To Demonstrate Just How Easy This Is…

I will copy a feature out of TCP issue # 37 and paste it in parts on this page. The object of this is to save the page within 10 minutes or less. So, here we go…..

Refuge Bay at Scawfell Island


Story & Photos by Jan Forsyth,

SY Sea Wanderer


Through a curtain of mist that shrouds the coast around Mackay, we sail out from a soft grey world.  Mist swirls around the boat but it is short lived once the shelter of the mainland is left behind.  The turbulence hits and with the headsail and mizzen set we surge ahead.  Scawfell Island, our destination is a remote shadow on the horizon.


  Green water rolls over the bow. It is rough and getting rougher, but, the thrill of being at sea again outweighs any discomfort.  The protected cockpit keeps us safe from the turmoil outside, 25-knot winds are raging off the starboard beam, and we feel the boat heave on the swell

 as we surf along at a great pace.  I feel free and exhilarated to be on the sea again away from the noise and flurry that is life on land.  Although we always look forward to a stretch in a good marina, we are always pleased to leave when the time comes.  The boat is well balanced and the trusty TMQ autopilot, nicknamed FRED, (Flipping Ripper Electronic Device) handles the uncomfortable conditions with ease.


  Refuge Bay on the north side of Scawfell Island is our destination, a 28-mile trip and we are both pleased to be able to sail rather than have to use the motor.


  Nothing appeals to the senses more than the whoosh of the wind in the sails as it pushes the yacht along rather than having to listen to a motor that hammers away below  dulling all power of thought. 


  Unlike me, the boat is in her element sliding gracefully across the troubled sea. While I'm tucked up in the cockpit trying to keep my breakfast down, and fighting the  nausea that comes after too long a time in a marina and a few too many sundowners the night before.  I am grateful that we are not setting out on a long ocean cruise, as I am not physically ready.  It will take a number of days at sea for the body to adjust from the stability of the marina to a world of constant movement.


  We arrive at the anchorage after nearly four hours of hard sailing.  The bay, deep blue and peaceful, is protected from the south easterlies that reign in April.  As I drop the mizzen I look up at the high granite rocks and thick foliage that clings in colourful abandon around the edges of this imposing bay.  I wonder if the rock face would be accessible as the view from the top would be supreme, but the thought of scaling up is not in the least appealing to me. 


  The anchor is carefully set after a number of unsuccessful attempts, which take about 20 minutes, driving me mad with impatience at the wheel, but with a conscientious skipper who likes to make sure the anchor is properly set so the boat won't drag, I have to contain my frustration and follow orders. He is immune to my crankiness anyway, taking no notice of any suggestion that he is “taking far too long” and “why do we have to go round the bay again?”


  We are out of the constant wind but not the roaring bullets that shoot down the rocky gullies. Some gusts must be up to 50 knots but we settle in comfortably and the skipper is content that we are safely anchored.

  Time to relax and take in the scene, the thrashing and crashing from the trip over has taken its toll so we rest for a couple of hours in the cockpit. I look up at the landscape with its huge granite boulders clinging precariously to the cliff and marvel at the beauty of this imposing island.  We watch from the cockpit as friends drop anchor close by and when we get together a little later a plan is formed to climb to the top of the granite cliffs.  I am silent with dread at the thought of clambering up to the top, but to decline would be a cop out, so I reluctantly agree.   


  The trusty 3-metre tinny takes us ashore after our rest, the wheels are lowered to pull it high up on the white sandy beach, out of range from the incoming tide.  I take a deep breath as I look up at the granite face we are about to climb, mumble something about wishing I'd stayed on board, and begin.   No easy feat, I find that I'm sadly out of shape as I heave myself up trying to locate crumbling footholds with straining leg muscles and shaking feet. 


  The others race up way ahead of me, but I am happy to be left behind as no one can see my slipping and sliding as I try to grasp the unforgiving granite.  Sweat rolls from my forehead into my eyes, a branch snaps as I grab hold and I slip back down.  By now the others are up on the top.  I have to rest a moment after making a tremendous effort to reach the half way mark.  Pressing my body against the warm rock, I try to scale higher, in some places reaching above my head for a hand grip, and then slipping back down to the ledge that I'd just left.  It takes all my perseverance and concentration to make the top.


But wow!  The view is worth every scratch and aching muscle when I finally haul myself over the last ledge and sit on top of the world to take in the vista below. 

I forget for a while that I have to get back down as I gaze out over the bay at the stunning scene and the yachts resting at anchor way down below on an azure quilt.  It is a relieved feeling of accomplishment to be there looking down from where we have come but this feeling is short lived as if I thought the climb up the cliff was difficult, the scramble down via a dry creek bed  to the beach was deadly.


  We moved off for the downward journey after I had collected my breath and steadied my racing pulse. The creek bed, embellished with small boulders and what

 I imagined would be waterfalls when it rained tried its best to kill me.  Slipping and sliding down over rubble and rock, I had to grab hold of overhanging branches to save me from falling.  With my feet pressed against the rock face, trying desperately to maintain a grip, while in some places I just had to sit down and slid on my bottom to the next ledge, thankful there was no gushing water.


Scratched and exhausted I finally arrived back on the beach, where the others were already recuperating.  Plunging into the cool water I soon recovered and felt a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and was damn glad I still had life and limb.


  The next day dawned, presenting a repeat of the day before's weather; 0645 and we are ready to dive for dinner.  Our friends pick us up in their inflatable and we're off for a hair-raising ride hanging on for grim death as we zoom over the wind-swept bay and around the point looking

 for a good dive spot.   I found it great to

 be back in the water after five long months ashore, and although my wounds of the day before protested at another new activity, it was only a matter of minutes before I felt completely at ease and ready to explore the underwater world of the island.


  Visibility was marginal and there were very few spearable fish about but I didn't care I was in my element chasing fish and feeling weightless.  My skipper, an experienced diver, armed with spear gun, stalks the reef and rocks in order to find

our dinner.  I move off on my own to explore rather than hunt.  I hover over a rocky community of industrious fish,  pecking away at the rock that feeds and protects them, while others dart in and out chasing intruders that dare to invade their territory, while still others stop at a fish cleaning station to allow a cleaner fish to remove their parasites.


   I am not in the least bit interested in spearing fish, I'd much rather observe their antics while imposing in their territory. However, once they are on the plate or BBQ, I don't complain as long as I don't have to kill them.   Meanwhile the skipper manages to bring in the first good size coral trout, his sheer determination makes him a success in the water and we soon have enough fish for both boats.


  After lunch, the wind drops so we clamber into the tinny to explore the island from the water.  Around to the windward side where giant boulders graduate to small stones covering the beach, it is still far to rough to linger, but I can see that without the choppy conditions it would be another attractive anchorage. 


  Motoring back, the engine slows and we find it is overheating; we have to stop. The wind is increasing and I begin to worry that we will have trouble rowing back to the boat.  However, the trusty skipper puts on his mechanics hat, tinkers a little, swears a little more and we are mobile, I put the oars to bed thankfully and we are under power again. 


  Our friends Craig and Karen roar over in their dinghy soon after we return, they report breathlessly that turtle hatchlings

are racing down the beach; do we want to watch?  We jump into their dinghy and hang on for dear life as Craig only knows one speed  flat out!  We skim over the top of the waves into shore and there they are - tiny turtles scampering over the sand and down the beach to the water.  I wonder in amazement how they know their way to the sea from way back over the dunes.  When they hit the water, they swim like hell to who knows where; dozens of them reach the water without mishap, as we are standing guard protecting them from the hungry birds that soar with agitated frustration above us. 


  Gently I grab a couple of babies for photographs and inspect their perfection then softly place them on the sand to continue their rapid pursuit to their new

and treacherous home.  Craig spots a dark shape hovering out in the water; waiting for dinner I presume, however it is too murky to distinguish the fate of the babies, we can't protect them in that element; the sea only allows the strongest to survive.  


   After three days in this captivating anchorage where there was much to discover and explore, we up anchor and set our course for the next adventure.  For us sea gypsies it is time to face the gales and squalls once again on route to Brampton Island. We say a sad farewell to our friends who must return to their life on land in Mackay.  Who knows when we will meet again?


There…. Successful! Ready to up load. Less than 10 minutes. I did have the photos in other files in my computer of the right size. This page was done just as you would a normal page except I do prefer to use the tables, and then I went to .. file>save as>webpage.. that’s all!  


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