Social butterflies and outcasts

This week has been very social at the Sandhills, but we felt the weight of history as we returned to Peel Island, a place for outcasts in the past. So let us recount what we have been up to.

This is a satellite image of the area we are in:

Moreton Bay

Socials at the Sandhills

The Sandhills at the SW end of Moreton Island are a beautiful setting for festivities and for being social.

Little Sandhill with its patterns of seagrass

We celebrated New Year’s Eve with friends on catamarans Waterfront and Skedaddle for a progressive dinner, then coffee and treats on New Year’s Day. It was all the more fun that we had not planned this, we simply happened to meet up at the Sandhills anchorage. And guess what, we actually were up for the New Year count down… well okay we cheated! We watched the fireworks on Sydney Harbour on TV as we were doing the dishes! They are an hour earlier than Queensland. It’s a good trick for us old codgers!

Next came a visit to Moreton Bay Rock Oyster Farm which we had discovered while walking along the sandy track a few days earlier. We were on a mission to reach the farm by dinghy rather than on foot and buy a couple of dozen oysters for a tasty feed. Owners Wade McFagden and partner Sandy run 37 hectares over 8 oyster leases in the shallows at the southern end of Moreton Island. The Moreton Bay Rock Oysters are a species similar to the Sydney Rock Oysters, but with a flavour unique to their oceanic environment. These oysters are particularly fresh and rich, with a sweet and salty aftertaste, the best we have ever tasted.

One of the Oyster leases
The farm, hidden in the mangroves – we are heading back to the dinghy with the loot!

The bay is shallow and home to many critters including dugongs who feed on the sea grass and apparently some hammerhead sharks enjoying bottom feeding! We saw countless turtles, shovel nose sharks and rays; we spotted a dugong, but no hammerhead. We would love to go back with a bit more time at the right tide to have a look around.

We checked out the end of Kooringal at the very SW tip of Moreton Island. By boat from where we were you can only access the oyster farm and the gutter to Kooringal at high tide, even in just the dinghy. But it was fun to check the area. This is a very shallow part of the bay so we were not tempted to bring the big boat in there from the Sandhills end. We had visions of swimming around the “Cat Hole” with dugongs and rays, however the fantasy was quickly over when we got there. At this time of year the place is just too busy for our liking, with motor boats tightly packed in Indian file! Shallowness and crowds are two good reasons to wait for a less popular time to bring Anui there.

Finally after weeks of SE winds, we had two days of gentle sunny NE conditions which allowed us to fly the drone and show you what our week’s anchorage looked like from the air!

Panoramic of the Little Sandhill anchorage, looking south towards Kooringal and Crab Island
The Big Sandhill and the anchorage, looking north

Just after landing the drone, we saw this familiar monohull anchoring next to us: Gipsy, another unexpected get together! We rushed back to the oyster farm before the tide was too low, to get four dozen oysters for a sumptuous dinner on Anui with our friends Wendy and Alex we had not seen in a couple of years! Chris owes her increased interest in trying out new recipes to Wendy who is a wonderful cook. It goes without saying we had a sensational feed and catch up that night! The next day, it was all calm and sunny, perfect for a climb up the dune and a soak in the shallows together for a chat and cool down.

Peel Island’s grim history

But all good things come to an end. With thunderstorms and a forthcoming return to the SE, we raised anchor and sailed to Horseshoe Bay, Peel Island. Look at those mammatus clouds building up as we approach our next anchorage!

All sails down ready for the storm!

Horseshoe Bay was crowded when we arrived, but in our usual fashion, we sat at the western end, behind everybody. There was a spectacular light show with evening thunderstorms. We always get nervous with thunder and lightning but the worst of them were a fair way away. We had the laptops disconnected and trusted our lightning protection would do its magic!

The next day was grey but calm and half the bay emptied out of boats as we were all floating with our stern to the beach.

Horseshoe Bay, Peel Island from up high, looking north

We managed a walk ashore before the wind picked up. We had heard and read a lot about Peel Island’s history, hence the outcast part of the story.

The island used to be a quarantine station for Brisbane in the mid 19th century, then at the start of the 20th century it was an asylum for vagrants, and between 1907 and 1959 the island was a leper colony. People were treated appallingly and lived in squalid conditions.

We hoped to be able to see the old jetty and quarantine station. But as the only intact example of a multiracial lazaret in Australia it is now a protected heritage site. So we could not and wandered along the tracks where we were allowed. The heavy weight of history was present. You could not help but wonder how many lives had been destroyed, how many poor souls had been treated as pariahs.

Back to Canaipa

We are now sheltered at Canaipa with 20 knots blowing from the southeast for a change! We are here for a few days and will dinghy to Russell island for some fresh food before we move on.

Where to next? Who knows, it is hard to see very far ahead with this unseasonal weather!We are hoping to get back up, either to the very top of Moreton Island to head out to Flinders Reef, just a few miles north east of Cape Moreton or explore the passage between North Stradbroke and Moreton Islands. We will see how things pan out next week!

The social side of cruising certainly made us feel a little more positive this week. We still have that sense of being stranded but we have enjoyed some good company. Reconnecting with other yachties may allow us to cruise together during the next season. The Swains and Coral Sea Atolls are on the wish list!

15 thoughts on “Social butterflies and outcasts

  1. The drone photos are beautiful as always! Your weather is off a bit too? Our weather in Las Vegas is way off, we usually never see day after day of gray skies but a constant flow of low-pressure centers keeps coming ashore over California and the Pacific Northwest. I hope that your weather will improve, guys! Happy New Year! 😁🇦🇺

    • Hi John, yes the weather is out of whack. We are finding it hard to plan ahead! My sister in France in Toulouse was saying they had dinner out in the garden in the middle of winter because it was so warm… no snow! It’s everywhere and it is of our doing!

  2. Nice collection of social and culinary adventures! Amazing being able to spot a dugong …. Some Yolngu friends fed me with dugong and turtle in Arnhem Land years ago …. somehow didn’t seem right eating a vulnerable creature, tasted good though …

  3. Loved your story about the oyster farm and would truly cherish being able to taste the difference a particular site makes ! . . . And had no idea you would have so many ‘neighbours’ on the water . . . lovely to have some ‘real’ social contact . . . ! Trust the weeks to come will provide fresh ideas and opportunities to give a satisfied sigh at the end of the day . . . bestest . . .

    • Hello Eha… yes there is no escaping the crowds in the protected waters of Moreton Bay and at this time of year when everybody is on holidays! Glad you enjoyed the oyster story!

  4. Your photos with the drone are magnificent! I see that you had a chance to photograph butterflies. Once you got your medical results, I imagine that you’ll start planning your next itinerary. Take care, Chris. 🙂

    • Have HJ – medicals all good, we are waiting to get hauled out at the end of the month for annual maintenance and re-rigging. So it will be a while before we take off but we will be heading back to North Queensland.

  5. The Oysters sounded fantastic. The island and surrounding sea fascinating, loved the wildlife. Raining again in Sydney and the 3rd test against South Africa delayed. The summer is really a lost cause. Wind cold again and out with the winter gear.

    • Hi Sue, glad you enjoyed the post. The oysters were really special. We will go back for more before The Boatworks! The weather is so unpredictable and unseasonal we have given up on the idea of going to the Southern Reefs so hanging around Moreton Bay. It is a bit slow but we try to make the most of it.

  6. Despite weather and other delays, you are finding things of interest !
    Love you’re stories and photos. The oysters sound great; well done.
    Your mention of meeting up with “Skedaddle” reminds me of Brian Naylor & his TV mini-series. His Crowther? catamaran used to be berthed in Paynesville near where Take It Easy used to be.

    • Hi Doug, nice to hear from you. Not sure what Brian Naylor’s cat was but it was big for the times at 15m. Could well have been a Crowther! I guess the name is used a fair bit in sailing circles. We have seen a few named that way. Hope you are well and enjoying life.

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