Sunday, 18 November 2012

Segment 50: Bundaberg to half way down the inside of Fraser Island

Segment 50:  Bundaberg to half way down the inside of  Fraser Island
Tuesday 13 November 2012.   65 NM

With crewman Phil departed from the tour south, Capt Barry had a day at leisure waiting for the next crew, Peter and Merilyn Hudson, who were being driven to Bundaberg by Capt Barry's brother, Graeme.

Peter and Merilyn have their own boat , a ketch named AARDVARK, and have spent many years living onboard and making passages . Merilyn has her masters 5, and Peter can fix anything , so last word was in good hands.

Whilst waiting for the new crew, Capt Barry took the opportunity to change the bed  linen, do some laundry and give LAST WORD a spring clean, then do some paperwork, chase up the replacement stabilizer fin for LAST WORD , read and send emails and whisper sweet nothings to his, missing in action, wife, rear admiral Julie ( who was back in Sydney playing with beads and gemstones ).

After all that Capt Barry spent time on the charts and tide table, planning the next several passages to Surfers Paradise. Capt Barry planned  an overnight stop at Sheridan Flats, 65 NM ( half way down the inside of Fraser Island),  then at Mooloolaba , 70 NM then on to Surfers Paradise , 90 NM.

With a couple of hours still to kill before the replacement crew arrived, Capt Barry visited the 60 foot Riv. BIG BUD under command of  temporary skipper, Neil, to discuss tides and times for the next passages, and was happy to find that Niel agreed with Capt Barry's passages, and in fact had planned the same legs, and departure times.

Capt Neil had not done the Fraser Island inside passage before, so Capt Barry gave him a flash card with all the way points to over lay and import onto  his Raymarine for added comfort.

In planning the inside passage of Fraser Island leg, there are several  matters of particular importance.

First, the red  port markers are kept to ones port side going south ( red to starboard  going north ).

Second the tide floods ( ie enters )  from both ends and meets  about the middle,  and ebbs from the middle out towards each end.

Third, the  passage is very shallow in the middle section between Turkey Island and Moonboom Island , and Capt Barry wanted a tide of at least 2 m for greater comfort. So that ruled out going further south than Sheridan Flats , as it would be about 0.5 m at 2.00 pm when we were expected to arrive there ( assuming we left Bundaberg at 7.00 am ).

Fourth, it is best not to cross Wide Bay Bar ( southern end of Fraser Island ) with an outgoing tide against a NE, E , SE or S wind , sea or swell, as it can make the waves stand up and make it  a very dangerous bar to cross.

Fifth, another reason Wide Bay Bar deserves some special respect is that the bar is about a mile plus in length , so it takes some time to be across the bar, leaving one exposed for the odd rogue wave , even in relatively calm conditions.

Finally, passage through the inside Fraser Island passage can be quite slow if one needs to go against the tide ( as we had to do ) , as the tide/current  can run quite strongly . One moment you can be doing   11 kts with the current, on idle or just above idle, and when one passes the mid point where the tide changes , you can drop 3 kts , going against the current without changing revs.
So attention s required to ensure the vessel stays on the correct side of the markers , and the markers should be counted off to ensure one is not missed.
Some skippers go hell for leather through the passage, but that is quite inconsiderate for others making the passage due to the discomfort it can cause in otherwise mostly very calm waters.

Back to the story........the biggest issue concerning  whether LAST WORD  would leave  for the passage south ,the following ( Monday ) morning, was whether the wind and seas abate overnight. The wind had been blowing for three days,  at over 25 kts and the seas in Hervey Bay were up due to the wind and relatively  shallow depth.

Capts Neil and Barry decided to get together the next morning,  at 6.00 am,  and discuss the sea state and decide then, but it looked a go that afternoon, and only likely to be rough for the first 4 hours , as it would be okay once behind Fraser Island,  in the sheltered waters.

Graeme arrived in his faithful blue Benz , with my new crew, Peter and Merilyn, about 5.30 pm , and as it was latish and a 5 hour drive back to Surfers Paradise , Capt Barry insisted  Graeme stay for dinner and  sleep the night on board LAST WORD, and get an early start tomorrow, when LAST WORD departed the berth for her passage.

Graeme agreed , and that was that.

Even though Capt Barry told Peter and Merilyn not to bring any food and to go light on the clothes and personal safety gear ( as LAST WORD is well kitted out in that regard), they arrived with many bags, their own safety gear ( and EPIRB ) and food for an army ....for the three day passage. Amongst the food supply was a tray of 16 huge mangos. Well five a day it would be.

We all enjoyed a hot chicken and salad meal, then when Graeme , Peter and Merilyn went for an evening stroll, Capt Barry struck up a conversation with one of the commercial fishing boat owners , whose fishing boat was berthed in front of LAST WORD, on the fuel wharf.

Capt Barry organised for the boat owner to move his fishing vessel in the morning , if another vessel came in overnight and blocked LAST WORD in. As it was . Capt Barry would have to move LAST WORD sideways then  go forward carefully, and squeeze through the opening when leaving tomorrow morning.

Capt Barry set his alarm for 5.30am to check the weather and seas on  BOM and Buoyweather and discuss the seas with Capt Neil ( who was to walk out to the point and look at the sea conditions). Unfortunately Capt Barry was awaken at 4.30am, as his telephone is still locked to Sydney day light saving time.

Capt Barry realised his error  after checking the weather, and  decided  to go back to bed and  get another 45 mins rest , but the rest of the crew was getting  up, so it was all go from then .

Capts Barry and Neil discussed the weather and seas, and Capt Barry decided to start the passage , and return to the marina if the conditions were not comfortable.

At 6.30 am, Graeme lent a hand with the ropes , and after saying our goodbyes, Capt Barry thrust LAST WORD sideways out from the wharf  and into forward to slip around the fishing vessel berthed in front , and slipped LAST WORD into mid channel.

Capt Barry left  Peter and Merilyn in charge of early manoeuvres as he stowed ropes and buffers, then we were under way.

The seas were calmer than expected , with about a 1.5 m swell encountered as LAST WORD went out through the long leads to the entrance to the Burnett River.  BIG BUD was close behind.

After the river mouth crossing, the seas calmed somewhat to about 1 M , with 6 to 10 kt winds. this was much better than BOM predicted but in line with Buoyweather.

BIG BUD, doing 12 kts  , went past LAST WORD,  doing about 10 kts, and as Capt Neil passed , he commented on VHF ch 74 that LAST WORD sat very well in the water , both  going through the river mouth swell and under way , much better than BIG BUD, which  needed a bit more speed to minimise the  roll somewhat.
Capt Neil was impressed how stable LAST WORD  was with only one stabilizer fin working.


Capt Barry shot some video  footage of BIG BUD and emailed it to Capt Neil.

As we approached the northern entrance to the inside passage to Fraser Island Capt Barry opened the throttles and LAST WORD sat on 22 + kts and quickly overhauled BIG BUD.

There was some chit chat on the radio between the two Capts and many pics shot of BIG BUD. Finally, Merilyn could bear her silence no longer, and asked..........."why are you calling Neil ....BIG BUTT?

Peter set Merilyn straight about the spelling and pronunciation  , and then we made our fifth round of tea, and had our third mango ... for the passage ....and we were only half way to Sheridan Flats.

Merilyn enjoyed a nap whilst underway.

The run inside Fraser Island was calm , as expected, but slow as we were against a strong tide.

We developed a game to spot and call out the passage  markers and tick them off against a sheet, but Capt Barry and Merilyn's sight was no match for Peters eagle eyes, even if he did call the odd tree or rock ,  a marker.

LAST WORD arrived at Sheridan Flats just before 2.00pm and anchored in about 6 m after selecting an anchorage amongst the several vessels already anchored.

After anchoring we had a light  lunch, then Peter and Merilyn had a nanna nap, so Capt Barry launched the small tender and added the 3 hp motor and zapped  over to BIG BUD.

Capt Barry was contemplating a swim over to BIG BUD , but a passing shark , fin above the water surface, made the tender a much more attractive  option.

After  a chat with Capt Neil on board BIG BUD,  Capt Barry climbed into the small tender and started the motor and just started back to LAST WORD when the motor stopped, and was carried away from BIG BUD and LAST WORD  at 2 to 3 kts with the strong incoming tide.

It took Capt Barry about 15 mins to row the 100 m back to LAST WORD,  against the tide,  encouraged, quite vocally, by Peter and Merilyn , and watched by several  nearby onlookers from the other vessels ( none who offered to assist , I might add). Peter was also offering directional advice..... "   a bit to the left.... now right "  etc...

When Capt Barry made it back on board LAST WORD , Peter explained that it was quite funny to watch , and good entertainment.......two strokes forward and one stroke back, and a couple  sideways.

When Capt Barry went to add fuel to the 3 hp motor, he  discovered that the motor was not out of fuel ( as Capt Barry had  thought ) , but had stopped as the fuel switch was not fully in the open position. OH well......the exercise was good ....even if Capt Barry only just made it.

Merilyn and Capt Barry again ventured forth in the tender , and shot some sunset pics.

It was a stunning sunset and  evening and we  enjoyed a good meal, several cups of tea and a movie and retired for an  early start the next morning.

TRIP :  65 NM,   7.05 HRS,   432 L,   AV  9.3 KTS,  61  L/HR

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