The sailing journey continues after living in Brisbane for a couple of years and setting sail for some extended cruising to Townsville, far north Queensland.
I need to apologise for the poor quality of photos in this post, which are taken during 1994. The 35mm colour negatives suffered damp on the boat, heat in storage and are in poor condition with some also stuck together.
Setting sail again
Without any real plan apart from sailing, discovering islands, diving and snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, catching up with sailing friends, and enjoying ourselves, we exit the lights of the big city, Brisbane.
Ambling slowly up Queensland’s far-reaching coastline, Naiad’s reigns are free to take off until dropping the anchor at some secluded island or reef.
Although we stop at loads of places along the coast, I don’t have a lot of photos to share as many are just too ruined to include, so sharing some of my favourite spots.
Lady Musgrave Island Cay
The extensive Great Barrier Reef starts off Bundaberg and stretches some 2,300-kilometres north off Queensland to the Cape York Peninsular – a massive ecosystem.
Around 55NM northeast of Bundaberg and Part of the Bunker Group of islands is Lady Musgrave Island.
Care when crossing the entrance is critical as if missed, bommies (coral heads) can hole a boat. Once anchored inside, during low tide the surrounding reef is exposed creating a calm crystal-clear perfect lagoon. Although at high tide, the submerged reef offers no protection during rough weather, bringing in its wake rough seas and large swells. You can’t do anything but ride the weather out as the entrance is too dangerous to cross in bad weather – not to mention the 8-hour sail in a small boat back to the mainland.
Free-diving in search of lobsters, crabs, coral trout, or anything to snag for lunch and dinner…
Fitzroy Reef is only 25NM north-west of Lady Musgrave Cay but the entrance is even more dangerous than Musgrave’s. Typically, trawling vessels anchor inside the reef, which should only be attempted in calm weather.
Diving near Fitzroy Reef and encountering a pod of around 40 dolphins, these gorgeous creatures curiously check us out. Swimming towards the dolphins cause them to flick away whilst swimming away causes the pod to approach again. Such an incredible experience, which lasts for around half an hour…marvellous.
Another of my favourite anchorages is Scawfell Island, which sits around 32NM northeast of Mackay and just a little further east than Keswick Island and St Bees Island.
The island’s horseshoe-shaped bay provides a safe-haven and great anchorage. Scawfell is also picturesque, provides great holding, and sheltered during a southerly blow.
Due to Scawfell’s distance from the mainland, it’s a little less-visited than the busy Whitsunday Islands Group.
The skipper’s catch. Starting to spear-fish Coral Trout and lobster whilst free-diving.
Airlie Beach Fun Race
Sailing around the marvellous Whitsunday Islands and rendezvous with sailing friends to hitch a ride on Nkwazi for the famous yearly Airlie Beach Fun Race.
Maybe you haven’t heard of this fun race that takes place for a day each year. Started back in 1977 over a bet for a bottle of rum, these days loads of boats participate. The atmosphere is electric.
Boats entered into this crazy race are draped with exotic decorations over decks and participating crew dress up as pirates. An ’empty bottle of Mount Gay Rum mounted on a block of Mackay Cedar’ is the race’s trophy. Each boat’s bow displays a figurehead, typically female, which enters the ‘Miss Figurehead’ contest.
When everyone is back on the beach after the race and contests are over, an extended party continues throughout the night and into the morning – it’s mad and loads of fun.
Back to sailing
Always trolling whilst underway, the occasional Kamikaze fish throws itself on one of Naiad’s lures and is snagged. Hauling this monster isn’t easy and takes the effort of 2 people. A bloodbath ensues in the cockpit.
Eating fish for several days means that we can stay out longer not having to sail back to the mainland to replenish food. The longer out, the better.
You quickly become creative in the galley conjuring up new fish creations, even pickling fish in jars like the islanders to extend its life.
Naiad’s 2 solar panels provide the power for lights, instruments, and also keeps the fridge ticking over after initially cooling it down by running the engine.
Continual stops where possible to enjoy towns, the spectacular Great Barrier Reef chain of islands, and the marvellous Whitsunday Islands is typical when cruising.
A little on cruising
Cruising is not only about exploring new places at a relaxed pace, but also about meeting other cruisers/yachties and the locals when sailing or pulling into towns and cities for supplies.
The cruising community can be as close-nit or aloof as you choose it to be – a balance is always a great approach. I don’t enjoy living in anyone’s pockets.
Meeting loads of yachties result in loads of excellent beach and BBQ parties. Also, progressive (boat-to-boat) parties and meet-ups at future cruising grounds or destinations.
The Trade Winds in Australia dictate whether you sail north typically during the winter months or south, during the summer months – many yachties sail these routes.
Stopping in Townsville
Some 6 months of awesome exploring and sailing this magnificent coastline and it’s time to stop in far north Queensland’s city of Townsville for another spot of work. Don’t get me wrong, you also experiencing foul weather along the coast.
In 1994, the then Townsville Motorboat Club in protected Ross Creek offered piles similar to BrisbaneSailing Journey: Sydney to Brisbane but on a much smaller scale and a little more expensive. Ross Creek is a great location right in the city, but I’m hoping that we’re not marooned here for too long…