Tubby crosses the bar – a trip from Tasmania to Queensland

A warm banana bender welcome to all from the pristine waters of sunny southern Queensland. It’s getting on towards the end of May and we are making a final approach to our winter cruising grounds, about to go through the Wide Bay Bar at the bottom of Fraser Island. It’s been an interesting journey thus far….

With Jimmy Mc Cormack and Clint, a mate of mine from the west, joining me for the delivery, we cast off after the usual last minute nonsense, leaving the Hobart cold to take Tubby (aka Golden Haze) across the Strait, bound for warmer climes. An April Fool’s day departure just about guaranteed an interesting passage. After running up through the Denison canal and overnighting in Brian’s Corner, Schouten Passage, we stepped out to cross the Strait on the very leading edge of a window that was tighter than a fish’s bum. In consultation with that guru of the weather gods, Kenny Batt, I’d estimated we had 36 hours before Huey was going to turn the weather to custard. This resulted in a false start and after suffering a few 50 knot bullets from the tail end of the front going through I opted to show Clint the beauty of Wineglass Bay for a few hours while Huey settled down.

Take two and after lunch and a beer we proceeded to waddle towards Eden in an uncomfortably lumpy sea, the southern set current arguing the toss with a 20 knot southerly breeze, resulting in typical Bass Strait washing machine conditions. Tubby took the lumps and bumps in her stride although Clint did give the porcelain bus a bit of a work out on the way through.

We’d hoped to avoid the walk up the hill to the Eden fisherman’s club, as time was short and Clint and I wanted to catch up with a couple of mates a little further up the track, commonly referred to as the Ulladulla mafia. Sadly, this wasn’t to be with Batty’s forecast for a bag full of wind settling in just as we tied up in Eden.

The following morning and a roam around the waterfront resulted in the boys bumping into the crew of another boat that had just arrived from Devonport. Their sad lament of forty to fifty knots the previous night left me feeling pretty happy about the comfortable sleep we’d just enjoyed. I learnt a long time ago about the importance of picking windows when dealing with the Strait and it seems nothing much has changed.

One more overnight sail to Sydney and Vic joined the boat at the CYC where we said good bye to Jimmy and Clint, required elsewhere for (older and younger) female duties, but not before Clint and Vic convinced me to take an unofficial tour of the Opera House. Clint had read a magazine article about a 5 metre long painting that was purported to be hanging somewhere around the Opera House and he wanted to check it out before flying back to Perth and his little girl.

After aimlessly wandering around the building for half an hour or so, Clint fronted up to a rather jovial tour guide with a very Pommy accent and a very Australian sense of humor, to seek out info on the painting. Somehow or other the story morphed into a discussion that the guide had the previous week with an old retired Public Works Department guy taking a nostalgic tour of the place he once worked on. It eventuated that this bloke had been given the job of coming up with the pull toggle for the Queen to use to open the curtain covering the plaque commemorating the launch of the Opera House. With the ‘Grand Opening’ just a few weeks away this was not as easy a task as it first seemed.

After a considerable period wracking his brains and getting more and more concerned as the big day drew closer, the poor public servant found himself contemplating the problem one morning while sitting on the dunny during smoko. This lou just happened to be one of those old fashioned cast iron dunnies with a pull chain and as he grabbed the beautifully turned, highly polished wooden flusher, he realised that the answer to his dilemma was dangling right there in front of him. After the appropriate approval from his boss, the said knob was duly appropriated from the Opera House workers’ throne room (and one would presume disinfected) before being pulled by the Queen to achieve an entirely different result from that which it was originally designed.

As history now shows the opening was an auspicious occasion, resulting in one of the world’s greatest icons being launched by a dunny flusher! As a foot note to this tale, the handle has disappeared into history, although we took the view that it may well have ended up by ‘Royal Request’ hanging in the Queen’s own ‘throne’ room.

Vic and I eventually cast off from the CYC, bound for Queensland and in due course overnighted in Trial Bay. Sadly a water pump died a few miles out to sea the next day and the local Volunteer Marine Rescue came on out and gave us a tow back in to harbor. Tubby was eventually tied up to the VMR wharf, but not before the skipper’s apprentice on the rescue boat towed us over a shallow spot in the turning basin thus giving the barnacles on Tubby’s bottom a good scrub. Ahh, the beauty of steel boats!

In true Murphy fashion the breakdown occurred on a Friday and the replacement pump couldn’t be sourced until the following Monday, very inconveniently blowing both our favourable weather prognosis and delivery schedule out the window. After a few days enjoying the delightful Trial Bay/South West Rocks hospitality (a place I’d highly recommend for a stop over) we fitted the new pump and stepped out into a freshening south easterly with an amended final destination.

Tubby was no longer to spend a month on a mate’s mooring in the Brisbane River. Instead, I’d managed to locate a friendly berth up a creek at Ballina, where the old girl would be looked after for the next month while Vic and I headed back into work mode to earn a crust. Because of our delays my company had kindly granted me an extra day’s leave to get the boat safely tucked away, but we were still somewhat under the ‘pump’.

The Ballina Bar has a reputation for having the occasional bad day and with my schedule in tatters, bad day or not Tubby was Ballina bound. I’d been watching the south easterly swell build during the run up the coast and sure as eggs, the bar was in overdrive by the time we arrived. We hung around outside the entrance for a while to count the sets and assess what, if any, window might pop up.

Just as I decided we should delay until the tide turned, the waves settled and Tubby took a run at it. As the photos show, the window didn’t last as long as I’d hoped! Still, now we know that fat girls can surf, with Tubby doing a great job in the white water. What the photos don’t show is that while the swell was south-easterly, the leads and bar arms into the port run east/west, so while we squared up to take the waves at 90 degrees to our stern, between each wave we had to bomb hard to port to avoid ending up on the bricks; an interesting ride. I’d actually suggested to Vic that she should be videoing the fun, but she responded that it was a bit hard to drive a camera with your eyes closed! The full sequence of pics can be seen at www.Bourkeysblog.net


The Ballina boys took good care of Tubby while Vic and I toiled away in Hobart and Port Hedland respectively for a few weeks and other than receiving an $850 fine for speeding through a supposed 60 kilometre an hour zone on the Pacific Highway at four o’clock in the morning (road works signs posted but no road workers within a hundred miles at that time of the day) we have now fortunately seen the last of NSW and their rip-off money-making schemes.

Queensland has beckoned and on our return to the boat we did a quick run up to Bum’s Bay, Southport, where we overnighted before heading up through the Broadwater, a fuel and water top up at Jacob’s Well, a comparatively relaxing cruise in through the Wide Bay Bar and an over night in Urangan in Hervey Bay. We have finally dropped anchor in the lagoon on Lady Musgrove Island. This leg has consisted of a crew of three, with Vic deciding that Charlie, our little cavoodle puppy dog, made a good for’d hand. Charlie has been at sea for just about his entire life and other than mangling all my sheet ends he’s a fun addition to the crew.

Since dropping the pick at Lady Musgrove we have met up with a retired cruising yachty who happily admits that he is so mean he wouldn’t shout if a shark bit him. But, I guess that’s another story.

See you all in the summer.


John Bourke

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Race Yachts
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