Friday, 3 April 2015

Dark & Stormy in Bundaberg

Susie favourite drink at the Bundaberg RSL, one thing about the east coast as distinct from the west, they have cheap clubs subsidised by gambling. Can always find a good feed at bargain prices whether an RSL, football, surf or bowls club. We perused the Bundaberg environs for a week, anchoring in front of downtown on the Burnett River, mainly provisioning and indulging in the local eats. 

Downtown Bundy

It’s a working town, not your tourist ghetto, and the same size as Mandurah, in fact several of QLD’s major coastal towns are this size (MacKay, Rockhampton, Maryborough all around 80,000 pop) and is a welcome bit of civilisation. Susie was pleased as punch to finally get her hands on a copy of Alan Lucas’s (affectionately known as “Run-Aground” to his customers)  “Cruising the New South Wales Coast”. An up to date edition this time, the QLD guide I bought was 20 years out of date, because I’m cheap :). “Run-Aground” does write a good guide providing the drum on an awful lot of anchorages.

Bundy Whales

Strange bikes they have nowadays..

But no lolling about for us, winds were turning Northerly and it was time to look lively, start hand cranking the anchor windlass and run with the ebb embarking on the 52 mile voyage to the Great Sandy Strait - bordered by Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island. The nor’easter was a headwind for us on the Burnett, so it was bald faced motoring for 2 hours, through the endless sugar cane fields, buzzed by endless Saturday morning fishing dinghies. As everywhere, they were quite curious about this boat of ours, wrong colours, strange sail bundle.. 

Cane farmer has a schooner, on the Burnett River 

Finally out the harbour and able to point the bows south east to catch the breeze we’re able to connect up the tiller pilot and enjoy a brisk beam reach in the afternoon sun, averaging 4.5 knots for much of the leg despite the nasty coral crusted hull. It was past midnight we were in the lee of Fraser Island, Hervey Bay to starboard and looking for an anchorage as the tide had turned against us. It meant crossing the strait across shallows to a place called Moon Point. To help fight the tide the Tohatsu was employed in a spot of motorsailing, and we promptly ran aground. Fortunately it was a rising tide and with a 20 minute wait we were off again, and dropped anchor at 2am.

The morning being a Sunday, the straits were full of recreational boaties and sailors from nearby Hervey Bay, enjoying the summer sun, and a rare thing that is during a QLD wet season. It would have been tempting to visit this town, but the only anchorage area had a harbour/marine built on top of it, and no anchoring allowed. We just don’t feel inclined to pay for docking our boat and the stress of manoeuvring around a crowded marina for the privilege. I suppose we are so accustomed to anchoring out. Thus we set TP for down the strait with all panels up, we had 6 hours of this tide and had better make the most of it. Ashiki silently sailed the winding navigation channel with the scenic views of Fraser Island to Port and dropped anchor at the half way point before sunset just at the tide was turning, next to a mosquito infested mangrove bank.. In the morning the flood tide was travelling the same direction as last nights ebb! Didn’t make sense. Of course! We’re in the middle of an island, the flood wraps around both ends of the island from the ocean and meets in the middle - where we happened to anchor. We motorsailed against the 1 knot current and in a couple hours the ebb started to help us. Believe it or not, Ashiki blew past MY anchorage..  yes, its actualy called “Gary’s Anchorage” (!), only a mile down the stream which had 6 or 7 boats swinging to their chains. Run-Aground’s guide book said it was full of sandflies so don’t think we missed out staying at MY anchorage.
Fraser Island - largest sand island in the world

Great Sandy Strait - lots of shallows to negotiate

At this point we weren’t sure if we were going to continue after Fraser Island and out to sea through Wide Bay bar. But I had read a little about this place called Tin Can Bay which exits off to starboard before Wide Bay and on a whim decided to visit the place. I don’t think the tide was right for a Wide Bay car crossing anyway, I’ll need to study for that contingency later. The south easter was picking up and Ashiki close hauled along the flat waters of the bottom part of the straits, here known as Wide Bay Harbour, before turning down Tin Can Inlet, a 6 mile close haul on the other tack to the township. We were sailing head on into the ebb tide, but if there is enough wind, we can do that. Ashiki heeled over with 3 panels reefed each sail, held 2.5 knots the whole way, I’d say the counter current was 2 knots, so she was making good use of her cambered panels into the 20 knot breeze. Coming up to the anchorage we could see it was crowded, must be close to a hundred vessels here, half of them occupied. At that point we had turned a little off the wind so Susie dropped the main to keep speed down to reasonable levels in the busy bay. As we neared the part of the anchorage we wanted Susie released the foresail halyard and nothing happened. It’s a common enough occurrence on our junk, when the boat is off the wind and on a port tack the yard is pressed onto the mast and held there. No problem, we know this boat, I waited till there was a gap between anchored boats to port and turned Ashiki beam on to the wind, relieving pressure from the yard and it came tumbling down then righted Ashiki to her original course. With the help of another cruiser, sitting in his cockpit with beer in hand, we avoided a shallow and we chose a spot not far from the Yacht Club anchoring in 6m. We’re in the northern edge of the Sunshine Coast, officially South East Queensland.

An hour later a dinghy cam alongside and (another) Gary introduced himself, he sails a junk rigged schooner too, on a 38’ Herreshoff lee boarder. He noticed us sailing on a beam reach with foresail only saying his boat can’t do that, his would fall off as it doesn’t have enough lateral resistance. Our little fin keel must be doing something right! 

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