November 11, 2008
Thursday 6th November we walked in to Grafton town and bought fresh fruit and veg from the street market. Straight from the growers. Keep much longer if they haven’t been refrigerated. Then back to the boat and prepare for a midday start back down the river. The book by Alan Lucas, "Cruising the NSW Coast" is an invaluable guide, and includes the Clarence, with recommended courses and depths. There is one stretch, at Lawrence, which is nail-bitingly shallow for about a mile, and it is important to get there on a rising tide, at or near half tide. (Leaves a few decimeters of tide to float you off again if you ground). No problems, we followed Lucas’, and our Yamba friend Peter’s advice, and arrived back at Maclean at teatime, to tie up behind Andy and his little yappy guard dog, who were still there.
Next morning, after filling up with water, to the brim, and some fresh yoghurt, milk and fresh bread, we left Macklean with Andy helping us to cast off in a strong current aft, and arrived at the Harwood bridge at the agreed time of 11:00, The red light came on, the traffic stopped and the lifting part slowly rose to our mast height plus a bit, and we were green-lighted, and waved through. Two blokes wished us good luck and the bridge returned to road-normal.
Three and a half gentle and sunny, though windy, hours later we were back negotiating the tricky entry to Yamba marina, this time on a rising tide and no getting stuck! We’d got fed up with not getting the matresses dry and had ordered new ones over the phone from a very service-minded Caroline, at Yamba Furniture, whose Reginald delivered to the dock and carried on board. Wonderful!
We then wended our way back out the tricky bit, still near high tide, and puttered across the river to Iluka Harbour, where we anchored, once in a wrong place, "the guy on that mooring beside you is on his way back", and once in a right one. Shallow water but good holding mud we were told.
Friday evening we had fish and chips in the RSL club just up from the landing jetty. The fish was fresh, the trawler harbour is right next door. The portions were enormous, one would have been enough for two! On the way back to the boat the next disaster – the outboard slowed to a halt. Margaret had to row against the wind back to boat. Next day revealed that dirt and dusty rubber in the fuel system. After a thorough clean (ugh! petrol tastes nasty) and a new hose connection it was back in action.
Saturday was my birthday and Margaret produced a delicious steak dinner on board, on deck as the evening was warm, though windy. John dressed for the occasion, see picture.
Sunday we cut the matresses to size and hand sewed covers and then took the dingy ashore. Margaret to take advantage of the washing machines at the caravan park, and John to work on the upturned dingy it to try and find the leaks. Margaret had done a major refurbishing job back in Brisbane, stopping almost all the leaks, and was most disappointed that there were still some. Seams between an aluminium bottom and the rubber pontoons are difficult at the corners, and we found possible places for the water to seep through. Lots of glue and the drying sunshine later resulted in near-success. Takes a longer journey to get wet feet now.
We have waited out the weather. Four days now, this is Tuesday, we are still waiting. It has blown hard, gale force from the south, with showers. We are filling in time reading to the accompaniment of the "howling banshee" (our wind generator) – at least we are keeping the batteries charged. Sea Eagle dragged her anchor yesterday afternoon in the worst of the blow, luckily this time in the daytime, (three years ago we were here and it all happened at night!) and we had an exciting few minutes re-anchoring, this time with much more chain out. Permanent anchor watch for the rest of the day.
The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting that the winds will drop this evening and go round to the NE, so conditions may well be OK to leave tomorrow morning. Goal is Lord Howe Island, ca 320 nm to the ESE, a three day trip, maybe more if the winds are unkind. No mobile phones on LHI we understand, but ‘landlines’ and an internet cafe. We’ll be in touch.