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Island Time Pt. 2 - Mind Blown!

By Robbie Wells

Often funny how things unfold. On our next Central Queensland island adventure we headed a bit wider to the Beverly Island group and it's what transpired weeks after that trip that really blew my mind.

With everything checked and double checked we headed off, with our first stop a shallow fringing reef about 38 kilometres from our launch point and halfway to our destination. The ocean was super flat and with such glamour conditions it seemed like the blink of an eye and we had arrived. The plan was to throw sinking stickbaits on the dead low tide, have a snorkel and then head to base camp late afternoon. This would give us enough time to set up, get the fire going and then have a late afternoon shore based fish off the rocks.

We pretty well got there an hour before low, so realistically had a two hour window before too much water and current made it too hard to fish effectively. We both had a pre-rigged Fish Inc. Right Wing 120mm Sinking Stickbait. There was no 'walk the dog', pause, etc., technique in play. We were using a couple of new Okuma Pressure Point rod and Azores Blue reel combos, so it was big long casts to cover as much ground as possible, fast burning these with a medium to fast pace over the shallow reef.

The trout couldn't resist them! Like all fishing, change it up. By change it up it I'm mainly meaning angles in this situation. You can run the lure over the same spot ten times, change the angle and boom, fish on! Plus the surface strikes and boils are amazing to watch. We also run the Fish Inc. Flanker 115mm Sinking Stickbait, which is a lot smaller profile and very effective for other reef dwellers. During our two hour window we had about ten bites, landing half a dozen trout, along with the usual brickings thrown in and massive boils that just don't hook up. They were all nice fish and worth the effort. After a quick late lunch and a snorkel we headed off again for the last half of the journey.

Our camp spot was an island group, consisting of three islands and protected from all winds. As we rounded the long point I was spewing that there was a boat moored there. Something that we're not used to, lol. They were a fair way out anyway and as I neared the beach we dropped the boat wheels. Sue was upfront guiding me through the bombies until the wheels touch down on the beach and we rolled the Sealegs up to our camp spot.

The first thing that I noticed to my left up on the beach was a wreck. It looked like an old converted trawler, with bits and pieces strewn everywhere up the beach, the fuel tank up on the rocks, fridge in the dunes and stuff everywhere. The top deck section was ripped completely off the hull and was sitting proud on the dunes, while the motor sat half submerged in the bay at low tide. I couldn't get off the boat quik enough to have a look as it was my first shipwreck. So cool to see, but at the same time it must have been fully hectic at the time. I actually found the history of this accidentally... but more on that later.

After the initial excitement of my wreck discovery, I turned around to survey our location. It was almost Fiji like, with a white sandy beach, fringing reef and azure blue water, with a channel running between protected by the close neighbouring islands. This would do. Like a well-oiled machine we had camp sorted and I went for firewood, while Sue was straight out throwing Fish Inc. sinking stickbaits over the mid-tide reef, just to the left of our camp. As always, Sue puts the casts in and was rewarded eventually with another couple of coral trout. If there's a better stickbait available I haven't found it. The fast burn technique, with the rattle and flash is amazing and just irresistible to trout.

The occupants of the yacht had paddled over early in the morning and we crossed paths walking the beach, with just a hello and a nod we continued our way. On their return journey they saw us rigging up lines ready for our next mission and also the amphibious Sealegs boat had them intrigued.

The couple were in their seventies, thin but healthy, super tanned and with a thick South African accent. After a bit of small talk we found out that they had actually sailed from South Africa. It was also amazing to find out that they couldn't land anywhere because they were caught up in the Covid 19 chaos. They couldn't drop into Bundaberg, Yeppoon and so forth, and were having radio problems, so they were scheduled to moor at the Whitsundays to try and sort it.

They had no fresh food and had been living on tinned and packet food for the last two weeks, getting by until they could resupply. We sorted them with a few bits and pieces to keep them going. I find it amazing how many sailors don't fish. With the amount of water travelled, one would think it's a no brainer... but each to their own. Of course the question came up, did we get any fish and could he buy some. I didn't have the heart to tell him that we had caught and released half a dozen coral trout and had only kept a little one for a feed for tonight.

Feeling good and more than confident, I said "cool as, we'll get you a trout or something reefy". We immediately headed over to the reef, however with a flooding tide the water was a lot deeper than earlier on and it was less than ideal for my 'talk it up' trout talk. We tried for hours, attempting to get a decent fish for them... but to no avail. Isn't it always the way.

We moved over behind a coral reef and pressure point, where I threw a cast in tight to the edge and hooked up a couple of winds later. It was a good solid hook up, with instant acrobatics. A bloody queenfish and a double hook up at that. After the initial chaos we got sorted and landed both really nice queenies. A few pics and they were speared off to swim away. Unfortunately, or fortunately for the yaughties, one of the fish didn't release well, so I scooped it up to take it to its new home.

As we approached 'Moondancer', Kevin and Janice's ketch, I noticed their dingy was back on shore. I had the big queeny wrapped in a wet towel and as we neared the aft deck Sue slid the fish up to the galley door. Job done. No trout, but fresh queenie and lots of it. As I backed up I noticed no steering wheel and no radar. It was a tiller steer. No wonder his forearms were like Popeye! So they'd sailed this old school 30' yacht from South Africa with no tiller steer or auto pilot.

That afternoon they came across, stoked that they had fish and after a bit more of a chat we discovered he still navigates by map, compass, sextant and the stars and clouds. Officially, my mind was blown. He also mentioned that if they couldn't get to Darwin because of Covid, they would have to leave from Cairns to get back to South Africa and it would add 30 odd days to not seeing land. So 35 days from Darwin, but 60ish days from Cairns. Next level hard core! We then parted ways, as they boarded their little fibreglass dinghy to go back to Moondancer, wondering if our paths would cross again somewhere.

The night sky was so mesmerizingly clear, with stars aplenty, flickering with the fires orange hue reflecting off the sand. We cooked up coral trout in the coals for dinner, with salad and another one of my famous dampers, lol. Life's good.

Up again early the next day and we had a morning brew and packed up to basically go back to where we had success on the trout the previous day. There was a bit more water on departure, so no lookout required as we motored over to do a lap around Moondancer and a final wave goodbye. Back at our trout spot things were so quiet, so instead we had a swim and a snorkel, before we bailed back home.

As mentioned in the first paragraph... the things that happen after a chance meeting. So, a few months later I posted a couple of pics on a mate's adventure page regarding the above trip. The next day I get a phone call and emails from Border Security and the Sarina Police looking for Moondancer and its two occupants. They had left Airlie Beach and no-one had any contact with them since. I explained that they did have radio trouble and so forth and we also sent photos of the yacht and their WhatsApp details. We only had this because, in appreciation of the queenfish, Kevin had left an autographed book that he'd written on one of his solo trips around the world.

I outlined the ports that he said he was going to, along with a plan to leave from Cairns or Darwin on departure. We contacted them on WhatsApp also. They were eventually found safe and left Darwin, bound for South Africa, some four months after we had seen them. We now have regular contact with them from their farm over there.

To add another twist to the history behind the wreck on the beach. The Police Officer that I was dealing with, when trying to locate the couple, informed me that his uncle had rescued the guy off the boat, after hearing a mayday call while out fishing. Old mate then didn't want abandon ship... until the motor ripped off on the reef! They took him back to the mainland, where he stayed for two days, before he bailed, never to be seen again. A few salvage rights were claimed and over the next few weeks anything good was taken before it was destroyed.

There you go!
How Good's Australia

Gearing Up:
Okuma Pressure Point Jig / Popping Rods - 701M 7' PE 2.0-4.0 & 762M 7'6" PE 2.0-4.0
Okuma Azores Blue Spinning Reels - AZORES-5500 & AZORES-6500
Platypus Platinum Braid - 30lb & 50lb
Platypus Hard Armour Leader - 80lb Supple
Fish Inc. Wing 120mm Sinking Stickbait
Fish Inc. Right Wing 120mm Sinking Stickbait