Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pearl Bay, Keppel Islands and getting lost.

Leaving Hunter Island behind we sailed south to Pearl Bay, choosing it as a safe anchorage overnight. The winds blew from the east. It is well protected, and we'll certainly call in here for a visit next year. It is a beautiful place and we shared it with six other yachts.
By 06.05 am we had raised the anchor and motored out of the bay. Within minutes the bay was totally empty. Everyone else had the same idea, an early start to head south. We wanted to reach Keppel Island by mid afternoon. It is 50nm away (approx 92kms). We like to sail, and the main was raised in preparation.
On our route south we needed to pass well clear of the active 'military exclusion zone' of the Broad Sound and Shoalwater Bay. Two helicopters constantly circled above us for well over an hour, as the live "war games" were being conducted.

It looked like an annoying mosquito from where we were.

I'm not sure of what was happening in the "out of bounds" zone, but we watched numerous fires burn through the undergrowth and down to the beach. In this huge uninhibited area no homes were in danger, unlike those in NSW at present.

Numerous fires along the coast.

After 6 hours of sail-assisted motoring the wind finally picked up. We were smiling from ear to ear. This is what gives a sailor a high. It is a most exhilarating feeling being able to slice through the waves under sail alone. It's not the speed that counts but rather the motion of the yacht through the water. It just feels right to move so gracefully with the wind.

We did hit 8 knots (14.5km per hr) at one stage but the camera person was a too slow.

Breaking the sound barrier.

Keppel Island

We settled into Long Beach at Keppel Island for a cosy evening. We now had internet and phone coverage. A change in the weather and a strong wind warning had been issued for the next day. We knew that we would have to move Sea Trek III around to the other side of the island in daylight hours.

We were both awake well before 5.30am and treated ourselves to a fresh spring sunrise as we relocated.

Dawn at Keppel Island: great.
Keppel Island used to be called "Great Keppel Island", and was a popular tourist resort some years back. It's another crumbling resort that provides limited services to yachties: basic items, including ice creams. Also scattered about the island are simple lodges in the style of Eco-tourism.
As usual we went exploring ashore and we find that we need to get off the yacht and walk as often as possible. It's amazing how quickly deconditioning of muscles occurs, and then normal walking becomes an effort. We certainly weren't expecting the Astro Turf to be rolled out for Glenn's arrival.

Roll out the green carpet.
I just had to try out this empty hammock: post card in a tropical setting.
"Not leaving here, ever".
The fabled "Mooring Ball tree" bearing fruit.
The water here is exceptionally clear, and we followed a stream into the large mangrove swamp behind the sand dunes. Rumour has it that a saltwater croc lives here. On closer inspection we saw a familiar yacht tied up in the mangroves. A really high tide would be required to set her afloat again.

'Prosper' not going anywhere in a hurry.
On our second day at Keppel we decided to venture away from the beaches. We needed to do some strenuous exercise. The signage for the various tracks was old, weathered or broken.
"We can't get lost here Jen, it's an island" said Glenn. Hmmmm I thought. ( I hoped that the gremlins were not listening).
We started heading along a likely looking track that wound upwards, and then got steeper and higher. Basically it became a mountain, and I wondered why we were being so energetic in the middle of the day. Thirsty and hungry and hot and unfit and breathless. The horror of being middle aged and overweight. Much much later we reached a lookout. The views were spectacular, but we were nowhere near the old resort, and broken roads lead out in several directions.
Sea Trek III is way way over there somewhere.
A couple of back packing guys passed us and suggested a route for us to follow. Their English was very poor and we all smiled at each other a lot. We basically headed away from them.
Many side trails were overgrown and increased our uncertainty. We needed to go back down to sea level to steer a better course. And so we slid and tripped on our bums down an embankment on the side of the mountain. Not a pretty sight. We reached low scrub and grass lands and just kept walking. We were really exhausted and already we had been stumbling about for more than three hours. It was then that I noticed an intensity of blue in the sky, a clarity without haze. For a reason that I can't explain I knew that this was the clarity of the sky over clear water, and that the main resort beach was " this way".
After another half an hour we reached the crumbly holiday resort. And would you believe it, there were people just sitting around under a tropical pavilion happily drinking icy cold beers, and ordering meals from THE RESTURANT.! No one had told us that the old resort was still serviced day trippers and casual holiday makers. Chocolate ice cream for me, and hot chips with tomato sauce and a beer for Glenn. Thank goodness I kept my laundromat coin collection in the base of the day pack.

Unexpected outdoor seating.
The delightful woman behind the counter told us the easy way to get back to our bay, and needless to say it was a flat stroll along two beaches, and a few low headlands. Short and direct.
Faded fun from other summers.
The weather looks favourable and with Promised NE winds and we will be sailing again tomorrow.

The back of Glenn's head again, a spontaneous pose as we rounded the last rocky headland and back to ST3.


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