Shekinah’s Shakedown Cruise

“Heading for Home”


Tuesday 5-10-99

We left Bowen today in light north easterly winds heading for Nara Inlet on Hook Island. We pass Saddleback, Gumbrell, Armit and Double Cone Islands to starboard with our main, jib and genoa sails drawing well on a broad reach.

With our GPS (Global Positioning System) always showing us the way we sometimes wonder why we are not pointing at an island we are heading for!  Our GPS is aware of a  tidal current moving us southwards and tells us to head 20 degrees north of our destination to counteract – it’s always right.

We pass False Nara and turn to port to enter a most amazing Fiord-like inlet into Hook Island. As we travel up the inlet we are surrounded by steep, densely wooded hills which get closer and closer until we finally drop anchor in six metres of water. We are surrounded by like minded souls who also seek the magical qualities of an overnighter in Nara.

At five o’clock we are stretched out on the forward trampoline with coffee and biscuits, watching as other boats move up the inlet and find their spots for the night. Boats already anchored have children splashing around them while the adults are trying to encourage suicidal fish to favour their hooks. We watch a premature sunset but dusk is still an hour away after the sun drops behind the hills.  The sounds in the anchorage travel across the mirror-like water too easily and the children on a boat two hundred yards away sound much closer.

As dusk closes in, a million twinkling stars turn on a magnificent display. They reflect in the still water along with the lights of a hundred anchored boats and we finally understand the magnet that draws people into this fascinating place.


Wednesday 6-10-99

An unhurried departure from Nara Inlet saw us turn south at 09:00 hrs into a light south easterly and a day of hard-to-win tacking to make our next anchorage at Shaw Island some twenty five miles to the south east  . We knew the day would be slow but we hadn’t allowed for the northerly tidal set which was working against us at around four knots.  This meant we had to sail at four knots just to hold our position over the ground – in the 10 to 15 knot winds we had sails up and both motors pushing us at around seven  to eight knots – we seemed to be flying but it took forever – at one stage we tacked east for one hour and went backwards about three miles – such was the current running through Whitsunday Passage.

At about two o’clock we impatiently took down the sails and headed straight into the wind directly towards Shaw Island and motored the last two hours to our anchorage. Shaw Island was the most convenient anchorage for our next day sail but the place suffered a strong current running through Kennedy Sound and meant the possibility of anchor dragging and contrary swinging. We entered the anchorage and pulled up between two boats and dropped anchor.

I always stay on deck for the first half hour after dropping anchor to make sure we are not dragging and to get our bearings on the land etc while Heather goes below to make tea or coffee – this particular day we have arrived just in time to see the boat next to us dragging his anchor and heading straight for Burning Point rocks. I yelled out this boat’s name about four times before a young couple poke their heads out and realize their predicament – five minutes later they had re-anchored and disappeared again.

Throughout the night I slept in the bridgedeck cabin close to our GPS anchor alarm and regularly got up to check our situation – such is life at doubtful anchorages.


Thursday 7-10-99

We have decided to run with the wind (SE) today and go over to Laguna Quays Marina tucked up inside Repulse Bay.  This is a slightly backward move in relation to our destination South, but Pastor John Robertshaw of Coastlands Ministry assures us it is worth the visit. John’s only concern for us is what he refers to as the Time Warp which surrounds the place and keeps people in there.

Repulse Bay on this particular day has a wind against tide situation (rough) and stronger winds (rougher)  and gets very shallow as you get further in towards Laguna Quays (very rough). The waves are two to three metres high and too close to each other for comfort but Shekinah doesn’t seem to mind – only the crew are complaining!

Heather thinks she’s James Cook and renames the place Repulsive Bay – I agree with her and wonder about getting out of the place in a few days.

We pass Cape Conway, dodge Conway Shoals and head into the lea (sheltered side) of the Repulse Islands. For a while the seas abate but return with a vengeance as we move into even shallower water.  We call Laguna Quays Marina on the radio to book our berth and they tell us the entrance is a bit rolly – understatement!!!!! –  five miles to go and it starts to rain – great – are we having fun???

We finally tie up inside the marina and get the coffee on – great for the nerves!

The weather stays from the south for the next four days so we have no option but to totally enjoy Laguna Quays (and did we ever!) and get to know some of the other yachties who are also waiting for the weather to change!

There is a little open-air bar and bistro at the marina and is a great meeting and eating place for ‘time warped’ travellers.

For the next four days we enjoyed long walks around the golf course, trips into Proserpine and exploring this world class resort – as marina guests we also get to enjoy all the facilities of the resort.


Monday 11-10-99

After four idyllic days John Robertshaw tells us on the morning HF radio sked that the weather is swinging around to the north for a few days – It is time to go!

We pay our bill, return the key and say our farewells.

A few people come to our berth to say goodbye and help us throw off the mooring lines.

As we motor out through the leads, Laguna keys becomes a memory and we wonder when we’ll see our new friends again.

The wind is non existent so we settle in for a long motoring session, The autopilot steers us to our next way point in the Blackwood Shoals and we slowly turn to the south  following the deeper water channel past Cape Hillsborough and Green Islet.

Mackay is our next port of call where a new marina is in the final stages of construction. As we pull in to our berth we recognise a couple of boats from Bowen. A retired couple in a new Windspeed 42 catamaran call us over and we spend time with them sharing our plans – Rob and Alison  are really interested and Rob tells us he is a retired Elder of The Gap Presbyterian Church – thank you Lord. – nobody wants to cook so we all go over to the little yacht club and chat on over a late dinner.

The following day we meet a couple and their two children on an old pearling lugger – a lovely traditional two masted 55 footer.

Because of the problems in East Timor, Shoalwater Bay has been totally closed and the no go area has been pushed out to make room for Operation Crocodile. A few boats sailing close to the exclusion zone have been ordered further out to sea.

We have to plan our route to avoid Shoalwater Bay and we will have to sail overnight because of the size of the exclusion zone. Our plan is to go out west to The Percy Islands then south east to High Peak Island. Sailing South from High Peak will take us down the outside of the Exclusion zone into Keppel Bay Marina.


Wednesday 13-10-99

When we finally reach West Bay on Middle Percy, some sixty miles from Mackay, we find six other boats already at anchor. This surprises us somewhat because of the remoteness of these islands. The place is as beautiful as the books describe it – wide sandy beaches, palm trees, walking tracks etc. etc.

The Island is permanently inhabited by a family who play host to the hundreds of cruising yachts that visit the island. On the beach is a large A-frame house which has an upper floor where one can spend the night ashore – there are mattresses and hammocks etc but it is very spartan and pioneer-like.  Down below the whole area is decorated with yacht names carved or painted on pieces of timber, life rings, bottles – you name it – others have gone to great expense and artistic license to leave behind a longlasting evidence of their visit. Sea shanty like poetry, paintings, framed photographs etc etc.

Behind the A-frame is a large circle of rock seating, with a fire pit in the middle where all those anchored can hold communal BBQs – There are rainwater collection tanks, bush showers and toilets and a large shed which acts as an unmanned shop where you can buy natural honey, goat mince, jams, pickles, bread, mead wine, goat skins???

More recently, a group of yachties decided to build a tree house for the kids – they got a bit carried away.  The tree house has a full bush kitchen with running water, a bed-sitting room with verandah plus an upper bed room – all with magnificent bay views. Yachties regularly spend a couple of nights here whilst their boats lay at anchor.

At the northern end of the bay there is an inlet into a tidal lagoon. Access is only on high tide but there is room for at least a dozen boats. As you go through, there is a sand bank that completely dries at about half tide. While we were here three catamarans are using this spot with anchors out and also tied up to the mangroves. Further into the lagoon the locals have put in several sets of piles for the monohull yachts to dry out against. There are long ropes tied to the trees which are then attached to the mast to keep the yachts laying against the piles as the tide runs out.

The family who have the lease on the island and who are responsible for all this work are the people we met in Mackay with the pearling lugger. They have a small homestead at the end of one of the walking tracks. Another treat is a five dollar lunch which they will put on if you call them on the VHF radio to say you are coming up – it’s a long walk up hill but apparently is well worth the effort.


Thursday 14-10-99

We reluctantly leave West Bay promising ourselves to come back soon – the three day weather forecast is on our side so we want to push on.

This day was uneventful, motor-sailing in light winds and arriving at High Peak Island at four thirty in the afternoon.  The anchorage is beautiful with hills on three sides and a small coral beach. Heather has heard a goat kid calling its mother and joins in the ‘bah-ing’, very soon the kid is answering Heather so I get the binoculars just in time to see two black goats scamper over the top of the hill.  After dinner we contemplate our options and decide to up-anchor and sail on through the night! There is a flurry of activity in the failing light as we need to clear the island and its outlying rocks before total dark.

The night is pleasantly warm but a new moon means almost total darkness except for the light of the stars. We turn off all our interior lights to increase our night vision and settle in for a long motor-sailing session – the wind is about five to ten knots and dropping.

I have entered all our waypoints, for the trip, into our GPS and our only concern is for other ships which we must keep a look out for.

By the time midnight arrives we take turns to lay down and rest – no sleep, too tense – we see the lights of several ships but nothing close. By four a.m. we have two fleets of trawlers in our path – it’s very difficult to know which way they are moving so we head out to sea to go around them. They seem to follow us but we never get too close.

By five o’clock the stars disappear and the sun slowly takes over, bathing us and the sea in pink glow – we are pleased to see it – three hours later we pull in to Keppel Bay Marina.


Saturday 16-10-99

We left Keppel Bay Marina at 6.00 a.m. headed down towards the top end of the inland route to Gladstone called The Narrows. This waterway is rather like the southern end of Moreton Bay and separates Curtis Island from the mainland.

The Narrows is a bit tricky because the centre section, The Cattle Crossing, totally dries out at low tide requiring the navigator to exactly match the journey to be at The Cattle Crossing one hour before high tide. One must also ensure there is a higher high tide the following day just in case you run aground.

All went well and, in company with two other yachts, we got in to Gladstone that afternoon amid strong winds and a fleet of racing yachts doing their thing at the entrance to the harbour.

Merlene and Des Davies, our friends and fellow Coastlands Ministry members, were at the dock to welcome us and catch a rope. This couple has just got back from a mission trip to the Pacific Islands and we wanted to fellowship with them for a while before moving on.

Monday 19-10-99

Favourable winds again so we push on to our next stop at Round Hill Creek better known as the town of 1770. We anchored in shallow water outside the camping and caravan park. While we sat in our cockpit we noticed a lot of people on the beach taking photographs of us. I said to Heather our boat must look really good sitting at anchor but I thought it strange, then Heather said to me “Look at the beautiful sunset” and I realized what they were photographing. A sunset always looks nicer with a boat or two in it.


Tuesday 20-10-99

Five o’clock in the morning we again negotiate the bar at the entrance to Round Hill right at the top of the tide. We turn south south east and start the run down to Bundaberg where our family is waiting for us. We have been eager to see them and looking forward to this port of call for three months so we have both motors on and three sails up. We wanted to be in before dark but managed it by about three o’clock – a bit hasty!

For the next six days we spent most of our time with our son and daughter-in-law and our four grand-children – We were so happy and had really looked forward to this visit.





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