How many people get to live their dreams? I am..........!

This is my story from the time when Capt'n John and I first decided to sail around the big block, to circumnavigate this great land of ours, AUSTRALIA.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Sail to Pearl Bay

Tuesday 15th May 2012
Pearl Bay
22’26.601 E – 150’ 44.000 S
Very cool morning, 10/15knt SSW wind, seas SE 1mt, swell ESE 1mt

Keppel Island at sunrise, as we sail away heading north

It is a very cool morning as AR slips out of the Keppel Bay Marina bound for Pearl Bay some 40 odd nautical miles north up the coast. MrJ is wearing his heavy jumper and I have my knitted beanie under my sailor’s hat; we are both wearing our long track suits and the wind chill factor is keeping me cold.

Three other boats are leaving just after us; I hear their call to Coast Guard on the radio some time after I had called in. I have seen two more boat on the horizon but too far away to make out who they are.

MrJ and I have the genoa out and are travelling alone very nicely at 5knts. As we get further along, past the shallows of Roslyn Bay, the swell turns more easterly and the seas have increased in size a little making our passage lumpy. Two boats pass us using the wing-on-wing technique to catch more following wind which can make a boat get along a bit faster but it does not necessarily make the ride any better. The two boats know each other. Maybe the skippers were having a bit of a race? You know what they say – “if there are two boats out there on the sea then it is a race”. Haha!

By early afternoon MrJ steers AR through the rocky inlet between the South Hervey Islands and the unnamed mainland headland east of Mt Gibraltar and into Pearl Bay which opens up to long golden beaches back by lush green wooded hills. We are following another boat in.
Military Training Area on the coast
Pearl Bay is part of the Army’s Shoalwater Bay training area (SWBTA). The Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area encompasses 454,500 hectares (4,545 km²), which includes the Warginburra Peninsula, the Torilla Peninsula east of the Stanage Bay Road, Townshend and Leicester Islands, and a sizable chunk of the Shoalwater Bay hinterland north of the village of Byfield. Suggestions that the Shoalwater Bay region be acquired for the purpose of a training ground first appeared in 1960. The army formally took control of the land on 1 July 1965; by the following year, the last landholder had vacated his property. The training area was used by troops who were deployed to the Vietnam War.

In 2005 the federal government entered into a long-term agreement with the US over the use of Shoalwater Bay for military training purposes. Similar agreements over a shorter time span have been agreed to with the Singapore Ministry of Defense.

Military exercises with the United States have aroused considerable controversy in the Rockhampton-Yeppoon area, due to the threat of environmental damage to the Shoalwater Bay region. In recent years, concern has been raised about the possibility of depleted uranium weaponry been used during training exercises at Shoalwater Bay.  Peace activists protesting Exercise Talisman Saber were arrested in 2009.

Support for a permanent US presence has been expressed by the Rockhampton mayor, Brad Carter in 2011, and by former mayor, Margaret Strelow.

On another note and more environmentally friendly: The bay its self contains one of the most important sea grass habitats in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. A plan of management for the bay's dugong population was released in 1997 to protect the dugong population and reduce impacts on the sea grass meadows.

A 483 km2 area of the bay and its surrounds, covering all the habitat types suitable for migratory waders, or shorebirds, has been identified by Bird Life International as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it supports over 1% of the world populations of Pied Oystercatchers, Far Eastern Curlews and Grey-tailed Tattlers, and over 1% of the East Asian - Australasian Flyway populations of Bar-tailed Godwits, Whimbrels and Terek Sandpipers. It also contains populations of Beach Stone-curlews and Mangrove Honeyeaters.
(information taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Heading into Pearl Bay
There is already another boat, a French boat, in the bay; looks like a small family as we see their dinghy ashore and the children are running up and down one of the beaches. Later that afternoon a dinghy pulls up alongside AR and I am surprised and please to find the skipper, Jean-Michel, and one of the crew, Jonathan, off the French Boat (I think it was call something like Heregre or Hereger).

MrJ suggests (I use the term lightly) that I go out and greet them because I can understand them much better than he. Yeah right and I do speak French – NOT...!

I welcomed them on board; Jean-Michel spoke very good English with a thick French accent (lucky for me) and Jonathan had a popper English accent. These seafarers were from New Caledonia where most people can speak French and English and some people can also speak in a native language. On their boat is Jean-Michel and his family, wife Nauel (I think), children, Johan and Oceane and crew/friend Jonathan. The old brain is not that good – my remembrance and spelling of the names may not be totally correct.

Jean-Michel was asking MrJ and me about the weather and was interested in any reports that we may have as his VHF radio had not been getting good reception. Jean-Michel was also interested in any chart that we could help him with as far as going any further north; he only had a couple of chart of the eastern QLD coast and they did not have a great amount of close up detail. Jean-Michel and his family are heading for Cairns where they will be clearing out of Australia, unless they can get an extension of their visas, and heading for Papua New Guinea on route home.

Why these people sort us out amongst four other boats is a delightful mystery; maybe because we were anchor near them at Great Keppel Island or maybe they think we are great people.

I will believe the later!

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