Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 34 The Worst Bar in Queensland

145h February 2011

We got up at 5.00 and moved Dreamagic to the fuel wharf. I mentioned before that this is a particularly difficult wharf to get alongside, but then every wharf in this bloody marina has been designed to be difficult to get to. This one, which one would think would be busy is tucked away at the wrong end of the fingers in the middle of berths coming out from all angles. Add that it is cleverly designed so a cross wind is always taking the bow off, and the piles which have been thoughtfully put OUTSIDE the floating dock and if the next nearest fuel wasn’t 100 miles away the could keep it!

We finally filled and were pleased to be underway. This leg will be big as we have a 50 mile track down the inside of the Great Sandy Straights, across the Wide Bay Bar, and 45 miles outside to Mooloolaba. Easy!

Regardless of what CMAP thinks, we hit the bank on the left.
The Great Sandy Straights proved to be difficult and we ran aground several times before realising that the red and green marks were obviously put there by a colour blind Stink Boat owner who hates yachts. Some marks were at the extremities of the sandbar they were protecting, some were more like the pin on a golf green, somewhere near the middle, and some had no bearing whatsoever to the course that we tried to steer. Very often when grounding there was no clue as to where deep water may lie and the ability to dredge using Dreamagics reversible prop was all that stopped us still being there now. CMap proved to be useless. The attached image shows where CMap thinks we went. We actually grounded on the bank to the left. CMap also shows us going over a shoal which we actually left to starboard. None the less, in the absence of anything else it was something to watch. It was during one of my “wherethef@karewe” trips below I happened to glance at the Battman which tells me what my batteries are doing. They were doing 17 volts!!! Engine shut down we called our Electrics Guy who helpfully said “I don’t know”. He suggested that we pull a wire off, which we did. The batteries went down to a more realistic figure but as the day progressed showed no sign of going back up. Despite now two alternators, the batteries are still not charging! Finally I pulled the Next Step regulator off the back of the alternator and put the original one back. The batteries did recover to 12.6 volts so we were safe from one problem, for now.

Before the Bar
We finally got to the Wide Bay Bar late afternoon. We had called the Coast Guard, and an extremely precise English fellow asked us our ETA, and could we call him at Waypoint 3. Rodger! The sailing catamaran “Phlat Chat” called soon after wanting the waypoints. The Coastguard replied that they hadn’t changed since 2001, did they still want them? Yes, so he, in my mind reluctantly gave them. Then Phlat Chat wanted the tide times. “Where” was the Coast Guards reply. Well obviously not at London Docks! Maybe Wide Bay Bar? He gave those too but it was like asking for his PIN number.

We got to Waypoint 3 at 17.45 and called him as requested. “This station closes at 18.00” was Rodneys haughty reply. (I have no idea if his name was Rodney, but he sounded like one). “OK, Coast Guard, we’ll stay with you until half way across and then Out”. The sarcasm was lost on Rodney. “Message noted,this is Coast Guard Tin Can Bay standing by until 18.00”. Presumably unless someone puts the kettle on. 

We started our approach on the first leg which was a little lumpy and disconcertingly close to breakers on our starboard side. At 18.00 CG Tin Can Bay radioed that they were closed and we thanked them for their help and could they now log us off, and could they go away because I am a bit busy being the only boat for two days that has negotiated the bar they are there for. “Message Duly Noted, Tin Can Bay OUT!” “Rodney! Sorry, Roger!”

Note the dinghy, normally 4 feet below us as we drop
over the wave
All was going well until waypoint 2 when things started to get hairy. The sea was steeping and breaking on our side. I could not turn Dreamagic into the waves without losing our course which is critical through the bar with breakers on either side. However at Waypoint 1 the hairy became scary. The waves were at least three metres and many flooded the deck. More the problem was how close together they were. it was like a steeplechase. Dreamagic felt she was going up in a lift, just to vertically drop down the other side, with the next one hitting us before she had a chance to get her bow up. Of more concern to me  was the depth sounder which Rona could not see. Despite these massive waves at times there was less than 4 metres under us and if we ran aground here the boat would be broken in two by the next wave. A very concerning 30 minutes followed while we battled these monsters before finally the sounder started to recover and the sea flatten. We had made in through! We had taken the precaution of clearing the decks, stowing everything and donning life jackets and tethers. These proved very wise in the end and we kept the jackets on for the rest of the trip.

The sea was still lumpy as we beat past the Point Danger light but by 20.00 the moon, which was only one day past full, lit the ocean in a silvery glow. We turned the corner and pointed Dreamagic at Mooloolaba some 45 NMS away. The wind obliged for once to blow at about 40 degrees to our bow so we pulled out some headsail and were doing between 7.5 and 8 knots towards our destination. This was the best night sail I have had since Cairns last year.

We had arranged to meet a friend of our, Chris Waldron at Mooloolaba. Admittedly we were currently 2 weeks late but when we called him he told us he had secured a berth next to his Bavaria 50 at the Wharf Mooloolaba and if we would like to call him when we arrived he would catch our lines. We pointed out that it would be about 3.30am but he insisted. Sure enough, when Dreamagic came in, he was on the end of the dock torch ready to give us a hand. Thanks Chris!

We didn't even put the boat away but fell into bed. exhausted. Rona will get to her meetings today, just can she keep her eyes open?

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