Anyone for oysters?

Anyone for oysters?

We left the big smoke of Adelaide and headed for the Spencer Gulf, passing through Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Port Lincoln, heading for Coffin Bay.

 

 

Coffin Bay is a small hamlet that is famous for it’s oysters and for sheltered bays that would allow us to spend a few days on the water. We weren’t disappointed. The weather was glorious, long empty sandy beaches with great boat ramp facilities. 3 large ramps to easily launch the boat, a safe boat car park to leave the car and trailer, water, toilets and best of all a shower, even it was a cold one, but the weather was warm, so it just meant very quick showers.

 

 

We spent 4 nights on the water and would have stayed longer if it wasn’t for the fact we would find a sheltered bay to anchor in and then during the night the wind would swing 180 degrees and we would wake up with the boat rocking strongly from side to side which meant no further sleep. One night was bad enough but when it happened the second night with stronger wind forecast we decided to call it a day. We did however enjoy our long beach walk on a deserted beach

Click photo to view the video

where we found flowers growing in the sand dunes.

 

We were also amazed how clear the water was. Our first experience of the water clarity of the Southern Ocean.

 

Russ sampled the oysters

and we watched the tourists don their wetsuits to be ferried out to the oyster beds. There they enjoyed their fresh oysters at tables and chairs set up out amongst where the oysters are farmed.

 

Source: http://oysterfarmtours.com.au*

Russ still reckons the best oysters are the ones you can get free when you can pick them off the rocks yourself. The effort you go to finding and cracking them open making them taste even better.  A delicacy however that I sadly haven’t acquired a taste for.

*We didn’t try the oyster tour but if you ever visit Coffin Bay it looks a great way to have lunch.

 

Toot Toot of a Paddle Wheeler

Toot Toot of a Paddle Wheeler

It was top of our list to cruise the River Murray as it is the longest river in Australia at 2,508 kilometres (1,558 miles). If combined with the Darling River the length increases to 3,750 km (2,330 miles). Surprisingly, however, it isn’t a very wide river most of the time. No wider than the much shorter Clarence River that we had cruised in January. However, to really appreciate its topography it really needs to be seen from one of the lookouts above the river. One good location to see how wide the river could become in full flood is at Swan Reach. Even though my photo isn’t very good, as it was taken through the car window, you can see how far apart the two river cliff edges are from each other and imagine how big the river would be if a big flood came through. The two areas of water that you see in the photo would join up.

We chose to cruise the section of the river from Mannum to Blanchetown on the recommendations of locals as it is on this stretch that you see the dramatic white and red/orange sandstone cliffs.

It is also on this stretch of river that you are most likely to encounter the majestic Murray Princess paddle wheeler as well as some smaller ones.

It will be an experience if you are lucky enough to hear the magnificent rising multi-toned horn of the Murray Princess as she approaches a river lock or the comic ‘toot toot’ of a smaller paddle wheeler.

Russ was interested in the old paddle wheelers that were in various states of refurbishment tied up along the riverbanks.

Most of the river craft however were modern houseboats. Several hundred of them and many incredibly large.

 

There are numerous hamlets along the river. Sadly, most homes were empty, probably holiday homes with their owners residing in Adelaide. As a result, there was no sense of community and a strange feeling that we seemed for most of the time to be the only ones enjoying the river.

There was however the occasional unusual residence. We saw an interesting climb one homeowner has to do every time he wants to take his boat out.

For the more nature loving weekenders there were also numerous blocks of land with an assortment of caravans set out with their own mobile portaloo on a trailer and pump station housing used to pump water from the river.

For those of you who may be thinking of cruising the Murray we would recommend you launch at Swan Reach. We launched at Mannum, a small historical town that is worth a look at, but the boat ramp and parking is small and tight to manoeuvre. Swan Reach has plenty of space.

and is also an easy place to tie up to the large trees on the reserve.

In the Whitsundays, where we generally cruise, we are not allowed to tie up to trees on shore. On the River Murray this is the recommended way of anchoring because the depths of the river vary considerably. We experienced 1.1m to 20m depths and were warned by a friend that the river depth can rise and fall by a metre if the weather is very windy. There are numerous “Private – do not land” signs and large river grasses that could scratch the gel coat on a small boat unlike the big aluminium house boats. We therefore chose to anchor when we were able to find depths of 5m or less and the bottom looked relatively flat without any submerged trees or tree roots.

Although we had been recommended to cruise the stretch of the river from Mannum to Blanchetown in hindsight we would recommend you launch at Swan Reach and cruise down to Mannum and back, a distance of approximately 96 kms (51 nautical miles one way). You can miss out the stretch from Swan Reach to Blanchetown which is a lot narrower and shallower and didn’t have any remarkable features. Blanchetown is the location of the first lock so you don’t need to navigate any locks up to Blanchetown. You need to be aware that there is only a bus service from Swan Reach to Mannum 1-2 times a week if you decide to only cruise one way. If you are travelling in company then that would be easier as you can leave a car at both Mannum and Swan Reach.

Surprisingly, the River Murray wasn’t our favourite river so far on our trip. We are glad we did it as the sandstone cliffs are lovely to see but we found the ‘Private – Do Not Land’ signs that are all the way along the river on both sides made it hard to get off the boat to even look around at the small hamlets (Mannum, Swan Reach and Bowhill being exceptions), the lack of activity on the river, empty houses, unmoving houseboats and unremarkable landscape except for the cliffs are what made it a limiting experience for us however if it is solitude you are after then it is definitely a cruise to consider.

 

Additional Information Notes for Cruising the River Murray

  • Leave behind or drop your mast as we did spot one overhead powerline and the height wasn’t marked.
  • No Telstra reception after Nildottie until Swan Reach

Locations we anchored overnight

  • After Young Husband opposite the first set of Sandstone cliffs
  • Flat wide section after Walker’s Flat Ferry
  • Greenways Landing just at North end of Nildottie hamlet see Wiki Camps for location
  • Blanchetown before the lock just south of the overnight tie up area for houseboats waiting overnight for the lock to open
  • Swan Reach Reserve (tied to a tree)

 

The River Murray Boat Owners Association (RMBOA) calculator http://www.rmboa.org.au/cgi-bin/mr_trip_calc.pl  was invaluable for calculating distance between hamlets and lists key locations and services (fuel, water, shopping etc) but many of the names listed can’t be cross-referenced with Google maps or any map on the RMBOA website so we used it in conjunction with the GPS locator in Google Maps to know where we were.

 

Lookouts above the river in the Swan Reach Area

  • Big Bend Lookout near Nildottie
  • Billy Goat Hill Lookout at Morgan
  • Blanchetown old bridge
  • Bryan Creek Lookout at Morgan
  • Mannum Lookout, Crawford Crescent
  • Nildottie, Kroehns Landing
  • Palmer Lookout – between Tungkillo and Palmer
  • Swan Reach – 180 degree panoramic River and lagoon vistas from the Swan Reach Hotel
  • Walker Flat, Cliff View Drive
  • Younghusband, East Front Road

 

The Secret River

The Secret River

I was keen to take a look at the Hawkesbury River having seen it from the bridge a few times when driving to Sydney and more so after watching the excellent ABC mini-drama The Secret River based on Kate Grenville’s book of the same name https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Secret_River. I’m currently reading her follow up book Searching for the Secret River. This non-fiction book explains her research and writing process for the book and delves into her own personal family history of her ancestor Solomon Wiseman. It’s his story that she drew on for her inspiration for her novel.

I had also heard about Pittwater at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River as a popular sailing location for Sydneysiders.

A friend recommended we launch the boat at Brooklyn which was ideal. It has plenty of parking and we were even able to erect the mast in the car park so that we didn’t hold other people up launching the boat at the boat ramp. There were also 3 new pontoons to tie up to. Before we launched we took a walk around Brooklyn. It’s from here since 1910 that the ‘Riverboat Postman’ has been taking tourists and locals to settlements with only boat access along the Hawkesbury River.

As well as Dangar Island that can be seen from Brooklyn there are numerous other small settlements upstream. An eclectic mix of houses each has its own jetty and a small boat that is used to commute to and from Brooklyn.

As there is a train station at Brooklyn many locals park their boat in the ‘boat park’ and either jump into their cars parked nearby or walk to the train station to commute into Sydney.

We first headed upstream which was a gentle cruise in quiet waters surrounded by wooded hills with the occasional cluster of houses behind the trees.

Warning: To cruise the upper part of the Hawkesbury beyond the Hawkesbury River Bridge you do need to drop your mast as there are a few overhead powerlines and some do not have the heights marked on large signboards on the shore as is usual in most places.

After cruising as far as the small village of Spencer we decided to turn around as the scenery was the same in the upper reaches from what we could see.

We next headed for the mouth of the river passing a variety of interesting looking vessels.

It appeared that one owner couldn’t bear to go to sea without his garden.

Near the mouth we first checked out America Bay in Cowan Creek. The boating guide indicated we could pick up pink public moorings among the 200 or so sailing and boating club moorings. Although we could find pink ones we couldn’t find any that didn’t have a club name on them. We then tried Refuge Bay where we were able to pick up one of the very large free National Park moorings. Cowan Creek is a large inlet surrounded by National Park and is worth exploring.

As we were only a short cruise to Pittwater we headed to see what attracted such a large crew of sailors to that area. Once through the heads past Barrenjoey Lighthouse it wasn’t long before we spotted masts on the horizon, dozens of them and they just kept multiplying.

Boats upon boats jostling for space in the crowded anchorage. One side of the inlet is National Park with only a few buildings and houses, but the other side was an upmarket urban sprawl of large houses and mansions spanning the hillsides. As it is not wise or polite to anchor among fixed moorings we skirted the outside of the grid to find a spot to anchor. We tried one spot but before long we were rocking sharply from side to side. We pulled up the anchor to head closer to shore but it was very shallow. We then realised we were over the top of seagrass meadows. This grass needs to be preserved for marine life, so you shouldn’t anchor in it. We headed further out to the edge of the channel as the boating guide had many places further into Pittwater where you were not allowed to anchor. We made the best of the spot we finally dropped anchor in flanked by multi-masted sailing yachts and luxury powerboats with the feeling that there was a game of ‘one-upmanship’ going on.

The next morning, we headed further up the inlet but as the view was again just more and more masts on the horizon and split-level houses on shore we turned around and headed to more picturesque locations in the Hawkesbury.

On the list of recommended places from friends was Patonga. A small hamlet in a pretty bay with a golden beach.

 

We enjoyed a stroll around the hamlet and indulged in an ice cream in the 30-degree heat. We hadn’t been able to swim to cool off due to the enormous amount of ‘blubber’ jellyfish the size of small dinner plates crowding the river and anchorages. While not dangerous they can give you a nasty sting.

 

Unfortunately, after experiencing calm water at anchor at Patonga the tide turned, the wind shifted and increased. We now had an on-shore wind and a side swell which again was not going to be an ideal spot to stay overnight. We scoured the chart and settled for Mullet Creek on the other side of Dangar Island which we were sure would be out of the increasing easterly wind. What we didn’t realise until we got there was the main intercity train line followed the edge of the creek for its full length and the old oyster beds with their numerous wooden stakes dotted the other side. By this time we were just keen to get calm flat water so picked our way up the creek and found a break in the oyster beds. Fortunately, the noise of the trains was not so bad that we needed ear plugs and we were able to drift off to sleep lulled by the calm water and only occasionally hearing the ‘clickety’ ‘clack’ of the trains as they passed in the night.

 

 

 

 

A fog horn but no fog – disaster still averted

A foghorn but no fog – disaster still averted

A large blast of a fog horn and a yell made us look around quickly. We had arrived at Iluka after our week-long cruise up and down the Clarence River. However, our cruise could have ended here if it wasn’t for a kind local in a small aluminium runabout. He used a handheld foghorn he miraculous had on board to blast to attract our attention. He yelled out “training wall” alerting us to a slightly submerged training wall of rocks that was right in front of us that were heading for. We had seen a large assortment of yachts anchored on the other side and it seemed we wouldn’t have a problem cutting through this line of green channel markers. As we can go in quite shallow and most channel markers indicate the deep channels we don’t always need to follow them. As it was high tide we didn’t think we would have a problem this time. Thank goodness for the warning and a disaster of hitting underwater rocks was averted. We later learnt underwater training walls are common in some of the entrances to the rivers. We had seen some at Ballina but they were clearly visible at high and low tide and labelled on the chart. All we could see on the two charts we refer to was a single thin black line linking the green channel markers and didn’t understand it’s significance.

Training wall at low tide. Tatui at anchor in the centre.

 

After we had followed the line of the training wall into the official entrance of the sheltered anchorage we could see Iluka in front of us. A small hamlet of houses, a couple of large caravan parks and the famous Sedgers Reef.

Sedgers Reef was, in fact, the local pub that several people had recommended. They had told us to ignore its looks and go for the food and live music at sunset. We weren’t disappointed Despite its looks it has an excellent extensive inexpensive bar meal menu and even though it was the weekend and therefore packed the service was very quick. We also learnt from reading an account by Russell Bellamy of the Iluka History Group during our visit to the local museum that it got its name from the local fishermen.

The owner in the 50’s was Cecil Sedger. It was at the same time that the local fishermen thought it was lucky to first have a drink at the pub before their fishing trips but some trips didn’t quite get started. As Russell Bellamy explains “numerous fishing expeditions floundered there as anglers spent all day ‘fishing’ at “Sedger’s Reef” and had to duck into the local fish co-op and actually buy a couple of fish before making their way home”. The hotel’s fame as an ‘angler’s nirvana’ spread and tourists began to ask the locals where they could find this wonderful fishing spot. The name stuck and it soon became widely and affectionately known as “Sedger’s Reef.”

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

Cruising the Clarence

Cruising the Clarence

After our short time in Maclean we were keen to start exploring the Clarence River. We launched the boat beside the Police Station in the centre of Maclean. It is a small boat ramp and with very little room to rig. We thought it was little used as we had walked and driven past it a few times while we were exploring Maclean. On the day we decided to put Tatui in the water several small boats arrived to be launched by their owners and the limited trailer parks were quickly taken. We had to jack-knife the trailer to rig and even then it only left enough room for just one side of the ramp to be used. In hindsight, we would launch at Yamba at the mouth of the Clarence at the large double boat ramp beside the Fisherman’s co-op.

From our research, it appeared 93km (approximately 60 nautical miles) was navigable by boat so long as you can drop your mast. From Yamba/Iluka at the mouth, you can cruise all the way up to the Harwood Bridge in around 3-4 hours at 5 knots without having to drop your mast. Alternatively, you can ring ahead and book a time for the bridge to be opened for you. This is what the large cruising yachts have to do.

After the Harwood Bridge you can then cruise all the way to Grafton. It was at the Gafton Bridge we had to drop our mast again. We then had to drop it approximately another 7 times to get under the numerous powerlines that cross the river to cruise as far as the Rogan Bridge. The Rogan Bridge is then too low for boats to get under.

The river is very wide for the whole length of the section we cruised with plenty to see.

 

This included the small trawlers working the river with the pelicans following them and stretching out their long necks to grab the bi-catch as it was thrown overboard.

The upper reaches above Grafton are well worth looking at with the interesting sandstone rock formations along the river banks.

At Seelands, north of Grafton, is the water-skiing caravan park and ski school. Water-skiing and wave riding behind tricked out power boats buzz everywhere from early morning until dusk at busy times from Grafton to Rogan Bridge, with the busiest areas around the ski school. We cruised between Christmas and New Year so it was peak time but entertaining to watch the skiers and listen to the music coming out of the mega speakers mounted on the ski boats each with 6-8 people onboard.

The drawback with cruising the upper reaches from Seenlands to Rogan Bridge is that you need to anchor south of Seelands and cruise to Rogan Bridge and back in one day. We tried about 6 times north of the Ski School to anchor but we couldn’t get good holding in the river’s rock and pebble bottom.

After our foray north we slowly cruised back down the river. We stopped in at Grafton to take a look around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was here one of our batteries died. Tim from Battery Barn provided exemplary service by taking our phone call on New Year’s Day, delivering a new battery to us at the public pontoon at Grafton and taking the old battery away.

Any locals we spoke to said we must stop in and see some of the historic pubs as we cruise the river. So, we started with the Roaches Family Hotel in Grafton.

Then the 150-year-old Brushgrove Hotel on Woodford Island.

It was too windy to find a comfortable anchorage at Lawrence to seek out any historical pubs there but the one on the riverfront adjacent to a new public pontoon at Ulmarra was idyllic.

Even if we did get caught in a severe storm there which we found out later was so strong at Maclean, 15km downstream where our Land Rover and trailer was parked, that it blew the roof off the historical Clarence Hotel/Pub and parts of the roof of the showgrounds.

After topping up our water and provisions at Maclean we continued down the river to it’s mouth at Iluka/Yamba. From Maclean up to Rogan Bridge and down to the sea we had travelled 120 nautical miles and had enjoyed 6 nights on the river. It was time to dip our toes in the ocean, check out the surf beaches and stretch our legs.

 

River of Lifting Bridges

River of Lifting Bridges

Our purpose for going to Ballina in NSW was to cruise the Richmond River. From our research beforehand, we knew it is was 237 kms (147 miles) long and had a sizeable navigable section from Ballina to Coraki or even Lismore.

Boat Ramps

By googling public boat ramps in Ballina we were able to see the location of the ramps and 360 degree photos.

The one of at the sailing club was wide enough with good free parking but was tidal and there was only sand at the bottom of the ramp when we arrived. At the other end of River Street, off Boatharbour Road, was another public jetty. We saw from our Google search that it had two pontoons so we headed there. There was plenty of room to rig Tatui and launch. The only tricky part is to avoid the overhead power lines and bridge at the end of the second pontoon. There is plenty of parking at the ramp, water at the fish cleaning station and toilets.

 

 

Navigation

It was easy to navigate up the river which was much wider than we had expected but you do need to be able to drop your mast easily. We eventually cruised 30 nautical miles upriver from Ballina to Coraki and then back again. It is a very quiet river once you leave Ballina. The jet skiers and water skiers all congregate in the channel in front of the town. The only hazards we had to navigate were the Burns Point ferry that crosses the river not too far out of Ballina, bridges, overhead powerlines and a short shallow section above Woodburn.

 

 

The first place we had to drop the mast was at Wardell.

 

As there were numerous overhead powerlines showing on the Navionics map * and bridges at both Broadwater and Woodburn we kept the mast down after Wardell. The bridges on this trip were one of the highlights. There are different types and designs of lifting bridges with amazing ironwork and mechanics with the one just north of Coraki looking like it had been constructed from a child’s Mechano set.

 

 

To see it you need to take the left-hand fork where the river divides at Coraki and after a very short distance you see the bridge. This is where we turned around to travel back down the river. Other interesting sights we encountered were the historical buildings and houses in and around the towns.

 

 

and a disused dry dock a short distance after Broadwater.

 

 

Depth of water

We had good depth of water all the way to Woodburn but we needed to watch the depth sounder after the town. In this straight part of the river it went as low as 1.8m and we had to zig zag until we could find the deepest channel.  It is good to follow the general advice when cruising rivers to search out the deepest water on the outside of the bend. Any vessel over 1m draft would have to be sure to take the deep channels of the river. We were also cruising after heavy rainfalls so might have had higher water levels than after a prolonged dry spell.

To keep our speed up and revs on the engine low we travelled with the tide that way we were able to do 6.2 knots with 2000 revs.

 

 

 Approaching Woodburn

Overnight Stops

Our first night stop was at Tuckean, a short tributary off the river at Broadwater. It was shallow with only 1m at low tide but was easy to navigate in. The entrance is opposite the major road construction just before Broadwater Sugar Mill.

At both Woodburn and Coraki you can anchor off the river bank in the middle of town and kayak in. There are small wooden jetties at both towns but we decided to anchor off. There are shops along the riverfront in both places.

It was at Coraki that we decided not to cruise any further as the river splits here into a much narrower Richmond River to Casino and the Wilsons River a narrow river to Lismore.

Our second night stop as we cruised back to Ballina was in the shallow stretch before Woodburn.

 

 

A peaceful spot in shallow water. We enjoyed a superb sunset followed by a very surprising summer river fog that made the first part of our cruise back to Ballina very slow in the dim light but a magical experience.

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other anchorages in Ballina

As well as our cruise on the Richmond River we also spent nights at anchor in Mobbs Bay, a sheltered anchorage behind a low small sand island behind the training walls. We also anchored in North Creek. We had to drop the mast to get under the bridge in North Creek and it is a shallow area but it is has pretty sand banks and is easy to navigate if you follow the leads. We enjoyed a couple of days swimming, kayaking and watching the dolphins and pelicans who shared the water with us. We can vouch for the good holding in North Creek as we had two huge storms come through on each night while there both blowing 30 knots on our wind indicator and we held fast. At least they were over by the time we went to bed otherwise it would have been a long time on anchor watch.

Ballina Town Public Jetty

 

*Navionics app:  https://www.navionics.com/usa/apps/navionics-boating

Pumicestone and Bribie

Pumicestone and Bribie

After our adventures on the Noosa River it was time for some relaxation time catching up with friends and getting re-acquainted with family I hadn’t seen in many years. We headed to beautiful Bribie Island and launched Tatui for a day cruise up Pumicestone Passage.

                                               

 

Bribie Island is all about relaxation and enjoying a few drinks. They have aluminium banana chairs and tables on the foreshore for your evening sunset drinks.

 

In the marina we spotted a floating bar in front of one owners boat. All set up to enjoy time with friends after a day on the water.

 

As you can see we are very relaxed!

 

 

 

 

 

Follow the sticks

Follow the sticks

Follow the sticks Bruce said, and he wasn’t kidding. After our detour out west we headed back to the coast. At long last Tatui got her bottom wet in the Noosa River. We knew very little about this waterway but with some advice from friends about following the sticks we headed up the Noosa River, hoping to make it to Harry’s Hut Campground in the Everglades. The Noosa Everglades is one of only two everglade systems in the world apparently, the other being in Florida. The Noosa Everglades system is 60km long comprising narrow waterways with numerous well-kept campsites along the way for the kayakers*. There are 2 tours boats that also go as far as Harry’s Hut and this is where we were headed for.

With the anticipation that we would have to drop our mast for parts of the trip, we had the gantry which lets us drop it slowly and easily already attached to the mast.

The first part of the trip was easy as we passed the urban river banks where the local paper is delivered to your private pontoon and the houseboats came in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

 

     

 

We then met our first high voltage power line across the river. To be on the safe side we dropped the mast while we motored under. Our next hazard was the car ferry. A shallow barge that moves via cables along the river floor to get a small number of cars from one side to the other. All we had to do was to wait until the flashing red light on top of the wheelhouse was off and we zipped over the cables, hoping they were lying well under us on the bottom of the river. Another high voltage power line came in to view not long afterwards so we dropped the mast again.

Image Credit: Noosa Northshore Ferries

 

Following this, we had a wide empty river to ourselves as we slowly idled up the river to the first lake in the river system. Lake Cooroibah.  There were port and starboard leads which were easy to follow to cross this shallow lake. Another stretch of quiet river and we arrived at Lake Cootharaba. To help us navigate this large lake, with an average depth of only 1.4m and warning signs that in some places it can be as low as 0.5m, we used our Navionics app**. This gave us a suggested track and compass bearings to follow as the port and starboard leads into the lake finished soon after we had entered.

We decided to call it a day after cruising up the river for the afternoon and anchored in the lake in 0.7m off the campground at Boreen Point. The next day we would head further upriver and into the everglade system. It was our approach at the end of Lake Cootharaba that we came across the sticks. These were our only navigation aids as we approached the narrow passage around Kinaba Island.

 

 

It was very hard to see if we would need to drop the mast if the trees in the narrow passage were too low for us to get through. We took a risk and were relieved to see the opening was wide and unobstructed above. Once in the passage to Fig Tree Lake we even had National Park signs to direct us in the river system.

However, our approach to Fig Tree Lake wasn’t as elegant as we would have liked. We mistakenly thought the large right-hand fork in the river would be the main entrance to Fig Tree Lake. At the last minute we realised our mistake and changed direction into a much narrow entrance. It had overhanging trees with only a narrow path through the tree branches. With the angle we had come at we could not quite make it through without collecting a few small branches and numerous leaves as we snagged our mast strouds on the way through.

Fig Tree Lake was tranquil as we joined only a few pelicans and a couple of kayakers. We had already met some of the pelicans at Boreen Point where we saw they have an unusual way of keeping an eye on you if you are behind them while they are resting.

 

 

There are no navigational aids in Fig Tree Lake. We surmised that it was unlikely the National Park Authority expected this part of the lake and the narrows leading up to Harry’s Hut to be explored by a 26 foot sailboat. We therefore slowly and cautiously picked our way across the lake to Fig Tree Point on the other side and into the narrows.

Warning: This is a good time to give a note of warning. Unless you are experienced at handling your Mac/Tattoo or other trailerable yacht, can quickly and easily drop your mast and are prepared to risk damage to your boat we would not recommend you travel any further than Fig Tree Pointing Camping Area. See link to map at the end of the post. We didn’t suffer damage on our trip from Fig Tree Point to Harry’s Hut but we could have.

The narrows were not that narrow to start with. The first part is very wide but it got narrower and narrower. The tree branches were starting to encroach above our heads so we decided to drop the mast. However, with the mast dropped it then sticks out 5m behind the boat. This is fine while you are going straight but a different story when you must negotiate tight turns in the narrows.

 

 

In addition, you need to be able to avoid paddlers in Canadian canoes coming from the other direction. With a strong tidal flow behind them and even though they had four in each canoe, they were having difficulty steering to one side to pass us. We also had difficulty keeping out of their way due to the potential to snag the mast on trees as we attempted to keep to starboard of the narrow waterway. On top of that we met not one, but both of the tour boats right in the middle of the narrows. There were some very surprised looks on the skippers and passengers. It would be virtually unheard of we imagined for them to meet a 26-foot yacht coming the other way in the narrows. It was only through Russell’s boat handling skills that he was able to balance speed with manoeuvrability and adjust where and when he could to avoid the tour boats and kayakers.

 

    

                 Image Credit: The Discovery Group                                                                                                            Image Credit: The Discovery Group

 

We made it through the narrows to Harry’s Hut surprisingly unscathed. Harry’s Hut is a historical hut with campground and toilet facilities. Unfortunately, we were unable to tie up to the public jetties as they were all underwater due to the recent heavy rainfall. Here, however, is a wide area of the river system and we were able to turn around easily. With further rain forecast, we decided to head back through the narrows. The way back was easier in some ways as we knew there wasn’t a problem with depth or trees but this time the tidal flow was with us and it was pushing us much faster down the river. Again, we needed Russ’s excellent boat handling skills to navigate the narrows but at least we knew we would not be meeting tour boats or kayakers this time.

After a full day navigating a narrow waterway it was a relief to come out at Fig Tree Point. It felt we had got back much quicker than going up the river. Here we stopped for a beautiful peaceful night with no one in sight with the water reflecting Tatui and the surrounding trees like a mirror on the lake. It is easy to understand now why the Noosa Everglades and river are known as the River of Mirrors.

 

 

*Noosa River Map: https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/cooloola/pdf/noosa-river-map.pdf

**Navionics app:  https://www.navionics.com/usa/apps/navionics-boating

 

When weight matters

When weight matters

2,220kg the scales read. Not good! We couldn’t think of a way to lose any weight so all we could do was to start the long process to fix the problem. We needed to act to allow us to carry more weight.

It was, therefore, a slow start to our trip. Our first stop had to be Airlie Beach 350kms from home. An important stop, not only to pick up the boat where we had left it with a friend since the end of August, but now we had to stay long enough for Russ to do some urgent work.

We follow a Facebook Blog of owners who have the same boat. A recent post told us that a boat owner had been fined $700 and 6 points by police because the kg limit of the boat trailer they were towing their boat on had been exceeded. We have the identical boat and trailer and the trailer was the one supplied and sold to us by the boat manufacturer. We were therefore very surprised when we took ours to a weigh station and it was also substantially overweight. We hadn’t even filled it yet with water or fuel or our clothes. It appears the trailer was only rated for the boat and engine without anything else added into the boat! As the manufacturers were in the USA and we didn’t want to start a lengthy dispute and delay our lap around OZ. Instead, we bit the bullet and bought an extra new axle, wheels and braking system. Thank goodness Russ has built quite a few boat trailers over the years and knew what to do. Even for Russ though it was quite a process with 3 steps forward and one step back.

Nearly 2 weeks, $3,000 and 57 hours in the workshop later the modifications have been completed. Russ had added nearly 50% towing capacity to the trailer. We could now add more wine, beer and I even sneaked in a few extra pairs of shoes.

We called the inspector to check the work. This led to an internal wrangle with the government transport department because the inspector was only registered to check much larger heavy-duty trailers not a light-trailer like ours. We, therefore, had to take the trailer a few days later to a different inspector. This time armed with 3 different forms Russ was able to get the trailer registration amended to reflect the modifications.

At last, we packed the boat and set off. We were now officially on our way around OZ!

 

Fun on the water and onshore

Fun on the water and onshore

As well as the racing on the water there are plenty of other events Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. We were invited to the Skippers and Owners party where we got to rub shoulders with the royal, famous and the beautiful.

https://www.facebook.com/raceweek/videos/1886551191371806/

The Prix d’Elegance is a competition for the Best Presented Yacht and Crew and the Best Fun-Themed Yacht and Crew. Won by: Misty Sea & Debonnaire.

 

Image Credit: Andrea Francolini – Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2017

Image Credit: Andrea Francolini – Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2017

At the end of the week we also attended the Presentation Dinner

   

Here are the highlights from Race Week. I’m sure we will be back sometime in the future.