Monday, April 10, 2017

Wide Bay Bar - update April 2017

A new survey has been performed by MSQ, and reported on 7th April 2017.

Here is a section of the survey.

The Gladstone Regional Harbour Master plans to have the directional light moved to a bearing of 270/090. As you can see below, that takes you over about 500 metres with less than 5 metres depth; the minimum depth being 3.7 metres.

My own view is that the light should be ignored, and waypoints should be published regularly by MSQ.

An alternative route crosses a narrow spot with a minimum depth of 5.0 metres

Looking at the latest survey, reasonable waypoints would be:

1) 25° 47.7'S, 153° 08'E, 
2) 25° 46.8'S, 153° 07'E,

That would keep you in water more than 5 metres deep.

A more complex option that is still reasonable, would be to put in some extra waypoints.

First Waypoint      A = 25°48'S,      153°08'E,
Second Waypoint  B = 25°47.23'S, 153°07.38'E,
Third Waypoint     C = 25°47'S,      153°07'E,
Fourth Waypoint   D = 25°47'S,      153°06.73'E,  On line of Inskip Point leads.
Fifth waypoint       E = 25°48'S,      153°05'E,  near Inskip Point.

I plan to use these waypoints when we sail up the coast in early May.

All at your own risk. Check with Tin Can Bay Coast Guard (Tel: 0419 798 651).

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Cyclone Debbie

Cyclone Debbie caused a lot of damage. This image is from the 'earth' site.

She trashed the Whitsundays, and dumped buckets of rain all down the Queensland and NSW coast.

The politicians have been particularly pathetic recently, subsidizing an Indian coal mine and mocking people concerned about climate change.

Here are a few photos from the extra rain.

Austinville Creek

Austinville Creek

Purlingbrook Falls

Hinze Dam overflow

The race below the Hinze Dam

Columnar basalt rock formation at Fingal Head. Cook Island in the distance.

We had to get Nimrod down from Raby Bay to her annual appointment at BoatWorks in Coomera. The plan had been to bring her down on Thursday, ready for her liftout on Friday morning. The weather was wet on the Thursday, with a northerly of 20-25 knots, but Debbie was due to swing round and blow hard from the south for most of the week. A case of 'now or never'. 

The creek was flooded a kilometre down from our house, so I went round the back way to meet my mate Julien at Coomera. The back road was open, but later in the day suffered a major break! 

Julien and I got Nimrod down to BoatWorks without difficulty. Quite a bit of debris in the Coomera River. I stayed at his place that night, until the creek dropped enough to get home the next day.

As predicted, Debbie blew hard from the south for days. Just as well we made the move when we did.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Grand-parenting on Lord Howe Island

My daughter Anna lives in Melbourne with her partner Sim, and daughter Aelie (3½). We try to meet up every few months. This time was on Lord Howe Island, one of George's favourite places. We have been advised by friends who live there that it is better to fly there and enjoy it from the land, rather than sail across dodgy seas to an uncomfortable anchorage.

We had a lovely week together, staying at Leanda Lei, near the centre and an easy walk or bike-ride to a shop, the museum and the beach.

Here are some photos.


Sim and Aelie

Using a 'Spy-board'

Friendly fish at Ned's Beach (where fishing is forbidden).

Mounts Lidgbird and Gower

Bikes outside the museum

Parrot fish

Anna and Sim climbing Mount Gower

Providence petrel (Pterodroma solandri)

Female Lord Howe Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis contempta), I think

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Wide Bay Bar - shifting sands

There are few spots on Australia's east coast that cause as much angst as the Wide Bay Bar, a pass between the Queensland coast and Fraser Island. 

It is managed by Maritime Safety Queensland and the Tin Can Bay Coast Guard, who offer advice about its safety and give yachties waypoints to help them stay in deep water, often between curling breakers on either side of the passage. There are also two leading lights; one on Hook Point on Fraser Island that guides vessels west, and the other on Inskip Point on the mainland.

I asked the Tin Can Bay Coastguard what the current waypoints are. He sent me this SMS. (19th Nov 2016)

Wpt 1 lat. 25 47.45 south.    long. 153  08.4 East. Brg to Hook Pt light 277.5 True. 

Wpt 2  lat. 25 47. 22 south,  long. 153  06.33 East, Brg to Inskip Pt leads 238 true.       
Please refer to NTM 101 T 2016 for further information.   The south bank sand bar is creeping across the centre line of the bearing to the hook point light, vessels should err to the north of the centre line by 100 to 150m of the inbound/out bound track to clear this position.

It turns out that the waypoints are the same as they were a year ago, in November 2015.

But the NTM (Notice to Mariners) is very interesting. Download it here.

It includes this chart of a survey done in March 2016.

The dark blue patches are the shallow spots.

If you follow the waypoints that are currently being given out, or if you follow the leading light on Hook Point, you will cross a shallow patch of 3 metres, which, if any sort of swell is running, may well crash your keel violently into the sand.

The authorities cover this by telling us to read NTM 101 (T) 2016, and "err to the north of the centre line by 100 to 150m".

The Hook Point light is set in foundations, and not easy to move. In its present position, it is leading vessels into danger, especially if their skipper has not studied the fine print in the NTM. Maybe the light should be switched off until it can be moved.

But the waypoints might easily be changed to guide vessels down a safe line. It seems strange to me that old waypoints are still being recommended.

I had a look at the chart from the March 2016 survey and tentatively suggest that better waypoints might be as follows:

WP1 25°48'.000S, 153°08'.400E
WP2 25°47'.000S 153°06'.750E

I suggest that you ignore the Hook Point light. Use these waypoints at your own risk.

PS. We crossed the Wide Bay Bar today, going out, using the green waypoints. We left at 8 am, two hours after low water, in a 15 knot easterly. We passed some breaking water on our starboard side, but went through none ourselves. I am pretty sure that we would have gone through breaking water if we had been following the official waypoints or Hook Point light, even if we had been 150 metres north of that line.

Until further notice, I suggest the green waypoints be used.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Chesterfield Reef and Cato Island

We have heard good reports about the Chesterfields, a collection of reefs west of New Caledonia. We were ready to leave Luganville on Monday November 7th, and the weather looked good for a dash to a stop on the reefs.

We got approval from the French officials. It wasn't easy to find who to ask. This address worked.

Service de la pêche et de l'environnement marin
Direction des affaires maritimes
Tél:  24.24.92

We sailed more or less in convoy with friends on 'Entice', a 43' cat, arriving on Friday 11th. Sailing with another boat makes it possible to take photos of each other.

Nimrod enjoying a kite run near Chesterfield Reef

Chesterfield Reef is a stunning place, miles from both NewCal and Australia. A few sandy cays, and millions of birds.

Brown booby

Brown booby

Hermit crab

Masked boobies

Masked boobies

Awkward teenaged booby

White-capped noddy with chick

Young Great Frigatebird

Karen from 'Entice', with George

Sundowner on Chesterfield Reef

We had a weather window for the trip between the Chesterfields and Bundaberg, broken by a front coming through. We managed to email a friend who had waypoints to anchor at a small Australian island called Cato, to wait out the front. It was a bit dodgy, but we pulled it off, anchoring at 2 am under a full moon.

More amazing bird life.

Immature brown booby

Red-footed boobies

As a result of pausing at Cato Island, we got a fair wind the next day from the South-east. After a struggle to raise the anchor, which got caught by some coral, we made a fast passage to Bundaberg, averaging 7.5 knots over 26 hours.