Plan B

The idea was to sail north from Scarborough Marina in the northern suburbs of Brisbane to Bundaberg, a distance of roughly 240 nm (440 km) but to stop overnight at Mooloolaba and again somewhere in the Great Sandy Straits, making it at least a 3 day trip but with at least 2 nights at anchor. That was Plan A.

I left Scarborough under motor with a very light following breeze — not enough to sail. When the wind picked up I hoisted the main and poled out the jib. The breeze swung slowly to the East and went up a notch, a reef went in the mainsail and eventually the staysail went up, and stayed there the whole trip.

When I got to Mooloolaba, already tired and looking forward to anchoring in the river, it was blowing 30 kn with 2m waves and the occasional bigger one. I am a wimp crossing bars. Bar crossings, according to my friend Michael, are a function of experience, age and size of balls. My balls are definitely swinging lower as my experience and age increase, so clearly it is an inverse correlation, and time for Plan B.

If I cannot cross the bar at Mooloolaba then there is no way I will be able to cross the Wide Bay Bar to get behind Fraser Island. The only option if I want to keep going is to sail up the outside of Fraser Island, round the spit at the top and back down to Bundaberg, without a break. There was another option: turn around and go back to Scarborough. The wind was easterly so that was doable too. But who likes going back?

The weather and sea continued to increase. By the time I got to Wide Bay Bar the swell was 3 to 5m with waves on top of that and just under 40 kn of wind. In addition, the next high tide would be after dark, so I would have to cross at night, with the moon obscured by rain and cloud. No way. I kept going.

The wind generator works very well now that I have extended its tail. But when the wind really gets up (over 30kn) it shuts down to protect itself from overload. Normally, the wind generator makes very little noise, but when it goes into shutdown mode it moans and bellows like a tethered beast. It's my high-wind-warning device. When it starts to moan I ease the main a bit. There was only an hour or so of frequent bellowing just around sunset.

The boat behaved very well once the wind got up, with three reefs in the main, the staysail and no jib. The autopilot steered the whole way and never missed a beat, even when the cockpit was swamped by a big breaker. Everything worked as advertised, except the human in charge. 

I was thoroughly seasick. I forgot to lock the fridge door and of course it swung open launching half a dozen eggs and a couple of rotten avocados that had been hiding up the back across the bench and onto the floor. As I was cleaning up the horrible smelly mess my bile rose and defeated my control. In desperatiion not to add to the first vile mess I rushed out back and hung over the cockpit combing, heaving into the heaving sea.

After that I was exhausted, but otherwise OK. Incapable of staying below unless horizontal, I set a timer for 20 mins so I could check sails and scan the instruments and horizon every time it went off. The rest of the time I was semi-comatose. I was aware of only two other vessels — one via AIS, the other on VHF  but saw neither of them.

The following morning was more of the same heavy weather until I approached the top of Fraser Island. Gybing around Breaksea Spit at the top of Fraser Island was nerve-racking because the sea was quite nasty in places. In the end I worked out that it was due to the depth — anything more than 60m deep was much more civilized. So I worked out a route to gybe in the deep water just north of the mark. The gybe itself went smoothly.

The gybe changed my course from north-west to south-west and the weather cleared a bit as I came down into Hervey Bay. In the lee of Fraser Island the seas subsided and Anjea lapped it up. We made seven knots through the water, making eight or nine knots with the tide. The Easter moon rose behind and threw silver and gold across my wake. Life was good.

It was not my first choice to go all the way from Scarborough to Bundy solo in one hit. But I was prepared to do it if necessary. When I left Scarborough conditions were light, though I knew it would build. The weather was on the edge but I was confident of crossing the bars. But being out there, as you know, is a different experience. Given that I did not want to stay in Scarborough Marina any longer, I probably should have motored across to Tangalooma, hung out with the Easter crowds, and waited till the weather improved. That's the only 'mistake' I think I made.


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    Hi Dave,

    Good read of your slog. I hope you have recovered your strength and zest. Makes me realise that I never took good note of your Bar Crossing formulae. Could you remind me of how you evaluate the draft, tide and wave parameters?

    Lets hope that TC Iris doesn't make a house call.


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    @Lesley The formula I use for bar crossings is:
    (Min Depth shown on chart) + (Tide above LAT) – (Forecast Wave Height * 2) - (Draft of vessel)

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    Dave, a very exciting read indeed...even from this land-lubber seated at work, first day back after Easter...cheers. . .

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    Wow, quite a journey. Well done both of you. Great description of the journey. By the way, you would have hated the Easter crowd in Tangalooma!

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