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