This week marked the fifth week of living on a sailing boat and sailing the Australian East Coast.
We were finally ready to depart North, leaving the Whitsunday Islands behind us.
Airlie Beach to Double Bay
Our first anchorage location was Double Bay, only a few hours sail Airlie Beach. We departed early on a crystal clear, calm morning.
We had a decent 15 knots of wind from our stern with almost no swell. This made it a comfortable sail around the headlands and into Double Bay.
Double Bay Wildlife
We had heard that there was plenty of wildlife roaming the waters of Double Bay. This was immediately confirmed as we spotted a pod of porpoises frolicking in the entrance of the bay.
We laid anchor just after midday and just took time to relax and unwind in the secluded anchorage. Again, we were the only boat in sight.
During the afternoon, we spotted even more wildlife, including sharks, some turtles and huge eagles flying overhead.
Double Bay to Gloucester Island
The second day of sailing was another short hop to Gloucester Passage. Our plan was to either anchor just outside Gloucester Island or outside Montes Resort.
Due to increasing winds, we decided on the latter, which provided a little more shelter for the overnight stopover. Though there wasn’t much to explore, it was another beautiful spot. We explored the beaches and motored around the bay in our tender.
Gloucester Island to Cape Upstart
We decided that Bowen wasn’t really a place that we wanted to check out. Instead, we decided to make a longer dash past Bowen and into Cape Upstart.
For the long journey of around 10 hours, we departed at 3.30 AM and sailed into strong winds and big seas. Though it felt a little rough in the pitch black, it was nothing compared to what was waiting for us on the following day.
It was pretty spectacular watching the sunrise over the water.
A few hours later, after the devastation of losing a huge Spanish Mackerel on a trolling line, we sailed past the Abbott Point coal loading facility. It was strange seeing it in person, especially after reading so much about the controversy of Adani’s new coal train lines in the area.
We finally arrived in Cape Upstart early in the afternoon. Winds had picked up even more, so we decided to sail deeper into the cape towards the mainland in hopes of better protection.
For those sailing and looking for an anchorage location, I’d highly recommend choosing one closer to the cape. As you sail inland, the hills become more exposed and the waters less appealing.
Cape Upstart to Cape Bowling Green
What a day. Another early departure for what was planned to be a 10 hour stint from Cape Upstart to Cape Bowling Green.
As we sailed out of the protected bay waters, winds quickly picked up to 30 knots with rising swell. The roll was getting uncomfortable, so we were forced to tack out to sea to avoid the breaking waves on the beam.
As the winds continued to pick up and the waves becoming ever taller, we continued our tack with a single reefed forward sail.
Towards the end of a wild run, we still had the narrow, shifting sandbars just outside Cape Bowling Green. This area is known as a rough patch for mariners, complete with a 3500-tonne wreck just off the spit.
Nevertheless, we pushed on, surfing down three-meter waves with 30-knot gales pushing us from the back. We managed to reach a top speed of 10.6 knots with only half a sail up on a single mast. Not bad for a heavy, steel motorsailer.
Cape Bowling Green Anchorage
After eight hours, just as we thought we would get some peaceful refuge from the rough weather, we were met with a sharp turn directly into the gale winds that lead into Cape Bowling Green.
The entire bay is completely flat, providing absolutely no protection against the wind in any direction. We spotted some trawlers roughing it out just inside the cape but decided against joining them as it didn’t look too much fun in the swell.
Instead, we motored into the wind for almost two hours until we finally tried to lay anchor.
It took seven attempts to try to get the anchor to hold. Unfortunately, the mud in Cape Bowling Green just didn’t cut it for the strong winds.
Since we were exhausted, and there were no boats or obstacles for miles in any direction of us, we simply laid out most of or chain and took turns to keep watch so we didn’t drag too far during the night.
The next morning, we had dragged over a kilometer through the bay. We also noticed that the forward mast had some structural damage from the rough seas the day before and required repairs.
Nevertheless, we were all safe, Townsville was only a few hours sail away and conditions were a refreshing contrast to the day before.
Cape Bowling Green to Townsville
It was a gentle cruise into Townsville. We had soft winds with almost no swell and only the occasional cloud.
We were hoping that once we reached Townsville, we could head to Magnetic Island and enjoy some well-deserved island time. Instead, we were forced to book a slipping in the Townsville boatyard to do some quick weld repairs on the forward mast.
Looks like next week will most likely be spent working on repairs and getting some maintenance done once Malaika is out of the water.
We can’t always have calm weather, beautiful tropical waters, and untouched islands. Sometimes, we’re faced with the storm and inevitable repairs or maintenance. It’s a little bit like life. Discomfort is a state where growth flourishes and what we learn from our hardships is what shapes us.
So, as the famous naval proverb goes;
Smooth seas never made a skilled sailor.