Sailing The East Coast of Australia

Gold Coast to ‘Rum Town’ via a Whale’s Paradise!

Vera Jean sitting pretty off Moon Point, Fraser Island Australia
Vera Jean sitting pretty off Moon Point, Fraser Island Australia

Gold Coast based for the pre sailing season preparations.

We spent three months home on the Gold Coast with Barry covering most of the boat jobs while I worked a couple of days a week and helped out getting Vera Jean ready with the cleaning and provisions. The big addition to Vera Jean was our brand new Head Sail!!

I also got around the coast catching up with people when possible. It was difficult saying goodbye to our dear friends and family again but adventure on the ocean and reefs await!!

The Adventure Begins……..

Departed Southport at 5.45 am on the 4th of May with the rising tide to assist our sail north along South and North Stradbroke Islands into Moreton Bay.

It was exciting getting up pre-dawn to prepare for our departure.

We had an uneventful first morning, however that was to change when we were beaten by a front passing across us as we passed the Port of Brisbane. Luckily it was all over without any damage or set backs to our journey.

We were treated to a spectacular sunset as we anchored for the night near the Redcliffe jetty.

The next morning we departed at dawn and made excellent progress underway with our big beautiful MPS (multi-purpose sail) to anchor for the night at Noosa.

We had friends following our journey past Sunshine Beach as they waved from their balcony. That was a real highlight Sally!

Hello Sally!!

After a reasonable stay out the front of Noosa Main Beach we continued our journey north to the stepping off point for the Wide Bay Bar, which is Double Island Point and Rainbow Beach.

Pamellie watching a perfect sunset at Noosa Main Beach.

Double Island Point – Rainbow Beach

The coloured sands of Rainbow beach are spectacular and as it was calm we anchored in the lagoon behind the sandbar I found time to begin my Art of Sailing Journal………

Wide Bay Bar

After a very pleasant night’s sleep in the lagoon we woke before dawn to sail the final couple of hours to the first way point of the Wide Bay Bar.

The Wide Bay Bar is fairly notorious among Queensland’s coastal sailors for ships coming to grief when crossing at the wrong stage of the tide or in less than fair conditions. Here are the contact details for the VMR Tin Can Bay who will provide the latest way points and to log on for your crossing.

Call Sign: VMR417 Call Sign Name: Coast Guard Tin Can Bay 27mhz: 88 & 90 VHF: 16, 67, 80, 82 Mobile: 0419 798 651

While Frankie joined us on the deck with life jacket firmly in place Pamellie stretched herself out staying cosy in her quarters.

Fraser Island, The World’s Largest Sand Island!

Once through the bar we made our way using the tides up to our first anchorage at Fraser Island.

Yankee Jacks – Our first anchorage in the Great Sandy Straits

We spend a couple of nights here recovering from our four day sailing trip and enjoy the calm waters and stunning sunsets.

Frankie gets to stretch out having fun with some sand bar and paddle board activities.

Our ‘Seagle’ loving life.

Moon Point – Fraser Island

Our next stop is the large sandbar to the north west of Moon Point. We spend the day anchored in the crystal clear waters on the western side of the bank.

The Pacific Ocean flows around from the top of Fraser Island bringing it’s crystal clear water into Hervey Bay

We were spoilt with the stunning colours of the sunsets across to the west on the mainland of Hervey Bay.

Up The Creek at Moon Point

No access at low tide here!!

Knowing we were in for a few days of wind warnings and unpleasant sea conditions we chose to join some sailing friends, Adele and Paul who sail on board their catamaran ‘Saltpeter’ who were taking shelter up the creek near Moon Point. We have enjoyed their great company while waiting out the blow.

The waterways on the western side of Fraser Island are teeming with life. As we paddled up the creek at Moon Point we skimmed over sting rays and saw schools of bream and whiting with an occasional flathead lurking in the shallows of the sandbanks. The Northern entrance is only navigable at high tide by canoe, paddle board or very tentatively by tender as there is some very nasty tree debris throughout which would cause some pretty bad damage if struck.

Here is a pic of Saltpeter and some taken of the paddle Adele I did up the creek.

The Dingoes of Fraser Island

We sighted dingoes everyday in and around Moon Point. “Dingoes are protected across Queensland’s national parks, conservation parks, recreation areas and lands in marine parks. These dingoes are defined under the various Acts as ‘wildlife’ or ‘native wildlife’ and should be left to live wild. They should never be confused with or treated as domestic dogs. In fact, dingoes cannot be kept as pets in Queensland at all.” https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/parks/fraser/pdf/be-dingo-safe-flyer.pdf

A lone dingo scavenging on the point.

Farewell to Moon Point

Spectacular Wathumba Creek and Platypus Bay, the Humpbacks Paradise

Wathumba Creek looking towards the entrance from the key hole.

We had a fabulous day sailing from Moon Point to Wathumba Creek at the southern end of Platypus Bay. Wathumba has changed every time I have visited in the past 30 years. Years of tides, cyclones and weather events constantly shift the creek’s channel and the sandbanks into the key hole. It is advised to scout the channel and depths prior to entering and is recommended for shallow drought vessels only. We were too early in the season for sighting any Humpbacks but we know they won’t be far behind us…..

Wathumba is one of my favourite places off the Queensland coast.

With it’s ever changing and shifting sand banks Wathumba has contrasts of dark chocolate tannin to crystal clear aqua and ocean blue colours. It’s an artist’s paradise and motivates me to capture the hues and moods of the sky and waters as I paddle out on the rising tide.

Next time on Board Vera Jean………………

Fraser to Rum Town!

The boys pulled in a mighty Mackerel on the leg to Bundaberg!

Stay tuned for our next leg as we sail up the Burnett River to the rum town of Bundaberg and out to the Southern Great Barrier Reef.

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Sailing The Amazing Offshore Reefs and Cays from Whitsundays to Cooktown!

Join us as we share the best of the best Great Barrier Reef and Coral Cay locations from our 2018 sailing season. From the Whitsundays to Cooktown we sailed offshore to discover for ourselves the conditions of our most iconic reefs and cays.

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Looking towards the distant main land from a Great Barrier Reef anchorage

The statistics for coral bleaching as reported by ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies unfortunately appear correct for the regions of the North Great Barrier Reef. Of the reef systems we visited there was evidence of extreme bleaching in most locations. The photography will not always show this as we searched for what ‘living’ patches we could find. It was apparent to us that the reefs offshore from the Whitsunday Islands, Hook and Bait Reef were remarkably healthier looking with a higher abundance of marine life in both locations than the northern areas. Here are examples of northern reef structures that have lost their once vibrant colours.

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On all the reefs in the Northern Great Barrier Reef we witness miles of bleached or dead reef. The structures are in place but the colours are muted and in some areas a noticeable sludge covered the coral. We spent many hours scouting for live healthy coral.

Here is a link to an interesting National Geographic article showing the coral bleaching using maps and statistics.                                                    https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/science-environment/2016/11/how-much-coral-has-died-in-the-great-barrier-reefs-worst-bleaching-event/

Hook Reef – Offshore Whitsunday Islands 04/08/2018 Overnight Anchorage

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An abundance of Reef Sharks in the shallow tops of Hook Reef

Fringing Reef – Orpheous Island (Eastern Side) 24/08/2018 Day Anchorage

Bramble Reef – Offshore Orpheous Island 27/0/2018 Overnight Anchorage

Crown of Thorns Starfish

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Reef Eater!

Beaver Cay – Offshore Dunk Island

Taylor Cay – Offshore Dunk Island 02/09/2018

Taylor Cay is visible sitting well above the reef at low tide

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Remember only take photographs in a Marine National Park

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The Sooty and Crested Terns nesting on Taylor sand cay make it a very special part of the GBRMP

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Adelaide Reef – Offshore Innisfail 02/09/2018 Overnight Anchorage  

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Sudbury Cay – Offshore Fitzroy Island 7/10/2018 Overnight Anchorage 

Arlington Reef – Offshore Cairns 06/10/2018 Two Night Anchorage  

Hastings Reef – Hastings Reef – OffshoreCairns 10/10/2018 Overnight on mooring

Plenty of reefys out here
Plenty of reefys out here!

Ruby Reef – Offshore Cooktown 28/10/2018 Overnight Anchorage

Here are some tips we will continue to follow as we explore outer reefs and cays of The Southern Great Barrier Reef in 2019:

We constantly spoke to locals and other sailors experienced in the regions we visited to find out where to head out to. We put the place names into Google Earth and did our trip planning using co-ordinates and features on our GPS and Google Earth.

Remember there may not be internet connection or mobile phone service when you venture further offshore. We would log on the night before a trip to the outer reef and make notes about weather forecasts, tide times and any other relevant information just in case.

We often gained a signal by sending one of our phones up the mast with the hotspot turned on, but it didn’t always work so best to be prepared.

We also had an agreed weather limitation of 15 knots and 1 meter swell as there is usually very little protection while on the reef. A few times we missed out on a good place due to our conservative decision making. But that leaves place to explore another time!

Keep a dedicated log as it is great way to look back on your adventure and has helped immensely with writing these blog posts.

We wish you a happy and safe sailing season in 2019 and hope that you find something of use or interest from our post.

See you out on the Big Blue!

Our Ocean Life
Vera Jean’s plaque sitting proudly in the A Frame at Middle Percy Island

Coming soon: How we looked after our pets during extended reef visits……….

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Sailing the Best of Queensland’s Island Paradises in 2018 – Part I

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Queensland coastal sailing is all about the islands and reefs.

Last year after completing our Southern loop we set off from our home port at the Gold Coast and sailed north as far North as Cooktown. In this blog we will share the beauty of some of Queensland’s iconic islands. It’s all about the friendships, sailing and exploring our very own coastal waters.

So sit back and take a look at our adventure island hopping up to Far North Queensland to Cooktown.

Fraser Island and crossing Wide Bay Bar

 

We stayed in three anchorages on our way north in the Sandy Straits, Garry’s Anchorage, Yankee Jacks and Big Woody Island. This is where we began to meet other coastal sailor’s and some would become great friends that we caught up with during the season.

 

Great Keppel Island

By far our favourite anchorage around Great Keppel Island was Svendsen’s Beach, but there are so many beautiful bays to choose from offering protection from most wind directions

 

Percy Islands

This group of islands include Middle Percy which is iconic as a sailor’s haven, and a popular destination for Queensland coastal sailors to catch up.

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SOUTH PERCY ISLAND – North West Bay

Here is the famous ‘A Frame’ on Middle Percy which has a BBQ, fire pit, kitchen and memorabilia of sailors past

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We slipped into the lagoon on high tide at Middle Percy to attend to some repairs. Be aware that the there is a super strong tidal surge on the outgoing tide. Not for the fainthearted!!

 

Scawfell Island

What we loved about Scawfell was the remote feeling uninhabited and that it was very clean with little evidence of past visitors

 

Shaw Island

I had so much fun at Shaw, exploring and paddle boarding! A great entrance to the southern Whitsundays.

 

Whitsunday Island

Well this Island certainly lives up to it’s reputation for having one of the top 10 beaches in Australia!! We had a fantastic stay up the Hill Inlet on the Nth eastern side of the big island.

 

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Hinchinbrook Island

Australia’s largest island National Park did not disappoint with high peaks and a myriad of waterways. We sailed the western channel to Cardwell.

 

Orpheus Island

A jewel of an island with amazing giant clam gardens to explore! We anchored in the southern end of the resort bay and also used the courtesy mooring further north along the island. We found an amazing fringing reef on the eastern side of the island and with perfect conditions we anchored here for a couple of hours to explore the underwater world.

 

Low Islands

Just a short sail offshore from Port Douglas, Low Island is well governed Commonwealth National Park and Marine Park with resident caretakers monitoring activities of tourist operators and private boats. It is welcome respite after the more cramped anchorage in Port.

 

Hope Islands

This anchorage was a true surprise for us, it offers a great step off point to the outer great barrier reef and has so many beautiful aspects. There is something I love about a small island, I can circumnavigate and feel like a real explorer on my paddle board!!

 

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Coming Soon……….

Part II – Queensland Reefs and Cays to delight your soul!

Bait and Hook Reefs/Beaver Cay/Taylor Cay/Sudbury Cay/Arlington Reef/Hastings Reef/Ruby Reef

All coming up in our next blog!

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Summer Sailing – Gold Coast to Sydney

Vera Jean Sails Sydney Harbour
Woo Hoo!! We made it to Sydney!

It’s A Wrap – December 2017 to April 2018

Sitting here this morning on board Vera Jean I am reflecting on what has been nothing less than a challenging and testing experience. We set sail from our home port of Southport to our southern most port of Port Hacking before turning north and completing our southern loop.

In this blog I am going to wrap up sharing with you the highlights from our southern adventure in pictures.

In our previous blogs we featured locations down as far as Forster.

So here is the rest of the trip!

Forster Tuncurry – a great place to visit if you can get one of the free courtesy moorings. A little tight trying to find an anchoring place. Plenty of shops and services within a short tender ride and walk.

View from the moorings.
The view from the moorings.

 

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Broughton Island

Check for marine weather conditions before heading offshore to this beautiful remote feeling paradise. Choose the bay to anchor in depending on the conditions at the time.

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Port Stephens – Nelson Bay – Salamander – Tea Gardens

A sailors paradise with many options for anchoring and accessing services and supplies. In blown out conditions anchor up in the serenity of  Fame Cove. We used the public dock in Nelson Bay to re-fill on-board water tanks. Just be mindful of the commercial tourist boats that also utilise the harbour and dock.

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Fame Cove – Port Stephens

 

Nelson Bay – Port Stephens and The Regatta

 

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Swansea – Lake Macquarie

An interesting sailing experience with lots of anchoring options. Entry through Swansea Channel recommended at high tide.

 

 

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Pittwater – Kuringai National Park

A fabulous waterway with stunning National Park fringing the entire span of waterways. Perfect for paddle boarding, kayaking and bush walking, unless you have a Beagle!!

 

Woy Woy

Watch the channel entrance across into Woy Woy, go with an in going tide. Once in there are a number of bays to anchor in. We found shopping and re-stocking easy taking Vera Jean all the way to the dock. We accessed water at Anderson’s Boat hire.

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Our Pamellie

 

The Basin

One of our favourite spots to anchor and go ashore with Frankie. There is a dog beach at the far end of the bay.

 

 

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Entering Sydney Heads

This was an epic experience!! We loved Sydney and used the free public moorings all around the harbour. Frankie is permitted on the ferries so we traveled with him sightseeing most days.

 

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Rose Bay

 

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Bantry Bay

 

Blackwattle Bay

 

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Sydney Ferries BIG day out!

 

Port Jackson – Jibbon Beach

 

 

 

Botany Bay – La Persouse – Sutherland Point

 

Turnaround point

Sydney – Take 2 – Manly Cove

 

 

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After our second visit on the way back into Sydney – Manly this time, we began our trip north to our home port of Southport.

Here are a few random pics taken on our sail home.

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Leaving Sydney at Sunrise

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North Heads

Random Pics taken while sailing North.

 

Offshore Mid NSW Coast

 

And finally in our home waters!!

 

What an epic adventure we had. We highly recommend the NSW coast and Sydney as a perfect summer sailing adventure!!

Stay tuned for the next adventure – Gold Coast to Cooktown!!

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SAILOR’S FIND A HEAVENLY HAVEN

LAURIETON ON THE CAMDEN HAVEN RIVER – SO FAR THE FRIENDLIEST TOWN WE HAVE ANCHORED IN

We were lucky to pick up one of the free courtesy moorings at the small town of Laurieton on the Camden Haven River.

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Thanks again to the great information on the Zulu Waterways App for the spot on information on this area. https://www.zuluwaterways.com/map

There are several reasons why this town gets our vote for the number 1 sailing and cruising destination on our journey of the NSW coast so far.

LAURIETON IS A FRIENDLY AND WELCOMING TOWN

We felt really welcome here, people in town were so helpful and friendly. One local sailor even came down to the wharf and greeted us when he knew we arrived!

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Phillip Bowman, a local sailor we met though Facebook came down to the wharf to meet us. He had this friendly feathered local join him!!

GREAT FACILITIES FOR VISITING YACHTS AND CRUISERS

The facilities for cruising yachtsmen are excellent. A large public wharf with water to fill tanks, free hot shower at the Laurieton Services Club ($50.00 dep for the key),  two free Courtesy moorings, easy walk to local shops and laundromat.

And a magical rainbow if you get lucky like we did!27545255_1833946046638631_643819446411937823_n

SHELTERED MOORING AND ANCHORING IN ALL CONDITIONS

I have to say this is a great location in ‘most’ conditions in case a massive storm blew in and proved me wrong!! We layed over here for a week to sit out a southerly swell and found the Camden Haven River provided plenty of opportunity for enjoyable activities.

NATURAL BEAUTY AND WATERWAYS TO EXPLORE

One day we we explored in the tinnie and then walked out the break wall to check out the swell.

We decided one afternoon to sit Frankie in the kayak and set off up the river for hours to explore Queen’s Lake catchment area. It was all fun and games until Frankie decided he wasn’t going to sit quietly and enjoy the ride. He carried on most of the time, even when we took him ashore for regular drinks and walkies he still didn’t settle like he usually does. Oh well we still enjoyed exploring the natural beauty of this area.

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ABUNDANT SPECIES OF MARINE LIFE

When we were out and about in the tinnie or paddling around we saw an abundant amount of birds and marine life. At most boat ramps there were board showing the different species and their bag limit or size restrictions. Here are just a few!!

TRULY A SAILOR’S PARADISE!!

To cap off our fabulous visit to Laurieton I also had some time to do my Yogurt (my attempt at Yoga) on the deck. I never spend very long on the mat alone before I have company as you can see from these pics!

We finally said our farewell the Camden Haven River and the picturesque town of Laurieton and sailed further south.

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AT THE NEXT LOCATION OF OUR OCEAN LIFE ADVENTURES WE VISIT AN ISLAND WITH ABUNDANT MARINE LIFE!

CAN YOU GUESS WHERE IT IS?

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FRANKIE SAYS – Not happy Jan!! A passage to a port with a view but limited dog friendly spaces.

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Sunrise is a special time on the open ocean.

OVERNIGHT AT HISTORIC SITE

When passage planning from Coffs Harbour to Port Macquarie we included an overnight stay at Trial Bay. This ocean bay is only suitable for over night in a slight swell and southerly winds. Any north in it and we would have given it a miss. The break wall at Trial Bay was built by prisoners of the Trial Bay gaol which opened in 1886. The gaol is within the Arakoon National Park and near the town of South West Rocks.

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ARRIVAL AT PORT MACQUARIE AND FORESHORE FISH AND CHIPS WITH FRIENDS

Once settled at anchor in Port Macquarie we went ashore to explore the local area.     One night we met up with some of our new sailing friends Kim and Steve. We met them when they sailed north in 2017 on their catamaran ‘Cat Play’ at the Hope Island marina. They are Port Macquarie locals and we really enjoyed catching up with them, and it is always good to have local knowledge when eating out. We walked along the foreshore, had fish and chips in the park and then walked up town for an ice cream.

DESPERATELY IN SEARCH OF A DOGGY BEACH

We leave Pamellie safely on board Vera Jean for the day to go in search of an off lead dog beach in Port Macquarie. After downloading the local council dog friendly park map we set of on what we thought was going to be a lovely coast walk for a couple of kilometers along the Port Macquarie beaches. We both agree this port provided the least dog friendly options for off lead exercise areas for Frankie so far.

WELL!! It turned into a long hot marathon effort with many hill climbs. Finally finding the off lead beach we went in search of was actually at the foot of a cliff that is used by hang gliders!! Fat chance we were going to descend the goat track to the bottom!!

A local we chatted to up the next hill assured us one more hill would see us at a dog friendly beach that didn’t require rock climbing skills to access!! After hours of walking in the heat Frankie collapsed on the wet sand. Usually off like a rocket the minute we release him he was obviously needing a huge rest.

After awhile he started playing with a lovely dog, Abbey who belonged to very friendly locals who kindly offered us a lift back to Vera Jean. We accepted gratefully as we were dreading the long walk back. The hospitality and kindness was most appreciated as the three of us brushed off the sand and hopped into the car.

ABBEY AND FRANKIE BECAME FAST FRIENDS!

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Here is a lovely pic of Abbey recovering from a recent injury.

PAMELLIE ENJOYS TWILIGHT AT THE PORT

Pamellie is really enjoying life on board spending her days sleeping after her sunrise stretch up on the deck and then rising to spend several hours on the top deck watching the sunset from whatever place we are anchored in.

She has a natural curiosity and at times when I haven’t been able to find her on board I have gone into a panic only to find out that she has popped across onto the tinnie to explore further. Here in the pics you can see her on the ‘outer limits’ looking over the edge of the tinnie.

PORT MACQUARIE TURNS ON THE LIGHTS ON OUR FINAL NIGHT

A QUICK TRIP ASHORE FOR PROVISIONS

Passage planning also includes ensuring there are adequate provisions of fresh food to last until we get safely anchored at the next port of call and find the nearest accessible shops. I don’t like having to spend time as soon as we arrive replenishing food so I make sure we are provisioned for a few days so we can relax a bit when we arrive at a new place.