Saturday, January 28, 2017

Australia - Bundaberg to Brisbane and Beyond

After being officially checked into the country in Bundaberg, we were free to roam the great Land Down Under!  We spent one day catching a bus into the town of Bundaberg and it was a shock to the system!  While Bundaberg is not exactly a bustling metropolis, it was enough to remind us that we had hit civilization again!  We found a Target!  A TARGET!  Lets just say....we had a hard time getting Benjamin out of the Lego isle.  On the way back, we clung tightly onto the seats as our bus rocketed down the road!  We were not used to this kind of  speed after living at a "snails pace" for the past 8 months!

It was also the first sighting of the almighty Kangaroo!  Gaby and I had cycled to a shop with Bruce and Lyn Savage, and on the way back, there they were...3 big "Roos" on the side of the road! Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me to catch this moment, but we eyed each other for quite a while, and only when Gaby and Lyn (the adventurous ones) crossed the ditch and walked up to them, did they hop away.  It was then that we knew we were officially in Australia!

After spending a few days in the marina in Bundaberg, we decided to make use of the northerly winds to help us sail south.  We left on Sunday morning, December 4th and sailed 40 miles south over Hervey Bay, and anchored off Big Woody Island at the top of Fraser Island.  We spent the next day here too, doing schoolwork, climbing the mast, and meeting our neighbors, Rupert, Lynette and their sons Tom and Noah, who had sailed all the way from Tasmania on their aluminium catamaran, "Molly Leprano".  We were enjoying the new landscape of rocky shores and wooded islands.

The next day, after a quick stop at Kingfisher resort on Fraser Island, a wonderful swim in the resort pool, we had a lovely long sail down the Great Sandy Straits to Wide Bay Bar.  We had to negotiate some narrow channels with shallow water on either side, but enjoyed the calm water that was a result of being shielded by Fraser Island.

Ben up the mast!

Big Woody Island

Cool Runnings anchored off Fraser Island

Fraser Island
Enjoying a beautiful sail down the Great Sandy Straits

Australia had introduced us to new terminology, and a new task we had to master:  "crossing the bar". The east coast of Australia doesn't have many natural harbors or inlets where a boat can pull in for shelter, but it does have rivers that flow directly into the ocean.  However, these rivers usually have shallow entrances, and the combination of the tides rising and falling, and the volume of water rushing in and out, can cause big waves to break at the entrances, making crossing the bars almost a science.  You have to take a number of factors into account:  wind direction and strength, sea state, tide, and most importantly, swell and swell direction.  You have to time crossing the bar so that you enter or exit between 1 and 4 hours after a low tide to be certain of catching the in-going rising tide, and you have to avoid a swell from the east, as this pushes water directly into the river mouths.

This is what you have to avoid.  Image courtesy of

So it was with this knowledge that we had to cross our first bar!  We anchored in Pelican Bay, a shallow little cove just next to the entrance to Wide Bay Bar, which is the entrance (or in our case, exit) to the Great Sandy Straits, together with JoliFou.  While it was not a narrow entrance, Wide Bay Bar (hence the name!) had a bad reputation for a section called "the mad mile", because there was such a long stretch of shallow, rough water outside the entrance.  We knew we had to have an early start because of the tide calculation mentioned above.  When we woke up at about 4:30am, we saw a couple of other boats already heading out of the exit.  Dave upped anchor and radioed Bruce to let him know we were leaving a little earlier than planned.  By 5:00am, we were heading out the entrance.  The initial exit was not that bad, a little bumpy, but nothing that we hadn't experienced before.  But now comes the fun part:  Bruce and Dave had seen a section on the charts that they figured they could cross, which would be a short cut, and avoid the "mad mile".  Cool Runnings was to go ahead, and JoliFou would follow.   We edged along...carefully watching the depth sounder...5ft...4ft...3ft....the alarm was sounding:  beep!  beep!  beeep!!!!  This was a little too close for comfort, so Dave put the engines in reverse, and we backed off. We radioed Bruce and Lyn and told them it was too shallow to cross.  Lyn came back on the radio, thanked us, and said Bruce still wanted to "have a look", so they continued that way.  We decided to rather face the mad mile rather than try again!

So off we went and smashed and crashed along with the other boats, all the while watching JoliFou taking the short cut.  And blow us down...they made it!!  Later they told us that they too had some close calls, but they edged their way through and soon were in deeper water and were able to make their way out close to shore, but avoiding the mad mile!

The rest of the day was a race (of course) with JoliFou leading, but Cool Runnings asking for leniency due to the fact that we caught a yellow fin tuna and needed 2 hours to clean and fillet it, and thus were not able to raise our sails as soon as JoliFou!  Leniency was not granted and JoliFou was proclaimed the winner. :-(  We arrived at Mooloolaba at about 2:00pm and just managed to get a berth at the marina.  We spent the afternoon exploring this beautiful seaside town and had dinner with Bruce and Lyn at the Yacht Club.

Gutting the fish that made us loose the race

One of the many amazing, rocky headlands with beautiful, old lighthouses that we passed on our way

The fishing fleet at Mooloolaba

The start gun went off at 7:00am the next morning (Thursday, December 8th), and Cool Runnings and JoliFou sailed across Moreton Bay, ending the day at anchor off Peel Island.  Moreton Bay is the bay that the Brisbane River runs into, and the city of Brisbane itself is situated up the river, but we decided to visit Brisbane on our way back up again, as we wanted to get to the Gold Coast relatively soon.  We had a quick look ashore and were cognizant of the fact that just a week or so earlier, "Impi" had been anchored here and had experienced a terrible thunderstorm with lightning, and strong winds, with boats dragging and ending up on shore.  Luckily we were spared bad weather, although it looked like a storm brewing on the horizon.

Ben enjoying sundowners on Peel Island

 The storm is brewing in the background, so we have to head back to the boats.  

Gabs tries her hand at filling the freezer

Our challenge the following day, which we had discussed at length over the radio the day before, was getting from Peel Island to the Gold Coast through the waterway.  We had discovered that we had to cross under some power cables, and we were not sure if JoliFou would fit, as their mast was allegedly slightly higher than ours.  But after reaching out to many people that day including, "Impi", and our new friends from Tasmania on "Molly Leprano", who had both recently gone that way, we decided we would both fit.  So we had another early morning, pulling up the anchor at 6:00am and heading down the narrow waterway.  It was beautiful, and getting under the cables proved to be a non-issue!  Of course we were racing the whole way down, even when there was 3 knots of wind, and we were sailing at about 2 knots.  At one point, they seemed to be dredging the waterway, and were shown a detour, which led us right next to some houses, so close were we, we could have reached out and touched their docks!  All this was done under sail, may I add!!

JoliFou easily passes under the overhead cables
It never looks like you'll fit!!  Cool Runnings passing under the cables
I love the Pelicans here.  They are much larger than our brown Pelicans we have in Florida, and are white with black wings

Cool landscape on the waterway

The waterway eventually spilled out in the Broadwater, and just like that, the skyline of the Gold Coast appeared.  Another shock to the system!  We had not seen high rise buildings like this since leaving the US!

Our first glimpse of the Gold Coast skyline

It was also here that we saw "Impi" anchored, and we went and said hi, and made arrangements to do the Moose update movie mentioned in my previous post.

"Impi" with the Gold Coast skyline in the background

Both JoliFou and Cool Runnings dropped anchor in the crowded anchorage of the Marina Stadium, affectionately known as "Bum's Bay". This was to be our home for the next 10 days!

The crowded anchorage in "Bum's Bay"
This view was better!

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