Wide Bay Bar

Wed 4 May 2016 23:42
25:37.926S 152:58.161E

There were more calculations to be done. We needed to leave Mooloolaba on a high tide, because otherwise we wouldn’t have enough water to get out, but we also needed to go out in daylight, so we could see where the waves were breaking on the bar, but we also needed to go into Wide Bay, 50nm away, on a rising tide, a few hours after low tide ideally so there’d be a fast flow into the bay to help calm the breaking waves, and in daylight. Much Primary Port tide data, with Secondary Port adjustments was poured over, checked and re-checked, not helped by me consistently saying “low tide” when I meant “high tide” and vice versa, and finally we decided we could do it, if we left at first light. So with the first rays of the sun we slid out of the harbour and followed the tinnies down the channel and out into the morning. 

It was a lovely day-sail up the coast and this time the dolphins obliged and came to bow-ride a while, with Nathalie and Isabella positioned on the pulpit watching the dolphins at their feet. It was lovely for us to see Isabella enjoying the magic of dolphins right up close for the first time; we greet them now as old familiar friends, we’re still awed and delighted by being so close to these creatures but there’s nothing quite like the wonder of the first time. The early start and the excitement caught up with her, however, and a gentle snooze on deck soon put that right.

It’s face paint, not bruises, don’t worry!

As we approached Wide Bay we called the VMR (Voluntary Marine Rescue) on the radio and requested the coordinates of the waypoints to lead us safely through the bar. We had heard on an announcement earlier in the day that the bar had shifted and one had to approach 100m North of the recommended track. These sandy entrances are constantly moving so the charts are mostly out of date. We saw the recommended track on our old plotter was way out but the cockpit one we’d got in New Zealand showed the track lying just South of the one VMR had told us, so that tied in. It was perfect conditions, swell about 1 to 1 1/2m, light winds, a strong-running rising tide to dampen the waves: all good. Of course we made sure all hatches were secure and crew had life jackets on before crossing in any case. All started well, we ran carefully down the track we’d been given, the swell behind us, but then we saw breaking waves directly ahead, quickly Phil changed course to take us further North, bringing the swell on to our quarter for a few minutes and making it a tad uncomfortable, then we were clear of the breaking waves ahead and could turn back so that the waves flowed in behind us, surfing us over the bar. It seems the 100m North warning meant 100m North of the waypoints they were giving out. That seemed mad! Why not adjust the way points they gave out? Gladly, this was the last of the sandy bars we’d be going through on our way North: it would be coral from North of Fraser Island.

Looking back across the bar from the inside. Once across the bar one turns parallel to it for the “Mad Mile”: bouncy but not difficult. 

Once past the bar Wide Bay is a huge sandy river mouth: sand cliffs and beach to the South and the start of Fraser Island to the North, a seventy mile long wooded sand island, based on basalt. It’s a national park with wonderful wildlife and fresh water lakes but the first evidence of occupants were less delightful: mobs of 4x4s were patrolling the beach.

Well, what else are sandy beaches for?

It was still early in the day so we followed the channels right up into the estuary, spotting turtles as we went, twisting and turning to chase the deep water. At high tide it’s a huge expanse of open water but hidden from sight are sand banks and shallow areas - thank goodness for charts! We were heading for Garry’s Anchorage, which is tucked up a little creek away from the main channel. As we entered the creek we saw a couple of grey slick bodies arching up from the water behind us: dugongs? The channel markers showed the creek to be much narrower than it had looked on the chart and ahead, where the true anchorage was, the off shore markers looked as if they were on the beach it was so narrow. We decided to err on the side of caution and dropped anchor on the edge of a the widest part of the channel.

Channel markers at high tide.

And the same ones at low tide. 

It had been a long day. We were glad to stop, look around us and come to terms with our new surroundings. The birds were busy in the trees, now and again the turtles silently pushed their brown green carapaces above the water and the breathy “whoosh” of the dugongs coming up for breath told us we were right, they were about. We were in no rush, there’d be plenty of time tomorrow to go ashore, but some of the locals couldn’t wait to check out the new comers:

One of our little visitors.