Dragging ourselves away from the beauty and tranquility of Pancake Creek we set sail once more, this time for a different boating experience, running through the Narrows on the surge of a Spring tide.
Our dear friends Scott and Sonja left Pancake a day previous for the Whitsundays and a family reunion there with their daughter Jemma flying in for the occasion.
We had oft heard of running the Narrows as a unique boating experience and so it was that we left Pancake for Gladstone on the 31st of August with this intent.
Not much wind to set the sails but a favourable tide took us swiftly up the pretty coast to the big, bad, industrial port of Gladstone. After an interminable time transiting the dredged entrance we entered the wharfage areas dotted with numerous large shipping, with one of these monsters charging up behind us.
Thinking it prudent to get the hell out of dodge I removed us from the path of the onrushing giant to let it charge by. We were within spitting distance by then of the marina entrance so we tooled around until the monster was safely out of the way then entered the relative safe, yet unknown Gladstone Marina.
This marina was an eye opener as though being less than ideally placed as it is among the large wharves and attendant shipping it was remarkably quiet, safe and secure. In fact despite the heavily biased industrial nature of the port we were delighted by the low cost, clean and courteous nature of this secluded sanctuary. A heavy screening of vegetation separated it from the industrial aspect and made it peaceful place to park a vessel in any weather.
We took the courtesy bus and a couple of days to restock, clean and reorganise before tackling the Narrows. Because of the falling height of the current tides and thus water necessary for our safe passage we left shortly after to spend the night on anchor in Black Swan Creek, a quiet sanctuary close to the start of the thin water transit we had committed ourselves to.
After a calm evening and a peaceful sleep with few sandflies or mozzies we up-anchored next morning and positioned ourselves for the gauntlet that was to come. Tricky bit of this transit is that parts of the track through are exposed by as much as 3 metres at low tide.
Think about that for a minute…. you could drive a vehicle almost the entire length of it when the tide was out…….. Our chart plotter has us motoring along over land for most of the hour it took us to traverse it….. disturbing!
After completing the traverse we motored up to the Northern tip of Curtis Island to anchor in Pacific Creek for a week. BOM was forecasting strong winds from the ESE with an Easterly swell that would not have been all that nice if we had of proceeded straight to Great Keppel Island.
So it was that we prepared to withstand the 20 – 30 knot winds tied up to the mangroves and with both fore and aft anchors dug firmly into the soft muddy bottom… more about that later!
With the strong winds arriving there wasn’t much in the way of annoying insects and we even managed to catch several feeds of nice Bream, this and one large mud crab courtesy of fisherman Rob, a colourful local character we got to know during our stay.
We were safe and secure in this most unusual of places to wait out a storm… but happily so. We took walks around the island, including of course the iconic lighthouse and later at Robs simple lodgings where numerous cups of coffee were shared with his visiting daughter Deidre.
Finally, with the winds abated we left our Pacific Creek sanctuary on Saturday 10th of September, but not before a massive downpour Friday evening where, with a simply rigged catcher, we filled our water tanks to overflowing with sweet tasting fresh water.
At some point during this downpour I realised that Freespirit was beginning to lean a little more than normal to her Starboard side… oh oh the dinghy I’d hauled up on that side to be clear of the wind chop was now beginning to fill with water! bugger!… thus naked I made way on deck with warm rain pouring down to rescue our poor tender, now overflowing and in imminent danger of capsize! Unfortunately the long dormant sandflies recognised this opportunity as akin to Christmas and I was the turkey…with so much flesh available they proceeded to make a meal of me in short order…. Next morning hauling up both anchors was a horribly messy chore as the soft mud, though making for excellent holding was extremely sticky and stinky requiring much vigour and river water to remove…. yuck!
With little wind to speak of we headed out of the channel and once clear hoisted all sail and made our way to what would be our final Northerly destination… .Great Keppel Island.