Sunday, October 6, 2019

Exploring Moreton Island with Friends

It is just the start of spring here, and we plan to hang out around the Brisbane area until it gets warmer. Then we will go south towards Sydney and Tasmania. This plan works out well with waiting three weeks for our new sail to be made and friends flying in and out of Brisbane for visits. There is a big bay here (Moreton Bay) and some lovely islands (Moreton and North Stradbroke) to explore.

Coincidentally, our friends Ollie and Linda from Big White Ski Resort in BC, Canada, happen to be in Brisbane visiting friends and family. They came out to see us and take a look at the boat. We had a lovely lunch and catch-up with them. The next day, Beth, who we met during our second season skiing in Japan, arrived for a week. We did the local tourist highlight of strolling along Bee Gee’s Way, a short laneway full of Bee Gee memorabilia, statues, photos and music in Redcliffe.

The winds were predicted to turn during the night, so we had a day-sail to Lucinda Bay on Moreton Island for lunch. With the winds picking up from the north, we had a romping sail south, with a few dolphins, to Manly, just south of Brisbane. We pulled into the Moreton Bay Trailer Boat Club and had a high-wind, high tension docking experience. It is frustrating when marina staff are inexperienced and let go of the aft spring line and pull the bow line in hard. Luckily we just bumped the dock lightly.

Beth took a turn steering the boat

Malcolm and Beth at the bow on the way to Moreton Island

The winds were crazy overnight, but started to settle in from the south by morning. We left the marina and had a very fast sail to the NW end of Moreton Island and anchored at Bulwer for the night. The next day, Beth and Dina set off in the dinghy to explore the wreck on the beach and hike to the lighthouse on the NE tip of the island. They were sidetracked by a couple of humpback whales lazily swimming through the bay. After following along with the whales for a while, they turned the dinghy back towards to the beach. They walked a few hours in the hot sun and deep sand before realising they were barely a quarter of the distance to the lighthouse, so they hitchhiked back to the beach.

The anchorage at Bulwer was a bit rolly so we moved about 5 nautical miles south to Tangaloma and planned to spend a few nights. In the morning, Beth took out the paddleboard and then Malcolm took her for her first snorkel (ever!) around the 300 metre line of wrecks just off the beach, Dina found a great hike up the sandy island, through forest, to a great view of the expanse of sand dunes inland.

Dinghy sailors out enjoying the wind
We sailed back to Newport Marina on the Friday as Beth was leaving Saturday morning. The wind was back from the north and a bit strong. It was a pretty quick trip and we should have reduced the amount of sail we had up, but it was too much fun and we were almost there by the time the wind was too strong. We had a nice dinner with Beth and then got a message from our snowboarding friends, Natasha and Dane (who we thought were arriving the next evening – Saturday - after their season in New Zealand). They had landed in Brisbane and would be at the boat in an hour! Whoa, what?! There had been a bit of a mix up but luckily we had come into port to drop Beth off. It all worked out fine and the five of us had a lovely evening onboard Friday night!

The majority of anchorages in Moreton Bay are good for easterly or westerly winds. There are one or two good anchorages for southerly winds and one or two good for northerly, but no anchorages that offer good, all around wind protection. For the first few days of Natasha and Dane’s visit, the winds were switching direction nightly. We spent Saturday provisioning and Sunday walking along the Scarborough peninsula before sailing to Moreton Island on Monday.

Natasha and Dane relaxing on the sail to Moreton Island
We anchored between Big Sandhill and Little Sandhill on the southern tip of Moreton Island. The weather wasn’t great, but they were able to explore the mangroves and see rays and turtles. We then sailed around Peel Island to Dunwich on the northwest side of North Stradbroke Island. We grabbed a mooring ball, with the nice new boat hook, and Dane and Tash made plans with the local surf school for the next couple of days. While they surfed, we enjoyed Cylinder Beach, Deadman’s Beach and North Gorge Point Lookout. Along the gorge walk, we saw lots of birds, whales, rays, turtles, dolphins and finally, koalas! That's the day Malcolm left the fancy camera on the boat.

Surfers

Kangaroo just hanging out near the bus stop

Koala! 
North Stradbroke Island is Koala friendly.

Our last day in the bay, after a calm, windless morning, a cold front came through and the wind picked up to 25 knots from the south in the afternoon. Good as Gold was rocking and rolling in the waves. Malcolm checked the weather twice to confirm it’d be dying down and the anchorage would be comfortable by 10pm. The four of us were inside having a rousing game of Codenames, when Malcolm heard a whistle and shout.

We went on deck to see a couple in a small, wave-swept dinghy, being pushed towards the rocks. Malcolm jumped in our dinghy to rescue them. They had come within 20 feet of the rocks when Malcolm tied their dinghy to Tubby, making sure the lines wouldn’t get caught in Tubby’s propeller - good thing Malcolm is fast with those knots! Although Tubby is a tough dinghy, his 3.3 horsepower motor was struggling trying to tow another boat against the 2-3 foot waves. Malcolm suspected that Tubby was low on fuel, so he aimed for Good as Gold which was closest. On VHF channel 16, Dina asked if anyone with a larger dinghy in the anchorage could assist the dinghy in need. Another sailor responded, jumped into his dinghy, swiftly came over to Good as Gold and just as swiftly ran out of fuel and started drifting towards the rocks.

Having tied the first rescued dinghy to Good as Gold, Malcolm took Tubby out to rescue the second dinghy and towed it back to our boat. Dina placed another call on the VHF and called the local Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR). The waves were large, coming in quick succession and the boats where these rescued people needed to go were a significant distance upwind from Good as Gold. A third sailor came out and towed the two dinghies back to their boats one after the other. Once we saw that the third dinghy was safely back to its boat, Dina called the VMR and they turned back. Dane and Tash thought it was all quite exciting!

The wind died down to complete calm that evening, just after dark, and it stayed down the next day. We motored a few hours from Dunwich to Manly, stopping a few times to watch dolphins frolicking around the boat. We docked at Moreton Bay Trailer Boat Club, this time calmly and quietly, said goodbye to Natasha and Dane and realised our next guest, arriving in November, is yet another friend from the ski and snowboarding industry!