Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Short Beach Cruise

Regular readers will have noticed that there haven't been any posts for a while now, and reason is simply that I've had too much to do! Writing a blog takes time and imagination, and this last month has left me very little spare time, and my imagination seems to have been overwhelmed by other responsibilities.

A Short Beach-Cruising Expedition on the Central Queensland Coast.


Back in the year 2000, I took my three boys on a camping trip near the town which is named, "Town of 1770" on the central coast of the state of Queensland, Australia. Situated adjacent to the southern end of the famous Great Barrier Reef, this part of the Queensland coast offers superb beach-cruising and island-hopping opportunities.

One of the boys at the time of our first trip to 1770. The same skipper is now nearly 25, and is still addicted to wooden boats. Start 'em young and you will be giving a gift which lasts a lifetime.
At the time of the year 2000 trip, my kids and three other children ran wild (but under covert observation!) for several days and nights. There were boating adventures, fishing adventures, and exciting night-time exploration of moonlit sandbars starting to rise above the many waterways of the heavily tidal estuary.

In the last couple of years there has been a bit of talk between a few of the now adults who made up the pack of kids nearly thirteen years ago. There was an obvious and growing urge to re-live that trip, and pressure was placed on me to come along. As one of my sons said, "We are going anyway, so you can decide whether to come along or stay in your workshop." He knew that a comment like that represented an unfair challenge, and predictably, I decided to go.

History repeats itself - the only change being the size of the kids.
Our plan was to leave our cars and trailers at the Town of 1770 camping ground in sites we had rented for just that purpose, and to then sail north along the coast to Jenny Lind Creek and to make our camp in the bush somewhere near the creek (keeping a weather eye open for crocodiles).

I don't know how to insert Google Earth links, but if you look up Town of 1770, Queensland, Australia and Bustard Head, Queensland, Australia, you should get to see the area in question. Jenny Lind Creek is the coastal creek immediately south of Bustard Head.

As it turned out, we arrived during a period of strong south-east stream weather, and the bars along that part of the coast were dangerous for small boats such as ours. We spent time operating to the north-west of the headland, and in there the conditions were smooth, but the wind was unsuitable for pleasant sailing. The strong south-easter was blowing over the top of the headland and we were in frustratingly fluky wind conditions.

All dressed up but no suitable wind for local sailing. That is Bustard Head which you can just see as high ground in the far distance. Jenny Lind Creek is at the bottom of that spur.
However, there is always something to do if you have a boat, and so we did some exploring of the estuary near 1770. But first two of us had to try the conditions outside the shelter of the headland. We tied in a double-reef and with the other two guys stationed suitably for observation and photography, off we went!

Sons Geoff and Dave did a reconnaissance before we went out. That is Dave high on the headland, with Geoff taking the photo

Double-reefed, and with PFD's on, son David and I head out towards the headland. Even though it is pretty calm, the bow wave indicates that we are on the move. This sort of sailing should not be attempted if you lack experience, and the correct equipment.
Clearing the wind-shadow of the headland, and starting to feel that the double-reef was a wise move. Note how the hull is disappearing behind the waves.

A nice photo taken by my friend, Ian Hamilton
Cameras always seem to make the sea look flat, but trust me when I say that it was rough out there!
Back inside the headland with the boat snugged down for the night. One of the pleasures I gain from dinghy sailing is looking at a beautiful boat swinging to an anchor. This great photo was taken by Geoffrey Lillistone
 One of the good things about being stuck inside the estuary for a few days was that we were free to explore and have fun, without time limits. One favourite game is seeing if you can get around a particular obstacle without tacking, or doing it in fewer tacks than someone else...

Geoff photographing one of our attempts at weathering a conveniently placed sandbar. He is shooting from inside Ian Hamilton's Bolger-designed Sharpshooter.
We have sighted the challenging sandbar, and the game is on...
A handy little wind shift helps our cause...

...but the wind drops away and backs, making things look tricky - and brings on worried looks.

Pinching up in the hope that we can balance boat-speed against ground lost to leeway.
We made it!

The smiles show you just how much fun these challenges can be.

A lesson in hydrodynamics - see how the boat pulls a big wave when in very shallow water.

 After a few days of playing, the wind moderated enough for us to attempt an outside run to have a look further up the coast. Due to time constraints we all climbed aboard Ian's Bolger Sharpshooter.

Approaching Middle Creek bar from the seaward side.

Safely inside the Middle Creek estuary, with just enough time to....

....scramble through the bush to have a walk on the ocean side. That is the headland and Town of 1770 in the distance.

Ian playing the fool for the camera. His Sharpshooter has done some interesting trips since he first built her a long time ago. He runs a 30hp Yamaha 2-stroke with a 4hp Johnson auxiliary.

This "Birdwatcher"-style cuddy-cabin is an addition which has proved to be of wonderful value.

Not everybody makes it through the bar. Well, I guess it was probably a simple case of abandonment, but it makes a nice photo. Taken by Ian Hamilton.

The two boats we used on this trip are examples of well-used home-built boats which have stood the test of time. The sailing dinghy was designed and built by my father back in 1970, and has been in constant use ever since. She has done a huge amount of work, but is still going strong. Ian's Sharpshooter has been going for at least twenty years, and probably more. Neither boat cost much to build, but they have provided satisfaction and adventure beyond measure.

I look at internet forums where people talk endlessly about minute details regarding this boat or that which they are "going to build". My response is to forget about procrastinating, and just get out there, build a boat, and learn to use her. You will be glad you did!