Newport, NSW to Whitsundays, tropical North Queensland: After 37 years as a chartered accountant David Rogers has traded his calculator for his compass and set it north for the voyage of a lifetime, from his home in Newport, NSW to the Whitsundays in tropical North Queensland.
The 2,650 nautical mile round trip took David and Sue Rogers on an amazing three-and-a-half month adventure up and down the east coast of Australia where they fulfilled their retirement dreams, found their sea legs and ignited their passion for blue water cruising.
“This is a trip David’s been planning most of his life,” Sue said.
“It was such a great feeling to finally get to the stage in our life where we could just go and have an extended time on the boat and the trip exceeded all our expectations. We have travelled overseas before but nothing compares to this experience and visiting these amazing destinations by boat – it is a great sense of achievement to take the boat that distance in open water.”
When David and Sue Rogers envisaged their retirement they dreamt of white sandy beaches, turquoise water, myriad fish and wildlife, peace and tranquility, and blue water cruising on board their Riviera 43 Open Flybridge, Escape, which they bought in 2008. So, when David retired on July 1, 2014, the couple was prepared for their ultimate escape from reality. They had their pride and joy fueled up, loaded and ready to leave the Royal Motor Yacht Club of Broken Bay in Newport at 7am on July 5.
They travelled in convoy with two other Rivieras, Water Lou and White Knight, up Pittwater and on to their first destination, Port Stephens, which was a comfortable four-and-a-half hour cruise with several large humpback whale sightings along the way.
After an overnight anchorage in Port Stephens, they were awoken by howling winds before an 8am departure to their next stop, Port Macquarie where they experienced strong winds and surfed down the waves at about 22 knots for the first part of the 95 nautical mile journey.
“Fortunately it calmed down after we passed Seal Rocks until it was so calm we could have water skied behind the boat. It was unbelievable that the conditions could change so much in one day,” Sue said.
“We saw lots of water spouts from migrating whales and a few closer encounters of a breaching whale and another almost sun bathing. A few dolphins swam around the boat and enjoyed surfing our bow and stern waves. We crossed the Port Macquarie bar in perfect conditions and our three boats moored alongside the fuel wharf. We enjoyed a pleasant walk around town, visited the convict built historic centre of town and had an enjoyable meal at the local bowling club.”
The next day they left Port at about 8am for the 125 nautical mile cruise to Yamba located on the banks of the Clarence River for another overnight stop before heading to the Gold Coast where they berthed at the Southport Yacht Club for a few days. While on the Gold Coast, David and Sue visited Riviera’s 14-hectare facility and experienced a factory tour.
“The factory tour was very impressive with about 25 boats all at different stages of production from the fibreglass moulding to beautiful timber work, engineering and the final boat fit out. Wouldn’t say no to a new Riv 50,” Sue said.
“We had a wonderful time with our travelling companions, Louise and Tom on Water Lou and Greg and Louise on White Knight and our local Riviera dealer Mark Riley from R Marine Riley who alternated between boats.”
On July 12, they joined a convoy of nine Rivieras leaving Runaway Bay Marina bound for Lady Musgrave Island for the annual R Marine Crawley Experience stopping along the way at Tangalooma on the west coast of Moreton Island before continuing on to Mooloolaba Marina where they stopped overnight. From Mooloolaba they continued north to the great Sandy Straits where they anchored in Garry’s Anchorage on the west coast of Fraser Island. However, their visit to Fraser Island was cut short by two days due to forecasted strong winds around the time they had planned to be at Lady Musgrave Island.
“Lady Musgrave is a low lying coral island at the southern point of the Great Barrier Reef so it is very exposed to most winds and can be extremely uncomfortable in the wrong conditions so we left Garry’s Anchorage at about 9am on July 14 and travelled in convoy north through the Great Sandy Straits and into Hervey Bay arriving at the Bundaberg marina early in the afternoon. The marina is actually about 18km out of Bundaberg so unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit the distillery or ginger factory.”
They arrived at Lady Musgrave Island at about 1.30pm on Tuesday, July 15 after a rough journey from Bundaberg with seas to one-and-a-half metres and winds from 10 to 15 knots.
“What a beautiful island. The sand and coral shore surrounds a Pisonia Forest with Coastal Sheoak and native Mulberry with Black Noddies nesting in the trees and Buff-Banded Rail running through the scrub,” Sue said.
For David, Lady Musgrave Island was one of the many highlights from this trip with its pristine beaches, amazing snorkelling and untouched beauty.
After two days of snorkelling, kayaking, socialising with other Riviera owners and enjoying Lady Musgrave’s abundant marine and bird life, it was time to weigh anchor and cruise to the sheltered anchorage at Pancake Creek for three relaxing days before going their separate ways with the Riviera fleet continuing north to Hamilton Island with Ben Crawley and David and Sue continuing on to Gladstone a couple of days later.
After arriving into the busy port of Gladstone they spent two nights preparing for the trip to Great Keppel Island. They picked up their son, Michael, from the Gladstone airport on Monday and the next morning they headed out the port of Gladstone and pointed their bow north as they headed up the east coast of Curtis Island bound for Great Keppel Island.
“The approach to Great Keppel Island is very picturesque, passing Humpy Island, then Halfway Island and then cruising up the west coast and through the narrow passage between Middle Island with its underwater observatory and the north-west point of Great Keppel Island.
“Great Keppel Island was once a sheep station but long since a tourist resort with beautiful swimming beaches. Michael and I kayaked to shore and had a lovely walk along Svendsen’s Beach to Little Peninsula where two generations of the Svendsen family still live.”
Five days later they arrived in Hamilton Island having travelled just over 1000 nautical miles since leaving their home port of Pittwater three weeks earlier.
“Fortunately, most of the time we have had excellent conditions, but not so for the long and tedious leg from Great Keppel Island to the Percy Islands. What should have been a six-hour trip became over seven hours as tidal rips and short choppy sea hindered our progress. David had set the throttle at 1900 rpm (a fuel efficient speed), which normally would have us cruising at about 16 knots. Without touching the throttles, our speed varied between nine and over 20 knots, often with only seconds between each extreme as we wallowed between swells or shot down the face of a wave – not conditions I want to repeat,” Sue said.
“We anchored in the very pretty West Bay, Middle Percy Island after being greeted by a breaching whale on approach – that put a smile on our weary faces. Unfortunately, we had a very uncomfortable night, rocking and rolling.”
The next day Sue, David and Michael paddled ashore in the kayaks to investigate the famous A-frame structure, which is decorated with nautical paraphernalia left by visiting cruising folk for over 60 years.
“We added an Escape shirt with our names and date and duly signed the visitors’ book. Near the A-frame is the original hut used by passing cruisers with more and generally older names and dates hung, plus the library/book exchange. Further up the beach there is a plaque with an excerpt from Mathew Flinders’ log book from 1802 describing the Percy Islands. There is also a very picturesque tidal boat harbour at one end of the bay. All in all, a very interesting and pretty place.”
After exploring Middle Percy Island it was time to up anchor and continue further up the coast to Refuge Bay, Scawfell Island, located just north of Mackay for an overnight anchorage. “The largest turtle we have ever seen swam by the boat while anchored in this lovely bay. We now really feel like we are in the tropics with beautiful crystal turquoise waters and warm days.”
Following another overnight anchorage at Shaw Island, the couple was pleased to approach their final destination on Saturday afternoon when they pulled into the Hamilton Island Marina where they booked a berth for two weeks so they could explore the magnificent Whitsundays.
David said the trip far exceeded his expectations and the Whitsunday Islands were certainly a highlight for him.
“The Whitsundays were tremendous. Our friends Mark and Marion joined us for four fabulous days. As the wind was very light when they arrived we headed straight around to Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island for our first night.
“This is a magnificent beach with an incredible expanse of pure white sand. There were plenty of turtles who popped up to say hi, as well as a dolphin. We enjoyed a lovely walk along the beach and then a swim.”
Sue said they spent their second night at Maureen’s Cove at the top of Hook Island where David and Mark enjoyed a spot of fishing before they all headed out for a morning kayak and snorkel among the coral and fish.
“We found the water was pretty chilly so we couldn’t stay in for too long but the coral was absolutely stunning and there were plenty of colourful clams and fish to be seen,” she said.
“We spent the next evening at Stonehaven Anchorage on the north west coast of Hook Island. It looks straight across to the resort on Hayman Island and was once the mooring area for the Hayman Island flying boats when Sir Reginald Ansett owned it. The next morning we went across to a small island called Bali Hai (Black Island) for some more snorkelling.
“A very strong south easterly wind came up which gave us a rough ride around to our next anchorage at Sawmill Bay in Cid Harbour on Whitsunday Island. This was obviously a very protected anchorage with more than 40 boats in the bay trying to shelter from the strong winds. We went ashore at Sawmill Beach where there were memorials to 200 years since Captain Cook sailed in these waters. We enjoyed a lovely last night together on board before heading back to Hamilton Island early the next morning.”
After living on board Escape for just over one month, David and Sue treated themselves to two nights (August 7-9) at Daydream Island Resort where they enjoyed the resort facilities and activities including the simple pleasures of sleeping in a king size bed and appreciating a bath.
“We were very impressed by the resort’s facilities which include the Living Reef, an amazing outdoor aquarium over two lagoons, 2,650 sqm which has seven million litres of sea water pumped through it every day to keep the 140 species of fish and 83 coral specimens in pristine condition. Apart from the many colourful fish there were a variety of sharks and the large sting rays Pancake and Pikelet, Jack the black shovel nose ray and Bill and Barb the white spot mangrove rays. This microcosm of the Great Barrier Reef is not only beautiful but a great educational tool to help protect this incredible marine environment,” Sue explained.
“There were plenty of activities to keep us busy on the island and although it was too windy to partake in the water sports, we enjoyed playing putt putt golf, feeding the parrot fish at Lovers’ Cove, reading our books, enjoying the beautiful walks and even watched a frolicking whale as he swam passed the island.”
After two nights at Daydream Island, they returned to Hamilton Island for another five nights before heading to Airlie Beach, stopping at Cid Harbour for five nights along the way. While in Hamilton Island they enjoyed many bush walks, including climbing the two peaks on the island, the Resort Lookout at 195m and Passage Peak, the highest point at 239 m on the eastern side of the island. Both lookouts have breathtaking views across the Whitsunday Islands and waterways.
“We have been walking everywhere. We watched a magnificent sunset over the Whitsunday Passage from One Tree Hill. The Resort Lookout has the meteorological station and magnificent views to South West Head and across to Dent Island. Our most challenging walk was to Passage Peak, it was a tough two-and-a-half hour return walk from the marina with plenty of steep slopes and steps. We were surprised to see some deer in the bush but later found out that they had been introduced decades ago. For a heavily built up resort island, it is wonderful that they have retained so much bushland and well signposted and maintained walking trails.”
David said that Sue was inspired to climb the highest peak and complete as many walking tracks throughout their journey after listening to Peter and Narelle Williams’s talk at the Riviera Festival of Boating in May.
“Peter and Narelle’s talk was great. We got some excellent tips and good advice from them, including how they used the walking trails to exercise during their trips.”
David and Sue left Hamilton Island just before the annual yacht race and spent five nights at Cid Harbour on the west coast of Whitsunday Island before heading to Airlie Beach for two days where they met their friends Lynn and Paul who joined them on board for a four day cruise. They headed to Whitehaven Beach to explore the Whitsunday Ngaro Sea Trail. As they crossed the Whitsunday Passage they came across a humpback whale and calf slapping their fins and tails in the water.
“The Ngaro people were the original inhabitants of this area from more than 8000 years ago and were highly skilled seafarers. There were a number of walks on several islands within the Whitsunday group but we chose the Solway circuit walk which took us up behind Whitehaven Beach to a huge rock platform with great views south and east across the Solway Passage,” Sue said.
“We then cruised north to Border Island and then around the top of Hook Island looking for a sheltered anchorage but as the wind increased significantly we decided to head back to the marina at Port Airlie.
“After a few days enjoying Airlie Beach we met up at Sorrentos Restaurant and Bar on Sunday night to meet with the other Riviera owners doing the R Marine Crawley Circle Whitsunday cruise. There were some new faces but also some familiar ones from the Lady Musgrave trip and others we had met on the Gold Coast.
“The first anchorage was back in Cid Harbour and first thing the next morning, Kim, John, Vicky and Chris from a Riviera called Kimmi collected me in the dinghy for a trek from Sawmill Beach to Whitsunday Peak, which is 437 metres and a steep five kilometre return trip. With Kim setting a cracking pace we made it to the summit in under an hour and were blown away by the magnificent views in almost every direction.”
After several days cruising the Whitsundays they joined the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club annual rendezvous at Gloucester Passage where hundreds of boaties gather to party while raising funds for Prostate Cancer Research. They left the fleet and headed back to Hamilton Island where they spent four weeks exploring the surrounding islands with a rotating crew of friends and family, including their daughters Amy and Stephanie who each flew up from Sydney to spend a week on board.
“It has been great having family and friends visit and we have covered about 650 nautical miles (about 1200km) cruising around the Whitsunday Islands since arriving up here two months ago. Thanks to all of you who have shared our adventure. Time to start thinking about heading south,” Sue said.
On Sunday, September 28, Sue’s friend, Heather, arrived to join them for the journey to Bundaberg but not before a quick visit to Bowen by car. On Thursday morning they awoke to perfect conditions for their 205 nautical mile southbound journey to Rosslyn Bay, just south of Yeppoon. On Friday they refueled at Rosslyn Bay and after a comfortable seven-and-a-half hour journey, they arrived at Bundaberg Port Marina where they spent a couple of days exploring the region.
“On Saturday we hired ‘Jessie’, an old Toyota Corolla and went exploring Bundaberg and the surrounds. First stop was the Mystery Craters, which were found by a local farmer in 1971 when he tried to plough more of his land. The 35 craters uncovered are formed in a massive slab of sandstone, siltstone and red ochre and have baffled teams of international geologists as to how they were formed. There are a number of theories including being part of a large meteorite, sink holes from volcanic action or the roof of a subterranean lake. Whatever the story, they are very interesting and believed to be over 25 million years old.”
They also visited the Bundaberg Rum distillery and the Gingerbeer Barn before returning to the marina for the night.
“Sunday morning heralded the end of Heather’s stay with us so I dropped her at the airport for her flight back to Sydney. From this moment on it was just David and I on the boat for the remainder of the voyage home to Newport.”
After preparing and re-provisioning the boat it was time to say goodbye to Bundaberg. “Leaving Bundaberg at lunchtime on Tuesday, September 30, we cruised slowly across Hervey Bay hoping to spot some whales. Luckily we saw one whale and a couple of dolphins as we headed for the west coast of Fraser Island. We met up with the three Rivieras in Platypus Bay and hoped to hang around this area which is renowned for great whale spotting but a strong westerly change was due overnight so we were forced to find a sheltered anchorage.
“Heading into the Sandy Straits we finally anchored after dark off Kingfisher Bay Resort, which we hoped would be protected. Wrong! We were all woken just after 3am as strong winds pounded our boats, which were held side on to the wind by the tide. We rocked, bucked and rolled until there was enough light to up anchor and head further south through the Sandy Straits.
“We found a sheltered spot at South White Cliffs where we stayed for a couple of hours until the tide came up. Once the tide was high enough to allow safe passage through this very shallow water we continued to Garry’s Anchorage. After checking the weather forecast we decided to leave the other boats and continue on to Mooloolaba as a southerly change was due the next day and we didn’t want to delay our trip.
“We were very pleased with our decision as we had an easy crossing of the Wide Bay Bar and a beautiful cruise down the Sunshine Coast and into Mooloolaba Marina. The southerly change came as predicted but didn’t worry us in the marina.”
On Friday morning they left Mooloolaba in perfect conditions and stopped for lunch at Tangalooma before moving on to Peel Island for a couple of nights to join Ben Crawley and other Gold Coast Riviera owners. With the flotilla of Gold Coast boats they left Peel Island through the shallow water to Dux at South Stradbroke Island and then on to the Southport Yacht Club. After staying for four nights they continued on their own south to Coffs Harbour.
After an eight-hour voyage from the Gold Coast to Coffs Harbour, David and Sue were relieved when Escape was safely tied up at the marina just before the winds picked up to over 20 knots.
“The winds continued to blow strongly for the next few days delaying the rest of our southbound journey but fortunately we had David’s parents and sister and her husband to visit in Coffs Harbour. After waiting several days for the complex weather system off the east coast of Australia to move on we were finally able to complete our homeward journey. Just after sunrise we cast off lines and motored out of Coffs Harbour for an approximate 12-hour passage. There was still about a one-and-a-half to two metre swell with a 10 knot westerly giving us quite a bit of movement but not too unpleasant.
“Heading past Nambucca towards Smokey Cape we were fittingly cloaked in smoke from local bush fires. As we continued south the wind dropped but the swell increased to about three metres with the occasional four metre swell, which meant enjoying our morning coffee was a matter of good timing between sips.”
“Four hours into the passage we were passing Port Macquarie and had overtaken several whales heading in the same direction. We managed to gain an extra knot of speed by picking up the East Australian Coast Current most of the way.
“By halfway through the trip the swell was mainly three to four metres and the wind had shifted to the south east and increased to 10-15 knots. Although not my choice of conditions, the boat handled it well. We continued to see migrating whales, some busy tail slapping or breaching and dolphins. We were even buzzed by a fighter jet off Port Stephens.
“The swell was two to three metres with some wind chop for the last part of the trip and after 12 ½ hours we entered Broken Bay and continued in the fading light to the jetty at home, finally berthing after 7.30pm.
“Since leaving Pittwater three months and 11 days ago, David and I, in our very reliable Riviera 43 Open Flybridge have covered 2,656 nautical miles on an experience of a lifetime visiting some of Australia’s most beautiful destinations and sharing the dream with family and friends – what a journey! We look forward to the next one.”If you would like to take a virtual tour of the 43 Open Flybridge, please click here
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