Swain Reefs (Google Earth)

Swain Reefs (Google Earth)

We slipped our lines at 5:30AM, leaving Keppel Bay for Island Head Creek where we’ll overnight tonight. The plan is to stop off at Pearl Bay for lunch and a swim. If the anchorage is not too rolly we may sleep there tonight, otherwise we’ll go into Island Head Creek on the flood tide at sunset. We managed to sail about 4 hours this morning in a gentle easterly, but now we’re motoring with about 10 miles to go the Pearl Bay.

Tomorrow we’ll head directly out to the Swain Reefs via Bell Cay. It’s about 60 miles and i want to get there with the sun still high in the sky so we can see the reefs. The forecast is perfect – winds light and variable and clear skies for the next 7 days. Locals tell me this weather pattern can linger for a fortnight or more!

Well we’re all clean, everything’s packed away and the boat is restocked for the next leg.

We arrived in Rosslyn Bay/ Yeppoon late Monday afternoon. At long last we were united with our school work – whoops! We’re starting our term two and a half weeks after everyone else but the boys have been busy
catching up ever since (well, sort of!).

As well as school, getting the laundry done, hair cuts for all of the boys, a few work and domestic issues to get through, and then getting a few bits and pieces for the boat the days have seemed full if not a little mundane. Gerhard and I have decided that we don’t like being in marinas – it’s all a lot more relaxed and carefree when we’re out in the middle of ….somewhere!

The boys meanwhile have had a ball making friends with another ‘boat boy’. They spent hours today and yesterday climbing trees and playing together, exploring each other’s boats.

So tomorrow we head north to Pearl Bay and then across to the Swain Reefs for a few days – the reef there is apparently stunning. The wind has now calmed down and if the forecast is to be believed we are in for a couple of great weeks weatherwise – let’s hope so! Watch this space…

My only disappointment today is that I forgot to take my phone/camera with me when we anchored at Middle Keppel Island: clear water, a beach – no an island – to ourselves and just glorious! Wish I hay the photos to prove it!

We weighed anchor at Middle Keppel around 2:30pm and motored across to Rosslyn Bay to go and seek shelter in the Keppel Bay Marina. It was not a pleasant passage. We had not appreciated just how messy the sea state was as we were very protected in the lee of Great Keppel Island. The channel between the Island and the main land was churned up and muddy – a complete contrast to the crystal clear water at Middle Keppel.

We’re now tied up in the Keppel Bay Marina and about to sit down to a dinner of prawns (from the local co-op) and wine!

Things are getting tough round here – we are having difficulty remembering which day of the week it is and when exactly it was that we arrived …and then concluded it really didn’t matter and quite frankly wasn’t relevant! That aside, I’m pretty sure this is our fourth night and third complete day at Great Keppel Island.

We spent yesterday (as predicted) snorkelling and swimming, looking for crabs in rock pools, games of frizbee, gleefully diving off your dad’s shoulders, and a quick geology lesson from Dad about the local topography and quartz formation (which the boys confirmed from their personal knowledge based on the game ‘Minecraft’!).

In my effort to ensure that ‘everyone gets plenty of fresh air and exercise’ I suggested we explore a bit. I’d collected a map from the island’s pub the day before (or was it the day prior to that? Who knows…). We walked from the end of Svenson’s Beach up and over the saddle into the adjacent bay. Stunning views and more of the clearest pure water. Oscar, ever keen to climb every blasted rock face we encounter was appeased by Gerhard suggesting that we scramble to the top of the peak. I will at this point in time clarify that the map I had in my back pocket was not consulted by either (ir)responsible parent, and on inspection later in the day did not at any time suggest that there was a footpath up this headland. Off we all trotted and started scrambling – the ‘mountain goat Oscar’ taking off whilst being reprimanded by his mother for using plant material as a sensible handhold. I then realised that the scrappy vegetation was the only thing available to grab and was a lot more stable than the rock face. Little Hugo, apprehensive and more wary despite his bravado, came up gingerly with Gerhard at the rear. There was a yelp, scrabbling feet and a falling of rocks – and Hugo’s little voice called out ‘are you ok Daddy?’. Dear God, I thought, please let him be safe – there is no way down from here other than by a violent and awful descent. He was fine and on we went to all reach the top and find….a lot of bloody scrappy trees. A lovely view admittedly, but Gerhard and I just silently looked at each other and wondered whether we hadn’t just been a bit daft. Anyway, the kids were fine – thought it was marvellous sport that daddy had a big stick and was bashing his way through the undergrowth to try and pick us a way back down to the beach. Completely oblivious to the fact that he and I were thinking ‘argh! snakes!’ They sang songs such as ‘if you’re happy and you know it bash a tree!’ etc and copied Daddy’s actions with their own big sticks. I was quite glad to be able to walk back on the sandy beach at the end of that little debacle.

Our other encounters with nature yesterday were a little more gentle. The water is so very clear here, it’s like swimming in a pool. As the dinghy motors on we see rays hiding in the sand under the boat, just their outline and their eyes peering out in an almost ghostly appearance. And then as we came back across the bay for our final swim of the day – there was Mr Dugong: quietly gliding through the water, coming up and then diving down again. Gerhard went off with the snorkel to follow him – but he missed him – I got to enjoy watching him potter about the bay from my perch on the shore.

After a long and bouncy night, with the waves rolling in on to the beam side of the boat, we went off to explore the island further…following the map and beautifully marked footpaths!

Only wild goats and beautiful blue and white butterflies were our companions today. Oscar as ever entranced by walking through a cloud butterflies and trying to get them to land on him. We walked across to Butterfish Bay (the boys scrambling up steep sand dunes) and beyond to Wreck Beach – which was wild, windy and empty but for us, and reminded me of my walks on the Gower in South Wales. We walked through bush land, looking back through to the far side of the island, confident that we were the only people to be there enjoying the view today. We arrived back at the beach to our dinghy four hours later – the boys still chatting (and chatting) even after all of the walking…

We finished the day with swimming (gorgeously nude for the boys) on ‘our’ beach – all to ourselves – again.

And tonight is looking like it’s going to be another windy night as the boat rolls and I listen to the wind howling through the rigging. Time for bed …

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