Thursday 10 March 2016

Aground! Who's aground? Fun on Fraser Island.

December 8-9, 2015

After six nights holed up in very friendly haven of the Port of Bundaberg Marina while a very strong South Easterly system blew past up the coast we were very keen to get back to sea and continue our journey South. A predicted ten to fifteen knot North Easterly sounded reasonable for our planned 55 nautical mile (83km) trip to Kingfisher Bay on Fraser Island’s western shore.

We were up early and made our way out of Bundaberg’s Burnett River a 6.00am to be met with a sizeable swell still rolling across Hervey Bay from the South East, the exact direction we were heading. The first couple of hours were an absolute slog punching through the waves under motor. We had the mainsail and mizzen up but there was only just enough wind angle to keep the sails filled to stabilise the boat and reduce the rolling as the wind piped in from the ESE rather than the predicted NE.

Fortunately the wind and swell both abated mid morning. While we would have rather been sailing, chugging across flat seas under motor was a pretty good second best and that’s the way we spent most the day. We did spot what we initially thought were the flukes of a whale’s tale in the distance as it dived. Considering all the humpbacks should have been long gone on their way back to Antarctica for the summer we worked out it was more likely a massive dugong which are common in Fraser Island waters.

Tigerlilly approaching Fraser Island.

Lilly doing the photographic duties while Tom kicks back.
As we approached the channels through the northernmost shoals of the Great Sandy Straights the wind finally began to fill in a little from the NE and we found ourselves sailing nicely towards our anchorage. There's nothing better than a nice wind combined with sheltered water and no sea state. This was also where we caught and passed our American friends Tom and Lilly on Tigerlilly who had left Bundaberg ahead of us in the pre-dawn. Naturally we now took the opportunity to get some photos of each others boats.

Lilly's pics of Our Dreamtime as we sailed by.

Isn't she pretty?

Thanks Lilly. The photos are much appreciated.
We were anchored up in calm water just north of the Kingfisher Bay jetty a little after 3.30pm and soon had the dinghy down to head ashore.  
Tigerlilly at left and Our Dreamtime on right closer to the island.

Port of Bundaberg to Kingfisher Bay - 54.1 Nautical Miles - 9 Hours 35 Minutes
Average Speed 5.6 knots - Highest Speed 8.00 knots

Our anchorage at Kingfisher Bay

The Eco Resort ashore is fairly exclusive but just near the jetty there is a tavern with swimming pool, showers and toilets etc that visiting yachties are welcome to use which we were keen to check out.  A round of G&Ts at the bar went down well that’s for sure. We enjoyed a stunning sunset from the cockpit on Tigerlilly as we caught up with Tom and Lilly before returning to Our Dreamtime for another of Karen’s culinary master pieces for dinner.
Another awesome sunset for the collection
Karen excelled herself with this Salmon Salad for dinner
After studying the tide tables and weather forecasts we decided to stay at Kingfisher the following day before making our way down through the narrow and shallowest sections of the Great Sandy Straights to the anchorage at Pelican Bay on the Thursday. The forecast indicated things should be near perfect for an early morning crossing of the treacherous Wide Bay Bar on Friday morning with a moderate northerly expected to spring up later in the morning to blow us down to Mooloolaba.

Marc decided to tackle one of the island’s bush walks, so we dropped him into the beach in the morning and returned aboard where we got a few jobs done around the boat. It was a very still day with glassy water all around. Through the morning we were visited by a number of turtles, a pod of dolphins and a good sized dugong, all of which popped up when we didn’t have a camera handy. Doh!

Late morning Karen made the comment that our boat didn’t seem to be swinging with the outgoing tide the way other boats were. Instead of hanging parallel to the beach, Our Dreamtime was at right angles to the island with her stern to the beach. She asked, ‘We’re not aground are we?’ Rob checked the depth gauge and saw it was showing just over four metres which is more than adequate for our 1.5m draught and said, ‘No way. There’s plenty of water under us.’ A quick look over the stern changed that view. The very back of the boat had drifted over the ledge of sand where the shore shelves dramatically and while we had four metres under us amidships, the stern was indeed sitting on the sand. Ooops!

We started the engine and were able to drive the boat off very easily indicating it was definitely only the very rear of the keel that had been on the sand bank. We sheepishly  re-anchored a little further out from the shore and remembered the famous saying, ‘There are two types of sailors. Those that have run aground at some stage and those that lie.’ We belong in the first category.

We returned ashore to meet Marc in the bar after lunch. On the way we were delighted to discover small swarms of little soldier crabs running around the sand flats at low tide. Both Rob and Karen have vivid memories of chasing legions of the little blue crustaceans across the banks as small children. Soldier crabs used to be found in their tens of thousands at the northern Brisbane suburb of Sandgate where Rob was born and at many other locations around the shores of Moreton Bay. Sadly they are now gone, victims of the decline in water quality caused by the pressures of urban growth we suspect.

Soldier crabs marching across the sand at low tide.
 Marc had enjoyed his walk but had found the going tough along the sandy tracks and was fairly warn out. Karen took advantage of the pool with a long dip to cool off while the boys settled in at a nearby table with Rob posting our latest blog and Marc catching up with the goings on at home in the UK courtesy of his electronic delivery of the London Times on his I-pad.      

The long jetty at Kingfisher Bay

When we returned to the boat we were delighted to see Maltese friends we’d made in Bundaberg had arrived on their yacht, Mahina. Eleandro is a professional skipper who captains a large yacht in the northern sailing season for his living and sails his own boat for pleasure in the off season. After being on the hard at Bundaberg while he made some money on the other side of the world, his yacht  was moored next to us in the marina as he and his father, Papa Joe, got her ready to sail again. Now they were setting off to New Zealand via Brisbane. Eleandro often sails the boat single handed but had talked his Dad into joining him for this leg of his travels. Joe was fit as a fiddle and looked to be in his mid-sixties so we were quite taken back to learn he was actually 77. We certainly hope we’re up to trans Tasman sailing jaunts at his age.

We had a good chat and after comparing plans Eleandro decided to sail with us through the straights and over the Wide bay Bar down to Mooloolaba. Not having been through the area before he liked the idea of having us to follow as we re-traced our track from our northbound passage. If we didn’t hit anything the first time logic says we shouldn’t on the way back either.

It’s always good to re-connect with other yachties we meet as we travel along.  Our five month long shake-down cruise north from Brisbane to the Whitsunday Islands and back was now nearing its end and it was going to nice to have these guys sharing the couple of legs.

Goodnight from Fraser Island
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