Queensland: Notes on the Intra-Coastal Waterway between Gold Coast and Moreton Bay

Useful information about the inland route between Stradbroke Island and the mainland from Manly Harbour to the Gold Coast Seaway.

Published 5 years ago, updated 4 years ago

Useful update to this report published by http://www.mysailing.com.au October 2018:

Dredging program is adding depth to Canaipa Passage

Notes and observations from SV Kiapa (52 Ft Gunboat catamaran) – November 2017

Inland route/seaway heading south (between Stradbroke Island and the mainland) from Manly Harbour to the Gold Coast Seaway.

How high are the powerlines?

Kiapa has a 22.1m air draft.

Stradbroke Volunteer Marine Rescue advised NOT to take the South Passage between Stradbroke and Moreton Island, as the sandbanks were too shallow. The worst case scenario is to sail around the top of Morten Island, another 60nm – no thanks.

There are 2 sets of power lines that cross the Waterway: Jacob’s Well (also known as Rocky Point), and Canaipa.

The following detailed observations are for Jacob’s Well/Rocky Point power lines.

Both the height of the overhead power lines and depth of water are an issue. You want low water to go under the power lines, but you need higher water for the shallow areas.


The tide chart to look at needs to be for “Jacob’s Well” rather than for Moreton Bay or the Gold Coast. Willy Weather has this information.

See https://tides.willyweather.com.au/qld/brisbane/jacobs-well.html.

Start the passage heading south on an incoming tide. The current will flow south to Jacob’s Well on a rising tide. Try to time your arrival at the power lines 1 hour before high tide. After high water, the flow will head south to the Gold Coast as the tide drops from Jacob’s Well.

Power Lines

You have to pass under power lines. You have two options for power lines:

1) Power lines Jacob’s Well or Rocky Point (lat S270 42.057 long E1530 21.576):

  • The charts state there is a 20.3m clearance for Rocky Point.
  • After speaking to experienced locals, one who has done multiple deliveries of yachts up and down this route, we established that a 29-metre air draft clearance seems possible under the western-most pylon, i.e. starboard side going south.
  • Cross at S270 42.111, E1530 21.509, then head back to the middle of the channel as there are some rocks further down on the starboard side.
  • See our track and waypoint “Power Cable Pass” (S270 42.111, E1530 21.509). (photograph top right)

The left-hand side (port going south) of the channel is too shallow.

We safely passed under these power lines at 2 hours before high water (30cm below the maximum height) and had 4.4 m of water under the hull next to the pylon. Our air draft is 22.1 m.

We were advised that going this way was an hour shorter than the Canaipa power line route.

2) Power lines Canaipa Point (lat S27038.369 long E153025.007):

  • The charts say there is a 20m clearance for Canaipa.
  • We believe there is a 30m clearance on the eastern side (Stradbroke Island side).
  • Cross at S27.38.271, E153.25.127, as close as you can to the eastern shore and then get back in the channel. The pylon is high up on Stradbroke Island.
  • Canaipa has higher power line clearance. but the water is shallower in sections.
  • Particularly near an area known as the “slipping sands” S27.41.511, E153.24.056, it is very shallow.
  • This route is an hour longer than Jacob’s Well route.

Our trip via Jacob’s Well from Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron was 41.24nm. Our average speed (under motor) was 6.2kn, which meant it took 6hr 36 min until we dropped anchor. There was a 10-16k headwind the whole way. Tacking was not really an option as the deeper water channel, as shown on the chart, is convoluted and narrow and actually quite shallow in places.

If you have a power line phobia, you can do a mast modification, (very easily) to ensure a safe underpass.


SV Kiapa

Dated 23 November 2017

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of noonsite.com or the World Cruising Club.

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  1. January 8, 2021 at 12:12 AM
    ubiquity says:

    For Catamaran owners there is a good option. I have a 1.6 m draft and a 28.8m mast height. the power lines from main land to Russell is. and then onto Nth Stradbroke are rated at a HAT of 20 m. By using Canipa passage and sailing as close to the shore as possible at HIGH tide, we cleared the lines by over 2.5 m. I had my lovely partner eyeball the wires from the top of the mast, stopping and bringing her down before passing under. In regards to arcing. electricity arcs at about 100mm per 10,000v. These lines are 30,000v , therefore would arc less than 300mm. I hope this assists.

  2. May 9, 2019 at 2:39 AM
    svdefino says:

    I can confirm SV Kiapa info above to be accurate , we passed under going both north and south on our return both times 2hrs before high tide .
    1) Power lines Jacob’s Well or Rocky Point (lat S270 42.057 long E1530 21.576):

    We have a 26 meter air gap ( 57 Perry Cat) and we looked to have several meters clearance

    Regards Shane
    SV Defino