Monday, August 31, 2015

East Diamond Islet - An afternoon stroll...

We decided to take a quick afternoon stroll along the beach and there looks like there will be plenty to explore for the next week or so...
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We've arrived at beautiful East Diamond Islet...

After leaving Airlie on Saturday morning, we made it out to Knuckle Reef where we spent the night. We left Knuckle at about 8:30 am on Sunday and motor-sailed through Sunday night, reaching East Diamond Islet at midday today (Monday).

The colours here are simply unbelievable. The water is clear, even when it's 20+m deep. The cay is huge, and looks to be full of birds...we could film a Hitchcock movie here, no worries. We even had three stowaways en-route last night...three birds simply landed on our decks and proceeded to go to sleep. This morning at sun-up they promptly left, without paying their bill, and each left a large guano mess behind!! Given the number of birds on this small cay...we are expecting more of them to visit this evening...we will be scrubbing the decks for days to come!

We caught three fish along the way. Three smallish Mackerel Tuna, and we threw them back (they are only two star eating). Despite circling the cay this morning, with two lines out, we caught nothing more. We are hoping that one day soon a beautiful Spanish Mackerel will be tempted by our lures! In the mean time, we will be eating sausages!

There is no one else out here, it feels like we have the entire Coral Sea to ourselves!

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

First catch of the day...

A little Mackerel Tuna, which we elected to return to the ocean. Fingers crossed his bigger cousin Mr Spanish Mackerel is not far behind!

Leaving Airlie...

Another stunning Queensland day and we are under way!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Snorkelling in the northern Whitsunday’s and Bait reef

Eric continues to enjoy his time in the water and whenever we get a chance we all hit the water together. The conditions were quite nice so we spent a few nights at Langford Island and then sailed out to Bait Reef.

The trip out to Bait Reef was unusually eventful with a large fish (that got away) causing no end of trouble. As a tip - do not set a large code zero and then hoist your full main in 20 knots of wind if you want to slow down in a hurry.

The net result of our failed fishing adventure was: one code zero in the water; one halyard lost halfway up the mast; and two hands with rope burn!

We detoured back to Luncheon Bay at the top of Hook Island to affect repairs and then headed back out to Bait Reef in the afternoon. With a more conservative sail setup – blade jib and full main – we made the journey in just under two hours.

Snorkelling on the Stepping Stones at Bait Reef remains impressive.

However, the best part of our time back at Bait reef was the amazing song of a Humpback whale and her calf. The two whales swam up and down the edge of the reef for over 48 hours and on the way out they treated us to some spectacular breaching approximately 100m off our port bow.

Daydream Island

We spent Sam’s birthday at Daydream Island lounging around the pool and enjoying a special lunch (or two) at Mermaids Restaurant.

Daydream is well setup for families and as a guest of the resort you have the run of the island and all its facilities. We had fun on the stand-up paddleboards and sailing catamarans. In the evenings also went ashore to watch a movie at the free outdoor cinema.

Everyone enjoyed the change, but we were keen to go snorkelling again so we soon headed back out to find the reef again.

South Mole Island

We enjoyed a quick downwind sail from Henning Island to South Mole Island and anchored off the wharf before heading ashore to explore the island.

On the beach at Paddle Bay we met another couple with a young child and Eric enjoyed the afternoon/evening with a new friend – Cooper.

South Mole Island has a number of great bushwalks and we took the short stroll up to the Spion Kop lookout. Hamilton Island Race Week was still underway which added another dimension to the view from the ridgeline…

Hamilton Island Race Week - 2015

The first race of Hamilton Island Race Week commenced with a spinnaker start. The windy conditions made the staggered start a little more exciting than normal.

The first boat out was Wild Oats and the field was not crowded until the smaller boats got underway.

We think John Travolta must have flown in to see the end of the race as a Qantas jet – decked out in the company’s old colour scheme - flew into Hamilton Island cutting a path through the start line.

The Racing and Cruising Multihull Divisions were some of the last to start and the wind had dropped a little. However, before long the racing catamarans had quickly passed the majority of the monohulls already on the course.

After the start we moved to Henning Island to watch the yachts sail back up the course to the finish line.

To cap of a nice day we found an official race photograph online with Lucey Blue in the foreground as the last of the yachts sailed home.

Gulnare Inlet and Henning Island

We hung around Gulnare Inlet and Henning Island for a day or so to be ready to see the start of Hamilton Island Race Week.

The kids made a cubby on the beach one afternoon and we all enjoyed our newly purchased fresh food.

We even managed to catch up with Rick and Dot aboard Manaia – a brand new catamaran that Rick built. They had visited quite a few places since South Percy and the boat was still looking amazingly clean! Eric always likes to socialise and it was nice to have a look around such a well designed and built catamaran.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Middle Percy Island - Northwards

We left Middle Percy Island at 0300 on the 11th of August with a rather generic plan. We would head north prehaps to Mackay for fresh fruit and veggies or perhaps to the southern end of the Whitsunday Islands. Lucey Blue still had enough generic supplies to last at least another month and our water tanks were full so we could decide along the way.

The kids were keen to stop at Mackay for some sliced white bread, but in the end we pushed on and arrived at Thomas Island (about 15 miles southeast of Hamilton Island) an hour before sunset.

We spent a day or two pottering around Thomas and Shaw Island to avoid some strong winds and allow time to explore. We caught up on some schoolwork and even managed to avoid capsizing unlike some unlucky racers competing in the Airlie Beach Race Week.

This morning we managed to secure a one-hour berth at Hamilton Island. We were a bit surprised that there was any space at all given it is the eve of the 2015 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, but we jumped at the chance to purchase some fresh food. Lucey Blue was restocked in just under 45 minutes - a record for us!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Middle Percy Island - Fishing

Emily and Ryan continue to fish whenever there is an opportunity and Percy Island has plenty to offer the avid angler if you have fresh bait.

At low tide large schools of Garfish flocked around Lucey Blue and many of the other boats in West Bay. Marty invited the kids to catch some with his drag net which was a fun way to spend an evening, but we did not have much luck.

Not to be deterred we pulled out our cast net and with a little help from the kids (in the form of bread crumbs) we soon had a bucket load of Garfish on the back deck.

We were super keen for a fish dinner and the fish guide rated Garfish as good eating (if you don't mind small bones) so the decision was made to have mini fish fingers for dinner. Filleting Garfish is fiddly work, but after about 40 minutes we had enough to batter in Panko bread crumbs and deep-fry. Emily also caught a 25 cm Sea Bream which we added to our supply. Our evening meal that night was remarkably good.

The next day we decided to change tack - prehaps inspired by Angus from Roar Ege or just the thought of filleting another load of Garfish. With a few crumbs of WEETBIX we lured some Garfish to the surface and within easy range of our cast net. With a fresh Garfish on a gang hook we sat back for some afternoon nibbles and waited.

A short while later the hand line wizzed out and a shout from the crew of Lucey Blue was heard across the bay - we have a fish! We had something big on the line and with a little running around we traded our tiny Garfish for an 8 kg Golden Trevally (and it's attached small Remora...Two for the price of one!!).

We had a superb dinner that night and have enough Trevally left for several more meals. It is very statisfying to be travelling with the wind, making our own water, baking our own bread and now catching our own fish!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Middle Percy Island - Our return...

We arrived back at Middle Percy Island on the 7th of August and had our pick of the anchorage. The conditions had improved considerably and we jumped at the chance to explore the island again.

We split our time between domestic duties, bush walks, swimming and fishing. We also hung our new memento - crafted from a piece of driftwood found on South Percy - in the A-Frame to mark our return.

On our second day we walked up to the homestead. We saw so many beautiful things, including loads of Blue Tiger Butterflies and native orchids in flower on grand old fig trees. 

The island leaseholders (Cate and John) were not home on our first visit, but we found Steve and his dog Diamond at the Round House. We discussed the last few years since our previous visit and what life was like during the category five cyclone that hit the island in early 2015. 

Steve lost most of his vege patch, but he survived the 200km hour winds inside the Round House - a circular structure clad entirely in old house windows and tin roofing. We were glad to see that most of the cyclone damage was limited to isolated patchs down the hill perhaps due to topography effects and some good luck.

Sam, Emily and Ryan returned to the homestead the next morning to watch the honey harvest and enjoyed several hours in the company of the islanders. Ryan loved helping to clean out the honeycomb and all avoided being stung by unhappy bees. They also found some interesting coconut trail markers. Best of all they managed to stock up on some of the local produce - eggs and passionfruit etc.

Each evening more yachts arrived to enjoy the island and within a day or so there were over fifteen other vessels in West Bay - including a 120-foot powerboat on it's way to Cairns. But there was never an issue with space enough for all to share...

South Percy Island - Spectacular beaches

We found a nice spot to anchor behind South Percy beside Howard Islet and settled in for a few days.

The first evening we watched a whale glide past our anchorage and the next morning we went ashore - after school - to play on the beach.

The isolated beaches along Rocky Shelf Bay are spectacular and the water clear and warm. The kids enjoyed exploring and making cubby houses along the shoreline.

We all agreed that South Percy Island was prefect for reflecting on the present...