Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Wide Bay Bar - shifting sands

There are few spots on Australia's east coast that cause as much angst as the Wide Bay Bar, a pass between the Queensland coast and Fraser Island. 

It is managed by Maritime Safety Queensland and the Tin Can Bay Coast Guard, who offer advice about its safety and give yachties waypoints to help them stay in deep water, often between curling breakers on either side of the passage. There are also two leading lights; one on Hook Point on Fraser Island that guides vessels west, and the other on Inskip Point on the mainland.

I asked the Tin Can Bay Coastguard what the current waypoints are. He sent me this SMS. (19th Nov 2016)

Wpt 1 lat. 25 47.45 south.    long. 153  08.4 East. Brg to Hook Pt light 277.5 True. 

Wpt 2  lat. 25 47. 22 south,  long. 153  06.33 East, Brg to Inskip Pt leads 238 true.       
Please refer to NTM 101 T 2016 for further information.   The south bank sand bar is creeping across the centre line of the bearing to the hook point light, vessels should err to the north of the centre line by 100 to 150m of the inbound/out bound track to clear this position.

It turns out that the waypoints are the same as they were a year ago, in November 2015.

But the NTM (Notice to Mariners) is very interesting. Download it here.

It includes this chart of a survey done in March 2016.

The dark blue patches are the shallow spots.

If you follow the waypoints that are currently being given out, or if you follow the leading light on Hook Point, you will cross a shallow patch of 3 metres, which, if any sort of swell is running, may well crash your keel violently into the sand.

The authorities cover this by telling us to read NTM 101 (T) 2016, and "err to the north of the centre line by 100 to 150m".

The Hook Point light is set in foundations, and not easy to move. In its present position, it is leading vessels into danger, especially if their skipper has not studied the fine print in the NTM. Maybe the light should be switched off until it can be moved.

But the waypoints might easily be changed to guide vessels down a safe line. It seems strange to me that old waypoints are still being recommended.

I had a look at the chart from the March 2016 survey and tentatively suggest that better waypoints might be as follows:

WP1 25°48'.000S, 153°08'.400E
WP2 25°47'.000S 153°06'.750E

I suggest that you ignore the Hook Point light. Use these waypoints at your own risk.

PS. We crossed the Wide Bay Bar today, going out, using the green waypoints. We left at 8 am, two hours after low water, in a 15 knot easterly. We passed some breaking water on our starboard side, but went through none ourselves. I am pretty sure that we would have gone through breaking water if we had been following the official waypoints or Hook Point light, even if we had been 150 metres north of that line.

Until further notice, I suggest the green waypoints be used.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Chesterfield Reef and Cato Island

We have heard good reports about the Chesterfields, a collection of reefs west of New Caledonia. We were ready to leave Luganville on Monday November 7th, and the weather looked good for a dash to a stop on the reefs.

We got approval from the French officials. It wasn't easy to find who to ask. This address worked.

Service de la pêche et de l'environnement marin
Direction des affaires maritimes
Tél:  24.24.92

We sailed more or less in convoy with friends on 'Entice', a 43' cat, arriving on Friday 11th. Sailing with another boat makes it possible to take photos of each other.

Nimrod enjoying a kite run near Chesterfield Reef

Chesterfield Reef is a stunning place, miles from both NewCal and Australia. A few sandy cays, and millions of birds.

Brown booby

Brown booby

Hermit crab

Masked boobies

Masked boobies

Awkward teenaged booby

White-capped noddy with chick

Young Great Frigatebird

Karen from 'Entice', with George

Sundowner on Chesterfield Reef

We had a weather window for the trip between the Chesterfields and Bundaberg, broken by a front coming through. We managed to email a friend who had waypoints to anchor at a small Australian island called Cato, to wait out the front. It was a bit dodgy, but we pulled it off, anchoring at 2 am under a full moon.

More amazing bird life.

Immature brown booby

Red-footed boobies

As a result of pausing at Cato Island, we got a fair wind the next day from the South-east. After a struggle to raise the anchor, which got caught by some coral, we made a fast passage to Bundaberg, averaging 7.5 knots over 26 hours.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Imaginary Island

You wouldn't think that, in 2016, with planes and satellites, that there could be any uncertainty left about the existence of significant land masses on Earth.

Yet there are.

Look at this image from Google Earth Pro, with national boundaries turned on.

As you can see, it has a yellow line around it, just as NewCal does.

Navionics is also into it.

They describe it as 'Presumed Position of Sandy Island'. And it is right in our way. So it seemed like an opportunity to discover a new island and conquer it. Call it Nimrod Island. Civilize natives, etc.

Or possibly prove it doesn't really exist.

So we set a cursor just before we were due to hit it, so we could pay special attention to the depth meter, and be careful.

This is what happened, as shown on our chartplotter.

No sign of anything. We crossed the area as shown above. Deep water everywhere.

A search on the net turns up several articles about the 'non-existent' island.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Big nambas, smol nambas

Around any barbecue, going back in time to cannibal feasts, blokes have tended to polarize into one side or another of a bipolar issue. Holden vs Ford, Mac vs Windows, Nikon vs Canon, league vs AFL, etc and bloody etc.

In Malakula, (sounds like molecular) which is a large island south of Santo, there are two tribes; the Big Nambas and the Smol Nambas.

A namba is a penis sheath.

An uninitiated cynic might think that this was a contest of member size. 

But no. It is not member size that is the differentiating feature, but the width of the belt of the namba. Big nambas have wide belts. Smol (small) nambas have narrow belts.

We sailed south from Luganville to Wala Island on the east coast of Malakula. We had a number of interesting experiences there, including a visit to a Smol Nambas display of dancing and other kastom activities.

They were essentially trying to leverage some preservation of their traditions from tourist money. It was good to see the kids and young people being drawn into the process.

George talking to a local on Wala Island

The happy beneficiary of some of the reading glasses we distributed.

Tamtam split drums on a ceremony ground on Wala Island.

Outrigger canoes on Malakula Island

Smol Nambas men and boys

With a couple of ring-ins! 

Smol Nambas women and girls.