We finally got off the dock at Bundaberg. Chris got back from her Kathmandu work trip (with no pictures, so not sure it happened). Paid off our bills with the chandlery and the marina office, filled up with diesel and stocked up with food.
I had finished up most of the boat projects list. The first pic is our Spade anchor looking a little sad after some hard years of work. The second one looking more like jewelry is after getting re-galvanized at Kenco Galvanizing in Bundaberg. They had to melt the lead out, sand blast the paint off, dip to get a thick coat of galvanizing and then melt the lead back in. All for about $100. Pretty good deal.
It’s about 40 miles down Hervey Bay to the start of the Great Sandy Strait, then another 40 miles inside of Fraser Island and through the narrow navigable route. There’s lots of anchorages to stop at on the way and since the weather for heading south from here is not cooperating we are taking our time going through the Strait.
Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island. We signed up for a not cheap 4-wheel drive purpose built bus tour so we could get from the west side anchorages across the island and along the east side beaches. Short of having, or renting, your own tricked out 4-wheel drive SUV, this is the way to go to see the island.
After crossing the island on sand tracks you arrive to the east side beach highway. This is actually a legal highway. There were too many accidents and deaths during the days when every punter could go screaming up and down the beach in their dune buggies. So the government made it a highway that requires a licensed vehicle and driving rules like staying more or less to the left hand side of the beach. There’s even a police station just behind the dunes to enforce the traffic laws.
They do use the highway a little unconventionally by landing these small planes on the beach to pickup tourists for sightseeing flights over the island.
Even on a scheduled tour there’s time to stop and look at rusty stuff. This is the SS Maheno, she was a high speed ocean liner built in Scotland and operating between Sydney and Auckland starting in 1905.
In World War I she was converted to a hospital ship. The Maheno ended her life when she was being towed to Japan for scrap steel and her 900 foot, 6 3/4inch wire rope tow line broke after being caught in a July cyclone in 1935.
The tour was not all fascinating activities like viewing rusty stuff. You could also float down some amazingly clear, sand filtered water, creeks in a slow Disney World Lazy River sort of way. There are a lot of campers along the beach and they all seem to congregate here, rather than at the ocean where a lot of sharks hang out.
Fraser Island is home to one of the most genetically pure dingo populations in Australia. This one is a 5 month old male that apparently has been booted out of the pack to head out on its own. He’s a little on the skinny side, as he learns to forage/hunt on his own to survive.
The dingoes used to be fed by the tourists and tourist hotels here. After too many unfriendly interactions between the species there are now strict prohibitions against feeding or leaving any food out that the dingoes can get at. Also a lot of electric fences around the hotel area. There have been a number of attacks and unfriendly interactions on Fraser Island.
The most famous dingo attack occurred out at Ayers Rock (in central Australia) and was made famous by the Meryl Streep movie ‘A Cry in the Dark’, aka ‘Evil Angels’ as it was released in Australia and New Zealand. A young child was taken by the dingoes, her mother was charged with murder and spent 4 years in jail before it was shown to actually have been dingoes – I know I forgot to say spoiler alert, but any Streep movie is worth a watch.
A few days after the tour, we anchored further down the island at Garry’s Anchorage and saw a pair of healthy looking dingoes cruising the beach as we went by in the dinghy.
Now just because the dingoes don’t get you, doesn’t mean the saltwater crocs won’t. Haven’t seen any of these guys yet.
We have however seen lots of turtles cruising the straits and the mangrove tidal flats. This is a big turtle breeding area.
To leave the Great Sandy Straits we need to cross the Wide Bay Bar to get back out to the open ocean so we can make our way to Moreton Bay (Brisbane area), our next stop on the way south to Sydney. The river bars along this coast are notorious for being dangerous – even the Aussies take them seriously. Unfortunately, you need to cross them to get to many of the anchorages. We need to wait for some north or easterly winds (rather than south winds) and then attempt to cross the bar near high tide with an in-coming current and a swell of less than 5 or 6 feet. All these conditions may align early Friday morning.