Woohoo, our 2019 east coast journey begins!
After we left The Boatworks we caught our breath with a few nights in the Broadwater, familiarizing ourselves with our ‘second home’. Living between two homes involves some clumsy moments remembering just where things are. Of course, on The Bossa, it’s a tad more important as many things come in to play. This time we seemed to have got it right. No collisions with tree trunks crossing Moreton Bay ala 2016 and so far no misjudging of tide ala 2018. It is early days I know!
With the winds looking rather light we thought we might stop by Tangalooma on Moreton Island to try out my new underwater camera gear on the numerous wrecks there, but as per our last visits to Moreton Bay, the westerlies kicked in which means Tangalooma is exposed. We anchored off Scarborough for the night instead. It was an unexpected treat as we witnessed one of the best sunsets on the water we’ve ever seen and we enjoyed some local Friday fish n’ chips from Morgan’s Seafoods.
This stretch of water, from Moreton Bay to Fraser Island involves some planning. Leaving Moreton Bay, the next overnight anchorage is Mooloolaba, then it’s 60 nm (approx 10 hours at our 6k per hour average) to the Fraser Island Wide Bay Bar. The WBB involves preparation and planning. It is one long passage with only one overnight anchorage possibility, that being Double Island Point, which is 2 hours south of the WBB. Double Island Point is what we call an ‘open-roadstead’ anchorage meaning it is exposed to the open ocean, including the ocean’s swell. This means it can be rolly, even if protected from the winds.
We have never visited Double Island Point as we’ve always done the Mooloolaba to WBB passage in one hop. Many yachts have and it was our “Plan A” this year.
The Wide Bay Bar can be a treacherous bar so it deserves respect and concentration with passage planning. There are no entrance markers, the shifting sands make the entrance difficult with shallow depths and the entrance track is 3 nm long. The last section of this track is called the “mad mile”. Say no more!
Our departure from Mooloolaba is always based on our WBB planning. There’s lots of waiting when on a yacht. Weather is GOD.
We need … 10 hours to sail there, daylight on arrival, a rising high tide (preferably slack), maximum 1-1.5m swell, good visibility (no rain or sun in your eyes) and a favourable wind direction not only to sail but to also shelter at Double Island Point and of course, to cross the bar.
We also need the Tin Can Bay Coastguard WBB waypoints. The Hook Point light at the bar entrance is no longer accurate. The shifting sands seem to be gradually moving north so we rely on the up-to-date waypoints the Tin Can Bay Coastguard pass on. A phone call in advance supplies us with a return text with the three waypoints we need to avoid those treacherous wave breaking shoaling sands. These three waypoints are entered on to our chart plotter, triple checked by both of us (a ‘don’t argue’ rule on The Bossa now) and they are also entered on our ipad’s Navionics. We often hear the Coastguard asking boats if they have the current waypoints to cross the bar and are surprised at how many don’t.
So with all this in mind we departed Mooloolaba at 7 am (a respectable time too, any earlier is referred to as ‘stupid-o’clock’ by our mates on Zofia). Everything was ticked off, although we did have an all day rain forecast. I gave in on this one! Fortunately, it wasn’t raining at departure and as it turned out, we seemed to dodge the surrounding rain clouds most of the way. More luck than good planning I think on this one. Aqualibrium was sailing from the northern end of Moreton Island (bypassing Mooloolaba) so we were in communication with Gerry along the way. We were both planning on dropping anchor at Double Island Point to catch an early 7.40 am high tide the next morning.
With the winds 40% higher than forecast (we had 20k instead of 10-15k), we actually reached the bar earlier than expected. We always factor in averaging 6k an hour on passages but with the stronger wind we averaged 7k. The seas were calm enough, no rain so visibility was clear and the rising tide was … sort of/nearly 2 hours from high tide (if conditions are right a rising tide at least 2 hours after low can be ok).
So “Plan B” it was! Here’s two aerial views of the bar …
We reached waypoint 1 at approx’ 4 pm having logged on with the Tin Can Bay Coastguard on our VHF radio earlier. The Coastguard can give info about the bar eg. bar reports from earlier crossings, but they cannot advise. Unfortunately, no other boat had crossed the bar that afternoon, so there were no reports. But we did track three others before us including two local fishing boats. The crossing of a bar is entirely the responsibility of the captain – me and him! So with life-jackets on and sails dropped, we motored on slowly so as to not be there too early. The lowest water we saw was 6m between waypoint 1 and 2, so there were no depth issues (we draw 1.4m). Waypoint 2 to 3 (“mad mile”) was much more agitated with waves crashing on the sandbanks either side of us, but deep. Pays to watch these in case a deviation is needed. Our eyes are probably our most important navigation tool. Unfortunately, we caught a few waves when we crossed the bar this time last year (nothing like surfing on a 40ft cat!).
The Tin Can Bay Coastguard do a fantastic job. This bar is treacherous and boats have run aground and sunk here over the years, usually because they have done some silly things. The Coastguard also monitor our crossing with our AIS (Automated Identification System) and during our crossing this time they called us on both VHF and phone to suggest deviating from the waypoint line slightly to avoid some reported shoaling sands off Hook Point. Those shifting sands! As mentioned earlier we had tracked the boats ahead of us and had noted they did the same. Once inside, we log off with the Coastguard and in this instance we also gave a bar report at their request.
It is always somewhat of a relief to cross the Wide Bay Bar. It also signals the start of our adventures north.