Mandolin Wind under Spinnaker  

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Martin & Sue

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Brisbane to Rossyln Bay - Bars, Triffids, Bundy Rum & Jim 'Bean'

 

Let me put it out there upfront – I DO NOT LIKE CROSSING BARS. This phobia stems from an incident at Camden Haven (hereafter renamed Camden Non-haven) a few years ago when three large greenies snuck up on us from behind and almost succeeded in upsetting all our plans (and the boat!) Since that time I have avoided all Bars that do not serve alcohol. So the thought of crossing the notorious Wide Bay Bar at the foot of Fraser Island filled me with a great deal of apprehension – especially when the weather forecast was not that promising.

 

We arrived at the entrance to the Bar at dawn on May 3rd after a fast trip from Manly ( where Queensland Yacht Squadron is based in Brisbane ). The passage through Moreton Bay was hectic, with lots of shipping about. Radio traffic was crazy because it happened to be a long weekend in Queensland and lots of boats were out and about. When we tried to contact Coast Guard Brisbane to logon we received no answer – and after repeated attempts we began to wonder if our new expensive radio ‘toys’ and aerials were faulty. But after receiving a call from a nearby boat we surmised that the airways were simply clogged up by too much air traffic – and since the coast guard had a bigger range than us (plus repeaters) we could not hear other ships trying to contact them.

 

 

On board we had an extra hand in the form of my brother-in-law.  Adam was an inexperienced sailor but very keen to learn and he was to prove his value over the next week as he leapt around the deck – thus saving my wobbly knee from further stress.

 

We divided the watches into 2 hourly shifts – but with so many large ships about, Martin stayed up to help Adam through his first ever night watch. The AIS proved to be the best $1400 we had spent and enabled us to identify and contact the large ships by name to determine whether they were happy with the course we were maintaining allowing for stress free passing in the channels. Things calmed down after we left Maloolaba behind and watches were very pleasant amid a half moon, clear skies, warm breeze and a steady 10-15 knots on the beam. It was an incredible night for shooting stars – each of us saw several bright bursts during our shift. As I gazed upwards in fasination, vague uneasy thoughts of ‘Day of the Triffids’ flashed into my mind – but luckily we till had our 20-20 vision in the morning!

 

A check of the weather forecast at 6 am confirmed our suspicions that the wind was on the rise with 25-30 knots predicted on the outside of Fraser Island. That information made the prospect of taking the outside route suddenly very unappealing. Weighed against this were the large South Easterly swells that would no doubt make the Bar fairly treacherous. A call to the coast guard at Tin Can Bay did not add much value: ‘Boats are getting through, although it is difficult’. I was all for continuing up the outside (given previously mentioned phobia) but good sense prevailed and all decided that the Bar crossing was the lesser of two evils.

We sheltered for a few hours at Double Island Point awaiting a suitable tide time before heading in one hour after slack water on a rising tide

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Double Island Point - looking deceptively calm!

 

 

. Wide Bay Bar has a very long lead in so this tended to extend my period of agitation. I kept glancing over my shoulder to check for any ugly rogue waves as flashbacks to Camden Non-haven kept popping into my head. However, despite a few surfs at over 10 kts we had a fairly easy crossing and we were soon in the calm of the Great Sandy Straits shedding our life jackets and lifelines. Later we heard from our friends on Dreamweaver that their passage up the outside of Fraser the next day was very challenging with 35 knots and rough seas -  so a good decision – and good therapy for Bar-a-phobics like myself. Luckily, the rest of our trip up north does not include the necessity to cross any more Bars – apart from the sort I rest my elbow on (but more of that later!)

 

This thought kept me smiling as we navigated the Great Sandy Straits with a 1.5 knot current behind us for most of the day. Just before dusk we passed Paul Lobston on Shearwater (recently from RBYC but now relocated to Manly) who was heading back to Brisbane. We later heard his clearance call on the radio as he exited the Bar – only to turn around and re-enter an hour or so later when he encountered steep seas as he ploughed into 30 knot headwinds.

 

 

Luckily the breeze kept the sandflies away at our anchorage at Sheridan Flats and the next day we made a beeline for Bundaberg in showery, blustery weather. Although the seas gradually built once we cleared the shelter of Fraser Island, the boat loved the wind angle and we were regularly clipping along at 9.5 knots wing on wing. The squalls seemed to dodge around us so we had a pretty dry trip – arriving at Burnett Heads at around 4.30pm in 25 knots of wind. The entry to the river was fun with a following sea and poorly painted channel markers, but all that experience helming Emma Kate in the WISC races paid off and we made it safely into our berth at the Bundaberg City Marina.
On tying up, we were interested to meet up with a few boats getting ready to head north to join the Sail Indonesia rally as well and we were also amazed to hear that one of the boats was on the hard having $200,000 spent on it after suffering a lightning strike in the marina a few weeks before.

 

One of the squalls that fortunately missed us

 

Storm cells showing on the radar

 

 

The marina provided a courtesy bus into town so the next day, after hearing that a strong wind warning had been issued, we decided that a trip to the Bundaberg Rum Distillery was in order. All went well until the tour made its way up the stairs for viewing the large vats – this was my first outing without crutches since hurting my knee. If it wasn’t for the temptation of the promised Rum fumes I may have been daunted by the steep stairs. However, slow and steady prevailed and I completed the tour in time to prop up the Bar and taste the Rum Liquor on offer  - an interesting mixture of Rum, chocolate, coffee and vanilla. The bus ride back to the marina took the ‘scenic route’  as it doubled as a school bus -bringing back memories of those long distant school days on the bus to Koo Wee Rup high!

 

The next day we headed out into 20 knots and repeated our pattern of wing on wing with a reefed main and full heady.  4pm saw us heading into Pancake Creek and as we negotiated our way though the fairly shallow, rocky entrance we noticed the crew on an anchored  monohull jumping up and down and waving their arms. ‘Shite, are we about to run aground?’ – no, it was Roger and Anne from ‘Dreamweaver’! ( Another Brighton boat ) Because of our shallower draft, we were able to head for the inner anchorage where we set our new 33kg Rocna anchor – a brilliant piece of equipment that sets first time every time. ( Can't say enough about this Kiwi new style anchor )Naturally a drink was called for after such a great days sailing – but Adam and Martin had trouble keeping their glasses steady as they rolled around laughing at my (mis)labeling of the plastic bottle of Bourbon: - ‘And what is wrong with “Jim Bean “ as a label anyway?’ I had an uneasy premonition that this joke would weave itself family legend and that from this point forward any reference to Jim Beam would spark Mr. Bean jokes at my expense!

‘Coastguard, coastguard, this is Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary’ the radio blared as we exited Pancake Creek the next morning – and we all agreed that there were some god awful boat names around. During the morning we had a strike on our trailing lure but unfortunately we could not slow the boat down enough to bring in the catch and lost a much favoured lure. Looks like ‘a better solution to trailing lines from rear of boat’ needs to be added to our ever expanding shopping list.

 
 

 

We had a good sail to Great Keppel Island and had just anchored when the crew of Dreamweaver dinghied over for a catch up.  Over drinks we all agreed that a rest day was in order for the morrow. Interestingly enough, Dreamweavers interpretation of a ‘rest day’ was rather different to that of Mandolin Wind – for the next day saw Roger and Anne up early and heading ashore for walking – whilst we settled in for a lazy day of reading. Well, that was the plan anyway. Unfortunately when we attempted to start the port engine it became obvious that an intermittent problem with the starter motor had become a full blown issue – and the $500 new starter motor purchased as a spare in Brisbane was put to good use. We added ‘fix the solenoid on the old starter motor’ to the list of jobs for Airlie Beach.

 

Next day we were to lose Adam as he had a flight back home out of Rockhampton. So we headed towards Rosslyn Bay in time for a late breakfast at the marina. The office advised us that the bus to the airport left at 11.40 – but after waiting for 20 minutes we discovered that they had read the weekday timetable (it was Saturday) and the bus had actually departed at 11.20! No hire cars were available (due to Bundaberg Beef Week would you believe)  and the only option was to pay a $75 charge for a ride on a tourist bus. Fortunately the marina office were very apologetic and reimbursed us our $55 marina fee to offset the cost.

 

 

So we waved goodbye to Adam as he boarded a ‘Little Johnnies tours’ mini bus – it had been great to have Adam on board and we had enjoyed a lot of memorable evenings chatting whilst sampling the liquor rum we had purchased at Bundaberg! Ironically as we strolled back down the marina arm to our berth we met up with a couple who were complaining about having to drop off their hire car back to Rockhampton  - if only we had known!

 

 

Later that evening, being too relaxed to think about cooking, we wandered back down to the restaurant on the lawns of the marina office. However on examining the menu we noticed that the prices we had seen at lunch time had been expanded considerably. On chatting with the staff it turned out that a condition of their lease was that they ‘ aren’t allowed to turn away yachties’ – so amazingly we were served a delicious meal at a discounted price. Obviously all yachties are on similar tight budgets – and their reputation as ‘tight arses’ is universal!  After a very nice meal we headed back to the boat to plan our 40 hr sail straight through to Airlie Beach and a 5.30am start.