Bar Decision

No, we weren’t trying to figure out where to have drinks this time. We had a more challenging passage decision instead. We left yesterday from Brisbane to sail north and position ourselves to cross to the Sandy Straights near Fraser Island in Australia. In order to get there, we would need to cross the infamous Wide Bay Bar (sand bar) which has claimed many boats due to the very dynamic conditions of the waters over this shallow and narrow passage. We crossed this same bar on the way south last November, and had no issue. We left Brisbane in the afternoon for an overnight passage toward Fraser Island (about 90 miles). The high tide at the bar was to be a couple of hours after daylight. The best time to cross the bar is with east or southeast winds (we had southeast), seas as flat as possible, and with the tide going in and just before high tide so there is the maximum depth possible.

We had called before we left Brisbane and got a coast guard report on the conditions at the bar. Several boats had made it across that day, the conditions were good. The weather forecast were for the same or slightly better conditions today.

We had a pleasant sail during the night, and we were a bit ahead of schedule. We pulled into an anchorage at Double Island Point – only 7 miles south of the bar. We got up and called the coast guard first thing. We found out we were going to be just a few minutes past the high tide because our tide tables were off. But, the worse news was that a coast guard boat had just checked the conditions and saw 3-4 meter swells and very “confused” conditions on the bar. That did not sound good.

We went ahead and made our way to the first waypoint to have a look. There was a sizeable 3m+ swell we could see as we made our way. Once we got to the first waypoint, we could see some breaking waves over areas of the bar. But, we decided to start to the second waypoint while the water was still deep just to have a better look. We could soon see breaking waves over the bar at the pass.

Our choice was to go for it, and risk our boat and lives, or go an extra 40 miles around Fraser Island to Bundaberg. We had already made the decision to go an extra several thousand miles around South Africa instead of the Red Sea, so this decision was actually pretty easy. We are now sailing around Fraser Island.

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