Dodging Debbie


Sailing boats and cyclones don’t mix. So our bad weather run continued when Tropical Cyclone Debbie started brewing up north. We were never in the danger zone, but her appearance cut short our stay at Lady Musgrave Island and generated plenty of rain.

We left Lady Musgrave Island in light easterlies, which made the exit out of the lagoon uneventful (except for the brown boobies keeping us entertained), but made the sail to Bustard Head slow and laborious. We got into Pancake Creek just after sundown…nine hours of sailing to cover only 35 nautical miles.


We kept a keen eye on the forecast, and once Debbie became a sure thing, we headed further up Pancake Creek and settled in for a few days. It’s not a bad spot to sit out a cyclone. There’s plenty to do ashore, and it stayed relatively comfortable afloat. We fished up a storm, and finally snagged a mud crab in our solitary crab-pot. All were delicious!

From the anchorage there’s a 2.6km bush walk up to the Bustard Head lighthouse. The track is well guarded by giant golden-orb spiders, and the occasional goanna, but it’s definitely worth the walk. It’s the only operational lighthouse that people can go inside. The history is fascinating (it was the first one to be built in QLD) and the views are amazing. And we were very lucky to have Dudley Fulton as our tour guide. He’s a former lighthouse keeper who lived and worked there when they used to be manned. We ended up having morning tea with him and his wife Sue and they told us some great stories about life on the lights. On the way back down we took a quick detour to aircraft beach for a bit of beachcombing.


These are stone-curlews. Not to be confused with bustards, although it seems James Cook and Joseph Banks did when they named it “Bustard Head” in 1770…
But after a couple of days, we started to get a bit of cabin fever (and we were running out of bread), so although Debbie was strengthening and about to make landfall up near Bowen, the weather along the Curtis coast looked pretty good to head around to Gladstone. It got a little hairy a couple of times when the rain squalls came through and the wind got up to 35 knots, but we made it into Gladstone harbour in good order, and have spent the past 24 hours checking out Gladstone. In addition to the heavy industry which literally surrounds you, it has a rich heritage on display. We will be here for at least a couple more days while ex-TC Debbie runs out of puff, and then we’ll see where the wind blows.

*shout out to Dudley and Sue at Bustard Head lighthouse!


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Janaki says:

    Wow! what a wonderful experience and such lovely pictures! You sure are having a great time….good luck. Keep writing…its a pleasure to read them.All your articles are great and the pictures awesome.


    1. Alpha Juliet says:

      Thanks Janaki, thanks for sharing your writing also.


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