Where are we

Thursday 7 December 2023

Heading South

There is a common plan for sailing between Bundaberg and Sydney.  Due to the consistently strong southerly current that runs down the east coast of Australia, many yachts choose sail quickly down to Sydney - 3 days at sea should do it -  and then make a more leisurely passage north by hugging the coast to keep out of the strong southerly current.  Hugging the coast is known here as having ‘one foot on the beach’ and you can day sail from harbour to harbour.

We had pondered a quick trip south, but people, places, weather and the odd wrench in the works meant that this is not to be. We left Bundaberg…. And are only halfway mostly because of short weather windows as well as places to see along the way.

K’gari / Fraser Island is a huge island and so, though we did little more than navigate our way down the inland route most southerly pass into the Pacific, there were lots of tiny tastes of what there is to see and do there. 

This is an excellent website for all things on this amazing island - https://www.fraserisland.net/.

And this is a terrific map - K’gari / Fraser Island map.  It is worth having a look at if only for all the warnings. 

I didn’t expect that our stops would be quite so short or I would have taken more photos, but I do know that we will spend much more times there on our way back to Bundaberg in May 2024.

We did go ashore with Claudia and Philip from Bruno’s Girl and checked out the resort pools that are free to all comers. Philip had a rather good looking meat pie at the outrageously expensive mini mart. On our way back from Maryborough we anchored near the ferry terminal to Fraser Island. The little supermarket there advertised/warned that it was the last shop with mainland prices.

With Philip full of pie, we went for a walk.  Whenever you leave the busy tourist areas there are warning signs laying out the safety advice concerning the native population of K’gari dingoes.  ‘Keep children close, if threatened by a group of dingoes behave like a wildebeest confronted by, well, a pack of dingoes - children in the middle,  adults facing outward’. Last but not least, call for help.

I can’t quite remember now but I think there must have been a fence and a maybe gate at the start of the walk. I do remember the ‘dingo sticks’ stuck in the sand near the entrance and a sign saying, ‘Please take one’ and a repeat of the rules to follow if approached by dingoes.

We saw no dingoes here, but we did see one on the bank near an anchorage further south on the island.  Two young couples were camped on the bank.  We were sitting in the cockpit with Philip chatting when someone noticed a dingo nosing around the campsite.  The couples were away at the time and we watched the dingo disappear into an area they had covered with an orange tarp (which matched the small orange trimaran anchored of the beach that they had arrived on).  The dingo soon reappeared and then disappeared into the brush. As Aussie campers, we were that they were well aware of the dingoes in the area.

Back to the walk…

Our walk started on the high land and wound through a forest, past a war memorial - Fraser Island Commando School  - and down onto the beach. All the paths we walked on were a fine white sand and exhausting to walk on.  Looking up from the beach, you could see under the trees and grasses only a thin top layer and then just sand. The slope to the beach with either freshly eroded sand or sand covered in scrubby growth.

The island is all sand; from its grassy and tree covered top, down its eroding brush covered sides where the water laps on a high tide is sand. 

An old boiler rusting on the beach.  

Each time the tide goes out, tiny sand coloured crabs roll sand away from their front door. They then roll more and and then some more until the beach, up to the high water line, is decorated with tiny beads of sand. Their front door and all their hard work will be washed away with each incoming tide.

Hmm, looks like rain.  

We met Grant, Kim and their 2 girls on catamaran Reva Reva at the marina in Bundaberg. While we were anchored together off K’gari Island, Grant radioed us to ask if we minded being videoed by drone.  Not at all, we said and this is the video he created for us.  

Once down to the bottom of Fraser Island there is only one thing left to do and that is to head out into the Pacific again via the Wide Bay Bar.

A ‘bar or bars’ forms at the mouth of a river by silt and sediment being deposited by the outgoing stream. Over time the sandbars shift and any permanent channel buoys would have to be relocated. As there are bars up and down the coasts of Australia, the marine agency makes use of AIS - Automatic Information System - which is what allows you to see our position on the chart at the top of the blog and allows us to see any vessel, yacht or AIS beacon. 

At some bars, than using physical buoys to mark the channel, virtual AIS beacons are used. These can be seen on a chart plotter if you use AIS and we do. All the green and red marks on the chart are AIS beacons. This is the first time we’ve run across this and it is very reassuring, particularly when the marine agency posts that they’ve just relocated them due to changes to the bar.  This happened the week before we were due to cross.

On the chart it appears that our route, the grey line, takes us over shallows, but we know to follow the clearly marked virtual AIS beacons.

For your information and amusement two videos about crossing the Southport Bar, which we successfully completed when we left Brisbane for Iluka.  (I will have to go cover Brisbane in the next post. We are stopping in so many places for quite short lengths of time that I cannot keep up.)

Choosing the right conditions to cross a bar is important.  We are very conservative in choosing to go or not to go.

How to cross the Southport Seaway.

How not to cross the Southport Seaway. Yikes.

This morning, when conditions are right, in about 10 minutes says the Captain, we will be upping anchor and heading out through the Clarence River Bar, turning right and heading a little further south.


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