Australia: Bundaberg to Coomera (Sunshine Coast to Gold Coast)

Thursday morning we had a lazy start and just got ourselves ready to go to sea. In the afternoon we caught up with Norm to find out that his little dog Pip was poorly but he still entertained us royally in the Cruisers Cove over sundowners. Great singalong and even Pip seemed to rally at the end. This was all very impromptu and we were joined by Jody, Steve, Katie, Jeff and a few other people popped their heads in to see what was going on. Later on we headed back to Morphie for an early night.

Friday morning, at 4.55 am, we slipped away from Bundaberg marina and enjoyed a great sunrise as we made our way towards our chosen anchorage for the evening, the bottom of Great Woody Island in the Sandy Straights as we could get some shelter there from the forecasted freshening northerly winds.

We sailed along under genoa alone taking advantage of the rising tide to give us a lift from the strong currents. It was a rolly and hazy day. The reason for the haze became apparent when we saw the smoke plumes from the bush fires in Woodgate. Very sad for the people and the wildlife that is being devastated by the widespread fires here in Australia.

We arrived around 2.45 pm, set the anchor, having covered just over 52 miles. The sand was very good holding, thankfully, as the wind blew hard during the night.

On Saturday morning at 8.25 am we left to make the most of the rising tide so that we could navigate across the Sheridan Flats. The rest of the fleet (Bla Ellinor, EnaVigo, Mezzaluna, French Curve and Jonas) followed on behind as we made short work of the passage doing 7.3 knots in 7.5 knots of breeze!

We could leave earlier than the rest of the fleet due to the depth of our keel so could get across the shallows at an earlier stage of the tide than they could. Amazingly strong currents here as we navigated the twists and bends of the route. It would be much easier to navigate around here at low tide as you could see the sand banks and mud flats but, of course, then you couldn’t move anywhere!

Our destination was Garry’s Anchorage which is located on Fraser Island. This is a World heritage site although much of the interior is closed to hikers at the moment as it is tinder dry from the ongoing drought. We got a relatively sheltered anchoring spot near the shallows, having covered 25 miles, but the rest of the fleet ended up anchoring in a much more exposed position.

We all met on the beach for sundowners and, although Jeff (who had scoped out the beach and picnic area) told us there was nothing to worry about, the signs said otherwise LOL! Sadly we heard that little Pip had died so we all raised a glass in her memory. Was a nice social evening.

On Sunday morning we were off again at 8.15 am headed to Tin Can Bay. Again we were running downwind with the tide so were sailing in very light airs under genoa alone. It was a very bright day. Lovely. We dropped anchor in very shallow water and got a great set with fantastic holding. Which was a blessing later…….as the weather came in fast and furious.

There was thunder, lightning, howling winds over 30 knots, wind over tide, and torrential rain. Our anchor held (although we had to reset the snubber a couple of times) even though we did a couple of complete 360s in the horrendous conditions. Others were not so lucky and had to re-anchor a number of times in the deteriorating weather. Finally, by the evening, the situation moderated and the wind fell back to only 20 knots so we celebrated with a single can of beer each just in case it got bad again during the night and we needed to act.

Monday morning we decided to head down to Pelican Bay to stage for crossing the notoriously challenging Wide Bay Bar. Well, we travelled 7 miles there, admired a few sailing boats and fishing boats, dropped the hook, and looked around.

The conditions in the anchorage were dreadful and there was no way we were going to stay there the night. So we sailed the 7 miles back again enjoying watching the birdlife on the sandbanks on the return leg. This area has charter house boats and speed boats so the rules of the road certainly didn’t apply with many of them cutting us up and wanting to go starboard to starboard in the channel. Oh well….

Back in Tin Can Bay and it was more sheltered. We headed ashore to find the IGA for a few items that we were running low of and found some more interesting-looking birds. We then found a sleepy motel / bar and we all met there for sundowners (although Bla Ellinor were missing). This was to be our last social time together so it was a nice before we all go our separate ways.

Tuesday morning and we were up at the crack of dawn and headed ashore just before 7am. This is because this area has a pod of Australian humpback river dolphins. They are truly wild in the river and look quite different from the normal bottlenose breed. The story goes that, back in the 1950s, one of these river dolphins was badly injured and swam into Tin Can Bay. The locals felt sorry for it and fed it fish while it recovered its strength. This turned into a regular occasion and the pod now have learned behaviour and turn up every day at 7am to show off, be photographed (not touched!) and fed by their adoring public / volunteers. These are truly wild animals and are quite rare so it was lovely to see them up close and personal. Richard even fed Aussie one of the females who had a calf with her.

Oh yes and don’t forget the rescue cormorant who turns up every day hoping to steal some fish LOL.

After the dolphin experience we had a full breakfast (and were joined by another cheeky bird who fancied some bacon) and then headed into the Tin Can Bay Coastguard station, to find out what the conditions were on the Wide Bay Bar. The wind had just dropped dramatically and the conditions were incredibly benign.

So we rushed back to Morphie in dink. And we were accompanied by some dolphins! Amazing…..

Back onboard we got the outboard on the rail, dink on the arch, and ourselves ready. We headed out at the back of the mass exodus of boats taking the opportunity to cross in almost perfect conditions. We were at the back of the fleet as we were the slowest boat and had to punch a bit of tide during the initial stages.

We crossed the bar, and despite it being a bit rolly for the last mile, it was easy peasy. Yay! We had decided to continue down towards Brisbane and take the outside sea route for speed. This was a passage of about 140 miles to the Gold Coast Seaway and then another 20 odd miles through the canals to the marina. The conditions were pretty good although we could have done with more wind at times so had to motor sail at times to keep our speed up. The timing of this passage was crucial as we had to enter the Seaway on a rising tide and, again, this bar is also a notoriously dodgy place in the wrong conditions. So it was important that we kept on top of the speed.

As the sun set it was against a smoky backdrop and had a red hue. Storms were hitting the mainland and I saw two lightning strikes hit. Plus there was the sinister night glow of the bush fires. But that wasn’t the challenge of the night. Fishing boats here travel fast and have right of way and, guess what, they don’t have AIS. Damn….all you can see are huge white lights and it is really difficult to work out what they are doing. I was able to pick a few up as a radar target to track them but then one turned at me, hard. So I had to run the engine hard too. Oh yes, and don’t forget the cruise ship Pacific Asia who decided that to cross my stern at only 200m would be an appropriate thing to do!!!! So I radioed him and they confirmed they had seen me (really?!?) and, thankfully, as a result of the call they changed course. There were ships everywhere and it took some getting used to.

In the morning the beautiful red sun glowed just like Mars.

We had a nice following sea and were committed to going through the Seaway at this stage. And then, of course, there was a strong wind warning for further down the coast. We carried on with a reefed genoa to increase our speed and to give us a back-up in case of engine failure and, thankfully, made it through the Seaway on a rising tide with no difficulties.

As we then moved through the canal system towards The Boatworks we were suddenly sheltered by the mangroves and the 25 knot breeze dropped to very little. The canal systems with their expensive housing and private berthing reminded us a little of Fort Lauderdale in Florida apart from the kangaroos grazing on the grass LOL. An interesting thing that we spotted though was that boats over a certain length are restricted to 6 knots but small speed boats can do 30 knots! So we got buzzed a few times as we meandered the 10 or so miles to the marina up the Camoora River.

At 14.44 we were safely tied into our marina slip (surrounded by huge stink pots) and were definitely pleased to have arrived. We have covered 4,452 miles this season since leaving New Zealand and feel ready for some R&R both here and at home with family and friends. And Morpheus certainly has earned her rest.

But, first, there is loads of work to be done preparing her for our departure. So I’m blogging this afternoon while Richard is filling up with water, washing her down, and connecting the power. We have checked into the facility and were surprised by how empty it appears – but we haven’t had a good walk around yet. So the work starts tomorrow! But, this evening, we are going to enjoy a few cold ones in the cockpit to celebrate our final destination of the season.

Bye for now