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Tangle with War Ship Six Zero

June 29 2007

Tangle with War Ship Six Zero

Sailing northwards through The Narrows, just north of Gladstone, weather was quite warm and sea very calm. We touched bottom in the middle and had wait for the tide to lift us off. As we came out of The Narrows, however, it was a different story. The wind was a westerly and the slop was hitting us side on. There were a few waves that were a little too big for my liking – “Nothing to worry about really,” assured the Captain but I was a bit unhappy nonetheless. Our plan was to go into Yeppoon and take on fuel and a few supplies but it was so uncomfortable, we decided to turn the nose out to sea and go with the wind.

We sailed out to the Keppels. What a difference it made. We will stayed for the night.


One of the dolphins playing in front of the boat

July 2nd 2007

After a pleasant night in the Keppel’s, we decided to explore Great Keppel Island, or rather just a little bit. We had a look at the resort on the beach where day visitors are welcomed. There is a café and shops along with units with views through the coconut palms onto the beach. We didn’t stay for the sunset but the backpackers were there, glasses of wine in hand waiting in expectation for another breathtaking vista to end the day on. Next morning we departed for Yeppoon to take on fuel and supplies We took our time there and waited for the afternoon tide to come in and set the bow north for Corio Bay.

  Two of the local inhabitants of The Narrows.

The night in Corio Bay was quiet but not very calm as there was a swell coming in and we couldn’t get out of it. No soon had we dropped anchor we heard a huge explosion. The sky, however, was an awesome sight. We don’t’ see the Milky Way in all its splendour at our home in Brisbane as there are too many lights but here…I’d forgotten how magnificent it is…diamonds twinkling on a black velvet cloak.

At 2a.m. we set off for the gruelling trip over to the Duke Islands. It’s such a big trip we wanted to get it over and done with before dark and get out of the Corio Bay before low tide.

As I’m writing this, I am at the helm and keeping watch. Bill has just gone for a nap. We are at S22o09.449’ and E150o34.281’. We are just east of the far northern edge of the exclusion zone for Shoal Water Bay and heading for the Duke Islands.

There are military exercises going on there so all commercial and pleasure craft are banned from entering the area. Normally we would have gone into Island Head Creek or Pearl Bay for a stop over to break the trip up a bit, but we have to make the trip north in one hit now because there’s no where to stop overnight. The reason for the early start and long trip.

We listened to the ships talking to each other all night especially War Ship six zero talking to War ship – something else and watched them go up and down doing their manoeuvres. We could see them fairly well in the distance as we had a full moon and a gazillion stars shedding sparkles over the water. Quite magnificent. The ships were aware of our presence, as we heard one of them warning all ships that there was a small fishing boat in their vicinity. That had to be us-we couldn’t see anyone else.

I felt reassured by the fact that they knew we were there as I wasn’t confident about travelling at night. I’m really a landlobber at heart. Bill let me sit in front of the GPS so I could see exactly where we were which was rather comforting. Thank heaven for the GPS!

By dawn we’d lost sight of War Ship ‘six zero’ and thought he’d knocked off for the night. At around 8 a.m. we heard the American Warship call a yacht to tell him that he is inside an exercise area and he is not to come within 5 nautical miles of the ship. There’s one in every bunch!

A couple of hours later we were moseying along minding our own business when we spotted a ship off the port bow with smoke around it. Next minute we heard an explosion which we felt on board and a puff of smoke went up on the mainland.


I said to Bill that the shots are coming from that ship. “Naah. They are outside the exclusion zone.”

Now we had plotted our journey to the Duke Islands which took us outside the exclusion zone but in between the ship and the mainland.

Then the call came in,

“To the vessel in the vicinity of Shoal Water Bay on our port bow, this is War Ship Six Zero.”

After checking our vicinity we realised we were the only ones around and clearly War Ship six zero hadn’t knocked off for the night.

Yikes! That’s us!!

Bill quickly checked the GPS to make sure we were definitely outside the exclusion zone and we were. Breathing a sigh of relief he called back and identified us.

“Good morning Sir. Wambiri this is War Ship six zero (in an American accent). We are firing live ammunition and you are about to enter our exercise zone. Request you change course to starboard 5o and make a port to port passage”

Oooooaaaah!!!! Relief turns to panic.

I started to have a major melt down imagining we were about to be blown out of the water. Looking over at Bill for comfort I realised that he was having one too! His mouth was moving but no noise coming out! Eventually he managed to squeak, ”W…we’ll do that immediately! Over and out!”

War Ship Six Zero let one go as we passed her on the port side, which we again felt on board.

Shaky business!

We both needed a stiff drink nevertheless at 10o’clock in the morning we settled for strong coffee.


War Ship Six Zero firing at the mainland

I needed sleep so I went for a nap but with all the caffeine and adrenalin I didn’t sleep long.

Next it was Bill’s turn to nap and I stood on watch.

Seas calm and we were belting along at…wait for it…. 6.5knots. I was playing an engrossing game of Spider Solitaire on my laptop and occasionally looking up to make sure everything was fine and it was.

Activity on the radio was fairly busy and Bill kept jumping up to see what was going on, so I ordered him back to bed because I felt quite confident now. The sun was shining and I could see where I was going. I heard another call from War Ship Six Zero to a vessel travelling south towards him on his starboard bow doing 10 knots which I ignored because we passed him miles back travelling north and he knew us by name now and we couldn’t do 10 knots in a fit unless we were surfing down a tidal wave which I hope never happens. He called again and somebody else responded so I settled back down to exercise my brain. Apparently if you challenge your brain everyday it can hold off dementia…at least for a while…or so they say.

Anyway, back to the story. There was a lot of confusion as to which side this other boat was to pass War Ship Six Zero on because this other boat couldn’t see War Ship Six Zero and apparently War Ship Six Zero was closing in on this boat at a rate of 20 knots! There were a few moments of silence, during which I thought,

“Hmmm…surely the fellow knows which side is which.”

I heard a squelch and mumbling from somewhere. Then a call went out for “Merchant Ship on our starboard bow.” suddenly the other boat said, “Mate! I think you’ve got the wrong boat!”

Bill jumped up and I looked out the back window and there was War Ship Six Zero steaming up our stern at 20 knots! These ships don’t stop on a sixpence especially when travelling at 20knots!

“Oh no. It’s us!” we yelled and Bill grabbed the radio. “Calling War Ship Six Zero this is Wambiri!” (He’s an expert now) but the ship didn’t respond. Bill called again and said he thought that we might be the boat on their bow, to which the captain said, “Good morning Sir. That is correct. Don’t worry. We have changed our course and will overtake your starboard side in approx 3 minutes at 20 knots. Suggest you maintain your current course.” As they passed they reduced speed and pulled up in front of a little island that was dead in front of them, turned and travelled back to where they’d come from. We didn’t hear from them again.

Now I know which is the bow and which is the stern…and…I knew which way I was going, so either someone on the ship got confused as to which way they were going, which Is a bit of a worry or the other guy didn’t know his front from his back.

Too much excitement for one day.


War Ship Six Zero boring up our starboard side.

Now at 11.45 am, just as War Ship Six Zero was about to burn past us almost on plain another call came in from a…vessel that will remain nameless…a catamaran that had been hogging the radio all morning, claiming that he was the boat on the port side of War Ship Six Zero!


Apparently he was on a course to High Peak Island. We looked everywhere for him but we were the only one about to be on the port side of War Ship Six Zero. It wasn’t hard to mistake either as it had a giant 6 0 on the bow. We could tell by the tone in the catamarans voice he was getting a bit towey as he spat out his co-ordinates. He still wasn’t where he said he was. There were a few more moments of silence and he started spouting off his position again. Then, an apology. Finally he realised that he’d made a mistake and he was talking to the wrong ship. So then we heard him talking to an Australian War Ship and telling them their equipment was faulty because he couldn’t hear what they were saying. Fruit Cake! The last thing we heard loud and clear, “Australian War Ship – Over and OUT!”

Bill went back to bed.

July 3rd, 2007

Spent night at the Duke Islands. Very quiet. No trees and there was a sign over on the beach that looked like a warning sign. Probably Private Property – Keep Off. We were too tired to go exploring anyway. Slept like logs till early about 3a.m. when we were awoken by the constant lapping on the hull of little wavelets. I put a CD on very low to cover the sound and went back to sleep.

Now we are en route to Curlew Island. Seas calm. Sun is belting down and we are going to have a spot of lunch on the poop deck so called because of all the seagull poop!!

On arrival at the Curlew Islands we decided to go exploring. Bill threw fishing gear into the tender and I grabbed my camera to take pictures on the beach while the hunter finds tea. What a whopper! Daniel (our son) will be proud.

  Queen Fish caught on a silver spinner.