Blackwattle- Discovering the Australian East Coast

Wowie! I can see the water! I HATED that land stuff...
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Blackwattle is back from the Bottom Beautician. We can feel her sighing with pleasure as she is lowered back into her beloved water. But her pleasure is short-lived. As we depart Bundaberg, heading across the vast Harvey Bay to the inside of Fraser Island, the wind is on the nose, and, along with Blackwattle, we are not a little miffed by having to beat to windward.

'Don't you know,' we can hear her saying, after all this time sailing only downwind, 'that Gentleyachts do NOT go to windward?'

However, good soul that she is, she plugs on like a faithful horse on rough ground. It's an uncomfortable sea, and it rains now and then. The sky is eight octals of cloud, the sea is a bland gray, sick looking, and dispirited. Even the tide is against us. The Australian coastline is barely a misty ruffle in the distance. I can't help thinking that it wouldn't take much Global Warming for most of Australia to disappear underwater. Then I guess we would be left with Ayers Rock, The Snowy Isles and the Great Dividing Archipelago.

It rains again as we drop anchor beside Kingfisher Resort.

''Didn't it rain the last time we were here?' asks Ted.

'I remember, it poured.' I reply, ' and you refused to have a picnic as a result.'

'Of course I did - it was ridiculous.' counters Ted. 'You had to hold the umbrella over the sandwiches so we could eat them and I was getting water down my collar.'

Too wet to plan much, so we retire to chores and reading books while opening and closing hatches as the rain stops and starts all day.

Karl and Sandi from Fantasy1, Circumnavigators
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The world is suddenly a flat spirited thing - the buzz and excitement of the first arrival in Bundaberg all gone now.. the amazing unexpected visit of friends from Brisbane and Sydney to welcome us just a treasured memory... the celebrations with other cruising friends who have completed their own circumnavigations and gone their ways – these had all helped to keep the tempo fast and upbeat.

Until now.

Chris and Pete of Chatti - Circumnavigators
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It rains for two days. Obviously Kingfisher Resort on this island is constantly in rain! So we decide press on southwards without even going ashore.

They have very very thin water in Queensland. Skipper Ted observes that he has finally found a use for Global Warming – it might make the Sandy Straits between Fraser Island and Queensland a little deeper.

The water we wish to traverse now is so shallow that Blackwattle can only get through at high tide – and the shallowest part is where the tides actually meet - southern waters moving north to meet the northern waters moving south between Fraser Island and the mainland, obviously both depositing the sands which shift and move.

'Ya know,' says Sandy Straits Coastguard in the VHF when we call them to let them know our journey,'Ya know that the sands shift don't ya? Do yez know when the high tide is? Whaddyez draw? O Yairs, well hev yez a good trip, n good luck.' These are all volunteers, and every single one is kind and helpful to a fault.

Thin water
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As we go, we watch the depth constantly and find our way from buoy to buoy gingerly. The buoys are so far apart that you can only find the next one with the help of binoculars, and our electronic charts are not nearly detailed enough to be of any assistance.

So, we stop and start in anchorages along the way. We go walking on Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world they tell us. After the glorious rainforests of the South Pacific, this is a strange dessicated bush – more fallen dead trees than living, and those that live have a shriveled old-man look. We wear footwear against the spiders and snakes that Australia is famous for, and carry walking sticks we've gathered by the shore.

Can you see the dingoes
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We've been warned about dingoes – 'Never turn your back, always walk with a minimum of three people in a group'.

And my overactive imagination has a dingo behind every tree. It has an oddly dead feeling this bushland, the cicadas screaming over the silence – a bird here and there, alone. I start looking back behind me as we walk – quickly, to surprise anything that might be there, but... there's nothing, nothing at all.. I am glad to get away - I hadn't remembered the Australian bush as quite so alien.

There's no swimming of course. Just weeks ago we're told a man was taken by a bull shark when he swam to catch his runaway dinghy. We watch the wading birds, the dugongs and the dozens of turtles around us in the shallow anchorages. There are fishermen pumping the sands for pippies to use for bait. They use implements that look like like bicycle pumps.

Pumping for pippies
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Early morning there are long forgotten Australian bird calls serenading across the water. Apart from that the anchorages are peaceful but very silent - no wild roosters crowing, no kids chatter and splash sounds in the air, no wood chopping - nothing but cicadas .....

Sunset from Garrys
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Tomorrow we're headed for one of the prime tourist areas and surfing beach holiday resorts of South East Queensland – Mooloolaba, so it's out Wide Bay Bar with the tide, and in through the narrow and shallow bar at Mooloolaba to anchor in the river. It's five years since we were in Mooloolaba – many friends to say hello to, and I wonder how it's changed....
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