CHAPTER 10 December 11 – December 23
We had allowed a month to cruise leisurely down the NSW coast, stopping off at new anchorages. Alas, it was not to be! We finally ended up with only 4 days. Firstly 10 days at Coomera and then fourteen at Coffs Harbour hadn’t exactly been factored in. The engine problems compounded with corroded and frozen turbos which had to be replaced – you guessed it, no parts in Australia, have to be flown in from Sweden! Fortunately, with some help from Volvo staff, we obtained some earlier, which enabled the engines to be finally reassembled and tested by Friday (a week later than we anticipated last chapter!)
We became obsessive weather watchers while at the marina as the countdown to Christmas became closer. With strong wind warnings and persistent southerlies, we became resigned to the fact that our trip to south to Sydney had to occur in a 3 day window regardless of weather. Saturday 20/12 saw us out of Coffs Harbour marina, firstly negotiating the dredge that was operating at the marina entrance. The harbour itself was quite bouncy and Pam was glad to get up in the fresh air at the helm after stowing mooring lines and buffers. We managed to sail for a couple of hours before the wind increased in strength from the south, and then we gave the motors a good test run down to Trial Bay. Allikat encountered some big swells (3 metres with a breaking chop) before the sea really became a washing machine north of Trial Bay. I think both of us were relieved when we dropped anchor in the lee shore where it was MUCH calmer, and the skies even began to clear. It was the first time in ages that we had fleecy tops and long pants for sailing. Must be back in NSW!
Calmer weather dawned on Sunday as we left Smoky Cape. Sailing was comfortable with following seas. Initially the wind was light from the south west and gradually shifted down to the south and increased in strength as it moved through to more northerly by late evening. We followed the ”white sails after dark” rule as we continued through the night, briefly finding the East Australian current, which gave us an extra 2 knots. The winds increased after midday and we decided that doing 16 knots surfing down waves with gulled sails was probably not the best idea! Consequently we reduced the sail area, which was just as well, as south of Broken Bay the seas became much shorter and steeper, with some sets more than 4 metres high. As we rounded North Head the wind was up to 30 knots and really whipping around the headland – made manoeuvring interesting with all the boats out, especially the Hobart yachts having final practice runs before the big race. After anchoring in Balls Bay we had a well earned sleep. The 12 days over Christmas and New Year flew. Kate, Josh and Amalie arrived from New Zealand on Tuesday; Wednesday saw an expedition to the Aquarium at Darling Harbour – Amalie’s comment: “ Fish, fish, yummy” was probably not quite politically correct! Christmas Day was a flurry of wrapping paper, although I’m not quite sure that Amalie realized what was happening, but she did enjoy all the toys. We managed a couple of sails on the harbour, spending swimming days at Quarantine Bay both before and after New Year. New Years Eve saw Allikat anchored at Bradleys Head off Taronga Zoo (along with the rest of the flotilla) for the fireworks – we couldn’t have asked for better weather or anchorage. The atmosphere with the fireworks and the other boats cannot be experienced on the TV coverage – one yacht near us even had its own piper to usher in the New Year. Our guests left on Saturday 3 January, so we decided to head down to Port Hacking in the afternoon, before heading further south. As we went through the heads, we were joined by a pod of dolphins that stayed off the bow most of the way to Port Hacking.
We think some of the same dolphins joined us the next day – a pod of over 22 surfed the bow wave for over 30 minutes – one had its dorsal fin almost bitten right off. The winds started to pick up about midday – we left the spinnaker out a fraction too long and it blew out when we were trying to get it in – we actually had to use the anchor winch to get the snuffer down to bring it in. After that, the sails were set much more conservatively as we nursed our bumps and bruises. The winds reached gale force, with huge seas, not predicted at all, as we approached Jervis Bay and were still over 40 knots as we turned into the Bay. Even at anchor on the lee shore, it was blowing more than 30 knots, and this continued most of the night. Fortunately, there was little wave action
We woke to a much calmer morning, and were able to sail with the screecher for several hours. We saw and heard some of the returning Hobart yachts heading north, notably Quest. We had timed our entrance to Batemans Bay to fit the tides, so the bar was no problem. We retrieved the mooring lines, to find lots of mussels had taken residence on the ropes, but the mooring was otherwise fine. We were surprised to be hailed from the beach alongside – there were Andy and Lisa from Indefatigable, they had stopped for a day or two on their way south to Tasmania.
Journeys end had Frank picking us up with our dinghy load of goods and chattels to return us to Malua Bay, the first of many such trips as Allikat was prepared for her summer rest after 2008’s fascinating exploration of the Australian East Coast.