Heading north … and crossing the Wide Bay Bar

We’ve done it! We’ve finally left the security of the marina and ventured north. The preparations for going to sea are huge – there is an endless list of things to do and check, lots of spares and provisions to buy and cart onto the boat, admin to sort, things to clean and stow etc. It can be a bit overwhelming … but eventually you just have to decide to go and deal with what arises en route. What also helps is that we aren’t sailing into wild uncharted territory, but the well-patrolled waters along Queensland. We were also running out of time, as we want to be back in Mooloolaba before cyclone season comes around.

We left on Friday just before lunch, and had good winds off the port beam to Noosa. We had the main sail fully up and the huge genoa too – and I kept a keen eye on the windward hull when the wind picked up. In my younger days I spent some time on hobie-cats, and one of my fears was having to “fly the hull” (I couldn’t overcome the sensation that the boat was going to capsize). It’s definitely not something that should ever happen on a big catamaran, but it tends to lurk in the back of my mind when the wind picks up. We raced along at over 9 knots for a little while (to the boys’ delight), before the wind backed off a bit and we maintained a comfortable 5-6 knots.

Basking in the sun
Lessons whilst en route … where is the wind coming from?

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The boys managed to fit 2 surfs in whilst in Noosa – one of which involved a very early morning start (which isn’t normal for us). I was hoping to go for a walk on the beach at the time. Unfortunately I hadn’t anticipated a drop-off that involved SUP-ing through the breakers, and didn’t really feel like getting soaked in my t-shirt and tracksuit top, so chose instead to bob around in the tender and try and soak up some early morning sun.

Beautiful anchorage at Noosa

Just time for a sunset surf

The sail from Noosa was the longest we’d done (together) so far. It took about 6 hours to get to Double Island Point, motor-sailing a lot of the way due to northerly winds. Double Island Point is a total gem – bright turquoise water, mellow little peeling waves down the point, a quaint rocky headland topped with a lighthouse, and a long sandy beach backed by cliffs. Due to it being school holidays, the beach was pretty full (for such a remote place). We couldn’t believe the number of 4×4’s we saw driving along the beach from Noosa to Double Island Point on our way up – almost like a highway! We wished we could have anchored there for a couple days, but unfortunately northerly winds were predicted, and it would have been uncomfortable. We did manage to get on our SUPs and surfboards for about an hour, but then had to be on our way to get through the Bar.

Rounding Double Island Point
What a playground

The Wide Bay Bar is an underwater sandbank that has formed between the south of Fraser Island and the mainland, and has quite a reputation amongst the sailing fraternity. The danger lies in the mix of winds, tides and invisible moving banks, and there are numerous stories of boats getting stuck on sandbanks, breaking rudders or keels, or even capsizing. The nearest Coast Guard provides up to date waypoints that need to be followed, and there are leading lights along the way to help set the right course – but even these are approximate and rather vague (hearsay is that one should stay 100m-200m north of the second waypoint).

Google Earth photo of the Wide Bay Bar – see the long underwater sandbank

Conditions were looking good to enter the Bar between 4 and 5pm – 2-3 hours after low tide (when the tide is pushing in), and the swell was pretty small. One downside for us was that we’d lost the use of 1 engine, as the water pump didn’t seem to be working and we didn’t want to overheat and burn out the engine. Luckily a cat has 2 engines – but manoeuvrability isn’t as good. Anyhow – we were there, and Marco felt confident that we could still proceed with our plan.

The crossing was pretty uneventful – which I’m rather pleased about. We did see breaking waves on both sides of the channel, and the tide was extremely strong, resulting in quite choppy sections, but no issues. Noah asked if we could try and ride the waves in our boat -the boys were definitely not feeling perturbed at all! The whole crossing is about 5 nm, but took about half the time we’d expected due to the strong current. We tucked around the mainland to anchor in Pelican Bay just after sunset, next to our friends in yacht Molly.

Skipper looking relaxed … with waves breaking on the Bar next to him

We are thrilled to have met another sailing family whilst in Mooloolaba – with 2 boys, aged 9 and 7. They are also heading north, and we’ve anchored together most nights so far. The kids have had such fun playing soccer in the nearby parks, swimming, swapping books and hanging out on each boat together. We’ve shared some great afternoons and evenings – even pizzas cooked on a Weber aboard Molly! It’s such fun hearing stories from other sailing families, and there are so many things that we can learn from each other. Thanks Rupert and Lynette!

Kids hanging out on Molly

Now to explore the Sandy Straits … or so we thought …



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