Tweet Manookatoo Adventures: Reaching the Reef

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Reaching the Reef

A lovely wedding

The First Mate's family
We spent 8 days "off boat", with catch ups with family, a Hunter Valley wedding and surgery to remove the pins from the First Mate's finger on the Gold Coast, before flying back to Gladstone and restocking Manookatoo ready to continue our cruising.
The Cattle Crossing in The Narrows
We left the Marina just before 8am on Friday, on a rising tide. The Narrows, between the mainland and Curtis Island, dries to a height of 2 meters at low tide, with a cattle crossing midway just to add to the excitement! Local knowledge suggests passage on the high tide, with a higher tide to follow in case you get grounded, so, with lower tides for Saturday and Sunday, today was the best day to attempt it. Following the ample channel markers and leads, we slowly made our way through The Narrows, passing over the Cattle Crossing, with 7 feet beneath the keel, just after 10:30. We continued another 3 nautical miles into deeper water before turning into Barker Creek and dropping anchor amongst the mangroves, feeling a great sense of achievement. As the tide dropped the banks were exposed - a long way! - but we were in a deep channel so not concerned. We lazed the afternoon and evening away and saw only two other boats pass  by in The Narrows whilst the tide was high enough.
Sea Hill lighthouse
Approaching Sea Hill
Saturday was a short cruise, about 6 nautical miles north, to Sea Hill, first explored by Matthew Flinders in 1802, then later a Lighthouse was built and Pilot Station established. This closed in the 1960s when Rockhampton ceased to be a beef export port. A few buildings remain, but it is certainly a quiet outpost. We cruised into Pacific Creek, crossing the sandbar on a rising tide and continuing upstream to anchor midstream near a yacht and two commercial fishing boats. After the captain zipped over on the dinghy to greet our fellow travellers, we made our way back downstream and pulled the dinghy ashore just near an old jetty for an exploratory walk along the shore, past the old residences and up the hill to the lighthouse. One house does look like it could be inhabited occasionally, but the rest look abandoned. Returning to Manookatoo we enjoyed another lazy afternoon; the Captain watched his beloved footy team lose while the First Mate  read and did some knitting. The weather was glorious and we enjoyed sunset drinks upstairs, leaving the windows and doors open, but putting the fly screen on the back door to keep pests out - big mistake - sand flies are so small they came in through the back screen!! Sleeping that night we noticed nothing, but the morning (and the next few days) revealed welts all over the first mate in particular, and proved most uncomfortable!!
Sunset, Great Keppel Island
On Sunday morning, keen to reach The Keppels early (and scratching like mad!), we pulled up the anchor just after 8:30, as soon as depth over the bar allowed, and continued  north, past Sea Hill point and into Keppel Bay. As we left the entrance to The Narrows in our wake, the water cleared from muddy brown to tropical blue. There was a reasonable swell as we cruised past Peak Island (a preservation zone for Flat Back turtles), then we headed due north to Great Keppel Island, past the reefs of Monkey Beach and the resort and houses of Fishermans Beach before rounding the rocky point between Putney Beach and Middle Island. As we approached Svendsens Beach we were amazed at the number of yachts already moored there! It's certainly a popular stopover. We dropped the anchor in water so clear you could see exactly where it was, then took the dinghy to shore to explore. We walked right along the shoreline and across to Sven's Beach, meeting some friendly yachties who invited us to Sundowners at a specially created boaties' "camp" on the beach. When we returned after 4:30, many dinghies were on the shoreline and we enjoyed a social time meeting new people and reacquainting ourselves with others we had met at Tipplers many weeks earlier. We heard of lots of new places to explore (and where to avoid) - always good information, before returning to Manookatoo for our weekly Sunday pizzas and an early night.
Views from Mt Kanute
On Monday morning we went for a long pre-breakfast walk, up Robbie Track (dedicated to a young soldier killed in Afghanistan) and along to the lookout at Mt Kanute. The views from the ridges are spectacular in both directions and well worth the steepish, rocky climb. We returned via Svendsens track, no less rocky, down towards the secluded resort and onto the beach. Returning to Manookatoo, we pulled up the anchor for a cruise around to Fishermans Beach, where a large resort lies abandoned. We walked along the shoreline and visited a couple of small shops, having a drink at the Great Keppel Island Hideaway before returning to Manookatoo for lunch. Later, we returned to Sven's Beach, going ashore again for pre dinner drinks while the sun went down.
Inside the Homestead
Tuesday was exercise time before breakfast and another trip ashore. Other boaties has told us of a good walk to an old homestead, so we were keen to investigate! The walk up over the hill and down another rocky incline was quite invigorating and we saw some spectacular butterflies, lush mangroves and even a large yacht ashore in a tidal lagoon, presumably for repairs, before we reached a large, goat filled clearing and the old timber and iron homestead. It had been occupied up until 1945 and many old artifacts remained, including a Singer treadle sewing machine, a wood fired stove and an old rocking chair on the front verandah. It was a real slice of a bygone time. We returned via Second Beach, a much flatter, easier and shorter walk, and scrambled across the rocks back to the dinghy and home to Manookatoo. After a lazy lunch we ventured ashore again and took the track to Butterfish Beach, enjoying the view north from the ridgetop. The beach and boat camp seemed deserted - no sundowners today, so we hoisted the dinghy back onto the Flybridge in preparation for tomorrow's journey, then enjoyed our own sundowners aboard!
The "Singing Ship"
We have chores to do ashore, including washing, shopping and servicing the dinghy, so we lifted the anchor early on Wednesday morning and headed across to Rosslyn Bay, 12 nautical miles west. Arriving just before 11:00, we borrowed the Marina Courtesy Car and drove to Yeppoon for an impeller for the dinghy and food and alcohol for us, returning via Emu Bay and the "singing ship" - a memorial to Captain Cook overlooking Keppel Bay. In the afternoon the Captain spent quite some time fixing the motor, with helpful (and other!) advice from passing boaties, before we walked to the local yacht club for drinks while the sun set.
Rockhampton streetscape
We were keen to see Rockhampton so we took the bus on Thursday morning, enjoying the sea views before we turned west. It is very dry countryside, exacerbated by a lack of rain this winter, between the coast and Rockhampton. We explored this beautiful old city, full of heritage buildings, constructed at a time when Rockhampton was a major port mooted as the capital of a North Queensland state by separatists in the late 1800s, pre-federation. We were amazed at the number of boats on the Fitzroy River and are considering a visit in Manookatoo on our way south later next year. We enjoyed lunch at the majestic Criterion Hotel, the oldest pub in Rockhampton, before returning to Rosslyn Bay in the bus, stopping at the fishing co-op for some prawns and jewfish, which we enjoyed for dinner.
Double Point, Rosslyn Bay
Fan Rock
On Friday morning we walked around the headland and up the Double Point lookout, with beautiful sea views and the amazing "Fan Rock" at the top, created by cooling lava when the area was full of active volcanoes. We returned to Manookatoo for breakfast then started untying ropes, ready for departure. With fine weather and calm seas forecast, we are returning for a couple more days at Great Keppel Island before moving north.
Captain's log - Gladstone to Rosslyn Bay 
(via The Narrows and Great Keppel Island)
Distance: 62.4 nautical miles
Fuel: 57.9 litres
Cruising time: 10 hours 35 minutes

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