Blog Post 33 by Jon Sanders: Southbound, beyond Bundaberg
Bundaberg Queensland: East coast of Australia. Bundaberg region population near 100,000. Lush green and plenty of rain in the region. Hmmm, I must be talking about it in other years. It’s dry!
In Perth, on Australia’s west coast (the other side of the continent, i.e. the other side of the desert), it has a Mediterranean climate: rains in winter and dry in summer; homeowners and tenants in the suburbs hand water their lawns.
Not in Bundaberg. They are not used to that. The lawns are brown and dry. They won’t be that way for long, as the northern storm season is near.
In the meantime, the fronts and low-pressure weather systems come from the west to the southern portion of the south-west region of Australia. They sweep across the Great Australian Bight bringing rain, wind, gales and storms.
In the Bass Strait region, this weather can squeeze with other lows and depressions (The Bass Strait being between the Island state of Tasmania and the south-east of Australia), causing fronts with gales to sweep northwards along the Australian south-east coast.
The Equinox period (September) bring gales, sometimes severe. One must pick; ‘be picky’ and sail between the weather patterns. It would be stupid not to be picky (when possible, that is).
Bundaberg was a nice experience; in fact, everything has been A1…
The Marina and complex are immaculate. All the buildings beautifully maintained and painted – clean as. The lawns trimmed (Needs rain).
Travel boat lift and its pen with the huge gate was neat. The hard standing is well ordered. Gets my tick.
Whilst at sea, before arriving Bundaberg, the Bundaberg Port Marina manager, sent me an email via the iridium (iridium has little I) saying Richard and Martin (Bundaberg sailmakers) were keeping him up to date with my progress. Said there will be media on my arrival. Guess what? There was. Blimey.
Arranged was lift out, so the yacht could be surveyed (time to renew insurance).
Ray Pettengell, Queensland Marine Surveys, did the survey and organised a washdown and bottom antifouling. Last done a year ago by Matilda Bay Shiprights at Royal Perth Yacht Club. The bottom was amazingly clean (self polishing paint).
The guys on the Travel Lift were terrific. Bundaberg is tidal with currents, so they have long poles with big padded hooks, to hold the yacht in place.
I made one of the guys holding one of these poles laugh. I told him he “looked like a serial killer”; anything but.
I would sincerely like to thank Geoff Bayer, Marina Manager, and Brett Hensley, Manager of the hard stand area (I reckon he could manage the Hyatt Hotel), his politeness, smile, management and good order. Get that at the Hyatt. One glance at the yard would confirm what I just wrote.
I asked Martin Morison, Bundaberg’s Port Canvas and Sail Repairs, “what can I do about all these nice people?” Martin suggested cutting out sail squares from my used mainsail (which had done two circumnavigations). Richard cut them out, amongst other things. I wrote on and sign each sail square to Geoff Beyer, Brett Hensler, (and to Michael Virgona, who follows my voyages). The very same to Martin Morison the sailmaker – with Richard – got one too. As mentioned in my last blog, I stayed with Richard and Maree Stainton and their two dogs (I couldn’t go near my bed without the dogs beating me to it jumping on and taking over. Not dumb those dogs).
The first Saturday was the Opening Day of the Bundaberg yachting season. The small country yacht club, the Bundaberg Sailing Club, as with other country sailing clubs, show the best. All volunteered, including the ladies who supplied all the eats, and more than what’s eaten. Everything immaculate, so tidy.
Richard sails on (usually skippers) the Commodores Sports Boat. I will meet up with Richard and Maree again in Perth February 2018, as they are coming over for the World Championships at South of Perth Yacht Club.
The north wind seemed to set. Time to sail Perie Banou 2 to the Gold Coast, before the southerly head sea strikes.
The Burnett River, Bundaberg, lies due west of the north end of Fraser Island. Fraser Island is, more or less, 65nm long and 6 to 10nm wide, sort of. It is the worlds biggest sand island.
The sea between the island and mainland is flat (most times). The more south you go the flatter it gets, yet, there are Islands one can anchor behind.
The Great Sandy Strait is riddled – Riddled! (that’s no exaggeration) Riddled with sandbanks. Shallow banks and heaps and heaps with narrow channels. One wouldn’t want to be on the turps navigating southwards – or northwards. Getting stuck at high tide would be interesting (interesting to those not stuck, that is). But it is sand, and probably not damaging to a keeled yacht.
About midway the channel is a squeeze with turns, that cannot be navigated at low tide. It is much too shallow. In a previous year I anchored with two other vessels near the shallow and waited a couple of hours.
To navigate the Strait I pilot by vision, and the B&G plotter with the Navionics chart card to check bearing to the next lateral marker. There are plenty of markers. All the way.
At the southern end of the Strait is a lengthy creek with skinnier offshoot creek leading to Tin Can Bay Marina. About 6 or 7 n miles.
I made contact with the Marina manager on the VHF radio. The tide was low, and he thought my 2-meter draught would be a little too deep, so, he told me where I would probably stop. At trolling speed, I did just that. ‘Stopped’. A short time later a powerboat wash had the boat floating again. The Tin Can Bay Marina manager stayed back and helped me to tie up. With the current at low tide it made tying up a bit awkward, as the shallows are very close to the Marina (they move). Much thanks for his patience and time.
Tin Can Bay Marina has a super nice restaurant and a small walk away is a popular town pub. But they have no McDonalds – oh dear me.
Next stop – Gold Coast (Dodging southerlies).
Leaving Tin Can Bay is easy. Just don’t run aground.
Between the south end of Fraser Island and the mainland is the Wide Bay Bar; it is notorious! Shallow sand and moving banks. Without warning the sea can well & truly break.
The Tin Can Bay coastguard SMS to me waypoints – 3 of them. One must do a zigzag course (go from one to the other, to the other). ‘Do not’ not do that.
With a northerly blowing and an ebb tide (a tide that’s going out, away from the shore), causes waves to be steep and close together. This is good for washing down the yacht from the front (oops bow, sorry) to the stern: a head sea.
The current (tide) does sneaky, tricky things; it stirs up sand and makes the section your sailing into look shallow. It ain’t shallow! Don’t go elsewhere. Bad idea. The current can also cause a line of small wavelets close together to look like cresting. One might think that this line is shallow. It isn’t!
Years back, a friend from another state, seeing all this disturbance, changed course and headed for the darker green and deeper sea. It wasn’t. The yacht went aground. Eventually, a breaking wave came out of nowhere, giving all on board a scare. It got the boat off the shallow sandy bottom!
With the route plotted into my faithful B&G plotter and a freshening north wind, my mainsail much reefed early, and a downwind sail.
By midnight the wind was 25/30 knots for several hours.
A strong wind warning was in place right to the Gold Coast. It was more like 18/20kts. I think nearer the shore the wind quietens.
On route, I pass well to seaward of Mooloolaba (who can say that, better still, try spelling it after a few turps) on the Sunshine Coast; it’s next to Maroochydore (there you go again).
Further on is Moreton Bay – the way to Brisbane. Not going there. The Bay is guarded by Moreton Island; I pass going south.
Moreton Island is near 21 n miles long. Then there’s Stradbroke Island; it’s 21 n miles too.
When clear of Stradbroke one can see the Gold Coast (Surfers Paradise). Building towers, towering into the sky.
There is a breakwater that leads thru the beach into the seaway.
I continue south, 2 1/2 n miles inside the seaway to birth in the welcoming South Port Yacht Club.
Regards to all.