Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Fraser Island


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.


Saturday, November 18, 2017



Here’s the sunrise on our last day on passage from New Caledonia to Bundaberg, Australia. If you read the blogs I posted during the slow passage, you already know that I whined about the lack of wind the whole way. Passage done, no one hurt and the boats in decent shape.


Next up was to get cleared into the country. We had arrived about mid-day on a Sunday. We had resigned ourselves to paying the overtime fees so we could get a slip in the marina and get off the boat. After contacting the Port of Bundaberg Marina we found out that no one from Customs was available to clear us and we had to anchor in the river till Monday morning with our yellow Q-flag flying. At least there would be no overtime.

Monday we headed into our assigned slip and started the cumbersome clearing process. Everyone were very friendly about clearing – its just a long and expensive process. This picture is of the most friendly drug and gun sniffing dog. He is decked out in his best boats shoes and had a nice sniff around our boat.

Customs and Immigration are combined as the Australian Border Force. No charge for them and they gave the boat a 12 month cruising permit.  That’s good for the boat but doesn’t cover Chris and I. We are on a 90 day visa renewable multiple times for another 90-days for up to one year. To renew you have to actually leave the country and come back in. We obtained this visa because we didn’t want to jump through the hoops for the straight 12-month visa.

Biosecurity is a fee-for-service organization. The odd part about it is that you can’t refuse their service. Seems like a good business to be in. They charge some fixed fees that get you to about $280aud. Then it’s an additional charge for each 15 minutes that they take searching your boat for termites. In our case that was about 2 and 1/2 hours of going over every bit of wood on the boat (or timber as they refer to it).

So far Australia is pretty much tied for the second most expensive check-in we’ve done (Galapagos out paces everyone). It is on top for the most invasive and time consuming. And that’s after 25 different checkins in other countries. At least it is all done with a cheery attitude.


While I think we were both disappointed that there were no Roos or Koalas at the dock to take our dock lines when we came into our slip, it wasn’t long till we came across a whole family. This pic is taken while we were walking to the food store in the field next door to it. Judging from the looks on their faces I think it was the first time they’ve seen anyone from Bellingham.


So you aren’t completely lost as to where Bundaberg is here’s a map. Bundy is about the middle of the east coast above the much larger area of Brisbane. If you aren’t sure where Australia is, just take your globe and turn it upside down. Australia will be prominent then. Bundaberg is an agricultural area with lots of sugar cane.


Its known world wide for Bundaberg Rum and Bundaberg sodas.


We had been warned that sometimes the Queensland coast gets strong afternoon thunder storms. On our second day in the slip this one started coming down the river the SW. We are about the 6th mast in from the right in this pic (taken by JAMS).


Turns out this was more like a once in 10 year thunder storm. We had sustained winds of 50 to 55kts. The maximum gust we measured was 67kts (77mph). That is a ton of wind and a new record for us that I don’t want to break. Chris and I were standing in the cockpit behind the dodger just kinda awestruck. The boat was healing over hard toward the dock and the visibility conditions were just a white out.

BundyIMG_8181 When the wind stopped this was the view off our stern. The catamaran Felix, a Lagoon 400, had broken free of the t-head dock along with another cat. They were pushed down on top of the adjacent dock. While powering hard to get around the end of the dock an 18-24 inch hole was gashed into the waterline mid-ships. The boat was beached on the sand you can see on the right.  At low tide it was patched and refloated. It is most likely an insurance right-off. Not a good ending for a cruise. The cruisers and the town folks all came out to help the owners both in recovering their cat and in helping them deal with the loss. The local restaurant gave them free meals, the Lighthouse Motel gave them a free room for a week,….


Chris has taken off for three weeks working in Kathmandu, Nepal on a quality assurance for birth control providers project. Me, I’m doing boat projects. Got the traveler off today so I can take it in to a machine shop to drill out a broken bolt. When Chris gets back we will start sailing down toward Sydney with a new found respect for the local weather.


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Done and Dusted

We anchored in front of the Port of Bundaberg Marina at about noon today after a 6 day passage from New Caledonia. Customs and Immigration are not available to clear us in today, so they are having us anchor out until Monday morn where we can come into the marina and clear. The good news is we don't have to pay overtime to Biosecurity to 'inspect' the vessel.
Done and Dusted is the Kiwi (and I assume Ozzie) way of saying completed. The passage of Georgia across the South Pacific is now completed.
More to come when we get the luxury of some Interweb and catch up on sleep.


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