We’ve sailed back to Lady Musgrave Island – we grew a bit bored and restless sitting in Hervey Bay so we headed out of the marina on the high tide on Sunday afternoon for an overnight sail to Lady Musgrave. It’s been a few weeks since we’ve been out on the open sea so the boys and I turned a nasty shade of green for the first few hours. The boys quickly recover and managed to keep themselves occupied by watching a movie before heading off to their beds. By the time bedtime had arrived it was turning out to be quite a wild sail so we decided that Hugo would be best snuggled in with his brother, rather than on his own in the midship cabin. Gerhard had shifted things around so that they could sleep together in the aft/ Oscar’s cabin with the lee cloth in place between them. This arrangement was met with whoops of delight from the boys and excited little voices declaring they would be ‘bed buddies’. They quickly (and rather surprisingly) settled down to sleep for the night.

Meanwhile up the in the cockpit I was continuing to feel seasick and good old Gerhard was running around making sure everyone was comfortable and fed.

The sail wasn’t outrageous but it was a fast sail with the boat powering through the night with full sails out. It’s a long time since I’ve been on an overnight sail and must admit I was feeling a bit apprehensive, but declined Gerhard’s offer to head into Bundaberg for the night. I tried sleeping for a while somewhere between 9.30 and midnight but by the time some game of the boys’ fell narrowly missing my head and the crockery crashed about in the galley I decided to give up and go back up into the cockpit and enjoy the moonlight on the waves and the exhilarating feeling of night sailing.

At midnight it was my turn to go on ‘watch’ and whilst Gerhard was less than a metre from me, and still half awake, at least my being there meant that he could close his eyes and doze some of the time. My alarm was set to go off at 10 minute intervals so that when I did nod off it would never be for long.

Ahead of us the lighthouse on Lady Musgrave Island showed its presence a long time before we reached her – tantalisingly shining and yet seeming to take for blasted ever to reach. We arrived outside the reef just as the first blush of dawn started to lighten the night sky. It was pretty windy and bouncy out there, but we needed the early morning light to be able to navigate the channel into the lagoon. We tried to settle down and get a couple of hours sleep – but after about an hour of the boat creaking mercilessly and rocking so badly that food in the lockers could be heard crashing about, we gave up.

We made it out for several long snorkels across the reef. It’s the time of year when the turtles lay their eggs on the island so there are plenty of turtles to be seen swimming around: we swam alongside them as we snorkelled. Gerhard and Hugo also came across reef sharks, and we all enjoyed the mass of reef fish.

Later we went over onto the island. The water lapping the shore was an unbelievable temperature – it was like climbing into a bath. As we walked around the island we saw numerous turtles swimming by in the shallows, schools of fish and a Black Tip Reef Whaler Shark too making its way along the shoreline.

All along the beach you could see evidence of the turtles having made their way up the sand, the flat sand under their belly and beautiful waves / wings in the sand made by their flippers as they ascend the beach to dig holes and lay their eggs. Magical.

Tonight the water is calm and the Wedgetail Shearwaters and Black Noddys fly over the boat as the sun sets behind the island. Last night we were besieged by Hawk Moths (Hippotion Velox), annoying to say the least as we had to close up the boat to keep them out. Thankfully tonight we seem to be all clear.

It’s been another day of fascinating conversations with small boys, asking lots of questions and coming up with wild and wacky ways to save the planet or whatever the theme of the day is. Hugo has to have today’s award for a classic line. In our discussion about whether teachers are paid for teaching (clearly a debatable topic) we also talked about taxes and how public services are paid for. I also explained that if you attended a private school parents had to pay for the education. His little voice piped up – “so if you’re at private school are you not allowed to tell them your name?”. Cute…

 

Sitting still in one place finally lost its appeal, after 3 weeks of almost non-stop northerlies trapping us in the marina at Urangan Boat Harbour. We set off for Lady Musgrave Island at 3:30pm today, aiming to get there by mid morning tomorrow. The forecast is for light (8-12 knots) south easterlies tonight, but so far we’ve been treated to 15-20 knots of of the North East. A boisterous ride, what with a choppy beam sea and all, but making excellent miles. Not sure why we should want to arrive at 3am, as we can’t go into the lagoon until it’s well and truly light (it helps to be able to see the coral ‘bommies’). Hey ho, it’s bound to slow down through the night!

We’ve just returned from a little driving expedition to Fraser Island: not a relaxing time as it turned out for poor Gerhard who had to get the Freelander across soft sand (actually it was the lack of clearance under the vehicle that was our problem). Subsequently we were confined to driving the eastern side of the island. This was no great burden – we saw the beautiful Cathedral Rocks, Indian Head, the Maheno wreck which has deteriorated significantly since we visited 18 months ago (photos below) and we swam in the Champagne Rock Pools – with fish sharing the pools with us as the ocean waves crashed in.

We saw one solitary dingo trotting along beach, and there was of course the mandatory jumping off sand dunes…

Whilst Gerhard and I might have been frustrated with the way things turned out I remarked that I felt sure the boys were delighted and their view of the trip would differ to ours. This proved to be the case. Their highlights were as follows:

  • a swimming pool to play in at the resort;
  • swimming in Champagne Rock Pools;
  • lots of unhealthy cereals for breakfast that you could help yourself to (Hugo); and
  • beds to sleep in and a bath.

So it was best to be content and enjoy the fact that the boys found the whole thing very enjoyable, especially hours of clambering all over their father in the pool.

Rather than risk the 17 kilometres of driving (or in our case not driving) through deep tracks and soft sand back to the ferry crossing at Wanggoolba Creek we decided to drive south and leave the island on the barge crossing from Inskip Point to Rainbow Beach. This was an easy enough drive between high and low tide although the last bit was a little challenging as we nipped around the southern tip of the island on shifting sand. With a sigh of relief we boarded the barge, with the knowledge that we just had the final 100m across the beach and then we were home and dry (or on sealed roads at any rate). It was going well with Gerhard flooring the car…and then the 4WD ahead of us slowed down. Result. We got stuck. There was quite a lot of swearing at this point. The boys sensibly engrossed themselves in whatever screen they could lay their hands on and I went off across the beach to talk one of the unsuspecting fishermen to come and give us a tow with their 4WD. As the 3 bearded fellows partook of their afternoon cans of beer and observed me trotting across the sand I challenged them not to turn and walk away from me, but to contribute to my marital harmony. Thankfully the humour worked, and after a few tense moments and failed attempts to pull the Freelander clear of the sand we were out…..and my bearded friend didn’t spill a drop of beer or even put his can down!

We got home late afternoon a bit weary and a bit frazzled. In time to unpack, pop some more supplies on board and head back out to Fraser Island the next day, but this time on board Sunny Spells.

Well, we live and learn, again…  When we hired a Toyota Landcruiser last year and drove around Fraser Island, we found it rough, but never got stuck.  So, having done a bit of Googling about using the trusty old Land Rover Freelander TD4, I came to the conclusion that “she’ll be right mate!”.  I was wrong… It wasn’t!


We boarded the barge at River Heads, and the boys declared that this was “the most exciting, newest thing we’d never done before so far” on our adventure.  So far so good.

We landed at Wanggoolba Creek and, having “aired down” our tyres to 16PSI, we set off full of confidence. We were second vehicle off the barge and I did, for a moment, consider pulling over and letting everyone through. Fortunately I didn’t, because about 10 minutes later we were thoroughly bogged down in soft sand. Fortunately two vehicles came to our assistance and with a 12 year old snatch strap that I’d never used before and their two shackles we were soon pulled out. I bribed them with a promise of beer at the other end and they committed to babysitting us to Eurong, another 17 kilometres. Just as well, as we needed another two rescue and recoveries. Problem was not traction, but clearance. The Freelander is just too low and would get stuck on the high ridge of sand between the tracks (aka middlemannetjie for you okes in the R of SA…).

Driving technique: first gear, and keep the speed up, revs around 3,000 RPM. Crank on about 90 degrees of left or right helm (I prefer right) to keep the middlemannetjie off to one side. A boisterous ride. The brakes took a pounding, because the wheels are spinning the whole time and the traction control is trying to control the wheelspin by applying the brakes. As most of the weight is on the front wheels, the rear (drum) brakes got very, very hot. Poor car. When we tried to move off after about 15 minutes at the Eurong Bottle-O/general store, it felt like the handbrake would not release. Fortunately it eased up after a bit of driving. Only other damage was a rubber exhaust hanger that had unhooked itself (at the rear silencer). This was easily re-hooked and she’s good as gold!

We’ve decided to stick to the beach (where we have no problems) and leave Fraser Island via Inskip Point so we don’t have to cross inland again.

Moral of the story? A Freelander is not suitable for Fraser Island! Get a real 4×4…

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