Our Current Position

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Wide Bay Bar, Mooloolaba and how to run aground!

It was a fairly windy final few days in the Great Sandy Strait, but our trusty anchor held us firmly in place. We managed to get ashore at Fig Tree Creek and did a bit of a beach cleanup and had a walk.

At anchor in Great Sandy Strait

A resilient mangrove at Fig Tree Creek beach
Another beach cleaned
Sand pellets left by Soldier crabs
We then headed down to Tin Can Inlet. This was a little busier than we expected but nice all the same. There were a lot of boats anchored and moored down here but we found a good spot near Norman Point and went ashore for a very welcomed shower and a very expensive coffee and cake! That’ll teach us to have cake for breakfast.

At anchor in Tin Can Inlet. The haze is from controlled burning on Fraser Island
We then moved back north to Pelican Bay. This lived up to it’s reputation and we had good views of about 15 pelicans sitting on the sandbank next to us, along with some eastern curlew.

The winds moderated on Wednesday, but still from the north and so we decided to take the opportunity to get across the infamous Wide Bay Bar in relatively benign conditions. The sand bar lies across the entrance at the bottom end of Fraser Island and is only a few metres deep. We crossed at around high tide across the recommended route and had no problems. The marvels of GPS.

Once across the bar it was sails up and point south with a following wind. We had a great sail and made really good progress down the coast at speeds averaging just above 8 knots. It was great to be progressing so quickly but had one disadvantage. It meant that we arrived at Mooloolaba bang on low tide and in the dark!

We cautiously headed through the entrance without any issues and then turned into the river, where we promptly ran aground! We had hit a small mud/sand bank and were completely stuck. At least we had a rising tide and so it was a case of sit and wait for the tide to come in. It was a bit embarrassing as there were apartments adjacent to the river at this point and lots of people enjoyed the entertainment of watching a stuck boat.

However our luck changed after about twenty minutes when we spotted a large fishing boat heading our way. With a bit of foresight I waited until the bow wave hit us and then gave the engine a burst of reverse and this floated us off! We then gingerly made our way up the river to the marina, no damage done.

Mooloolaba marina - home for the next few months

We have spent the last few days cleaning up and eating all the remaining food! There is still some drink left, but not much!

Tomorrow we say goodbye to X-Pat for a while and head to Sydney so that’s the end of this cruise. We’ve been going for 132 days (with a few breaks) and covered 2258 nm. We have a few plans for some coastal sails around here next year and then the next major cruise will be New Zealand! Watch this space ….

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Great Sandy Strait

We left the comfort of the Burnett River on 28th November and once more headed out to the high seas. Unfortunately the wind was a persistent east or south east and so we were bashing into it and heeled over for much of the way down the coast. We had reefs in and out at various points but safely made it down to the relative shelter of Hervey Bay, although our first anchorage off Torquay Beach was a bit uncomfortable.

The Burnett River
Then we had a short motor across the bay to Kingfisher Bay on the west side of Fraser Island. We saw lots of birds feeding in the bay. The mackerel and the birds all chase the baitfish and it makes for quite a spectacular feeding frenzy. I had fun trying to get some photos of the action.

Feeding Frenzy

Common Tern

Mackerel and terns fight for the bait fish

The one that got away!

At Kingfisher Bay we said goodbye to X-Pat for a couple of days, whilst we went and lived it up at the Kingfisher Bay Resort. The accommodation and food were both wonderful and we had a room with a verandah looking out over a small lake, so it was great fun watching the wildlife.
Another classic turtle pose

Yesterday we hired a 4WD vehicle and went touring around the beautiful Fraser Island, visiting the beaches and the lakes. Debi drove the whole way, which was 7 hours driving.  She seems to have acquired a taste for off road driving now and to her credit didn’t get us stuck once! For my part I now have a swollen knee from bracing myself in the navigators seat for 7 hours! We saw one dingo sniffing around one of the car parks for food and did a nice dawn chorus walk this morning before we left.

Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island

Car and Driver

The rainforest

Wreck of the Maheno

Wreck of the Maheno

Tourist planes landing on the beach

The motorway on Fraser Island

Perched Lake

Tannin stained water from the nearby tea trees
After a rather wet dinghy ride back out to the boat (due to wind and waves) we have now motored down the coast of Fraser Island a few miles and are once again sitting in what seems like quite an exposed anchorage. I’m not sure why I can’t pick more sheltered places. Hopefully the wind will obey the forecast and die down over the next few hours.

Sunday, 27 November 2016


It was an early start yesterday (5am) to leave Pancake Creek for a big sail down the coast to Bundaberg. The winds were light to start with, but built during the day. We did a little bit of motor sailing but for the bulk of the time we had the engine off. The last five hours were fairly full on with us reaching at 7.5 to 8 kts and water over the decks. We had one rogue wave hit us from the side and were thankful that we had lifejackets and harnesses on at this point! We covered the 67 nm in 10.5 hrs including motoring out of Pancake Creek and up the Burnett River in Bundaberg so the intervening bit was quite quick!

On our way to Bundaberg

We anchored in the lower reaches of the Burnett River. Bundaberg is actually about 8 miles up the river. Today we decided to take the dinghy up the river for the six miles from our anchorage to Bundaberg to visit the famous rum distillery. It was a bit of a trek for our little dinghy and took about 1.5 hours. As we pulled into the public wharf to tie up Debi discovered that the distillery was just closing for the day! Not impressed. So we went for a beer instead at a nice local brewhouse. 

At anchor in the Burnett River
Bundaberg Distillery - Closed!
Smiling because at this stage Debi didn't know it was closed
Bagara Brewhouse
We had a nice walk through some local wetlands and then it was back on the dinghy for the trip back down the river. It's a nice way to see the river, with lots of Sunday fishing boats out and lots of birdlife. We saw a beautiful kingfisher, egrets, herons, eagles and also a couple of dolphins.

Wetland Park, Bundaberg
Fishing boats on the Burnett River
Tomorrow it's back out to sea and off to Hervey Bay.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Capricorn, Pancake, Mackerel and 2000nm

We have escaped from Keppel Bay Marina! 😀 We filled up with diesel at the marina and then set off around 9am. The weather behaved itself and we had a combination of sailing and motoring on Wednesday (23rd) from Keppel Bay to Cape Capricorn. We are currently using our No.1 genoa as it works much better as an upwind sail than our normal cruising headsail, but it is a bit of a beast.

Cape Capricorn lies not surprisingly on the Tropic of Capricorn. There is a lighthouse which was erected in 1875 and a tramway which is used to haul supplies and equipment up from the beach. The light is automated now but there are a few houses there and the tram still appears operational.
The tramway at Cape Capricorn.

On Thursday we set off again for Pancake Creek, sailing down past the busy shipping lanes and anchorages off Gladstone. This is a major coal port and now also hosts one the largest LNG export ports in the world. Gas from coal seam gas operations in Queensland is processed here and converted to LNG. It is then exported to Asia and in particular Japan. At one point our system was showing 48 vessels within a 20 mile radius of us. Most of these were at anchor waiting to load in Gladstone but it does emphasise how much traffic passes down through the Great Barrier Reef shipping lanes everyday.

Leaving Cape Capricorn

An LNG tanker off Gladstone
Having tried fishing on and off since we left Sydney, it was with great delight that I caught my first mackerel on this passage. I got a few tips from a fellow cruiser whilst in the marina and they seemed to pay off! So we are now eating fish for every meal! We saw flocks of 20-30 Common Noddy fishing on the way, so there were obviously a lot of fish about.

The 46 nm sail down the coast from Cape Capricorn was again a combination of sailing close hauled and motoring. During this trip we passed the 2000 nm cumulative distance since leaving Pittwater on 1st August!

Pancake Creek is a lovely estuary but is littered with sand banks so one has to be careful coming in to anchor. It is a common anchorage for boats heading south but is quite isolated. At low tide there are lots of wading birds (curlews and oystercatchers) and crested terns feeding on the sandbanks and in the shallow waters.

It's blowing from the south east again today so we are just going to chill out here.

Sandbanks in Pancake Creek

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Cabin Fever

It's a bit strange getting cabin fever when we are in the marina, but that's what it feels like waiting for this wind to change. 

We decided to take advantage of being near Rockhampton which is reputed to be Australia's beef capital and went and stayed at a cattle farm retreat last night. It was nice to get away from the boat and Debi felt very nostalgic being on a cattle farm again. It was in fact very reminiscent of the South African farm, being very dry and breeding cattle that are resilient to these conditions. The cabin we stayed in was nice and faced onto Hedlow Creek. We went for an afternoon canoe down the creek but having two of us in the same canoe trying to coordinate paddling seems like grounds for divorce! We had a real wood BBQ (braai) in the evening washed down with some nice red stuff.

We are back onboard X-Pat now and hoping to set sail tomorrow morning when the wind is supposed to die down a bit. Watch this space.

Our cabin

The grounds for divorce safely back on the jetty

Hadlow Creek

One of the inhabitants

A group of locals

Monday, 21 November 2016

Still tied up

Well it's been a long week in the marina. Most of the jobs are now complete and Debi is back from her trip to Sydney. However the weather is not playing ball. We have had consistent 25 knots of wind from the south east for the last five days. South east is where we want to go! 

So we have got ourselves fully provisioned for the next three weeks and have done some nice walks along the coast whilst waiting for the weather. I did a beach cleanup on Kemp Beach. It still amazes me how much plastic is on these beaches.

Today we are hiring a car and going to stay on a cattle farm for a night. Nearby Rockhampton is tagged as the beef capital of Australia so we thought it would be interesting to go and take a look. So we will have a night off the boat which will be my first night off for a few months! We'll be back tomorrow.

It currently looks like the earliest we will get away is Wednesday, when the plan is to sail to Cape Capricorn. Hopefully the wind and waves will have subsided by then.

Stormy Skies

Kemp Beach

The not so super moon

Keppel Bay Marina

A windy day on Kemp Beach

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Slack Blogger

Well as I said last time, we only seem to blog when in a marina and here we are in Keppel Bay Marina and we haven't made an entry for three weeks! 

We left Abell Point Marina on the 24th October and had an horrific crossing to Hamilton Island to pick up Shona and Barry. With 30 knots on the nose we ended up being a few hours late! We then had a lovely week cruising around the islands. Despite only having a week we managed to stay at Cid Island, Nara Inlet, Border Island, Mays Bay, Tongue Bay, Whitehaven beach, Beach 25, Butterly Bay, Stonehaven Bay and finally Dugong Inlet. We saw lots of turtles and even a manta ray in Nara Inlet whilst we were in the dinghy. We could see it's wing tips breaking the surface and initially thought it was two fish until we got our head around the size of it! There was also a good bit of snorkelling, particularly in Butterfly Bay and Border Island.

We said goodbye to Shona and Barry on the 1st November, left them back on Hamilton Island to recover from a week on the boat and then started heading south. We had our first night on the south side of Thomas Island, followed by Keswick Island on the second night. The winds for the first day were light northerlies which made for easy sailing. We then decided to do an overnight and head down to Port Clinton. Sadly the wind decided not to cooperate and went east and strengthened. Despite a forecast of 10-15 knots we saw 30-35 knots on the nose for over 10 hours with a couple of gusts over 40 knots. It was very dark, pouring with rain, Debi was seasick and I didn't sleep. We tried "heaving to" at one point but couldn't get the boat to steady. We then tried running in the opposite direction but were then doing 8.5 knots the wrong way! We ended up furling the headsail and turned south east again, partly sailing and partly motoring Not a very pleasant 24 hours. We did learn a lot about how poorly we sail upwind with our normal cruising headsail and had to resort to slow motoring to make any progress east. After a moment of inspirational thinking from Debi, we gave up on Port Clinton and ran for Island Head Inlet which is a wonderfully peaceful estuary which we will hopefully re-visit.

The next day (5th November) was a complete contrast with a beautiful sail in moderate north easterly winds all the way to the south side of Great Keppel Island at Long Beach. This again was a very nice anchorage, but was quite busy with all of the cursing boats heading south. We then did the two hour motor across the Keppel Bay Marina where we have been since then. Debi has headed back to Sydney for a rest from the boat and to see Gillian, Ash and friends. I decided to stay on board and tackle the "things to fix" list.

We have covered 245 nm since leaving the Whitsunday's and 1933 nm since we started out from Pittwater on 1st August.  

Here are a collection of photos from the last few weeks

Nearly three months together on the boat now and Debi still hasn't thrown me overboard 

Much easier than driving a kite

Chilling in a hammock at Hill Inlet, having just fallen out of it!

Shona giving Bob the auto helm a rest

The team at the Hill Inlet lookout

Hill Inlet

Whitehaven Beach - photographs don't do it justice

The wonderful Whitehaven Beach

Another day, another bay

Shona catches the sunset

Shona catches the sunset

G&T's on the beach

Relaxing at Hill Inlet

Idyllic downwind sailing as we leave the Whitsunday's


After three weeks since the last provisioning stop,
Debi produces this on our last evening at anchor. How does she do it?
Our berth for the next 10 days at Keppel Bay Marina

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