When cruising Australia timing is key

I didn’t see this coming, mutters Sorin.

I nod in agreement. 

We had at last escaped the marina, a day after Sorin’s birthday. The prospect of a long awaited escape from a pricey oversized marina, after completing a couple of serious repairs, perhaps clouded our judgement. We ended up sailing off a touch earlier that we should have. We had to get out of Brisbane river with the strong tide and make it at the river entrance at slack tide. Arriving a touch earlier at the river mouth with the wind blowing against us at a much stronger speed than forecasted made our first bar crossing a scary experience. 

Sorin makes numerous bicycle rides, talks to various suppliers and specialists, spends a lot of time with his head down to effectuate a pretty complicated repair on 43 year old Mehalah
A jacaranda embellished Brisbane, where extensive urban development does not hamper wildlife from feeling at home!

As sailors will know, wind against tide messes up the sea state. In this particular situation dangerously. We were advancing through the muddy waters towards the river mouth being pushed out by the ripping tide at 3-4 knots and by the strong contrary winds in opposite direction. Seas were gradually gaining momentum. To the point where it was becoming pretty scary. 

The deteriorating sea state as we are leaving Brisbane river with a ripping out tide and contrary winds

Our newly repaired engine was struggling to fight its way through this foul sea state. As if we were not putting up with enough, the barbecue gas bottle flies out its support with a bang that gives us the creeps! I took the helm, whilst Sorin was attending to it. As I was fighting hard to keep the course an alarm pops up on the plotter accompanied by a strident beeeeeep:- ‘Safety warning. Dangerous navigation.’ 

Okay, okay we know that already. We are in it! Navigating on a terrible sea state through shallow waters. But we never received a similar warning before. Perhaps because we’ve never been in a similar situation?!

But how is this even possible? Sorin later explained that the nearby navigation buoy had an AIS transmitter fitted to it that picked up our location and warned us that navigation conditions were dangerous. It would have been helpful to be warned in advance, not  when we were in it up to our neck!

With or without a warning there was nothing we could do, except steering towards the ocean with the eyes peeled on the depth, hoping that as we advanse towards the big blue, things would improve. 

The situation eventually did improve. It was not long before we could be calmly pushed forward by the genoa towards Peel Island, our destination. What a start to our cruising Australia adventure!

Smooth sailing towards our anchorage after reaching the calm ocean waters. In all the river leaving turmoil we forgot the front hatch open leading to a fully drenched bow cabin!

Ever since we figured that crossing a sand bar in or out is done with the incoming tide near to high water and in the calmest wind and swell conditions possible. 

Small or big waves, wind or not during the passage – anything goes as long as conditions at bar exit and entrance are very calm and flat!

This makes Australia passage planning a really thorough endeavour where we have to take into account the distance to be covered, the ocean swell, the tide and wind activity on leaving and arriving, the wind direction and strength during the passage. Only when all these variables gain a favourable shape in the navigation puzzle, then we feel confident to set off sailing on a passage that would most likely be over night. To make sure we have a safe bar crossing on arrival we continually trim the sails so that we don’t sail too fast or too slow arriving at the river entrance too early or too late.

At times, when we have it all sussed out, an invisible hand messes up the navigation puzzle and we have to start from scratch putting new navigation pieces together into a new Australia passage planning. It is amazing how often the wind direction changes on the East Coast of Australia. One day it blows from the south and the next day it backs to the north. Sometime the wind direction changes 180 degrees in a matter of hours. The good thing is that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology weather forecasting service (BOM) is fairly accurate and reliable.

These calculations and the weather forecast kept us busy ever since we left Rivergate Marina heading south towards Sidney Harbour where we are hoping to spend Christmas and New Year. You can ‘join us’ in Sydney Harbour for the NY celebrations here:-


On the way we made friends, we’ve seen beautiful places and had moments of absolute delight in the company of the cutest creatures. We are love stricken by this beautiful country. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! 

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