Departure – Bundaberg to the Keppels

Aka: All the best laid plans……….

The idea for easing out of work was to buy a boat, spend long hours sailing under blue skies to remote islands, spend hours lazing at anchor beside tropical islands and strolling idly along golden beaches. – HA!!!!!!!

The reality; buy a boat, spend long hours sailing through the night to anchor beside picturesque islands and spend hours cramped in small spaces fixing things.  The curse(?) or habit of this boat continues.  I know, Veaga tolu is an old boat and the parts that make her up are mostly just as old so I should expect things to go slightly awry.

Working in tight spaces

After two and a half years of owning her and spending lots of money and time getting ready we were excited to finally be letting go all lines and sailing north to enjoy the Winter months in the tropics.  Late one Sunday afternoon we let go and headed to the fuel dock before going to anchor in the river mouth ready for an early start.  Exit wasn’t so glorious but we left the berth without hitting anything or hurting anyone.  Our first hour was spent in a holding pattern waiting for a million dollar motor cruiser to fuel up.  Once done it was off to anchor, with a half dozen other boats and enjoy a drink as the sun went down. 

The intention was for an early start and get a good day’s sail to begin our adventure.  The alarm went off at 4:20am but the cold weather made us check ourselves as we hit the sleep button.  Only a little later we got up for a 5am up anchor and away.  The sky in to the east barely showing signs of lightning for the dawn as we motored out of the river and turned northwards for warmer climes.   A light breeze gave all indications that the headsail could be rolled out and shut down the engine.  As we lowered the revs to let the sail do the work the oil pressure light glowed and alarm started sounding.  We had gotten no further than the last time  we tried to leave when we had gas problems. 

Decisions had to be made – turn back (there was no way were we turning around now), go to Gladstone (again) for repairs or press on.  Press on!!!!!! The sailing was good, making 5 to 6 knots and often more.  Time for the autopilot to take control so we could relax and enjoy the day.  ‘Mr Squeeky’ did not seem to want to work, as much as the he tried to correct any deviation from a set course he just could not hold it straight. Hand steering was to be the order of the day until I could look at things later.  As the miles slipped slowly by and the beautiful day wore on, the winds began to ease to almost nothing around the middle of the day when we were just south of Agnes Water. 

Agnes Water slipping astern as we head north

With much trepidation the engine was started and we began motoring, and motoring, and motoring.  Right through the night and all the way to the Keppels arriving at Great Keppel Island just after sunrise.  The night was clear and cold as we took two hourly shifts at the helm. The moon set around 2am making the night dark, thankfully the chart-plotter had all the detail we needed to keep clear of any obstacles and the plethora of big ships waiting in the approaches to Gladstone are so festooned with lights they were extremely easy to dodge.

Our approach to Great Keppel Island was just before sunrise so we slowed down to make an approach just on sunrise.  A light south westerly breeze influenced the decision for anchoring in Wreck Bay on the eastern side of the island.  It was completely empty when we arrived so had the whole bay to ourselves, lots of room to drop anchor wherever we wanted.  As the engine was reduced to idle again the alarm sounded reminding us that problems needed solving.  After 26 hours 126 nautical miles since leaving Bundy a good sleep and relaxing day was very much appreciated. 

Approaching Great Keppel Island to our left and Barren Island on our right as the sun rises.

The rest of that day and the next was spent walking on the island and exploring the beach along the bay.  Other boats arrived but it certainly didn’t get crowded over the two days we were there.  during the last night the wind strengthened and swung around to the south so the night got quite ‘rolly’. 

Wreck Bay

Up early the next day and move around to the northern side of the island and anchor off Leeke’s Beach for a while.  The number of boats was in stark contrast to where we had been.  The winds were forecast to continue to swing during the day and another move was needed late in the afternoon.  Whilst at anchor phone calls were made to mechanics for advice and a plan was made.  Oil and filters were coming out on the island ferry the next day and I could attempt an oil flush and change.  A late afternoon move round to the western side of the island to anchor at Monkey Bay and spend the night there.  Early the next morning tender trip in to meet the ferry near the old resort.  Then another shift round to Long Beach to shelter from the northerly winds.  Because we had to wait for the ferry we were late moving and found us to be the 34th but not last, boat at the anchorage.  But the shuffle did warm the engine for an oil flush and change – fingers crossed problems solved.

Leeke’s Beach – a crowded contrast to the few boats at Wreck Bay.

At first the oil change seemed to work ok.  Running the engine for half an hour then backing it off to idle and no sound or lights from the alarms – it all seemed to work. Beers were had to celebrate as the sun went down.  Next morning, we noticed that the freezer and fridge were not working quite as they should.  Whilst cooling fans started up ok, the compressors would kick in and lights dimmed when they tried starting.  The battery monitor showed low voltages.  A quick call to the marina for a berth for a few days to source new batteries.  The ones we had were two and a half years old so maybe on their last legs.  The entrance to Rosslyn Bay Marina is quite shallow so we had to be there for high tide.  That called for a rapid pack up and anchor up to get across the 7 nautical miles to the marina.  We motored the whole way and all seemed good with ‘Grumble’ (as we named the engine) until it was time to ease off and slowly enter the allocated berth.  Lights and alarms sounded just as we came into the berth to tie up.   It seems our time in Yeppoon will be more phone calls and work but hopefully there will be some time to relax.

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