Once we’d settled in Garry’s Anchorage on Fraser Island, it was time to do a bit of exploring. When we went to shore, we were greeted by John, a local yachtsman, who shared his of knowledge of the island.
Fraser is the world’s largest sand island stretching for 123 km. It has rainforests, dozens of freshwater lakes, striking views, shop wrecks and a 120 km beach highway. John’s intel and nearby signs alerted us to the fact that it is also home to wild dingoes and crocodiles.
For some reason, the thought of dingoes did not frighten me, but the thought of swamp carnivores biting my leg off gave me a whole new fear to overcome.
We didn’t manage to see either, but my new fear led to several ‘wooden crocodile’ sightings.
The next day, at John’s recommendation, we lifted anchor and set out to Kingfisher Bay, home of a yacht friendly resort with great hiking and day facilities.
After taking a long walk in the forest and along the beach, we enjoyed a hot shower. We then met more local boaters who suggested we stop of at Platypus Bay before leaving Fraser Island. We sailed up there the next afternoon.
As we were entering Platypus Bay, the engine gave up, again; this time the shaft disconnected from the inverter. We lost a bit of oil (which I pumped out of the engine room) but The Captain again sorted the issue.
Unfortunately, we lost the day and were unable to go ashore to explore. But we did manage to get a good night’s rest in Platypus Bay and were up early the next morning to sail to Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef.
A few hours into our passage of windless motoring, the engine gave out once again. This time, the issue was a 12 year old coolant hose that had seen better days. The Captain worked through his process and in short order, we were making way again toward Heron Island.
Heron Island is a coral cay in the Capricorn Group of Islands with a tourist resort and research station. Alan Lucas correctly describes the anchorage there in his cruising guide ‘Cruising The Coral Coast’ as ‘non-existent except in light to moderate southerly weather’. But that perfectly described the conditions, so we decided to enter the pass.
The Captain attempted to fire up the engine, but no joy. He turned the boat around back to open water, and once again began working his magic. This time, the culprit was a corroded relay wire to the starter. Problem sorted, we entered the pass, dropped anchor, and prepared for our first snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef.
It was glorious; beautiful, healthy coral with a variety of fish, large and small. Unfortunately, after 20 minutes of snorkeling, the ‘waterproof ‘ camera case proved not to be. The case filled with water and the Canon G11 camera was irreparably damaged. At least I was able to retrieve the few pictures I’d taken from the memory card. And lucky for us, The Captain still has a GoPro.
The following day, we set out on a 27-hour sail to Middle Percy Island and tucked in at Whites Bay for the shelter it promised from the expected strong northerlies.We managed to make our way to Whites Bay without incident and were treated to gorgeous, rugged landscapes, expansive, empty beaches, and butterflies that danced around Amandla.
Our friends from SY Mersoleil sailed down from nearby West Bay with two other sailboats (SY Skellum and SY Sengo) to join us. We caught up on some much needed sleep, and then headed to SY Sengo to join the other crews for a sundowner.
The next morning, we were up early and ready for a hike to ‘The Homestead’ with the crews of SY Skellum and SY Sengo. It’s about a 4 km walk from Whites Bay to The Homestead, much of it uphill, but well worth the journey.
Along our way, we glimpsed goats and kangaroos as they ran/hopped by and passed very close to a snake, a few spiders, and several butterflies. Cate Radclyffe welcomed us with a refreshing pitcher of limeade upon our arrival at The Homestead.
Cate is managing a Conservation Park consisting of The Homestead and the other most used island areas. The remainder of the island is a National Park. The island has an interesting history full of pioneer spirit, sailors, mental illness, con men, lawsuits and recovery. You can read all about that here.
Cate is also the commodore of the Percy Island Yacht Club. We gladly joined in support of her island restoration efforts and her kindness to passing sailors. As members, we received a placard, a PIYC burgee, and really cool dog tags made with a machined dating back to the WWII days.
We didn’t manage to make it over to West Bay where boaters have been leaving their mark at the Percy Island Yacht Club since the 1950. But we were delighted when our friends Paul and Sjany of SY Skellum offered to hang our remembrance when they next sail there.
Our last night in Whites Bay was a little lively with strong winds shifting from north to southwest, then dissipating and being replaced by uncomfortable, rolling swell.
On 28 May, we were up early and enjoyed a lovely sail to Curlew Island; 13 knots on the beam in calm seas under sunny skies. The butterflies led Amandla into the anchorage.
Our friends SY Skellum caught a large yellow-fin tuna along the way, so The Captain taught them how to make Italian Sushi and Hawaiian Poke which we enjoyed with them and the crew of SY Mersoleil that evening. Delicious.
On 29 May, we set off for a 20 hour sail to Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays. We arrived on 30 May and will spend a bit of time in this area provisioning food, fuel, a waterproof camera and spare parts. Weather and boat maintenance permitting, we may even get in a bit of snorkeling in. We will have intermittent internet during our time in this area so response to comments may be delayed.
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