Leg 3 Rosslyn Bay to Hamilton Island
We've setted into the yacht 'Guinevere' - our home for another 9 days - and will be moored about 300 metres off Great Keppell Island for another night before we start heading north, slowly making our way towards Hamilton Island.
After corn fritters and bacon for breakfast this morning (cooked on the bbq on deck), we've had a great day exploring the island, finding our land legs again with a walk down to pretty Butterfish Bay.
We've spotted dolphins, plenty of seabirds, and an osprey in its giant nest built in a prime waterfront position on a deserted beach.
We all struggled to fall asleep last night due to the yacht groaning and lurching from side to side in the swell. The balmy sunny day today has just clouded over and judging by the increasing swell now, I think we may be in for another rather rocky night!
We are moored at Port Clinton (23/5/2011) which is adjacent to the army Shoalhaven Bay training ground. Cannot go there as they are dropping bombs.
It is way up a mangrove creek and very shallow. Like so shallow we hit bottom! we decided it was a bit tight and were heading out to deeper water but with a falling tide we nudged the mud (sounds better than hit). Full reverse and like it or not we are stuck here till tomorrows high tide. Judy happy as lots of birds. Ben happy as lots of fishing. Hannah just happy. Paul debating where to put the crab pots.
It is very calm sprinkling rain and quite serene.
We have sighted several turtles, a jumping manta ray and Judy is keeping a bird list-now up to over 50.
A wonderful estuary with mangrove lined mudflats. We were welcomed by a giant ray gliding by and were forced to enjoy the location a little longer than expected due to a fast retreating tide – no one was complaining though!
It was a birding highlight with many egrets, waders, kingfishers (including Australia’s smallest – the little kingfisher) , and herons busily feeding. Also spotted was the Great Billed Heron, with a booming call that sounded like a crocodile. Many birds were just out of sight to be easily identified.
After a breath-taking approach between hoop pine covered islands, we found Pearl Bay: a picturesque rainforest lined beach where Paul leapt from the boat almost as soon as the yacht’s engine had been turned off and swam ashore.
Percy Island and Curlew Island:
A new style of sailing for Paul: six hours on one tack averaging over six knots. We’ve had several days of blue sky and steady south winds. It’s gone a bit cool over the last couple of days but so pleasant and sunny as Guinevere lopes along. We do half hour turns at the helm and keep an hourly log so time goes fast.
There are so many islands on this leg that scenery is always changing, from dramatic cliff lines and rocky outcrops to dense tropical forest.
We are currently anchored at another deserted island – Curlew Island - and have just seen the most spectacular sunset, half of the sky slowly changing to an intense blood orange red with pearl-like clouds scattered across the sky. Similar to last night at South Percy Island: a deserted beach with powder fine sand. Water temperature is 23 degrees so we have been swimming a lot.
Each island we have stopped at has had a resident pair of sea eagles, ospreys, and brahminy kites.
Fishing so far has been excellent. Ben’s fishing highlights include: a 40 cm sweet lip emperor (turned into excellent sashimi), two metre ray shark and multiple reef fish and sharks. Paul’s fishing highlights included: um, ah, hmmmm.
Next stop Mackay Marina for a couple of nights.
We are doing the big clean up before we leave the boat, here at Hamilton Is. Such a contrast from the peace of our last stop when we were the only people ashore. This is TOURISM. However it is quite sympathetic with the environment. We went for a long walk yesterday – which was very steep and hard on the knees. There is still lots of native vegetation on the island, including small brushbox trees, like our street trees were in Sydney. Ben, Hannah and Judy are off today, Paul preparing for a new crew.
Some thoughts on birds and other wildlife we have seen:
There are fewer seabirds than I thought we would have seen – very few gulls (only around the resorts) terns and the commonest have been the Brown Boobies, swooping low over the waves, with their crisp brown and white plumage standing out against the waves. A tiny Wilsons Storm Petrel was dancing over the waves, the smallest of our seabirds.
On each of our island stops there have been the resident raptors – White-bellied Sea-Eagles, ospreys and some Brahminy Kites. Each has its own niche, snatching fish or carrion from the beaches or water. We watched a Sea-Eagle in the Lindeman passage, following a small group of dolphins, which were chasing fish, leaping out of the water to escape. Many of the islands have steep wooded hillsides, so there is plenty of habitat for nesting undisturbed. All of these raptors are in higher numbers than we expect to see on the NSW coast.
The commonest honeyeater was the Brown Honeyeater, with its rich song greeting our landings. We also saw the Yellow Honeyeater, a new species for us. We are looking forward to seeing many new Queensland species as we continue ashore. The glorious Golden Sunbird seems to be in the resort gardens as well as the bush.
Shaw island, Neck Beach was a wonderful spot – with thick bush on the hillsides, patches of rainforest and mangroves on the shore. Our landing beach was sandy, with Pied Oystercatchers and a Bush Stone Curlew but when we found the path to the beach on the other side of the neck, it was an astounding difference, with a rough stony beach and piles of human flotsam and jetsam – plastics, foam, bottles, thongs, even a wheelie bin , coconuts, orchid plants, palm leaves ... There was wonderful coral near our mooring and we saw several turtles. In the trees we saw Varied trillers, a Leaden Flycatcher, jewelled Sunbirds and I flushed a Buttonquail of some kind. I am sure we would have found many more interesting surprises with more time. As always, beautiful sunsets.
Paul and Ben have had fun fishing and caught many fish, though some too small to keep - the standards are high. Ben has caught several small sharks including a small hammerhead. Reef fish are beautifully coloured and we tried to identify those they caught.
Sadly on Hamilton the most obvious birds are the badly behaved birds – the cockatoos, Rainbow Lorikeets, Torresian Crows and Currawongs – a noisy gang invaded the boat early and I had to chase them off.
We have identified over 100 different species so far on our trip. The greatest diversity, as you would expect, have been in the botanic gardens we visited ashore.
My own thoughts?
A wonderful experience with my brother my son Ben and Hannah.
Several glorious days under sail, with gentle seas, passing stunning scenery
I coped better with the sea than I thought I would, managing to avoid real sea-sickness (though we had a woosy section of the trip).
I did not fall in.
I managed to get in and out of the zodiac- function over agility though.
The ‘shark bites” on my arm are when I dropped the fridge lid on my arm and ripped several nasty holes.
We ate and drank well.
And I won’t mention the camera overboard.
Thanks Paul – an experience to remember.