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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The Great Sandy Strait

Day after day the wind at Lady Musgrave blew stubbornly from the south, the very direction we wanted to proceed. From previous blogs, it can be seen that we can tack directly toward the wind ... but we don't enjoy the experience!

Finally after eight stationary days, the wind backed toward the east enough to allow an easy sail southward.  Off we went in late afternoon for the overnight sail to the Great Sandy Strait.

In previous travels in this area, we passed both south and north in the deep waters to the outside of Fraser Island, whose seventy nautical mile length rates it the largest sand island in the world.  On this voyage, we decided to travel behind Fraser Island both for the new scenery and to avail ourselves of our first smooth water since leaving Victoria Inner Harbour.

At high tide
Our passage started out with much shortened canvas and a boisterous sail south as close to the wind as we could manage.  By midnight, off the city of Bundaberg, the wind became lighter and then disappeared.  The waves and lively motion in turn made their exit as we motored the last miles toward the Strait in the early hours of dawn.

The Strait has not disappointed.  There are no waves at all that can be felt aboard Traversay III, either at anchor or underway.  This pleasantness does come with a price though.  The water is so shallow that we can only travel at half-tide or higher.  In addition, the vast areas of open water belie the reality that only thin channels of it are ever deep enough for navigation in a boat such as ours.  With the tricky navigation, we feel we cannot travel at night and must travel on a rising tide so that, if we do stray off the path and run aground, we can get away again.  Thus only a few hours a day are available for travel.  Enroute, we saw as little as 20 centimeters [8 inches] of water below our keel and here in our overnight anchorage, we expect the depth to be not much more than that.

At low tide
In a couple of days, we will head out into the ocean where the shallow water presents a different challenge: The ocean waves, on reaching the shallow waters of the Strait entrance break with some fury unless conditions are just right.  This creates yet more time constraints.  To allow us to leave, the tide must be fairly high and flooding [flowing inward] to reduce the propensity of the waves to break - an issue we will face at many Australian river ports with shallow entrances fronting directly onto the ocean.

But for now, all is peaceful ... and we have internet again!

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