Sheridan Flat – Garry’s Anchorage (25*37'72 S / 152*58'42 E)
The weatherman tells us that the weather is not looking too good, it is predicted to worsen, winds to the S – SE picking up to 20 – 25 knots. It was time to find better shelter for Alana Rose. JJ and I up anchor and leave Kingfisher Bay to sail south for Garry’s Anchorage, passing through the Sheridan Flats water-world.
Stewart, Dream, Moon Boon and Turkey Islands, are a patchwork of mangroves and are part of the huge wetlands complex of Boonlye Point or as most locals know this area as Sheridan Flats. At low tide this whole area dries out to exposed mud flats except for some small extremely shallow gutters of water and a shallow narrow path for the main channel to flow. Boats cannot transverse Sheridan Flat on a low tide and will usually time their crossing to coincide with a better tide.
Tides in the Great Sandy Straits flood from both ends, their streams meeting in the vicinity of Boonlye Point; to be more exact it meets a little further north, off the southern end of Turkey Island which seems to be the shallowest part of the channel. During a rising or falling tide this whole area becomes a place of slack water and variable eddies.
To get to Garry’s Anchorage JJ and I need to get through Sheridan Flats. I’m not that ratty with nerves anymore but I am still on high alert.
JJ and I get our weather information from the thrice daily report that the Coast Guard Sandy Straits put out on the VHF radio system. Our tide information I calculate with the aid of a Tide Tables book and the Coast Guard’s Sheridan Flats report on the VHF. We set sail full of excitement and adventure; the wind is there but not enough to fill the sails. It must be the calm before the change. Alana Rose motors on with not only the challenge of the shallow through Sheridan Flats but the shallow northern entrance to Garry’s Anchorage; the tide is with us.
Garry’s Anchorage or Garry’s Camp, was named after Garry Owens, an Aboriginal tracker. It is a channel between Fraser Islands and Stewart Island which is also the site where thousands of gallons of fresh water empty into the Sandy Straits every day; Garry’s Anchorage about 14n/m north of the Wide Bay Bar. The channel is very popular as it gives all-round protection and an anchorage can be found anywhere along its length depending on the tide and a boats draft. The most popular anchorage is just inside the southern entrance to the channel, close to the Fraser Island sand shore. This is where national park authorities have set up a picnic shelter. Ashore there is also a sandy service track which is good to use for bush walking and it sometimes used by trail bikes on the island. Garry’s Anchorage is a very popular fishing and crabbing spot. Not that we would know; JJ and I still have got the right fishing gear. During the warmer weather this area has a reputation for sand flies, as with most places throughout the Great Sandy Straits. The name “Sandy” gives you a subtle hint.
Garry’s Anchorage is one of our favourite spots, even though I need to bath myself in insect repellent twice per day, just in case; I have an allergy to sand flies. Once bitten the bites fester up they get infected and ugly; not a pretty site and worse for wear, but I am will to endure the discomfort that may happen just to stay in this water wonderland.
Alana Rose is not the only boat to have come into Garry’s for protection from the weather. There are four or five other boats already anchored, motor and sail; some here for the protection and others purely for the fishing spot. Mid afternoon another house boat comes in the southern entrance and drops anchor between Alana Rose and another yacht. Someone (some old buggar on one of the other yachts) blurts over the VHF radio that the house boat is anchored too close to a couple of boats and may hit when they all swing with the change of the tide. Different boats swing in different ways. The house boat has a young couple on board, how embarrassing for them. JJ talks to the girl from our bow and suggests that they might be a little close and it might be a better idea to put more chain out or move closer to the shore. Which this is what the young couple do, up anchor and move closer in. The couple settle in and then go off in their dingy to set their crab pots.
The tide is on the turn, just about at the bottom of the tide and we begin the swing. The wind is blowing in from the south 20knots and this is pushing against the tide change. Alana Rose gets half way round, settles for a moment then gets pushed further around by the wind and now the tidal change picks up on the swing again and we are doing three-sixties. It is not until the tide is totally rushing in that it overtakes the strength of the wind and then we are face towards the south entrance. The wind does change again later in the evening to the NE still at 20knots with choppy waters and some swinging but no more three-sixties.
As the day start to wind down and the weather is coming in there more boats heading in the south entrance; mostly sailing yachts looking for a protected anchorage for the night. These yachts stay out closer to the entrance than the fishing type boats who dot all along the channel.
The next morning JJ and I up anchor and move further along the channel towards the north entrance, to see if there is a better anchorage with a bit more protection. Most of the good spots have already been taken by other boats. It is very shallow up the northern entrance and the tide must be lower than usual (three days after the New Moon); Alana Rose kisses the bottom in one place. JJ is not happy with any of the places that we put the anchor down and the decision is made to return to where we were before anyone else comes in and take that spot. We are in luck! As JJ turns Alana Rose to head back we can see one of the yachts heading out; it had been anchored behind us. This gave us a new place to set the anchor, back a little and closer in with much more protection from the wind than before. By that evening the wind had settled but this is where Alana Rose stayed put for the next few of days.
JJ did his chores and went on with some of his projects, but no all the time. There is always time for sitting and relaxing. This I can do very well (am I getting lazy in my old age?). I do my chores too – laundry, galley and cleaning but I much prefer to sit and watch the scenery while I knit or read. This day it is over-case and drizzling with light rain; on sunny days sometimes the sun’s warm rays put me into a gentle snooze where I can still here the light lapping of the water on the hull, the whisper of the breeze in the trees and the soft cry of the birds in those trees or flying up high.
JJ struck up a friendly conversation with the man, Bob, from the catamaran, Kinta, an older Crowther, anchored behind Alana Rose, when he was passing by in his dingy fishing. Bob went back to Kinta to pick up his wife, Julia, and they both came on board Alana Rose for a chat and a sticky. Everyone likes to look over other people’s boat; we do.
Bob and Julia invited JJ and I over to Kinta for sundowners but the weather did not let up so our social outing had to wait till the next afternoon. Kinta may be an older catamaran but Bob and Julia have done a lot of renovation on her and she looks very impressive especially on the inside. Bob and Julia live on their boat, they have done the east coast a few times and are now building a house in Tin Can Bay and own a berth in the marina. They will always spend time on the water.
Sunday was to bring JJ and me some sad news that disturbed us both very much. Sometimes we have the radio tuned to one of the local station to catch up on the world outside. This morning the news reader was reporting on a yacht that had been missing off the coast of OZ; this yacht had been due in at least several days ago and not a word since that had contacted family over the Sat phone twelve days earlier. It was Bruce Glasson who we had first met in Raiatea, and his boat Blessed B. It had been reported that Blessed Be had hit a storm and was missing; there were search planes and helicopter being deployed.
I couldn’t believe my ears; I didn’t feel very well.
The mobile phone rang and it was the Search and Rescue people wanting all the information that JJ could think of in regard to what JJ knew about Bruce and his boat, equipment, structure, past storms they had been through and any other radio contact that they may have. It had been Charles, a previous crew member off Blessed B and a good friend of Bruce’s who had give our number to the Search and Rescue people. Charles is also the person who was required to identify any likely debris that had been picked out of the ocean. So far nothing was a match. Good news or bad news? I would hardly know which.
After the phone call JJ and I both just stood there on the spot looking at each other, dumbfounded, not able to move for several minutes. We had no way of getting in contact with Charles; I only had his email address, not his phone number. All we could do was keep our ears peeled to the news reports. I felt sick, sick, sick!
Monday 8th Tuesday 9th
It is time to move on, time to get the mind thinking of other things. Monday JJ and I up anchor and leave Garry’s for Kauri Creek. The water across the Straits is calm and flat as far as the eye can see; imprinted everywhere are the reflections of large white fluffy clouds mirrored in the water. Glorious day; the brilliant sunshine streamed across the glistening water with only the ripple of the boat’s wake making a disturbance to the calm. Here and there small whirl pools would form to reveal the stumpy head and the long neck of one of the numerous great turtles that inhabit this watery wonderland. More turtles than we have ever seen in the past visits.
The panic button starts to activate as we cross the sand bar into Kauri Creek and motor up the channel but this feeling does not last for very long. There is too much work to be done; set the anchor, roll out the cover and set up for the stay.
Kauri Creek is another peaceful location, once the regions first timber cutting site and the site of an early dugong boiling-down works. Now Kauri is a very popular place with houseboats and fishing boats. At the mouth of the creek there is a twelve year old oyster reserve and the entire south side houses the Wide Bay Military Reserve. Once over the sand bar the beginning of the creek has good depths for anchoring.
The houseboats come in and they all seem to anchor around Alana Rose. I mean, there are plenty of places to anchor why on top of us? Alana Rose was in first but it is JJ and I that are the ones that have to up anchor just so those stupid house boats do not get in the way of our swing. Really! I am not impressed and say a few choice words about this to JJ. JJ just reminds me that we were there once, “green” at the boating ways. Ahhh, I still consider myself as being “green”.
Sandflies and more sandflies! I cover myself in Bushman’s and Aeroguard but to no avail I still get loads of bites, they seem to have sneaked in through the tiny little places that I might have missed. The weather is warm, the breeze is light and I do like it here even with the sandflies. I watch the antics of all the small fishing boat, mostly dingies from the houseboats that continually pass by. These boats all seem to follow each other around in and out of the same spots; once one boat motors out another boat motors in. And so it goes on, a possession of dingies up and down the waterway, in and out of the little hidey-holes in the mangroves. Most of the dingy passengers are male, mates out on a fishing holiday but there are a couple of female partners out there and even entire families with loads of kids in tow. I suppose it make for an inexpensive way for the family to share time together.
Many moons ago my friend Yvonne, Aunty Gwen and I would spend hours during the holidays scrambling along the river bank with our children in tow. Days of innocent fun and great exercise for all.