Adventures Aboard Adagio
Adagio - A musical tempo denoting a leisurely passage.

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23rd May 2009

Tin Can Bay to Great Keppel Island

" Well I am leaving my family, I'm leaving all my friends,
My body's at home, but my heart's in the wind,
And the clouds are like headlines, Upon a new front page sky,
My tears are salt water, The Moon's full and high,
And I know Joe Conrad would be proud of me,
Many before me been called by the sea,
To be up in the crow's nest singing my saying,
Shiver me timbers let's all sail away
And the fog lifting, and the sand shifting
I'm drifting on out
Old Captain Ahab got nothing on me"
.... Shiver Me Timbers, sung by Bette Midler

Adagio's smile shone beyond her weedy hulls and spotty cabin, as she welcomed us home after five month's shore leave. Tin Can Bay had protected her well from the ferocity of Cyclone Hamish which hammered along the Queensland coast in February. Friends rang to see how she fared, but as we said "boats can be replaced, but not people". Our real concern had been for our youngest in Airlie Beach whom we kept in contact via phone and internet throughout the night with hourly updates from Pete's weather maps. Meanwhile Hamish danced a game of cat and mouse off the coast. Michael and his flatmates had prepared a bunker with mattresses in their bathroom, spent their week's wages buying tinned food and bottled water, filled their cars up with petrol and taped the windows with masking tape.  With a strength compared to that of Cyclone Tracy in Darwin and Hurricane Katrina which decimated New Orleans, it wasn't a force to be reckoned with.  Mother Nature wove a fine line between safety and danger, but miraculously she didn't cross the coast. Sadly a couple of fishermen died in a trawler caught in the eye of the storm.  

 Tin Can Bay is not an easy place to access, which makes it one of the best kept secrets in Queensland's marina fraternity.  After an early morning flight to Brisbane we caught a train to Nambour where Chris and Dave met us.  First stop was a trip to Woolworths to replenish our stores and then our modern day angels drove us to Tin Can Bay where we enjoyed a feed of fish at the marina cafe. In no time at all with a mix of vinegar and water, and a little elbow grease I removed the mould, while Pete unlashed the boom, changed the water and put back the canvases which had been removed to cyclone proof the boat. 

Mangroves growing in Tin Can Bay Inlet Tin Can Bay is a beautiful place, with estuaries and waterways teaming with wildlife. On May 1st wildlife of a different kind joined the fray, as one hundred and eighty trailer boats arrived in the area for the annual long weekend Bay to Bay regatta from Tin Can Bay to Hervey Bay. It's by far the busiest day of the year for the marina as they try to fit these small craft in between larger boats, and over spots inaccessible to fixed keel boats. Overnight we were all jammed in like sardines in a can. The following morning the catamaran next to us was hit by a floundering runaway, so my Captain watched from the front deck, to ensure Adagio was safe from enthusiastic sailors heading to the start line. These are sailors of a different breed to us. They snuggle up for a night's rest in whatever little piece of space they can find on their boats, be it on top of a spinnaker, with legs curled at the end of a short seat, or on the floor in their sleeping bags. I liken Adagio to a floating caravan, and trailer sailors, floating tents. Like most tents they leak in pouring rain; and rain it did, all night and during the next day when they left adorned in their brightly coloured wet weather gear with grins from ear to ear. 

Young girl feeding Mystique at Tin Can Bay If ever you visit Tin Can, make sure you check out Lee's seafood. We did - in fact more than once. We treated ourselves to local king prawns at $18 a kilo, and yummy scallops!  Before letting go of the landlines and heading north we spent the day exploring the town. First stop was to see Mystique and Patch, two wild Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins who come into the beach each morning for a feed of fish. Like Monkey Mia in WA, but run by volunteers, and funded by donations - see I told you I like this place.  Excited children queued for bait fish, along with their mums and dads to feed the dolphins. An Indian lady dressed in a beautifully embroidered Punjabi suit walked knee deep in the water, returning in salt encrusted pants and tunic topped with an ecstatic smile, while nearby a young teenager with cerebral palsy was carried in by her parents. The look of pure joy after her interaction with a wild animal brought a smile to everyone's faces.

Orange grevillias at Tin Can BayI wondered how such a beautiful town could be named after a tin can, until I found its derivation is from tinchin, an aboriginal word describing a species of mangrove that grows in the Inlet. There is a beautiful track that meanders along the shore from the jetty all the way up to Crab Creek; about 12 kilometres round trip back to the marina. The track led us through a rich diversity of flora, fauna and landscapes which were further enhanced by bright sunshine followed by rain. Many of the plants had information plaques. Orange banksias, named by the botanist Sir Joseph Banks during his journey with Captain Cook in 1770 adorned our walkway.  Have you noticed flowers on a banksia bush are never uniform, but rather in different stages of their flowering cycle? The plaque next to a crooked pink bloodwood tree explained how these normally straight trunked trees are used to make for fence posts and telegraph poles. We also saw Queensland blue gums, mangroves, corkwood trees with trunks covered in a baRainbow shining over Rainbow Beachrk the consistency of cork, and paperbark trees whose yellow flowers were a favourite haunt of the local rainbow lorikeets. The Inlet is home to over a hundred different species of birds, and during our walk we were lucky to see spurwinged plovers, white ibis, willie wagtails, rainbow lorikeets and sea eagles. As we neared Crab Creek ICrooked telegraph pole tree photographed a rainbow over Rainbow Beach, named for its rainbow coloured sands, and a sign warning of deadly stone fish adjacent to the local swimming hole!  Tin Can Bay struck us as a place treasured and nurtured by its local residents. An eight and a half metre height limit has been set in place for all future development, but sadly there are always opportunists gnawing at the integrity of these types of communities. Presently the locals are fighting a proposal by a consortium to reclaim land and build a 250 berth marina with extensive unit development right in the middle of their little piece of paradise. Hopefully this time money doesn't talk as we've seen it do in so many seaside communities up and down the coast.

Adagio was like a dog pulling on a lead as we let go the landlines at the marina.  In fact our first anchorage is famous for its dogs; dingoes that is.  We anchored near the southern tip of Fraser Island at Gary's Anchorage where we've often heard the howl of the local dingoes, and seen them pro
Dingo searching the shore at Gary's Anchoragewling along the water line for treats. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world, and today it is a world heritage listed national park and tourist Mecca, with accommodation ranging from campsites to Kingfisher Bay's five star resort. In years gone by logging and sandmining were its major industries.  Satinay (turpentine) felled on Fraser is resistant to marine borer, and was used in the sidings when the Suez Canal was built. Rutile extracted during sand mining was used in the manufacture of paint. The sensitivity and economic viability of these industries led to their closure over thirty years ago.   

Happily we splashed over the side of the boat at South Whitecliffs, but when we headed around the corner we were quite disturbed to see a crocodile trap in place. Rumour has it that a 14 metre croc has been seen in the area. Changed conditions must mean they are now travelling a lot further south - bugger!

Mangroves with an interesting backdrop of McKenzie Jetty.McKenzie Jetty with navigation marker beyond. Three kilometres south of the Kingfisher Resort is the old McKenzie jetty. The stumps still remain, and make for interesting photography.  This was the site of the only saw mill on the island, and a train used to take the logs along the jetty to the waiting barges for delivery to the mainland. When we motored ashore at low tide, we were greeted by an army of soldier crabs advancing towards us. These crabs are an interesting lot. They have spherical bodies, unlike their flat backed friends, and move forwards not sidewards. In just a couple of days we saw three different types of crabs. Have you noticed tiny round balls of sand the size of a large pinhead grouped together on a mudflat? Sand bubbler crabs roll the sand into balls while searching for nutrients. You have to look carefully in their patterns to see these crabs as they are well camouflaged, unlike the bold spaceship bodies of the soldiers. Soldier crabs march forwards in large numbers so birds think t
The Old Boiler!hey are drifting sand, not a tasty morsel.  While in the marina, colourful red and grey painted rock crabs, the size of a fifty cent Soldier CrabsBubbler crab camouflagedpiece, caught our attention. Unlike the sand bubblers or soldiers, they can't dig their way into the security of the sand to hide, so when threatened they scurry into the safety of a rock crevice.

Our first visitors aboard Adagio were our old friends Mary and Russell who joined us at Urangan. The boys have known each other since primary school.  One has gone on to fly large jet planes across the world's oceans, while the other is a keen "silver" sailor who limits his travels to Australian waters.  Communication and travel in today's world would astound our grandparents. Within a twenty four hour period I emailed Russell in LA who picked up a book I had been trying to source. He then flew a plane to Melbourne, took another plane to Brisbane, drove to the Gold Coast, picked up his wife and then drove five hours north to Urangan and handed me the book! He also brought fresh bread and veggies, which as any boatie knows are always greatly appreciated. Following an overnight stay in Urangan Marina at twice the cost and half the service of Tin Can Bay, we had a magnificent sail in ten knots of wind on a beam reach across the Great Sandy Straights and
Mary and Russell with Pete on Kingfisher Bay Beachup to Platypus Bay on the north west side of Fraser Island. The sun shone, our spirits were high and we had a great time catching up. After a walk along the pristine white sand, without another footprint to be seen, we enjoyed sundowners on the front deck, and a feed of delicious local scallops cooked in butter and garlic. The following day we motored down to Kingfisher Bay with the wind on the nose.  It was mother's day, and it was lovely to get phone calls from all my boys who are spread around the country. We took the dinghy in shore and while exploring the resort and its surrounds found out it was Bird Week on Fraser Island. This explained the large telephoto lenses attached to enthusiastic bush walkers, with their ears alert and heads tilted skywards as they walked past us.  Their program included dawn bird walks, hikes, night walks, sketching, painting, photography classes, workshops on biodiversity, conservation, bird identification and so on.  I explored the option of sitting in on a couple of photography classes, and luckily was accepted.  We enjoyed a farewell smorgasbord Sunday roast together at the resort with our crew, and the next morning my poor old captain took his first mate into shore at 'sparrow fart' to join Darran Leal and his five students on a 4WD tour to the other side of the island.  It's never easy to leave a boat quietly, especially at 6am, and it was lovely to see Mary up on deck to bid me farewell. Four hours later the heavens opened and Peter had all of Adagio's wet weather gear in use so he could deliver our friends to the ferry wharf as dry as possible.  We later had an email from Russell saying "company priceless, ferry trip free".  Seemingly as most passengers make the return trip, they only have the facility to collect money when you board in Urangan.  

Photography has always been a passion of mine. I am an intuitive photographer who tries to be artistic and tell a story with my images. Until a few days ago I had no idea what an ISO, AP, SP or even an EV was. I've now joined the modern world of acronym jargon, and talk another language. My poor old brain is in overload, trying to keep my subject matter artistic and interesting, while calculating the best film speed, film sensitivity, aperture opening related to speed of shot and white balance. Added to the melting pot are words jumbling around trying to describe what I am seeing (something that has happened since I've taken to blogging). Meanwhile I also think about how I can change what I am seeing into an art piece on the computer later with the use of sepia, light variances with graduation filtering i.e. making some parts of a photo lighter or darker, cropping, layering, panorama, montage, vignarettes (a wash with light) and so the list goes on.  I'm also trying to physically change how I take my photos, becoming more contorted than ever to get the right angle and subtlety of light while shooting on continuous for single shots, i.e. barely touching the button, so I am at the ready for moving birds, whales etc. My polarising lens has taken a back seat in my camera bag, and is only being used when shooting directly through water and I now remove my UV lens to avoid light spotting when I take sunsets and sunrises.  A whole new world has opened up, and I am only just beginning.  You know what they say about a little knowledge is dangerous. My days of point and shoot are over, I am now a born again photographer, and I have Darran Leal to thank for it.

Helen photographing the pythonOur photogenic model flashing it's blue tongue!The five of us hopped into two 4WDs with Darran and ranger Chris driving us across to the other side of the island. Darran runs photographic tours to exotic places like Namibia, Madagascar, Patagonia and even Antarctica, so as you can imagine this was no ordinary 4WD trip. Chris stopped his vehicle half way across the island and walked into the bush.  The boys came back with a large python which they draped over a forked stick on the dirt road, and our first lesson began.  I have a confession to share; I am not that keen on snakes, especially large ones. However all fear was forgotten, as I nestled with the others for the shoot.  It was amazing to see at close proximity the beautiful colouring of the python's scales and its forked blue tongue as it sent out a warning. The key was to capture the eye in focus, and the rest followed. Our super model was a very patient one, until it was picked up to be returned to the wild. I am here to tell you when they bite they draw blood. Darran now has the scar to prove it. He's handled these creatures many times, but on this occasion it somehow moved out of its stranglehold and struck. He assured us it didn't hurt too much, although I'm not so sure.

This was bird week, so our focus once we reached the beach turned to our less fearsome feathered friends. Oh what fun we had driving through the tide line close to flocks of crested terns that were scouring the wet sand for small fish. Their dappled reflections in the water were captivating. We looked for patterns within the group, and tried to focus on one particular bird as the waves came in, so we could catch it in flight. There was lots of darting to and fro as we, along with the birds, took flight to higher ground when the waves approached. Helen and I became very pally in the back seat as we leant over each other to take photos out open windows as the car moved from left to right.  Every good teacher has a prop to demonstrate a point.  Darran's was a nautilus shell which he placed on the sand.  We leaned down into the wet sand to capture the shell in the foreground. A good lesson was learnt, to wear old clothes, and wait until the sand dries before brushing yourself down. The sand had an artistic pattern of black swirling rutile through it with a grey cloudy sky in the background.  As well as making the shell Crested terns in flightCrested terns forming an interesting pattern.Nautilus shell.White faced heron in flightappear larger by the angle and position we took it from, we also used a fill flash to highlight it as well.

A little later our subject was birds of prey, including a pair of sea eagles, and a wedge tailed eagle chasing a whistling kite. We adventurously drove quickly along the beach chasing them in flight. Suddenly we'd stop, jump onto the sand with our telephoto lenses poised, and then just as quickly hop aboard again to continue the pursuit. Helen managed to take a good shot of one with a mouse it had captured as it swept down into the scrub next to the beach.  Photography is all about the timing, whether it be action shots, position of light or angle of subject. Our less energetic efforts included pursuing a pair of lapwing plovers and a pair of pied oyster catchers with the car slowly moving around them as the explored the incoming tide for their night's dinner. The debris along the shoreline provided us with some interesting photographic subjects.  We saw plastic containers and shoes from Asia, a drink bottle with a lid advertising the recent Olympic Games in Beijing, a computer screen encrusted with barnacles, wooden transport pallets and sadly a reminder of the cycle of life, several dead gannets and mutton birds.  As the tide receded we drove along to the wreck of the turbo steamer Maheno which was washed ashore in a cyclone in 1935.  Here we took interesting photos using its rusty decaying structure to frame the natural beauty beyond. This was our turning point, it had been a long day and it was time to return back to the resort, happy but exhausted.  

The next day I took a four hour work shop where we were shown how to transfer and change our images into artistic works of art. Pete appeared at the classroom door in an oversized wet weather jacket, with water dripping from his hair and body to pick me up. The heavens had opened and I was so mesmerised in what I was learning that I hadn't even noticed.  After fond farewells and expressions of gratitude, I donned my yac
Platypus Bay, Fraser Islandhtie cap again and headed back to our little world on the sea.

 The following morning we began our migration northwards. We anchored at two locations in Platypus Bay. Both places weSparkling sand and water of Platypus Bay. had to ourselves, and the swimming was great, but not so the walks on shore.  A couple of days after a full moon midgies can become unbearable. Hundreds surrounded our bodies and faces once we reached the shore, and for something so tiny, they can sure punch a wallop. Their bites are itchy, and take a week or so to disappear. So it was time for us to disappear as well.  

We had previously travelled close to the coast along this part of the world, but the weather patterns predicted lighter winds, so we decided to travel up the reef system towards Great Keppel Island.  We left at dawn and travelled eleven hours under motor, before finally anchoring off Lady Elliot Island, where an eco resort is located. Our guide books talked of anchorages in nine metres depth where you could clearly see that your anchor avoided coral. Sadly the resort has taken over those areas now for their dive boats, and the best we could do was drop the pick in eighteen metres. The cay is surrounded by coral, so it's never comfortable to anchor in these types of locations in deep water.  It's a pretty island, reminiscent of Low Isles with its red and white lighthouse. Huge manta rays came to greet us as we sat on the deck enjoying the sunset. Lighthouse on Lady Elliot IslandSadly we missed seeing it close up. We were exhausted and not happy about leaving the boat to venture into shore. I believe it is a popular island to visit during the summer period to observe turtles laying eggs, and later watch their hatchlings emerge and make their way down to the water. Although there was only ten knots of wind, the slop was uncomfortable, and at first light we lifted the pick and headed off to Lady Musgrave.

We had a good morning's sail in a 15 knot sou' wester on a beam reach. The weather was much improved, and visibility was good when we reached the lagoon at Musgrave. I stood on the front deck holding onto the forestay, with eyes pierced, looking through my polaroids to the water below. There is a narrow mile long passage which weaves among the coral leading you to a suitable anchorage in the lagoon.  The day was glorious, one of those perfect winter days with the sun shining, and not much breeze. It was Saturday, so many day trippers had brought their small boats out to the island for the day. We were tired from little sleep during the past thirty six hours, so decided to enjoy the peace and tranquillity on the boat and wait to head into shore in the morning.  The National Parks boat was anchored nearby, and they paid a courtesy call to give us maps and instructions about recreational use, including fishing restrictions, in the local area.  We asked about our anchorage, as there were some stronger winds forecast, and it was great to hear from them Adagio would be safe and secure as the sand was quite deep.

Six years ago we took a day boat out to the island, and dreamt that one day we would return in our own boat.  It is a national park and has very good snorkelling from the shore.  We ventured into the shore the next morning at low tide.  My captain, like a gondolier, stood in the dinghy and rowed me with one oar to the shore.  Who says old people can't be romantic!  We could see lots of sea cucumbers and blue stars through the clear water while a yellow fish with large orange spots quickly swam away as our shadow went over the top of it.  The sand is very corally, and sandals are essential.  There is a track through the middle of the island over to the other side where there is a camping area.  The track weaves through a forest of pisonia trees, home to hundreds and hundreds of sooty terns.  We stopped to talk with a couple who had walked the track the night before. They said it felt very eerie as dozens of black birds flew around them, like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. While we were talking, Peter bent down to remove a large leaf from of his sandal. Little did he know he had disturbed a large caterpillar hitchhiking on his shoe, and in response it bit him.  It took quite a few hours for the swelling and pain to subside. We later read an instruction to campers to check their sleeping bags as there is a colony of them near the camping area.  
Dinghy at anchor on the coral shoreline at Lady Musgrave Island.
Track marks made by turtle hatchlings
Pete's agressor.We took the path again the next day, with eyes glued to the ground not the trees this time.  A couple of campers told us they had watched a turtle hatchling make its way down the sand that morning. Turtle eggs have usually hatched by the end of April, so they had a very special treat indeed.  I managed to take a photo of its track, and hoped the large bird footprints nearby were made at a different time. On the way back to the boat we saw our first turtle.  We then sat on the front deck and watched two sea eagles gathering twigs for Sunset at Lady Musgrave Islandthe nest they were building high in one of the pisonia trees.  

Once the strong winds abated, we lifted anchor and headed off on another twelve hour motor along the reef system. OurNorth West Island destination last night was North West Island.  It's the largest island in this group, and briefly the sun shone onto it as we approached our anchorage and to give us a glimpse of its beauty.  It had been a very wet trip, and quite tiring as we have to constantly look out for boats in the grey around us.

There are some days when you wonder, how could so much happen in such a short space of time.  We were up at first light after a rolly night and were greeted by a collection of feathers under our canvas covers. It appears we'd had a couple of stowaways during last night's storm. North West Island is a popular camping spot, but given the weather conditions further south and the rolling we had experienced, we decided to wait until another time to visit its shores.  We wanted to make headway to more sheltered waters. Meanwhile Brisbane was experiencing it's worst storms and flooding in thirty years, while Fraser Island where we were a few days ago was being lashed with gale force winds. Today the wind was at a better angle, the rain had stopped, and we hoisted our sails and headed northwards.  No sooner had we left than Pete's AIS system on the computer alerted us that we were on a potential collision course with a huge tanker.  As we approached nearer Tanker before it turned towards us.Pete called the boat up on the VHF radio to give their captain a courtesy call telling him of our intention to cross astern of the boat.  The fellow spoke a foreign language, and only seemed to understand numbers and the word 'astern'.  All was going well until ten minutes later when he changed his course and headed straight at us. Pete moved the boat on sixpence, and changed our direction to avoid a collision. Our mast would have hardly made a scratch on their antifouling paint, and this blog would never have been finished.  Thank goodness for my clear thinking captain. We settled back, took a few deep breaths, and were just getting back into the rhythm of the sail when clunk, something dropped from half way up the mast, landed loudly on the deck and then bounced over the side. We found we had lost the attachment to one of the batten cars that are used to haul the mainsail up the mast.  Pete replaced it temporarily with a shackle that fitted perfectly, and we sa
id to each other, it can only get better from here, and it did. The clouds disappeared, our solar panels smiled as the sun shone on them, and the mood of the captain and first mate improved as we sailed across calm seas to one of our favourite spots, Great Keppel Island.  We'll spend the next couple of days enjoying her beauty then head into Roslyn Bay Marina to prepare for next half of our trip to the Whitsundays.
Adagio safely at anchor at Great Keppel Island.