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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dec 2, 2010; A Very Tense Sail to the Gold Coast

Our Coral Coast Cruising Guide warns us: "Abandon all thoughts of peace and solitude when visiting the Gold Coast".  It is trendy, and bustling. Naturally we envisioned something like Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, so we left Brisbane with a combined sense of excitement and trepidation. We'll see. But we had to get there first.
We made a 6 AM departure back out the Brisbane River and when we hit the open water of the Coral Sea to venture south, the jolting reacquainted us with coastal cruising in Australia.  We did manage a great sail, however, when we hit the entrance to what is called The Broadwater we harbored concerns that we may not arrive at Mariner's Cove Marina in time to berth.
The Broadwater is a long inland waterway very much like our own Intercoastal Waterway but one that is like a minefield to traverse. It must be navigated very carefully because one particular area should only be approached at low tide in order (for the mast) to clear a cable that is stretched from shore to shore some 70 - 80 feet overhead (depending on real time depths), and then you have got to hit other areas at high tide because in some spots the depths are even too shallow for our draft. There are some schools of thought that dictate these waters should only be approached during Low low tides and High high tides that only occur about once a month. We felt confident because Destiny was built in Florida with these factors in mind for cruising the Florida waterways.  Nonetheless, Frank took the helm and hand steered much of the way while I manned the lookout for shallows & obstructions.  It made for an interesting journey as we passed by various levels of socio-economic areas of habitation and inhabitation.
The first developed part of shoreline we came to looked pretty scabby. The homes on shore and the watercraft moored about looked like a scene out of "Deliverance". We sure hoped we did not go to ground here.  We didn't, but a little while later we arrived at the dreaded cable.  It reached across a very wide part of the waterway with no support in the middle making it impossible to navigate the deeper mid section because the darn thing drooped dramatically.  Frank steered as close to the edge as he dared keeping a close eye on the depth gauge as I stood on the bow and watched for shallow spots.  Then he yelled to me to watch the mast and call out to him if it looked as though we would not clear the cable. I was running around like a little Mexican Jumping Bean! But, whew! We nudged the sandy bottom as we cleared it and had a few feet to spare at the top.  Calories were sweated during these tense minutes.
We then passed by areas of near desolation and isolation, decorated by the most beautiful beaches and the prettiest clear aquamarine water you could imagine.  This is where we hit ground the second time. The cruising guide had also forewarned of shifting bottoms and that sight navigation would reign superior to electronics.  The guide was correct. We had steered away from an area noted on the chart with shallow markings only to hit bottom at the area marked for clear passage.  We reversed, forwarded and bow-thrusted our way off the sand bar after just a few minutes, but became hyper alert now.  We were both so tense that I could feel the muscles in my jaw spasming, and knew that my TMJD was going to be giving me hell soon., so I could only imagine Frank's stress level.
Next came the high-rent district where the real estate can only be described as utter opulence. This told us we were getting close to the rumored sin city of the Gold Coast.  Large motor yachts were racing up and down the waterway, throwing us about and rocking us sideways like a little rubber duck in a bathtub. No consideration or sense of safety for others – rude, rude, rude. About this time, we hit bottom again! We had more trouble getting off the sandbar because of the #$*@*#G&%^! motor yachts throwing us further up onto the bar with their large wakes.  Finally, the tide rose just a little more, enabling us to break free and just then it began to pour down rain.  We made it the rest of the way into Mariner's Cove Marina, just catching the manager as he was locking up for the night.  We got tucked into our berth and then Frank grabbed a beer, sat back and said; "That is the hardest sailing I've done since we left the US!"  Time to de-stress! We were both bushed.  We sat, sighed and watched it just rain and rain, as I pondered what to do about dinner. Fate intervened when Robin from Endangered Species phoned us.  She told us that they figured we were pretty tired, because they had arrived the previous day and knew the drill. They were at the next marina over and wanted us to come join them for dinner at the yacht club. This is a real yacht club and tonight was "roast night" all U can eat for $15.  We jumped on it and so we sloshed over in the rain for a very nice dinner with our friends.  What a great way to end this day!

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