After our eventful sail down the coast and making it safely into Pancake creek, many attempts at getting the anchor to hold and waking up in the middle of the night at low tide realising that the shallow water is around 5 metres off the stern. It is time not to reflect on these events, but discuss the next obstacle that laid ahead. 12nm South East was our destination. A nice gentle northerly breeze blowing, we would arrive in just a couple of hours of cruisy dreamy sailing. Getting to this destination I speak of was not the obstacle I previously mentioned however.
Our destination was a little seaside town called 1770. This picturesque little place was where old mate Captain Cook first landed on Australia soil all those years ago. The quite holiday town is positioned on a headland that heads out sea and overlooks a sheltered waterway called Roundhill creek. The creek is accessed via a notoriously shallow bar crossing, however once inside provides good holding and even at high tide the bar protects from any swell and wind that may be present. So here lies our obstacle.
After mentioning our plans of visiting 1770 on our Facebook page, the response of “be careful” from more than one source who know the area well, only made me more nervous as I had been reading about this crossing for months. Without the boost of confidence I was hoping to receive, I spent the entire couple of hours researching, reading and talking to people on the phone about this obstacle. Knowing we would have to enter at the end of the high tide, still utilising the inward flow of water, we arrived at the mouth of Roundhill and dropped the pick off to the side in the bay waiting for more water. High tide was forecasted at 8:30pm that evening, last light is around 6:15pm. With nothing else to do but hurry up and wait, that is what we did. Wait.
The wind was on the rise and predicted to be 15knots from the north through out the night and the following day. As the bay is directly open to the northerly winds, the anchorage became very uncomfortable very quickly. Rocking and rolling, we sat there patiently waiting for the tide to rise. The more and more we rocked I decided that this was where we were going to stay for the night. The idea of crossing the bar for the first time, in a fading light, with the tide still not as high as I wanted, did not appeal to me at all. I would rather bob around and get 2 hours sleep for the night than do a whoopsy.
Now being able to semi relax as the choice was made to stay, I sat in the cockpit, sipping my ale and studying all the approaching vessels going through the channel. All the boats were run about fishing boats, with shallow draphts, nothing that would run a ground. But watching these vessels entering the creek gave me a decent idea of the path to take. Then with an hour of light left, another sailing cruiser approached the entrance. This was time to study. Obviously a local as there was no communication between such vessel and VMR (Volunteer Marine Rescue, kind of like the coast guard. Set up to advise and help boaters) that they were attempting the crossing.
Climbing up to the first spreader for a more birds eye view, I sat with anticipation in discovering how to tackle this bar. Unfortunately, I learned from old mate how ‘not to’ cross the bar. This poor fella had misjudged the channel marker and from where I sat, looked as if he was inside of the port marker. This being shallower water and yep, he had run aground. The keel obviously buried in the sand good, the vessel spun side on to the wind and the waves. Leaning over on the keel, at one stage the vessel was on a 60-70 degree lean. Watching on in disbelief, I thought that he was going over. The wind swell pounding onto his beam, the vessel spun back and forth and righted her self. As the sun disappeared his navigation lights turned on and was still stuck as the darkness took over.
Next morning the vessel was gone and must have floated out of his predicament with the high tide. The wind had backed off and was now a calm sunny morning. With the high tide at 9:15am, we pulled the anchor and motored to the entrance waiting for 9am to begin our attempt. Witnessing what not to do, I begun the approach.
Passing the first starboard buoy the water remained around the 5 metre mark and I continued on happily. Heading towards the next port mark I decided to hug the outer bar as this was where all the fishing vessels were flying through without a care in the world. The depth jumped to only 3m and all the alarms begun to highten my senses. Giving the next port mark a widish berth, a small tinny who was entering behind came up to our starboard side and advised to hang even wider. Good knowledge to know for future crossings. After rounding the port mark, there is a deep channel the rest of the way in. Safe and sound we anchored up in deep water. A sand bar on one side of Nandji, for Marley to run around and go nuts on. The town pub directly opposite the other. Couldn’t have planned it better if we tried.
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