November 19, 2008
Wednesday afternoon, 12 November, the forecast in weather and wind looked more in our sailing-favour, with a four day window of more northerly winds and less of them. All was prepared and we up-anchored at 07:45 thursday morning, one hour before high tide. Although near high tide, there was still a strong current flowing into the river and the entrance was turbulent but easily navigable. We were greeted by a school of dolphins surfing on the waves coming in, and we proceeded out round the northern breakwater, the same way we had come in.A mile or two offshore and well outside the sand bar and its breaking waves, we hoisted sails, turned off the engine to glorious stillness and headed on port tack south and as much east as Sea Eagle would permit into the easterly wind, which wasn’t much. What with that and the strong south-going Australian East Coast Current, of about 2,5 kt, (those who have enjoyed the Nemo film will relate), we made rapid progress at almost right angles to the line to Lord Howe.The winds backed gradually, as forecast, and Sea Eagle began to head towards our goal.Old swell and conflicting seas up to three meters were pretty bumpy and getting around the boat was a series of rushes to the next hand-hold, gaining ‘boat-bites’ (bruises) on the way. We settled into the ‘passage routine’, taking it in turns to make the next cuppa, with Margaret magically producing nourishing (pre-cooked in harbour) meals eaten out of a deep bowl, all done at about 20 to 25 degrees angle, but with the rolling and pitching motion superimposed.Roughly four-hour watches, variable as to who was most awake, became the routine, with virtually no variation in wind or weather. After the first day there was nothing to be seen and we were alone from horizon to horizon, our nav-lights shining in the night to no avail. On port tack, the genoa is illuminated by the starboard, green, nav-light, and if anyone had seen us, we must have looked a pale ghostly sight.Through friday night and a lot of saturday, the wind varied from 20 kt down to 5-7 at times, and we were kept busy. Saturday, after sunset, the wind was fickle for a few hours, and we ran the engine, both to keep moving and to charge the batteries. Later, enough wind to speed up again and sail towards our goal well ahead of the 10 am high tide at LH. We communicated both with Iluka/Yamba Coastguard and with Lord Howe Maritime on the HF radio at scheduled 07:15 and 19:15, sometimes with the relay-help from another passage-maker with better reception, and could report our position, heading good for Lord Howe, and that all was well.7 am sunday saw us pottering off spectacular Lord Howe Island, on the leads, and being greeted by Lord Howe radio operator on the VHF. Lord Howe has an enormous lagoon encircled by a half-moon of mountains, this morning with a belt of low cloud around their middles and a lenticular hat on each top. Fantastic sight. The lagoon is all shallow, so with 2,2 meters of draught, Sea Eagle had to be escorted in, just before high tide. We were led to a spot with very secure moorings, with enough water to float at low tide. A welcoming chat with the escort, Lord Howe Police and Customs, Richard, with friends, a large envelope of useful information, and then we were left alone to collect our wits and plan our day. Position: 31 deg 32,25 S 159 03,0 E. (We’re now only just over twenty degrees to yesterday!)It was time for a celebratory swim. John only. Margaret thought it might be too cold. (24 degrees).Then into the dingy and a splashy quarter of an hour later we were ashore and exploring the ‘city’(as a French woman heard on the VHF had called it, zer sitty). Permanent population about 250. Past the dive and snorkelling boatsheds to the Bike-Hire shop, the place to pay for the mooring, but we were generously asked to come back, maybe wednesday, to pay. On further to the Museum, (we’ll study that another day), which has a good coffee-shop and an internet connection, so we sent some ‘arrived safely’ messages, and later this blog.