Tin Can Bay to Newport and Home.

Last time we had put the boat into Tin Can Bay Marina and taken the bus home as it was clear we had missed the window of opportunity to come across the Wide Bay Bar and make it down to Brisbane.  In hindsight, that was probably wrong and you will see why.  But it also was a very big miss of the window of opportunity.  We just didn’t know or moreover, realise it at the time

Well when we arrived home, all that people wanted to talk about was the awful wet weather they were having lately.  “At least you arrived on a fine day” was the basic comment of all.  And yes, the grass was green, lush and overwhelmingly high.  It was certainly a wet spring to say the least. Now because we arrived, we did kind of expect that since we had been in close contact with the many gods that control such things, that we would have a bit of a dry spell, some sort of relief from the deluge that had occurred in the general area for the past couple of months.  In retrospect, I did think that our relationship with the gods in the past had not been quite as good as it could have been, so my new formed relationship may not help at all…  As it turns out, it didn’t. They remembered me very well.   In fact, it was their last crack at making my life very frustrating for the next three weeks.

So the aim was to wait a little while for the winds to turn to something North of East.  Even East would do very nicely.  But South East was not what I was really looking for.  So wait we did as the wind was always up there at the wrong end of pleasant and always South to South East.  Every day we would look at the forecast, and every day there was a window of opportunity four days away.  But it would always stay four days away and the rain and wind continued, despite the fact that we had arrived and the gods had been notified.    Having said that,  despite the next days prediction generally being dire, windows of opportunity did transpire as things changed over night, but you had to be on your boat to take advantage of it.  We were 2.5hrs drive away and by the time we woke up and saw what was going on, we would not be at the boat till lunch time and what were we going to do with that.

This in itself is actually a lesson learned.  Like a lot of people there is a fixation on the Wide Bay Bar, which has its foundations laid into their minds through the countless boats that have been lost on the bar. It is a dangerous part of the world which requires tremendous respect, but having traveled over a number of bars, it is in some ways a bit better than most because it is actually very deep and you are unlikely to hit the bottom as you go across (which is an import rule in your manual for the good upkeep of your boat).  Furthermore, there is a well trodden route to follow which is marked.  Compared to some of the bars at the entrance of Moreton Bay, it is almost civilized.  However, as we were inexperienced with this particular bar, we were showing a lot of respect for it.  The plan was we would look for a high tide somewhere before 1400 during the day, cross it at high tide, stay at Double Island point for the night, go to Mooloolaba, or if we had good winds, we would go all the way home.  Now Hilary didn’t really want to make the trip down, so to add to the constraint, I had to find somebody to help me.  So if you think about this for a minute. We need:

a) Another person who is available with a days notice (some people seem to work…)

b) Find 2-3 days of reasonable weather

c) The first night had to have weather which allowed us to anchor at Double Island Point, so it had to have wind in the south or be very light from the north on the first day.

d) the next day we wanted wind from North of East, and we would prefer that it was at 15 knots.

e) rain was ok, but not desirable.

f) wave height should be around a metre.  This would allow crossing of the bar in 1-2 metre waves.

h) we preferred to travel during the day.

All these constraints in an atmosphere (no pun intended) of apparently unpredictable weather.  The end result was we sat in Brisbane looking at weather charts for 3 weeks waiting for the impossible to occur.  It was clear we needed a new strategy…

As part of time in Brisbane, I decided to do something constructive.  Apart from mowing the grass every second day, I decided to work out something that had been annoying me for a while. You see when you sail it is rare that the winds are in the direction you want to make the port you are heading for in one tack, so you have to zig zag your way to the place.  It is a basic inadequacy of sails which doesn’t allow you to sail into wind.  This is why they invented engines.  If you are a sailor, you simply accept this as more of a fun day.  If you are not, well it becomes a frustrating part of your life in the exposed elements, for which the skipper is to blame.  Discussion involving the gods of wind, tide, shoals and anything else that comes to mind at the time to substantiate your argument (as straight logic is of no use) also apparently don’t appease the situation.  So the only way to assist is to minimise the time afloat, which of course is why racing was invented.  In contrast to popular belief, racing is not a primeval urge of males to dominate one another, but more there as a result of appeasing the enforced crew from mutiny by reducing there time afloat.  However, and movining on, in order to be successful at this, one needs to have incredible good luck, be experienced, or simply buy an engine.  As none of this is in my option bag, I decided to work out mathematically the best angle to sail,  given the wind direction to the direction from your boat to the destination.  I started this calculation on the boat, but was always interrupted with “other” issues.  So when I got back home I spent a couple of days and worked it out.  It was actually harder than I originally thought, but then my track record in the department of “how hard can it be” is sort of not too brilliant.  Below is my output which shows that you point into the wind as high as you can or need to to make your destination up to an angle of wind which is 140 degrees to your course (behind you). Then you should tack down wind and at the angles that are provided.  We all know this, but here is my substantiation for it and next time I will see if I can implement it.  As it turned out it was of no use whatsoever on our trip down, but it made me feel good that I was going to be a better informed sailor…..  As I said, no use whatsoever.

New Picture compressed
Top Graph the vertical axis is degrees. The second graph tells you the time to get to the destination. All you take from this is that if you go downwind it is going to take you a long time if you do the wrong thing and avoid tacking. If you are interested I can provide a better explanation and the code.

So back to a different plan of attack.  It was pretty clear to me that there was no reason we could not make Double Island Point to home in a day.  What was I thinking…  It was less than many of the journeys we had made up north.  So that eliminated one day.  But the constraint of having to stay at Double Island Point was also very significant.  After a bit of a look, it was clear that we could actually make Mooloolaba from Tin Can Bay if the tide was high in the morning and not too late.  From there it was a fairly easy trip to home, with less constraints.  Now the real problem was the crew.  Getting somebody to assist for even two days was proving difficult, especially as I could not give them more than a days notice.  It seems they have their own life to live… So I worked with the idea we would leave late one afternoon and drive to Tin Can and take the boat to Pelican Point, (just inside the bar) that night and then cross the next day to get to where ever we could further south.  But the constraint of the lack of time by the few that I were in contact with was the killer.  So I decided to wait for a day where the wind was in the East-North East quarter, with waves around a metre and travel up to Tin Can Bay the night before.  Then, if I could, get to Pelican Point, but if not, start early, cross the Bar in the morning with an incoming tide and go for home all in one day.  About 200km, but doable in mostly daylight.  But if it does get dark at the end of the day (and yes of course it gets dark at the end of the day…, but you know what I mean), it is in an area I know well. So most constraints were lifted, just needed the right winds on the right tide with the right person able to travel when the waves were not that big.  Too easy…

So the day arrived.  Great forecast, even had two days of it.  So with two days and the way the tides were, we decided to travel up early from Brisbane and take advantage of the two days, despite the new plan.  So we woke up bright and early and the forecast had changed.  The wrong winds and rain were back with us so plan cancelled.  A week later the window was starting to appear again, and every second day it got pushed to the right by one day, so I could see we were catching it.  Then decision day came.  The next day looks good.  0630 high on the bar, seas around 1m and decreasing, winds NE 10-15knots.  Perfect.  So a quick call and Mike was available for the day, but only had a day.  A bit of a constraint, but we will get to Mooloolaba and Hilary can assist from there and Mike could take the car back and meet his commitment.  So we are all good. We arrive at Tin Can Bay in rain and storms. Not the best… Forecast still good for tomorrow, though a little more rain than I would hope and the waves were 1-1.5m now.  But we are here now.  So an early night with the following thoughts.  I need to a) get this boat out of this tight marina, b) once I am out, get it out of the tight channel, c) get it as quickly as I can up to the bar, face the bar and set a course for home.

Screenshot_20171202-073230 compressed
The overall picture
Screenshot_20171202-073344 compressed
The first part of the day across the bar and down to Double Island Point where there is a kink to get around Wolf Rock near MNP29.  The pin mark on Double Island Point was where we were going to anchor. 
Screenshot_20171202-073424 compressed
The final part of the trip where we cheated the god of shoals.
Screenshot_20171202-072049 compressed
We traveled down on the 1st Dec, where you can see the waves were the worst. Good timing….

During the night the rain came down and the wind blew.  Good I thought, get it out of your system.  We got up at 0400 and it was very dark.  It was something to do with the clouds (those that don’t know this area, we don’t have daylight savings time and the sun gets up nice and early and sets nice an early too, so I was expecting to see some sun). So I rolled over for 5 minutes and 30 minutes late I was woken by Hilary (who stayed the night to take the car back in the morning) and there was some glimmer of sunshine. I jumped on to the computer and looked at the forecast and there it was, good winds, a bit of rain, and oh, 2-3m of seas.  Oh, indeed.  How are we going to get over the bar with that sort of seas.  After deliberation, we said we would have a look at it.  So off we went.  Hilary went in the car and Mike and I successfully got out of the marina and as we were now late for the bar crossing at high tide, motored as fast as we could to the bar.  We logged on to the VMR Tin Can Bay and asked if there had been any reports, but the story was it was quiet…  Mmm, not a good sign, as that tends to mean nobody is attempting it. Well we soldered on and as we got to Pelican Point where we noted a lot of boats anchored, again also not a good sign as they were not going to attempt it.  But we did notice one boat starting to move.  There is hope I thought. Now as it turns out, as we turned around Pelican Point to face the bar, we counted nine boats attempting it.  We were the tenth and last because we were so late.

The first part was to attempt the washing machine.  It is the northern stretch before you turn east to cross the shallow water.  Well the washing machine is called such for a good reason.  There was nothing dangerous there if nothing goes wrong, but the waves certainly attack you from every direction and make it uncomfortable, and for a long time too.  Then we approached the second waypoint and needed to turn east.  We had caught up to two boats in front, who were about 15 minutes ahead of us at this point.  It was about 0700, so the tide had turned to run out (which is not good as the waves stand up against the tide), but it was still ok as we weren’t that far past the peek.  From viewing the other boats crossing, we gained two things.  The first was that the waves were pretty big and this was not going to be fun, and the second was that although one boat made a pretty radical change of course at one very late stage, it would appear that there was no real issues.  So I thought, just remember the people break before the boats do.  So keep your head and go where the breakers weren’t and maintain your course.  So we approached and as the water depth decreased, the waves got bigger, and bigger and considerably bigger.  They were generally around 3m with the occasional one at 4m.  I countered 6 of these monsters.  Now having said that the boat and crew handled it very well.  They were not breaking, they were very steep, but the boat just went up the front and over the top.  We launched it once on a steep one and the boat was slightly airbourne for a while, but it did not feel that bad with a nice soft landing.  I could not say that I wanted to go back for the fun of it again, but I would honestly appraise it as “not too bad, considering”.  I am not sure I would like to come in with it behind me, but that would be another experience I suppose, and we had enough learning for the day with a mission to complete.

So as the depth increased, the waves dropped off and we were left with about 1.5m, of good swell with a bit of chop on top.  Winds were light. Up went the sails, no reef required, and we plotted a course to Double Island Point which would miss Wolf Rock. There was definitely no problems with seeing Wolf Rock with lots of waves erupting around it.

I was warned that Double Island Point can also be a bit messy (thanks Graham), well that warning took special meaning on the day and the definition of “a bit” needed certain clarification.  The bar had reasonably big waves on it but were all coming in one direction.  Double Island Point had more than reasonably big waves coming at you, from multiple directions.  So we slogged our way through that and then decided with the winds we had, we should make for Home.  So a direct course was set and for the rest of the day we had waves between 1 and 3m rolling into us from abeam, which was all ok for the boat as it powered on at around 7-8 knots in the same amount of breeze mostly on autopilot.  The only issue were the crew and captain, who later admitted to each other that they felt a little quizzy in the conditions initially.

We predicted that we would make the bottom tip of Bribe Island by 1700, which would give us 2 hours of daylight (and dusk) to make the home port at Newport.  As the day progressed and the wind decreased a bit and many a boat (well 2) were overtaken, we had to concede that 1700 was a little optimistic, but 1730 would be ok.  So any consideration of going to Mooloolaba was quickly dismissed.  I was determined that by the time we went there and moored and came out again we could have made home.  So it was somewhere in the distance as we zoomed and rocked down the coast.  All the coast was covered in rain, but we were enjoying brilliant sunshine, so it was pretty nice.

All we saw was a couple of turtles, a dolphin and its calf and a military aircraft cruising up the coast below the hill height.  One of these had heightened interest for both of us.

We had to deal with a few ships as we got down towards Caloundra but by this stage we had nearly 15knots of breeze, we had reefed and we were zooming along around 10 knots and could quickly deal with their requests.  We peeked at 14knots, but I suspect that was the time we went for a nice surf down one of those 3 metre waves, shortly after which we reefed…  At one stage where it was a bit sporty, I was on the phone with a colleague in Adelaide where it was apparently raining and it was difficult to drive.  I suggested that I wished I was with him…

Once we got close to Bribe Island, the swell dropped right off and we had good wind and Bribe just went past as the sun slowly started to set.  At almost precisely 1730, we were off the southern tip of Bribe (what great things I thought about my estimation ability), at which point we could see home, way in the distant.  The wind dropped, the seas were flat and the wind was directly behind us.  Ar, I thought, I will use my new calculations to get us home before dark…  I have the upper hand of science.  Ok, now let me see, the way I should steer is over there, well there is a sandbank there, but I could get a bit of benefit if I steer that way, Mmm, lots of breakers there, well lets go that way, that will help, well not really as there is an island there.  Bugger it, lets just go straight down wind and suffer it.  I am so glad I did that calculation… The benefit we had was we had daylight, the tide was coming in (and going in our direction) and I knew which sandbanks I could get across with this tide, so channel markers were for somebody else.  At one stage Mike asked how much water was under us and I told him it was 2.5m which he responded with “and yes it is all tide mate”.  He clearly had not been through The Narrows (we are work hardened).  As the sun set, so did the wind, so we motored downwind for the last 20 minutes, we dropped the sails as the sun went down, then motored in the dark with a brilliant full moon into the narrow entrance of Newport.

The only final issue we had was the pontoon we had arranged was new to us, so we had to first find it, the minor detail of precisely where the pontoon was located, was over looked in the excitement of the day.  It turns out that it was a bit obvious, as it was beside a very expensive boat lit up like a Christmas tree (it is Christmas, but clearly the owner is not somebody who worries about the cost of power) so the boat was successfully tied up after a little bit easily handled maneuvering.  No doubt made easier due to the extensive experience that seems to have been gained (not to mention the lack of wind, Hilary on the pontoon to receive the rope, no requirement of sunshine due to the Christmas tree beside us, and plenty of area to make mistakes in).

Overall the statistics are: distance traveled was 196km over 14.25hrs with maximum speed of 25.3km/hr (14knots).  We started at 0500 and finished at 1915.  A great day and one of the best with wind and worst with waves.  The god of tides and wind were appropriately paid, but the god of waves needs a little appeasing. The god of shoals was cheated, so has probably kept a record of it for later.  So what we learnt was to not have fixed ideas about how it is going to evolve and indeed if we had thought about it, we could have come straight down to home in one day when we first arrived in Tin Can Bay, 3 weeks prior.

So that is it.  A round trip of around 4000km, lots of fun, lots of experiences, lots of learning, lots of new friends and the completion of a dream.

Allan and Hilary.

IMG_0255 compressed
Passing a boat. He disappeared over the horizon behind us after the end of the day.  Well it is not all about speed, but it sure helps sometimes.
IMG_0260 compressed
Sunset over Moreton Bay as we head for Newport (Redcliffe) (3/10)
IMG_0262 compressed
Sailing into the sunset…..




Gary’s Anchorage to Tin Can Bay

In the marina at Tin Can Bay

Today we were greeted with plenty of sandflies which attacked us as soon as the sun rose.  So we were desperate to leave.  But as we waiting until we had enough information from the various marinas and BOM so that we could decide what to do, the phone rang and it was the Tin Can Bay Marina.  After a bit of discussion we were able to pick up the last berth for a cat at the marina.  This meant our fate was sealed.

Screenshot_20171106-123507 compressed.png

We looked at the weather and the more we looked the more we could see that we were not going to make Mooloolabah, although the wide bay bar looked pretty good.  So after the availability of the marina berth, it was decided to go to Tin Can Bay and hold up there until the upcoming bad weather pasts.  It looks like it is going to take over a week before we are in a position to move south again.

So we set off towards Tin Can Bay, and it was very calm.  We got a surprise when we pulled the anchor up.  Well actually two surprises.  The first was that the anchor winch worked flawlessly…  The second was we pulled up a folding chair wrapped around the chain.  We tried to salvage it and dispose of it appropriately, but we dropped it, so it is there for somebody else at a later date.  We had to motor for the rest of the Sandy Straights, but finally when we got into the last hour, the wind came up and in a good direction and we had an excellent sail right to Tin Can Bay.  Very fitting for our last day.

So why is it our last day, well we have decided that we should leave the boat here to sort out a number of issues at home and then come back in a week or so and complete the last bit of the journey then.  Tomorrow we have a couple of seats booked on the bus and we will get home tomorrow night.  So this is our last blog for the trip, at least for now.

It was actually a really sad day for me.  From my perspective, it has been a fantastic trip.  Hilary found it a bit tougher.  It is something I wanted to do since I was first given a book by Alan Lucas, about Cruising the Qld Coast when I was probably 12 years old.  It is a fascinating and beautiful place indeed, but it is not that forgiving and sometimes tough and rough going.  We built the boat to do this trip and today it was an understanding that we had completed that journey.  I wished that Ross was here to share it with us, and indeed I really missed him on this trip, but it just wasn’t to be.  I am thankful that at least Hilary and I managed to do it.  So we had a fitting sail to end the journey for now and although the days sail has ended, we still managed to meet some nice people that we have been sailing beside for the last 3 days.  Everybody is on their own journey, I suppose, and sometimes our paths run in parallel for a bit.

I took a bunch of not very relevant photos, so here they are.  I will probably do a few more for the last part of the journey, but it will be a week or so.

So for now, this is the last blog from us.

Allan and Hilary.

Well we were expecting an anchor, but got a chair. Well we still had an anchor, but that came later.
Leaving the sandflies at Gary’s Anchorage.
Not a lot of wind coming down the Sandy Straights
The entrance of the Wide bay Bar. But today we will not attempt it.
Looking up from the engine bay.  The sail did a mighty job.
We had enough wind to keep moving some times.  Looking north towards where we came from for the last month and half.  The journey coming to an end.
Looking towards Tin Can Bay
Just about the last bit of sailing.
And the sails are set for the last time on this part of the trip.
Then at the end, the wind came up and we were off.
My home for many hours over the past 3 months.
Arriving at Tin Can Bay
Arrived and settled in a very narrow marina. One boat aborted as it was just too tough, but we were stupid enough to try and somehow managed it.
The final sunset. Well a 7/10. Bye for now.


Big Woody Island to Gary’s Anchorage

Hilary getting the anchor sorted
The sunset for the day

Today we were to navigate the Great Sandy Straights and set ourselves up for a crossing of the Wide Bay Bar tomorrow. Well the weather is not playing nice to us and it looks like we won’t be able to cross the bar and get to somewhere safe before a strong NW wind then and new SE strong wind appears.  So today after a fair bit of analysis of different weather patterns and different options we decide to just go to Gary’s anchorage.

So weather wise today it somewhere between dead flat calm and dead flat calm with a breath of a breeze.  We got up around 0500 and were on our way by 0515.  The anchor came up no problems, so I assume I have fixed that problem.  If it doesn’t work in the future I will assume it is a new unforeseen problem; which I might add there are many.

Screenshot_20171105-104043 compressed

We timed our departure so that we did not have to appease the god of current, because we knew what the tides were and where they meet in the middle of the travel we had to undertake.  So we planned it so that at the high tide were were at the point where the tides meet, so we therefore always had the tide with us.  If you don’t understand it, then just assume the god of tides was working with us for a change.

But the god of wind was also asleep (waiting for his big day on Tuesday, I suspect) and we had virtually none, but what we did have allowed us to sail most of the way.  However, when there was no wind then that diesel stuff sure becomes useful.

Anyway, when the new forecast came in at around 1000, it was clear that the situation with regards to the weather over the next week was getting worse.  So we decided that we would not cross the bar this week, but would wait it out.  Our first option was to go to Gary’s anchorage.  We feared that that there would be hordes of boats here, but there is not, at least today.  I assume they are going to try to make their way down the coast before the big winds come.

Well we anchored in Gary’s with nobody else to start with, but a couple of other boats arrived later.  I did some maintenance on the motors as some of the mounts were a little loose.  I had an issue with the salt water cooling system on the motors, most likely because the pump is getting a little old.  But after manually priming them, which required plenty of sucking on a hose and the inevitable mouth full of salt water, we got it going again.  We also have noted that the sun is starting to get really intense.  It seems worse than further north.  Maybe it has just caught up with us, so we unrolled some tarps and covered a lot of the boat to give it some shade.  I also checked that prop again, and guess what, it is still there.  Nice to see it doing its job.  Apart from that I read a book about the death of JFK, and it seems that there is nothing new there, so that was a good waist of time.

So our plans for tomorrow kind of depend on a few things.  We think if we can get a berth at either Tin Can Bay or back at Urangan, we will take that to ride out the weather.  In that time, as we are so close to home, we will take the bus and come back next week to bring the boat home.  This will allow us to sort out a birth at home, which we currently don’t have.  No if that all doesn’t happen, then we will sit here, or somewhere close for a week.  Lots of books, I fear.  Also I have a list of things to do so not all bad.  Some people call it relaxing…

Well we will keep you informed about what we will be up too tomorrow.

Allan and Hilary.

Sunrise at Big woody Island
well this was a windy part of the day
Hilary looking for the next beacon
This guy lives on a different planet, but we enjoy the surf afterwards
Gary’s anchorage
Covered in tarps to protect us from the sun
Sunset with pretty clouds, but a little bit of a concern as they are tell us a story.
The last bit of the sunset 7/10

Bundaberg to Big Woody Island.

Sailing a long very slowly

It was a pretty long boring day without wind for most of the day.  We left the marina at about 0630, and we were greeted with no wind.  In fact, there was no wind until about 1600.  There was a bit in the middle, but the reality is that we spent most of the time running the motors.

In total we did about 90km over 10.5hrs.  It was a slow hot day and we were glad to finish it.  There are not a lot of pictures to show as we really did not a lot today.

So till tomorrow.

Allan and Hilary


Leaving the marina at Bundaberg
Coming out of the river
You get an idea what the days weather was mostly like.
West side of Big Woody Island looking north
West side of Big Woody Island looking south
Sunset over the boat
Sunset over the water
Sunset from Woody Island 5/10

A day in Bundaberg (again)

Bust of Bert Hinkler in Bundaberg

After yesterday’s trip we decided to have an easy day in Bundaberg. It turns out that this may be a bit of an issue as we are losing our window on the weather for traveling south, but we both wanted a bit of a rest.

We had to fill up on water and fuel and a few groceries. So we got the free shuttle to the IGA to get the food and filled the tanks from the marina.  All went well and very helpful people everywhere.  We completed a few jobs and then got the free shuttle to town.  At this point we were confronted with about a 4km walk to the Hinkler museum (it didn’t look far on the map, was somebody’s, who shall remain nameless, comment}.  This was something we missed last time, probably because I looked at the map last time….  Bert Hinkler was an important aviator and in 1928 he completed the first flight from the UK to Australia here.  The reason he chose Bundaberg, was because this is where he was born and bought up.

So in the heat we walked to the museum.  It was not a bad walk as we crossed the river and saw a lot of town.  The museum was great.  I did not realise that he was not just a pilot, but was actually designing aircraft and was an accomplished engineer in his own right. He built a glider from his own design which he fly from the local beaches, only a few years after the Wright Bros., when he was just 19 years old.

Well the museum was well worth it.  We then headed back for the town again, but this time by bus.  Well not quite; we missed the last bus by 3 minutes.  So we had to walk it again.  This time we went through the botanic gardens, which was well worth it.

We waited for the shuttle bus back to the marina to arrive where we were told to wait, but it never did.  But rather, the regular bus and the last bus, arrived at the time we thought the shuttle was to arrive, so after a bit of confusion, we got on the regular bus.  Turns out there is no free shuttle bus to return on.

On Friday night the marina puts on a free BBQ.  We meet up with a number of people we had seen previously as well as a bunch of people coming on a rally from New Caledonia.  Seems they were keeping the immigration department busy.  It was a good night.

Not a lot of else to tell you.  But we are off to Woody Island tomorrow, with a bit of luck.

Allan and Hilary.

Bert Hinkler’s first plane
Another of his planes
One of the engines he used.
One of the planes he helped to design.
This spare was on his original glider. It was later flown on the space shuttle. But it was on the flight which blew up. But amazingly, they recovered it from the wreckage and it was returned to Bundaberg.
Another of his early planes
The botanic gardens.
Hinkler’s house when he was living in England. They transported it brick by brick and rebuilt it here.
The bridge across the Burnett River in Bundaberg. It was completed in 1900.
The Burnett River with the town centre on the right.
The Bundaberg town centre.

Pancake Creek to Bundaberg

In our pen at Bundaberg

Today was going to be a big day and we seemed to have a weather window to make Bundaberg, so when we awoke this morning, after a quick assessment we decided to go. It was a bit of a funny day wind wise as it started with  SW wind and was expected to move to the NE.  So completely opposite directions. The change was due at 1100. We used this to our advantage of sorts.  Well at least we used the knowledge of it to our advantage.  It would have been a lot better if it was a NE breeze all day.

Well the first thing was the anchor raising.  And yes this went without a hitch.  So maybe it is fixed.  The departure from Pancake creek was at 0530 and  went without any issues. We motored out till we were just outside of the headland, then put the sails up.  We tacked towards the east missing Middle Rock, which we nearly hit when we were going north.

Todays trip. 145km completed in 11.5hrs.

There was an exclusion zone in place.  It is marked as a waypoint on the map. This was where a fishing boat sank with the lose of 6 people.  One person was lucky enough to be picked up by a sailing boat.  Well we had to keep about 5km away from this point.  As you can see this did not really pose a problem for us, but I have to say, some people did not seem to acknowledge that there was an exclusion zone.

As you can see we tacked back towards the shore after clearing the exclusion zone, in anticipation for the wind to shift direction.  The slow sweeping curve in our course to aline ourselves with the coast was a reflection of the wind change which occurred over about an hour.  Once it came in we then took off, passing many boats in the process and covering a lot of ground.  Mind you we needed too as well!  We were heading for the marina in Bundaberg, and the last thing I really wanted to do was attack that at night after a long day sailing.

We arrived at the marina at about 1630 and tempted fate and tried to get into our berth. Well the wind and current at the entrance to the bay we were in was running with each other at right angles to the entrance of the pens.  The width of the channel between the pens on either side also looked pretty narrow, but we stopped the boat in the current, and proceeded to back it.  It was crabbing a lot, but I had it under control and was confident I would make our particular pen.  All went well and we approached the pen.  Hilary then yelled out to somebody to assist with the ropes, and seems it could not resist (I’m not sure what Hilary was flashing…).  Then with a bit of effort, we slipped in to our pen without any issues.  A small miracle, but just maybe we are slightly better than when we were here last.

Then that was about it for the day.  An early night was had.

Alan and Hilary.

Sunset for the day 4/10

Pancake Creek again


Today was supposed to be a day of rest, but for some reason we were busy all day.  We still had a problem with the anchor windlass when we used it last.  At least the god of windlasses allowed us some mercy and only provides us with his quota of problems when we can handle them best.  I am sure that has now jinxed me…  Anyway, I had quite enough of this bloody thing (excuse the French), but it was becoming a right royal frustrating pain in the neck, and elsewhere.  So I went about looking for the problem from top to bottom.  I was happy we had done our best with the relay, and as far as I can see, it is working just fine.  So it had to be either the motor or a connection.  The only thing that was apparent was that it always occurred towards the end of the retrieval, so it was something getting hot.  I assumed it had to be a connection.

So all the connections were removed and cleaned, then tightened.  I would say that there was always something to be gained on every connection, so with a lot of hope and anticipation we awaited the next day to see if it worked. Like us, you too will have to wait in great anticipation of a successful outcome.

We then got in the dingy and went for a bit of sightseeing and had a lot of fun zooming around in the shallows and finding channels to take us various places.  All in the name of science, of course.  We saw a fair few stingrays and some other wild life.  The sandflies were by far the prevalent species.    Good I suppose if you like them, but talking to a number of people, they don’t seem to be up there on the preferred list….  Mozzies tend to rank higher on the preferred list and marsh flies are considered good sport to see if you can hit them, then actually kill them.   This species of insect is good at bitting you as well as performing reincarnation.  For those that don’t know what these very large flies can do, well you can belt the living daylights out of them, they will be on their backs, dead as they come, with the ants swarming around having lunch, when up they spring and have another crack at you.   When they bight you definitely know about it for quite a while.

But that is enough of the biology lesson.  The previous evening we had a great time with Greg and Kerry, who are basically on their madden voyage after building a boat similar to ours.  We were on their boat and saw all the differences and compared notes.  So today was our turn.  Greg arrived at some time in the day to look at our anchor bridal.  We have ours tied down low, which is different to most.  Anyway he wanted to see if that would help him.  His boat tends to sail up its anchor and wander around a bit whilst anchored.  Ours does the same, but maybe not as much because of the location of the bridal, but probably more because I have forgotten to worry about it anymore and just park as far away from everybody as I can.

So the afternoon arrived, and along with it came Greg and Kerry with the important food stocks for the evening.  I suggested to Greg we get into our dingy and go further exploring up the creeks now that the tide had come in.  So off we went so that Hilary and Kerry could tell nasty stories about ourselves and compare their social notes.   Well we had fun going further and further up this creek until it was a dingy width wide.  We could see bubbles coming up from the bottom in parts and concluded it was a turtle or croc following us.  Such bravery!  Well we went back considerably quicker than we came.

Then the night went on and on, in a good way.  We had recently gotten a hard disk load of movies from a friend of Daniels, which we provided to Greg and Kerry to down load on their system.  This took many hours, in fact we were finished before it was.  Greg said he appreciated all the X rated movies that Hilary provided.  However, I have to say we are still searching for those.  In return we received 1600 songs for our enjoyment.  There was also a swapping of food.  We were the beneficiary of some chocolate, whilst they got some veges or something.  We got the better deal there I think.

Then that was that.  There wasn’t a lot of pictures taken, but I do tend to agree, one sandfly infested creek tends to look like another.  We were thinking of staying another day, but it looks like a window in the weather is appearing tomorrow which will allow us to get to Bundaberg.  When we had come north we stayed at 1770 as an interim port, but I have to say, this was not a pleasant spot due to the rather large current, as well as the very narrow entrance.  That is also the place that the VMR gave me a lecture on which side the green buoys were as you entered port.  You may recall, if not read about it as one of our earlier posts.  Anyway, not wanting to face that again, we want to give it a miss.

Till tomorrow.

Allan and Hilary.

The creek inside of Pancake Creek
Yes tends to look the same no matter where we took the pictures.

Sunset picture coming.

The Narrows to Pancake Creek

Sunrise from the Narrows

After last nights effort we still had to catch the tide so as to get through the shallow part of the Narrows.  Well this is mosquito infested country, so despite all the screens we have we still had a zillon mozzies to swat in the morning.  More to the point they woke us up at about 0430.  So we were away by 0530 and approach the shallow part, all 10km of it.  We backed the motors off a bit so that if we hit anything, it would be a bit slower.  Most people like to go through it fast as there is not a lot of time where the tide is high enough.  The tides are about 3.5m, and you need the last 0.5 of the tide to get through, atg least that is what we needed, or was recommended.  As it turns out, all the excitement was a little bit of a let down.  We didn’t see anything less than 2m of water and as we draw 1m, that left plenty of room.

It was indeed pretty narrow in parts, with the stern of the boat brushing past the mangroves in parts, but it was pretty interesting listening to all the birds and animals in these swamps.  I can’t say I would want to go swimming there, and I would not want to breakdown there either, but it was still an interesting diversion.

Screenshot_20171031-142630 compressed
Travels through the shallow parts of the narrows
Screenshot_20171031-142654 compressed
The next part of the trip was pass the Port of Gladstone
Screenshot_20171031-142714 compressed
Then on to Pancake Creek
Screenshot_20171031-142732 compressed
The whole trip

The tide slung us out of the southern side of the Narrows and we were at Graham Creek before 0800.  As the prediction for the day’s weather was clearly falling apart and the nasty weather seemed to be all wrapped up in the previous evenings storm, we decided to press forward to Pancake Creek.

The Port of Gladstone is one massive port.  There are jetties everywhere and more beacons to keep a whole nation of sailors happy.  It took us 2hrs to motor past the port.  There are natural gas works and port, coal port, I assume bauxite jetties, and your run of the mill stuff.  As on our north bound journey there are ships anchored out over the horizon waiting to come in.  It certainly was a very strong contrast to the nature we have been seeing.

Once past the port we pretty well sailed to Pancake Creek, though the winds were light.  The seas were occasionally around 2m, but very long swells, and actually a bit of fun to surf down.  However, the though of getting into Pancake Creek with these swells was a little concerning. As it turns out, it was a waist of time worrying about it as the entrance was smooth, with the surf confined to the areas either side of the entrance.

Once inside and anchored we meet up with Greg and Kerry, who are sailing a similar boat to ours that they also built themselves.  So lots of fun times there.

Now tomorrow is a rest day as today we traveled another 90km and we need a break.  Also the weather is no good and the way it looks we will have a couple of days here. The mozzies are just as bad as the Narrows, so a new technique for mozzie eradication may need to be developed.

Now tomorrow, I am going to update all the latest blog sites with maps and photos.  But too tired now.

Allan and Hilary.

Where the road crosses the channel at low tide
Some leads in the bushes which we couldn’t see due to the morning sun
The Narrows
The Narrows
Not a lot of wind in the Narrows
Nice pearch
The ever present mountain as we travel the Narrows.
Yes sometimes it was a little close
Even when you look back, it still looks a bot close at times in the Narrows
A boat following us through the Narrows
Just an arty shot in the narrows
And another
Getting close to the end ofthe shallow bit of the narrows
Finally in Gladstone


This guy was coming into the port as we were leaving.


Pancake Creek entrance.

Great Keppel to The Narrows

Sea Hill Pt lighthouse

Last night we had a discussion with the captain of the boat which we nearly hit and after a bit of throwing around ideas, we decided that instead of trying to make Pancake Creek, which was a long way off, we would be better to try somewhere closer. The big issue is that a server storm was predicted for the afternoon.  If it was early, then the last place I wanted to be was trying to make Pancake Creek. So a short day was planned instead and we decided to head for The Narrows.  It is a narrow stretch of water between Curtis Island and the mainland.  Although it was a short trip we still got up at 0500 and were away 15 minutes later.

We left with some pretty strong winds, in fact winds that had persisted all night and were now left over to the joy of the many that left before us.  Although we were sheltered from the waves, the wind would come in big gusts nearly all night.  It seems that this is pretty consistent with previous evenings.  Anyway, the gusts were still there in the morning which made for some interesting moments as we put the sail up. But as you would expect, it soon died off and we were left with the 2m of slop and about 10knots.  Not really that bad as it was a following sea.  You can see from the track we took, that we tacked all the way down wind.

Screenshot_20171030-122836 compressed
Today’s travels

At the entrance to the Fitzroy river we had a very strong wind over tide situation.  The waves were really standing up.  Again it was not dangerous, but a bit untidy.  But we sailed our way through it, although at times it was hard to make headway with the tide.

Then we turned into The Narrows proper.  At this point we were doing 1knot as the current was strong and the wind was fairly light.  We struggled for about an hour, but it eventually got to the point where we had to motor.  We were heading for Badger Creek, as it would provide a lot of protection, but we were arriving at low tided, where it presented its true issues.  There is not a lot of room in this or any of the creeks.  I am not sure we would have been able to turn around.  Anyway, it was clear we were not going to anchor in any of the creeks leading into The Narrows, so we went as far as we could with the tide we had and anchored there.

The problem with The Narrows, is that at about half tide there is no water in the channel for a short portion in the middle where the tides meet.  In one part of the channel there is a road crossing and in another is a cattle crossing at low tide.  So the way it works is that boats go through at high tide and I assume 4×4’s go through at low tide, but in a direction at right angle to the boats.  Well we had arrived at the place where there was no more water with the tide we had.  So we anchored up for the night.

The spot we anchored in was a bit narrow for the chain length we had out, but it looked ok.  But that is another tale which will follow.  The evening was spent discussing the approach to getting through the shallow part of the Narrows, with another captain.  Lots of different approaches, but they all hinged around getting through the shallow bit as fast as you can at high tide.  The shallow bit ran for 10km.  Funny enough the captain we got talking to built the house of our neighbours back at Cedar Creek.  This generated a significant amount of conversation, to say the least. All was good as we watched the predicted storm build.

The storm was later than predicted, and as it was to arrive around dark, the thoughts were that it would not be as bad as a 4pm storm.  In Brisbane, these are usually the bad ones.  However, the sky looked a bit ominous and I actually took a picture of it.  It turns out it was nearly my last!  Well it hit, and it hit hard.  Within a few seconds the winds changed from a 15knot Northerly to a 30knot Southerly.  It was that quick.  This picked Bush Spirit up and speared it towards the other shore.  The anchor took some time to recover, and I think it did, but we ended up very close to the shore.  About 10metres from the mangroves.  That is just too close for me with the wind howling and the rain pouring down.  We were prepared to some extent and we had the motors ready to go.  So very quickly they were on and we were motoring into the wind to help the anchor settle.  Well it was clear we needed to reset the anchor to give us a bit more room between us and the mangroves.  With some miracle the anchor came up without a hitch.  The rain was teeming down and Hilary was up the front pulling the anchor in, whilst I was doing my best to steer into the wind.

Then I felt a tingle between my hand on the wheel and that clutching to the superstructure of the boat.  Hilary felt it also as she was winding up the anchor.  Then the bang.  The loudest you have heard.  We were struck by lightning, or it was very close.  My immediate thought was about if we had any of our communications left, as it probably hit the mast.  All the motors were still operating, Hilary was yelling something, so was alive, and we appeared to have navigation, which was a blessing, but thoughts ran through my head about whatelse was left.  But we moved Bush Spirit into a large area where we were doing circles just to wait it out a bit to make a proper assessment of the situation, as the storms usually only last for a few minutes.  Well then it got a bit harder.  The navigation system failed and then the back up failed because there was so much static electricity, all the GPS based systems were being jammed.  So all we could do was use the lightning flashes, of which there were many, to light up the passage so that we could see the banks which gave us a lateral bearing, and the lights of three other boats, which we could occasionally see to give us a longitudinal bearing.   With this we went round and round in circles many times until the wind pretty well stopped.  It took about 10 minutes.  Then we anchored again, and cleaned up the mess.  There was water everywhere and we were drenched.

We then had tea and went to bed.  There was another storm later on, but I slept through it.  I think it was pretty minor.

So survived another experience.  I am not so sure it was useful, but I am sure it will be somewhere.  Tomorrow we head through the shallow part of the Narrows and plan to have a short day and stay in Graham Creek, just north of Gladstone.

Allan and Hilary

Entering the Narrows from the North. Sea Hill point on the left
Looking back at Sea Hill Lighthouse and the community that lives there.
One of the creeks we thought we might anchor in. A silly idea as it turned out.
Where we did anchor which had a bit of room, and we needed it.
Looking North back up the Narrows from the beginning of the shallow area.
Here comes the storm. Mmm, not looking too good. The area in between us and the boat you can see was where we circled for about 10 minutes in the dark without GPS but dead reconning
Yep, didn’t look any better from this angle either.  This will have to do for your sunset (-1/10)

Island Head Creek to Great Keppel Island

Sunrise from Island Head Creek

This was definitely one of those early start days.  We got up as the sun came up and were on our way before it popped its head across the hills. Along with another yacht, we sailed out of the relatively narrow channel to the open sea, to be greeted by the endless waves that had been stirred up by the solid breeze the night before.

But today the wind was good with about 10 to 15knots and from the north.  We moved away from the coast as soon as we could as close to the rocks on the coast was a multitude of waves coming from a multitude of directions.  I also thought that as the day wore on, the breeze would turn to the east, so what was looking like a direct tack to Brisbane, would eventually turn to one to Great Keppel Island.  Well I at least I got that one right, as it turns out.

Screenshot_20171029-154033 compressed

Now there was not a lot to do and the sun was pretty warm, but this time we were on the lookout for boats, after yesterdays little mishap.  Well in all the ocean we could see the yacht we left with (for about an hour) and one way over next to the mainland, which was clearly slowly moving our way.  Well after about 6 hours this yacht was clearly getting very close and indeed we looked like we may have to avoid each other.  Not again I thought.  Is this ocean that small!  Anyway, no big deal this time and we passed with a good 100m between us, in a controlled manner.

The wind then picked up and we made good time to Great Keppel.  We averaged 7knots over the 120km (70NM) trip.  About an hour after we arrived, the boat we crossed arrived and much to our surprise got in his dingy and came across to us.  Well if it had been the other day, I might have expected it, along with a frank discussion about my lack of attention to the matter.  But today, I was a bit puzzled. Anyway, the captain was all smiles and in his words he “came to see the boat he nearly hit twice in two days”.  We were puzzled at first, but it was the same boat we nearly hit the previous day!  We discussed the upcoming weather, who had right of way (turns out we did, just as well somebody knew) and various other things.  It was all good and in the end the discussion lead to our change of plans for tomorrow.

So all in all, a very good day, if not a bit long.  Tomorrow, as it turns out, due to the weather, we will head for the Narrows., rather than Pancake Creek.

Allan and Hilary.

The centennials at the entrance to Island Head Creek to wish us luck for the journey. Or was the fishing just good there. Probably the former.
Looking back at Island Head Creek (I think)
They are still there. Island Head Creek
The small yacht that we left with from Island Head Creek. We didn’t see him again, but assume he made it in his good time.
Looking north to Island Head Creek after about 45minutes.
The Keppels approach after a good number of hours of sailing. North Keppel in the foreground, Great Keppel in the background. About an hour to go.
Time for a picture of a sail
Anchorage at Long Beach at Great Keppel Island.
Not exactly sunset but the sun was over the zenith.