Monday, 24 August 2015

Through the Great Sandy Straights

August 16-21, 2015
The weekend before casting off on our shakedown cruise north to the tropics we had travelled to Sydney. The good news is that we had the opportunity to spend a few days catching up with our good friend Santo Rapisarda along with our daughter Felicity, her fiancé Daniel and our wonderful grandson Kristian. We certainly enjoyed some great food and good times with Santo as always. The bad news is that Karen picked up a dose of the flu down there. The viral nasty took a few days to make its presence felt but by the time we reached Pelican Bay at the southern end of the Great Sandy Straights she was down for the count.

Considering the unhealthy state of 50% of the Our Dreamtime crew we decided on a short move up to what was recommended as the most secure, and calmest of all anchorages in the straights, Gary’s Anchorage. It’s located in a very sheltered waterway between Fraser and Stewart Island. It only took a little over two hours to motor the 13.3 nautical miles up there with the incoming tide which saw us safely over a shallow area at its entrance and we were all settled in by mid morning.

Our Dreamtime peacefully afloat at Gary's Anchorage, Fraser Island.

This satellite photo shows our position at Gary's Anchorage in the aptly named Great Sandy Straights.
It was the perfect place to sit and give Karen time to get over the dreaded flu. It’s extremely well protected from all wind directions and has very good holding. The reasonably wide expanse of water between the two islands narrows dramatically at low tide as the extensive sand/mud banks appear but there was more than ample room for the five or six boats present to spread well out.
We were looking for a place for Karen to rest and certainly found the perfect spot
The width of the waterways shrink at low tide.
With climate change these guys are moving southward.
Meals on Our Dreamtime are a little less inspiring when Rob does the cooking.
Rob put the crab pots out and we were rewarded with a nice feed of sand crab. We also caught three massive mud crabs in the pots but unfortunately all were female and had to be released back into the water. One with only a right claw was so keen on our bait she came back for seconds and was back in one of the pots when we pulled them next morning.
Rob the hunter-gatherer at work

The wide flap on this huge mud crab's underside shows it is female and must be released. Good for the future of the species but very frustrating for the fisherman.
Karen got off her sick bed long enough to produce an outstanding crab omelette stack with haloumi for brunch
On the second morning at the anchorage, Rob fired the engine up to charge the batteries and discovered no cooling water coming out of the exhaust. A quick check of the sea water intake strainer found only a small amount of weed. It was not enough to restrict the flow much but we cleaned it out and began digging deeper. The brand new sea water pump impeller had disintegrated after only seventeen hours running. We can only guess that we’d sucked a jelly fish or something similar into the water intake when the engine was run the night before and the pump had run dry for a while. Three hours work later, almost all the pieces of impeller vanes had been recovered from throughout the cooling system, a new one installed and all good again with the engine. The rest of Rob’s afternoon was then spent unblocking the forward head (toilet) which had chosen this moment to stop flushing. After all, the popular definition of cruising is “Fixing things on your boat in exotic locations.”
On the left is how our 17 hours old impeller came out of the seawater cooling pump. At right is what it should look like.
We thought we should spare you from the blocked toilet photo.
Sunshine, warm weather and good rest was the best medicine for Karen to get over her bout of the flu.
We stayed three peaceful nights at Gary’s Anchorage by which time Karen was on the mend and we could resume our travels through the Great Sandy Straights on the Wednesday morning. Next stop was Kingfisher Bay Resort further up the western shore of Fraser Island. To get there we had to back track a little out of Gary’s and then wind our way up through some narrow and, in places, very shallow channels. The charts showed two spots we had to cross with depths of less than a metre at lowest tide. As we draw 1.5 metres we timed our run so as to be crossing these about ninety minutes before the high when there should be at least 2.5 to 3.0 metres of water under us. If we did happen to get it wrong and touch bottom, at least the tide would still be rising so hopefully we would be able to get back off OK.
Visible sandbanks line each side of the narrow channels in many places even at high tide.
 It's the ones you can't see you need to worry about.
It all worked to plan and we found we never had less than three metres under us, however, at one of the shallowest spots, we did find the route recommended by our Navionics chart went the wrong side of a marker and would have had us aground if we had followed it.
The dotted line of Navionics recommended route inexplicably leaves this marker to port when it must be rounded on the other side or you will be in trouble. The yellow line is our recorded track.
It was nice to run downwind along the Fraser Island coast with the genoa out.
After clearing the narrow bits under motor, we enjoyed getting some canvas out and sailing along the Fraser coast the rest of the way. Four hours and twenty minutes was all it took for the run up to our new anchorage off Kingfisher Bay Resort. It’s quite a pretty spot but the shore does shelve quickly so a bit of care is needed anchoring. We dropped in 8 metres and held fine with plenty of swing room to the sandbanks.
Even at near high tide, the shallow water can be seen between us and the Kingfisher Bay jetty
Kingfisher Bay Resort was a very attractive anchorage in the mild South Easterly breeze.

Rob enjoyed a peaceful afternoon in the sunshine but Karen was obviously well on the mend as she got industrious whipping up a batch of fresh pumpkin scones for snacks and a fantastic Rack of Lamb crusted in Pistachio, Parmesan and Scarborough fair Balsamic Vinegar for dinner. After a few days of Rob’s cooking it was a very welcome reappearance of the Queen of the Galley.
You improvise on a boat at times such as a crystal champagne flute becoming a cookie cutter for Karen's pumpkin scones.


It's amazing what Karen can do on the boat's bbq.

It was tempting to stay a while at Kingfisher but after being stationary in Gary’s Anchorage we kept moving on Thursday morning across to the mainland for a visit with our former neighbour in East Coast Marina at Manly, Barry Poole on his fly bridge cruiser Marking Time. He now has his boat in the marina at Hervey Bay. The trip saw us having a great downwind sail north west through the channel between Little and Big Woody Islands before needing to round the sandbanks and head back south to Hervey Bay. It was painful to have to roll the sails away and motor directly into what had blown up to a 25 knot headwind. The wind and waves also caused some pretty slow going with the boat down to just two knots over the ground at times.
It was fast but plain sailing downwind past Little Woody Island.
Motoring dead upwind into 25 knots was not as much fun.
The same wind also made things a little exciting manoeuvring into our berth in the marina. Our heart rates were certainly up as we approached the dock with more speed than normal to overcome the gusting breeze but with Barry on hand to take our lines we made it with no damage done.
Our Dreamtime on the dock at Fisherman's Wharf Marina in Hervey Bay.
A great catch up followed with cool drinks, plenty of tall tales and frivolity followed by a boaties progressive dinner.  Karen laid on an entrée of fresh pumpkin soup, followed by prawn mornay pasta on Our Dreamtime before we moved onto Marking Time where Barry had prepared his signature self saucing hot pudding with fresh cream. The evening was rounded off nicely with a Port or two. All very civilised for cruisers.
Yes it's another food photo but Barry's pudding tasted so good it deserved a pic.
The next day Barry was good enough to run us into a nearby discount service station where we were able to refill our jerry cans with diesel at $1.08 per litre. Quite a saving compared to $1.45 at the fuel dock in the marina. We also made a stop at a chandlery before driving up to nearby Burrum Heads for some sightseeing and having a nice lunch by the water at Toogum. Thanks Barry. It was a fantastic visit.
Karen and Barry after lunch at Toogum
One of our late afternoon visitors in the marina at Hervey Bay
As we said in the initial blog about this trip to the tropics, it is a shakedown cruise, so in this blog of our northern adventure, we will continue to look at what we find works well for us, what doesn’t, what we do right and how we screw up. We hope you keep sailing along with us as part of our cyber crew and enjoy the ride.

What worked .

3 nights stationary – Staying put for a while gave Karen a chance to get over the worst of her flu and recover some energy. Sailing without a crew fit and able is far from ideal and not only was Karen able to function again after the rest, she was also able to enjoy the experience which is the main goal of the whole exercise.

What didn’t work.

Water pump impeller – After replacing what appears to be a perfectly good impeller before we left ‘just to be on the safe side’ it was galling to have it fail after just 17 hours of engine running.
The Forward Head - `What can we say. It’s a boat. Shit happens.

What we did right.

Spares – we had a new spare impeller and the good used one on board as a further backup. Having now used the spare we bought two more new ones when in Hervey Bay.
Passage planning – Whenever we moved on through the tricky confines of the Great Sandy Straights  we took plenty of time working out the optimum timing to traverse shallow areas on near the top of a making tide. We never lacked depth under us and had the reassurance of a rising tide to get out of trouble had it not worked out that way.

How we screwed up.

Rob got a bit casual leaving Kingfisher Bay and rather than running through our pre-passage check list methodically, he buzzed about getting things ready. The anchor came up and off we went out far enough to get some sea room before turning into the wind to raise the mainsail. It was a bit embarrassing for him when Karen pointed out that it may be difficult for her to winch up the sail with the sail cover on and the halyard still tied off on the safety rail. We put it there when at anchor to stop it slapping noisily against the mast in the wind. Oops. Time to go back to the checklist.
Good night!

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