September 08, 2009
Leaving Keppel Bay Marina
The military exclusion zone that was in place until the 26 July was causing considerable angst amongst sailors gathered at Keppel Bay Marina particularly as there was an ideal window of weather but an additional section had been added further east of the general zone due to joint exercises between the Australian and the US Navies. We decided that we would make for the Percy Islands in one hop, a distance of some 158nm which would require not only an early start but also a good average in order to get to our destination before nightfall the following day. We would have to motor-sail to keep our average up.
We motored cautiously out of the marina at 0010 into a calm sea, set our sails for a course which would take us 4nm east of the exclusion zone’s SE corner, and had us sailing almost NE to do so. The Shoalwater Bay area at Cape Townshend, protrudes out significantly from the coast, necessitating a NE course in contrast to the NW course we had been on since Byron Bay. We set our course to its north eastern corner to stay inside High Peak Island, but this would still take us well outside a normal layline up this section of coast. The marina had many resentful yachties who were either unable or unwilling to make the necessary passage to avoid the military area. Those who were traveling solo, of which there are many, could not make the voyage easily.
At 0315 a large vessel appeared on the 12nm perimeter of our radar screen. This long grey line was not only on a direct reciprocal course to ours, but was also traveling very quickly. At 8nm it was still coming, so a call on the VHF on Channel 16 was made. No reply. Over the next two hours until daylight we were shadowed by what turned out to be a US aircraft carrier, outside the military exclusion zone. When we altered course to port, so did the vessel on the radar. A dramatic course change to starboard was followed by an equally dramatic change by this strange vessel, whose only identification was superstructure lights and a tiny port navigation light. After many unanswered calls on the radio and with the vessel now within a dangerous distance from us, we heard from a vessel “Dolphin” who was 11nm behind us call us to notify us of its intention to return to Rosslyn Bay and not attempt to enter this area. Throughout the ordeal we could hear the military vessels calling one another on VHF Channel 16 and 12 using their military code, but they would not respond to us as civilians. We could not even be sure that the vessel in our path was a military vessel. Upon notifying “Dolphin” that we too would likely have to return to Rosslyn Bay, the strange vessel raised a triple light display – red, white, red. We assumed that the lights may have meant that it was towing something, as its signal meant that it had “limited maneuverability”. We started to imagine we could see the shadow of a barge, or the like, behind its own lights, in the pitch darkness. We decided to proceed well to seaward and quickly . Once past the vessel, looking back, we could hear, above the noise of our own racing engine, the flack flack of helicopters, and see their strobe lights lifting above the vessel’s superstructure lights. Upon daylight at 0600 we could see behind us on the horizon the unmistakable profile of an aircraft carrier and 5 navy destroyers. We had been part of their “war games” in the night!
Later in the day, as we approached High Peak Island, well off to the west we could see the white sails of a yacht many miles inside the exclusion zone and making for Island Head Creek. It was now our turn to laugh. ‘US Warship 89’ called incessantly on channel 16, 80 & 81 to make contact with the vessel that sailing in THEIRWATER. The tone of the operator was becoming more and more exasperated. The gunships were performing timed gunning exercises firing live bombs across Townshend Island to the mainland and the presence of this yacht was causing a great deal of consternation on Channel 12 between the naval vessels. They called the vessel over and over again throughout the next two hours, giving its registration, latitude and longitude, speed, course, colour, name and length. No reply!! I felt like calling back on the radio and saying “Haha!!” A navy helicopter buzzed over us several times and “Dolphin” as well because she responded asking if the radio calls were referring to them. They were reassured by US Warship 89 that they were aware of “Dolphin”, their position and their course. So we called.
“US Warship 89….this is yacht Tibia we are also in the vicinity, are you aware of our position?” They responded immediately that they knew where we were and who we were and we were not the vessel that was causing them all this grief. They were getting quite annoyed because they may have to cease their “bombing games” because of a civilian vessel. Again I was sorely tempted to respond on the radio with a statement not altogether complementary! I restrained myself. The massive explosions on the shoreline, which were sending up huge plumes of smoke and were audible 15 miles seaward, were sufficient to deter any cheek from “Tibia”!
From channel 12 we heard that the navy deployed a small boat to go and intercept the miscreant vessel and they then responded on channel 16. In a broad American accent the skipper of the vessel called… “This is sailing vessel Anaconda, I understand someone is trying to contact me”. US Warship 89, upon hearing a fellow American, dropped his previously agitated tone a great number of millibars and put in place a courteous plan to get “Anaconda” and their fellow American crew out of the firing area as expeditiously as possible. “Anaconda” even thanked the US navy for “The Show”. He probably thought all the fanfare was because he was there, and that all American visitors received this reception!! I am certain that if we Kiwis had have been in the exclusion zone, and on the other end of the radio, we would have received a very different response! I wished I could have played “Advance Australia Fair” over the airwaves for everyone to enjoy!!
On to Percy
This interchange kept us entertained all morning until we got to Cheviot Island and altered course NW, outside the exclusion zone, for the Percy Islands. We were only just going to reach the Percy’s before nightfall so I called on the radio for any vessels who were currently anchored at the Percy Group, to get a recommended anchorage, as I was uncertain about the condition of any of the anchorages. A charter vessel out of Gladstone responded and suggested West Bay on Middle Percy. This was the most popular of all the bays and has the A-Frame shelter on the beach that boaties use to record their visit. The wind was blowing NW and the bay sounded very exposed, but the local assured me, when I queried his recommendation, that the bay was sheltered by The Pines, a small island group to the NW, and would be fine. We turned into the bay and dropped anchor just as the sun was setting. There was one other boat in the bay, two more were coming from the north and their was a large twin masted yacht the Tidal Boat Harbour that can only be got in and out of, on high tide. The anchorage was rolly but acceptable after a long days sail. The beach looked inviting but we chose to turn in after tea to have an early night.
We both woke at midnight to the boat rolling incredibly, to the point that we were having difficulty staying in our bed. We both got up and made up the sea-berths and went back to bed, thinking that we might doze and then get going. We woke at 0400 stunned that we had slept through the incredible rolling motion of the boat. Waves were crashing on the beach behind us and we were lying side-on to the swell. It was time to get going!
On to Scawfell Island
We raised anchor, put the kettle on the stove for an early morning cuppa and headed out into the inky blackness. The moon had set an hour ago and we were to follow the course we had plotted the night before on the GPS, through the numerous hazards, until daylight in two hour’s time. Our destination was Scawfell Island, officially regarded as the beginning of the Whitsunday group although still a long way south of the main islands. To get to Scawfell Island was one of those milestones that let you say “We have arrived!” But in the meantime we had a solid day sail of 64 nm to get there before nightfall. The weather forecast predicted S/SW winds at 15-20 knots and seas to 1.6 meters. It sounded like a good day. We set our course for 321 degrees, set the autohelm and off we trundled at a comfortable 6 knots leaving a white snaking trail behind us that meandered back and forth with the hunting and correcting of the autohelm in a following sea. We felt the end of our adventure, thus far, was in sight. Soon we would be relaxing in warm waters in quiet bays taking our time and moving only if we felt like it.
Refuge Bay on Scawfell
We arrived in the northern bay at Scawfell Island at 1530 having made an excellent time sailing all day at an average of 5 knots for the passage. This was our first reef island and as we pulled into Refuge Bay we felt a degree of satisfaction that we “had arrived” and that the Pitchers were just a little north of us, almost within radio range in the Whitsunday Group.
As we pulled into the double bay, each with its sandy beach and fringing reef, we chose the right hand smaller bay to drop our anchor. There were fewer boats and there seemed plenty of room for us. In fact Pauline commented that “Everyone else had left the best place for us” – I just thought it was because others had probably left this spot vacant, when they left earlier in the day. We dropped the anchor and put on the kettle. While we were waiting I dropped the line over the side and within 20 seconds had a sizable bream in the bucket! Two more drops yielded two more bream and no need to even replace the bait! This place was great! I called out to the boat anchored alongside
“Boy, the fishing’s great here!!”
“No wonder,” came the reply, “you’re anchored on the reef mate!!”
Apparently another boat, now anchored further out, had anchored in the same spot yesterday and had dragged during the night and ended up on the reef and needed to be rescued. The chap on the boat next door said he was going to let us stay there a while and then let us know. I guess he knew we had probably just done a long passage, and thought he would give us a break before telling us the news! The saying “You learn something new every day” is certainly true when you are sailing!
Refuge Bay is a wonderful place to enjoy calm seas and clear blue water. The SW winds flicked up over the high peaks above us and left the anchorage like a tranquil lake. We watched a huge orange sun set over the ocean, squeezing itself elongated as it first hits the horizon. One never gets tired of sunsets, and it costs nothing! We are reminded of the words of that well known hymn…
“The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high”
The next day we went ashore and enjoyed our first tropical beach. A large cleft in the bush clad hillside channeled the water, in the wet season, into a stream that would break its way through the sand embankment to the sea. Now all that remained was a damp hollow. We counted 11 varieties of butterflies flitting on the breeze back and forth across this lush area looking for the last vestiges of dampness in the sand and moss left by the stream. They were a beautiful sight.
That evening, our second on Scawfell, as the sun set, we watched from our cockpit across the bow of a large replica gaff-rigged schooner anchored further out, as a mother whale held her calf at the surface with her pectoral fin. She stayed in the same position, lolling quietly on the surface, for a couple of hours and many of the boats in the anchorage went out in their duckies for a closer look but stayed far enough away so as not to frighten her. We felt we had probably just witnessed the birth of a whale calf, right in front of our boat.
We spoke to the “Pitchin’ Inn’s” today on channel 81 and they are planning to meet us in Burning Point at the south end of Shaw Island tomorrow. The forecast is good, with a 15 knot SW breeze, we should get there within 10 hours. It will be lovely to see them and hear of their adventures of the past three weeks.
September 06, 2009
Arriving in a strange harbour for the first time is always fraught with challenges. Some more than others. The marina staff, who you call up on the VHF radio, are always very helpful and try to give you all the information you need, but often the picture you build in your head does not match reality. In Bundaberg, finding “the white topped posts” that designates the fuel jetty doesn’t come as clearly as the instructions appeared to indicate. It all becomes perfectly clear once you are there, but when you are aboard a boat that has the maneuverability of a haystack, it can be a little unnerving.
When we first arrived at Bundaberg Marina we went straight to the fuel jetty and filled with water and diesel then moved to our allocated berth. As we pulled into our marina pen a couple from a boat across the arm came to take our ropes. Peter and Lyn owned “Turbo Terrific” a NZ designed Sayer yacht that Peter had spent 12 years building. Their previous boat was a Swanson 38, so they were particularly interested in seeing us arrive as they were “ex-Swano owners”. We were heading back to Melbourne for 2 weeks and they were planning to leave to head north in a fortnight too, so we agreed that we would travel together if it was convenient, when we got back.
Arriving back at Bundaberg marina was exciting after two weeks of intensive work on the College Registration material in Melbourne. We were anxious to get going again and hopeful that we hadn’t missed the weather opportunities to get further north again. Peter and Lyn were ready to roll in “Turbo Terrific” so we planned to leave at first light the following morning.
Leaving the Burnett River
After an early night, we rose at 0530 and slipped our ropes and slid quietly out of the marina by 0600, along with 4 other boats whose lights we could see ahead of us in the entry channel of the Burnett River. We thought we were to have company all the way to Pancake Creek some 65nm north west, but it appeared from the laylines of two of the boats, they were heading to Lady Musgrave Island, the first of the coral atolls in the Great Barrier Reef – 50nm north east of our position. Another of the vessels headed south. A fresh SE breeze had us making good sailing time, “Turbo Terrific” under full sail and heeling well to the breeze moved steadily ahead until they were barely visible on the horizon ahead of us. She sure is a different vessel to a Swanson 38 – almost the exact antithesis in every way – light, narrow, large sail area and fast.
As we came within sight of Clews Head, which is the entrance to Pancake Creek, our anchorage for the night, the wind dropped out and swung north and we began reeling “Turbo Terrific” back into our sights. She was forced to tack well out to sea to continue to make way, while we set the “iron mainsail” and before nightfall we were safely on anchor in the outside anchorage at Pancake Creek, right next to another Swanson 38, “Cyclades”. The inside anchorage, which is accessible through a narrow, port marked channel, appeared, from the visible masthead lights, to have at least 8 boats on anchor. It looked a lovely protected anchorage that may be enjoyed some other day, but for now our aim was to get north as quickly as possible as we were to catch up with Ben and Leesa, Sebastian, Zoe and Elliot in “Pitchin’ Inn” who had just arrived in Airlie Beach. We had enjoyed a good number of anchorages together in South Australian waters and we were looking forward to joining with them again in the Queensland Whitsundays. We anchored alongside “Cyclades” and called it the “Swanson Anchorage” as “Turbo Terrific”, who were to finally arrive an hour after us, just on dark, were ex Swanson owners. We were later to find out that where they anchored, inland of us, was to put them on the sandbar in the middle of the night. Fortunately by dawn they were able to clear the grounding and join us for the rest of the trip north.
The Tropic of Capricorn
We slipped gently out of Pancake Creek at first light, and as is usual with anchorages, as soon as we started to make a move and our propeller sent a signal through the water, there was a scurry on the boats around us and we were not far north when two set of white sails were hoisted behind us. “Cyclades” and “Turbo Terrific” were coming too! Our next destination was to be Great Keppel Island or “G.K.I” as the locals call it, some 64nm north east. We needed to make only one course change for the whole trip at Cape Capricorn, so named because it marks the Tropic of Capricorn just one mile south of the Cape at 23 degrees 30 minutes south, marking the sun’s southern limit of declination. 30 miles north of Pancake Creek is the port of Gladstone, not a popular anchorage with yachties due to its high industrial activity and infamous coal dust. It also requires a course change adding an additional 8 miles to a trip north. For the adventurous there is a tide-dependent trip from Gladstone up “The Narrows” behind Curtis Island and back out into Keppel Bay. This trip requires either an ideal tide or an overnight stopover partway through the narrow and changing channel. We figured we had put “Tibia” on the bottom enough on this trip and would rather choose to take the more direct route that would get us further north quickly.
Like Newcastle, Gladstone is a coal port and the whole area outside of Gladstone entrance is a huge anchorage for ships awaiting loading. We had to pick our way through the rolling coal ships in a fresh SE breeze, with a heavy sea running. Crew aboard waved out at us way above us as we sailed quickly by under their huge walls of steel, trying to keep on their windward side to avoid losing the breeze altogether from their huge wind shadow. We commented to each other that it was yachts like us passing commercial shipping that probably encouraged many seamen to take up the cruising life. It must have looked a beautiful sight from their perspective, two comparatively small yachts creaming along through a steady swell powered only by the wind, leaving a white trail of foam behind and forging forward into an empty horizon in front. I imagined men on board writing to their wives that day saying “dear, when I get home we are buying a boat and going cruising”. This is such a privilege to get the opportunity to do!!
“Turbo Terrific” caught and passed us amongst these ships, her full sails heeling her at an alarmingly uncomfortable angle and her hull banging over the waves. She was flying, but we were happy to making a comfortable 7 knots. As we came abeam Cape Capricorn we could hear other boats on the radio entering a very beautiful, but difficult to access, anchorage known as “The Yellow Patch”. That too would have to wait another day. Making NW from Cape Capricorn, ‘Ship Rock’ is very prominent to the east of Hummocky Island and although we knew it was there, we mistook it for a large ship making its way south towards us and thus made preparations for a course change if necessary. It seemd to be travelling very slowly and then as we got closer we realised why it was called ‘Ship Rock’, for that is exactly what it appears as, from seaward – a large ship!
Great Keppel Island
The last 18nm across Keppel Bay to Great Keppel Island was a wonderful sail, the sort of sail that makes you want to keep heading out to sea until you reach some yonder shore. We had made such good time motor-sailing to windward since Gladstone that “Turbo Terrific” was now well in our wake and having to beat her way across the bay. “Cyclades” decided to stop at the popular Cape Capricorn anchorage around the headland, while we made our way gingerly through the precarious channel between Middle Keppel and Great Keppel Islands. This notorious channel with its swift tidal flow and invisible reef hazards had claimed many vessels and just as we made our way into between the channel leads “Murphy” showed up! Suddenly, our GPS decided it wanted to show us something else, instead of where we were and despite much poking and punching of buttons it refused to respond. Fortunately we had set up a layline some time back so we had to navigate by “dead-reckoning”, which was more that the first explorers of this coast had! After a few anxious minutes we were through, swinging around the headland into Leeke’s Beach we could see that we not alone here, there were at least another 30 boats, all making their way north but stopping to enjoy this beautiful part of the world. We dropped anchor at 1715, just as the sun was setting over Rosslyn Bay and Yeppoon to the west. “Turbo Terrific” arrived at 2030 and anchored well behind us, uncertain about the congestion of the bay, due to the lack of moonlight and what appeared to them from seaward, as a myriad of masthead and mooring lights.
Found…but not Lost
The water is so clear at Keppel Island that it is difficult to tell just how deep it is. The depth sounder showed we were anchored in 6.5 metres, but the clear water and white sandy bottom made the depth deceiving. A chap on the boat alongside us called out to tell us that there was an anchor on the bottom just alongside his boat and he was going over the side to retrieve it as a spare anchor. After donning his wet suit, mask and flippers, he dived over, only to come to the surface a few moments later to announce that it was his anchor! The water was so clear and the bay so sheltered he had not realised that he was sitting above his own anchor and what he thought was a lost anchor was firmly attached to his boat already! Another sailor has yet another tale to tell when funny stories are being shared at “sundowners”.
The following day we took a walk ashore with Peter and Lyn from “Turbo Terrific” and walked across the island to what was once the grand Keppel Island Resort, now still in its 1970’s regalia and not surprisingly having difficulty competing with the glitsy, highly advertised resorts now springing up all along the coast and islands further north. The place, that was once a jewel in Ansett’s Airlines crown, is obviously struggling for business, despite its beautiful setting. We were very happy to be able to just drop our anchor in the bay and enjoy what others have to pay thousands to get to and experience.
Farewell “Turbo Terrific” and “Cyclades”
“Turbo Terrific” left for High Peak Island with “Cyclades” at midnight that night, whilst we made our way into Rosslyn Bay to Keppel Bay Marina to stay for a few days. The seven miles across to Rosslyn Bay is in water no deeper that 7 metres and crystal clear, a pleasing contrast to the murky waters we had encountered further south. Sailing over the stark white patches of sandy bottom was, at first, disconcerting as it looked so shallow, but after a while we enjoyed the azure blue water and the very beautiful setting of Rosslyn Bay and Yeppoon. Once settled into the modern marina we were met by Chris and Rose from the CYCSA who were staying in their caravan at the caravan park just down the road. They took us to meet some young friends from SA who had moved to Yeppoon recently, Jimmy and Anna Beale and then took us “home” for a lovely meal at their caravan. We spend the next few days with Chris and Rose visiting the local National Parks and Botanical Gardens. It was lovely to catch up with them again.
Yeppoon became a real meeting place for us because we met with Jimmy and Anna Beale who had moved to the area from Waikerie in SA and were making a lovely home in an on-site caravan at the Mulambeen Beach Caravan Park. Royce and Delene Nichols who were travelling in north Queensland with their caravan met us here and stayed at Mulambeen and then Andrew and Kathy Johns, who were also holidaying in the area, joined us aboard “Tibia” at the marina. We enjoyed a very funny afternoon aboard with Andrew and Kathy and Kathy’s sister Jan who regaled us all with tales of the local Rockhampton markets, of which Jan is an icon. Kathy and Jan competed furiously for airspace with tale after tale of wheeling at dealing at the market days. They were almost successful in having Royce stay longer in the area so that he could join the action at the next market. They seemed to think that he, would have what it takes to be a good market dealer! They seemed to think that the characteristics necessary were complementary of ones character, but I’m not so sure that they were that flattering!!
Market days seem to bring out a certain “killer instinct”. It was a lot of fun.
It was lovely to meet up with the Christadelphians who meet in Rockhampton on the Sunday with Royce and Delene and then to enjoy a picnic lunch together at the Botanical Gardens. They are a lovely friendly and happy group of families.
The Military Exclusion Zone
We had learned while in this area, from a number of disgruntled sailors, that the military zone north of here in the Shoalwater and Broad Sound area was now an exclusion zone due to joint military exercises going on between the US and the Australians. Added to the normal exclusions zones that are placed in this area during military exercises , an additional zoned area further east had been added, which would force us 25 miles further out to sea and mean that there was no longer any stop-over places until we reached the Percy Islands. The exact coordinates were difficult to get confirmed and there seemed no little confusion amongst the VMR’s as to what one should do. Our departure from Keppel Bay Marina was to be at midnight in order to give us sufficient time to cover the 94nm to the Percy Islands before nightfall. A considerable inconvenience all for the sake of military war games!
We were to be in for a very unpleasant night, and one which did not improve our already jaundiced view of the armed forces.
June 23, 2009
FRASERISLAND TO BUNDABERG
Kingfisher Cove – Fraser Island
We sailed across the Great Sandy Straits to Kingfisher Bay and dropped anchor just north of the passenger jetty, where passengers arrive and depart from Fraser Island. We had sailed along the coast of Fraser Island and walked ashore but hadn’t really seen much of what it is so well known for. We decided that we would take an all day guided tour of the island that was to leave from Kingfisher Bay Resort the following morning at 8.00am.
The next morning we rowed ashore in “Funnybone” and tied her to a hitching post made for the job. The soft sand and mud made for a tough haul from the water’s edge to the beach above the high tide line. We spent the day with Alan our guide and 20 other tourists aboard a large and comfortable 4WD bus. It was a great way to see the island and to give us an overview of this unique place in Australia. We visited the remarkable perched dune lake, Lake MacKenzie with its beautiful white silica sand and Pile Valley where the main logging camp was once situated on the island back in the 1930’s when the satinay trees were clear felled for wharves and jetties around the world because of their unique resistance to sea pests. We travelled through rainforest areas and then through semi arid areas, through huge sand inundations to the coastal regions. A 35 kilometre trip along the eastern beach to the wreck of the Maheno and then a number of us took a flight over the island, in a small plane, which took off and landed on the beach beside Eli Creek. Pauline, not a keen flier, stayed on the ground and took photos.
We left Kingfisher Bay the next morning for Moon Point at the top of the Great Sandy Straits. We set our course around the many islands and sandbars of the area and arrived at Moon Point mid afternoon. It was a pleasant anchorage, with white sandy beaches and clear water. Two other boats had arrived before us and another arrived soon after us. In the morning we retraced our steps a few miles, in order to get past many of the sandbars that are so prolific in this area and set our course for Bundaberg.
The “Young Endeavour” at Bundaberg
As we approached Bundaberg we could see the “Young Endeavour” also entering the harbour and heard her calling the Harbour Control. She is currently part way into a circumnavigation of Australia and is picking up a new crew of young people in Bundaberg for the next leg of the journey.
We arranged to stay at the Port Bundaberg Marina and leave the boat there for a couple of weeks while we returned to Melbourne to work on the registration of the school, ready for 2010.
We refuelled at Bundaberg as soon as we arrived and as we entered our allocated berth a couple, about our age, came out to take our lines. They had once been owners of a Swanson 38 in the 70’s and saw us at the fuel jetty and were interested in coming over to talk to us. They are planning to head north about the same time as we return to Bundaberg so we may catch up with them again. They have built a boat that would have to be almost everything a Swanson 38 isn’t – it is the complete opposite sort of boat, very light, very quick, centreboard, tiller steer, racer. They have fond memories of their Swanson.
Customs and Quarantine
Bundaberg is a common place for overseas vessels to reach the Australian Coast, so there was often a boat at the end of our pier, behind a locked gate, waiting for Quarantine and Customs to clear them so they could continue on their journey around Australia. The Customs Officials always seemed very friendly and courteous to the new arrivals and spent a good few hours with each vessel before they were free to come into the main marina area and go ashore. We met a few of them who had come from New Zealand , New Caledonia and Samoa and made Bundaberg there first port of call. We found these interesting but the marina staff seemed to treat them with indifference which was shame as it didn’t really seem to give people a particularly warm welcome to Australia. The facilities at Bundaberg Marina are excellent.
On Thursday morning we caught the plane to Melbourne and will be returning on Wednesday 1 July to continue our journey north. We are really looking forward to this next part of the journey as we have some lovely places to visit. We are also expecting to meet up with Chris and Rose from CYCSA in Yeppoon, Ben and Leesa Pitcher and their three kids in the Whitsundays in their boat and Royce and Delene in their caravan somewhere in the area. We are also looking forward to also seeing if Martin and Julie Waite from Melbourne and Geoff and Sylvia from CYCSA catch us up while we are away.
June 18, 2009
MOOLOOLABA TO MARYBOROUGH
Wide Bay Bar
We would like to have enjoyed Mooloolaba harbour a little longer, but with such a great weather system over us at the time, we decided we had best take the opportunity to get Wide Bay Bar behind us. The tides were good at the moment and would allow us to go straight there, without having to stop overnight at Double Island Point, which is commonly done.
We hoisted the mainsail, headsail and staysail to the 5-10 knot SE breeze and kept our average up by the occasional motor-sail. We allowed “Pretty Woman” to stay in front of us this time, even though the winds were light!
Catch a gannet by the tail
As we came close to Double Island Point it was easy to see the large number 4WD’s making their way along the long stretch of beach towards Rainbow Beach. It was a popular place.
As we sail we troll a lure behind us on about 40 metres of strong line, but it is frequently forgotten about for some time. This means that anything that happens to attach itself may be there for a while before we notice it. After some time we became aware of a squawking noise that was coming from behind the boat. An inspection noted a gannet sliding along the surface behind the boat at the same speed we were travelling. Our immediate thought was that it was feeding on the fish we had caught on the lure, as we had had birds diving on our lure before. As I wound in the line I asked Pauline to shoo the bird off the fish. When it was 10 metres off the boat it became clear that the bird was attached to the lure, not to a fish on the lure. Pauline’s waving and shooing was having no effect in dislodging the bird! It had dived on our lure thinking it was a fish and was firmly attached to it. Unfortunately the bird was being reeled in backwards. The lure was firmly attached to its nether regions!! Every now and then, as we crested a wave, it disappeared under the surface and then resurfaced squawking loudly. I brought it gingerly aboard and was able to restrain its frantic flapping by holding it firmly by its neck, thus stopping its fearsome beak getting too close to me. The one defensive peck that I did receive was enough to reinforce my fear that the one weapon it had worked, and only reinforced Pauline’s unwillingness to help! She stood at the far end of the cockpit refusing to offer any assistance other than the occasional squeal when the poor creature gave a lurch or squawk of discomfort from my efforts to extricate the hook from its, no doubt, tender rump. After many contortions, using my one free hand, it became clear that the large hook, firmly lodged in its backside, was not going to come out without surgery. Pauline was not keen on performing such a feat given the flailing beak and flapping wings, so we had no option but to cut the line and leave the bird to fly off complete with its metal appendage. As it flew off to join the other gannets in the vicinity, we laughed that this bird would probably become a celebrity, having a piece of jewelery attached to its backside no other gannet in the area could boast. One could picture this unfortunate gannet displaying its fancy rear-ended ornament to all the other gannets at the rookery and telling future generations about the sleigh ride it had behind a boat to get it. Maybe body piercing will become a fashion statement with gannets in the future!
Wide Bay Bar
This all served as a distraction to what was yet to come – Wide Bay Bar. The local coastguard from Tin Can Bay gave us the three required waypoints that are necessary to cross this bar. Due to the turbulence of the water in the area, the bar changes frequently and one has to seek the best line to cross from the coastguard every time one crosses. “Pretty Woman” like us, listened to boats in front of us receiving the information we required and noticed a critical discrepancy in the latitudes and longitudes that were being given. It seemed that Coastguard made a mistake on 2nd waypoint that we had programmed in to our plotter and as we approached we had to make the change. With a quiet 1 metre swell and no sea at all, and with the tide three hours into a flood tide we expected an ideal entry. The first lead was fine and then as we turned into what is known as “The Mad Mile” it became very apparent why this piece of water has gathered such a notorious reputation. What was flat and calm beyond the bar, became a short, sharp twisted chop that heaved and lurched every which way. We now knew why Wide Bay Bar had such a reputation. On a bad day this would be a horrendous piece of water. There was no doubt many a sailor with a story to tell about this place!
As we cleared the final waypoint, the ferries that take the many 4WD’s to Fraser Island were flat out crossing the channel in front of us.
Tin Can Bay
“Pretty Woman” phoned ahead and booked a berth for both of us in the marina at Tin Can Bay. As we approached “Pretty Woman” missed the entrance to the marina, which was not hard to do, they had been warned, and took up her place in a double berth, which the marina manager assured us would have room for both of us. As we approached there didn’t look like anywhere near enough room, but Geoff and Jenny waved us on, so we continued. There was enough room. We visited the local Yacht Club for dinner.
We phoned Peter and Lorraine Colman, who we had kept in contact with since they visited us in SA from Fremantle about 4 years ago. They now lived in Tin Can Bay and their boat “Mendana” was moored just across from us. It would be great to catch up with them again. We used the time in Tin Can Bay Marina to do the washing and clean the boat, which had become very muddy from the anchor chain because the last few anchorages had very muddy bottoms.
The following day we farewelled “Pretty Woman”, probably for the last time, as they have get back to Fremantle by October, and then caught up with Peter and Lorraine. We went for a walk around Tin Can Bay Cove with them, which was interesting in itself, because although they owned a car, like all cruising folk, walking is part of the code of practice. Peter and Lorraine also had two eccentric dogs they were doggie-sitting they had to walk. We visited the house in Cooloola they are house sitting in at present and enjoyed a lovely meal with them. They told us about their trips in “Mendana” to NZ and then into Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Lorraine sang us two of the lovely sailing songs she has written and composed, which she accompanied on her guitar. We were surprised to hear that they were preparing “Mendana” for sale, but they intend to buy something bigger and continue cruising.
We heard from Adelaide that our son Mark was crossing to Kangaroo Island via Wirrina over the weekend in his H28. The weather didn’t sound too friendly, but he was confident he could cope on his own and was enjoying the experience. He was going to catch up with Alan and Carole on the island, who would make him very welcome. They continue to do a wonderful job as VMR American River. We have met a number of sailors on this trip who have used their services while crossing from the west and been greatly appreciative of their efficient and friendly manner on the radio.
Early the following morning we went to feed the rare Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins that have been encouraged to interact with humans at the local boat ramp. These beautiful creatures are found in just two places in the world and this is one of them. Tin Can Bay.
Up The Great Sandy Strait
We left Tin Can Bay at 1000 for Gary’s Anchorage, a popular meeting place on the western shores of Fraser Island. We wound our way up the Great Sandy Straits, following the well marked and accurately indicated channels. Here we anchored next to a yacht, “Tasha”and met Des and Marilyn with son and grandson Harrison. We went ashore for a walk noticing the obvious dingo prints along the shoreline. What we didn’t notice, at the time, was the midgies which made a feast of us and we were not to discover this until bed time and then for the next few days! As with many things, everyone seems to know about them when you tell them! “Bionical Boy”, who we had seen anchored close by in Mooloolaba, was anchored alongside and they were making their way quickly north to warmer and more settled weather.
Up the Mary River
Des and Marilyn on “Tasha” had visited Maryborough many times and assured us that they knew it well, so we agreed to join them on a trip up the Mary River to Maryborough. With this piece of water it is very important to get the tides correct as the river is both shallow and the tidal flow strong. As we left Gary’s Anchorage by the shallow northern entrance they told us not to worry if they were quicker than us sailing because their boat was quite quick, they would wait for us. We followed them motor-sailing to White Cliffs, where we anchored for the afternoon to wait for the tide at the Mary River entrance. We caught a few fish, some of which we had trouble identifying from our fish books. One blew up like a balloon around its throat when I lifted it clear of the water and made a loud grinding noise with its teeth. It didn’t look either happy or edible, so we extricated the hook and tossed it back. Pauline once again stood well back across the other side of the boat offering staccato and tremulous advice! Rescuing wildlife is clearly a male domain on “Tibia”.
Later in the afternoon the wind picked up to a good 12 knot NE breeze and we set off across the Sandy Straits for the Mary River entrance. “Tasha” was intending to go all the way to Maryborough as they had an arranged mooring with a friend, we intended to stay part way at a spot called Beaver Rock. “Tasha” raised anchor and sails before us and headed off. We followed with full main, headsail and staysail and set off at a cracking pace across the bay. It wasn’t long and it became clear that we were rapidly gaining on “Tasha”. Now for those of you who are not sailors reading this, cruising boats don’t race, that is until there is another boat within cooee! Then sail tweaking begins in earnest. We wanted them to go first as they knew the way, but after rolling in the staysail, and triple reefing the headsail, we were still getting along quicker than them through the water. We decided that we would keep in front and save them the humiliation of having to pass a boat with practically no sail up!
A thorough grounding
Apart from a few shallow spots, the channels were quite well marked in the early part of the river. As the sun began to set we figured it would be a good idea to look for a place to stay the night. Off to the west, in the sun-glare, were some large red buoys, which we took to be mooring buoys for the houseboats that frequent this area. We picked one up but were a little uneasy about the size of the line attached and there didn’t seem to be any where to attach our lines to. We decided to carry on. We were later to discover they were buoys the local fishermen attach their nets to. As we rounded the next bend in the river we were confronted by a string of small buoys right across, what we thought, was the channel. The water became alarmingly shallow. Next thing a fisherman in his tinnie came racing over and told us in no uncertain terms that they were his fishing buoys and we were on the wrong side of the river. He made some sarcastic comment about our ability to navigate, and pointed across the river to a flashing red beacon that we had not noticed. I might add that in getting to this point in the river we had avoided running aground on a sandbar that had claimed “Tasha” who was thoroughly stuck and didn’t expect to be free for about half an hour on the rising tide. Just as well we weren’t following them! There was no point trying to justify our foolish position to the pontificating fisherman. With the setting sun we had not seen the red beacon and anyway it had only just started to flash as he spoke to us. He buzzed off muttering something unrepeatable over the noise of his outboard. With some fancy boat handling, we managed to negotiate our way across to the left hand side of the river and make our way, using our plotter, to the anchorage we had originally thought we would use. It turned out this was not clever. Isn’t it funny that when you tell people about your troubles later, everyone seems to know that it was not a good idea! We were to learn from the locals in Maryborough that no one had been able to get into where we were trying to get to, in the dark, for many years. So in our efforts to find a way we got ourselves thoroughly grounded. We decided we would wait until “Tasha” was free and when she went past we would make an attempt to get free and follow her. We made some dinner while we waited and within half an hour we could see the navigation lights of “Tasha” passing us. We called them up and told them that we were going to attempt to get free and follow them up the river. With much twisting forward and backward and because of the darkness and not really knowing where the deep water was, we made our way out, happily and proceeded to follow “Tasha” up the river, finally dropping the anchor at 2200 a mile downstream of the city.
In the morning we called the local marina and arranged to pick up their last mooring in the river, which Pauline skilfully captured on the second attempt We were later to find out that other boats had abandoned their numerous attempts to get a hold of this tricky mooring. It’s hard to get good crew and when you do they are worth hanging on to!
We met Ben and Nev at the Maryborough Marina and Chandlery who, we learned, had been trying unsuccessfully to sell their business for the past 5 years. The jetty and facilities were in bad need of repair due to the local council favouring other developers rather than existing facilities. Nev told us a horrendous story of the recent floods in the area. Late one night, during the storm, a 40 metre section of the marina floating pier upstream had come adrift in the raging torrent, complete with 4 attached boats, and was seen floating downstream towards the boats who were moored in the centre of the river. Nev was aware that a chap they knew was living aboard one of these boats which was directly in the path of this floating catastrophe. A quick phone call woke the occupant who was able to race on deck, cut his mooring line just as the lurching flotilla arrived at 5 knots. He was able to extricate himself from the conglomeration of concrete, steel, timber and fibreglass with some skilful use of his engine and then tie up again. Nev was able to capture a few photos in the dark from the shoreline. They made sobering contemplation. That timely phone call most certainly saved the chap’s life as the floating battering ram would have most certainly sunk him before he would have had time to get out of his bunk.
“The Second hand Capital of Australia”
Maryborough is a lovely town, with a particularly beautiful waterfront development, which apart from an unfortunate homeless chap who was still asleep under a blanket on a park bench at 1030 in the morning, was virtually unused. Maryborough is known as “The Secondhand Shop Capital of Australia”, a title it seems happy to adopt. There are second hand shops everywhere, all seeming to specialise in particular assortments of bric-a-brac. We visited the town and I was able to have my stitches removed by a local doctor, who charged $33.50 for the 3 minute painless operation. After the gannet and pufferfish incidents, Pauline seemed reluctant to perform any operations on me to remove the stitches, even though the doctor who put them in gave us a surgical blade and clear instructions. She might be good at securing a allusive slippery mooring line, but she wasn’t willing to have a go at a tiny suture!!
We enjoyed a pub meal that night for $7.95 – all you could eat, which had to be the best value we had come across so far. The food was fantastic and it appeared that most of the town ate there. No wonder the place was packed. At 0730 the following morning we went ashore to the local street markets which happen every Thursday, which the town is famous for. We purchased a large supply of fruit and veges, gifts for all the grandies and then returned to the boat for a 1115 departure. This gave us the last hour on a flood tide against us, slack water as we approach the infamous Beaver Rocks and then an ebbing tide for the remainder of the 17 nm journey. We reached Beaver Rocks and gave the resident fisherman a courteous wave. We could only imagine what he was saying about us to his mate as we slipped past his grubby looking fishing boat, illegally plonked in the middle of the channel, while he captured undersized fish for to sell an an exorbitant price. Whatever he said I am sure it wasn’t complementary. We made the Mary River entrance without incident and settled back to set our course for the remainder of the Sandy Straits, satisfied that we had done so well. Then just as I was about to set the autohelm, Pauline noticed on the plotter that we had missed the final waypoint, a critical starboard lead marker, that had temporarily been visually obscured by fishing boat anchored alongside. A quick yank on the wheel to port had us heeled over precariously as we slithered our way along the edge of the final sandbar. We can be quite confident that there was no growth left on the bottom of our keel by now. If we stayed in the this area for any length of time we probably wouldn’t have to worry about antifoul at all, given our current track record with groundings. The consolation is that in this area we are told there are two types of sailors “those who have hit the bottom and those who have lied about never having hit the bottom” . We most certainly belong to the former group!!
June 17, 2009
SOUTHPORT TO MOOLOOLABA
Up the Broadwater
The waterway inside Stradbroke Island heading north is known as the Broadwater, because that is what it appears to be: a broad stretch of water. However when you consult a navigation chart it is a very different scene. The water is broad, but the navigable channels are not! Once again we were to find the bottom coming up to meet us!
We had a light and warm SW breeze as we left Southport – just right for a leisurely sail up the Broadwater to a spot to stay for the night. We were in company with the catamaran “Pretty Woman” and as we had come to discover, “Tibia” could outperform her in light airs. The channels north of the Seaway are well marked so we settled back to follow port to port and starboard to starboard. About 8 miles up and going well, we came to a westerly cardinal mark. A black steel ketch we had caught up to was clearly going to take the mark to the east.
“What’s the matter with him”, I remember saying to Pauline, “Clear water is to the west!”
Sure enough, within a few minutes the steel ketch lurched to a halt and clouds of black smoke coming from his exhaust indicated that he was well grounded. Feeling very smug that we had made the right descision and making some snide comment about the skippers navigational expertise, we continued to obey the cardinal. Suddenly, without a word of warning from our depth sounder, we too lurched to a grinding halt. A wave from the black ketch’s skipper indicated that we were “in the same boat” as it were. I am sure he was laughing to himself!
Hurrah for local knowledge
We made a call on our agreed chat Channel 71 to “Pretty Woman” suggesting that they try and find another way to go as this cardinal mark clearly wasn’t doing it job! When we left a gap in our conversation long enough for someone to jump in, Tony and Vicky from a boat called “Sunbird” called us. It turned out they were the catamaran we could see off to our starboard and they were locals, and yes, that cardinal mark was not right.
“Ignore it”, they said, now too late, “the recent flood created a huge sandbar there and the dredges are working there at the moment”.
They invited us to follow them and they would show us around as they were in no hurry to get home. They had been on the water for 3 weeks out at Lady Elliott Island off Bundaberg and they relished the opportunity to show us around their home territory. They too were in a Seawind 1000, so were keen to meet Geoff and Jenny on “Pretty Woman” and during the course of the afternoon arranged a mutual “boat swap” for the future. This is something that not many people on land would not do with their cars, but yachties are happy to do. They swap boats and cruising grounds with others all over the country and indeed around the world.
Tony and Vicki took us to Tipplers Passage for the afternoon, where we rafted up and enjoyed an afternoon together. On the way we passed groups of wallabies feeding at the waters edge. One can only assume they were eating small crustaeceans that were in the mud because they were digging and then eating.
As the afternoon drew on, and black clouds began to gather, we decided to use the change of tide to move further up the passage to Jacob’s Well. We had to put on our navigation lights by 1600 because the rain was so heavy and visibility was dramatically reduced. We were both able to pick up moorings at Jacob’s Well and enjoyed a very calm night, sharing a meal aboard “Tibia”.
The next morning a 0700 start saw us heading north further up the Broadwater. The channels became narrower, with many ribbons of water heading off into mangroves, to port and starboard. The channel was well marked and we we were able to motorsail. At the one place where the channel narrows to a few boat widths and takes a sharp turn to port, five boats converged. We had not seen another boat underway all morning, but here everyone arrived at the same time! Two ferries travelling at least 15 knots, instead of the required 6, a very large cabin cruiser and a dredge all arrived simultaneously as well as a few small fishing tinnies. Everyone waved smilingly as we passed a few metres from one another!
Our first stop for the day was to be at Cleveland to provision and for “Pretty Woman” to pick up Greg, their crew member. As the narrow channel into Cleveland is so shallow we sent “Pretty Woman” first to sound the depths for us. With a rising tide if we scraped coming in we would at least get out. We just made it. We did our shopping and the checkout assistant, when she heard we were from boats on the marina, told us to push the trolleys back through town to the marina, and she would send the trolley boys to get them. That’s a small town for you!
The initial plans were to stop at St Helen’s Island, but the SW breeze was so good we carrried on to Deception Bay. As we sailed acros the bay we could see the Brisbane skyline off in the mist to the west. We crossed the designated shipping entry lane and arrived at Deception Bay. We had intended to call into Brisbane to catch up with Pauline’s sister Trish but with such a good weather window and our desire to get as far north as we could, we gave Brisbane a miss this time. We tried to find the designated suitable anchorage, mentioned in Alan Lucas’s book, outside the Scarborough Yacht Club, but with the depth alarm constantly sounding, the crew decided it was time to think of somewhere else!.
Bongaree on Bribie
With a clear sky and steady breeze we pushed on to Bongaree on the south end of Bribie Island. This was a beautiful anchoarge in a tidal area outside the town, looking out over Moreton Bay. We anchored in 3.5 metres and fell back into 1.5m. Oh well, it was a falling tide, but it would be up again by the time we were ready to move in the morning. We enjoyed a shared meal aboard “Pretty Woman” and then turned in early. When we got up we were thoroughly stuck on a mud bar that had recently been deposited during the storms, as we were anchored right at the entrance to a small creek which must have brought down a lot of mud and deposited it right here. A couple of metres either side was fine. By the time we had breakfast we were off on a rising tide.
We left Bongaree at first light, rounding the cape and up to Mooloolaba. We we approached in the afternoon we heard on the radio that the Etchell Championships were being held there over the next few days. That accounted for the hundreds of sails we could see on the horizon.
We cleared the entrance to Mooloolaba harbour and made our way past a myriad of masts in the various marinas and outside private homes, up to the anchoring area, which is a beautiful pond surrounded by houses and jetties. I stayed aboard to catch up on correspondence while the rest went ashore to browse the shops.
Sea eagle entertainment
A beautiful sea eagle, that could be heard calling from the nearby trees, made a sudden swoop and dive right next to our boat and came up with a small fish in its talons. Having turned the fish around in its feet to face forward and therefore be more streamlined, it flew around trying to find a suitable vantage to consume its catch. The spreaders of the yacht next door, proved too difficult to get in to and the top of a nearby mast too precarious, so it flew around for a while clearly puzzled as to what to do. It tried a number of other places unsuccessfully and a few squawking scavengers began to unsettle it. A quick swoop to a nearby cabin cruisers flybridge gave it a burgee mast to cling to and a sufficiently broad navigation light to place its catch. Being a raptor, they are uncomfortable on a flat surface and therefore had to find both a place for its own feet and a nearby “plate” to place its catch. The correspondence didn’t get done!!
Bella and Derek
We went to meet Bella and Derek who used to own “Calista” that is now owned and loved by Colin and Cookie in SA. We borrowed “Pretty Woman’s” duckie to go to Lawries Marina and see them in their beautiful new boat, which is considerably bigger that “Calista”. They plan to head north to the Louisiades again this year, which is their favourite haunt in the winter. A chap called Harold was also onboard, from whom I purchased a USBGPS at a great price!
We went ashore for tea with the group and having walked the town looking for the best deal, settled at the Surf Life Saving Club. As it was a holiday weekend there were a lot of visitors in town and many craft fairs were set up on the jetties and along the waterfront. It’s not hard to resist trinkets you don’t need when you are on a boat – there is no room!
We left Mooloolaba the following morning at 5.45am amongst a flotilla of boats. We had at least 12 boats immediately visible in front of us and many more behind. With the long weekend it seems that everyone was going to be making the most of the perfect sea conditions. As we made our way out we were surpised to see “Stereo” tied to a private jetty. As we cleared the entrance we saw another Swanson out at sea. We went over to say gidday – but they were just locals out for a drift around.
Next stop Tin Can Bay, but not before the last and most notorious bar crossing on the east coast – Wide Bay Bar. It was a quiet trip and we let “Pretty Woman” go first.
June 17, 2009
Leaving Coffs Harbour
Given our harrowing experience when entering Coffs Harbour, we decided to delay our departure until full tide to give us maximum clearance over the sand delta that had formed at the entrance to the marina. With 153 nautical miles to Southport our 1230 departure was expected to give us an ETA of 1600 Saturday. This was a good time to be crossing the Seaway Bar as it would be the last hour of the flood tide and this piece of water has a reputation for being unfriendly if you treat it badly. The only down-side of the trip was the lack of moon.
We settled into a pleasant sail with the northerly current lifting us along as well as the pleasant 15 knot SW breeze. There were two other yachts within sight, which is always nice to see as one sails along into the night. We tried to contact them on VHF radio, but there was no reply. Many yachties don’t use the radio unless absolutely necessary. On nightfall the sea state had, for some unknown reason, deteriorated considerably. An uncomfortable short chop had set up from the NE against the building swell from the SW behind us. We could find no logical explanation for this as our speed over ground still registered higher than our log. The only change was that the water temperature had increased to almost 23 degrees. Nice for swimming, but we weren’t tempted to give it a try. Alan Lucas makes the observation in his Cruising Guide that this area is notorious for uncomfortable seas at times, caused by rapid changes in the sea floor and counter currents making their way around the prominent headlands in this area.
Through the night
At 2100 we were abeam Iluka-Yamba and called the local coastguard to notify him of our position. Julia on “Hunk”, who was somewhere out there, called in to say that she was going to attempt to cross the bar into the Clarence River at Yamba. Without a moon, the wrong tide and a reasonable sized swell that coastguard said was “dumping” in the middle of the bar, she made her way in. She is braver than we were, but when you are on your own sleep is very important. Coastguard Iluka-Yamba passed on our tracking sheet to Byron Bay where we should be at daybreak. Although many of these coastguard stations are manned 24 hours a day, one doesn’t like to call unless necessary because one is aware that all other vessels and shore stations monitoring Channel 16 are always awakenend by the call. These men and women volunteers do an amazing job.
At 0320, Byron Bay coastguard called to check our position. We were indeed abeam his tracking station with a great southerly breeze, getting along at just over 7 knots. At 0640, just as the sun was rising, Coastguard Kingscliff, the next one up the line, called to ask if the yacht abeam of him was us. We were still 11 miles south and with a quick calculation he worked out that we would have had to be doing 20 knots to get there that quickly!! That did tell us that the boat that was ahead of us as we left Coffs was now 11 miles ahead after 18 hours, therefore travelling a little under 2 knots quicker. As the sun came up the high rise buildings of the Tweed Heads came into view and way off in the distance, the highrise of The Gold Coast. Whilst cities don’t excite us, when you have been through a cold dark night at sea, seeing your destination is a great motivator.
Drama in the Southport Seaway
Five miles from the Seaway we called the Seaway Tower to register our intention to come through at a little after 1200 hours. The coastguard seemed distracted and took a long time to answer our calls and when they did there was clearly a lot of activity going on in the communications tower. It’s funny how you pick up the nuances in people’s voices even over the radio. There was clearly some unexplained tension. Was the bar nasty, or worse still, had there been some incident? They asked us to call again as we were about to make our approach. As we got closer we noticed two or three helicopters flying back and forth across the entrance, one then making a swoop out over us. One begins to think what their television film commentary might be saying… “and with one accident on the Seaway Bar this morning another yacht makes its way towards the entrance to meet its fate…” At our final seaward waypoint we called and were let in on what was going on. A young whale calf had come in through the Seaway entrance and there were a lot of sightseers in all manner of craft from jetskis to large whale watch charter boats all milling around inside the bar. Seaway Coastguard warned us to make our approach carefully. We decided with all the craft about we would leave our mainsail up to signal that we were coming through, not just milling around. As we lined up the final leads, a large dredge decided that it was a good time to come through the entrance towards us as well. With all the boats around the whale on the southern side of the entrance it made straight for us forcing us, in order to pass port to port as required, to move much more to the northern breakwater than we would have otherwise liked. What with all the boats about, a potential whale, and a dredge, we doused the mainsail in a big hurry and while doing so noticed that the dedge was flying a ball, diamond and ball. Limited manouverability. Its starboard side also displayed two diamonds. Pass to the starboard side. Too late!! The dredge’s skipper gave us a friendly wave from his high up wheelhouse bridge seemingly unfazed by all the commotion in the narrow waterway. I suppose size helps!! What is it with our entrances to harbours? Then to top it all off, right on the southern entrance to the Southport channel a dredge with a marked outfall pipe narrowed the entrance way down even further, making it fun for those travelling fast to swerve it an out of, but for those of us more sedate creatures, it was just another thing to add to the clutter!
We made our way up the main Southport channel, which has speed limit of 40 knots. Many power boats and jetskis clearly relished using all of this limit to get out to see the young whale. A thill-seeker jet boat did donuts in the middle of all of the commotion just to add some extra spice! There was a flurry of white water akin to the beginning of a Sydney Hobart race with all the spectator fleet heading out to see the young visitor to Southport. Reaching the end of the headland we turned into a very popular anchorage for visiting yachts, known locally as Bums Bay (in the presence of children read “Bottoms”!). As you approach the bay it looks like a sea of boats all crammed together without any possible room for more, but as one gets closer, gaps start to appear, gaps big enough for us to drop our anchor in and rest awhile. We found a lovely spot, 100 metres off shore, beautifully protected from all but a howling SW wind and none were forecast. We slept well!
Marine Safety Queensland
The next morning we went ashore in the duckie and visited the local VMR to see if they had details of Queensland’s marine rules, regulations and requirements. They didn’t, but told us to go down the road on Monday to Marine Safety Queensland (MSQ). We had heard many horror stories of this body and their alleged standover tactics, particularly towards interstate vessels, so we were anxious to be doing the right thing. A visit to them on Monday was to be a bit of an anti-climax. Expecting a uniformed upstart behind the counter of MSQ, we found a charming woman who gave us a 90 page booklet of all the Queensland rules and regulations and answered all our questions. No, we didn’t need to register our boat in Queensland. No, we didn’t have to follow SA law in Queensland with respect to our duckie. Yes, an effluent holding tank was necessary in certain designated areas but a portaloo is OK. We were keen to read the 90 pages of regulations to check her very casual attitude. It turned out that the 90 pages were 90% advertising and the actul regulations took up about three pages. Maybe she was right, Queenslanders were friendly to strangers. We decided to do the right thing and reserve our judgment until we had been here a while.
Being anchored in Bums Bay was a unique experience because the local environment was a like a typical remote anchorage with sandy beaches and no buldings, but just a short stretch away; the skyline was dominated by highrise apartment buildings and offices and the air was filled with the sounds of cars, boats and planes and the screams of people riding the adventurous roller coaster at Seaworld a short step away. The “Aquaduck”, an amphibious craft, entered the water a short distance along the beach from where we were anchored. It was a popular tourist activity.
While in Southport we thought we would use the opportunity to visit a doctor to get a few suspect skin blemishes checked out seeing we were spending so much time in the sun. We made an appointement at a local clinic that on “Whereis.com” seemed to be quite close. We walked for about an hour in the pouring rain wearing our $2.00 flimsy plastic rain coats and then rang the clinic to check directions. The receptionist advised that we were on the right road; and yes we were to go down the hill, past the hospital and a lot of car dealerships, about 5 or 6 blocks. After 6 blocks and still raining we rang again because our appointment time was almost due. Oh yes….from where we sought directions we were at the top of a hill and it was down in both directions! There was also a hospital block in both directions and not surprisingly there were car dealerships there too! We had walked 6 blocks in the wrong direction, we now had 10 or 12 blocks to walk, and it was still raining! We arrived, wet and flustered about 25 minutes late, but the doctor was running late anyway so no-one seemed to care! Pauline got the all clear, had a flu vaccination, and a replacement prescription. I had a nasty lump on my chin under my ear. The doctor cut it out straight away and closed it with 3 stitches. We took a taxi back to the anchorage! The doctor rang two days later to say the piece he had removed was a nasty and he had got it all. A big plaster on my neck looked impressive, much to the horror of a little boy who asked what I had done. When I told him that the doctor was trying to take my head off, but he was unable to find a suitable replacement donor, he looked horrified!
Time to head off north
Before heading north we visited the local chandlery at the Southport Yacht Club to purchase a detailed chart or two of the Broadwater area, fill with diesel and water and refill the gas bottle. “Pretty Woman” who had turned up late last night waited around for us so that we could travel the Broadwater together.
We had enjoyed our time here very much.
June 13, 2009
A Foggy Start
Having slipped out of Newcastle under the cover of fog and darkness, we set all our sails to the 10 knot SE breeze and began the 183 nautical mile trip to Coffs Harbour, which we had chosen as our next stop due to its ease of entry, a point we were to learn later was not quite true. Fortunately, ignorance is bliss and so we settled into the routine of hourly chart fixes and radioing the various Volunteer Marine stations along the coast and kept our faithful “Tibia” trimed to make the maximum speed we could. A noticeable feature of this whole trip was to be the total lack of seabirds and dolphins, almost certainly due to the quality of the water, now badly discoloured from the outfall from all the rivers following the recent storm flooding. A number of the VMR’s warned us of flotsam and jetsam in the water in the form of logs and dead cattle and sheep, and for us to keep out beyond 5 miles to avoid an unwanted collision. Whilst it was nice to receive the information we felt that the alternatives had advantages. To go out that far meant we would be in the area of the coastal current which runs contrary to our direction at a speed of up to 3 knots. As well as that, at night, without a moon, we couldn’t have kept a satisfactory watch anyway, so we felt that cattle and tree watch was not practical. If we were to hit either, the chances of us hitting a log at a critical angle, or the horns of a bull, which would probably be the most dangerous part of a dead beast, sufficient to pierce our hull, we figured the risks were worth taking. Had we been at work we would have had to have drawn up a risk assessment plan, had a few high level meetings with all the key stake holders, taken a vote after hearing all the evidence, taken detailed minutes and then decided that the whole exercise of being on the water was too risky anyway, it would be best to get rid of the boat and live somewhere safe and take up crocheting. We moved on.
A Badly Damaged Coastline
1000 hours saw us abeam Port Stephens. We were really looking forward to exploring this lovely cruising area. We had purchased all the charts 6 years earlier when we were intending to bring our previous boat, a trailer sailer, up here when “Tibia” came up for sale and we cancelled the trip. Now six years later we are unable to enter the port because time constrained us to get north quickly to avoid this part of the coast. Midday had us three and a half miles east of Broughton Island, which we had also hoped to have visited, and travelling at a comfortable 6 knots. Unfortunately beyond this area the sea state changed and we experienced the contrary coastal current throughout the night. Our last coast guard call for the day was made at 2110 to Camden Haven and then at 0530 the following morning we received a call from Port Macquarie to check that were all OK. The night passed slowly as we were making less than 5 knots across the ground, although our log was reading 6.5 knots most of the time. The water was filthy.
Our First Whale Siting
As we crossed in front of Nambucca Heads the following afternoon we saw our first whales. In all the miles we have sailed in “Tibia” we have not seen whales, this was our first. We took copious amounts of movie and photos of blank clear ocean. It seems they show themselves only briefly. At one point Pauline was on the helm and called me to reset our course to avoid what looked like a floating log. It turned out to be the back of a humpback whale directly on our bow. As we approached in sounded and we never saw it again.
An Eventful Entry
Thirty-two hours after leaving Newcastle we entered Coffs Harbour. A phonecall to the marina manager secured us a berth on B row number 14 – facing east, he said, with a port side tie up. What he forgot to tell us was that the entrance to the marina was badly silted up as a result of the recent storms and there was less that 1.5 metres across the entrance at low tide. A small tourist boat lead us to the entrance and proceeded through but we came to a shuddering halt and healed over. Fortunately there was a substantial swell still running into the bay and on every rising swell we were able to gun the engine and move a few inches further until we were over the hump. The marina manager saw our predicament and feeling responsible for not warning us, he mobilised one of the local fishing boats to come and tow us off. We got ourselves clear before they were needed. Then coming in to find our row… well, it was B14, but it faced west and we tied up on starboard! This took some deft boat handling to turn “Tibia” inside the wrong row and bring her into the correct berth with fenders and ropes on the wrong side. Boating always gives you the unexpected. No matter how well planned you are, something always seems to manage to surprise you. Maybe a risk assessment meeting may have helped here too!!
We were not expected Coffs Harbour to be the mess it was. It was difficult to comprehend the stories we were being told by the people who had experienced the ferocity of the weather in this marina during the recent storm. Coffs Harbour has a very substantial marina breakwater made of large blocks of natural stone and manmade blocks of concrete. A walkway wide enough to drive a truck along, runs along the top of the wall. The recent seas had lifted some of the 18 tonne blocks of concrete and thrown them over the wall into the marina destroying three of the piers, which now temporarily could only be accessed using ladders. A number of boats had been sunk and damaged by the flying debri.
As we pulled into our allocated berth, directly opposite us was “Azure”, that used to belong to Chris and Lilly from Freemantle and had stayed at CYCSA for some months. As we noticed the boat and exclaimed the fact to each other, the new owners popped their heads up and were pleased to hear that we knew Chris and Lilly and the boat and they were very keen to show us the changes they had made to the boat. Unfortunately we learnt that Chris and Lilly were now in Port Stephens and we had bipassed them on the way up. Chris is now building his second catamaran which they are intending to use for long term cruising. The first one, it seems, paid for this privilege!
On our second day in the harbour, while walking along the wall, we met a hydrologist who had flown from Sydney that day to do a professional assessment of the damage to the breakwater and provide suggested improvements to the design of the wall. As we sat at the marina cafe having a pie each for lunch, he came and joined us again. He showed us the drawings, calculations and wave tank simulations they do in their design and testing of breakwater walls. It was a very interesting lunch break. It seems that Coffs Harbour breakwater suffers from two problems; firstly being the design of the wall which allows storm force waves to break directly on it with full force and secondly the local council’s reluctance to spend the required $2.4M to correct this problem which has now been identified three times in the past 8 years. The cost of repairs has now exceeded the cost of the remedial work which should have been done 8 years ago at half the cost.
“Chalwyn” and “Hunk”
When we arrived “Chalwyn”, who we had last seen in Jervis Bay, was already in the harbour, having arrived the previous day from Laurieton, where they had weathered the storm without incident. They were planning to stay a few more days before heading north. We also met up with Julia on “Hunk”. Julia is a young Swedish girl we met in Pittwater, who was sailing a 25 footer alone, and had crossed the Tasman from New Zealand during April. She was keen to get north and was planning to leave at the a similar time to us and stay in at Yamba if she could get safely across the bar.
We were invited aboard “Carisbrooke” by its owner Keith, who features in Alan Lucas’s book “Cruising the NSW Coast” for him to show us the best way north. Keith now suffers from Parkinsons Disease and is unable to sail, but lives aboard his boat. He successfully weathered the storm in Coffs Harbour by having his boat in the one area of the harbour that was undamaged. He told us that with a knowing experience of someone who understands the sea. His knowledge of the NSW coastline was to prove invaluable and saved us many hours over the next few days as we headed north. His suggested route had us staying closer to the coast and following the north bound counter coastal current which at times gave us up to 2 knots of lift.
While in Coffs, Pauline had her haircut in town, and we enjoyed a pleasant meal at the “Y-Knot Restaurant”, at the Coffs Harbour Yacht Club.
Ready to go!
“Cheetah” had arrived late the following evening from Laurieton, so we had time to say “Hello” and “See you later” and we will no doubt catch them further up the coast again.
Having jostled “Tibia” into the very busy and awkward fisherman’s jetty for refuelling, after waiting for two trawlers to fill up with 2500 litres each, we left Coffs Harbour just after 1230 on Friday bound for Southport 153nm northwards. We expect to be in Southport by 1600 Saturday.
June 05, 2009
Lake Macquarie “Not To Be A”
We had hoped to be able to get into Lake Macquarie, but a call to the local Coast Guard confirmed what we had heard from others – the channel in at Swansea was too silted up to allow us through into the lake with a draft of 1.7m. We were disappointed because Lake Macquarie was a place we had always wanted to visit since having attended numerous Bible Schools at Rathmines and we had watched the yachts sailing its waters out our bedroom window. But it was not to be – our boat is normally “Tibia” and this time it was “Not Tibia”!
Coal to Newcastle
Between Pittwater and Newcastle we picked our way through over 30 huge coal ships, of all nationalities, anchored along the coast, stretching over 30 miles south of Newcastle. We were to learn later from Coastal Patrol that the record number of coal ships to be out there at one time is now 98 and that there is normally over 50. Our trip through was light on coal ships! We also learnt that it is a common family pastime in Newcastle, and other coastal towns, to sit along the coastal stops and count the number of coal ships off shore.
At the Cruising Yacht Club a few days later we were to be invited to join three locals at their dinner table, one of whom was a commodity trader, who traded coal and gas out of Newcastle. We were to learn some of the complexities of this amazing industry and the fact that the recession was not really affecting Newcastle due to the robust trade. Each ship notifies the coal suppliers upon their arrival in the area and gets allocated a number like one does at a delicatesan at the supermarket. This becomes their biding number. Each coal lot has an individual quality and content analysis and ships barter for the lots they wish to buy. Depending on supply and demand, coal prices fluctuate, giving opportunity to “play the market”. Some ships remain on the anchorage at sea for months, waiting for their target price. Many ships wait outside the harbour on anchor, with their holds and water ballast tanks empty, suffering the rolling in the huge swells this area, known as the Stockton Bight, is renowned for, just waiting for a bargain. When they are successful in their bid, they must come in immediately and fill with coal, hence the reason that they cannot fill their ballast tanks. It is common for the ships to come in and fill with coal and then go back out to the anchorage and put their load on the open market for sale for anyone in the world who needs a ship load of coal, thus making a profit on the transaction.
Newcastle is a major working port and yet it has an immediate friendly welcoming feel as you sail in through the breakwater. Apartment houses line the southern banks of the harbour and give it a fresh, clean appearance. The seven year old marina is well set out and having taken our place on C-Row, we were welcomed by 5 or 6 of the locals who lived aboard on our row.
Heritage College – Cooranbong
Simon Dodson, Principal at Heritage College Cooranbong, a sister school to Heritage Adelaide, where I had been principal, came down to the marina and took us back to their home in Cooranbong, where we stayed for the next two days. Simon and Priscilla made us very welcome and even gave up their bed for us to sleep in! They also loaned us their car which allow us to reprovision and make a very pleasant day trip out to the Hunter Valley. We were also able to visit the local chandlery and reluctantly purchase a new pack of emergency flares as ours had past their use by date, a checked requirement, we are told, in Queensland waters. We also thought it prudent to purchase a new painter for our duckie, this time a floating number, as the last one saw its demise around our propellor!
We spent a day at Cooranbong School and then on a Friday we took the Year 9 and 10 students for a sail on the Newcastle Harbour in two groups, one with Scott and the other with Simon. This was a first time sailing for many of the students, and being with the kids again reminded us of the pleasant times we had enjoyed with the Heritage students in Adelaide. Simple, unsophisticated teenagers who were courteous, openly appreciative and with nothing to prove to one another. They were nice to be with.
We learned that our neighbours in Newcastle Marina, on the boat “Joktan”, had lived on a boat for the past 35 years and travelled extensively throughout the world including the Calendonian Canals that join east and west Scotland through Loch Ness and Loch Lockie to Argyle. This was an area that Paulne and I had visited a few years ago. It turns out that Dick was born in Fort William at the lower end of Loch Ness, a lovely town with a series of locks that drops into Loch Lockie. Now in their late 70’s Rene and Dick have many a tale to tell of their numerous and eventful sailing adventures around the world.
While in Newcastle we went for numerous walks along the paved walkway that extends out to Nobbys Beach, the site where the 76,000 tonne Panamanian coal ship the Pasha Bulker was washed ashore in June 2007, unable to battle the ferocious winds and waves that this area of the coast is notorious for. The local Maritime Museum has a special feature on this disaster. Almost 2 years later, while we were in Newcastle a storm of equal ferocity lashed the northern New South Wales coast. We were very glad to be safely tied up in a prtected marina while huge seas, set up by storm force easterlies, swept the coastline and accompanied with torrential rain, left much of the coastline from Newcastle to Tweed Heads under water. The marina was choaked with flotsam and jetsam.
Visit to Tamworth
We decided that given the forecast for the next few days it was a good opportunity to catch the train through to Tamworth to visit Pauline’s mum, who had recently been in hospital for a leg operation. Not having travelled any distance by train in Australia, this was to be very pleasant novelty. The train left mid morning and arrived in Tamworth late afternoon after travelling through some very picturesque countryside, albeit dry on the Tamworth side of the ranges.
Back a few days later to Newcastle saw us able to meet up with Garnett and Reneira Alchin, who showed us around the top end of Lake Macquarie and took us home for a lovely meal. On Sunday we were picked up and taken to the Boolaroo Ecclesia where we met up with a group who were keen sailors on the lake. We stayed there and enjoyed a typoical Christadelphian shared lunch and then returned to the marina to prepare for our departure. Monday was spent provisioning. A long walk with our much used “granny wagon” to the local Marketown shopping complex saw us ready to depart early Tuesday morning to begin the big jumps up this part of the coast. Due to the recent storms the river bars were dangerouis to cross and it seemed safest to miss out this part of the coast and keep sailing until through the area most affected.
A young surfie chap, Warren, on a home-built catamaran at the end of our row had a huge supply of charts of the east coast and as we had run off the end of our last one it was important for us to get the next supply. He gave us all of his charts to go through and find any duplicates, which he had, so we were able to purchase seven of them off him for a good price. The rest I had to purchase from a company out in the industrial park. I caught a taxi and bought what we needed and we were now all but ready to go.
On Monday night, after a very busy day for them at a combined Heritage Colleges sports day, Naomi Richards came and picked us up from the marina and took us to their home for dinner with David and their lovely family. This was to be our last home cooked meal for a while and we really enjoyed their company and the company of their great children.
A Foggy Departure
Tuesday morning we woke to a heavy fog enveloping Newcastle harbour. We could barely see the end of the marina pier, but we had been awake since 0400 and we weren’t going to wait for it to clear. Much to the consternation of the Newcastle Coastguard we left under cover of darkness and fog, guided by radar, a fishing boat and the clear channel markers, and slipped quietly out to sea undetected by the early morning coastguard watch overlooking the harbour in his watchtower. He was most indignant when we called VMR Port Stephens to log on and not only had missed him out but that he had not been able to see us go. By the time he was able to get us on the radio we were well out to sea in the clear and he could still not see us for the blanket of fog around the harbour entrance. When I assured him that we were using radar and there were no coal ships coming into the harbour, he seemed to settle down. Coastguard volunteers do a wonderful job but they can “defend their territory” very jealously!
May 11, 2009
Whoever named this area Pittwater, had to have done so before “the pitts” ever meant – a terrible place, because this is certainly is not The Pitts! We have read about Pittwater in sailing magazines for years and heard about the brilliant sailing and cruising grounds, but there is nothing like being here! From talking to a few of the locals we have found out that we are seeing it at the best time of the year. In the summer, every bay is crammed with boats, up until Easter and then after that, visitors can have a free reign. We have been here 10 days and not put our anchor down once, there are moorings in every cove and every bay! It is truly magic! We keep going up on deck and reminding ourselves that this is why we love cruising! And to top it all off, we have had a full moon at night while being here!
Barrenjoey Head is unmistakeable as you sail north from Sydney. Turning inside the bay around the headland is a very different place to what is going on outside in the open sea. “Joey” may be barren but he is sure kind to sailors! Our intended destination was Refuge Cove but as we rounded the headland we spied “Stereo” , “Cheetah” and “Hunter” in Barrenjoey Bay, so a sharp turn left saw us taking up the sixth mooring in the bay alongside the two catamarans. Not surprisingly they were here because straight across the sandunes from the anchorage was a great surf break! Nick and Louis rank their anchorages on their proximity to surf breaks! This one ranks highly! Me thinks they will be here for a while!
Paul from “Hunter”, who lives and works in the area, picked up one person from each boat the following day to take us ashore for provisioning. I caught a meal of fish in Barenjoey Bay within 10 minutes. Then early the next morning we climbed to the top of Barrenjoey Head to the lighthouse for a great spectacle of the area. Then we were off to explore the Pittwater area, Refuge Bay was to be our first stop, less that an hour motoring up the lovely coastline. Sheer rock faces with ecalyptus, and banksia trees clinging tenaciously to the colourful sandstone are the main features of this area. Less than fifty metres from the shore sees us in over twenty metres of water. This is great country!
Refuge Bay has over 50 moorings and it is said that on New Years Eve there is over 500 boats in the bay. There were only four other boats in the bay when we came in and at the head of the bay was “Vitamin Sea”, who we had seen in Eden and Sydney but not yet met. A beautiful waterfall at the head of the bay is a great place for a long needed shower, although somewhat cold, and a great place to do the washing. There was, however, only one setting on the waterfall washer and with the 20 or so metres freefall the water hits you, or the clothes, with a force. There is no “gentle rinse”! You get a good scalp massage!
Here we met up with Ben from “Valhalla II” that we had met in Port Fairy soon after leaving Adelaide. He and his mate Lester were aboard after having had a trip across to Gosford the previous day. Ben gave me, among many other things, a harmonica and tutorial CD to learn to play on the boat. Little did he know that I had looked into this very thing prior to leaving as a suitable instrument for cramped quarters. A chart of this area was also given which was much appreciated. We would like to have spent more time with Ben and Lester but we wanted to move on and see the area and they wished to stay in Refuge for a while longer, so we bade them bon voyage!
We met Estie and Bob from “Vitamin Sea” and learnt that this was as far north as they were planning to go. They were from Kew in Melbourne and Bob had been sailing either alone or with crew this far and Estie had just joined him in Pittwater. They are both dentists and whilst he would like to “chuck it and go sailing”, Estie was still passionate about her work with children’s teeth. We caught a great feed of fish in Refuge Bay.
Over the next week we slowly wended our way up Smith Creek, the most remote of the southern arms of Cowan Creek. We spent a night on a mooring in a perfect anchorage. Murray and his wife Sue, who were on a hire boat nearby and live on a farm inland from Coffs Harbour, came aboard for the evening. Murray owned a Swanson 36 called “Kalista” and completed a circumnavigation of Australia in the 70’s with his brothers. In those days that was real adventure. We wondered for a while whether “Kalista” was the same boat that Colin and Cookie now own called “Callista”, but a few photos we had on file put that coincidence to rest. The next day we took the duckie as far as we could to the top of Smith Creek and enjoyed the wonderful birdlife and serenity this area has to offer. Sea eagles, kingfishers and herons abound throughout this area, and it is interesting to contemplate their diverse behaviours. The sea eagles can be heard calling from their high vantage points throughout the day and can be seen soaring within their territories searching for food. Kingfishers, in their brilliant irridescent blue are secretive and explosive amongst the undergrowth and are amazing in their dashing maneouvers across the water. Herons stand motionless and rigid at the waters edge waiting intermediately for something to swim by, that is not only within reach, but of suitable size. One wonders whether, like humans, birds look at each other and think that the others method of making a living is much easier. Each to their own.
We visited Bobbin Head at the far end of Cowan Creek, the home of Halvorsen boats. A lovely spot. Then up Coal and Candle Creek to Akuna Bay where we refuelled. 32 litres over three weeks – $56.00 all up – great!! Then back to Refuge Bay where some folk anchored alongside gave us an enormous flathead, which they said they couldn’t eat, and will last us a few days! We once again visited the waterfall for a shower and to do the washing. This time the prime position in front of the bay was available, but in our haste to take up the mooring we ran over the duckie painter, which got tangled around the propellor and snapped with a very loud whack!! I had to dive on the prop the next morning and cut the 8 metres of line away, which was bound extremely tightly. Good lesson learned. A floating line will be used from now on, as should have been.
Pittwater is a fabulous area, not to be missed on any trip north or south. We would come back here anytime, but now it is time to head north. Port Stephens is the next destination unless a call in to Newcastle proves to be necessary.
May 11, 2009
Having sailed over 1000 nautical miles from Adelaide, sailing into Sydney harbour in your own boat is a surprisingly big highlight. It is probably even more special when this was our first time at the harbour entrance. To see North and South Heads for the first time from the water having seen it so many times on television watching the starts of Sydney to Hobart races, we really felt that this was special!
As Pauline brought “Tibia” around South Head, we counted over 40 yachts on that part of the harbour. The wind freshened from the west as we turned, so we dropped the mainsail and headed down the main channel on headsail only. We thought this best as there seemed to be so many boats going every which way, we gave ourselves less stress just running the headsail. The harbour was filled with sails! As we turned into the main channel the threatening sky finally let go and it began pouring with rain. We had to don our wet weather gear for the first time since leaving home, because we had to leave “the shed” sides up, so we could see all the traffic.
As we came in sight of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge the sky cleared and the wind eased. By now we had worked out that people here are used to all the traffic and if you just hold your course and give the ferries absolute right of way, everything is fine. With the black clouds behind and the sun shining on the white Opera House arches, it was spectacular sight. We pulled into Farm Cove and were greated by a “Welcome to Sydney!” from a nearby charter vessel that had a wedding party aboard. They must have noticed “Adelaide” on our stern.
We slowly cruised under the bridge and Peter Shead rang to ask where we were and how long we would be in getting to Gladesville Bridge where we had arranged to moor the boat. Chris Lock from 3P Learning, the company I used to work for, had very kindly offered us his berth at Huntley Point under the Gladesville Bridge, which was convenient place for Peter and Kris to meet us.
We meandered our way up the harbour amazed at the variety of craft on the water and the contrasts in the buildings on the shoreline. We crossed the bows of “Vitamin Sea” from Melbourne, a boat we had seen weeks before in Eden, and both waved. We had not met yet but our paths will cross again, no doubt, somewhere.
As we came within sight of the Gladesville Bridge, Peter rang to say they could see us and they were waiting by the bridge pylon. We took up the mooring, launched the duckie and went ashore to catch up with Peter and Kris, whom we hadn’t seen for about 10 years. We brought them out to the boat and then gathered our gear to go ashore and spend our first night on land for a long time. It was great to catch up with old friends and to take up from where we left off. The following day we took them for a cruise on the harbour in the afternoon, and although there was no wind we managed a drift across under the bridge and anchored for a while in Farm Cove and got rolled about by the wash from the constant stream of vessels passing by. It was almost dark as we quietly made our way back up the harbour and when we took them ashore and said our farewells, we felt as if we had seen all of Sydney that we needed to. We had seen them. We were resigned to pull out the next morning and head north again for Broken Bay.