Monday, November 28, 2011

Carrying on the Mackerel Tradition

I know that you are probably well and truly over all the fishing photos...but I'm putting this up because I think it is amusing that with an ocean full of different fish, it really does appear that Mackerel (or Mackerel-themed fish [aka Mackerel Tuna]) are pretty much all that we are going to catch! Obviously our lure is a 'Mackerel-only' lure!

We left Bundy on Wednesday and had a terrific Spinnaker ride down through Hervey Bay, stopping behind Bookar Island in the Great Sandy Strait for the night. It was a glorious day to be out on the water, capped off with another catch guessed it, Mackerel! This time we caught a lovely, golden-hued, Broad-Barred Mackerel (or Grey Mackerel), 80 cm long and weighing in at 3.5 kg.

Apparently the bars fade into grey you can't really see them above, but Emily caught them nicely in this picture below.

He was delicious, as usual. We are now on the hunt for a Jack Mackerel or Wahoo to top off our Mackerel menu!

I thought I'd also show you a cute picture Emily snapped of one of the Bundaberg Port Marina natives...

These little Green Tree Frogs came out to sit on the grass along the marina walkway in the evening, much to the delight of the kids.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Close Encounters of the Fishy Kind...

Swimming with a beautiful Humphead Maori Wrasse in Manta Ray Bay, Hook Island. Isn't he stunning?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Leaving Lady Musgrave (again)...

Yesterday we were up and away, leaving Lady Musgrave Island bright and early in the morning. She really looks lovely out there in the middle of the ocean, and I am already looking forward to going back.

It was a great trip down to Bundaberg, we were sailing along beautifully with the main and screecher out, and a boat speed of up to 10 kts. It was exhilarating, and Nick and I were patting ourselves on the back over how much fuel we were saving.

We saw dolphins on the way, and they joined us at the bows, but I reckon we were going too fast for them as they didn't stick around for long. The shot below was the best I could do, with everything lurching about up there (including the dolphins), I was just doing my best to stay on the boat!

And, not meaning to sound like I'm gloating or anything, but we might have caught another beautiful (105 cm, 7.5 kg) Spanish Mackerel on the way (and we might have been patting ourselves on the back over how much money we've saved on meat recently too ;-).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Green Turtles Nesting

Last night Nick took the kids ashore on Lady Musgrave Island at 10:30 pm. The moon was up, the tide was coming in, it was a perfect night for a spot of turtle watching.

They saw a small Manta Ray in the lagoon under the dinghy on the way in. That in itself made the trip worthwhile, but the true highlight of the night was watching several Green Turtles in various stages of nesting in the sand at the top of the beach.

Nick and the kids stayed ashore for four hours (we decided not to take Eric in, as his Cockatoo-like screeching would have been enough to scare away every Green Turtle within 50 nm.... causing some sort of drastic population decline that'd be talked about for years to come), and were able to quietly watch the whole process of a turtle coming ashore, dragging herself up the beach, choosing a site, digging a hole with her flippers, laying her 100 or so eggs, filling in the nest, and then making the arduous journey back down the beach to the water.

Nick tried to convince the kids that he'd probably seen these same turtles being born about 30 years ago on Lady Musgrave Island (adult female turtles returning to where they were born to reproduce from the age of about 30 years onwards). The kids were dubious at first, but came round to the idea in the end. Only time will tell if the kids will make the journey back out here to say the same thing to someone else!

Back to Bait Reef, just one last time...

I know this post is out of order, but you'll have to forgive my sloppiness. We have lots of things we still want to put up here, and probably have enough material to post for months after we get back home!

One of the last places we visited before leaving the Whitsunday area was breathtaking Bait Reef. This was our third trip out there, and it did not disappoint. The awesomeness of that place starts as you approach and see boats anchored seemingly in the middle of the ocean.

Then there are all the vibrant colours...I really can not get enough of the reef colours! Nick facilitated my colour fix by climbing the mast for some panoramic shots.

Lucey Blue, moored within Bait Reef, with The Stepping Stones visible in the water behind.

When we were diving or snorkelling on The Stepping Stones we just jumped in straight off the back of Lucey Blue...very convenient! You can see Hayman and Hook Islands on the horizon at photo left.

Bait Reef, The Great Barrier Reef.

The marine life is, of course, another source of awesomeness (and fabulous colour)...

The Humphead Maori Wrasse pictured here was a big favourite (emphasis on the word big). We called him the toe nibbler because whenever the kids and I would get in for a swim, he'd come and nibble our toes. That didn't go down well with Ryan at first (you'd have thought a shark was mauling him) but he got used to it eventually.

Emily and Grandpa admiring the toe-nibbler...

We have more underwater shots from Bait Reef too, but we'll trickle those out so you don't fall asleep on your keyboard.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Maybe a change in profession is in the wind...

After our monster Spanish Mackerel landing back in the Whitsundays, it was suggested that perhaps Nick had missed his calling, and would be far better suited to life as a Mackerel Fisherman ;-).

With this in mind please note the following two fish, landed in quick succession yesterday after our early departure from Cape Capricorn...

A bit easier to lift up than the 1.45 m Spaniard!

Another lovely Spotted Mackerel (80 cm and 2.5 kg) and a Mackerel Tuna (85 cm and 7 kg). Nick had not even finished winding out the line when the Spotty took the lure. When he said he thought he had a fish I just rolled my eyes and said 'yeah right'. But he did! A quick web search indicated that Mackerel Tuna are not everyone's cup of tea, but we had some last night, and it TUNA! I thought it was fine.

Is that a smug smile I see?

Nick has commented that this was how fishing was 25 years ago, when cruising the area with his parents aboard their Crowther Eureka 32 catamaran Kudjinka. All he had to do was bung a bit of silver wine cask foil and feather duster on a hook and away he'd go. But after our 1000-fishless nautical miles it would appear that the wildlife have cottoned-on to this crude technique, and won't have a bar of it any more!

This is a picture of the lure donated to us by Trevor of MV Triton, the lure that caught the Spanish Mackerel...

Obviously Spanish Mackerel are not too discerning when it comes to the condition of the lure they take...

We've retired this lure now, might get it bronzed and pop it up on the fireplace, who knows, but we did get an exact replacement just in case.

The lure we have been using over the last few days is more 'fish-like' in our opinion, and has now caught two Spotted Mackerels, a Barracuda and a Mackerel Tuna. Thank goodness I found a replacement lure in Yeppoon after we lost one. We may have to stockpile a few more in Bundaberg!

Tuesday's Turtles

We all got up just before 5 am this morning, and went ashore to see if we could glimpse any of the turtles laying their eggs on Lady Musgrave Island. We knew we'd left it a bit late, but we were all a bit pooped after our early start and long journey the day before.

As luck would have it there were still a few turtles on the beach, although they'd finished laying their eggs, and had commenced the long trip back to the water. It was still lovely to sit up on the beach and watch their slow progress.

This lady obviously had a hair appointment (or knew the sun was on its way) because she made very good time on her way back out into the water...

This poor old girl had got a bit turned around and had a long trek in front of her to get around this coral ledge before the sun got her...

A lovely shot of one of the island's resident Black Noddy Terns at home, captured by Emily on her camera.

A beautiful Najat Sunrise in Lady Musgrave Lagoon

We'll try and get our act together and go ashore later tonight or earlier tomorrow morning to see if we can catch some of the egg laying in progress.

It is a scorcher here today, barely any wind and not a cloud in the sky. A beautiful day to go swimming!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Catnapping at Cape Capricorn

We left Keppel Bay Marina bright and early on Sunday morning, headed for Great Keppel Island or further...we agreed that we'd decide en-route. Keppel Bay Marina market themselves as the 'Friendliest Marina' and we can vouch for that. Everything is done with a smile, right down to handing over the keys to the FREE courtesy car (or as the sticker emblazoned on the bonnet of the car says...the courtsey car...someone was having a shocker that day ;-).

We made it as far as Cape Capricorn (in Lucey Blue, not the courtsey car) where we decided to have a quick pitstop behind the headland. On closer inspection it proved to be a gorgeous little cove, and as we motored in I kept humming bars of various tunes from Pirates of Penzance to myself (I was the Modern major General in our Year 10 production)...and the place just reminded me of what imagine Penzance would look like (although perhaps a little browner in hue).

As we dropped anchor I spied a turtle off the bow, and contrary to what I had imagined, the water was remarkably calm, we decided immediately it was a great place to stay the night. We gobbled down lunch and jumped into the dinghy for a wee jaunt up the hill to the lighthouse. Ryan was keen to commandeer the ancient rail cart to get up the hill, but following the advice of the large 'BEWARE', 'CAUTION'  and 'DO NOT' - type signs, we walked up instead. It was a scorcher, but well worth the effort, the view from the top was beautiful.

Lucey Blue at anchor off Jetty Beach, behind Cape Capricorn, Hummocky Island in the background

Lucey Blue at anchor behind Cape Capricorn

Back at Lucey Blue we all lolled about and read and napped the afternoon away. We had an early night and this morning we were up BEFORE the first-class passenger had stirred (more about his antics later), and were underway by 5 am.

Motor-sailing past Cape Capricorn as the sun comes up

We had another successful day fishing (more about that later too), and tonight are safely anchored within the lagoon off Lady Musgrave Island...easily one of our favourite stops on this trip. Nick's parents were also here when we arrived, and they came over to share some of our fish bounty.

Sunset over Lady Musgrave Island and lagoon

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Getting from A to B and more fish!

Yesterday, after a lovely breakfast with the koalas on Hamilton Island (yes we went back one last time, to refuel, swim and chill ;-), we headed out of the marina and pointed our bows south-east. We've started the journey home!

The weather was not ideal, some would say not good at all for a trip heading south-east, but we left you do! We started out bashing into 15 - 20 kts pretty much on the nose. Our first goal was to make it to Thomas Island. Our logic was that at least we would be getting somewhere, however small a hop it was, and the weather did not look like it was going to be helping us any time soon.

We reached Thomas Island and no one had spewed, so we quickly revised our destination to Goldsmith. On we bashed, and again, when we got there we were all feeling ok, so Brampton was the next goal, and after that Keswick and St. Bees. Now, as I said to a friend recently, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing...and we should have pulled our heads in and stopped at Homestead Bay on St. Bees. But no, I was superhuman by that time, no 25 kts of wind on the nose was going to make me sick!!! What I failed to factor into my equation was the fact that the island density seriously thinned out after St. Bees...and there were therefore no longer any buffers between us and the swell. I discovered this about 8 nm past St. Bees...when I started getting the dizzy head. It would appear that after 6 months on a boat my seasickness has subsided a lot, and I don't seem to spew as a first reaction any more. Instead I start to get this crashing headache, and I need to lie down and close my eyes, and then I can't really focus on anything at all. So......that was me, passed out on the cockpit floor, and pretty much useless.

On and on we bashed. I remember asking Nick in the middle of the night if Catamarans ever split in two...I was feeling pretty delirious at the time (and being regularly sprayed with saltwater from somewhere, but was feeling so crap I didn't care). Eventually I begged him to let us stop at Middle Percy, and after a bit of muttering and so forth he agreed. We pulled up outside the very small West Bay on Middle Percy at 1:30 am this morning and were gobsmacked. Nick said he counted 13 boats, and there were more in there without any lights on! What the? Where on earth did they all come from? Things had really started to quieten down on the water up here (the anchorages were quiet, the marinas were quiet), and I thought we were one of the last boats still chugging around...but apparently not! They were all hanging out in West Bay on Middle Percy!! We decided not to risk trying to anchor amongst that flotilla, and so on we went! I wanted to cry. At least the wind had started to swing around a little during the night, and combined with a small course correction which pointed us closer to south, the bashing, and swelly swell (hey Mel ;-) motion had reduced somewhat.

Today, thankfully, the wind died right down, and with it the sea, and we just motored on and on and on. We had the main and screecher up, and later this afternoon as the sea breeze picked up again we were speeding along at up to 8 kts. Finally, we pulled in to the Keppel Bay Marina at 16:30 and now its time for a well-earned rest.

I really only popped on here to chuck up a few photos, so I've kinda got carried away with the story apologies. A few snaps of our day today...

Cuddles on the saloon roof...

Emily finds all the best spots to curl up and read. She only started on the Harry Potter series a short while ago...

...but is up to the second book in the series already (thank you Aunty Jess :-). Twice today I called out to Emily to show her something (a stingray on the water's surface, a funny line where the water changed colour completely) but she is so completely absorbed in her book she doesn't hear a word I say.

Carving a path through sea goo off Port Clinton...

We stocked up on more of the 'right' kind of lures before we left Airlie Beach...and boy do they work! This 75 cm Spotted Mackerel caught near Cape Manifold this afternoon made a delicious fish dinner, with more still to come. Fluke? I don't think so!!!!!

We also caught a monster Barracuda today (he went back in to fight another day), as well as a mystery fish on this lure yesterday (but we lost him before we got him onboard). After the Barracuda incident today something else bit and took the lure clean off. These lures rock!

....and NOW its time for bed.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


We've trolled a line behind Lucey Blue all the way from Sydney to the Whitsundays, a distance of approximately 1000 nm, and then spent 11 weeks going around and around the Whitsundays for countless nautical miles and fishing everywhere we could, but no dice. None at all that is, until yesterday, when we hit pay-dirt.

We were leisurely motoring our way back to the islands after another overnight stay at Bait Reef (hahaha...get it, Bait Reef), with lots of fantastic snorkelling and diving on the Stepping Stones. We were trolling, again, using our (recently donated) lure for only the third time. I was sitting quietly in the cockpit crocheting, the kids were happily playing lego at the saloon table, Eric was soundly asleep in his cabin and Nick was reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson at the helm.

All of a sudden the fishing reel started feeding out quickly. At first I didn't recognise the sound, not having heard it AT ALL this trip. I leapt up and started shrieking…..'we've caught a fish, we've caught a fish'. Nick tried to be a bit circumspect about it all…'muttering it might come off, we might not get it'…then more forcefully….'SAM, SLOW THE BOAT DOWN' (I was still doing a happy dance in the cockpit at the time). Nick asked me to start reeling the line in while he went and found the gaff hook. I was still dancing about in excitement, something that only got worse when I started catching glimpses of our monster fish. In my defence…I wasn't the only one dancing about like a cat on a hot tin roof. The kids were also leaping about yelling 'we've got a fish, we've got a fish'. It was complete pandemonium on Lucey Blue. Thank goodness there was no one else nearby to witness our hysterical performance.

Nick reeled it in slowly, let it out a bit, dragged it a bit, reeled it in some more, then finally asked me to reel it in the remainder of the way while he waited with the gaff. He snapped it up on the second try and quickly brought it onto the top transom step, before bringing it into the cockpit so it couldn't leap off the boat.

Our beautiful fish was a gleaming Spanish Mackerel. It measured 1.45 m and was way in excess of our puny 10 kg scales. Nick estimates it was 15 - 20 kg in weight. Once cleaned up and filleted (which took Nick about 1.5 hours due to him giving blow-by blow descriptions of the fish and it bits to Emily and Ryan who were sitting only inches away in rapt attention) it filled 5 x two litre Decor boxes choc-a-block.

Needless to say, we had DELICIOUS fresh fish for dinner last night, and will again tonight, and tomorrow, and the night after that too! If you're in the neighbourhood...

Thanks again to Trevor from M/V Triton who took pity on the fish-less family from Sydney and donated us one of his old lures (I might add here, the fish actually broke off one of the hook barbs, he was that HUGE). Thanks also to Angus from Roar Ege, who has been our fishing inspiration, and who we dearly wished was nearby....we would have motored a long way to hold our fish up high for him to see (fluke MY FOOT)!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Party lights and Hamilton Island

After a lovely afternoon spent by the Main Pool (mocktails in hand), we had a little impromptu party on Lucey Blue last night because it was to be our last night at Hamilton Island, and I am going to miss it.

The previous evening we had met and chatted with a lovely couple (Trevor and Pam) aboard their beautiful motor boat Triton. In addition to donating us one of their lures (I think they felt sorry for us and our terrible fishing record), they gave us some of their fresh caught Cobia (or Black Kingfish). Nick crumbed and pan fried it, and served it with salad, and it was SUPERB! Big thanks to Trevor and Pam for making our farewell party dinner such a good one.

Here are some of my favourite shots taken around beautiful Hamilton Island...

The stylish Hamilton Island Yacht Club, one of the first buildings you see upon entering the marina.

Another view of the yacht club.

The hanging verandah of the Hamilton Island Yacht Club, looking across the passage to Dent Island.

Lucey Blue alongside F-arm at the Hamilton Island Marina.

Looking out over the Hamilton Island Marina, with Dent Island in the background.

The Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo, a not-so-welcome visitor on Lucey Blue. These pretty devils will chew holes in anything if you let them hang about.

The kids spent hours in the huge main pool (which also had a pool bar...bring on the pink lemonade)!

Island touring in golf buggy style.

We left Hamilton Island this morning, and are currently motoring towards the north end of Hook Island. Our plan is to overnight in one of the bays up there, and then tomorrow we may head back out to the reef for some more diving and snorkelling.