Pancake Creek to Mackay

Our 3 night stay in Pancake Creek was very relaxing, so much so that we didn’t even get the tinny down. We fished a lot from the cockpit but it became very frustrating as all we caught were Puffer Fish, so eventually we gave up and resorted to my fish stocks in the freezer. Our plans were to await the arrival of our friend, Royce, delivering another Seawind, 1160 Yaminda to the Whitsundays for charter work.

He arrived at 7.30am with a crew of 4 weary men, who were looking for the Cafe that served Muffins and Coffee! (The stories that Royce tells!!!) Our fenders were out ready for them to tie alongside. This was their first stop since leaving Sanctuary Cove Boat Show, Southport a few days ago and they were looking forward to a short break. Calm waters and sunshine was a relief to a couple who were feeling a little green even though it was fairly


Pancake Creek provides shelter to many boats on their annual pilgrimage to dodge the cold of the southern states. It is sheltered from the Northerly wind and waves at low tide as the sand banks dry and provide protection. And excellent whilst the prevailing Sou’ Easters blow.

The weather forecast for the next few days was ideal for our 41nm trip East to Lady Musgrave Island. It was a perfect day, light winds, flat seas and as Yaminda followed us out of the creek I took some great photos. Only a few miles from the island we crossed paths with a tanker, we slowed to allow it to pass, and we were very lucky to see dolphins playing off it’s bulb. They would swim up and then jump high above the bulb! Just amazing!

Lady Musgrave is an island with a coral reef surrounding it (2nm wide by 3nm long), there is an entrance into a lagoon that is well marked to allow safe anchorage amongst the coral bommies. There were 10 yachts already anchored in the lagoon and we had to pick our spot between them and the bommies. There was only enough time before the sun began to set to pour our drinks and take up our favourite position on the foredeck to witness one of many island sunsets, breath taking!! Orange, pinks and yellows!!

We spent our days exploring the reef with the tinny, just making it across the reef for a short fishing trip one day where we hand scooped a Moreton Bug, unfortunately it had been maimed by something bigger and was destined to be dinner for someone that day! So it may as well be us!

To stretch our legs we walked around the island and met the crew of La Rochelle, a catamaran from Sydney, who were also exploring. A small world, we have friends in common! Later that afternoon we visited their boat, and enjoyed fresh hot Chocolate Muffins that Louise had baked. They then followed us back to see our boat.
As a strong South westerly change was due late tomorrow we left the following morning for the trip back to Pancake Creek. This time we anchored just inside the creek to enable a quick getaway early tomorrow. As the tinny was still down we were able to troll our lures over the rocky shelf that lines the headland. We caught lots of Estuary Cod, one big enough for dinner!

At 5.30am the alarm woke us and very quickly we completed our pre – trip checks, made a cuppa and were underway. The seas were calm with light winds for our trip to Gladstone and then up the Narrows between Curtis Island and the mainland. It was 16nm before we reached the shipping channel, then following the markers we moved between Facing Island and the city of Gladstone. It was a hive of activity aboard the ships that were tied to the wharves being loaded. This is one of the major shipping ports on the east coast. The ships that were parked off the coast were visible from Pancake Creek. Upon entering the area with the shipping leads it is necessary to radio Port Control and request permission to navigate the area otherwise a huge fine (approx $10,000!!) will result.

It was a very pretty trip through a mangrove lined channel, whilst keeping an extra

lookout for a whale and her baby that were seen 2 days ago in Graham Creek. Our local knowledge came from Greg and Leonie, Nordhavn enthusiasts and they advised us to wait at the last port marker before the first drying banks for the top of the tide before proceeding. We anchored and enjoyed our lunch sitting in the cockpit getting a good dose of Vitamin D. 
It wasn’t long before a trawler came and anchored to windward of us and Alan came to tell me our ‘leader’ had arrived! Local fisherman, local knowledge and someone we could follow closely! As soon as he bought up his anchor we were on his tail, he gave us a friendly wave to acknowledge us to follow him! This made our journey nearly stress free! We followed him closely at times I had to pull back on the revs as we would have ended up his tail! Then, black smoke came from his exhaust and he slowed, more smoke and then I realised it was because we were wiping our bum on the sand/mud!! A few more revs to get us through, we were up to 2500 rpm at one stage as we crawled through the 6nm of shallow water! Once into deep water again there was a sigh of relief from us both. A wave from the fisherman to tell us we would be right from here on! Alan tried to thank him but he pointed to his ears! Can’t hear!! Obviously many, many years in his wheelhouse with no insulation has caused it! Greg suggested Badger Creek anchorage for the night; it had a good fishing hole out the front and was a great creek to put the crab pots in.

He was right although all we only caught was a ‘Jenny’ (slang for female mud crab), illegal to keep in Queensland when we pulled the pots at 6am next morning. Then back to the boat in search of another creek that may be full of males. Whilst underway we had a big breakfast of Bacon, Eggs, and Mushrooms, these early mornings are making us very hungry! The Narrows spill out into Keppel Bay in a maze of shifting sandbars as does the Fitzroy River(from Rockhampton) and just before the area widens we found Barker Creek and decided to anchor there. Again we went straight to put the pots in the mangroves upstream. Our best Mud Crab hint – Check pots every couple of hours. 

This all happened before 8.30am!! It was a hectic day as I did several loads of washing, we went out trolling along the edges of the creek and checked the pots constantly all day! By sundown we were racing back to the boat to get the washing in before the dampness fell. Our bucket had 4 huge muddies, several Skipjack and a few salmon, not a bad days work! Needless to say we fell asleep very quickly that night!

Next morning the crab count had gone to 6! Hooray! Crab salad for lunch at Great Keppel Island! We are now inside the Great Barrier Reef and it is dotted with numerous islands, that appear to poke out from nowhere. The government and National Parks have put more Green Zones in place, so we are constantly watching for them on the chartplotter and putting the fishing lines out and pulling them in to avoid being in trouble.

It was 32nm(5hrs) to Great Keppel Island from Barker Creek , it was very tranquil and protected from the SW winds when we arrived and a tropical vision to behold(crystal blue water, sandy beaches and palm trees). There was a metre swell coming in from the north which made this anchorage not so pleasant. After a cruise along the northern shore of the island we headed 8nm east to Rosslyn Bay boat harbour where we were to meet up with Heidi and Wolfgang Hass, owners of Nordhavn 46, Kanaloa from Germany with their little dog, Zulu on board. Our supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables were getting very low so I would be able to use the Marinas Courtesy car to drive to Yeppoon shopping centre tomorrow. We found Heidi and Wolfgang before they took Zulu for a walk around the beaches. They visited us after their walk for Happy Hour. An extremely interesting and very knowledgeable couple who have completed 3 circumnavigations of the world! We were able to show them our favourite spots down south as they are heading there after finishing their engine overhaul.

We quietly sneaked out of Rosslyn Bay the next morning at 5.45am, just on dawn, with a light Southerly blowing and calm seas. Clear of the green zones the lines went out and we caught 3 good sized School Mackerel around 10.30am so the vacuum packer came out and I filled our freezer. We are still trying to stay with our plan of only doing day hops north! So with this in mind we went the 44nm to Port Clinton. We heard constant radio warnings from the VMR regarding the closed state of the Shoalwater Bay Military Area. Thankfully they were allowing access into the southern arm for recreational vessels to anchor, but that didn’t stop us from hearing the bombs in the background on our arrival. We followed the headland around staying well inside the broadcast coordinates and anchoring out the front of a little creek lined with mangroves, mud crab country!

We swung into action in the tinny, first set the pots then traced our track back to the point where we found a deep 40m hole on the way in. Here I wanted to try a new deep water jig that I had purchased. Deep water jigging involves dropping the jig to the bottom, then winding up while pulling the rod up and down in a jerking motion! Good exercise! It didn’t take long for me to catch a small mackerel which we threw back. 2nd try and I had a massive bite that had the line whistling out by the metres, I’d reel it back and it would take it out more!! The fight went on for 30mins before I saw colour and boy was it a big one! I continued the fight with Alan watching and asking if he could help! Hell NO!!! But eventually I had to let him as I had already worn through the skin on my thumb and my arms felt like they were going to come out of their sockets. By now the fish had made a few trips to the surface and it was a Northern Bluefin Tuna, 4ft long and weighing approx 40-60 kg. That was Alans’ estimate, mine would have been more!! 10 more minutes fighting and then the line broke and he went free with a little added jewellery! A few laughs and the decision to call it a day after checking the crab pots had us back at the boat just before dark, very exhausted with 2 x 1.7kg mud crabs. Not a bad effort!

The current ran very fast all night. We waited for daylight before retrieving the pots and weighing the anchor ready for the journey north. From the southern headland we had to go due east to clear the Military Zone bombing range before heading north.

Our preferred anchorage tonight would have been Island Head Creek but due to the closure of the area we had to continue. Running parallel to the coast 10nm out we were still able to hear the bombs as well as seeing them. We had 2 choices when we reached Cape Townsend, Thirsty Sound to the west 36nm or 31nm north to the Percy Islands. So Percy Islands it was decided due to the fact we had to be in Mackay by Sunday anyway! To do this distance at the current revs would have us anchoring in the dark, so we increased the revs to 1800. The SW wind started blowing up throughout the day to 25knts with the seas rising to 1-2m. Just before the sun went down we anchored in Rocky Shelf Bay on Sth Percy Island after completing the 64nm voyage.

Safe from the wind but still a Nor’ Easterly swell, so the paravains went down, but this was a bigger swell and we still experienced rolling throughout the night. We are having bigger flopper stoppers made and can’t wait until they arrive in Mackay. Thankyou Gary!

In the early hours of the morning we were still rolling and decided to have breakfast and leave at first light for Digby Island only 20nm north west of the Percy Is. We approached and experienced 30 plus knots as we neared the small islands surrounding it. Slowly making our way into the bay through a narrow passage with a strong current coming out, we saw a yacht anchored closer to shore. We decided to see how much the yacht was rolling before we made our decision! And sure enough the yacht was rolling from side to side and the crew were on land, after circling the bay we took off in search of a quiet night’s sleep in Mackay Marina.

As we neared Mackay the wind and waves abated and the rest of the trip was very comfortable whilst navigating around the 50 vessels awaiting a berth at Hay Point that formed a city at sea. Their lights came on as the sun set beyond Mackay and we made our way into the Marina and found our berth.

Life is always hectic while we are in port, every day has been busy. We have met lots of people, dined out at our favourite ‘fish and chip’ restaurant as well as eating at a new restaurant, BURP!,

in Wood Street Mackay. It was a 5 star food and service experience, a totally enjoyable evening. Thoroughly recommended! I have also spent a lot of time with relatives living here. Ruth has 5 children, Luis 9 yrs, Zack and Elijah 7 yrs, and Bella Mia and Micah 2 yrs. Yes that is two sets of twins. She has her hands full. I have really enjoyed my time with her and the tribe!

Meanwhile almost 2 weeks have past and the strong South Easterlies are still blowing, every day! Barry and Lyn Hunt have arrived after completing their trip on the Canning Stock Route. Their intention was to come aboard for a few days as we head to the beautiful Whitsundays, but the wind doesn’t seem to be letting up, so for now we stay tied to the dock!
P.S Apologies everyone for the placement of photos and text, the website formatting tool has gone haywire on me!!! Not Happy!

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