The city of Gladstone seems to be a bit confused as to what it is, but for all that, the marina was comfortable enough and we did meet some really nice people so can't slag off at it too much. But it terms of industrial cities, it does make Geelong look pretty good.
We were happy to leave the high-viz fluoro overalls and grimy industry behind, heading out through the North Channel into the open ocean again. We were sailing in company with Geoff and Maggie from the Sydney yacht "Solstice", and had an uncomfortable 20-something knot tailwind and largish following seas. It felt good to find the welcome shelter of Cape Capricorn for an overnight anchorage, but the swell wrapping around the corner of the headland made for the most uncomfortable night of the trip so far.
So it was up at first light and off to the comfort of the marina near Yeppoon to hide out from the relentless strong trade winds and drizzly rain. It was good to be tied up at a dock!
Which had effectively blocked the entire coast for 100 miles north. For six weeks! So it meant that we couldn't day sail along the coast, we had to plan a route out to sea around the civilian exclusion zone, which meant a serious overnighter and "real" weather further out to sea.
On the first chance we had to get nice weather though, we decided that Great Keppel Island was too nice to ignore and so, just an hour out from the Marina we were in a tropical paradise. Crystal clear water, a firm, protected anchorage off a pristine beach, the great company of other cruisers, and at last, what we set out to find on this journey!
Once the wind did pick up, however, we started to feel a bit trapped, knowing that unpleasant conditions meant the islands, and our journey northwards, weren't an option. But it was good varnishing weather, I did an oil change, and on one day we even caught the bus into Rockhampton, which is a surprisingly beautiful tropical city.
We made one "false start" to head north, in company with Geelong's Grant and Marian St. Quentin on their yacht "Sapphire Of London" but soon scampered back into the marina. A wet, uncomfortable passage to the islands in preparation for the journey was just a taste of the night ahead. Which convinced us to bide our time for another day or two. The St. Quentins, being hardier sailors than ourselves, continued the journey alone..... I feel a bit guilty for abandoning them, but we'll have a more comfortable passage north!
I'm updating the blog today, knowing that we'll be out to sea tomorrow, bound for, hopefully, the Percy Isles or one of the smaller islands just south of them for an anchorage with a few days of nice weather . That will see us past the warships at play, within easy striking distance of the port of Mackay, and well amongst the tropical islands to the south of the Whitsunday Group. Coral reef country!