Sunday, November 25, 2012

Great Sandy Straits

Rutea  off Kingfisher Resort

At the southern end of the 70-kilometer-long Hervey Bay, is the northern end of the Great Sandy Straits.  On one side of the Straits is the Australian mainland and on the other is Fraser Island, which, at 120 kilometers, is not only the largest sand island in the world but is also a World Heritage Site.  The island is heavily wooded but the highest place on it isn't much over 200 meters.  It's calm waters was a great way for us to get back underway as often after spending too much time at a dock we'll lose our sea legs.

After spending three nights at three different anchorages, we got up early this morning to make the passage to the southern end of the island.  Our guide books said that most of the time those who are transiting the Straits for the first time will run aground so we had spoken with as many people as we could for advice and suggestions.  The route is long enough that the tide floods and ebbs from two different directions:  In the northern half, the tide floods to the south and ebbs to the north while in the southern half it does just the opposite.  Even though the route is well marked with navigation aids it would have been difficult to make the passage without our chartplotter, which has been very accurate (although, for the first time since we've owned it, today it did show us sailing across an island - disconcerting) in which we had spent a lot of time programming in a route.

There was quite the parade of boats making the same passage at the same very early hour as everyone was watching their tide charts carefully.  We did fine although we did hold our breaths when we saw the depth get down to 3 feet of water under the keel - which is ok but we're used to having thousands of feet under our keel.  I know that people who cruise the east coast of the US will say, "What?  You had 3 feet and you were worried?  Three feet is a lot of room!" but we've been spoiled by the deep waters off the left coast.

Jellyfish in Pelican Bay

Our charts showed a good-looking anchorage at the southern end of the Straits that looked like it would make a good jump-off point for our next open-water passage.  Pelican Bay also must have look good to a lot of other cruisers as it was crowded when we got there and still more boats came in and dropped their hooks.  It didn't help that it's narrow and shallow.  There were millions of jellyfish - some the size of softballs while some were as big as basketballs and bigger.  We didn't go in the water as this is the southern edge of where the saltwater crocodiles live and they can get up to 7 meters long.  It's also the southern edge of where you might find box jellyfish whose poison can kill a person within hours of being stung.  There are lots of sharks but they seem much easier to deal with than crocs or box jellies..

We leave early tomorrow morning for Mooloolaba where we'll rendezvous with our friend Mark and our daughter, Corie.  Hopefully, it will feel good to be out on the Tasman Sea.

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