Bribie Island to Moreton Island on a Hobie 14

adventure
 noun
  1. an unusual and exciting or daring experience.
    “her recent adventures in Italy”

verb

  1. engage in daring or risky activity.

    “they had adventured into the forest”

    Yes that’s what I want. An exciting, unusual experience that involves risk – I’m a male in my early 20’s; apparently we’ve taken a few risks before…


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    Bitten  Stung by the Adventure Bug Jellyfish

    One Sunday afternoon I took my Hobie 14 Catamaran out into Moreton Bay with a friend of mine. It was to be a new experience for me; after years of inland sailing as a young teenager I was about to sail in coastal waters. The consistent, strong winds and swell I’d heard of from well travelled sailors who would come to our inland regattas, awaited me.

    The tide probably wasn’t ideal, who knows? Was it low or high? I certainly wasn’t thinking about it – I just wanted to get out there. After reassuring the nervous Garnett, a first time sailor, that I was sure I could sail in the heavy conditions we pushed off into the onshore breeze. We tacked East, sailing out into the bay through a giant school of jellyfish. Each ball of jelly we hit knocked the rudders up, making it incredibly difficult to steer. Sometime later we were half way to Green Island and decided we had better turn back as it was getting late in the afternoon. I gave Garnett the Jib sheet and we both leaned out on the toe straps to keep the boat from tipping over.  We were flying along, nearly back, when the noses dug into the water and the boat somersaulted us into the school of jellyfish. A few minutes later we righted the boat and climbed back onto the tramp – a stinging sensation growing over our legs and arms. Needless to say I was stung – I was going to explore the bay and I was going to do it again ASAP.

    The Plan

    After we’d packed up, Garnett and I studied Google Maps and Marine charts. I explained we’d sailed half way to Green Island in 15 minutes. “We could cover the 20km to Moreton Island in 2 hours!”. That day I’d met another Hobie sailor who put me in contact with a local Hobie sailing Facebook group. I posted on their wall that night: “Is sailing to Moreton Island on a 14 doable?. One of the replies was “You could sail a 14 to Byron Bay if you wanted”. That was enough convincing for me.

    Moreton Island is the third largest sand island in the world, sheltering Moreton Bay from the East. I’d wanted to go there for a while with my 4WD but the Ferry costs were outrageous. Getting there by Hobie on the other hand was free.

    I set the 3rd and 4th of January for the overnight trip and invited a few other boats. A young guy from the Facebook group named Dave was confident in his Hobie 16 and Wayne was in for the adventure on his Hobie 18. Safety in numbers I thought. Nobody came forward with any stories of previous Hobie trips to the island. It was a bit of an unknown and I know a few other Hobie 14 owners had doubts that the smaller boat would handle the open water so well.

    Travelling Light (and waterproof)

    The most exciting part for me though was the limitation taking such a small boat put on what I could take. There isn’t much space on a Hobie and that space is not what you’d call dry. I bought a 30L waterproof Dry Bag and anything that didn’t fit in there was going to get wet. Inside the bag I squashed my sleeping bag, a quick dry towel, a hoodie, convertible pants/shorts, a shirt or two, my phone and 1 Australian Army 24 hour ration pack. I went and bought a tarp for shelter in case it rained. I trialled rigging it up over the tramp and tested it with the garden hose. It kept the majority of the water off so we were good to go.

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    This picture from Day 2 gives you an idea of how little we took with us.

    The 3rd Was Upon Us

    We’d decided that Bongaree, on the South West of Bribie Island, was the best place to launch from based on the wind direction and that it was closest to Moreton’s North-West camp zone. Four boats arrived at 8.30am and started to set up. Garnett jumped aboard with Dave who would travel over for the night. Wayne and Matt had decided to make it a day trip.

    Day 1.00_00_40_12.Still001We rigged up in the slightest of breezes and the odd sprinkle of rain. The forecast was for 15 knot winds yet it was dead still. A faint roll of thunder delayed us as we waited until it was safe to head out. It gave me some well appreciated extra time to  double check that my cargo was tied down well – capsizing out in the bay was a real possibility and the last thing I wanted was to lose my phone and other possessions and worst of all, have to cancel the overnight stay. We pushed out around 10.30, still without wind and drifted our way South, Dave paddling faster than the wind could push his 16. As we moved out of the Island’s wind shadow we gradually picked up speed. A group of dolphins surfaced 20 metres ahead of me and dove under the boat as I sailed over the top of them – I thought to myself we were off to a dream start.

    We Have Wind!

    GOPR0049.MP4.10_40_04_17.Still001As we burst out past the southern tip of Bribie the full force of the Easterly hit us. It was terrifying, quite likely 10-15 knots more than we’d expected. I tried to hook onto the trapeze but each time I pushed out I’d find myself under the rolling swell. I gave up and dug my feet under the toe straps. My hands were already tired, the circulation cut off by the sheets wrapped around them. I dared not cleat the main for fear of tipping and the concentration required to keep the noses from digging in was intense. We tacked up and back again getting a feel for the conditions, before Dave yelled out “Do you want to do it?”. I replied “Let’s give it a try”, unsure if Dave could hear the uncertainty in my voice. We turned South East, and started our journey across the bay. The two day trip boats had turned back by now.

    Dave gradually moved ahead of me, his bigger boat being faster, his experience on his boat giving him the confidence to push things a little harder. By the time the mainland had disappeared behind us I was exhausted. Moreton wasn’t visible through the rain ahead but I had a feeling we weren’t even close. Waves were breaking ahead. 3km from the land and there were waves breaking on a shallow area ahead. We steered to the right and later agreed the swell had reached 2m by this stage.

    The Final Leg…

    P1020484I continued on, now alone, Dave and Garnett a faint red speck in the distance. I’d acclimatised to the bouncing swell and constant spray of water over the boat. Moreton slowly came into view. I had no idea how far south we’d come but knew we’d have to tack North sooner or later. The water began to flatten out and the wind eased as the last 5km became increasingly sheltered by the sand dunes growing out of the horizon. I managed to get out on the trapeze and really started to enjoy the ride.

    Dave and Garnett had reached the island and pulled in for a quick snack South of Tangalooma resort. I followed them in but before I could get too close they pushed off and we headed North towards our camp site. The rest of the trip was smooth and relaxed compared to the earlier challenges. 4 hours after we first began, we arrived at the Northen tip of Moreton Island where we pulled the boats up the beach and set up camp. We’d covered twice the ground I had originally expected and I rolled off the boat, skulled a litre of water and ate as many lollies as I could  – my first meal of the day.

    The Island Life

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    A rare “sunset over water” on the East Coast.

    A swim and some more food and I’d, for the most part, recovered from the mornings effort. The sun had come out now and we snorkelled and fished, with not many fish to be seen from either activity. We reminisced about the swell, intrigued about the shallow parts of the bay we’d seen, how none of us was too sure we’d actually make it in the conditions we’d faced.Garnett’s bag turned out to not be so waterproof so he turned the boats into a Chinese Laundry while I set up my tarp over Dave’s 16 as it had a bigger tramp and we wouldn’t be so squashed. A failed attempt at lighting a fire with wet kindling later, we’d enjoyed our rehydrated rations, finished up chatting and crawled into our shelters for the night.

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    The Chinese Laundry…
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    Garnett didn’t bring a sleeping bag so he slept in a jacket – not because it was cold but to protect himself mozzies!
    I slept pretty well – but after the day’s efforts I don’t think anything would have stopped me from an amazing sleep. Garnett didn’t enjoy his Hobie mattress so much, anxious that if it rained he was sure he’d be getting wet. It was a perfect night though and I awoke refreshed with the sun and headed straight in for a swim in the calm water.

    The Return Trip

    Day 2 was almost the opposite of the day before – blue skies, a strong but persistent breeze and great visibility. Once we’d had breakfast and packed up we ventured back out into the bay. With clear blue water and some strong wind I expected a quicker trip back. The first 5km were quick enough before the wind died off and we drifted back to Bongaree. 4 hours later I arrived burnt, dehydrated and hungry once again. I wished I’d left the fishing rod handy and used it fill in the mild boredom that is part of sailing in very little wind.

    Since then Dave has been back multiple times, for multiple nights, and a few other members of the Facebook group have been over for the day, some for the night. I’d like to think we showed just how much these boats can take and removed any doubts that some may have had about doing such a large, overnight trip on their Hobie. There will certainly be many more trips to the islands in Moreton Bay, most of them smaller and closer to Brisbane.In no way in this the most adventurous trip ever completed on a Hobie. That honour would have to go to Tony Laurent and Daniel Pradel who crossed the Atlantic on a Hobie 18 in 1986 – check that link out for an amazing story.

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