Monday, 31 August 2015

Sailing Around Australia; Great Keppel Dinghy Adventures

Great Keppel Island, Queensland

1/9/2015 Great Keppel Dinghy Adventures

What a treat we have had in staying at Great Keppel Island for the past week and a bit.

The weather has been so calm, the air warm but not hot, ocean has been peaceful.

These conditions have meant that the water is crystal clear. This morning I actually spent some time counting the fish that were hovering near the back step hopefully.

We have met some other catamaraners, in Neil and Chris on Surfari and Paul and Jenny on their cat "My Ruby". They have all been regular visitors to Great Keppel, so were a wealth of information.

We were invited to share a fire on the beach with them one night which was a real treat. While standing around the campfire swapping stories, we organised a dinghy ride up Leekes Creek at high tide the next day.

That was a marvellous adventure. We drove the dinghy through the mangroves and came out at the original Great Keppel Island Homestead. Apparently this is where Lizzie Leeke worked her sheep farm. Now all that remains is the small shearing shed, the original house ( with outback dunny) and a couple of hundred or so goats.

Last night we had another fire around at what is commonly known as the bar and grill. Some passing yachts and the owners of a small resort up the hill, have left a shade shelter, old deck chairs, BBQ equipment and a stone circled fireplace for anyone to pull up and use. There is even a small weber type BBQ.

For further adventure the three ladies suited up the next day a took kayaks into the mangrove creeks.

It is quite amazing to see that at low tide there is literally no water in Leekes Creek, yet at high tide you can boat up through the creek in the clearest beautiful water.

Apparently it is quite rare for these beautiful conditions to last so long. Son thanks to the weather gods, we'll accept the gift.

The Great Keppel Dinghy Adventure
Into the Mangroves we go

not exactly a highway!

Chris and Neil off Surfari, plus Albert the dog.

Jenny off "My Ruby".

Follow the leader... just hope they know where they are going!

Paul and Jenny off My Ruby

At the end of the creek, we tied up at the old Shearing shed.

The old outside dunny... memories for some.

No sheep left, but plenty of big ornery goats.

At the "Bar and Grill" Great Keppel Island

The ladies Kayak adventure

Friday, 28 August 2015

Sailing Around Australia; The Great in Great Keppel Island

Great Keppel Island, Queensland

29/8/2015 The Great in Great Keppel Island

The word great seems to be used quite often these days. We had a great time, they are a great team, that was great etc.. etc… By using the term great so much, are we in fact diminishing the value of the word?

With this in mind, we approached Great Keppel Island on our sailing around Australia adventures, expecting something very special. Special enough for Captain Cook to insert the word Great into the name of the place.

To test whether Great Keppel is another example of Great being used too often,  we were looking forward to  rating the Island against our expectation. To start, I dug out the dictionary and found the meaning of the word Great when used as an adjective.

What I found says that “Great” can have 3 meanings;

1.of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above average.

1.1 In terms of extent and amount, we found that Great Keppel Island is the largest Island in the Keppels group.
So, yes score 1 for being great (or Greater).

1.2 Intensity; The atmosphere on great Keppel Island can be described as anything but intense. There is a very relaxed holiday, tropical Island and beach vibe here. Most of the other boaties we have met here are all very relaxed and almost lazy about when they might move on. The weather has helped that as well, with no wind to speak of and glass like conditions in the anchorages for over a week now.

Next it could be argued that Great Keppel Island is quite well developed with a number of holiday rental cottages and the island hideaway village providing non-obtrusive accommodation. The downside is that there is a resort among the palm trees, but it remains closed, boarded up and fenced off. So no we don't think Great Keppel has intensity.

2.of ability, quality, or eminence considerably above average.

2.1 Ability; Great Keppel Island scores well in ease of access, being a pleasant day sail from Pancake creek in the south, or only 7 nautical miles from the Rosslyn bay marina. Also a variety of beautiful anchorages suited to all wind direction and conditions are on offer.

2.2 Quality; The water is so clear we could count the grains of sand on the sea floor, if we had the time.

We have been swimming and snorkelling in warm water.Within a few swimming strokes from our boat there is a coral reef, with fish, turtles, clams and other life on display in living Technicolour. A short dinghy ride away there is a disused underwater observatory which provides fantastic snorkelling with a huge number and variety of fish life.

The beaches are sandy, cream coloured and firm. The hinterland is steep and provides magnificent vistas from the well marked walking trails.

There are only a couple of shops on the island (that’s a plus in any mans book). The small bar and bistro is open air shed type structure with tables on top of the sand dune providing million dollar views to the north and the west.

2.3 Eminence; Great Keppel Island anchorages, water clarity, coral reefs, sandy beaches and sea life make this perhaps the best anchorage that we have stayed at on our sailing around Australia adventures so far. We have stayed in over 100 places and we would rate this place on top, pushing our previous favourite; Quindalup Western Australia, to second.

3. used before a noun to emphasize a particular description of someone or something.
 Captain Cook, named Keppel Bay in 1770. We think he actually got it pretty right in incorporating the Great into Great Keppel Island.

Great Keppel Island, one anchorage viewed from the walk trails.

Great Keppel Island; our top anchorage in the hundred or so we have visited. 
A bloke at the bar with a bird on the beach!

The scene looking west from the bar on the beach.

From the jaws of victory.

Middle Island from the bar at Great Keppel.
Walk path through the main settlement.

A short dinghy ride to the old underwater observatory

From the Observatory back to the anchorage

Leanne on the snorkel.

North West corner of Great Keppel.

The bar and bistro right on the beach. 

One happy customer!

The anchorage with the reef exposed in the foreground at very low tide.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Sailing Around Australia; Sand Fly Wars

Pancake Creek, Qld

24/8/2015  Sand Fly Wars

In my past life as a transport company supervisor in Port Hedland, I fought a war with the dreaded sand fly… and lost. The little blighters seemed to be able to out flank any barrier I put up, sneaking up when I least expect them, applying shock and awe tactics on my body parts and my nerves.

So after crossing the Tropic of Capricorn and entering the tropics of Australia I had some trepidation about entering sand fly territory, with good reason.

I fact it was with some genuine fear that I ventured ashore the tidal flats at Fraser Island. I had long pants, long sleeves, hat, socks and reef shoes on in preparation. I also chose a path to walk along on higher ground and tried not to stand still at any time.

It wasn’t enough. I arrived back on board Easy Tiger sure that I had outsmarted these pin head sized pests. An hour or so later I had an irresistible urge to scratch behind my knees. On inspection the sure sign of little red welts like pimples started to appear. Sand flies had attacked.

Seems I had been attacked either through my pants or, the mini s.o.b's had sent scouting parties up the leg of my trousers.

The next night they sent in a battalion. I woke up in the middle of the night with an overpowering need to scratch the skin off my calfs, behind my knees and one arm up to the elbow.

I defended with a double dose of antihistamine tablets, lying in bed trying to will myself not to scratch the areas of their incursion.

The next day we retreated. We left Garry’s anchorage and didn’t get off the boat until safely in neutral territory of Bundaberg. Here I rebuilt my defenses.

Vitamin B was supposed to make sand flies uninterested in you. So each morning I down the huge brown tablet.  Turning my pee fluorescent yellow is the only noticeable difference so far.

Tea Tree oil mixed with lemongrass oil is applied to any bare skin several times a day to keep them at bay. This makes my skin nice, slippery and shiny.

Bushman’s Super Turbo Boosted Ultra Supreme bug repellent was purchased as a last resort. I haven’t used this yet as I am not sure my organs will cope with such a high level of chemical applied to my skin.

Applying anti septic cream that has a mild anesthetic to the red welts as they appear was supposed to reduce the itching. Nope. The only difference with this one was to by my bank account.

Dettol hand wash had kept the barricades up a little better during the previous war, and bathing the red welts in straight Dettol bought some relief from the itching.

Over a hundred dollars poorer for the experience, we ventured out of Bundaberg.

Our sailing around Australia adventures aboard Easy Tiger brought us to Pancake Creek this week. Pancake Creek is between Bundaberg and Gladstone in Queensland.

Not what one would imagine form the name, Pancake creek is  a quite wide body of shallow water. We managed to follow the deepest channel for a couple of nautical miles until we came across a sandy bottomed lagoon formed by drying sand banks a hundred or so metres from a pretty little beach.

The whole scene was really picture perfect. There was even a splattering of palm trees on the beach. There has to be a downside to everything. Ying and yang, cause and effect, action and reaction.  One had to assume with good reason that the enemy would be close by.

So after getting the dinghy off, ready for a beach landing, I popped another vitamin B horse sized tablet. I coated my body in Tea Tree and Lemongrass. I applied a liberal dose of Aerogard. I put Antispetic ointment on the few remaining itch sites. I coated my arms in Dettol handwash, then believing I was in total sand fly camouflage we headed to the beach for a stroll.

No sooner had we landed and tied up the dinghy, Leanne started slapping her legs saying that she was being bitten.  Oh my god… run, was my first thought. I was attacked and had at least a hundred nasty little pimple welts on my body at Garry’s anchorage. Leanne; had none. Not one. So, if she was already under attack I must have been swamped.

I don’t know what I did to the sand fly gods. When I was a kid I did set fire to many an ants’ nest.  Are they related? Is this revenge for past actions on my part? Why else would these miniscule marauders seek me out?

I did brave it out. I didn’t run. I manned up and we enjoyed an hour or so on the beach at Pancake creek. I even agreed to the half hour dinghy ride around the mangroves “exploring”, knowing that I was a sitting duck for any sand fly within 200 metres. I did draw the line when Leanne suggested we skinnydip in what was a beautiful little secluded bay we found.

It was a nervous wait until night fell. Had the preventatives worked? I was still slippery from the Tea Tree /Lemongrass oil and smelled like the operating theatre of a hospital from the Dettol.

Then my hopes were dashed when I found myself scratching my arm while reading. Didn’t even realize I was doing it until it was too late. All over my arms and legs red dots began appearing and urging me to scratch them like a crazy computer game. Game over. Sand flies win in straight sets. Thank you linesmen, thank you ball boys!

I spent all night tossing and turning, scratching and rubbing. Several applications of special cream were made during the night to no avail. The itchiness of sand flies attack is incredible. When you do relent and scratch the feeling of scratching is almost erotic.

The term attack is what I prefer to use rather than the actual action that the sand fly uses to cause this overwhelming reaction. I have been told that they actually inject their urine into your skin. Not a nice thought.

We won’t be scared off by crocodiles, or beaten off by the threat of sharks or worried away by box jellyfish. At least most of those would kill you off quick smart. No, it may well be that I am driven out of northern Australia by a miniature pest that keeps peeing on me and making me want to tear my skin off spot by spot.

Beach Landing at Pancake Creek

Sand Fly bait...

Among the Palm Trees...the enemy lurks!
And she still has not one bite!!!

Oh Oh! Sunset. Prime Sand Fly time.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Sailing around Australia; Ginger Beer, What Can You Say?

Bundaberg, Queensland

18/8/2015 Ginger Beer; What can you say?

So after arriving in Port Bundaberg on the weekend, Monday was the day to hire a car and go exploring, shopping and provisioning.

First up on our agenda, was to steer the hire a clunker to the rum distillery. Why this was so interesting to me a tea totaller and Leanne a wine connoisseur I am not sure.

At the marina we had instructions for the nearest Aldi but had forgotten to get instructions to the distillery. This must have been fate though because as we followed our noses in search of rum, we stumbled across the Bundaberg Ginger beer factory.

Those who know me well could say that I am a fan of Bundaberg Ginger Beer. I have been called Captain Ginger Beard. So it was a no brainer that we would go in and have a look.

The marketing arm of Bundaberg brewed drinks is housed in a giant ½ barrel that looks like it is lying on its side, buried in the ground.

Inside there is lots of ginger beer merchandise and you can pay for an “interactive” tour. Sounds great.

After paying $12.50 per person we were given what looked like one of the first ever mobile phones. You press the corresponding number and hold the phone thingy up to your ear, to hear what is being said.

I lived on a farm when I grew up and my folks often had a ginger beer brew on the go. The most interesting thing about it was watching it bubble away. Once in a while there was excitement when the brew exploded, but generally it was a pretty tame affair.

I should have remembered that before we forked out half our weeks entertainment budget on a tour of the Ginger beer factory.

Turns out that even at the ginger beer factory, there isn’t much more excitement they can put into it. You mix the ginger with yeast and sugar, then add more sugar and voila… ginger beer.

Not to say they hadn’t put some effort into creating an interactive experience. There were a few buttons to push to see the particular display come to life. There was a hologram display that was interesting from the technological aspect, but the content and over acting would make it painful for a six year old to sit through.

There was a five minute movie on how they grow the ginger. Step 1; put it in the ground, Step 3; water and fertilise it. Step 3; Pull it up and cut the leaves off.

They also ran a five minute movie on how they built the big barrel building, just to stretch out your visit.  So after being lulled into a sense of dullness by the story of how ginger beer is made, you enter the tasting area.

Here they have a dozen or so different drinks or as we found out sugar in a bottle. There are some exotic flavours like guava and passionfruit or some more mundane like lemon lime and bitters or lemonade. They are very proud to say all these are traditionally brewed.

After that tasting session you do feel like you have chomped half a kilo of sugar straight out of the packet. You have trouble pronouncing your words, your blood seems to tingle in your veins and you feel ready for anything… until a few minutes later when you come down; right down. So yeah, sort of like a big wine tasting session, without the hangover.

The up shot of the visit for me was that I still like the Ginger beer. Being a tea totaller, it is nice to have a “beer” at beer o’clock. It also gives me something to do with my hands at social gatherings.

But really, Ginger beer is Ginger beer. There is not much to say about it.

Real beer for a real man...does that make me a Ginger man?

Ready for a big session on the beer.

Line em up!
Yes it is hard to smile when you have been drinking all that sugar!