The River Heads pier was awash with a flurry of red and white canvas. The sails were rustling in the land breeze, as it piped in the morning. Our small boats tugged eagerly at their mooring lines, like three enthusiastic Labradors, in anticipation of being released onto the Great Sandy Strait.
After several weeks of frustrating delays caused by unfavorable weather, we were at last setting sail for Fraser Island, a five nautical mile sail across the Great Sandy Strait from Hervey Bay. Our destination was the derelict Mackenzie jetty, a site with links to WWII z-special forces, Commando training camp and a logging enterprise dating back to the 1870’s.
Peter was first to depart in his 70’s Mirror dinghy “Black Pearl”, followed by Lief in his 1960’s boat in the same class. He has restored her to working order, but she still displays enough of the dings and dents that show her age. She leaks a bit, but not as much as our previous trip, which had required a very attentive skipper to hold one hand on the tiller, and the other on the bailing scoop for a good part of the journey.
I was sailing with my wife Denise in Moonlight, our twelve foot, Huon Pine, Gunter Rigged clinker dinghy.
As the land breeze from the West faded, motor sailing became the order of the day. We rapidly gained ground on our companions even at that speed.
The Great Sandy Strait transformed into a sheet of glass. Our crossing of five nautical miles would take about an hour. Maybe an hour and a half at most with motor assist. A perfect time to test out my new galley box while waiting for my companions to catch up. The galley box is a prototype where I can store everything required to prepare and consume meals. The lid folds out, offering an extended preparation area.
The Great Sandy Strait is a popular cruising ground for large cruisers and sailing vessels of all kinds. Some distance away, a large vessel had passed by unnoticed. His wake had now reached us, causing Moonlight to pitch and roll unexpectedly. The stove toppled, causing a burn to my right foot. I slung my leg over the starboard gunwale to cool it down and relieve the pain.
When we arrived back home, my doctor used Melolin non-stick pads, Flamazine and a crepe bandage to dress the injury. You also need some good quality paper tape. I won’t go anywhere without them from now on. I’m also researching a better type of stove, more suitable for small boats.
One third of the way across the strait, an extensive coral shelf extends South from Great Woody Island. It creates a dogleg in the track from West to East. I was navigating by sight, and struggled for a while to locate the channel which is not well marked. Here and there peaks in the coral rose up towards us, threatening to tear our hull to shreds. We needed to keep a very sharp lookout.
A vehicular ferry carrying tourists to Kingfisher Bay Resort passed to the South of us, showing us the way through, so we were able to correct our course, backtracking to avoid the shallows.
Denise and I built Moonlight in Tasmania in 1980. She is a clinker construction, using Huon Pine, a precious and highly sought after boat building timber. Moonlight is a heavy boat for her size, and on this occasion she was heavily laden with camping gear. We used to travel with far less in our youth, but nowadays, the camp chairs, the table and the mattress are mandatory items. Especially the mattress.
Moonlight carries a gunter rig. The Gunter is somewhere between a Gaff and a Masthead. Unlike the gaffers, her sail has 3 sides. The top yard projects as a vertical extension of the mast.
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