CHAPTER 2 May 2 – May 26
We spent the last weekend of April on Allikat, together with our friends Allan and Ida. Allan had come to help John get the boat mobile. After only four to five weeks on the mooring, we had noticed that there was an issue with the propulsion power on the boat. Now, the Clyde River has a reputation for being an excellent oyster growing area – this can be good and bad. The good is that the oysters are delicious; the bad is that they grow anywhere – in this case on our props and shafts as well as attaching themselves to the hull.
After one and a half scuba tanks of air and much exertion scraping and chipping away the barnacles, both the “boys” decided they were not as young as they thought, as two worn out “old men” clambered back on board. The growth on the props and shafts had reached 20-30 mms all round and they didn’t want to let go! At least the bream around the boat had a good feed!
After decamping to the boat on Tuesday afternoon, we finally dropped our mooring and headed out to sea in fine weather but with light winds. As we raised the mainsail we noticed that our VHF aerial was again horizontal at the top of the mast – John had already gone up to straighten it before we left. Apparently a pelican had decided that the top of our mast was an excellent roosting position. Further inspection revealed that not only had the VHF aerial been bent twice and well and truly pecked at, but the wind direction indicator had been broken in half by the bird’s weight! As we progressed up the coast, we discovered further impact – the AIS signal was weaker and intermittent – so new wind indicator and VHF aerials were required.
Our first overnight was on a mooring in south Jervis Bay, mirror calm and clear water, but quite chilly without cloud cover at night. Our voyage to Port Hacking was in very light winds, right behind us, requiring the cast iron main to make progress against the two knots of current streaming south, but we eventually found an empty mooring off Jibbon Beach at Bundeena. We stayed here for two nights in calm and sunny conditions before continuing to Sydney Harbour and our usual anchoring spot in Wollstonecraft Bay.
Several days were spent catching up with the family, provisioning and fuelling for the trip up the NSW coast. We motored up the coast to Pittwater in dead calm conditions, tucking in behind the headland at Barrenjoey Heads. The next morning saw good winds initially, but again the motors came into play as it died to 2 knots as we headed into Swansea, picking up a mooring just before the bridge across the entrance to Lake Macquarie.
Our voyage had been accompanied by several pods of dolphins frolicking at the bows. We decided to stay here for a day extra to catch up on maintenance and begin installation of the new instruments for the boat (part of our preparation for the Louisiades rally later in the year).
The first adrenalin rush of this trip came on the sail to Pt Stephens. As we passed Newcastle, we saw several pairs of RAAF jets training out to sea, some almost invisible but very audible as they headed towards land, others on much lower trajectories. About ten miles from Pt Stephens, two Hornets came towards the boat, very low across the sea. It was obvious that they had sighted the boat, but hadn’t realised at their speed of approach that it was a yacht, since we had dropped our sails. One pilot must have registered that there was a 23 metre stick on top of the boat as it banked suddenly and roared past on its wing at mast height, the whole boat seeming to shake in the noise as it passed. Pam’s hands on the helm were shaking for several minutes afterwards!
Again we were fortunate in finding a vacant mooring, in Nelsons Bay, and spent the weekend catching up with relatives and joining the weekend tourists ashore.
As our next port would be Camden Haven, a 2am start saw us motoring out of Pt Stephens and then sailing in strong winds past Seal Rocks, where the weather moderated a little for a pleasant sail up the coast. We followed a drama on the VHF radio as a motor cruiser called for assistance as it had lost power. It was 27 miles to the east of our position and we heard the radio chatter from the rescue helicopter attempting to drop a line to the vessel and then from the police launch heading out to tow it back to port.
Safely anchored at Camden Haven we had a Mothers Day dinner at the local RSL, where we joined the crew of the yacht “Nari”, who had sailed up from Launceston. We were to keep company with them on our voyage north as far as Iluka. “Nari” turned out to be the same yacht that we had our first real sailing experience on, back in 1978 in the Whitsundays, when she was a day trip dive boat. I can still see a baby Elisabeth curled up asleep in the saloon! An old steel yacht, she had been refurbished by the new owners Deryn and Di, before heading north.
Several pleasant days were spent on anchor at Camden Haven while the winds howled offshore, but eventually conditions abated and we enjoyed excellent sailing to Trial Bay, where we anchored close in to the beach in mirror conditions. Alas, this turned out to be the last of the useful winds on our trip to the Gold Coast and we either motor sailed or just plain motored most of the way!
We stayed a couple of nights on anchor at Coffs Harbour before heading to Iluka/Yamba, where we anchored behind the breakwall at Iluka. The mandatory trip to the Fishermans Co-op was made (several times) to purchase some of the famous Yamba prawns, and an attempt was made joining the crew on board “Nari” to explore further up the Clarence – unfortunately, this ended up with the boat firmly aground, so we waited for the incoming tide and had a leisurely lunch – prawns of course – before returning to the anchorage for the evening.
The variable winds continued through to Ballina (the forecasters were right in predicting 2 to 4 knots!). Just off the entrance to the breakwalls, we saw our first whale of the season, about 300 metres from the boat. It gave a spectacular performance, jumping clear out of the water several time, landing with enormous splashes, and then spent ages doing tail smacking. A beautiful sight!
After anchoring the boat, we dinghied ashore for a walk along the main street. We didn’t see any semis, so the bypass must have been completed. The RSL beckoned for our evening meal, and walking back to the wharf to the dinghy, we met the crew of the yacht “Newtsville” who also hail from Batemans Bay. They, too, are heading north for winter.
Despite the prediction for south westerly wind in the morning, we continued to motor sail towards Southport in 4 knots of wind and with almost two knots of current against us! At least the weather was warm and we came through Seaway into Southport just after dark. The big torch came in handy as we went to anchor in Marine Stadium (aka Bums Bay), since quite a few boats were not displaying lights and were almost invisible until you were right next to them. Although it is not a legal requirement to be lit at night in a designated anchorage area, we have found it good practice, especially when there are large numbers of boats and movement of other boats and dinghies after dark. We have even gone as far as putting an all-round white LED hung from the genoa sheets, as well as the mast head mooring light, to light up the foredeck since fishermen in tinnies tend not to look up to the masthead!
Thursday was fine and sunny, so we pottered around the boat and were visited by the crew of “Kool Sid” which was anchored beside us. We had met them when we were at Lizard Island last year, sailing back to Cairns at the same time. They, too, were heading north for the winter.
Thursday night saw our first rain for weeks. The patter continued through the night (necessitating a quick scramble to close hatches), and developed on Friday into a grey and dismal day. Good use was made of the fresh water scrubbing down the decks and allowing all the salty ropes to have a good rinse. By Friday night the temperature had become quite chilly, so it was back to blankets! Fortunately Saturday dawned clear, although the wind was cold as we lifted the anchor and motored up to Coomera. Passing Sanctuary Cove was interesting, as all the boats that were usually anchored there were moored in the river, often rafted in groups of two or three, leaving only a small channel to navigate through – full concentration was needed when the river cat carrying passengers for the boat show came towards us!
Finally we berthed at Boatworks (formerly the Gold Coast Marine Centre), where we will stay until we are lifted out to hardstand on Monday. Coomera will be our home for the next week.