Sunday, 6 August 2017

Episode 61 Hervey Bay and The Great Sandy Straights

Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures

Episode 60 was an unusual episode with us having a break from sailing for a month as Lorelei was put into a marina berth at Hervey Bay for a well-earned rest.
Instead we went on a family holiday 4WDing on Fraser Island before Lisa went to the NSW Central Coast to visit family and Paul went to his mum’s farm in Rural QLD.

4WD fun along Fraser Islands East Coast Beaches

The Famous Maheno Shipwreck

The beautiful Central Station on Fraser Island

A star trail photo over Paul’s mums farm house in rural QLD

In the end we had returned to Lorelei, did a major reprovision over 3 days and prepared to depart the Marina.
The provisioning was a major effort with what felt like tonnes of food being brought on board that had to be labelled, dated, stock rotated and stored away.
We were working well into the nights to get it all done.
We were very thankful to Paul’s mum for giving us bags and bags of fresh produce from her farm. There were kilos of Mandarins, Oranges, Lemons, Limes and Chilli’s which hopefully would last us many weeks.

We left from the Marina on the windiest morning of the week!!
It was blowing SE right up the back of Lorelei meaning it was going to be a mission to get Lorelei safely out of the berth.
We had to do a 7-point-turn going back and forth with the wheel hard over in each direction just to get Lorelei to turn in the wind and tight confines.
Having a 63ft long vessel weighing 30 tonnes with just one engine and very little steerage without speed made for a bit of fun and games – but we got out eventually.

We set the headsail only and sailed across Hervey Bay and north along Fraser Island’s coast before stopping at one of our favourite places – Coongul Point.

By the time we stopped, we were stuffed!!!
It had been go, go, go for days so we just relaxed for 2 days and ate lots of yummy fresh food.

We had drinks at Sunset each day and watched the charter boats going home each afternoon.

With light northerlies forecast, we made our way back down into the more protected bay and the top of the Great Sandy Straights.

It was so flat in the channel and we wanted to fish the Hardy Artificial Reef as it was 5 stars on the fishing almanac for the next 3 days.
So we simply found a sandy spot on the side of the channel that was close to the reef and anchored Lorelei for a few days.

We fished the wrecks late in the afternoon and into the nights from the tinny. It was cold but we rugged up and enjoyed the near perfect conditions.

The sunrises from Lorelei looking back over Fraser Island were stunning.

On the high tides we also went and fished up in the smaller creeks on Fraser.
Using Nippers we pumped on the sand flats at low tide, we drift fished for Whiting and caught a few but not as many as we’d hoped for.

A couple of Egrets standing on some old wharf poles
we found up one of the small creeks.

We moved further down to McKenzie’s Jetty for a few days.
It’s somewhere that we’ve sailed past many times but have never stopped.
Paul wanted to do a series of photos around the old jetty at different times of the day and night.

Along the beach there are remnants from the old logging era with a large boiler on the beach and an old tractor buried in the sand.

The mangrove lined beaches are also very picturesque.

The next morning it was very still and VERY foggy!!
It was only 8 degrees at 7am which for us is freezing cold.
The fog was very thick up towards Kingfisher Bay Resort at the Island’s hillsides.

The fog cleared to a perfect day and a very clear night.
Despite the cold we had a picnic onshore so we could take a series of photos around the jetty at sunset and night time.

We found the lights rays made very long shadows from the jetties pylons.

A series of tripod time exposures with the flash just after sunset also turn out quite well.

We enjoyed our drinks and cheese as we waited for it to get dark enough for some star photography.

The star trail shot was fun but it took a while to get the tripod stable as we had it sitting in soft sand and it needed to be stable for almost 2 hours.
It also took a few attempts to get the light painting balance just right over the entire length of the jetty with a powerful dive video light.

The 3-4 minute Milky Way shots were also fun but in the end the cold got to us and we left for the warmer conditions back on Lorelei.

The next day was yet another day of forecasted “light and variable” winds.
We made the best of it by exploring nearby Duck, Picnic and Little Woody Islands which are located in the centre of the straights.
All 3 are small and uninhabited (except for the many species of birds) and they have coarse and rocky beaches that are untouched.

Duck Island had a great coarse sand spit at the northern end that was full of
sea shells.

Picnic is a very small island and not exactly perfect for a picnic but still very nice for a stroll around. It also had a sand spit at the northern end.

Little Woody Island was full of sea birds with Egrets, Cormorants, Gulls, Terns and Oyster Catchers all wading and flying around the rocky southern spit.

At the other end we had a picnic under a large Casuarina Tree while an adult Osprey caught fish in the shallows before taking them up to the nest which was above us in the tree.

Little Woody Island

We got back to Lorelei just before sunset to find it was still glassy flat.
It was high tide and the Boiler near the Jetty was casting reflections into the water and the warm glow from the setting sun was illuminating the sandy cliff face right next to Lorelei.

The sunset was also great with a Fraser Island barge coming past at the perfect time.

With some very strong SW winds forecasted for a few days’ time, we decided to head further down into the Sandy Straights for protection and to explore some new areas.

We motored south to a small bay called White Cliffs South.
On the way we passed and stopped to talk with our friends Grant and Glynnis on their magnificent power cat (which one day we’d like to own…..) Sea Wolf 2.
We first met them in Broome (on the west coast), then cruised with them in the Kimberlies in WA, Darwin & Gove in the NT and now SE QLD.
They we heading in to reprovision so we arranged to catch up in a few days’ time.

White Cliffs was awesome with beautiful weather for a few days.
We decided to explore and fish the areas around Ungowa.

On the rising tide we fished the entrance to the creeks and gutters.

A few hours either side of the tide we explored the creeks.
They were glassy still and had great reflections.
The first one was very tight to get into but opened up once inside.

The second creek was larger and about half way up is the wreck of the Palmer which was a 300 tonne sugar barge that was built in 1884 and operated between Townsville and Cairns.
So how it ended up in wedged in the mangroves as far south as Fraser Island is a mystery.

You can just see the rusty coloured wreck in the
Mangroves to the right of Lisa’s head

Even further up the creek, it was glassy, flat and beautiful.

By the time we finished exploring it was 4pm so we flicked lures around the cliff edges and structure as the sun cast a warm glow over the land.

By the time we got back it was after sunset and still glassy flat.

If that day was flat than the next day was a like a mirror!!
And it stayed that way until lunchtime.
The photos below were taken at 11am.

We were not sure what happened to the strong SW winds but it was certainly the calm before the storm.

Just south of the anchorage are the Sheridan Sand flats which are huge.
In the summer they are teaming with fish feeding on the flats but in winter they are great for Whiting.

So we pumped nippers on the low tide and as the tide rose we fished the flats.
We caught small Bream, Flathead, Flounder and HUGE Whiting.

We hardly ever caught undersized one and most were around 28-32cm.
The biggest was Lisa’s whopping 36cm one.

We stopped at 12 as that was more than enough for 2 meals.

In stark contrast to the glassy flat day, overnight the SW wind did slowly increase and by daybreak it was 15 knots.
By the time Paul went kiting it was 10am, low tide and 20 knots.

It was soo much fun to kite in and around the shallow sand bars but it was too dangerous to do any really big boosted jumps over the very shallow water.

So instead he practised smaller spins and flips close to the shore and right next to Lisa with the camera.

Lisa with a 10 shot sequence of Paul’s 360 blindside spin

Despite the smaller jumps, some big stacks still happened…..

At the end of the session Paul did an awesome down-wind run starting at the top of the Sheridan flats and finishing down the other end on the sandbar closest to Lorelei.

Just as we were packing up the wind came in even stronger and it was now 25-30 knots. The rising tide made the anchorage really uncomfortable so we had to leave and the choices were either to motor south and brave the super shallow section of the Sandy Straights and go to the bomb proof Garrys Anchorage or head north under sail and go to Big Woody Island which is perfect in the SW winds but more exposed to any swell coming in from the bay further north.

The sail over the motor won out and we spent 3 hours sailing to Big Woody Island arriving at 5pm.
Sure enough there were another 8 cruising sailboats there but all were rolling a lot with the north swell.
We thought we’d made the wrong decision and prepped for a very rolly night but fortunately within a few hours it calmed down and by daybreak it was flat and quite comfortable.

Sea Wolf turned up that afternoon with Grant and two mates from NZ, Rob and Ian for a 10 day boys fishing trip.

We had an arvo fish with them on the Roy Rufus Artificial Reef for snapper but didn’t do any good.
There was a bush fire starting up on Fraser Island and by 5pm it was really intense and with a change of wind direction, the smoke was blowing over us while we fished.

The fire before the wind turned towards us

We moved over to Coongul Point the following day and sailed past a Dugong swimming along in the shallows which was pretty cool.

At Coongul Creek we showed the boys how to pump for Nippers at low tide in the morning.
When we got home for lunch we found a few House Sparrows happily flying though the inside of Lorelei and munching on the muesli that Paul must have dropped on the floor during breakfast.
Despite us arriving home they showed no intention of leaving and instead flew into our bedroom and the galley.
Cheeky little things….!!!

For the arvo we fished the mouth of the creek and when the tide went higher we moved into the creek and set up camp on a sandy bank.
There was probably more drinks consumed and stories told than fish caught but it was a great way to spend the arvo all the same.

Ian fishing from the banks of Coongul Creek

The smoke from the fire made for a really red sunset and lit the creek with a red to purple hue.

That night we had more drinks and dinner on-board Sea Wolf and ended up arriving home after midnight!!

The next morning the boys took off at 4am to head north to the reef.
We were going to go with them but with light and variable winds forecast for a week, we couldn’t justify having to motor 100nm north in SE trade wind season.
Although it would have been awesome when you got there….

So instead we stayed to explore Platypus Bay and do some whale watching.

We woke at 7am to leave but the problem was the fog was so dense that we couldn’t see more than 50m in from of Lorelei (if that!!).
So we had to wait until 11am until it cleared.

We sailed north towards Arch Cliffs in light airs and came across a small pod of friendly whales that swam over for a look as we sailed near them.
They came up along the side of the boat which was excellent but they didn’t hang around too long.

Arch Cliffs was very interesting to explore as there was a lot to see and do along the foreshore.
We parked the Tinny in the protected mouth of Bowarrady Creek and went and climbed the nearby sandhill that was very fine white sand with great views over the bay.

We drove a little further up the beach and it was pristine.

There were lots of Pandanus & Casuarina Trees along the foreshore with coffee rock and drift wood closer to the water’s edge.

Further along we discovered the wreck of a sailing yacht called the Spartan.
We’d never seen this before and were unsure how long it had been washed up on the beach.
Either way it’s a sad ending for what looked like a nice cruising yacht.

There were more sand dunes to run up to take photos from and enjoy the views.

In the arvo just before sunset we went back to the beach to photograph the sloping coloured sand cliffs with the warm sunset glow on them.

The fresh water had run into shallow pools just above the high tide level and made for perfect mirror reflection photos of the sand cliffs.

We woke to find the whales surfacing very close to the shore and right behind Lorelei.
So we headed out to get in amongst the action.
The charter boats were also out in force and we waited patiently while the charter cat Blue Dolphin had them right around their boat.

When the charter boats moved on, the curious whales came over to us for a look.

Being so close to the shore, it was very flat and protected.

Despite being only in 5m/16ft of water depth and less than 3m/10ft under Lorelei’s keel, the whales started to swim around and under Lorelei.

We sailed up to Wathumba Creek which is towards the northern end of Platypus Bay and Fraser Island.

We went ashore for a walk at sunset along the beach south of the creek entrance.
It was low tide and the sand spits were sticking out everywhere.

We even saw a few Beach Stone Curlews along the beach up near the treeline.

We went up the creek the next morning on the high tide and it was awesome!
Beautiful cystal clear water over white sand with lots of structure, driftwood and fish in the shallows.

We found a smaller side tributary that was shallow but clear and easy to navigate around the structure.

As we headed further up, there was a whole forest of dead trees along the muddy banks.

There were a lot of birds resting on the dead tree branches.

What little wind there was died off to nothing in the late afternoon, we enjoyed another great sunset and a very calm night.

We woke the next morning to whales swimming around the boat – literally!!!

It was pretty obvious they were comfortable as they were lying next to Lorelei on their backs.

Further out we saw a very active whale and followed it for over 1 hour as it did all sorts of acts from fin and tail slapes (both right way up and upside down) to breaches and spy hops.
It was a very enjoyable show and we were the only boat watching it.

With a forecast for westerly winds (which would mean onshore and rolly conditions), we took advantage of the lighter winds early and sailed back south into the Great Sandy Straights.
We had fun playing with our largest spinnaker as we sheeted it on tight to see how close we could sail to the wind.

We didn’t want to go too far into the straights and didn’t want to risk staying at Big Woody Island again for fear of a rolly anchorage.
So instead we sailed south to Little Woody Island and anchored off the corner of the long but narrow sand spit on the edge of the islands outer reef.

It was perfect and we ended up staying 3 nights there.
The sand spit at low tide was great to explore and walk along.

We took the tinny across the channel to an area where we had pumped for nippers before.
Lisa said we had enough but Paul did a few more pumps on the way back to the boat and on the final pump his lower back seized up and he was barely able to bend down.
It was ok to walk but hurt doing anything else.

Despite Paul’s sore back we decided to have a fish and caught a lot of whiting down the edge of the sand bar on the rising tide.
Lisa had to drive the tinny as Paul couldn’t pull start the outboard.

We caught over a dozen large whiting and returned to the boat at 4pm.
By 9pm Paul could barely move and even in bed he couldn’t roll over.
He was in a BAD way!!!!

By day break he could get out of bed but couldn’t stand or sit – so it was an entire day in bed.

Fortunately by the third day he was able to get up for meals and sit to edit photos or play cards for short periods of time and even managed to get the tinny up onto the davits, but that was certainly the extent of his mobility.

By day 4 things were on the mend and we were able to do some chores and make fresh water before moving Lorelei over to McKenzie’s Jetty.

The next morning we received a very unexpected but most welcome call from Paul’s uncle Ken.

He was driving north and was hoping to catch up for a day or two.

It all happened so quick. The call was at 9am and he was on the Sunshine Coast.
He drove to River Heads and made the 12:30pm Ferry to Kingfisher Bay Resort (which is just near where Lorelei was anchored) and by 1:30pm we were all together on the wharf, before looking around the resort area and having lunch at the resorts day facility.

On the way back to Lorelei we dropped into Mckenzie’s Jetty to show him the historic wharf and old logging remnants.

We hadn’t seen Ken for a long time so there was a lot of catching up over drinks and dinner onboard Lorelei.  It was a perfect day with no wind and dead flat sea conditions.

The next morning was super still with a lot of fog sitting on the waters surface.

We returned to the Jetty the next day to put Ken back on the barge so he could continue north. It was only a short visit, but a fun 24 hours for all.

With Paul’s back feeling a little better, we decided to do one of the walks that started from McKenzie’s Jetty.
From the start there were 3 walks of 1.8km, 2.5km and 7km.
So depending on how Paul felt dicated what length trail to take.
After 500m he was feeling good so we tackled the 7km walk.

It led up to a series of lookouts overlooking the Sandy Straights from the tops of the sand cliffs.

The highlight of the walk is the remnants of a Commando Training Centre that was built during World War 2.
It was called Z-Force and was designed to train elite commandos who would infiltrate behind the Japanese enemy lines thoughout SE Asia.
At its peak the top secret set-up was huge with accomodation, full training facilities, a cinema, post office, library, workshops, sporting areas, etc…
The remains of the centre are spread out over a large area.

Sadly many of the elite commandos that trained there died in action and there are tributes including short stories about some of them.

We left the site and walked about 200m up the track when Lisa spotted a clearing off to the side. It was a long concrete slab and at the end was a cricket set.
It was in the middle of no-where and most walkers wouldn’t see it.
It was donated by the Bundaberg RSL (Retired Servicemans Club) so we can only assume it was put there during ANZAC Day.

The track continued on through large forests with some very big trees.

After finishing the loop and ending up at Kingfisher Bay Resort, we enjoyed an ice-cream before walking back to McKenzie’s Jetty via the beach as it was low tide.

It was amazing to see the sand cliffs where they had naturally collapsed spewing sand and trees down the slope and onto the beach.

Paul just had to take another photo of his favourite photo location on Fraser Island, McKenzie’s Jetty – but this time at a sping low tide when the whole jetty was exposed.

Paul’s back was a little sore when we returned but we were super glad to have got out and about after a few days of being limited to how much he could do.

When we got back to Lorelei, it was blowing from the north and was choppy and bumpy at the anchorage.
With 3 days of unsettled weather forecast and wind from all directions and possible thunder storms, we left straight away and used the wind and flooding tide to transit south deeper into the Great Sandy Straights.
We were able to sail the entire way and anchored up in a protected little bay under Booker Island just in time for sunset.

The clouds above the sunset turned into what looked like a tornado and then it went pink.

If the sunset was good that day then the next day was sensational with a lot of cloud cover and a very red sky.

Despite it being overcast and threatening to rain, there was no wind so we braved the conditions and went to Ungowa in the tinny to explore and do some fishing.
We had a look at the wreck of the Ceratodus that is beached on the sand on the side of the main channel.

The front half of the wreck is relatively intact but the back half (which is exposed and facing the channel) has collapsed, exposing things like the boiler, steerage area, etc…

We found rust holes in the side allowing us to look into the forward section.

We moved up to the old Ungowa Jetty which was completely exposed at low tide.

We found lots of Nipper holes along the beach there at low tide and after a few exploratory pumps we had a few in the bucket so we continued along the beach and surprisingly had enough for our afternoon fishing session in just 30 minutes.

The fishing was overall a funny experience.
Being a spring low tide, we had to slowly motor through the channels into the very shallow Sheridan Sand Flats with barely inches under the outboard motor.

We came to a stop just 100m from the fishing spot when we hit a shallow sand bar across the channel. The water was flying over the sand bar and into the deeper section just beyond so we stood on the edge and cast nippers into the wash and let them drift out.
We were landing a fish each cast!
 Most were undersized Bream and Whiting so we put them back, but it was a lot of fun and a great way to waste 15 minutes while the water rose enough to get the tinny over.

When we got to the main fishing spot the Whiting had already started feeding and we were catching them within 5 minutes of arriving.
Unfortunately the weather didn’t co-operate and it started to rain and get dark very quickly with the heavy cloud.
The mossies and sand flies also came on at dusk so we called it a day and in the dark we slowly headed home, hoping to not collide with a sand bar.
We did however end up with 10 large Whiting which was more than enough.

By the time we got home it was raining harder, windy, very cold and very dark.

But we made it safely and live to play another day………

So that’s it for another month of cruising on-board Lorelei.
We didn’t go very far but talk about awesome weather.
And with weather like that there was no need to travel long distances.
We visited a lot of areas we’d always wanted to see and did loads of activities with near perfect conditions.
Overall the temperatures were well above average and its probably the most amount of days in a month we’ve ever experienced in Australia where the winds were sub 10 knots and a forecast of “light and variable”.
Considering it’s peak tradewind season, this isnt what we expected.

But its been a year of really crazy weather patterns and it doesn’t seem to be stopping – just this time it was certainly in our favour.

Part of this episode was supposed to be about heading towards the Bunker Group and Swains Reef but we refuse to motor over 100 mile to get there when it is downwind in the tradewinds. 
So we will wait for the SE winds to kick in before starting our next episode – maybe this time on the Great Barrier Reef.
But we keep saying that and possibly jinxing ourselves……

Cheers for now.
Paul and Lisa Hogger
Yacht Lorelei
Wating for wind

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