CHAPTER 3 May 28 – June 24
After an eventful couple of days attending the Boat Show and the Whitworths boat show sale, we readied for the midday liftout. Pam, as usual, avoided watching the actual lift.
As a matter of form, all boats lifted out of the water are taken to a station where they are pressure washed to remove any marine growth etc. All this run off is collected for disposal. It is amazing to see how much grows on the hulls underneath the water, despite the earlier scraping at Batemans Bay.
Once this was done you could clearly see the patches bare of antifoul, so the decision was made to add extra epoxy to the sanded bare patches and then give the whole boat two more coats of Micron 66 (a quite lethal chemical mix about the consistency of hot tar!)
Life on hardstand is quite different to any other type of boating.
Fortunately, the facilities at Boat Works are relatively salubrious, as the yard is kept quite clean (unlike some others we have been in!). Despite this, working on boats produces a fine layer of grime over everything from all the sanding of the hulls. In our case, this was exacerbated by the weather, as for most of the four days it rained torrentially, so the grime was carried everywhere as black mud, especially as you are constantly up and down the ladder. We were very lucky to get our antifouling and fibreglass repairs completed between downpours.
All work finally completed and back in the water, we left Coomera and headed north again. The torrential rain did not let up as we made our way through the channels of the Broadwater to Macleay Island, with visibility down to 100 metres at times. It continued to pour down through the night, but had eased to a drizzle the next morning as we had a very leisurely (read slow) sail under screecher across Moreton Bay to Big Sand Hill on Moreton Island.
This was our first time at this anchorage, as usually we stop at Tangalooma, about two miles to the north. It proved to be a comfortable anchorage as it was not as subject to the currents you find at Tangalooma where you find yourself abeam to the swell. As the water calmed in the late afternoon, we were visited by some of the local marine life – a dolphin feeding 100 metres from us, a turtle swimming in the shallows and most amazing of all, a large yellow spotted moray eel came and nibbled along the waterline of the boat. Given that the seabed was sand, this was most odd as morays are usually found in rocky areas.
Monday brought us an excellent sail to Mooloolaba – it only took us five hours. It was probable the best sail we have had since leaving Batemans Bay! The stormy summer weather had influenced the Mooloolah River entrance, with sand bars now affecting the entrance to the training walls and waves breaking with the swells as they approached the shallower waters. John used the big Yanmar engines to effect to ride the swells through to the river calms. We spent four nights in the anchorage and met up with friends from “Truest Passion”, whom we had met at Lizard Island last year, as well as crew from “Highland Dancer” (he had been with us at hardstand at Coomera).
The weather was kind in the sheltered anchorage and allowed us to dinghy to shore for shopping and visiting local sights. This was despite weather bureau warnings of doom and gloom offshore (5 metre waves and strong winds), so after much checking of weather forecasts, we decided to make a run for Double Island Point on Friday.
Even though no boats had crossed Wide Bay Bar for two days, we hoped for enough break in the sea conditions to allow us to cross on the high tide on Saturday. Apparently others thought the same, for although we were the only boat anchored behind Double Island Point by dusk, we woke to find five companions, all of which headed for the bar in the morning.
The issue with this bar crossing is that you are on it for so long as it dog legs for a couple of miles between the three waypoints. Conditions for the crossing weren’t too bad, even though we surfed the swells between the first two way points at over fifteen knots and were “washing machined” between way points two and three.
Coast Guard Tin Can Bay were warning that conditions on the bar were likely to deteriorate over the weekend, with a low pressure system coming south from Capricornia and intensifying off the Fraser Island coast. When we checked the BOM wind site, we saw not only purple patches (40+ knots), but also orange patches (up to 50 knots). Offshore was not a good place to be!
The flotilla wended its way through the calm water, with most seeking the sheltered anchorage at Gary’s Anchorage, a creek running between Stewart Island and Fraser Island, to wait out the storm, and have their boats fresh water washed by the squalls of rain coming over the island.
Sunday was particularly dismal, with constant rain throughout the day and night – although we managed to collect over 140 litres of water in the starboard tank. We visited friends from “Storm”, a converted trawler. They hail from Raby Bay and we had met them several years ago at Bundaberg and at Fraser Is.
One of the issues with boat anchorages, is that some boats tend to drop anchor too close to those already anchored. This usually turns out to be a problem with the turn of the tide, especially if the later boat is a monohull, which turns differently to a multi. After two nights of “close encounters”, we decided to move further up Fraser Island and anchor off Kingfisher Bay.
The plan sounded good until the weather forecast changed to a strong wind warning. When we dropped anchor we had 30 metres of chain out in 5 metres depth – and the chain was horizontal with the force of the wind. Just a little too chancy for our liking, so we upped anchor and motor-sailing in deteriorating conditions across to Urangan and the safety of the harbour.
Arriving into a marina at night is usually fraught with tension as the approaches to the leads are in darkness (1 million watt candle power does come in handy). In our case, this was made harder by 35 knot winds roaring along the berths. Despite this we managed to tie up safely, with several extra lines to the dock, and settled in for a well-earned sleep.
We met up with Beth and Bob Tazewell, who kindly ferried us to the shopping centre, and had dinner with them at the Boat Club. It was great to catch up with all their news. Unfortunately we missed the Lawtons, who had gone to visit family in Mackay.
Laundry and provisioning complete, we motor-sailed to Bundaberg on Friday, with the wind dying right out in the afternoon. A couple of days were spent at anchor at Port Marina, which allowed us a visit to the chandlery. We have noticed as we have been heading north this year, that many of the chandleries at marinas have closed, and those that remain carry reduced shelf stock. Although they are quite happy to order goods in for you, at times this is not the convenient option as you are only there for a couple of days. All the more reason to organise and carry essential spares!
We had intended to sail up to Pancake Creek and then out to the reef, but the winds were favourable to sail directly out to Lady Musgrave Island. It was a relief to have the quiet of sails without engines! There were several boats at anchor in the lagoon, some of which we have seen en route from Hervey Bay. One 40 foot mono called Bicho Papao (Bogeyman in Brazilian) hailed from Tweed Heads. They had experienced a difficult time heading north, having to spend 4 weeks at Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast with engine repairs. They were heading south from Musgrave and we were disappointed to hear them on the radio heading back to Bundaberg with an overheating engine – it took them almost 18 hours to cover the 45 miles.
We headed to Fitzroy Reef after three days at Musgrave. This is only a short distance of 24 miles north as you sail outside the reef atolls. We had a new experience en route – whale avoidance manoeuvres! We had been tracking a couple of whales on our port beam as they angled closer to the boat. As they crossed our path about 150 metres in front, we were treated to a fabulous display of breaching and tail slapping by the smaller whale. It was only when the mother decided to breach as well that we headed to the safety of a port tack – she was enormous! The spectacle continued as they swam further out to the east. It was almost as if they were auditioning for the Seaworld show!
Fitzroy Reef was terrific again, with only the slightest roll at high tide as the waves came over the surrounding reef. On Friday the lagoon was like a mirror as we had our first swim of the season before exploring the lagoon in the dinghy. Friday also brought its share of dramas. One of the monos left the lagoon and looked to be heading north when we heard them calling on the VHF – they had burst an engine water hose. A quick call around the other 2 boats at anchor found some spare 38mm hose and Allikat was the only boat with a dinghy capable of heading out of the lagoon and over a mile in the open ocean to take it to the stricken vessel.
John headed off, and ended up tying the dinghy alongside the yacht and motoring it back through the entrance to anchorage in the safety of the lagoon. That evening the crew came over for a sundowner and we learned that the day before they had intended to leave, but had a gearbox problem to fix, and as well their VHF radio was cutting out. The owner and his daughter were very relieved to have the assistance. They planned to head for Mast Head Island the next morning, but given the strong wind warning, we decided to make for the shelter of Great Keppel Island for a few days. We heard the crew on the radio changing their destination to North West Island as apparently they had completely torn their mainsail – talk about a litany of disasters!
Even though the sea conditions were quite sloppy, we still managed a whale sighting. We have seen more whales this trip around, such magnificent creatures. Dolphins at the bow have been a regular occurrence darting on the pressure waves from side to side.
It has been a funny trip north this year – we seem to be having a few days of good sailing, or pleasant sunny days at a destination, but then we have to make a run for shelter with strong wind warnings bringing unpleasant sea conditions.
We plan to stay at the Keppels for a few days before heading ashore to reprovision at Yeppoon and are also checking off our Louisiades preparation list as we go.