We missed it so much: feeling the wind in our sails and our speed through the ocean. Sailing to Fraser Island has been fun, even if the weather to get there has been capricious: rain, swell, strong wind… That was the downside, but even in these conditions we were in such a state of withdrawal after weeks of inactivity that we enjoyed the sailing and the freedom.
The conditions were lively, perfect to test things out and fun for photography.
Through the Wide Bay Bar
When sailing to World Heritage listed Fraser Island, you can take the ocean route which is a long passage of over 100nm along the Eastern side of the island with no possibility of anchoring along the way. Or you can take the inside route through the Great Sandy Straits. The Straits are a 70 kilometres long body of water which separates mainland Queensland from the southern part of Fraser Island. When coming from the south, you enter them through the notorious Wide Bay Bar, which can be treacherous in the wrong conditions. The map below shows you Fraser Island and the Straits with their southern entrance at the bottom.
Crossing the Wide Bay Bar was uneventful, just as we like it. We obtained the waypoints from the VMR (Volunteer Marine Rescue) which gives you a safe path through the breakers and sandbanks. We chose to go in at dawn at the end of a rising tide. Only one negative: the huge downpour as we motored through “the Mad Mile”. We got soaked, but at least the rain flattened the water!
The Mad Mile is the stretch of water through the breakers and shoals which gets very choppy but is quite deep. The waypoints get updated in September each year, and we found that the shoals had moved. We adjusted our course for the second waypoint which was bringing us too close to breaking waves and shallow water. That’s the thing with waypoints, you don’t follow them blindly, you still need to look at the sea state and make your own decisions.
Inside the Great Sandy Straits
Once inside the Sandy Straits, you are in protected waters. You meander your way through a landscape of mangroves, sandbanks and mud islands. We use the southerlies and time our hops along the Straits with the tide to progress northward. We are in no hurry: a couple of nights at White Cliffs, then at McKenzie Jetty, and Kingfisher Bay.
We have been able to give the grubby waterline a clean, had a few swims and long walks ashore. For instance, on Thursday we walked from the McKenzie Jetty to Lake McKenzie, a 20km return hike to this beautiful fresh water lake. We saw lots of interesting bugs, including incredibly long caterpillar trains!
For the yachties among our readers: Have you noticed how people who drag their anchor often blame everybody else but themselves? This was our experience near the old ruined McKenzie Jetty where we anchored in 12m of water. The next morning, we woke up with a small catamaran alongside us, only a few meters away! The previous night they were 200m further north from us. When a women eventually appeared on the offending cat, she was quick to say we had dragged! “We don’t tend to drag upwind or upstream” I responded and Wade indicated we were 40 meters from our GPS mark where we dropped anchor. She had no idea how much anchor chain they had out, but was adamant they had not budged and we had. Not very observant nor clued up! Eventually the skipper surfaced, had a look around, switched on his engines, raised anchor and they moved away from us. So how could we tell we had not dragged? Well we are a little pedantic about anchoring. We rarely drag, and when we do we know for sure. This is because we do three things:
- We use an anchor watch application on our phone called “Anchor Light” which takes a GPS mark where we drop anchor, allows us to set the distance from that point for our swing circle depending on how much chain we put out, and sounds an alarm if we move further than the scope.
- We have a Laser Range Finder and take sights when we anchor. This handy device allows us to measure the distance from our boat to other boats, the shore or other stationary objects.
- We reverse hard on the anchor to ensure it is set.
So when somebody says “you have dragged” we can respond with confidence “nope” and we can prove it. And if the other boat is too pig headed to move, then we up anchor and get away!
Despite this minor annoyance, we have been enjoying ourselves. Plenty of exercise, nice easy sailing, a boat that is not giving us grief anymore… what more could we ask? On the program for next week: some exploring along beautiful Platypus Bay at the northern end of Fraser Island.