Tag Archives: Lady Musgrave Island

The wind is only PART of the weather forecast

M was very keen to head to Lady Musgrave. There will be no ‘but’ in this sentence – suffice to say, when he checks out what the weather is going to be doing, he looks at the wind and the swell, not the sun and predicted precipitation.

Our second day at Lady Musgrave Island was enveloped by steady rain. It stopped at about 9am and we were cautiously optimistic. M was the most optimistic – and it was this admirable character attribute that enabled him to exist through the following two hours without losing his mind.

He’d spoken to campers the day before who had, he said, given him All The Necessary Information. The Gold. He was shown where the best snorkelling was – out past the breakers opposite the campsite. He was practically guaranteed a manta ray and seven turtles.

I will gloss over the time it takes to get ready for such and expedition and the wetness of everything. We took off in Foamy to head out of the cay and around the outside where we planned to anchor and snorkel off Foamy. However, we had too much gear/weight in Foamy to get much speed happening, and the length of time a slowish putt-putt ride would take was not equal to the amount of petrol we had left in the tank. We turned back. Went via Bella Luna to get shoes for walking on coral remnants (the whole beach) and Small Z started to cry.

She has developed a cone snail phobia. I had thought that getting her to educate herself about them (knowledge is power etc) would slay her fear with the bullet of logic. I had thought wrong. I hate that. If we had gone around the outside of the reef and snorkelled off Foamy she would not have had to negotiate walking from the beach and out past the breakers, dodging potentially lethal cone snails all the while.

M made a lateral suggestion that we would bring the kayak and she could kayak from the beach to the snorkelling spot, thus evading certain death on the way. We tied the kayak on the back of Foamy, dried our tears and tried again. Because there is nowhere to pull Foamy up on shore that was near the snorkel spot, we left him anchored in the universal ‘going ashore’ spot used by everyone, and then M (carrying a sack of snorkelling stuff that weighed about as much as an extra child) and the Smalls trudged around a quarter of the island.

I took the kayak and this included the other bag of snorkelling stuff (including weight belts) and an anchor. I swear to god, next time I catch up with someone I know they are not going to recognise me because of the awesome ripped quality of my previously non-existent shoulders. I had to paddle into shore halfway there, get rid of my luggage so M could carry the kayak across a rocky outcrop, and then reload it and continue on.

I will gloss over the dicking around on the sand, the Smalls not knowing which mask and snorkels belonged to them and merely say that M and Small Z went in the kayak, while Small DB and I decided to take on the waves and began walking the 100m or so out backwards in our flippers.

This snorkelling bullshit – it’s always so fucking fraught. It was difficult, so we started to swim, but had to stop each time a wave hit us and filled Small DB’s snorkel. My full face mask had, within a minute of submersion, become the kind of foggy outlook that leads to aeroplanes being grounded. Nevertheless, we persisted.

Once we made it out to where the others were we all snorkelled along together. M with the kayak strapped to his ankle. Yeah, it was pretty. Like a goldfish, I experienced a little shock of surprise each time I sluiced a bit of seawater down the inside of my mask and was granted a few seconds of technicolour before the fog rolled in again. The Smalls also had fogged masks – Small Z’s was so tight that her brain began to leak out of her ears. At one point Small DB and I started getting rolled around by waves – we’d mistakenly swum into the breakers.

I spent most of this time visualising the soup I was going to make when I got back to the boat, and how I would tamp down my acute loathing of snorkelling until such time as we were all engaged in a convivial family game of cards, when I would state very simply and without rancour, that I would not be going snorkelling again. Ever. Just so M would know that my decision was not a knee jerk reaction to being buffeted around by breaking waves over crappy coral and under grey skies with a mask that looks like the inside of a bathroom after a hot shower and no extractor fan.

Eventually we made it to shore. Small DB and M derived great pleasure from being pushed along by the waves. Small Z jumped back in the kayak and began paddling, while I, like a human remora, clung to the back of her vessel, flapping my flippers in a hopeful manner, my thoughts now swinging between soup and a cup of tea.

Once we got ashore, of course, it was the same as our arrival but in reverse and with the helpful addition of pounding rain. I did not paddle back to Foamy, but instead set my sights on Bella Luna, preferring hard work over the logistical kaleidoscope of getting everyone and everything back into the dinghy.

[M will want me to add that the following day he took both Smalls for a astoundingly amazing snorkel in a different spot and they saw turtles, a cod bigger than Small DB and giant clams. Did I go? I did not.]

221/365 • Z on one of the several dead trees becoming driftwood on Lady Musgrave Island •

Daysail to Lady Musgrave Island

After four or five days drying out with every low tide in Wathumba Creek in deference to the crappy weather, I was more than ready to leave. Our batteries were the worst they’ve ever been – they are supposed to always be around 12.40 – and because of minimal sun and our fixed position, I got up in the middle of the night at saw they’d hit 11.05. I had assumed that after that they’d be dead forever (a very expensive assumption) but after we left the creek we cranked the generator and they seemed to come good.

We anchored south of the mouth of Wathumba for the night – a bit of a roll, but enabled us to make some seriously needed water because we were totally out. Turned out that if we hadn’t had a water maker we might have been OK because upon going ashore…

[…the trip involved in getting from Bella Luna to shore included both parents yelling at Smalls, getting to shore, getting the Smalls out on to the sand, realising that we had lost both the paddle board and the kayak in the interim. This meant leaving two dingo-edible people on the beach on their own while M and I fanged back looking for them both. We found them heading north, not too far away, and as an incidental bonus I spied one of Foamy’s oars, that we hadn’t noticed we’d lost. Back on the beach I could have predicted exactly what was transpiring – Small Z trying to stay near her sister, scared that a dingo would jump from a tree and eat them both in one chomp, and Small DB chafing at being ‘looked after’. A secret part of me wished a dingo would appear and look them over. It was that kind of day.]

….we found a little creek and, in an effort to get out of the wind, went exploring. M and Small Z shared the kayak, while Small DB and I had the paddle board. The water was clear, running between muddy banks often full of mangrove roots, resting like sausages. We saw little mango seedlings sprouting roots and bright green leaves under the water, and darting brown fish, startled by our paddles. In some places we had to lie down on the paddle board to make our way under low hanging branches, trying not to break any.

Over on our right as we negotiated a bend, I saw a non-nature thing. Something that was too straight, lying among nature-shaped mangrove shoots. It was a kayak paddle. Huzzah!! Small DB held on to a tree to keep the paddle board in one place and I put one tentative foot on to the muddy bank – it held. I had been waiting to sink shin deep, so this was good news. I picked my way among the mangrove shoots and grabbed the paddle – it was a good one – a light, non-rusting metal pole (probably aluminium) with plastic paddles at each end.

Exploring a creek on Fraser Island

Back aboard, Small DB became my motor with the new double ended instrument, I steered us around bends and out of the way of lurking submerged blankets. Occasionally the land beyond the banks flattened out and the wind blew over us again, but mostly we were protected – sometimes skimming along, and other times inching. When we had almost caught up to the other two there was a bank covered in long grasses, inside of which was the sound of water – like an enthusiastic spring – gushing out into our creek.

“Oh yes,” I said knowledgeably to Small DB, “That indeed must be one of the sources that feeds this lovely freshwater creek.”

Actually, this was utterly untrue. The creek was indeed freshwater, but when we went to fill our water bottles at the spring – it turned out to be salt. What the? Our travails were abbreviated by a tree that had fallen across the waterway and we decided to take it as a sign to turn back – that and the fact that M’s leg disappeared into the mud when he tried to get out and pull the kayak over it.

Going back, as is always the way, was much quicker. While we’d been exploring, three or four more boats had anchored nearby in that herdlike manner that they do – reminding me of when I used to work in a cafe while I was in high school and there would be no customers for an hour and then they would all come at once. Why they decided to anchor nearby was a mystery, because no one came ashore to explore. Very odd.

The next morning we were on our way to Lady Musgrave Island before 4am. M had told me not to get up: so I didn’t. I know he totally relishes whizzing around on deck being SAILOR MAN and who was I to deprive him of that pleasure? The solo activities of anchor retrieval, mainsail hoisting and jib unfurling…

It’s been a while since we had a crappy sail – that’s the joy of having time up your sleeve and doing day-trips – but today was a marathon. Not enough wind left us struggling to make it to the island on time – on time for what? I hear you ask. On time to thread our way through the narrow and coral laden entrance of the reef. We’ve done it twice before, and it probably could be done at night, but… when your boat is your primary residence, it’s better not to risk it.

219/365 • ship. clouds. pinks. it was a very long day •
Ship under stormy pink clouds.

The day seemed interminable – put it this way; I was happy when we hit four knots. Things improved now and again, but basically it was a bloody slog, with changeable winds and various sail configurations. My consolation were the dolphins that appeared very late in the day and cloud formations made fancy by the setting sun.

218/365 • dolphins •
Consolation dolphins on the bow…

We literally missed making the entrance by about 35 minutes and ended up back tracking half a mile to anchor in 60ft of water – something we haven’t done before. Used ALL THE CHAIN and ALL THE ROPE.

I was prepared for it to be a hideous and rocky night, but it was actually fine – the fact that we were also all buggered probably helped too. Up at 6am to take advantage of the tide, we were the third boat through the entrance, and snared the last mooring. A mooring!! Who knew?! There were so many boats here the last times we visited that we didn’t even get close to the area where the mooring area.

220/365 • entrance to Lady Musgrave Island at 6am this morning - had to spend last night anchor ed on the outside because we just couldn’t get up enough speed to make it in daylight • _________________________ [if you’re wondering why I’m posting lots of
Entrance to Lady Musgrave Island. The only way in.

As the day went by, the stupid south-easterly wind that has been buffeting us for a week, continued – messing the surface of the lagoon. Think ruffled aquamarine. More and more boats arrived and the rectangular dive barges – one large and one not so large – ferried tourists ashore.

We headed over as well and the Smalls were on instant cowrie alert – they remembered the rule from last time – five shells each person. Take no coral.

We are allowed to take five of these. And that's all.
Five of these.

We circumnavigated the island on foot – M had a bit of a chat to some campers who said they’d seen us anchoring last night. If you are boatless but want to spend more time on Lady Musgrave Island than just a few hours, you can camp there if you pre-book. It is proper minimalistic camping – you bring your own water, tent, food – everything – but then you can get on a dive barge with your tent and hang out for however long. If the weather’s good – you’d be sorted. An inflatable kayak would be a massive bonus.

Here’s my rubbish haul from our walk – I have always believed the law that states ‘all lost thongs will be left’ – but I’ve been let down on the last few occasions. On Fraser Island I found a matching pair, and the thong I found before that was a right one.

My collection from the beach on Lady Musgrave Island. Weird.

I did also find a pallet in very good condition but had to regretfully leave it where it had washed up because we have no room for a vertical pallet garden on the boat.

Yeppoon – Cape Capricorn – Lady Musgrave – 1770 – Bundaberg: the Mothership and T sign on for a week at sea.

After returning from flitting around the globe, the Mothership and T were keen to go and stay with friends of theirs who have a holiday house in Bargara (hi Kaye!)- right near Bundaberg. The Mothership had nana-yearning to see Small DB for her seventh birthday…

By the time we were on Middle Percy Island M and I were able to give them a rough time frame and two options. To meet them in Bundaberg around September 12, or hook up with them in Yeppoon where they would join the crew for a week as we made our way down the coast. They chose the latter….

Early on the morning of 2 September we motored (unwillingly, but unavoidably) from North Keppel Island to Rosslyn Bay Marina… we needed a day there to make use of the facilities. It’s a very gorgeous marina! It cost $61 for the night, but we were able to use the courtesy car to do a massive shop, fill up our water and fuel, get rid of masses of rubbish (both ours and from various beaches), do a TONNE of laundry, and clean the bejesus out of the boat in preparation for our visitors…

The Smalls were oblivious to the imminent arrivals, because we had wanted to make it a surprise. The ever travel-savvy Mothership and T flew into Bundaberg that day and then spent the night at a backpackers in Yeppoon – I met them at 6.30am when they arrived at the marina on 3 September, and sneaked them down the pier…

As we neared Bella Luna a little curly head popped up…

“NANA!? I didn’t know you were coming here!!?”

Our subterfuge had succeeded! I had even managed to ask Small Z to evacuate her room so I could move in there and have ‘a few good nights sleep’ She is so lovely, she had agreed with no drama and M had put the top bunkbed back up…

We were all VERY happy to see each other again! A quarter of an hour later we had set sail on our way to Lady Musgrave Island – it was a bumpy ride, but no one really minded… The Smalls played cards wtih their Nana – endless hilarious games of ‘War’.

We had hoped to get there via a night at Pancake Creek, but the tide was too low for us to have a go at getting in. Instead we rounded Cape Capricorn (named by Captain Cook as he sailed past in 1770) and tucked away as best we could…

We went ashore to the beach below the lighthouse accommodation. Apparently it’s a great place to stay, but they definitely don’t seem interested in cleaning up the beach – there was SO MUCH RUBBISH back behind the tideline…

Everyone had a very welcome swim before spending our first night all aboard together – I had meal planned for the week, fuelled by fear of two extra grown-ups to feed – and my list was a great comfort to me. I didn’t have to flounder around wondering what the hell to make for dinner every night.

(Excuse the following – I am exited by the ‘Spark Post‘ app by Adobe – making images is very fun…)

* this is DB’s requested birthday dinner

M had calculated that to get through 70nm of sea and arrive at slack water at the narrow coral channel into Lady Musgrave he would have to get the boat underway at about 2am.

[Next bit written with technical assistance from M…]

Just outside of where we were the current was pushing against a northerly swell causing messy surf in deep water. We were tucked away, but the mess was only about 50m away from us and hard to see in the dark.

He changed into his ninja pyjamas, slipped outside, and began methodically preparing the boat, ticking off his mental lists, enjoying his manly solitude. Then up popped T and myself, both eager, but in need of direction.

M’s eyes crossed and his mental list crumpled up and drifted away in a soggy mess. We lowered the mainsail and took the boat out into deeper water, clipping the messy surf and turning a well ordered exit into a Luna Park ride.

With sails up and Captain at the wheel, myself and T disappeared back to bed, leaving M steering damply into the night. We had one reef in the main, a full jib and did 7-9 knots on a broad reach all the way to Lady Musgrave Island, arriving at 1pm.

The Mothership, T and the Smalls all slept well, as Bella Luna sailed boistrously all the way. M seemed a little more wary at getting through the channel this time, but it was a doddle.

179/365 • the mothership and her partner-in-crime, T - on Lady Musgrave Island a few days back. They're sailing with us from Yeppoon to Bundaberg and getting a taste of onboard life - it's a rocky trip down the coast right now, but the mothership is famou

Clam. Lady Musgrave Island.

Black Noddies and White Capped Noddies. Lady Musgrave Island.

Lady Musgrave Island

On September 6th, while we were still at Lady Musgrave Island, Small DB turned seven. Can you believe it?! The older she gets, the less her entrance into the world surprises me…

Icing her cake. Lady Musgrave Island

Red velvet birthday cake. Lady Musgrave Island.

Seven. Lady Musgrave Island.

I must mention the cake. On advice from an experienced I-have-no-oven boat dweller, we used a packet mix and I put the cake tin on top of a trivet in the pressure cooker, with half an inch or so of water in the bottom of the pot. Cooked it on a low heat, with no pressure, for 50 minutes – worked perfectly ?

Small DB helped me ice it, and she let her sister help her decorate. Having the Mothership and T there was lovely, and crucially – it increased the present count. We all went for a pre-cake snorkel – really, the day was like Christmas – lots of food and frollicking…

Here’s her birthday sunrise – it was a full moon that night…

Sunrise on DB's seventh birthday. Lady Musgrave Island.

– – – – – – –

The next morning we sailed for 1770 – a little town that has always intrigued M and I. We squeaked over the bar and it was a relief to get out of the sea and into protected waters. Gosh. 1770 is just beautiful – the highlight is the caravan park that is super-old school – the beachfront vans are pretty much ON the beach, each with a little campfire out the front…

I could imagine families coming back year after year – kids playing on the beach with paddleboards or fishing lines.

1770. Queensland.

1770. Queensland.

1770. Queensland.

Town of 1770

Town of 1770

Town of 1770

We stayed in 1770 for two nights. The Mothership and T got the 1770 Shuttle into Agnes Waters to pick up a few necessities. They highly recommended the shuttle service…

We all did a walk around the headland at various paces. I tire of having no shoes, as does Small Z. They are waiting for us at the post office in Hervey Bay. Small DB and I were trailing along last – she had stubbed her toe. It was kind of a good thing though, because we heard a rustling in the undergrowth and…

A walking hairbrush! (Echidna) 1770.

Back out across the bar on the morning of Saturday 16 September – we sailed all day through choppy sort of waves until we got to Bundaberg.

Gosh it was good to get out of the sea and into the calm of the Burnett River. Similar to Maryborough, the river that Bundaberg was built around was the major mode of transport at that time, but now there are roadtrains, aeroplanes etc, the river isn’t that much of a necessity anymore. The banks of the river – there are a lot of mud flats, and closer to the city, industrial buildings. But it is cool to be able to anchor and walk into the middle of town in about five or ten minutes.

A local showed me where the secret tap on the dinghy jetty is and we were able to fill up a few water containers. When we arrived, it was getting on for nightfall, but we had been on the boat all day and needed a walk.

Thus, we all piled into Foamy and did some investigating, ending up in a nearby bottle shop where there was wine tasting and T bought M some beer. I had been pondering what the hell to cook for our last night all together – thankfully fate intervened in the form of a TOOOOONAH while we were still out at sea!! We dined like royalty on sashimi and tuna steaks anchored in the Burnett River.

Burnett River, Bundaberg.

We bade farewell to T and the Mothership on Sunday morning – having them aboard was a blast. We had done some serious sailing with them, and I wish we could have noodled along a bit more, but it was wonderful to have T taking on a lot of my duties as first-mate, and the Mothership entertained the Smalls for hours at a time. It was interesting to see that the Smalls barely touched their iPads the whole time she was onboard, because they had someone who was devoted to playing and making things with them. Sigh. I dream gently of a boat-au pair…

After they left, the boat felt strangely larger. It was tidy, too – because their friends had come aboard to collect them and thus we had tidied it to make it look as if four adults and two children had not been living in a cubby for a week.

The next day we explored THE OP-SHOPS of BUNDABERG (and there are at least four), shopped at Aldi, and went to the beautiful School of Arts building where there was an exhibition about the history of the Queensland Ambulance Servie…

181/365 • the verandah and view from the beautiful 'School of Arts' building in #bundaberg • . #history #7yo #sailing #queensland #abcmyphoto #bellalunaboat #cruising #Spring2017 #eastcoastaustralia #queenslandambulance

Arcade - Bundaberg.

Like Maryborough and Bowen, Bundaberg felt as if a bit of thought had been put in to the layout of the town. There were some beautiful public gardens – everything seemed pretty accessible from where we were on the river.

We left Bundaberg for Hervey Bay on Tuesday 12 September. We didn’t know it at the time, but it appears that Z-Mow (the little soft cat I made for Small Z when she was 18 months old) was misplaced in Bundaberg – we haven’t seen her since ?

365/251 • green smoothy on the porch this morning. Z-Mow (rhymes with 'cow') apparently approved. I took this shot and Z said:

Starsailing. A win. A coral island.

M. Lady Musgrave Island.

I take my shift at 11pm, having slept about an hour and a half out of the previous three. It’s still a revelation to get out into the dark of the cockpit and find the air devoid of chill. There is no wind, or almost none but a barely perceptible breath that makes the telltails dance and the sails twitch. M, cocooned in a blanket on the couch, goes out like a light – and the night is mine.

It’s a new moon and the sky is glittered with stars. We are making exactly zero progress – or maybe about 0.4 knots. This gives me the rare chance to tweak things around a bit – to try and make a difference to the situation. More often than not when I take over at night, M has the boat tuned and trundling along – and as long as we are averaging five knots or so, I leave things be.

Coral cluster. Lady Musgrave Island.

Tonight I try various setups with the jib, and the telltails continue to flutter gently and we continue to go nowhere – the barely existent wind is coming straight at us and the only way I could use it would be to do a 180 degree turn and let it propel us back to Hervey Bay. No.

Two and half hours into my three hour watch something changes. By that time I’m so tired and wired I can’t tell if I’ve finally managed to harness the wind, or whether it has just slightly changed angles of its own accord. Regardless, I have gone from zero to five knots just in time for M to take over – huzzah!

Once he gains consciousness and has a bit of a look around at how it’s all going, I get a grin. He’s noticed that I’ve put the sails on the other side.

“You’ve set the sails perfectly. Perfectly. I can’t improve on it.”

My confidence, often a bit tatty, is plumped. I stay up and have a cup of tea. I’m exhausted, but my book is excellent and I am happy. I sleep. I’m Back up at 6am – the wind, M reports, didn’t last. This kind of sucks because we want to get to Lady Musgrave Island when the tide is most benevolent…

I hang in there until about 10am when I turn into a complete zombie and banish myself to bed in order to save everyone the trouble. M starts the motors. I hate motoring – but they give us the speed we need to get to where we want to go.

At about 2pm we get to the channel leading into the anchorage…and start FREAKING OUT. There are SEVENTEEN boats already anchored there. W.T.F?! It’s a kind of floating caravan park. Exactly what we’d been told to expect the further north we travel, but… it seems a long long way from the isolation we enjoyed in Tasmania.

A marine caravan park at Lady Musgrave Island.

A three knot current is pouring out of the rather narrow channel as we enter, we make incremental progress – and the water is beautiful! The channel sides are sheer and the water is clear fifty feet downj to the sandy sea bed. There are shadows indicating swathes of coral further on ahead. On the lowering tide it’s easier to navigate our way amongst the ‘bommies’ (I am yet to find out why they are called this).

We eventually anchor. Eat lunch. And then M throws us all into Foamy and we head for some likely looking coral. Small DB has been looking very down in the mouth – from the surface there is little inspiration. However. After both Smalls and M have snorkelled for almost an hour, Small DB, shaking like a blue-tinged chiauhua, rhapsodises through chattering teeth all the way back to Bella Luna.

“Mama. Mama. You won’t even believe it. It is so beautiful down there – we saw coral and little blue fish and…and…and a SEA TURTLE. And sea cucumbers. It is a wonderful, colourful PARADISE. I didn’t care how cold I was. Can we go again tomorrow?”

Snorkling. Lady Musgrave Island.

The next day we explore the island at high tide – this is my first real experience of a tropical island. Seriously. The furthest north in Australia that M and I have ever been is Bundaberg. It’s astonishing the difference in water temperature and ambient temperature between this island and Hervey Bay, where we were only two days ago.

The water is the long awaited TWENTY FIVE DEGREES. The sand is white. And while there may be a floating caravan park behind us, the only people we see as we walk across the island… …are a man and his son, the former carrying a wide sand rake. They are camping on the island for two weeks as caretakers during the cruising season – they’re raking the paths so intrepid explorers like ourselves don’t trip over wayward sticks and stones. It is so spectacular on the beach that I prefer to watch and capture it all on camera while the others do some well-earned frollicking in the waves…

On the way to Lady Musgrave Island

Lady Musgrave Island. Dappled shade.

The Smalls. Lady Musgrave Island.

Lady Musgrave Island. The Smalls.

142/365 • the Smalls - revelling on the gorgeous Lady Musgrave Island two weeks ago - we have been out of mobile range since then, so I have some photo-catchups to do! • #sisters #swimming #sunshine #sailing #queensland #bliss #wwsa #abcmyphoto #bellaluna