Passage to Bundaberg. 24:45.687S, 152:23.203E

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Thu 15 Sep 2022 09:00

In the days before we left Noumea the forecasts were giving varying amounts of light winds and we knew we would have to motor part of the way.  Leaving on Tuesday meant we would have heavy swell for the first day, left over from the last depression but if we delayed departure until later in the week the proportion of motoring would probably go up, so we checked out on Monday ready for an early departure on Tuesday.  Tuesday morning’s forecast said we would be motoring from the start, but we were committed so we cast off at 0730 and followed Rebell and a large catamaran out of the port.  As we came away from the land into the lagoon we realised there was a reasonable sailing breeze so we got full sail up and were off towards Dumbea Pass, in the outer reef, at 6 knots.  This was to be the tale of this passage: every day the forecast told us we would be motoring and everyday we had some good sailing.

Blue sky and sea have been missing from our passages recently!

Once out of the lagoon we felt the swell, but were able to continue sailing.  The catamaran was quickly out of sight but we maintained contact with Rebell until his more southerly course (heading for Brisbane rather than Bundaberg) put him out of range.

During Wednesday night the wind dropped and went more easterly and the engine went on for the first time, but we were sailing again within 3 hours.  When the wind dropped again on Thursday it was in daylight and we decided it was time to pull out our rarely used cruising chute.  It allowed us to sail comfortably at 5 – 6 knots with light wind from astern and we kept it up until dusk when we replaced it with the Genoa.  Our daily run to midday Thursday was the best of the trip at 141 miles – an average of 6 knots. 

The cruising chute is attached at its 3 corners – with the luff (front edge) flying free in front of the forestay.  Its very light weight for use in lighter winds

While we were in Noumea we met up with Andrew and Clare on Eye Candy, who we knew from Fiji three years ago.  Andrew runs a radio net for cruisers on the HF radio and we were able to check in with him every evening on this passage.  We were hearing voices from as far away as French Polynesia.  Its nice to have that contact while at sea.

One of the main waypoints on our route was a line of seamounts.  These come up from the seabed at 3,000 meters to anywhere between 1,000 and 20 meters.  The one just to the south of our route was a shallow one and though we could have sailed over it safely in such calm condition we chose to go between, picturing what it would be like if we were able to walk along the sea bed between these huge mountains.

Passing between two Seamounts.  The red triangles are waypoints that we put on the chart to identify potential dangers that you might not see if zoomed right out.

In general this passage was a lovely one.  After the first day, when the swell went down, we had a relatively calm sea, the wind was mostly below 20 knots (we just had one short period of squally rain when we had to reef right down), and we had sunshine by day and a full moon by night.  On Sunday afternoon we finally lost the wind for good, but by then had made such good time we were anticipating arrival early on Monday morning.  That was put paid to by adverse tide overnight which slowed us right down.

After rounding the north end of Fraser Island, which we didn’t see as you have to stay 20 miles away to avoid shoals, we sailed across Hervey Bay for another 50 miles to the Burnett River entrance. Two dolphins swam under our bow for a long time and when we watched them they turned on their sides to look up at us, one was using our bow as a scratching post as it swam.

Our escort into Bundaberg, two bottlenose dolphins possibly Indo Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins

Later we saw three whales blowing and breaching in the distance, at this time of year humpback whales are feeding before making the trip down to Antarctica for the summer.

You can just see Australia in the distance. The shore here is low lying and we were quite close before we saw anything.

About an hour from the river we had to contact the Volunteer Marine Rescue to inform them of our approach, they then warn Border Force and Biosecurity. Then at the entrance to the river we called the marina and were told to berth on the Q-dock (the quarantine berth).

Locked into the quarantine dock until we cleared customs

The officials were already in the marina clearing in Raid, the catamaran that left Noumea before us, so it wasn’t long before we had them on board and we were cleared into Australia.