Yeppoon to the Whitsunday Islands.
So, the story continues.
It was quite a while back when we hauled anchor at 2.00 a.m. from Great Keppel Island, ready for the Big Passage past the war games.
We were banned from the coast, thanks to the big military exercises, and set off in blustery Southerlies and a robust following swell, on a dark, moonless night. We had carefully plotted the borders of the military area to avoid wandering into the zone, after dire threats from the Government. Jail, big fines and boat confiscation were all part of the package for straying yachties.
So it was a long, rough night and only as the dawn broke could we see a couple of other yachts, ahead and behind us. And it was rough and rolly, with Mary suffering her very first bout of seasickness since leaving Geelong. I was actually pleased that it was too dark to see the waves coming at us from behind the boat!
But, as the next day brightened up, the seas gradually eased, and it was nice to know there were other yachts out here with us too.
Late in the afternoon we arrived into the blessed calm of remote Hexham Island, and squeezed into the little anchorage along with five or six other yachts, one of them being the big Benetau Clipper, "Savant" from Geelong. A blissful night's sleep, safely away from the strong winds, military chatter from the warships and rolling swell.
The morning dawned clear and calm, and followed by Austin and Jan aboard "Savant" we headed off like real tropical Cruisers for the island-hopping that we'd been dreaming about.
From there, it was around the corner to Middle Percy, the absolute "must visit" island for cruisers, with
We caught up, too, with Grant and Marian St. Quentin, who'd left Great Keppel (in the rain) a few days before we did. And had an even rougher trip!
"Sundowners" on the beach that night were terrific, and in the morning we set off for yet another island paradise, Curlew Island, once again in company with our friends on "Savant".
It causes me to reflect a little, in that a lifetime addiction to surfing does tend to mean that I've spent most of my life clinging to those bits of the coast with waves. And missing out on absolutely amazing pieces of my own country like these islands!
Nonetheless, the surfboards still litter the deck, and the inflatable SUP is their, too.
But we were on a special mission, and as well as the provisioning and obligatory boat maintenance, we were waiting on the arrival of our daughter India, who was joining the crew for a few short days' break. After a few days of being mall-rats in the big "Canelands" shopping centre, we were very pleased to meet her at the airport and set sail back to the islands. Brampton was our first stop, and again, we had calm water, clear sunny skies and wonderful warm weather.
Brampton Island was a little strange, but still pretty damn good. There's an abandoned resort there, soon to be bulldozed and replaced with a new seven-star model, which will no doubt have a "not welcome" mat for cruising yachts.
So we enjoyed it in its current state, with its turtles and kangaroos and sparkly clean water.
A nice, quiet and safe anchorage for India's first night outside port, and everybody was happy.
Not a naked lady in sight though unfortunately.
It will have a profound effect on my choice of purchases in the future. Disposable plastic crap is everywhere we look. And it ends up in our oceans!
The whole Hamilton Island experience feels a little like Disneyland. Fake, but nice.
It was wonderful having her on the boat, and it wasn't long enough. Sniff!
And Airlie Beach is a wonderful town, in a perfect location.
I took the opportunity to make a way overdue visit to the Dentist, who took the opportunity to fill three teeth and extract the most money in the shortest time possible. Which I think hurt me more than him.
Fully recovered, and with yet more discoveries to make, it was soon off to Cid Harbour for a night's anchorage, where I effectively siezed the motor on Dora The Dinghy during a trip to the beach. (Fortunately, she cooled down, and in the morning, after taking the motor off and bringing it back aboard "Endurance", it miraculously started again and has been running happily ever since.)
We did, and ran through the amazing fiord-like inlet in their dinghy, climbing a short track to the aboriginal cave paintings. There's evidence at the caves and thereabouts that goes back 9000 years, and it's easy to imagine the abundance that once existed here. Before whitefellas came and took over anyway.
But it's still a beautiful place, and later, I paddled the SUP over live coral reefs and watched brightly coloured little fish swimming around through the crystal clear water. Another epic anchorage and great company.
The next morning, and no longer needing to head back to port to buy a new dinghy motor, we went our separate ways, "Finesse" aiming for Butterfly Bay.
For us, it was back to the mainland and a quiet anchorage in Woodwark Bay, enroute towards the Gloucester Passage and the annual Vice Commodore's reunion of the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club, of which we were about to become members. And Vice Commodores!
So on Sunday morning we made our way out of the passage and headed south again, into a cracking southerly of course, and tacked our way back to Airlie Beach and the Abell Point marina.
We'd won a great deal on mooring fees at a Shaggers auction, so can afford to spend a bit of time there and have a look around the district as well as doing a bit of maintenance on the boat.
So what's next? Another guest aboard next week when Nikki Matthews arrives from Torquay and we'll visit another few islands and anchorages that we've yet to discover, based on the weather. Or, if the weather is REALLY nice, it might be out to the outer reef itself.
And then? Hmmm, Townsville sounds nice!