Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

It's always nice when a plan works out

We left Bundaberg on Thursday, having ticked off quite a few things on the to-do list, for a motor-sail in light airs but smooth waters across Hervey Bay to Great Sandy Strait. This is a shallow passage between the Queensland coastline and Fraser Island, said to be the biggest sand island in the world. The navigable channels twist and turn and, although they are well marked with port and starboard buoys, you have to concentrate as you go through; the current runs at up to two knots and a corner cut too soon could leave you aground on a falling tide. This Google Earth image gives you a fair impression of the challenge.

In some places the water is only about a metre deep at low water so we were glad to time our arrival on the last of a rising tide and anchored very close to the mangrove-line shore of Fraser Island just as the sun set. It was slightly disconcerting to have the water rushing past us at about 2 knots in the anchorage but it soon calmed and then we swung in the opposite direction in the ebb.

Fraser Island itself is, by all accounts, worth a few days of exploring but we were watching the weather and tide forecasts and decided that it would be prudent to take advantage of perfect, settled weather, with light winds and very little swell to seaward, to go through the infamous Wide Bay Bar at the southern end of the island. Boats have had very uncomfortable times and several have even been rolled over in the steep, breaking swells that can form in the shallow waters there and if you miss a good weather window you can be trapped in an anchorage for several days waiting for safer conditions. So we anchored on Friday night in Pelican Bay, very close to the exit to seaward, and crossed the bar in the most benign seas at 07.00 the following morning.

The 55 mile sail south to the harbour of Mooloolaba turned out to be a great one, once the wind filled in, and we had a lovely 'three sail reach' (with spinnaker, staysail and mainsail) down the coast until the high-rise buildings of Maroochydore and Mooloolaba (just love these names!) came into sight.

The skyline came as quite a novelty to us after 5 months in Vanuatu!
Mooloolaba is a pretty amazing place - it's been built up around a big network of man-made canals surrounding the Mooloolah River, with each smart waterfront house having its own boat dock.

The main harbour has a big yacht marina, plus a fishing port and a smaller private marina.

We managed to secure a dock in the little Wharf Marina at the left hand side of this photo - really handy for the walk into the town-centre shops and cheaper than the main marina.
We were delighted to catch up with old cruising friends, Rod and Mary on Sheer Tenacity (last seen in New Zealand) and some new acquaintances that we first met in Bundaberg. Best of all, old friends Andy and Sue (from our days living in Derbyshire, some 20 years ago), with daughters Emma and Hannah, drove down from their home in Noosa, just north of here, today for lunch aboard Maunie followed by a little boat tour of the harbour. 

The challenge of getting Emma from her wheelchair and into Maunie's cockpit was tackled with typical can-do attitudes by Andy and Sue and she loved being aboard. Hannah did sterling work as lookout on the foredeck as we motored around the busy (and surprisingly shallow) harbour.
We'll catch up with the Andy and Sue when we visit them in Noosa for Melbourne Cup day on Tuesday - quite an event, we're told.

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