Crossing The Bar

The distance from Myora Anchorage on North Stradbroke to Tangalooma on Moreton Island isn’t far as the crow flies, about 16NM, but in order to get there we have to wend our way through the sandpit known as Moreton Bay. In all it adds another 9 NM to our journey but there’s no option if we don’t want to become another Tangalooma wreck.

This is an aerial photo of Tangalooma on the billboard at The Boat Works, on a perfect day.

But unfortunately this isn’t a perfect day and the weather isn’t playing nice in the sandpit – did I mention how cold it is? And wet?

To be fair, once the showers ease, it’s a pretty spot but we make the wrong decision about our anchoring position.  Knowing we’re leaving the next day, we can’t be bothered to go all the way up to the northern end of the anchorage near the wrecks. It’s a mistake. We spend a rolly night lurching around in the southerly swell. It’s a bit uncomfortable but not nearly as bad as when we were last here on Illusion, where I seem to recall it being akin to being rocked in a cradle by a demented nursemaid.

approaching Tangalooma
Tangalooma Resort and anchorage
great spot for camping

Our next passage needs careful planning, as it involves crossing the Wide Bay Bar.  The east coast of Australia has many sand bars at river entrances, all of which can be treacherous in bad conditions, but none so much as Wide Bay Bar at the southern end of Fraser Island.  This is partly because it’s a very large sandbar and it takes a long time to transit it safely. The sand is always shifting, so getting the latest co-ordinates for the entrance is essential, as well as timing your arrival for an hour or so before high tide. And then if you can also order up a swell under 2 metres and moderate winds of 15kts or less you’ve got close to ideal conditions. Not much to ask really!

In order to time our arrival for the high tide at 8am we need to sail overnight from Tangalooma.  After a frustrating first couple of hours motoring and dodging big shipping around Caloundra, the wind finally fills in and we have a beautiful sail under a near full-moon. This is more like it. We’re back to our watch routine of 3 hours on, 3 hours off and I spend my watch listening to music, revelling in the moonlight on the water, the stars overhead and the gentle swishing of the water as it rushes past the hulls.  

Leaving Moreton Island
Heading out as the sun sets

We arrive off the entrance as dawn is breaking and I call up Coast Guard Tin Can Bay for the co-ordinates which they helpfully send through as a text message to my phone.  I’ve only crossed this bar once before, but Bruce has done it numerous times on his various delivery jobs up and down the coast. Even so, there’s always a certain amount of trepidation because once you commit there’s no turning back.  The co-ordinates have changed since he was last here, but we have to trust in the information we’ve been given. We check and double-check and then make our approach.  It seems all our stars have aligned – the conditions are about as good as they could be. It’s lumpy and sloppy but there are no big waves standing up. The Coast Guard sends me a smiley text message saying ‘you’re going great’ and then we’re through, into the Great Sandy Straits (yep, more sandpits to play in!).

The WBB on a benign day

Feeling relieved to have the bar done and dusted, we motor north on the still rising tide to our destination at Garry’s Anchorage. It’s beautiful and quiet with only 2 or 3 other boats here.  We’ll make the most of it before the Easter hordes descend tomorrow.

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