the Capricorn Coast

The Capricorn Coast

We leave Gladstone through a maze of shoals and sand bars all well marked but depths that make me sqirm. I am still getting used to the inherent shallow waters one must cruise on the Australian coast. From my Northwest experiences, I have never made a whole days cruising plan by adding tidal range to chart datum and seeking clearances of a few feet but here it is the norm.

We head north to the next anchorage at Great Kepel Island and with the sun and wind on our backs have an excellent crossing. We enter the anchorage at the lee side of the island. The anchorage is wide and the holding in sand is good but there is a bit of a roll so I deploy the Rolex flopper stopper. This is the first time I have used the Rolex in quite a while. We venture into the long sandy beach and swim in the warm water. The beauty of this place entices us to prolong our stay one more night before heading back to the mainland.

We leave Great Kepel Island early the next day and make the short crossing to Kepel Bay Marina. The entrance is easy and the marina staff has already been contacted and a berth assignment made. We secure Furthur and begin the usual boat washing done at every marina. We are anticipating the arrival of a new crew member, Susan, from Seattle. The girls take advantage of the opportunity of night life and “tart up” for their trip to the town.

Susan arrives but our departure is postponed due to a large persistent blow pinning us to the dock for a few more days. We take advantage of the extra time and rent a car with our neighbor to do some shopping and exploring. The closest town, Yeppoon, is 6 miles away and has all the shopping venders one could ever need. The large town, Rockhampton is 25 miles away but we want to see it and need some specialized shops. Rocky, as the locals call it, is the cattle capital of Australia, massive meat packing plants make the economic center of the town. There are signs of the cattle industry everywhere, a great place to buy a steak.

On our way inland we spot a herd of Kangaroos and stop for a photo op, another Aussie box checked, saw wild roos.

We meet up with my old cruising friends, Kurt and Cath, who have settled in the marina. The lines are set for a while as they have jobs and bought vehicles. This couple and their young son, Stewart, have been cruising for seventeen years, done one full circumnavigation, and been in the South Seas for two years. Kurt is very excited to tell me there is a pub in town with a rodeo grounds attached. They have a bull riding event planned for Friday night, yahoo.

We all pile in their truck and head for the rodeo. I have some history with rodeo, did some bareback bronc and wild horse race team events in the 70’s. I did try one bull, a short and painful event, but have the “rode a bull” box checked. I break out my cowboy boots I brought along more for motorcycle riding and Kurt donned his new hat yet wore deck shoes, together we made one real cowboy.

I am intrigued by how much the Aussie’s love rodeo, a romance of American past it is a major part of the culture here. The cowboys could be easily transported to Texas or any western state and would fit right in, at least until they talked! The event is for rookies, riders who have not won an event in Australia. They start out with the kids, and some of these little tikes to a great job on the small steers. Then the older riders start. I am very impressed with the quality of the stock, these bulls are the real thing. As in the states, the breeding of rodeo bulls is a specialty and highly coveted endeavourer. We leave the rodeo grounds all having enjoyed the chance to the real Aussie cowboy in action.

The wind subsided and we slipped away at dawn the next morning and headed for what is described as one of the most beautiful anchorages on the coast, Pearl Bay. We are now in the Capricorn Coast, having crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. Back in the tropics at last!

We wind into the anchorage and quickly agree with the description. No sooner is the hook set than we have company. An Aussie gal in a kayak comes over; she saw the transom and had actually been to Friday Harbor, small world. We also see SV Miami enter the anchorage, our German/Swiss friends we met in Bundaberg. This is back to cruising as I like it, warm water, sun and a constant flow of new friends.

Again a pre dawn departure and splendid sunrise and we head for the famed Percy Islands. Middle Percy is a Mecca for cruisers who have deposited artifacts in a shore side shed for five decades. Long before we get there is see an AIS signal from my old friend SV Syzygy, a fellow cruiser who knew was in the area. We anchor in the slightly open anchorage and determine the roll is acceptable. We make it ashore doing a surf landing on the spectacular white sandy beach.

The cruisers shed is as advertised and we deposit one of the Furthur shirts and sign the guest log. We meet John and Justin from Syzygy on shore and invite them out for sundowners. Our enjoyable beach stroll is cut short as I remember that I have not “logged out” upon our arrival so I jet back the boat and radio the VMR. They are glad to hear from us as our ETA had passed a while ago, these guys really do a great job.

We are in an area of huge tidal activity. The tide range is 8 meters in some areas and the current runs two knots so planning departures around tides is once again necessary. It is strange to me that the closer we get to the equator the larger the tidal activity, just the opposite of what one might expect.

The next stop is a small island that we pass just before sunset, we drop the hook and enjoy a star filled evening. Again a pre dawn departure sets us for arriving in Airlie Beach early afternoon. The current does not cooperate and we buck two knots most of the way. Once the tide changes we get a great kick in the stern and hit ten knots at one time.

Airlie Beach is the Mecca for the cruisers in the area. I contact the marina and discover they have a ten million dollar liability insurance requirement—ten million!! Ad that to the one hundred dollar a day moorage fee and the anchorage looks real good. My freezer has failed again, probably a gas leak and I contact a technician who tells me the marina is very uncooperative but there is a public wharf we can go land on so he can do the work. We walk about the touristy town. This is the party town for the area and the shops all tend to cater to a younger crowd.

We will stay here until the freezer is fixed and Susan completes her dive training. We have plans for some great dive adventures with the crew of Syzygy. The wonders of the Great Barrier Reef await us!