Sand bar Notoriety

Ted Bundy … The Boston Strangler … Jack the Ripper … Notorious figures from history that conjure thoughts of evil criminals doing heinous things. I could write plenty on their notoriety and how we seem to be so voyeuristic toward the macabre (just look at the popularity of the spate of recent True Crime podcasts: Stranglers, Felon, Casefile, Crimetown, 48 Hours, etc). But I’ll leave that to someone else.

Instead, our brush with something notorious was a lot less sinister, but scary all the same. In March we cast off the lines and commenced our two-year sailing adventure up the east coast of Australia and around Asia. Within 24 hours of starting we had to cross our first big hurdle: the “notorious” Wide Bay Bar. Any seafarer knows that bar crossings are not something to take lightly. (For the non-seafarer, a bar is collection of sand that gathers at the entrance to rivers and inland waterways). Bars are dangerous because they are often shallow and conditions can change quickly and without warning, sometimes causing boats to capize. Just days before we were due to cross the Wide Bay Bar, a boat very similar to ours (a 12 metre catamaran) capsized on the bar and the sailors had to be rescued. In fact, lots of boats end up with the same fate on this particular bar each year, hence its notoriety.

Anyway, our day came. We had meticulously studied the weather forecast and chosen the 2nd of March due to the relatively calm conditions and morning high tide (so you aren’t looking into the sun when you are crossing). We contacted the local Volunteer Coast Guard to get the latest condition report and reference points … and then it was time to cross! We donned our life jackets, fired up the boat motors and set off. We had another catamaran in front of us and a fishing boat behind us. We could see breaking water on both sides of us (nicknamed the “washing machine”, which indicates shallow water where it is most treacherous) but we were cruising through the gap. No problems so far.

Part of the Wide Bay Bar’s notoriety is the extended nature of the bar. It’s also nicknamed “the mad mile” because it takes a while to get fully across the bar, but we continued to follow the Coast Guard’s reference points, and phew! Across. Just then we looked back and a water spout rose out of the water where we had just been! That would have made our crossing very interesting!


For more of our sailing adventures, check out our sister blog, The Alpha Odyssey.

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