Monday, August 19, 2019

Hervey Bay, Fraser Island, Great Sandy Straits

We left Bundaberg for the world’s largest sand island and UNESCO World Heritage site, Fraser Island. We upped anchor at 6:30 am and had a lovely beam reach from 7 am until we anchored in Platypus Bay at 4 pm. The day was sunny but it started off cold so we wore hoodies and jackets and we searched the boat trying to find where we had stored the sailing gloves! Between August and November, the shallow waters (maximum depths of 36 metres) of Hervey Bay are home to migrating humpback whales and within an hour of setting sail, we came upon two breaching whales. Then we spotted two pink and grey birds hitching a ride on the backstay. One flew off and the other made itself comfortable on the wind generator (it was tied off) for the entire 6 hour sail to Fraser Island. A quick look in the, Birds of Australia, book identified the bird as a Galah. They aren’t sea birds, so we think they got blown offshore by the wind and were struggling to fly back to land.

As we dropped the sails to anchor, another whale and some dolphins passed close by, the temperature had warmed up and we were thrilled to be sailing after so long ashore! Fraser Island is a strange mix of sand dunes, sand cliffs, tropical forests and freshwater lakes that host some 230 species of birds. Platypus Bay is a 25 kilometre crescent of white sand beach on the western side of Fraser Island. We anchored off of Triangle Cliffs, an area where the sand reaches up to almost 13 metres from the beach. Some of the higher dunes on Fraser Island reach 260 metres.
Dina heading up the dune

Dina 'splashing' the sand as she hops down the dune.

After climbing the sand dune we walked along the beach for about an hour before returning to the boat. We could see one other boat anchored a few miles north of us, but we had this whole section of the beach to ourselves. We enjoyed the wildlife and the quiet.
Sand balls from a Bubbler crab
Empty Beach on Fraser Island

Beach flower

A few days later we motored further south along Platypus Bay to Arch Cliffs. We took our time and spent an hour watching a couple of whales, along with a large tour boat and 10 kayakers. A turtle kept its eye on us as well. Later that evening, as we enjoyed the sunset, two whales swam by. Then in the morning, we heard a very loud breath and rushed outside to see two more whales.
Whale in Hervey Bay

We moved further south along Fraser Island to Moon Point, the northern entrance to the Great Sandy Strait – about 40 miles of the shallow waterways separating Fraser Island from the rest of Australia. From here, until we sailed back into the open ocean at Wide Bay Bar, our boat speed was usually more than the depth underneath the boat. Initially, it felt unsafe motoring at 5 knots in 4 metres of water, but the depths are consistent and the bottom is all sand, so it soon felt normal.

At Moon Point, we anchored in about 4 metres of water and watched it drop to 2.4, 2.3 and then 2.2 metres at low tide. Our boat draws 1.85 metres, which means there was less than half a metre between our boat and the sandy bottom! Our initial anxiety over depth was rewarded with a lively dugong hanging out near the boat.

We continued south and anchored off cruiser-friendly Kingfisher Bay Resort. A dugong grazed near the boat, showing its tail regularly, for a couple of days. One evening we watched a dingo explore the beach. We stretched our legs on a forest path around the resort and had lovely views of Good as Gold at anchor and of the Great Sandy Strait.
Good as Gold anchored off Kingfisher resort

View of the Great Sandy Straits

We followed another boat south to Garry’s Anchorage and even radioed a sailboat we could see on AIS to ask for waypoints as we were questioning whether there was enough depth for us to enter the anchorage. There are a lot of powerboats and catamarans in this area of Australia and with the shallow waters, we can understand why! A local sailboat, Isabella, directed us to an anchoring “hole” of 5 metres and we settled in with several other boats. With the wind up, we decided not to go ashore, but we were kept entertained by several turtles and dugongs. We found out the next day that salties (Australian saltwater crocodiles) have been spotted in the anchorage and there was a sign on the beach suggesting people keep small dogs out of the water! Yikes!

We next moved on to anchor at Pelican Bay, just before the Wide Bay Bar at the south end of Fraser Island. Not only were there pelicans, but dolphins also came into the anchorage. In this part of Australia, there are a lot of bar crossings, where an outbound river meets up against the prevailing wind and the inbound tide to create some shallows that can be quite treacherous with crazy wave action in the wrong conditions. The Wide Bay Bar is supposed to be one of the worst. The next morning, armed with fresh waypoints from the local marine rescue organisation, and proper timing of the tidal flow, we motored across the bar without an issue. With light winds we sailed the short distance to Double Island Point and anchored for the night.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Returning to the boat in Australia

Everything went well in Canada, Malcolm even did a ski season again at Big White and Dina picked up a one-year contract. After 18 months, Malcolm flew to Australia to start getting Good as Gold ready for more cruising. When he arrived in Bundaberg, he quickly made plans to get a new coat of bottom paint and have the boat put back in the water. It has to be said that a lot of dust and dirt can accumulate over 18 months, so there was a lot of cleaning to do inside and out.
Getting ready for new paint
All ready for the water with NEW PAINT!

Good as Gold on the dock at Bundaberg Port Marina

After so many years of use, the anchor and chain needed to be re-galvanized. This provides a nice coating of zinc to help prevent corrosion. Malcolm sent the anchor off to a shop in town, but the chain was too corroded so we ended up purchasing a new one. The new chain needed to be marked at various lengths so we would know how much we are putting out while anchoring. Instead of the usual idea of using colour paint (which wears off) or cable ties (they break off), it was the perfect time to try tying on short pieces of coloured, really durable, line.
Corroded anchor chain, not worth saving

Coloured spectra lines on the new chain (4 yellow = 40m)

Wow, that anchor looks new!

By the time Dina arrived, 4 weeks after Malcolm, the boat was in reasonable living condition. It was now time to tackle lots of little jobs that needed to be done, just basic upkeep like any home. Some of these jobs were simple maintenance items and some were new improvements.
Malcolm made this for cleaning the track the headsail slides into.

Time for new fire extinguishers, new flares and a new liferaft (ours was 30 years old)

Malcolm up the mast running some lines.

Malcolm has ALWAYS BEEN ANNOYED with the storage space we call “The Pantry”. IT IS TOO TALL AND NOTHING SITS IN IT PROPERLY!!!!! SO he made some shelves and Dina painted them. Malcolm has also BEEN ANNOYED BY THE FREEZER COMPARTMENT for pretty much the same reason, so new shelves were made for it too. Along the way, Dina’s closet got some shelves.
New shelves! 
New faucet too

The only big issue we had was trying to get the generator started. After lots of investigation, it looked like we needed to spend a good bit of money to repair it. We have way more than enough power from our solar panels, and have almost never used the generator in the 9 years we’ve owned the boat. So instead of fixing it, we took it out. Now there is lots of room in the engine compartment to access the various parts of the engine. There was also room to get at the ceiling and add some LED lights. These two things pleased us more than getting the generator running ever would have!
So much space without the generator

After six weeks of all these little projects it was finally time to get going. We ordered a bunch of provisions from a large grocery chain and had them delivered right to the marina.

Good thing we have those shelves to hold all this food
All clean and ship-shape
The boat had been sitting at the dock this whole time, but that was okay because of the nice new bottom paint. The dinghy, however, needed to have all the growth cleaned off. We motored over to a nearby beach and spent an hour scraping everything off Tubby’s hull.
Pretty shaggy with all that growth
Nice and clean

After that we returned to the boat and finally left the dock . We anchored at the mouth of the river and were ready to go.
Sunset at the anchorage