Sunday, November 10, 2013

Wide Bay Bar crossing. Our grand entry into Mooloolaba

We spent the night anchored in 7 mtrs of calm water at the southern end of Fraser Island. I woke at 4.20 am to the unfamiliar howling of a dingo on shore. This triggered a thunder of startled bird calls. Lying below the large escape hatch window I could see the first thin light of dawn. Glenn was already awake and preparing Sea Trek III for her final leg of this season. The yacht next to us had raised it's anchor and was motoring out. Other cruisers were on their decks readying equipment.

Up and moving at sunrise.
So why such an early start? (Being an 'evening person' I call it 'extreme sailing').

The tide, wind and sea conditions for crossing the dangerous and notorious Wide Bay Bar were perfect. An early start ensured plenty of sea time prior to the next port of call, Mooloolaba. The winds were predicted to be N NE, at 15 to 20 knots, promising a great day of boisterous down wind sailing.

Benign: Wide Bay Bar.

The Wide Bay Bar has an area called "the Mad Mile". It's a shake up of steep waves from all directions. The resulting wave action on a vessel is extremely confused. In anything other than perfect conditions a yacht's stability is under threat. Three sets of coordinates were kindly provided by local Volunteer Marine Rescue. We plotted our course. This crossing demanded concentration. We passed through the area without incident. We enjoyed the day of sail south.

The winds gradually increased as forecast. By the time we needed to drop the head sail the waters were becoming choppy. The vessel pictured past us heading out to sea and took many waves over the bow.

Beating against wind and tide.

We lined up the leads for our entry into the Mooloolah River. (waterways of Mooloolaba). The waters inside the grey stone breakwalls looked calm. But outside during our approach we were really being tossed around. The NE 25knots winds were churning things up. The depth sounder showed 2.5 mts; a new shallow bank had shifted since our last visit. Glenn was at the helm. My eyes were fixed on the rapidly approaching stone walls.

We were within 20 mtrs of the grey rock entrance when the engine splutter and stopped. I turned to see fear on Skipper Glenn's face. O M G, this was not a joke. We had momentum from the following winds and Sea Trek III was charging forward. It was chaos: "Jen get back here: raise the headsail. I can't controll her". We struggled against tremendous wind pressure in the narrow channel. The head sail flapped violently. We needed it unfurled it again to gain some control. The rock embankment was very close.

I contacted the Coast Guard Mooloolaba on the VHF radio to tell them that we were without engine power ; we were in the channel; that we would have to drop anchor; that we were rounding the corner, and that we would be needing a tow,..please. They said that they would come immediately to our aid. We dropped head sail and anchored. RHONDA RESCUE, in all of her sunflower yellow was on her way.

Ten friendly faces in bright orange uniforms reached out to help us. Multiple fenders and lines were attached to ST3, and within a minute we were nudged safety into a pontoon. As quickly as they arrived they left. A whirlwind of efficiency and professionalism. What a worthy volunteer organisation!

"Help me Rhonda,, help me Rhonda.."
With dock lines adjusted we breathed a sign of relief. Laurie a fellow cruiser and skipper of Pretty Alright motored past to check that we were okay. He had heard my distress call on the VHF.
A dinghy pulled up and more sailing friends appeared. Linda and Bill of Valiam (and more recently Lati) arrived with a bottle of Bubbly. They had returned from a Mediteranian adventure only weeks earlier. We spent the evening exchanging all sorts of stories. What incredible adventurers they are, and they live right here in Mooloolaba. Linda invited us to lunch with the promise of authentic Greek cuisine. (thanks to Christina).

Circumnavigators and fleet owners.
Bill and Linda supplied us with bicycles ('apparently' mine had brakes but only one gear) and took us on a tour of their favourite bike paths. We now know some of the best caf├ęs, BBQ spots, surf and waddling beaches. It's all just a convenient short dinghy ride away. Thanks so much.
Jen and a captive stolen toy.
We'll be here for a while now, and we think that we'll enjoy ourselves (even if it means employment).




  1. Hi Gav, my fault using a near empty tank and the rough seas stiring up some crap at the bottom of the tank. All good now, sorry for the late reply, real life is getting in the way. :(