20 Oct Southward through the Whitsundays and Island Head Creek
The beginning of October was upon us and it was time to begin our migration southward back to the Brisbane area (for Cyclone season). With the predominate South East trade winds, we expected the trip South to be a little trickier and thought that we might opt for occasional overnight sails to get us further when the scarce North winds blew. When the wind was predicted to be above 20 knots, we would find a place to hide, anywhere in the lee of land away from the wind and hopefully from the swell.
We were thrilled to have arrived back in the beautiful Whitsundays after a 20-hour motor-sail. The temperatures were warm, the water was crystal clear, and it was time to play in the water. We found the snorkeling fantastic! Why had it taken us so long to jump in? Oh yeah, there are sharks in these parts and crocs further north…. Seeing boat loads of tourist snorkeling helped us feel more comfortable, even though we were still on the lookout for sharks.
After exploring the Northern Whitsundays, Hayman, Hook and Blacks Islands, we sailed to Hamilton Island for another visit. We enjoyed a strenuous sunset hike to Passage Peak and were rewarded with stunning views. Saturday, we enjoyed a relaxing beachside pool hang out with a beach walk, swim, live music poolside and a social evening aboard Maia.
As higher South East winds and rain were predicted we found a safe haven in Cid Harbour, it was a perfect anchorage to hangout in for a couple days. Swimming is not permitted as in the past several years there have been shark attacks in the anchorage! However, we pulled out the sewing machine to make necessary Genoa repairs and while waiting for dryer weather, sewed a couple of accessories for Maia. We also enjoyed trail walking on Whitsunday Island and getting together with sistership Pathfinder IV (another Sceptre 41 built in British Columbia, Canada).
The next stop was Airlie Beach to re-stock food, water, fuel and get ready for an overnight sail South. We washed laundry and spent time on the internet while we had good wi-fi, before we expected to be off the grid for a week or so.
With a slight break in the South winds, we took advantage and proceeded with a 30-hour motor sail from Airlie Beach to Island Head Creek. Surprisingly, we had 4G along the way. The forecast was predicting 6-7 days of strong south east winds. We spent seven days in Island Head Creek. Why would anyone spend 7 days up a creek? For us, it was the perfect hidey hole as the winds blew from the SE 10-25 knots.
The following segment is a journal entry, written while we were in situ!
Island Head Creek October 10 – October 18
On day 1 after our overnight sail, we anchored just inside the entrance and had a rolly night. The first question of the day was, did we want to stay here to wait out the forecasted high winds? We readied Maia for continuing on, while preforming the engine check we found the seawater strainer a little clogged. The plastic strainer was rinsed, put back in and the top was screwed on tightly. When we went to start the engine, we had no water flow. Engine off… investigate…. still no flow. Our question 1 of the day was answered, we would move further up the creek, to get out of the swell and the engine problem could be worked on there. If the engine would not run properly, we could use the dingy to move us to a better anchor spot. We readied the dingy and tied it on to the port aft side. As we tried the engine one more time, we had some water flow, so we motored in about 3 nautical miles and put the anchor down.
Day 2…October 12, 2020 The WIND, WIND, WIND….
Here we are on day two with 4-5 more days to go, with the wind a blowing. I get an uncomfortable feeling when the strong winds blow, it is a fearful feeling.
We are anchored off the main channel in the Island Head Creek… which by the way is really a river, a tidal river, so about every 6 hours the flow changes from in to out or out to in. It’s big enough that we are getting 1-2 foot wind waves coming across our starboard hull making us bob up and down a bit. I am not sure if we are getting used to the motion (after being out for 4 months) or if it really is not too bumpy. I do know that the constant sound of the wind is making me a little crazy.
When the wind blows our spinnaker pole sings, the wind waves appear and when the wind is strong enough, I get an uncomfortable feeling. When I was a girl and the wind blew hard it generally meant that there was a storm… wind, rain, hail, snow… I grew up near the windy city of Chicago. The trees would sway, and sometimes branches would break and fall. In the winter you could feel the cold blowing in through the house windows. When I was in my 20’s I was backpacking high in the mountains near Durango Colorado, I was sleeping in a tent by myself, the wind was fierce as a storm blew through. The wind was charging through the trees, I was scared. I still remember feeling the fear.
Today I sense this fear. The wind feels relentless, it does not let up, it just blows and blows and blows. We sit safely inside the cabin of Maia….
As sailors, we like the wind, so we can sail. We like the wind (currently especially the South wind, to keep us cooler). But… I prefer just the right amount of wind… 10 – 18 knots of wind, just enough for a nice sail, just enough so the swell does not get too big, just enough to keep the little flying insects away.
So here we are, enjoying another day in Paradise! Since our water flow problem through the engine yesterday, Dick is researching with the books on board as we have zero internet or cell service. He has decided to check the raw water impeller (circulates the water thru the engine). He is busy taking out the old and installing the new. Luckily, we are prepared with spare parts and books (and plenty of food if we end of being out somewhere for longer than expected). I am keeping busy reading, writing, and considering starting on another sewing project. Plenty to do aboard Maia. No time to get bored….
Day 7 10/17/20 Anchor spot number 4 in Island Head Creek
While hiding out from the wind we have had lots of time to observe and fill up our time… After our windy day and night at our anchor spot 2 and Dick had the engine running well (the seawater strainer is now taped closed and a new one is on the shopping list). We decided to move up into the creek to get better wind protection. Approximately 5 miles in where the wind was being somewhat blocked by a hill, we put the anchor down. Up here is where other boats were hiding, we could see 5 boats in the west arm. We chose to stay out in the channel, as it appeared a little busy inside.
It is a good spot, we have some wind, but nothing like we had downstream. Dick repaired the screens with new mesh and gaskets as we heard that the bugs could be bad up here. We kept busy, we brought out the sewing machine. Made some phifertex covers to help shade the cockpit. Summer is a coming and it will only get hotter for the next several months. We read, played our word games watched movies. Once the wind had quieted, we took a dingy ride into the West arm, talked with one boat, waved to another, and explored a bit. I took a short turn on the oars as we entered the shallows until I could no longer row against the tide. We started the outboard and made our way back home. It was nice to get off Maia after 4+ days.
On night 4 the wind died! Unfortunately, the midges (sand flies) came out and they found their way through the new screens and began pestering me. I had woken up and made a trip to the head and was trying to fall back to sleep when I thought I felt something on my face, hmmm probably nothing… then I felt it again, and again, then I heard the buzzing. WTF???, I turned on the headlamp I have next to where we sleep and yes, we were inundated… screens were removed, hatches and ports were closed, and then I went on a killing spree (which is not like me). I probably killed 40 – 50 of the annoying little creatures… then I was able to fall back to sleep. In the morning we added our bridal veil to the screens in hopes to keep the little critters out of the inside of Maia. With the calmer winds (10-15 knots) we decided to move back downstream where we had noticed a couple boats had anchored off a beautiful looking beach. Using Navionics and Zula Offshore we found a good location.
Dick is working on another project, splicing two Genoa “barber haulers”, in layman terms this is a device that will allow us to easily adjust the sheet lead to the genny while sailing. As Maia adjusts her position to the wind we can easily and properly trim the genoa sail!
I find it fascinating hanging out in a tidal river watching the scenery change as the tide flows in and out. At high tide, as the river swells, we feel small and far away from everything, boats appear that were hidden during low tide. As the water recedes and flows out into the ocean, land masses emerge, mud banks, beautiful sand beaches and islands (which are no longer islands) become part of the riverbank. A large mossy part of the shoreline becomes a haven for birds; Egrets, Pelicans, and smaller birds all become part of the landscape.
During low tides, once the winds quieted, we explored some of the creek and the sand bars. We learned firsthand about quicksand; where to walk and the best places to land the dingy in newly created beaches. It was marvelous walking around and viewing the environs intimately.
On our final day we see a boat sailing into the Creek. It is a beautiful sight, and we are quite impressed. As I am taking pictures, we notice it is our mate David who is single-handing his boat sv Sierra. He stops by later and we catch up. We will both be heading to Great Keppel Island, most likely tomorrow.