Flood! Storm! Lightning!

The [Mary] river level may exceed the major flood level from Sunday morning. Further river level rises above the Major flood level are possible.

Queensland Flood Warning Number: 14

HEAVY RAINFALL which may lead to flash flooding is forecast. INTENSE RAINFALL leading to dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding. DAMAGING WIND GUSTS with peak gusts in excess of 90 km/h .

Queensland Severe Weather Warning 1

Mary River … will move to RED ALERT from 2200 hrs

Marine Rescue Hervey Bay

Australian weather is a bit like Australian Fauna. You get the impression it wants to kill you.

Day 1:

On a buoy in Maryborough surrounded by the damage from the floods six weeks ago. The marina owner warned us we should move down river as a minor flood was forecast. By the time we left the warning had been updated to a moderate flood.

A tree heading downstream on the Mary River

Sailed downriver. Following a “local” as we guessed he knew the best route. The local crashed in to a sandbank that was not charted. A second local boat crashed next to him. We went round the bank and turned the corner. We were immediately hit by one of the “damaging wind gusts” and could make no progress against wind and waves. Turned round and anchored.

Day 2:

Rain, rain and more rain

Woke to find trees passing us in the flood water. The warning had been updated to a major flood. Lifted anchor and passed another uncharted sandbank which five local boats had hit the previous day. Navigated very gingerly to the river mouth and then out in to the Great Sandy Strait.

Only three miles from the safety of Fraser Island we were lashed by a storm which drove us backwards. Hemmed in between sandbanks we could only turn back towards the mainland.

The wind meter went crazy with the static charge of an electrical storm. We are pretty sure we did not really have 99 knots of wind. A lightning strike next to the boat destroyed the electronics leaving us with no wind speed or depth meter. It also electrocuted Heidi who was below decks. Luckily she recovered – unlike the electronics.

Against the outflow of the Mary River we could barely make one knot despite the storm from behind. The sea was “crazy” with the boat turning in all directions. We made it back past the river mouth and – guided by the marine rescue – found an anchorage in the Susan River for the night.

Day 3:

The river was running strong all night. The marine rescue and the Queensland government suggested it was not the place to be as the River moved to “Red Alert” so we sailed through the drizzle to hide behind Fraser Island and weather the “strong winds” forecast for the next three days. Luckily we have a handheld depth meter to find the anchor spot.

Sailing! Never boring.

Up the Mary River

From Fraser Island, we crossed back to mainland Australia and followed the Mary River up to the town of Maryborough. After four years of oceans, it is a nice change to be sailing along a river with farmland on each side of us. The river flooded massively last month and we could still see the flood debris high in the trees.

The Mary River

Off Maryborough we anchored below Lookout Point for the night. The next day we moved up to the marina and took one of their buoys so that we could go off biking without worrying about the boat dragging when the tide changes and the boat swings.

Anchored below Lookout Point

We assembled the bikes and then used them for a short exploration of the town. To start we cycled through the suburbs to look at the typical Queensland houses with their raised verandas. Then in to the “town center” to look at the (for Australia) old houses including the post office that dates back to 1865 making it the oldest standing post office in Australia. Queens Park contains a moving war memorial that describes the futility of Australian and New Zealand involvement in the First World War.

ANZAC officer, Mary Poppins, Post Office

Mary Poppins was written in Maryborough and we found a statue of her and also enjoyed the Mary Poppins traffic lights that are installed at the city’s intersections.

On the second day, we were out early to beat the forecast rain. It had been raining all night so we found a few minor floods to cross but managed to return and have the bikes packed away before the clouds opened and drenched the whole county.

Our routes are both at Alltrails:
day 1
day 2

Lake McKenzie – a long walk

We are anchored off Kingfisher Bay behind K’Gari (Fraser Island). Inland there is an immaculately clean, see through lake with the finest sand and water that reflects the blue sky. Surprisingly, this being Australia, there is absolutely nothing in the lake that is trying to kill or eat you. We had to visit.

There are tours offered for $200 per person. Another alternative is to hire a 4×4 car for a day for “only” $250 per person. We considered the mountain bikes but that is forbidden on the walking trails. So we decided to walk, see more of the island and save $500.

abandoned jetty, 4×4 track, dingo fence, walking trail

We left the dinghy on the beach, passed out of the electrified dingo fence and walked along the cliffs to the site of an old sawmill and loggers jetty. Once there, we turned inland and headed into the forest. The walk to the lake was 15 kilometers and we met not a single other person on the walking trail. Just the two of us alone in the untouched rain forest was a beautiful experience.

Lake McKenzie was as stunning as we had read. The sand is as fine as dust, the water is totally transparent and the temperature perfect. After 15 kilometers of walking across sand it was a dream to dip in to the lake. When we arrived there were quite a few people but they mostly left on their bus a short time later. The lake is pure, clear rainwater and absolutely stunning.

We walked back up to the car park and ate our picnic inside a fenced in area. It is illegal to have food outside these compounds because of the danger of attracting dingos who are the apex-predators on the island. I think we saw nearly a hundred signs saying “Be dingo safe – keep hold of your children!”

The walk home was via a different path but just as beautiful. The last part was on the sand road so we had to avoid the (partly incompetent) 4×4 drivers but it was an enjoyable walk. After a total of 25 kilometers we reached the coast and the Sand Bar. We treated ourselves to a hamburger, drinks and a swim in their swimming pool. A perfect end to a fantastic day.

Our route is at AllTrails.

Behind Fraser Island (K’Gari)

Having crossed the Wide Bay Bar (and giving my muscles time to recover from the battering) we set off north through the Great Sandy Strait between Australia and Fraser Island (K’Gari in the local language). It is full moon at the moment so we have tides of four meters and currents of two knots or more so sailing takes a little planning.

Artemis passing a boat who doesn’t enjoy sailing

As the earth turns below the moon (and the sun) it causes the oceans to be deformed and the result are tides. Often a sand bar is just under water or even showing but six hours later it can have four meters of water covering it. Obviously the water doesn’t just appear and disappear – it has to flow to the sandbank and away again. This causes tidal currents which flow six hours one way and then turn to flow back. We can use these tides and currents to cross shallow areas and gain speed when running with the tide. It takes some planning but it is fun.

Off the main channel there is a bend called Garry’s anchorage. We used the current to head north and slipped past the sand bar near high tide. Out in the Pacific another storm was raging but we were sheltered behind the huge bulk of Fraser Island. We took the dinghy to shore for a walk through the rainforest to Garry’s Lake. Our first dingo was spotted on the beach and I nearly stood on a long green and brown snake who was hiding in the grass. Luckily there were no crocodiles to be seen but the warning signs have put us off swimming.

The north end of the anchorage was charted with 0.4 meters so we took the dinghy and a bamboo pole to check the reality. It was good that we did as one of the lateral buoys was wrong and would have guided us on to the sand. Armed with our “local knowledge” we crossed the bar at high tide with sixty centimeters to spare below Artemis and turned once again North.

Wide Bay Bar – “interesting!”

Another overnight sail had us just off the Wide Bay Bar, south of Fraser Island, at dawn. We had read all the pilot books, received advice and routes from the coast guard and checked the charts. The bar has a bad reputation.

Warning – Wide Bay Bar is dangerous and should not be crossed except with local knowledge.  Conditions on the bar can vary rapidly with changes in tide height and direction, ocean swell and prevailing winds.    Extreme caution should be exercised when crossing the bar in the afternoon, especially from seaward when the sun may make the leading lights difficult to see.    Ebb tide combined with a south east swell or sea may cause significant waves to form on the bar and break on the adjacent banks.


The wind was “only” 15 knots from the south-east and the swell was under two meters so we turned in towards the bay. The situation quickly got “exciting” with waves picking us up and throwing us around. At least once the propeller was out of the water and once a lump of ocean was dumped in the cockpit. Heidi was navigating and Neill trying to hold the course through the rodeo ride. It took us nearly an hour to cross the mile of shallow water before things finally calmed down.

Someone else crossing the bar. We did not have time for any photos. (Photo: Royal Qld Yacht Squadron Clubrooms)

Heidi described the crossing as interesting when talking to the coastguard. (She is working on her British understatement.) The coastguard laughed and told her “well you will know what to expect next time.”

And then you read about people who cross in 5-6 meters of swell and have to be rescued. No wonder!

Shiny Red Mustang

We finally left Moreton Bay and ventured back out into the Pacific Ocean for the first time since we entered quarantine in the middle of November. The wind was either against us or non-existent but we managed to reach Mooloolaba in time to cross the river bar at high tide. We then sailed up the Mooloola River, amazed at the huge fishing fleet to the right and homes of the rich on the left. Despite the river being strewn with anchored boats, we found a spot and dropped anchor.

Next we launched the dinghy to visit Estelle, a lovely lady to whom we had been recommended by her son. She was between appointments but found time for a quick drink and a talk. We agreed to meet the next morning when she had a few hours between two engagements.

One doesn’t discuss a lady’s age so it is enough to mention that Estelle’s son is as old as Heidi. BUT that doesn’t stop her driving a shiny red Ford Mustang convertible and neither does it stop her beating EVERY other car at EVERY traffic light while smiling sweetly. The car is responsive and the driver experienced so the highway and the curvy mountain roads were quickly behind us and we reached the Kondalilla National Park. Estelle pointed us in the correct direction and we walked through the virgin forest to the Kondalilla Falls.

The forest was shady, the view was expansive and the waterfall was impressive. Just another slice of amazing Australia.

Back at the car we headed for a cafe and then Estelle showed us another way home with stunning views across the countryside and the ocean. She dropped us off back at the dinghy before speeding off to her next “date”.

In 25 years, I want to be like Estelle!

Biking the Redlands

In my last blog, I mentioned that we cycled the soft sand of North Stradbroke Islands. If you are interested you can see our route at Alltrails.

Back on the mainland we set out to explore the mountain bike parks that the Redlands Council have built near town. The first day we “got back in to practice” in the relatively flat Redlands Track Park. The park only has an area of about four square kilometres but contains 25 kilometers of trails.

As you can see in the above map we managed a lot of trailing. Our route in detail is at Alltrails. The vegetation is everything from Eucalyptus forest to a deep, bracken filled creek. It is a real challenge trying to make the turns, avoid trees, jump fallen trunks and enjoy the view.

The next day we were back on the bikes and heading inland to the “more serious” Eastern Escarpment Conservation Area. Here there are 29 kilometres of tracks and they are nearly all marked as intermediate rather than easy. They are definitely steeper, on the side of Mount Cotton. We cycled all the way through the park to the viewing platform near the summit and then all the way back down again. Eleven kilometers to get to the park, thirteen kilometers of trails and then eleven back to the boat! Route is at Alltrails. We did this trail on a Saturday and therefore we were not alone. We definitely raised the average age in the park which, without us, would have been about twenty.

A month in Moreton Bay

Australia has a land area of 7,617,930 square kilometres. Moreton Bay has an area of 1,523 square kilometres. I know people who have “seen” the whole of Australia in a month – Sydney Opera House, the Gold Coast, Ayers Rock, alligators and then fly home. We have spent over a month just enjoying Moreton Bay. At this rate we will be finished with Australia in about 400 years which is a problem, as we only have a two year visa.

We spent Christmas anchored off Tangalooma enjoying the snorkelling and the antics of the weekend boaters. From there we sailed to St. Helena Island and saw the ruined prison where Queensland kept their worst prisoners. Just off East Australia the cyclone Seth was raging and we hid behind the island over New Year as the wind raged across the Bay.

On our second attempt we managed to reach the anchorage at Raby Bay and restock our larder. We also met Sue & Chris who kindly invited us to use their private pontoon. They also took us to the hardware store, allowed us to have our motor serviced on the pontoon, fed us and let us use their swimming pool and shower. Amazing!

With a full boat we crossed the Bay and visited North Stradbroke Island. This island used to have Queensland’s asylum on it and there is a fantastic museum that explains the story of the inmates and aborigine laborers. Another island where the “outcasts” were sent from the mainland. Stradbroke is one of the biggest sand islands in the world and a great mountain biking “challenge”. We cycled 35 kilometre and 18 of them were on un-tracked sand. The scenery was impressive and we met our first kangaroos but we definitely earned the burger that we bought at the end of the tour.

South Stradbroke Island is a bit “run down” with the only exception being the immaculate annex of the Southport Yacht Club. It is strictly Members Only so normally closed to riff-raff like us. Luckily Susie & Nick are members of the Ocean Cruising Club and Southport Yacht Club and were kind enough to serve evening drinks on their boat “Watermusic II”, take us for a walk along the beach and then prepare a breakfast BBQ in the club grounds. Thank you!

We continued south to the Coomera River to collect our water maker from the workshop. On the way we managed to ground twice. Luckily the tide was rising and the ground was sand so we did no damage and just lost a little time. Later we passed a huge house that would have had a fantastic view if the owner had not parked his even bigger boat on his pontoon.

We visited Russell Island which was definitely less than impressive. Friendly people living in an estate cut off from the mainland except by ferry. Coochiemudlo Island was more of the same but with a golf course.

Back in Raby Bay we once again docked at Sue & Chris’s pontoon for a night. More amazing hospitality even though they were setting off for the 13 hour drive to Canberra the next day. The next day we were blown off course in the narrow canal and took refuge on Scott & Katie’s pontoon. That evening Scott brought us apple pie and in the morning, coffee and breakfast. They were off for the weekend so told us to make ourselves at home and stay a few days.

The Laming family took over the hospitality for the weekend. Andrew showed us the Redlands, explained the history and treated us to a great Italian meal. The next day we were invited to their house for dinner and then we all went out for a sail. Lunch at a restaurant, dinner at their house, a bed for the night and breakfast before a motor boat ride from their house back to the boat. I am tired just thinking about the weekend.

Only another 7,616,407 square kilometres to go.

Digital paradise

Australia got off to a good start. We applied for our visas completely online. We supplied all the supporting documentation as PDF files and finally received an email saying we were good to visit. No paper; no post; no signatures and no stamp in our passports.

When we arrived the border force came onboard and asked for various documents which we sent them by email. In return they set up a a cruising permit in their system and sent us a copy as an email attachment. Once again no trees died. The police scanned our passports and their screen showed a green tick. We were all cleared in without lifting a pen.

We sent scans of our french vaccination certificates to a medical center and they converted them to Australian digital certificates. Online we created an Australian health record and then our certificates were linked to our records. A few days later we received our booster jab and that appeared online the next day. We downloaded the Queensland covid App, linked it to our health number and immediately it showed a big green tick which allows us to go anywhere as “certified vaccinated”. And we still don’t have any paper. A few times we have rung the border force who answer the phone straight away, ask for our passport number or boat name and straight away know everything. They let us make our position reports by phone or email.

The supermarkets, who have upped the contactless payment limit to $200, also offer online shopping and free delivery for big orders. The two biggest chains offer self service checkouts which we sort of understand after three tries. We are getting there.

off an uninhabited island

Our €16/month phone contracts include more data than we can use and unlimited calls to 15 countries including Germany. And, until now we have had a 4G connection everywhere except the remotest island. We still had Internet but “only” 3G – at the far end of nowhere.

We visited a cafe where we scanned a bar-code on the table, the menu appeared on the screen and we ordered direct from the phone. Online shopping “just works”. We downloaded the Uber App, linked it to a credit card and enjoyed a trip back from Aldi in an immaculately clean car driven by a friendly driver. The App told us exactly what it would cost before we ordered and exactly how many minutes it would be until the car arrived.

It is going to take a lot of getting used to when we visit the “data-protection” paradise in Germany. The thought of dealing with health insurance companies and tax offices who think a fax machine is suspiciously modern is enough to cause nightmares.