Z E N I T U D E
Blue Water Dreaming
Gold Coast to Bundaberg - Lazily Sailing Up the Queensland Coast
We left Gold Coast City marina towards Mooloolaba the 30 of May around noon.
The weather looked good and the tide was going out so we had a quick run on the Coomara River for the 11 miles up to the Cold Coast Seaway.
Out through the seaway and seas were choppy until we reached deeper waters.
It was a thrill to open the new sails for the first time and check that they were actually good and working much better and easier than our old ones, at least on the great downwind run we had for this trip.
The Trip to Mooloolaba - Impeller blues - May 30 to 31
Main sail on second reef for the night
Leaving the Gold Coast after 2 months of hard work
We did a fast run until sunset when we decided to reef sails and slow down as there was no point to arrive before dawn.
The upgrade of navigation instruments and software was great too, things working fine together, except for the AIS that now and then was losing power and needed to be restarted.
There was a lot of ship movement throughout the night as Brisbane is a busy port, the AIS making navigation in a busy area much safer and a lot easier.
Right after sunrise, in the early morning hours the wind became very light and dead in the back so we decided to motor for the last 5 miles of the trip and then disaster struck.
We started port engine, and soon found out there was no water coming out, obviously this was not good. Stopped port engine and started starboard, same thing!
We were 5 miles from the coast, no wind and no engines. Luckily there was no current so we were just drifting very slowly and wondering what to do next.
Oscar had just changed the impellers in the Gold Coast and went on to check them, unbelievable but the new impellers had almost disintegrated!
Entering Mooloolaba bar after installing new impellers and finding peace in the nice river anchorage was a great feeling, that's when we realized we had made the mistake of starting our trip on a Friday, something to think about!
Sunrise at sea
If you know how a new impeller looks, what do you think of this one after 2 hours of use?
In the mission to discover why this happened we suspect shelf life in a locker close to the engine, where it gets hot when the engine is running, may be the reason.
Mooloolaba - A perfect stop - May 31 to June 4 - (26.32.65S 153.08.85E)
Mooloolaba was a perfect first stop to relax and rest, at least for a couple of days. The anchorage is always busy this time of the year with people stopping by on their way to the north. No wonder we met several friends that were around.
The big surprise was to find Andrea and Andreas from Akka just materializing in their dinghy one morning. We met the Andreas in San Blass, Panama just before crossing the Pacific, found them again last year in Noumea and why not, this year we met again. They were on their way to the north to continue their voyage around the world, eventually back to Germany, their home port.
Their pace was going to be much faster than ours as they needed to be in Darwin before the end of July. Sadly we knew we wouldn’t cross paths again this time. On Sunday we had friends on board, Eduardo and his lovely family came to visit.
Amazing sunset at anchor
in settled weather
Monday was back to work for Oscar that had to fix the engines blues. Tuesday was engine stress test day and after leaving each engine running for 4 hours he verified impellers were ok. The question of why the failure happened is still on guessing grounds. With a feeling of 'hope it won't happen again' and several spare impellers on board we decided we should keep going.
In the meantime the weather looked perfect for the next leg and we decided to leave beautiful Mooloolaba towards Wide Bay Bar and the Great Sandy Straits in Fraser Island.
Mooloolaba to Fraser Island - Crossing the Notorious Wide Bay Bar - 4 to 5 June 2015
While pondering how to cross the notorious bar we realized how tricky it was to time our exit from Mooloolaba for the 70 miles trip to Wide Bay Bar and arrive at the optimal entrance time which is the last 2 hours before high tide. On that specific morning that time would be around 11:00 AM.
One option was to leave 12 hours ahead. Considering the light conditions we would allow 12 hours for the trip to give us enough time to spare without risking missing the slack. That meant leaving in the dark. Not so bad in Mooloolaba but not ideal either. It also meant there was a good chance we would make the trip faster having to drift for a couple of hours waiting for the right time to enter the bar. On top of it all, probably a sleepless night for both of us.
Another option was leave early morning heading to Double Island Point and spend the night there. This is a very convenient anchorage to wait for the tide as it is just 10 miles south of the bar but is described by Alan Lucas as one of the worst anchorages on the entire east coast. In a south-easterly wind the swell wraps around the headland causing an uncomfortable roll. We were not expecting anything but calm weather but you never know. We had not been there before and we were thinking what the options were if the anchorage was untenable.
At the end we decided to take the 'middle' approach, meaning not leaving early morning or late night and left a couple of hours before dark. The thinking was 'let's go and see'. We would leave with enough daylight to cross the Mooloolaba Bar and set sails and course before dark. The challenge was we would arrive at Double Island Point in the middle of the night but Alan Lucas also says it is possible to enter this open bay at night with settled weather. If we found the conditions bad, the entrance not safe or the anchorage untenable we would stay at sea hoping the wait for the morning hours wouldn't be that long. If all was as expected we could rest there before heading to Wide Bay Bar a couple of hours before slack time.
In settled weather we found it easy to enter even in the dark night. On approach there was fluorescence everywhere around us, the seas looking brighter than the starry skies. All my apprehension of doing this in the middle of the night was gone while marvelling at this incredible moment.
Then, lights seemed to be moving up and down on shore and left us confused until we realized this coast is, like Fraser Island, used by people in their 4WD's for camping and fishing.
Once the anchor was set, we were happy with our choice and went to sleep, thinking the hard part was still to come.
At anchor in Double Island Point,
a beautiful and wide anchorage in settled weather
The following morning we woke up early with VMR from Tin Can Bay calling to check if we had arrived safely to the anchorage. As always when cruising the Australia coast we logged our trip with them. They gave us all the info needed to cross the bar which included the 3 waypoints and the right timing.
It was overcast with no wind so we motored the 10 miles to the south end of Fraser Island and crossed the bar uneventfully. Even with these very calm conditions there were a couple of scary waves and Zenitude surfing in the shallowest part, not the best of feelings, the depth going down very quickly to 4 meters. Once the depth sounder started going up the washing machine feeling took over while we traversed the 'mad mile' until all the sudden all went quiet again and we were in.
Having crossed the bar we headed north in the Great Sandy Straits looking for a quiet anchorage before sunset.
We stopped at popular Garry's anchorage. It was very peaceful among the mangroves.
This place is named after Garry, an aboriginal that supported his large family off the land in this general area.
( 25.37.83S 152.58.38E)
Fraser Island to Urangan - Along the Great Sandy Straits - 6 to 8 June 2015
The Great Sandy Straits extends north from Tin Can Bay to Hervey Bay and separates Fraser Island from mainland. It is a complex landscape of mangroves, sandbars and islands and is an important habitat for fish, crustaceans, dugongs, dolphins and turtles. Although there are many shoal areas and drying banks it is possible to navigate using the tidal ranges.
After spending a day in Garry's anchorage we decided to keep going along the straits up to Kingfisher Resort in Fraser Island where boats can anchor along the beach.
We left about 2 hours before the high tide so that we would cross the Sheridan Flats, the shallowest part, with a rising tide in case we touch ground. With the new chart plotter display at the helm it was mostly easy navigation through the flats even when a 3 knots helping current made it almost impossible to slow down on the shallow bits.
The ferry brings cars and people to the island and resort, and as this was the long Queen's Birthday weekend, the ferry was unloading cars and people quite frequently.
Right after sunset we went on shore to check the resort. It is about 200 meters from the beach and it is quite nice. They have several restaurants and we decided to give us a treat and try their buffet dinner.
Luckily we left the dinghy tied to the pier as the tide had gone down and we were not in the mood to wet our feet in a long walk to reach waters deep enough for the dinghy, especially in the chill of the night after having read unconfirmed sighting of a croc (yes, a crocodile) in the vicinity of the hotel.
This was a bit of a shock as I had thought that croc country was just on the north of QLD, but apparently they can be found all along the coast as south as this area as well.
Urangan - The Whale Watching Base in Hervey Bay - 8 to 13 Jun
You are in Croc Country
There was one spot, at the northern tip of Tooth Island where the chart did not agree with the navigation marks and we got confused as the Red can did not seem to make a lot of sense but the rule is trust the navigation aids, so we did, the depth sounder went down to 1.4 meters and we passed (we draw about 0.80 from where our depth sounder is located).
No more excitements after that and we reached the Kingfisher Bay resort where we anchored.
Anchoring there was tricky as shallows go out a long way from the shore and then there is a cliff and the water deepens rapidly.
We found a good spot in about 6 to 7 meters high tide, not too far from the Ferry Wharf.
We were hit wih a forecast of several days of strong winds and decided to hide in the Great Sandy Straits marina in Urangan. We wanted to keep going at a better speed as it was starting to get cold in these latitudes but we were nicely surprised in this area.
The town is part of Hervey Bay and is located in the mainland across from Fraser Island. There are many attractions in the area and one of them is whale watching tours.
Each year humpback whales migrate to the eastern coast of Australia. Groups of whales or 'pods' start to arrive at the southern Great Barrier Reef in mid-June and in the following weeks they move further along the reef concentrating in the southern Whitsundays area.
On the southern migration back to Antarctic waters, a large proportion of the whales stop over for a few days in Hervey Bay. Most humpbacks will have left the Queensland coast by the beginning of November. This whale behaviour makes Hervey Bay a centre of whale watching tours.
The whale watching guidelines state that a vessel should stop 300 meters from a whale but the whales do not know the rules and often they swim up to the side of the boat. We are a bit wary of whales and rather don’t find them. It is known that whales may be sleeping or resting on the surface and will not detect a catamaran approaching with the disastrous result of the boat hitting the whale. As it was still early in the season we were not expecting to see them, yet.
We had an easy sail and arrived at the marina just as the weather started to deteriorate.
There was a chilly wind and even the pelicans looked unhappy with this kind of weather.
A visit to Maryborough - It all happens on Thursdays
The wind kept blowing hard for 4 days and we were happy with the decision to come to the marina. We decided to rent a car for a day and visit the historical town of Maryborough. It is a pleasant and interesting tour and is good to go there on Thursdays when the outdoor City Markets are open because the opening times coincide with the historical Mary Ann Steam train running and the "town crier" firing the time canon at 1:00 PM, which is all very interesting once you find the story behind it. There are several museums that open every day but I imagine any other day the atmosphere in town might not be the same.
At the markets we bought some local produce and then went for a ride in the Mary Ann steam train replica that is maintained and run by a team of volunteers' crew that are happy to tell you anything you like to know about the town.
The original train was the first Queensland's steam engine and it was built in 1873. The Mary Ann was used to saw the rails and sleepers for her own track. It runs among pretty gardens and alongside the Mary River shore for a little ride.
After that it was lunch time and we had quite nice food at the open market while watching and learning about the time canon.
In an instructive ceremony we learnt that the canon was fired every day at 1:00 PM in the 1800's to let all workers in the vicinity know it was lunch time and let people reset their watches if needed.
Just a short walk from the markets is the heritage building where Mary Poppins' writer, Pamela Lyndon Travers, was born, the nanny's bronze statue is outside, just standing there.
Riding the Mary Ann
The Town Crier reads the news of the day
Then, at exaclty 1:00 PM he fires the cannon
Next day was the Soccer World Cup opening and we decided to we leave Urangan after watching the first game in our brand new TV and Antenna. As if it wasn't complicated enough to plan our route according to weather windows, places to stop and distances to cover, the soccer world cup games schedule had entered in our plans as well and of course, the anchorage option has to have good TV coverage. After all, soccer world cup is only once every 4 years. With that in mind, our next stop was Bundaberg where we arrived late afternoon after a calm motoring day.
Leaving Urangan in the chilli morning
Hervey Bay's famous and historic Urangan Pier - it's one of the longest in Australia and stretches for almost one kilometre into the ocean.
When there is a challenge ahead, nothing is better that things working out better than expected. We left at 3:00 PM and the 10 to 15 knots SE gave us 7 kn speed which meant that well before midnight we were arriving at the entrance of Double Island Point.
The only squall that got to us had of course to appear at the time we decided to get sails down to enter Double Island Point bay. But it was short lived and soon the warm night was quiet as we entered this wide anchorage.