CHAPTER 7 November 23 – November 30
We had very light winds and glassy seas as we made our way out to the reef, being passed by container ships making their way out the Capricornia Channel. For days now the sea has been covered in thick mats of orange algae bloom, with slicks spread out in the current flow. At times, it is very smelly!
Disaster struck as we were lowering the mainsail at Heron – a shower of roller bearings bouncing on the deck as the top car on the mainsail track came apart. This means we will not be able to use the mainsail until the cars and track are repaired, so regretfully we packed it all into the sailbag.
The anchorage at Heron Island is difficult as there is a deep dropoff at the reef. We anchored in 8 metres of water, but on the swing the depth varied from 3 metres to 16. At 10pm we decided to move out further into the channel – the sight of exposed reef and a shipwreck high and dry when it had previously been mainly underwater was a little unnerving! Moving put us further out in the channel between the reefs, and at anchor overnight we “travelled” over 5 nautical miles with the current flow. Ashore on the beach at about midnight was a procession of torchlights – it was turtle time for the tourists.
Our initial plan was to anchor inside the reef at Lady Musgrave Island the next day, but with no mainsail and favourable winds, we decided to use the screecher sail to head further south, initially aiming for Fraser Island. A wind shift and an early southerly change with a huge storm and torrential rain saw us anchoring in the Burnett River at Port Bundaberg – even at 10pm in a storm, the channel leads and markers were excellent, allowing a secure overnight anchorage opposite the marina. On our way down we heard on the VHF a call for help from the coastguard – a solo yachtsman had blown the head gasket on his motor and wanted a tow into Bundaberg, as with the light winds at that stage he was making no headway. Almost the first thing the CG said was you realise this will cost you hundreds of dollars! It’s is only fair that the user pays for volunteer services!
The torrential rain continued through the night, but had eased by morning as we used the jib and motors to make our way south to Hervey Bay, where we berthed in the marina. This allowed John to go up the mast in calm conditions to check the sail track, and we were dismayed when he saw the damage at the top of the mast. Repairs mean a stopover in Manly in Moreton Bay and the mast will have to come out. The damaged clew on the mainsail will be repaired at the same time.
We were berthed next to a huge catamaran “Jalun”, originally built as a charter vessel and purchased by the current owners when the owner went bankrupt. Everything is run by hydraulics, and the desalinator on board makes thousands of litres an hour – maybe that’s what Sydney Water needs? It is very spacious and well-appointed, but sailing it with only two on board could become interesting. All the equipment aboard is state of the art, and you could sail it around the world easily – certainly has enough fridge space.
We caught up with more ex-Goulburn friends, and attempted some Christmas shopping – John even visited the electrical store on the pushbike, which he had dragged out of the engine room. I don’t think when he started off that he realised exactly how far away the commercial centre at Pialba was!
Wednesday came and we set off for the Great Sandy Straits, anchoring at Bluff Creek near the wreck of the Ceratodus. You can see evidence along the foreshore of the old logging operations, much of which has been turned into national park facilities, but the old wharves are not maintained. For the first time in ages, the forecasts are for a run of E/NE winds that will help us make our way south without the mainsail, so we set out and crossed the Wide Bay Bar without incident and used the screecher to head to Double Island Point. Once again there were numerous 4WDs moving between the point and Rainbow Beach and making their way across the track to the sea side for the long beach run back to Noosa. The track down to the beach, which was almost impassable in February, seemed to have been repaired. At sunset the colours in the sand cliffs were spectacular.
The wind shifted more to the north during the night, so the anchorage became rolly and once again the heavens opened. If you could preplan for downpours, you could use the rain water collection system, but usually it is pouring before you think of it, and, as well, you have to allow for salt and dirt wash off first! Setting it up means a free coldwater shower. We have become quite adept at shutting hatches in the night at great speed!
The wind stayed mainly from the north on Friday instead of the expected north-east and did not reach the predicted strength. The run down to Mooloolaba saw us using jib, screecher and then spinnaker in an effort to make the most of the winds, but finally we gave up and motored the last 2 hours before anchoring in the river. We are really appreciating how effective the mainsail is in creating the boat speed. As we came into the river entrance, we saw that the dredging that was being done in September has been used to create a beach near the leads where the rockwall and steps down to the water used to be. The areas out to the channel markers have been netted off to make a safe swimming enclosure with the sand going back up to the walking path. John has booked a boat dive on the ex-HMAS Brisbane, so it will be an early dinghy ride ashore in the morning.