Monday, October 24, 2011

not drowning, waving

Waving a massive flipper
The huddle proved to be a couple of boats (mainly dedicated whale watching boats) following 3 whales. We stood back and turned off our electronic equipment (it interferes with their senses) and it wasn't long before two graceful giants headed toward us. Like, really toward us....just under our bow sprit, hold your breath and hope they are just having a gander! ( Weeks later we heard of the yacht off Fraser Island who was a plaything for these massive animals and was taken for a long ride after one took their anchor rope in its mouth and took off dragging the boat behind it...freaky!)
We spent a couple of hours blissfully watching their antics and attempting to get some decent camera shots before heading over to Platypus Bay for the night.
We anchored in crystal clear water in an anchorage called 'the lagoon'. At high tide you can cross the channel over the beach to an actual lagoon on the island. We opted to stay off the island so that we were not reliant on tide. During the night, Margot was excited to hear dingoes calling.
Early the next morning we put up the sails to check out the whales playing in the distance.
Playing in Platypus Bay

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Oh where, oh where are the whales?

We headed north east into Hervey Bay and toward Moon Point where SV Northwind had sighted whales. It was a rough and choppy ride and Ruby headed downstairs to her safe spot in the sea berth. Not a whale to be seen, although we did make several passes on a grumpy turtle.
Ruby in safe mode
Moon Bank was very uncomfortable so rather than waiting around here we kept east to get some protection from Fraser Island. The channel between the eastern edge of the bank and Fraser is very narrow and passed tantalising close (as far as the girls were concerned) to a pristine beach. We were a bit unsure as to how narrow it was so waited for one of the whale watching tourist boats to pass through.
The very narrow channel
There was some protection in the channel and we could see boats in a huddle further north so presuming whales were about , we set course for the huddle

looking for Mary

So west to Maryborough.....
It was a pleasant sail over to River Heads where the Mary and Susan Rivers join. Since the floods some markers have not been replaced, so negotiating shallow spots is a bit tricky. We manoeuvred into the Mary River safely and were escorted up river by dolphins for about 1nm. It was about 19nm up river to Maryborough, so we all settled in for some country sightseeing.
Around Beaver Rocks there was an abundance of uncharted orange buoys, some with white poly buoys attached, so we presumed they were crab pots. Nope port markers! A quick u-turn saw us follow the markers in a wide semi-circle to deep water.
River Heads where the barges to Fraser island berth.
The closer we got to Maryborough the more evident was the flood damage. Manatee was anchored off the sailing club and we all attempted to get ashore to stretch our legs. As the jetty had been washed away we needed to tie to shore and managed to step into knee deep mud.
After a stroll around the grassy grounds of the sailing club, Jacki and Pearl were returned to Manatee for a bath while the rest of the pack went for a walk to town.
We were keen to explore the town, as in the late 90's on a flying adventure to an airshow west of Gladstone, we were forced to remain in Maryborough for a few days due to bad weather (boating and aviation have a lot in common!). We both loved the town and had decided it was a possible country retirement area, so would we still feel the same?
There are walking tracks along the river that have been beautifully landscaped and filled with sculptures and the botanic gardens are gorgeous. Maryborough is also the birthplace of PL Travers, the author of Mary Poppins and the town makes the most of this fame with statues of Mary and stories about PL set into brass on buildings like her old home. Buildings around town(Customs House, School of Arts etc) have been beautifully restored and street cafes abound.
While in town AK set to in an attempt to get lost cards replaced and we needed to get an exhaust elbow manufactured(where exhaust gases and water mix to be expelled through the hull. It had been leaking and our epoxy fix hadn't succeeded). Kindly cruisers we met offered to drive us around and gave engineering recommendations.. The town is an old sea port so there were plenty of options. We headed off to Olds Engineering which had an amazing workshop of historical value and after much humming and arring Mr Old sent us off to the house of a mate of his fathers who was a tinkerer. Ron was in his 80's and in the middle of his morning porridge, but after examining our old elbow, instructed us to meet him at Barry White's engineering shop, which just happened to be next to the marina. Between them they made us a new elbow which Barry then offered to help us fit. With a few minor adjustments we had a new elbow. Kind men and a great service.
We met a great group of people in the quaint Maryborough slipway who were doing up a huge ferro yacht which they were hoping to launch by Christmas. The boat was going to be their home for their missionary work in PNG. Unbeknownst to us they had been taking photos of Manatee as she had the wheelhouse of their dreams. Surprisingly their yacht had a very similar layout to Manatee, just on a larger scale to house five adults. The fit out they were completing was beautiful, fantastic joinery and very stylish.
We also met a couple who had just completed building their catamaran and were planning to head for the Philippines. SV Sea Dragon was fantastic, the first junk rigged cat we have seen. Over sundowners we were told stories of the floods which sounded traumatic. The marina had still not been totally repaired and most berths didn't have power and water.
The river was yucky, lots of debris floating around with the odd 44gallon drum floating past us.
On our last day in town we bought our fresh fruit and veg from the markets which were held in the main street, AK filled up on second hand books at the sale in the town hall and managed to talk Marg into a trip to the airport for a look around and a coffee. Marg joked that that was too much spoiling for 1 day.
The airport was sad and deserted, a far departure from the memory of a bustling and vibrant enterprise.....and there was no longer a terminal to buy a coffee.
So we left Maryborough, having found the town delightful, but agreeing that we don't like many rivers.
Heading down river, navigation again proved difficult as the orange buoys had been blown around in the strong winds, some almost on shore. With fingers crossed we managed to get through without grounding and anchored in the Susan River to wait for favourable weather to go whale watching. It was a beautiful anchorage and we were teased by turtles who would swim around the boat.
Sunset over Susan
After a couple of days we headed back out to the Sandy Straits, passing what looked like a pod/group/family of dugongs. How exciting!

Saturday, October 15, 2011


After a few blissful days at Gary's Anchorage, we meandered north along the western side of Fraser Island. Lots of beautiful anchorages and clear water.
Along the way we encountered Peter and Antoinette (from the Spray Tiramasu) who were rafting their partly built Wharram back to Tin Can Bay after it was damaged in the floods at Maryborough. Gee Sprays can do anything! Tiramasu has done 4000nm in the Sandy Straits, they love it here.
We anchored off Kingfisher Bay Resort early afternoon and spent time wandering around this fab place. Boaties are welcome to use the facilities (swimming pool, hot showers etc) as are day visitors from the mainland, but we were content to stroll and look. It looks good here and is reasonably ecologically friendly although a tad expensive.
The anchorage off Kingfisher Resort

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Salubrious Sandy Straits

We were all excited to take the dinghy across to Inskip Point for a beach walk after our hectic previous day. As we were coming through 'the mad mile' we had a phone call from Tin Can Coast Guard (a woman by this stage) who said 'you're probably at the bad bit by now, just remember it looks worse than it is. When you come in anchor just inside, you can take your tender over later to Inskip, it's a great doggie beach, your little doggies will love it.' What a kind and reassuring service!
Land Ahoy!
Well, we all did love it. It is the point of Rainbow Beach and has a basic camp site in the scrub. We spent all of the next day here and Sue and Roger (SV Northwind) joined us for sundowners. That is one of the things that we love about cruising, you can catch up with other cruisers in different locations. We met Sue and Roger in Southport and spent many an hour having enjoyable chats over sundowners.
SV Northwind
The following day we headed south to Tin Can Bay and just managed to get our anchor set before we had a storm that caused a white that was freaky! We spent an enjoyable few days here (mostly, some of it was spent trying to find banks etc to get cards replaced). There were lots of dolphins around and quite a few sprays.
We got up early one morning to watch the dolphins being fed. This apparently started in the 70's when a fisherman accidentally injured a dolphin and took it upon himself to hand feed it until it recovered (co-incidentally I was just interrupted by a dolphin swimming under Manatee and Ruby running out on deck to hang off the bow sprit and chat to it). The third generation of that original dolphin come in every morning to be hand fed, although it did feel like an obligation of sorts, the female eager to get away as soon as 'the show' was over.
Allegedly injured dolphins (mainly shark attack) come in to be fed and recover as well. They are Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins which have smallish dorsal fins and are big, these two weighing in at 145kg. Surprisingly they also had big teeth that made more than one toddler cry when they were being 'encouraged' to feed the dolphins. AK heard a local fisherman in the crowd explain that they were superb hunters, being very efficient at rounding up fish into the shallows as a team.
After Tin Can we headed north up the Straits, back over to Fraser Island where our first anchorage was 'Gary's'.
The glassy waters of the Sandy Straits
The anchorage is called 'Gary's' after a Butchela man who lived in this area (a lagoon is also given his name) around 1900 who continued living a traditional lifestyle and welcoming visitors to his camp. It is very popular with cruisers as it is protected with a beach at low tide.
Manatee at Gary's
We decided to have some 'adult time' so left the girls on the boat and went for a walk along the fire trails on Fraser. Four hours later we had not seen any dingoes, although we saw lots of tracks which we followed only to find when we back tracked that dingo prints were on top of our footprints. That picnic lunch sitting on the trail was probably not the smartest thing to do!
Intrepid explorers in the bush

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mooloolabah and more

We left Moreton Bay on the 31st August with S/SE winds forecast at 10-15kts and a sea/swell combination of 2M. It was a beautiful clear sky with lots of sun. The seas were calm until Caloundra where they picked up...but there were lots of dolphins to accompany us. AK also saw her first shark off the tip of Moreton Island, very exciting.
Manatee averaged 6.5kts with her headsail deployed, she really does motorsail beautifully! The entrance to Mooloolaba was shoaling so the port marker had been moved so that we had to enter the harbour beam on to the swell....interesting. The entrance was also shallower than we expected with not much depth under us in the 2nd hour of the flood tide.
We anchored in the Mooloolah River which was very crowded. We spent a very enjoyable few days here, lots of beach walking and chilling in the sunshine. We were joined by our friends Miki and Steve on SV Boris, a 40' Adams steelie that they totally rebuilt at Monty's over a few years. Their blog is
Unluckily AK lost her purse overboard on the 6th. Damn every card was in it.
We (crew of Boris and Manatee) all decided to leave Mooloolaba on the 7th. To get the right tide to leave the harbour we had to up anchor at 0340....shivers! Our destination was Lady Musgrave Island. Lucky it was dark as we probably would have freaked if we'd seen the size of the swell on the bar....which we had to turn beam on to. It is the first time Manatee has taken water over her sides. Jacki and Ruby did freak and had to be ushered downstairs. Pearl had to be woken to go as well...she's not a morning being either!
The weather forecast was winds s/se 10-15kts with the seas at 1.5m and the swell 2m decreasing. We waited until dawn to put up our sails by which stage it wasn't worth it..the wind was light and variable. We headed into deep water a few nm off shore while Boris hugged the coast looking for stronger winds. The sea/swell coming from the se mostly was 3-4m and hitting us on the beam, which made for a rolly ride.
The fur girls were antsy and irritable the entire way, it hadn't been a good start for them. We started thinking about options, as it was a good 24hr journey outside of Fraser island to our first anchorage. It wasn't shaping up to be a pleasant night!
After getting bar advice from Tin Can Bay we considered going over the Wide Bay bar (between the southern point of Fraser Island and Inskip Point) into the Sandy Straits, not something we were looking forward to due to its reputation. Abeam Wolf Rock we saw a magnificient sight....a humpback mother and calf lolling on the surface, mum waving her massive flipper. That helped us make the decision, if we see dolphins it means we enter an area, they generally escort us, so if we see
We headed up to the bar entrance, we already had the GPS co-ordinates, looking for the light leads. Yachts waiting to leave the area over the bar were reporting substantial breakers with replies from the laconic coast guard "yep that will be why they call it the mad mile". We couldn't find the leads, it was late afternoon by this stage, with the sun behind the leads making it a difficult task. AK never being one to totally trust a GPS, made the call to another yacht we knew was behind us 'Amazing Grace' to enquire of their bar experience. They had done 'it' 6 times so we were happy to follow them across.
Margot was on the helm with AK repeating 'just look straight ahead' with waves breaking either side of our path. At one point a red yacht made straight for us from the opposite direction, we both
said "who's that mad bastard". On closer inspection it was Eric on 'Isabella', hi Eric!
It was a relief to drop our anchor at Pelican Point at 1720.