13 – 18th Nov: The final leg

Friday 13th November: Hamilton to Macona

Arrggh! Our marina berth was near the pub! Live music last night till midnight, good muso luckily, then a group kept it up on their boat till 4am! Definitely time to leave in search of tranquility.

We’ve a few things left do before our trip ends. Most of them are much better with south easterly winds and the forecast today is just exactly for that. We left Hamilton after filling the larder, putting dinner in the Dreampot to cook  and waiting for an Express Post envelope that should be here by now and isn’t – marina office staff not very helpful in that respect.

The first two hours of the sail was magic as we ran north with a 10 – 15kn south-easterly and the tide. At 1pm the wind stopped and we were becalmed. At this point we usually pull down the sails and motor, but seeing we’ve got all day we sat it out and half an hour later it came back as a north-easterly – we were now close-hauled tacking our way north – still great sailing. Before we got to Macona it had moved around more easterly, stronger and gusty. Fickle winds!

The new forecast came out this afternoon and it’s now for stronger northerlies – damn, that’s stuffed our plans. Lucky we enjoyed the fabulous sail today so we’re not too upset about being up here now!


We tossed up whether to sail all the way back south again to do the ‘northern winds activities’ we still want to do or stay here. We decided to stay, but moved to Curlew Beach, a tiny sand beach just inside Macona Inlet where we spent the day reading, hull cleaning and swimming. Heaven.

On Curlew Beach, Macona Inlet

On Curlew Beach, Macona Inlet

As the tide ebbed we motored around the corner intending to pick up a mooring at False Nara and dispatch more of those oysters, but all moorings (ie all 2!) were taken so into Nara Inlet to settle for the night. The problem with Nara is that it is deep its entire length. If we had a windlass to pull up the anchor, as has every boat bigger than us, we wouldn’t care if we have to put out 60 meters of chain, but when it’s poor Steve pulling it in we prefer shallower anchorages!


With south-easterlies forecast for later tomorrow we thought we’d jump the gun and get out to the good snorkelling site at Border Is early, before any wind arrived, then head up to the northern Hook anchorages to enjoy the best snorkelling there when the southerlies come in.
We left Nara at 5.30am – once through Hook Passage the swell at 1 – 1.5m hit us broadside and the northerly wind was already up. We persisted for a while, hating every minute then decided the plan was flawed and turned around.

We stopped at an unnamed beach in Hook Passage (anchorage #2), anchoring just off the fringing coral, de-stressed, ate breakfast and had a lovely swim and snorkel over the corals, admiring the fish. So not a complete waste.
Just as we were about to leave the damn painter got caught in the prop stopping the engine. Down went the anchor again in a hurry and Steve spent the next 10 minutes upside down in the engine well trying to unravel it. Lesson learnt!

We motored back to Curlew Beach, pulled up the keel and rudder and floated Top Shelf just off the beach with a stern anchor, enjoying the 4 or so hours around high tide. Back into Macona for a peaceful night.

A sea eagle and her nest on the starboard beacon coming in to Macona. We could see at least 2 chicks.

A sea eagle and her nest on the starboard beacon coming in to Macona. We could see at least 2 chicks.


We’ve given up waiting for the right winds for Border Is and the northern snorkelling sites. Today we planned to pick up a mooring at Bauer Bay on South Molle Island and do all the walks there.

It started so well sailing out of Macona with a reefed main to handle the forecast gusty northerlies, turning to strong south-easterlies. The winds weren’t initially too strong, but the swell from the north-east was annoying. The tide across the passage was very strong – we were pointing 30 – 40 degrees off course and being carried directly to our destination.

South Molle Island - our destination. Look at those choppy seas!

South Molle Island – our destination. Look at those choppy seas!

Bauer Bay is a good anchorage only when winds are from the south-east. It was obvious just before we got there that the south-easterly change hadn’t yet arrived and the swell would make the anchorage just plain miserable. We decided to go on to Shute Harbour instead, but stopped for lunch and a swim at Cockatoo Beach on North Molle Island – rudder and keel up to float over the fringing coral to shore. Delightful stopover.

The trip from there across the Molle Passage to Shute Harbour was horrible with a swell that was easily 1 – 1.5 meters rolling us around. Once anchored in this very protected harbour, along with the other 50 or so boats, we took the tender ashore to see what there was to see – which was nothing. All the shops have closed since Port of Airlie became the main tourist hub. Another ‘failed’ tourist area.

While there are a lot of boats moored, many of them don’t appear cared for, far less taken out occasionally, there’s a few ‘live-aboards’ getting cheap accommodation and one of the bare-boat charterers is based here. It’s a sad place Shute Harbour.

Shute Harbour is a huge anchorage. It's shallow - we were anchored in 2.5m at low tide - and very well protected from swell and winds from all directions.

Shute Harbour is a huge anchorage. It’s shallow – we were anchored in 2.5m at low tide – and very well protected from swell and winds from all directions – just as well by the look of those clouds!


The new forecast is out and it’s depressing – south-easterlies at 15 to 30kn for the next 5 days. We don’t sail in winds that strong. So last night we made the decision to finish our trip. It does mean that we’ve left some things we wanted to do undone, which sounds like a great excuse to come back again another year.

We left Shute at about 6am to catch the ebbing tide north and before the winds get up too much, motoring all the way to Airlie Beach. There was plenty of wind, but it was dead on the nose. At Abell Point Marina we had to hang off the public pontoon for a couple of hours until the office opened. We both felt a bit down today – we’re tired and the trip ended a bit abruptly. No cleaning or packing today – today is just for recuperating and reflecting on all the fantastic times we’ve had.

Steve collected the car and trailer from Norbert who has kindly kept them in his backyard.


With the thought of our lovely home awaiting us it was with renewed enthusiasm that we cleaned and packed up the boat and I prepared meals for the trip home. To give the car batteries a good charge we went for a drive to Laguna Quays. This is a mainland ‘failed’ resort, about 20 minutes drive from here.  It was opened in 1992 and covers many acres fronting onto Repulse Bay with a world class golf course, a marina, condominiums and the resort itself. It closed in 2012 and is now owned by a Chinese developer who has not done anything with it since it’s purchase several years ago. The buildings, golf course and marina are in disrepair.

Back to the boat and we de-rigged on the water; so much easier and less fraught than doing it on the trailer as we usually do.

We de-rigged on the water this time. So much easier than doing it on the trailer.

No more sailing. Top Shelf is nearly ready for the long drive home.

For our final night we took a walk into Airlie and had dinner at the sailing club. An appropriate place to finish a wonderful 10-week sailing adventure. We’ll retrieve her first thing in the morning and begin our journey home, arriving on Saturday.

Airlie Beach from the walkway at Abell Point.

Airlie Beach from the walkway at Abell Point.

To see more photos from this part of our trip CLICK HERE


One thought on “13 – 18th Nov: The final leg

  1. Steve & Denise,
    Laughed at your responses to the met reports. Been there, done that, nearly sunk !
    When you settle in at home let’s catch up. I’m a man of leasure now, when Jill let’s me.
    We have a spare room if you are down this way.
    Dave & Jill

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