So what to do next. We studied weather forecasts, in fact we constantly study weather forecasts, and decided to head off for Moreton Island. The wind seemed to be easterly and we thought we would have more shelter there. As we headed NE we gradually left the weather behind us and by the time we passed Tangaloona we had broken skies and gentler seas. No longer shipping it green we felt optimistic about reaching Mooloolaba 55 NM that afternoon. It was definitely the right decision. The seas calmed down to a rolling easterly swell, the sun came out and all seemed well with the world. Looking behind us, Moreton Bay was covered in rain clouds.

We enjoyed an uneventful trip to the entrance of Mooloolaba harbour. As we approached we heard from coast guard that they were dredging the entrance which had shoaled and to give the southern breakwater a wide clearance. Kayaks abounded, surfers were riding the waves alongside the south wall, fishing boats were coming in and out, but again Helios and her skipper managed all the chaos with aplomb. We headed up river to anchor as we hadn’t booked a marina berth and in the ‘Pond’ we found a space and dropped the hook. It didn’t feel right so I lifted it again and found a dirty old cray pot hanging off the anchor. Quick action and we got it off and tried again in a different place. Here was a buoyed cray pot, so to be on the safe side, I dragged it up onto the stern platform for the night, leaving the catch of two mud crabs in the water. No one came by to collect it and the next morning it was returned to its spot, away from our prop.

With a rather dreary weather forecast for later in the day, we finally got a berth in the Marina at the Mooloolaba yacht club. The day continued glorious, the bay a perfect crescent with perfect rolling waves. People everywhere were enjoying the beauty as the sun went down. Everyone here smiles and says ‘hello’ – there is a real feel good factor at work, not surprisingly as it is such a divine place. The day was completed with a dinner at a very local Japanese restaurant with the freshest of sashimi.

But perfection rarely continues for ever and the following afternoon the rain that had dogged Sydney, then the north coast, the rain we had been keeping ahead of, finally caught up with us. It rained and rained and the vibrant happy Mooloolaba became like any other rain soaked beach resort – dismal. John spent this time hosing out his bilges after the incident on our departure. I left him to it and spent my time having a well deserved massage and pedicure!

Now the issue is when can we cross Wide Bay bar? The tides are not favourable and the swell has been building. Coordinates are procured from Coastguard Tin Can Bay with advice to enter no earlier than 2 hours before high water. With that instruction, we are left with two equally unattractive possibilities. One is to leave at 2 am, so as to arrive at the right time for the tide, or two, go the day before and anchor at Double Island point for the night. The latter is described by Alan Lucas as offering little to no comfort in S/SE winds – which of course will be blowing. However, after lots of research by John and discussions with coastguard, we are heading off in the morning and anchoring for the night.

A seamless departure with a couple of neighbours seeing us off and no problem passing the dredge, we set off at 8.30am. The sea is not very pleasant and the wind is building and it is still raining off and on. However, the passage goes well and as we near Double Island point the wind abates. A mizzly rain produces a complete rainbow over the point and we come into a large bay bordered by the appropriately named Rainbow Beach. A few 4WD vehicles are scattered along the beach, obviously a favourite place for sand driving. Amazingly, the bay is calm with just a gentle swell coming underneath us.

We wake to a dull picture and heavy showers, but by the time we leave for the Bar, it is clearing and the swell as we leave the bay is very manageable. By 11.30am we approach the first reference point that Coastguard has given us. There is a metre to a metre and half of swell and no breaking waves, but plenty of turbulence and breaking waves to the left of us. It takes 25 minutes to clear the bar, relax, but only briefly as we then have to navigate the shallows as we head north along the west coast of Fraser Island.

Conditions now are ideal, with clearing sky and sunshine and calm waters. By late afternoon we are ready to anchor at McKenzies Jetty, a little south of the Kingfisher Lodge, Fraser Island’s resort.

We are now within striking distance of Bundaberg and decide to have a day exploring Fraser Island’s little inlets by dinghy or kayak tomorrow. This decision was probably not the best and the planned anchorage for the night was subject to unpleasant swell. With no feasible plan B by the time we realised the mistake, we slept fitfully and could hardly wait to be out of there. At first light we picked our way through the shoals and headed for Bundaberg. Being an important port, the buoyed channel starts way out at sea. We cut into it and head about a mile into the river to Bundaberg Port Marina – fuel up and settle into a berth for a few days before two of the family from UK arrive. BPM is an old friend, having visited several times before, and it is good to reacquaint ourselves with the staff and facilities. Even better is the news that the weather is settled for several days, allowing us to visit Lady Musgrave Island.

End of Part 1 of the cruise.