Sand blocks HMB Endeavour's path

SO near, and yet so far!

That's the embarrassing predicament for Coffs Harbour, which could miss out on experiencing one of our nation's great icons, HMB Endeavour.

The magnificent replica is wallowing in the outer harbour, agonisingly close to her ultimate destination, the marina wharf, but there's too much sand at the inner harbour entrance for her to safely cross, even at high tide.

The windy conditions also haven't helped.

The Lands Department sent in a dredge on Monday to pave the way for Endeavour by removing the 500 cubic metres of sand which has accumulated there in heavy swells since the last dredging two months ago.

However, this week's large chop has brought the latest dredging operation to a standstill.

Endeavour was scheduled to dock at the marina wharf last night in time for the large crowds clamouring to board the ship between Saturday and Tuesday, and others wanting an up-close look. These ticket sales help to keep the ship at sea.

Endeavour shore manager Paula East said yesterday the dredging was not complete because of the swell, and the ship's captain would re-assess the situation early today.

“It's very frustrating. We would have liked to have been in. Everything we do is weather-dependent,” Ms East said.

Outgoing city councillor Ian Hogbin has been on Endeavour for its journey from Brisbane and was one of the 40 passengers ferried to the wharf yesterday afternoon by the coastal patrol when it became clear the ship was going nowhere.

Cr Hogbin said the situation now affecting a major tourist drawcard to our city highlighted the continuing siltation of our harbour, and the need for the State Government to fix it.

Also, Cr Hogbin has learned Endeavour's propeller was badly damaged on rocks when it last visited our city.

Coffs Harbour City Council says it brought the latest sand build-up issue to the Land Department's attention.

“We've been working hard to get a dredging program under way for Endeavour's visit,” a council spokeswoman said.

The council offered to remove sand deposited on Jetty Beach from the dredging, and took the lead in finding a suitable dredger.

“Obviously, no-one can help the weather if the dredge can't operate in it,” she said.

A Lands spokesman said the department made 'every effort' to do more dredging when it became aware of sand build-up 'caused by recent severe weather conditions'.

“Lands organised a dredge to arrive urgently from Queensland. Large seas have meant a delay to the current dredging work, but will recommence as soon as the conditions improve.”

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