On the 28 th October 2021, we filled the water tanks and motored out of Bundaberg Marina, with the promise of a good N-E wind to take us south to the Great Sandy Strait between Fraser Island and the mainland. Fraser Island is the world’s biggest sand island – from Sandy Cape in the North to Wide Bay Bar in the South it is 70nm (130 km) long. After 53 nm of very strong winds, we anchored on the southern leeward side of Big Woody Island in the Strait.
As with the Narrows at Curtis Island, you have to get your tides spot-on to cross at high tide, at the shallows at Boonlye Point halfway down. We set off under sail at 11:00 and crossed the shallowest sandbanks at 13:30, only hitting the sandbanks twice, and using the engine to get us off again. For the rest of the 34 nm Strait, we sailed under jib sail to Pelican Bay inside Wide Bay Bar, where we spent an anxious night bouncing in the strong wind.
At 4:30 the next morning we motored out to cross the Bar at high tide – placid this time, compared to our nerve wracking crossing 6 years ago. Then we got lifted by a huge wave to surf across the bar at 14 knots in a 25 knot S-E – totally out of control and thankfully, not broaching the boat.
It took us 12 hours with a light N-E wind to sail the 66 nm to Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast. We were very happy to anchor in the “Duck Pond” inside Mooloolaba harbour, as a strong five day S-E wind was forecast from the following day – useless to us when sailing south.
The anchorage was packed with other boats sailing south at this time of the year. The strong S-E came through during the night and we dragged our anchor three times during the night, finally getting a good bite clear of the other boats on the third try.
The Sunday was spent keeping an eye on our anchor during the 35 knot gusts, writing a post for our blog, editing photos and sending emails. We also phoned family and the kids as we now had good phone reception – the first time in a while.
Elin Powers and Rick Nothard, who we met on Freedom in the Whitsundays, live on their farm near Kenilworth, about 40 minutes inland from Mooloolaba. They picked us up at 9am on the Tuesday to show us the region. We spent a pleasant day driving into the hills, having coffee and pies in Maleny, visiting Mapleton and viewing the waterfall leading to the Mary River.
We had lunch on their farm with a walk down to the river, before driving back to Mooloolaba where we had a Spanish Mackerel BBQ on Esprit. It was a pleasant day on land.
After exploring Mooloolaba a bit more, after four days, we sailed from here in a lighter S-E wind to Tangalooma, on Moreton Island. The next day we navigated the shipping channels and sandbanks in Moreton Bay to enter Brisbane harbour.
It is 11 nm from the entrance into the Brisbane River to the city and the closer you get, the busier the water traffic. Like Sydney, the city has an excellent ferry service and the City Cats travel at high speeds. There are also many pleasure craft and Jet Skis with tourists on them. We tied up to a new “River Hub” which is a floating jetty for 12 boats, next to the Botanical Gardens, very central and very scenic.
“Bris Vegas” as the New South Welshmen call this city, has an impressive skyline of modern tower blocks with some remaining old historical buildings tucked in between. The people enjoy their cycling and jogging along the scenic walkways on both sides of the river.
We explored the city on foot and by bike, visiting the South Bank – easy since the terrain is relatively flat and also along the shore to New Farm.
During the Covid lockdown in the Caribbean last year, we spent two months in Bequia where we became friends with sailors from around the world. Among them, Gary and Angela Smith from Cape Town who after we left for Panama, sailed to Cuba, Mexico and Guatemala. On the 6th November we got news that they were critically ill with Covid in a hospital in Guatemala – they chose not to be vaccinated. Two days later, Gary passed away, with Angela still critical, but recovering. Vale Gary.
On a more positive note: There are two other boats tied up with us at this River Hub, both sailed by single handed female sailors – Go girls! Margaret from New Zealand on “Iron Maiden” and Kayo Ozaki on Nausikaa”, originally from Japan, but for the last 30 years from Sydney.
Kayo’s sailing career is an inspiration: She was given a two day sailing course voucher for her 40th birthday by a girlfriend. She was hooked, but found it difficult to find a berth on a boat as an oriental single mother. So she sold her house and bought this 34 ft boat, which she has sailed single handed from Sydney to Japan and back.
At 57 years she is preparing to sail to Darwin, then to Cape Town and then do a circumnavigation – single handedly! An inspiration for women.
Annie also managed to get good retail therapy at the clothing shops and dragged me to Uni Glo for new shirts and shorts. I was quite happy with Big W, so felt quite out of place. After five days at the 30 minutes time limit River Hub, we will catch the tide down the river to Brisbane harbour on Wednesday arvo the 10th November, to sail down to the Gold Coast. We will haul Esprit out at the Boat Works in Coomera for pressure cleaning, antifouling paint and topside polishing on the 15th and will report on progress down to New South Wales in our next post. Cheers for now.