Sailing to Fraser Island

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!

Another cat in the distance, approaching the first waypoint. Anui is half way to the third waypoint!
Downpour at the Wide Bay Bar

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!

Anchoring Antics

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!

Anui at White Cliffs

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.

9 thoughts on “Sailing to Fraser Island

  1. At last you are away and Anui is at the top of her game. I am pleased to read that all went so well for your first trip post repairs. Have lots of fun. I hope Bengie has had a few walks as well

  2. Glad to see you are moving! Even if you are having sporadic wet days. Happy to note Bengie is contented – I was wondering how she coped on your ‘lively’ sail. Hugs and cat cuddles to you all.

    • Hi Trish – yes it is good to be on the move. We are all happy and Bengie has found a new spot on top of the couch with window views and warm sun so she sees outside! She was not at all bothered by the movement underway. We are still fiddling with maintenance on the go, but at least it is not stopping us from sailing. A loose fitting to lift up one of the dagger boards was letting rainwater into the bilge – it’s endless!

  3. Good to see you guys moving again! Funny anchor dragging story and the associated arrogance!
    BTW, us landlubbers are about a week ahead of you and camping at Atherton, before heading off to the Cape on a freighter. it’s called the Seaswift and it takes a max of 20 passengers on a 5 day round trip. Happy sailing guys, good southerlies and a bit of rain around Cairns at the moment.

  4. Hi, Chris, You sound very enthusiastic about navigating again. It’s great that you are going to different places and enjoy your Anui. 🙂

    • It’s about time HJ! We were feeling very anxious and frustrated. Even though boat maintenance is a fact of sailing life, we cope much better if it is little bits often rather than major works over many weeks that stop you in your tracks. We are enjoying the right mix now and will soon be able to go to the reef. Lots to look forward to!

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