The luxury of Mooloolaba

A few posts ago I referred to the luxury of Mooloolaba and said I would explain more later … so here is my catch up post ūüôā


A laundry with a view, you can just see Medina’s transom

After hearing about Mooloolaba from experienced cruisers, we were looking forward to our time there. We’ve been to Mooloolaba a number of times before¬†but it’s a bit different being somewhere in a holiday apartment to being in the same place on a boat.

The Skipper and I had discussed our two options for staying in Mooloolaba. Option A was to anchor, which was free and access to land would be via the tinnie. Option B was to stay in a marina, which costs money but meant we would be connected to land, electricity and water. Because we wanted to do some laundry, top up the water tanks and restock our fresh food and vegetables, we opted for Option B.

The marina option would be easier, particularly with Orbit on board and wanting to help, or not. I have to admit Option A, was a consideration but lugging 20lt water containers from a tap to the tinnie, then hauling them up on to Medina’s deck and carefully pouring the water into her tanks (with a toddler in tow) did not seem that appealing, particularly when we had another option.

There are two public marinas at Mooloolaba and we choose to stay at the Mooloolaba Marina. The marina office e-mailed us our berth allocation and a map of the marina in advance. This meant we could plan our time of arrival so our berth was a ‘blow-on’. A ‘blow on berth’ is when the wind ‘pushes’ the boat on to the pontoon rather than away from it. This makes the process of ‘berthing’ (or parking a boat) a lot easier, particularly when there are only two adults to undertake the process.

Medina at Mooloolaba Marina

Medina at Mooloolaba Marina

The berth was a great distance from the facilities. We were close enough if Orbit ‘had to go’ but far enough away that we didn’t have a lot of people walking past Medina to get to their own boat. The facilities were very clean, modern and working. We even had our laundry washed, dried and back in the respective places within 3 hours (which is a record for us!).

There was a Coles in walking distance for the Skipper and I, and nearly in riding distance for Orbit. Thank goodness we had our trusty backpack. It made the task of shopping a lot easier, especially when Orbit decided he tired of riding and wanted to be carried, which meant we also had to carry his helmet and bike.

From Orbit’s perspective, his stay in Mooloolaba was heaven. I had forgotten about the footpaths, cycle paths and parks that run parallel to Main Beach and only a 5 minute walk from the marina. Each park has it’s own playground, with different mental and physical challenges which kept Orbit happily occupied. There were also coffee shops near the parks which kept the Skipper contented with what he called ‘decent’ coffee, the poor thing has to deal with instant coffee on Medina.

Orbit meeting the real Nemo and Dory

Orbit meeting the real Nemo and Dory

To top the whole Mooloolaba experience for Orbit, he was able to go to Underwater World with his cousin Tilly, who is a similar age. Orbit and Tilly hadn’t seen each other for about 3 weeks and were like to long lost lovers when they met,¬†running towards each other, arms out stretched calling each other’s name. They both had a ball at Underwater World and seeing a real¬†Nemo and Dory was the highlight,¬†or maybe it was ice cream after lunch.

We decided to cut our stay in Mooloolaba short because of a weather window to cross the Wide Bay Bar. It was a hard decision because everything was so easy, we could have stayed a lot longer. But our destination wasn’t Mooloolaba and we were worried if we stayed a bit longer, wouldn’t keep going. So with the Great Sandy Straights calling us and the opportunity to cruise in company, we left Mooloolaba with fond memories and wondering if we would ever return again.

Whales on the starboard bow

As you may know, we are in Hervey Bay, Queensland. Hervey Bay is listed as one of Australian Geographic‘s top 10 places to see whales. So what to do when in Hervey Bay during the whale migration? Go whale watching of course!

Orbit looking to starboard for whales

Orbit looking to starboard for whales

We picked up a few last minute things from the shops, filled up the water tanks, did a quick tidy-up, and after the Skipper checked Medina’s vitals we were off on a whale watching adventure.

Orbit is going through a singing’ phase at the moment and he randomly breaks into a tune that he adapts to what he is doing. For example, when walking to the marina showers, he sings “We’re going on a shower hunt, I’m not afraid, I’m as brave as brave can be”, to the tune of “We’re going on a bear hunt”.

This is all very cute, but what it also means is I get “lovely” ear worms of children’s songs in my head. Ever since we have been on our whale watching adventure, I’ve had in my head, the very inappropriate “we’re going on whale hunt”! And, I still can’t get it out (please don’t tell Sea Shepherd).

As we sailed to our first overnight anchorage the Skipper and I were pretty happy with ourselves for seeing what we think were 3 or 4 whales, if only in the distance. Not close enough interrupt Orbit playing happily below, but at least we knew we were in the right area.

Orbit looking to port for whales

Orbit looking to port for whales

The next day we decided to start our whale search in earnest. Orbit started his search after breakfast while we were still at anchor.

He started on Medina’s bow (her ‘front end’), looking to port and to starboard, calling for the whales and looking very hard. He then moved down to the stern of Medina (her ‘back end’), looking to port and to starboard, calling the whales. But the whales did not come.

Once we started motoring he was up on deck again, looking to port and to starboard, working his way from the bow to the stern, calling for the whales and looking very hard but alas they still did not come. So, he went down below and started to watch a movie to pass the time. By this time I don’t think Orbit believed us when we said there would be whales.

Later on during the morning, when we were sailing, the Skipper did see a whale. He yelled, “whale on the starboard bow, and it’s breaching!”. I had to give Orbit a good nudge to get up on deck to see it. He was watching his favourite movie and as he hadn’t seen whales when he was looking earlier in the morning, was a bit reluctant to move. With a look of ‘you had better be right mum’ he hit the pause button and went up on deck, encouraged by the Skipper and with me close behind. I prayed the whale would breach again, or at least show itself so Orbit could see it. As we went on deck I made a mental note to better manage Orbit’s and my expectations, when a high degree of the unknown is involved.

Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long. The whale continued to breach, putting on a wonderful show as it traveled east, while we headed west. We managed to get a pretty good look at each other as we passed (even if I didn’t get the best photos).

"Look, a whale!"

“Look, a whale!”

Orbit was super excited to see the whale, but after that he was happy to continue playing below. This was fortunate as we didn’t see any more whales that day. And we haven’t seen another whale since, but who knows what tomorrow or the next adventure may bring!

An adventure hangover

Is there such a think as an adventure hangover?

Orbit and the Skipper off to explore the bush at Garry's Anchorage

Orbit and the Skipper off to explore the bush at Garry’s Anchorage

If so, I was suffering from one the day after we came into our new marina. I was crabby, tired and could not shake my bad mood. Although I didn’t have a physical headache, I felt like I had an emotional one and I needed space to come down from the high of the previous two weeks.

To cure my ‘hangover’, I decided to have a ‘hair of the dog’ and have another adventure. Orbit had been asking for some chocolate cake for weeks and I had planned to make one while we were cruising, but never got around to it. So off we went, on an adventure, looking for chocolate cake (and a decent coffee!).

It was only a relatively short walk to the local coffee shop and it did wonders to clear the emotional cobwebs. I am sure the consumption of chocolate cake and caffeine also helped. By lunchtime I was feeling a lot better, so I had a nanna nap!

Orbit exploring the beach at Kingfisher Bay

Orbit exploring the beach at Kingfisher Bay

Fast forward a few days and we are easing into our new ‘normal’. We are working out where things are,¬†developing new routines, enrolling Orbit into day care, swimming lessons and so on.¬†

Our plan is to stay in Hervey Bay for about six months while we prepare to go further north. This preparation includes ticking jobs off our new to do list. Our new to do list is focused on the things we need to cruise for a lot longer and rely less on marinas during our travels further north.

Although Hervey Bay is only a temporary stop, I can appreciate how people come here and never leave. Everyone has been really friendly and helpful. The beaches, parks and services are fantastic. 

Orbit swimming in the 'day bar' pool at the Kingfisher Bay Resort

Orbit swimming in the ‘day bar’ pool at the Kingfisher Bay Resort

From a sailing perspective, the Great Sandy Straits are absolutely perfect for short cruising adventures. On our journey up the Straits we passed a number of anchorages and identified a number of areas we would like to go an explore while we are here.

We also identified a number of anchorages we will be going back to, as they are perfect for toddlers like Orbit. Kingfisher Bay is one of them. Orbit can play on the beach at high tide and go exploring the sand flats at low tide. Kingfisher Bay Resort has a day bar that welcomes yachtie. It has a pool where Orbit can go for swim and we can grab an early dinner and an ice cream for dessert before the sunset.

One adventure we are hoping to have is a sail out to Lady Elliot Island at the very southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. It will be a great way to see how we go on longer cruises as it is at least a three day trip, if not longer.

So after my ‘hangover’, I am more than ready for our new adventure in Hervey Bay, after all, we only have six months, so let the adventure begin!

“Calling all ships … Calling all ships”

The alarms went off at 3:45am. It was going to be a big day and we needed to get an early start. Our journey would take us north from Mooloolaba to Tin Can Bay at the southern end of the Sandy Straights, via the Wide Bay Bar. The Wide Bay Bar is between Inskip Point (the mainland) and the southern tip of Fraser Island.

Part of the chart for the Wide Bay Bar, note the warning in red [do not use for navigation]

Part of the chart for the Wide Bay Bar, note the warning in red [do not use for navigation]

Not only were we¬†doing our geographically longest journey on Medina, but we were also going to be crossing one of Queensland’s, if not one of Australia’s most dangerous Bars, the Wide Bay Bar.

Like many bars, the Wide Bay Bar can be extremely dangerous and the local coast guard put out regular annoucements over the VHF radio warning mariners to undertake the crossing with caution and to be informed of the conditions when they choose to cross.

The best conditions to cross the Bar are well known and many people cross it on a regular basis, local fishermen in tinnies and large trawlers, plus regular cruisers in power boats and on sailing boats. However, she must be treated with respect and sailing clubs, local pubs and the internet are filled with stories of people who got it wrong.

Orbit listening to music on his iPod

Orbit listening to music on his iPod

Deciding to cross the Wide Bay Bar was a big a decision and to cross it with Orbit on board was even bigger. So we researched and sort advice from people who have crossed the Bar numerous times. We decided that in the right conditions and in Medina we would cross the Bar with Orbit on board.

We were prepared to stay in relative luxury of Mooloolaba for up to two weeks, waiting for the right conditions to cross the Wide Bay Bar (more to come on our stay in Mooloolaba in another post). But we ended up cutting our stay short because the conditions aligned for a good crossing, hence our early 3.45am start for the day.

After a strong coffee, preparations complete and with Orbit still asleep, we motored out of marina at Mooloolaba at 4:45am with the intension of crossing the bar sometime after lunch. With the wind on Medina’s nose, and a light swell from the east, we headed north under motor and raised the mainsail too reduce the rolling effect.

We were lucky to be traveling with another boat, friends of the Skipper who has crossed the Bar many times. Although we were making our own decisions, it was comforting knowing they were there, somewhere ahead of us, just over the horizon.

Orbit watching a movie

Orbit watching a movie

It was a bit rolly, but no where as bad as our first day.¬†Orbit¬†woke at about 6:30am and was quite happy to stay in bed and I checked on him regularly. At one point he was sitting up in bed, talking to his toys. My little heart burst when I heard him say, ¬†“Calling all ships, calling all ships, securIte, securIte, securite”.

This was a regular call we had been hearing over the VHF radio. It was the beginning of the call from local coast guard on Channel 16 letting people know to switch channels to get the latest weather and information on the dredge in a local river.¬†We’ve had to teach Orbit not to talk over the VHF radio and he’s been pretty good at it. He’s obviously been listening to the broadcasts as well, which bought a smile to my face.

Passing Double Island Point on our way to the Wide Bay Bar

Passing Double Island Point on our way to the Wide Bay Bar

When Orbit was ready to get up, he had breakfast and played below decks for most of our journey north. He came up into the cockpit to say hello to the Skipper and have a look around, but was content to play ‘downstairs’.

He kept himself entertained, listening to music on his iPod, playing games on his leap pad, he even watched a movie. We also played together, having car races (we had races to see which car would be the fastest from one side of the table to the other with the movement of Medina), playing games (memory and snap) and read books.

When the time came to cross the bar, we radioed in to the local coast guard, put our lifejackets on, put the wash boards and Orbit sat on my lap with me holding him tight. It took us about about 10 – 15 minutes to cross the bar doing about 6 knots under motor (its quite a long bar). Thankfully nothing exciting happened. What did surprise me was that Orbit was happy to sit on my lap for the whole crossing. Maybe he was tired or he actually listened to the instructions of the Skipper – I am not sure.

Life jackets on, preparing to cross the Wide Bay Bar

Life jackets on, preparing to cross the Wide Bay Bar

Once we were over the bar and safely in the smooth waters of the Sandy Straights, I took out the wash board and opened some hatches open to let in the fresh air. I popped Orbit into bed and let the coast guard know that we were safely across. Orbit was soon fast asleep, he must have been equally relieved to have safely crossed the bar!

In hindsight, did the Skipper and I make too big a deal about crossing the Wide Bay Bar? I don’t think so. It’s not just our lives at risk if something goes wrong, it’s Orbit’s. Plus anyone who comes to rescue us, if we can be rescued.

We have to ensure we do the relevant research and planning for each adventure we have, no matter how big or small. But we also need to¬†manage our fears of what can go wrong by putting the relevant safety strategies in place – whether its in the marina, at anchor or when sailing. After all, the¬†one thing we must teach Orbit about sailing and living on a sailing boat, it’s good seamanship.