Mooloolaba to Tin Can Bay

Sunday afternoon (22 May) we headed into the Surf Club to listen to the live music. It was very busy and loud with not much notice being taken of the two musicians set up in a corner (who were average at best). So a tad disappointing but it was nice to be out and about again. During the afternoon the lifeguards (which rely on charitable donations here in Australia) did a raffle – so I entered – and won the first prize out of a $50 gift voucher to be spent in the Club. Woo hoo!

We decided that we really didn’t want to spend it there and then as we were about ready to head back to Morphie, so checked the expiry date (12 months) and decided that we’ll just have to return to Mooloolaba on our way back south to have dinner on them then! On our way back to the marina we sat for a little while watching these really interesting cloud formations.

Monday morning around 7am and Richard headed out to find Alex the marina’s recommended guy to have a look at our outboard. He was just opening up and came down the dock straight away. With a few pulls and a bit of a spray he was confident that it was a carburettor problem and took it away with him for a ‘sonic’ clean. It was a relief that we were able to get someone to look at it so quickly with a promise of being fixed by the end of the day.

In the meantime we were getting ready to leave Mooloolaba so we used the dinghy to go round and wash the salt and river grime off Morphie’s hull. Then we filled up the tanks with water. I then headed into Mooloolaba and managed to get some cash out; some last minute fresh provisions; topped up our GoCards (for bus journeys in Queensland) and put on the lottery. Richard in the meantime headed to the fisherman’s wharf and purchased some diesel and unleaded petrol. He decanted the diesel straight from the cans into the fuel tank and we were now half full, so enough to keep us going for a while. Later in the afternoon Alex was back, the carb was reinstalled, and everything worked! OMG what a relief. Apparently the problem relates to ethanol in the petrol which our two stroke was not designed to deal with. So lesson learnt that we need to check the ethanol content when purchasing unleaded petrol in future. We also found out that the valve in the outboard petrol can was leaking slightly so rain water had gotten into the fuel. A bit of gaffer tape fixed that problem LOL.

We then had a quiet night in as we intended to be heading out first thing in the morning. Tuesday morning we were up early and slipped away at 6am to go out at slack high tide across the bar into the river watching the trawlers returning as we passed them in the river.

The weather report had included a swell warning about coastal bars but the height forecast was manageable so we decided to go knowing that we could always abort and turn around in the river if they were worse than forecast on the day. As we approached the bar there were swells breaking across the entrance and it was pretty feisty conditions but Richard pushed on. He gunned the engine and drove us through managing to avoid the swells pretty well. We weren’t the only people out there as a number of catamarans followed us out and all thankfully made it through safely although it certainly wasn’t pretty!

Our destination was Double Island Point where we planned to stage until the conditions allowed us to cross the Wide Bay Bar to get inside Fraser Island. Well the conditions on this passage were miserable with lumpy big seas and we sailed downwind under genoa alone.

We certainly got a lift from the swells with our speed surfing up to 9 knots at times. At one point there was a huge crash and the sound of glass breaking – we both just looked at each other – and Richard headed out onto the deck to see what had broken. Well, it turns out, that our radar reflector had broken away from the shrouds and had fallen and smashed onto the coach roof. Thankfully there was no damage to the gelcoat and it wasn’t anything more sinister!

As we came around the headland into the bay we were joined by the biggest wave we had ever seen – it was at least 20 feet high and the white surf was blowing off the top as it built and built towards the beach. We had never seen anything quite like this before and the picture certainly doesn’t do it justice!

Luckily we were able to stay out of its way and got a good anchor set in sand at around 3pm having travelled 52.5 miles. The anchorage wasn’t absolutely calm as it surged a bit but we felt pretty secure. Once we were settled we contacted the Coast Guard to let them know of our safe arrival and spoke to them about the possibility of crossing the Wide Bay Bar on Wednesday morning. They said it was very unlikely as the swells were refusing to lay down and were actually increasing with the conditions being much worse than the forecasts so they recommended that we contact them again in the morning for an update. As this is a dynamic sand bar they did, however, send us through the waypoints for the crossing (which actually weren’t that much different from when we crossed the bar outbound late 2019). So we put these into the plotter ready to go whenever that may be.

We had a quiet night on board, having been treated to a beautiful moon before heading to bed really early after the excitement of the day.

Wednesday morning and we awoke to see the sunrise.

We checked the wave buoy at the Wide Bay Bar online and found that the surf was still too high for a crossing in our opinion. So we phoned the Coast Guard at 6am and they confirmed that conditions were definitely iffy so we would wait another day. Oh well, never mind, chance to turn over and go back to sleep LOL. We lazed around all day just reading and chilling.

During the day we picked up the news that our friends on SV Begonia – Kyle and Maryanne – had had serious difficulties at the Tweed Heads bar. The YouTube video footage we saw later was absolutely hellish and we are just so very grateful that they were able to get back to safety unharmed despite some damage to their boat. Very sobering viewing and we just wish that arm chair sailors would hold off on their online criticism whilst this couple recover from this dramatic event and before the whole story is known. These guys are very experienced sailors and the initial report suggests that they lost power due to being propped by some rope in the water which resulted in them losing both power and steerage putting them at the mercy of the waves. Despite this they managed to navigate their vessel to the entrance of the river where they dropped their anchor and were then helped by the authorities.

In the evening we sat on the coach roof (suitably togged up in hoodies and joggers) to watch the lunar eclipse. It was a bit disappointing as the bright red moon wasn’t bright red at all but kind of deep cherry. But the night sky was amazing and we even saw two shooting stars so made a couple of wishes. Fantastic sight and so glad we sat up to watch it. Retiring to bed we were disappointed that the surf was up again so the anchorage wasn’t as comfortable as before.

Thursday morning, once again, we checked the conditions and there was a mass exodus of boats heading to the bar so we contacted Chris on the boat behind us (SV Watusi) and confirmed that we were going to head over there to take a look and would make a judgement once we had spoken to the Coast Guard and had eyeballed the situation. Chris and Sharon had been at Double Island Point for six days waiting for a window and had never crossed before so we were more than happy to lead the way for them. So we picked up anchor – as the moon set and the sun rose – and headed the 10 miles to the first waypoint having confirmed with the Coast Guard that it was doable. It was just a beautiful start to the day.

We were overtaken by a few catamarans at this point and reached our first waypoint. The waves were breaking around us as we headed to the next waypoint and we realised that, actually, the next waypoint was in the boiling surf and so Richard cut the corner to avoid this and Chris followed our routing.

By now we were surfing down and along waves towards our next waypoint and this catamaran (SV Asif) came alongside and sat way too close. We were not impressed, all we needed was for a wave to pick either of us up in the wrong direction and we could potentially have collided. But we were at full speed and didn’t want to back off in these conditions. He was the ‘overtaking’ boat so should have kept clear. I took a photo of him just to make sure I had his boat details and he had the gall to wave back as though we were the best of friends. You just can’t fix stupid….

Here’s a copy of our plotter – the outbound track follows the Coast Guard waypoints but the new inbound track definitely cuts the corner. Thankfully we managed to see no less than 11 feet below our keel.

We finally made it to the river mouth and I spoke to Sharon on Watusi on the phone. We were heading to Tin Can Bay which we know is a nice anchorage and they followed us in. We were settled by 9.45 am having covered almost 21 miles. We celebrated our safe arrival by having sausage sandwiches for breakfast – naughty but nice! We then tidied up, cleaned the salt off Morphie, relaxed a bit and then made ourselves presentable for sundowners. Chris and Sharon joined us later that afternoon for a few celebratory drinks and we had a lovely evening together.

Friday morning we had a leisurely start and waved goodbye to Chris and Sharon as they headed out as they need to get to Bundaberg to fix a few issues with their boat.

There is some inclement weather due over the weekend so we have decided to stay put for a few days and will move on after this has passed. The forecast is for 4-5 metre swells offshore again so don’t think there will be any boats crossing the bar towards us anytime soon. We want to spend some time in Kingfisher Resort (which is yacht friendly apparently) and really would like to explore Fraser Island so we are just waiting for a few nice settled days before we head up through the Sandy Straits to get there.

Later on we went ashore for petrol. We headed to the Tin Can Bay Marina and the outboard was spluttering away and then died although thankfully we made it to the dock first. We filled up our cans with petrol and then moved dink away from the main part of the fuel dock so Richard could start pulling it apart and checking it out again. You can only imagine the language….sigh…. Whilst we were debating what to do (especially as it was a very long row back to Morphie) this guy working on a neighbouring boat came over to see us. He explained that he had previously owned an outboard repair shop and recognised that this was a fuel issue from the way it was responding. We explained what had happened in Mooloolaba and he knew straight away that Alex probably hadn’t reset the engine properly after reinstalling the cleaned carburettor. So this guy talked Richard through changing the air mixture and how to reset the idle as well and, would you believe it, the outboard started and just purred!!! Thankfully we have learnt a few things too. Talk about lucky that this guy was around and he gave his time freely and without charge. We were very very grateful.

Feeling much more confident that we could get back to Morphie, we left dink tied to the dock and walked to the IGA supermarket for some provisions. We then stopped for coffee and a scone in the local bistro Mother Cluckers which had some interesting art work dotted around. Was really lovely.

We then walked back to the marina to pick up dink and headed back out down Snappers Creek – with a very happy dinghy captain – towards the anchorage checking out the prawn fishing fleet along the way. Do you think one of these might be owned by a Londoner?!?

When we got to the river we found that the tide had gone out quite a long way which we hadn’t anticipated due to the delay in sorting out the outboard so we had to go very gingerly along to stop the outboard from hitting the sandy / mud bottom. We made it back and it was clear that Morphie was enjoying herself being back at anchor once again.

Back on board we stowed our goodies and had a lazy afternoon. As the sun wasn’t particularly strong and the wind was light we had to run our generator to top up the batteries in the evening before staying down below for dinner and another new Netflix series.

This morning, Saturday, and we had planned to go ashore (having checked the tide times LOL) but the wind had picked up and is howling through the anchorage which would mean a very wet dinghy ride back in the chop. Although the sun is out the wind has chilled the temperature right down so it only feels like 14 degrees C right now so we are wrapped up warm down below and I don’t think we’ll venture anywhere today after all.

Still watching the news from home and, again, it looks like there might be some doubt over the lifting of restrictions in June. So much uncertainty about organising events and we hope that this is all sorted out sooner rather than later especially in time for my friend Carolyn’s significant birthday celebrations! Missing you all and, this week, am sending an Australian kiss to make you smile. Take care of each other.

Bye for now, Jan