards North West or Masthead Island and neither of them seemed to work. We are not moving much struggling against the wind and waves. We anchored at Hammocky Island, 16miles S of Keppel, hoping that the weather will be better the next day.

It was very rolly again in Hammoky and Gonzie constructed anti-rolling device from a drogue and a chain which was attached to the boom swang out to the side. This helped a great deal.

At night we tried squid jigging. There is a special lure that makes a squid think it is a prawn, but the squids weren’t stupid enough to grab the lure. They were swimming around and probably laughing at us.



The wind was still East but waves a lot smaller. We took a course to North West Island and just motored. The Island is about 30 miles away from the shore.

Somewhere between Whitsundays and Keppel Bay

Arriving to the anchorage at sunset

Sometimes we cook something fancy, like sushi

Hunter Islet, Duke Island group

Mackerel caught at sunset near Irving Islet

The weather is getting rough ...

Sailing away from Townshend at sunrise

Someday we want to have a house like this ...

Keppel Bay

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