Welcome to Zenitude’s blog where you can follow us while we travel slow in our Lagoon catamaran. We update this blog frequently when we are cruising to let family and friends know where we are. Check the complete story of our adventures that started in 2006 when Zenitude became our home and cruising our way of life. Graciela and Oscar

Saturday, 28 June 2014

From Great Keppel to Mackay - Arriving at the Whitsundays' southern gateway

After much consideration on how to do the 167 miles from GKI to Mackay (route, weather and Soccer World Cup considerations), we decided that this time we'll miss the beautiful stops along the way and instead we'll do a 28 hours non-stop sail. On Thursday 26 June we left at sunrise and with the wind at 10 to 15 knots dead in the back for most of the trip we motor-sailed to keep good speed, with following seas the trip was quite comfortable.

We arrived at Mackay Outer Harbour next day at around noon, after dribbling 3 of the dozens of cargo ship moving around in this busy area. Our AIS is not behaving properly with the new navigation system as it looses the GPS connection to transmit our position, but at least it behaves properly in showing all info about the other ships. It was good enough but we need to work on that.

We are now in Mackay Marina that is very big and modern and quite reasonable priced. With strong winds forecast for next week plus the need of stock up on provisions before heading to the islands we are planning to stay here until Friday. There are also a couple of national parks we'd like to visit, It seems that Mackay is booming and there is a lot to do and see around here.


Mackay Marina

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Great Keppel Island - Stunning with good weather

With forecast of good weather we left Rosslyn Bay and came to anchor in Svendsen's Beach in Great Keppel Island. What a fantastic place. I think everybody around the area had the same idea as there must have been around 20 other boats by the end of the day. But the anchorage is very wide and the beaches are fantastic. The big question mark was TV reception and luckily there is, so no problem for Oscar to watch the world cup and we can enjoy beach life all the same for as long as this nice weather lasts.

At anchor in GKI

Stunning beaches at GKI

A long walk along the beach
One afternoon a 'frog race' was organized and everybody on the boats at anchor gathered at the beach. It was great fun and a good opportunity to catch up. We had previously been in a frog race in Bundaberg and were now expecting to see the little live frogs jumping all over the place. With great expectation everybody waits for the opening of the box that contains the frogs, to everybody's surprise here come the frogs and they are paper frogs!:

We all had a turn at driving the frogs while bets added to the fun.
A fire was also lit to keep mosquitoes away, not that there were any mosquitoes around

And a perfect sunset

Friday, 20 June 2014

Rosslyn Bay - A visit to Yeppoon and Rockhampton

In Rosslyn Bay we stayed at Great Keppel Bay Marina, which is a great marina with very friendly people. The first thing we were warned off was of the crocodile that was seen lurking around the marina boat ramp. So, please be warned:

As the weather was not behaving too well we decided to stay until Saturday and have a look around. A bus ride took us to Yeppoon where we did some shopping and had the miss fortune to take the bus back at the time when the normal bus becomes a 'school bus'. Soon the bus was full with very noise kids and the bus driver had to stop every two or three blocks to try and put some order. No wonder we were the only 'non school elements' in the bus. After an hour of going around collecting kids in different schools we were finally back at the marina. Whatever bus you take in Yeppoon do not take one between 2.30 and 3.30.

Next day we rented a small car at the marina for just 49 dollars to visit Rockhampton, the beef capital of Australia and Emu Park where the Singing Ship, a monument to Captain Cook is overlooking spectacular Keppel Bay. The monument commemorates the legacy of Captain Cook's explorations in this part of Australia's coast. There was not even a breeze when we came to the monument and hence could not hear the musical sound that is produced through the fluted pipes. Definitely a place to come back with some more wind.

The Singing Ship

In Rockhampton we got lost and finally found the Information Centre and the Tropic of Capricorn Spire to take the picture with one foot on each side and officially consider ourselves inside the tropics. 

The tropic of Capricorn, one foot in, one foot out
After that we had famous beef for lunch in the famous Heritage Hotel and a visit to the Botanical Gardens and Zoo. We did try the Heritage Village but by then it was late and they didn't let us in. 
Spot the Koalas

Back in the marina and we got ready to leave towards Great Keppel Island as the weather was warming up with forecast promises of shinning sun.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Bundaberg to Rosslyn Bay - In the tropics now

We are now in beautiful Rosslyn Bay after a good 24 hour sailing trip. We are planning to stay around Keppel Bay for about a week and will probably move to Great Keppel island tomorrow, hoping it will get a bit warmer. The tropics are a bit disappointing right now so we will do the land tours first.    

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Urangan to Bundaberg - A visit to Maryborough

The wind kept blowing hard for 4 days, we were happy with the decision to come to the marina. The weather started improving on Thursday and we decided to rent a car for the day and visit the historical town of Maryborough. It is a pleasant and interesting tour and is good to go there on Thursdays when the outdoor City Markets are open because the opening times coincide with the historical Mary Ann Steam train running and the "town crier" firing the time canon at 1:00 PM, which is all very interesting once you find the story behind it. There are several museums that open every day but I imagine any other day the atmosphere in town wouldn't be the same.

At the markets we bought some local produce and then went for a ride in the Mary Ann steam train replica that is maintained and run by a team of volunteers crew that are happy to tell you anything you like to know about the town. The original train was the first Queensland's steam engine and was built in 1873. The Mary Ann was used to saw the rails and sleepers for her own track. It runs among pretty gardens and alongside the Mary River shore for a little ride. After that it was lunch time and we had quite nice food at the open market while watching and learning about the time canon.  A little ceremony and we learn that the canon was fired everyday at 1:00 PM in the 1800's to let all workers in the vicinity know it was lunch time and let people reset their watches if needed.

The Mary Ann steam train

The 'Town Crier' used to read the news for the community before
firing the cannon exactly at 1:00 PM everyday.

Just a short walk from the markets is the heritage building where Mary Poppins' writer, Pamela Lyndon Travers, was born, the nanny's bronze statue is outside, just standing there .....  

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious kind of day

Next day we leave Urangan. It' s Friday June 13 and is the Soccer World Cup opening so we leave after watching the first game in our brand new TV and Antenna. As if it wasn't complicated enough to plan our route according to weather windows, places to stop and distances to cover, now the soccer world cup games schedule has entered in our plans as well and of course, the anchorage option has to has good TV coverage. After all, soccer world cup is only once every 4 years. With that in mind, our next stop is Bundaberg where we arrive late afternoon after a calm motoring day.
Leaving Urangan in the chilly morning

The Burnett River, Port Bundaberg, more bad weather on the horizon

A weak low will bring westerlies and rain during the weekend, so we are planning to stay here at least until Monday.


Monday, 9 June 2014

Fraser Island to Urangan - Along the Great Sandy Strait

The Great Sandy Strait extends north from Tin Can Bay to Hervey Bay and separates Fraser Island from mainland. It is a complex landscape of mangroves, sandbars and islands and is an important habitat for fish, crustaceans, dugongs, dolphins and turtles. Although there are many shoal areas and drying banks it is possible to navigate using the tidal ranges.

After spending a day in Garry's anchorage we decided to keep going along the strait up to the Kingfisher Resort in Fraser Island where boats can anchor along the beach. We left about 2 hours before the high tide so that we would cross the Sheridan Flats, the shallowest part, with a rising tide in case we touch ground. With the new chart plotter display at the helm it was mostly easy navigation through the flats even when a 3 knots helping current made it almost impossible to slow down on the shallow bits. There was only one spot, at the northern tip of Tooth Island where the chart did not agree with the navigation marks and we got confused as the Red can did not seem to make a lot of sense but the rule is trust the navigation aids, so we did, the depth sounder went down to 1.4 mts and we passed (we draw about 0.80 from where our depth sounder is located). No more excitements after that and we reached the Kingfisher Bay resort where we anchored.

There is a ferry that brings cars and people to the island and resort, and this being the long Queen's Birthday weekend, the ferry was unloading cars and people quite frequently. Right after sunset we went on shore to check the resort. It is about 200 meters from the beach and it is quite nice. They have several restaurants and we decided to give us a treat and try their buffet dinner. 

Luckily we left the dinghy tied to the pier as the tide had gone down and we were not in the mood to wet our feet in a long walk to reach waters deep enough for the dinghy, specially in the chill of the night after having read unconfirmed sighting of a croc (yes, a crocodile) in the vicinity of the hotel.

Forecast of several days of strong winds and we decide to hide in a marina in Urangan. The town is part of Hervey Bay and is located in the mainland across from Fraser Island. One of the attractions here is whale watching tours. Each year humpbacks whales migrate to the eastern coast of Australia. Groups of whales or 'pods' start to arrive at the southern Great Barrier Reef in mid-June and in the following weeks they move further along the reef concentrating in the southern Whitsundays area. On the southern migration back to Antarctic waters, a large proportion of the whales stop over for a few days in Hervey Bay. Most humpbacks will have left the Queensland coast by the beginning of November. This whale behavior makes Hervey Bay a centre of whale watching tours. The whale watching guidelines state that a vessel should stop 300 meters from a whale but the whales do not know the rules and often they swim up to the side of the boat. We are a bit wary of whales and rather don’t find them. It is known that whales may be sleeping or resting on the surface and will not detect a catamaran approaching with the disastrous result of the boat hitting the whale.
In the marina, watching the rain with the pelicans
We have an easy sail and arrive at the marina just as the weather starts to deteriorate. There is a chilly wind and we are happy to be tucked in a berth. Even the pelicans don't seem happy with this kind of weather.

 Hoping for better days to do a bit of sightseeing around this historical area before continuing on our way north.   

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Mooloolaba to Fraser Island - A stop at Double Island Point

Anchor area in Mooloolaba

Mooloolaba was a perfect first stop to relax and rest, at least for a couple of days. The anchorage is busy this time of the year with people stopping by on their way to the north. No wonder we met several friends that were around.

The big surprise was to find Andrea and Andreas from Akka just materializing in their dinghy one morning. We met the Andreas in San Blass, Panama just before crossing the Pacific, found them again last year in Noumea and why not, this year we met again while they are on their way to the north to continue their voyage around the world, eventually back to Germany, their home port. On Sunday we had friends on board, Eduardo and his lovely family came to visit. 

Another sunset in settled weather
Monday was back to work for Oscar that had to fix the engines blues. Tuesday was engine stress test day and after leaving each engine running for 4 hours he verified impellers are ok. The question of why the failure happened is still on guessing grounds. With a feeling of 'hope it won't happen again' and several spare impellers on board we decide we should keep going. 

In the meantime the weather looks perfect for the next leg and we decide to leave beautiful Mooloolaba towards Wide Bay and the Great Sandy Strait in Fraser Island. 

The entrance in Wide Bay Bar needs to be timed with the incoming tide, ideally one should enter in the last 2 hours before high tide. With the settled weather our best option was to stop at Double Island Point, 10 miles before Fraser Island and spend the night there so that we could be at the entrance of the bar around 11:00 AM.

We left Mooloolaba just after lunch and had a good run in calm seas and around 10 knots SE winds with Zenitude happily doing about 7 knots. It was 11.00 PM and the only squall that got to us had of course to appear at the time we decide to get sails down to enter Double Island Point bay. But it was short lived and soon the warm night was quiet and we entered this wide anchorage. It is easy in settled weather even in the dark night and on the approach there was fluorescence everywhere around us, sometimes the seas looking brighter than the starry skies. All my apprehension of doing this in the middle of the night was gone.

Double Island Point
We woke up early with VMR from Tin Can Bay calling to check if we had arrived safely to the anchorage. As always when cruising the Australia coast we log our trips with them. They do a fantastic coverage and gave us all the info we needed to cross the bar which included the 3 waypoints and the right timing. No wind this morning so we motored the 10 miles and crossed the bar uneventfully. Even with these very calm conditions there were a couple of scary wave surfing in the shallowest part as the depth goes very quickly down to 4 meters. Not the best of feelings.

Having crossed the bar we headed north in the Sandy Strait towards Gary's anchorage were we are spending the night before continuing our way north tomorrow.

Among mangroves in popular Gary's anchorage