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.