15th Sept: Mackay to St Bees

The forecast today is 10 – 15 kn from the ESE, tending easterly. Good enough for us. We left the marina about 10.30am, an hour before high tide; with tides as big as they are up here (up to 5 metres) the tidal flow mid-tide is very strong and we didn’t want it against us. First sail after a long time off the water is always stressful, particularly for me. As soon as we cleared the marina breakwater we were hit with a 1 metre beam swell which had us rolling around – not fun! Anyway, engine off and sails were very soon up, and once we could turn towards our destination the swell was manageable.

The 'old salt', Happy to be sailing at last.

The ‘old salt’, Happy to be sailing at last.

The next few hours were really lovely. Still a swell, but it settled a bit, and the wind was 7 – 13 knots which made for great sailing. There was a fair bit of phytoplankton in the water creating slicks of red and resembling coral spawn. Despite keeping a whale lookout we were disappointed.

Keswick to the left, St Bees to the right. We're aiming for an anchorage in the channel between the two.

Keswick to the left, St Bees to the right. We’re aiming for an anchorage in the channel between the two.

St Bees Island is the destination – 15.6 nautical miles away (31km). It took us about 4 1/4 hours and we averaged 3.6kn arriving at 2.20pm.

Decided we’d go inside the fringing reef and anchor over sand to dry out at low tide. Great idea, except our boat has a skeg bottom, ie not flat and she now rests over on her port side. Fortunately with the incoming tide she should float again around 8pm, but be high and dry again about 4am – that’s 8 hours to get some sleep! We won’t do that again overnight.

See that fin thing underneath - that's the skeg, and what caused us to lean uncomfortably, for a while.

See that fin thing underneath – that’s the skeg, and what caused us to lean uncomfortably, for a while.

9 – 14 September: Home to Mackay

9 – 11th September, 2015

After much planning, and with great excitement we finally left home today towing Top Shelf to launch in Mackay, sail around the southern Whitsunday Islands before heading up to the main islands – length of trip -> TBA. Pam and Milton arrived a couple of days ago to settle in and get last-minute instructions on looking after our home while we’re away, so we’re now foot-loose and fancy-free. Whitsundays here we come!

As I don’t tow we didn’t go too far today – just up the road to Gin Gin. We’re staying in the boat as we travel – may as well, afterall it’s all set up. We did get lots of stares and quite a few comments along the lines of ‘expecting rain?’, etc. Anyway, the showgrounds where we stayed was very good. Lots of room, a friendly caretaker, clean amenities and not too far to the pub for a counter meal tonight.

Next day we stayed the night at Waverley Creek Rest area just south of St Lawrence. This excellent, free, overnight rest stop has good, clean facilities and lots of parking spots, though it does fill up quickly. It’s right beside the road, but despite that we weren’t disturbed by traffic overnight.

Next day, just a short 200km to the marina at Mackay Harbour. We decided we’d stay on the boat in the carpark again tonight and launch tomorrow. We met up with another couple of Noelex owners (Tony and Dave) up here with their boats planning two weeks of sailing.

Unfortunately the weather does not look good – it’s drizzling rain and very windy, with the forecast to stay with high winds for another few days. We’ve made a policy that seeing we’re here for the pleasure of sailing, and we’re not in a hurry, we don’t sail in winds stronger than 15kn. We may be here for a few days. Dinner at the Thai restaurant here at the marina with Tony and Dave and their crew – mates who had flown up today from Melbourne.

Top Shelf at Mackay marina.

Top Shelf at Mackay marina.

12 – 14 September

We’ve been cooling our heels here at the marina for the last few days. While we’d love to be out sailing, this isn’t too bad a place to be held up. The marina has coffee shops, restaurants, fish and chip shops, a pub (useful for Steve as the football was on) and a small chandlery at the marina office. We also have our car here so have spent our time looking around Mackay, went to the Botanic Gardens, picked up forgotten items at the shops, and today (14th) we’ve provisioned the boat, fuelled up and are all ready to go, weather permitting.

Is this some kind of alien beetle? At Mackay Botantic Gardens.

Is this some kind of alien beetle? At Mackay Botantic Gardens.