Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 64.' Running like a dog through the Everglades.'

The ditch. Morton Bay to Southport and the Gold Coast.

From the journal:
Up and off by 5am. Immediately we are swept up in the focus of the day - navigating through shallow water between markers. It is low tide turning to flood so things seem especially tight. Instead of 100`s or 1000`s we are now counting feet in less than 10`s beneath our keel. Little do we know in the hot morning sunshine how easy and generous this is compared to what is up ahead.

Heather calls out depths from the sonar when they shallow. As they count down toward our 6 foot draught her voice rises in pitch and intensity! We guess which way is the deeper channel and dodge to port or starboard. Some times we just shrug - it just is shallow. Here the islands are low: some with slightly higher ground and houses, many that are simply mangrove mud/sand islands. Ferries zoom by - the captains indicate we should favour this or that side of the channel and wave. We begin to find deep ( relatively) but very narrow channels and have to share them with car ferries from the opposite direction. Oops, that spot read 6 feet! We have strayed a few feet to the channel`s edge in an attempt to make room.

There are some places where the chart indicates less than 5 feet at low water and our chart is not a recent one so sand bars and the marker system have changed. We come to a place of very shallow water but by now the tide is close to full. We slow down and glide forward.....less than 5 feet and still we keep moving forward. Do we give more power and attempt to force our way through or keep slow so that we can back off if we get stuck? Slow and easy does it.

We have been at it for hours of acute concentration and finally sight the outer island sand dunes which tells us that we are half way. There is one more reportedly very shallow and winding passage ahead. This reminds us of our trip up the mangrove creeks at Tenakatita in Mexico in our dinghy - except this time it in Shiriri - all 58 feet of her. This is like the ‘African Queen’ as the bowsprit just avoids jamming itself into the trees as we weave along the tightly winding channel even as the transom brushes against the nearside bank.

A tight squeeze.

Now we must branch off the main route to find an anchorage before we are caught in the ebb current. If we went aground here now we would be caught on a sandbar and be heeled over for hours. The anchorage marked on the chart turns out to be too shallow for us at low tide and we can`t anchor in the channel so back south we reluctantly go: "Running like a dog through the everglades." While Anne is down below making sandwiches, Heather and I confuse the channel markers, miss seeing the closest one and steer for the next. 6'....4'....3'....we turn to port and regain the deeper water. Why did n`t we get stuck? It must be very soft mud or else we are cashing in our cruising credits from all those storms at sea.

We can see the tall buildings of the Gold Coast in the distance. A charter yacht brigantine turns up the channel towards us and a float plane takes off between us. Phew!! Civilization here we come! We are doing 5 knots with the ebb. Only one hour to go to the main anchorage near Southport. We see some yachts anchored beside an island off to port. The chart indicates an anchorage with good depth. We are hot and tired and pushing our luck. We turn and anchor in 14 feet. Shut down engine. ZZZZZZZ.

Nov. 29.
After a relaxed morning scrubbing and tidying Shiriri we pick up the top of the flood tide to carry us the last three miles to the Gold Coast with Southport on the other side of the Broadwater estuary. We anchor in a shallow bay called the Stadium, or more familiarly, Bum`s Bay. While there are plenty of scantily clad people lolling around on it`s sandy shores, we feel it is most likely named for the semi derelict live-aboard boats that grace it`s waters. Whatever, it suits us just fine.
'Running like a dog through the Everglades.' A song. Remember the Everly Brothers?

No comments: