Brisbane to Sydney
I came back to Midnight Blue in the middle of January after a month at home. The boat seemed OK. Her interior linings hadn't gone mouldy, a possibility in a Brisbane summer, and everything seemed to be working. I spent a couple of days stocking the fridge and the cupboards and chasing around acquiring a few bits of hardware and charts for Brisbane to Sydney. Whitworths had promised to have the charts in stock and said, no, there's no need to check; they'll be in the cupboard for you. But there had been a need to check. They weren't in the cupboard. So they promised urgent overnight delivery which didn't happen either but they did turn up the next day after that, the day Tony arrived to help sail. So we have charts and will be able to figure out where we are if the electronics fail.
No such luck with the special order for the new crab pots from Yeppoon, the only ones which fit in the fishing gear locker. All arranged to be delivered to the Marina the week before we left. Yes, they're on the way. The day before we left the query as to where they jolly were then produced the answer that, upon checking, well they haven't actually been made yet. So the lesson in this modern time with its postmodern attitudes to facts and questions of reliability is that you can't trust assurances and you must hassle and nag and bug , daily and assiduously, to get anything done. So it's going to be a no crab summer.
We bid Manly goodbye and mostly motored down the passages inside Stradbroke Island to the Southport Broadwater and anchored out front of Seaworld. Not the place to go for a quiet afternoon. Gold Coast madness was in the air. And the noise of all the motors of all the different kinds of boats and aircraft roaring up and down in all possible directions all together and separately all at the same time. The water was all peaky and lumpy while there was hardly any wind - just multiple wakes rubbing each other the wrong way and each wave bewildered about how confused it was. Until it got dark and all the thrill seekers went off to construct their evenings. Then the water calmed down and we could hear the querulous arf arfing of seals in their world in Seaworld. And the police and ambulance sirens wafting out from amongst the Gold Coast towers as they signalled their tending to the population of that world.
Next morning Tony and I bounced out of the Gold Coast Seaway and made south for our new world of Coffs Harbour. The towers receded slowly but as we got out about 10 miles from the coast the east coast current helped us with a couple of free knots and by afternoon a nice north easterly breeze had us sailing quite pleasantly.
And we removed a fine Spanish Mackerel from his world and put his flesh in our fridge.
We were travelling so pleasantly that we shot past Yamba, a possible stop, and arrived at Coffs Harbour at 3 am, several hours earlier than expected. After a few hours' sleep Tony smelled a surf break around the corner and went off to play in it. I fiddled with the boat, packed meal portions of mackerel into the freezer and consulted the weather oracle.
Winds were forecast at 15 to 20 knots east, maybe going north east. Sounded good so we left at 3 am, with half a moon and hoping to make Port Stephens, a similar trip to that from Southport to Coffs, before dark the next evening. But it wasn't that easy. The current seemed to be going the other way and slowing us down. The east coast current can be variable in its tendencies and can make back eddies. After we cleared the lump on the coast called Nambucca Heads the south current resumed and gave us some help. But by then the winds were up above 25 knots and there was quite a bit of bashing going on and Tony was green and I was less than tremendous. Part of the cunning of leaving at the hour we did was that we'd be going past Port Macquarie during a flood tide which would make entering over that bar easier if we should wish to. We did indeed wish to. Enough suffering already. There were some breaking waves here and there as we came in but nothing scary. We picked up a mooring near the town marina, took a walk along the main foreshore promenade path and reaffirmed our disinclination to sail in more than 25 knots.
Next day the winds were forecast for 15 to 20 knots east, maybe going north east. Tony took a bit of persuading that even though the forecast was the same, reading between the lines suggested that conditions would be better. And so they were, once we got going. That was a bit fraught, getting going, because the tide was going out when we went out over the bar and although the swell wasn't large the waves were standing up against the tide and there was quite a bit of bashing until we got out into deep water. When I went up to pull up the mainsail the halyard wasn't there. The dopey skipper hadn't ensured that the knot at the end of the halyard was firm and it had come undone and with the bashing over the bar it had flipped out of the mast so there was going to be no mainsail that day. I'm a little nervous about going up the mast whilst tied up in a marina, let alone bouncing around in the Pacific Ocean, so we decided that that could wait and proceeded with genoa and motors. Thereby we made 9 to 10 knots so for the price of a day's worth of diesel I was able to devise various theories for securing the knot in the end of a halyard when we got it back in place.
The entrance to Port Stephens was no problem and the place is as pretty as promised. Next day we addressed the halyard issue. The main halyard is normally the means by which a person is hoisted up the mast but I had to get up there to reinstall the means by which I would normally get up there. The genoa halyard and the spinnaker halyard are both short of the top by a meter or so. The only option was the topping lift, which holds up the end of the boom when the sail is down. A topping lift is not up to the same level of hoik as a main halyard but we supposed it would handle 110 kilos so, taking the spinnaker halyard as well, as far as it went, for additional reassurance, I hugged and gripped the mast with great passion while Tony winched me up it. All fixed. Main halyard reinstated and a double figure 8 knot at the end of it whipped, sewed and glued.
Our immediate mission is fulfilled. We are within day hopping distance of Sydney and can while away a couple of months here in Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie, Pittwater and Sydney Harbour without any lengthy sea passages so I'm going to try to entice Tina to rejoin me. The weather is warm but a little less humid than Brisbane and the cruising opportunities look more interesting. Tony could see that no more sailing was going to be happening for a little while so he took off for home to sail his own Trailer-Tri in the Milang to Goolwa race. I hung around in Fame Cove for a few days, a small cove near Soldiers Point in Port Stephens, nicely forested and oystered, and paddled my kayak about and gathered oysters and munched my way through some mackerel and replaced the shower sump pump which had died and the main cold water pressure pump which had developed a nasty attitude problem. And washed off the brown stains on the hulls from the mucky algal blooms in the Queensland reef ocean waters. With two bottles of lemon juice. Acid wash.
Soldiers Point marina has petunias hanging on the piles. Very nice. They bring cocktails around in the afternoon and coffee and newspapers in the morning. The ablution facilities are about five star. Bathroom suite with marble tiles, flowers, piles of fluffy hand towels. Most marina facilities are about caravan park standard, which isn't bad, but the crew here are really trying very hard. Boaties' lounge in the main building with couches, TV, computer, wine, courtesy car for shopping. I'll tarry a couple of days until Tina comes over.
23 January, Soldiers Point, Port Stephens.
Tina joined me at Soldiers Point and we stayed a few days in the marina enjoying the place and the service it provided. Coffee and paper in the morning and cocktails in the afternoon are the marina management's cunning way of shortening your effective day (in terms of getting anything else done) so that you stay longer. Not that there was a great deal that needed doing besides cleaning, shopping and taking on some diesel, until I decided that the time had come to stop putting off doing something about the fact that our forestay was too loose. On close inspection to see if there was a turnbuckle under the furler it seemed that the main pin securing the foot of the forestay to the tang on the seagull striker (ok?) was in danger, through being too short and putting undue strain on the split pin retaining it, of cutting that split pin off and breaking free, with ghastly consequences. This discovery, which meant that our vessel was disqualified from any thought of sailing until the problem was remedied, was made on Australia Day which meant that the earliest chance of remedy would be the following Monday.
Remedy involved getting the local stainless steel fabricator to cut a piece of rod and drill holes in each end of it and getting a gentleman knowledgeable in matters of yacht rigging to help me install it and then tune the tension of our rig. That all happened quite satisfactorily on the Monday and we left the next day, confidence renewed that our craft is a fully functional sailing machine.
We motored back over to Fame Cove just in time for a big rain. On the trip down the coast from Brisbane we had snuck just ahead of the floods which Bellingen and Coffs Harbour experienced a couple of weeks ago. And then Sydney had a pretty wet few days and we thought we were clever sitting right between those two areas but now it's our turn. A solid band of non stop rain continuing over the Hunter and Port Stephens for two and a half days now and showing no sign of easing.
For the first day it seemed that our Leak Goblins had disappeared. No drips inside anywhere. This was fairly disturbing because a condition of no leaks at all is unnatural and not to be believed. Leak Goblins normally creep about unsticking little bits of sealer here and there around windows and hatches so that funny little drips can come into the cabin and we can all share the joy of the rain. After the rain a sailor has the pleasure of finding the tiny unstuck cracks, often a process of fascinatingly and minutely detailed examination, cutting out the flawed section of sealer and re gooping it. Leak Goblins can never actually be found or eliminated; they can only be traced by coming across the results of their work and fixing each new leak with a whistle and a chuckle and wondering where the tricky little jokesters will try their next prank.
No leaks at all can only mean that the Goblins are plotting something nastier than usual and gathering their forces to make a mischief that we won't be able to see the funny side of for a longer time.
So it was with some relief that on the second day we discovered a slow drip onto the bench in the guest cabin and a slightly less slow drip next to the cooktop. If the Goblins are having a play then they probably won't get too evil.
Unremitting rain. The sky is inconsolable. The boundary between the water in the sea and the water in the sky is kind of blurred. Less sharp a line than usual. All grey and wetly sodden. Fog, mist, rain, spray, flood, maybe the New South Welsh need some more words to describe the junction of cloud and sea like the Eskimos have umpteen for snow.
Outdoor activities are severely curtailed. Wet and warm is ok but it has cooled right down and wet and cold is undesirable so there is a lot of reading going on. Chocolate stocks are dwindling. Bottles are going to have to be uncorked.
I even looked with a twinge of curiosity, never before experienced, at the games icon on the screen of my new iPad. Banished the thought immediately of course because life is far too short to surrender any of one's limited remaining mental capacity to engaging in a rubbish activity designed by some pimply geek with no idea about anything for the purpose of stupefying the population.
Reading is good. I've been looking forward for many years to a time when I might be able to read more. Amazon's Kindle is the thing for reading on a boat; you can get all sorts of stuff for about half the price of paperbacks, anywhere you have a phone connection, and not be accumulating piles of books.
We reckon the weather will clear up in a day or two and we'll poke down to Lake Macquarie.
3 February Fame Cove
And so we did. On the way the autohelm decided it was fed up and sick of steering our boat and wanted a rest. OK, we'll steer the boat. In the course of steering the boat all the time instead of just when we wanted to we realised how much we rely on the autohelm. It's worth a crew member at times when two pairs of paws are needed to set or furl the headsail or the spinnaker. So when we took a mooring at Styles Point in Lake Macquarie the investigation of the cause of our autohelm's malaise was first task on the list. At the same time as the malaise began the rudder position indicator, which is shown on the autohelm controller, went out of line, showing hard to starboard when it was straight. Disconnecting the rudder position sensor and wiring it up so that it showed straight when it was straight seemed to work, so I thought that would just tell the autohelm's computer what it wanted to hear. Computers might be dumb but that doesn't necessarily mean you can trick them. If autohelm doesn't see a response from rudder position indicator when it turns a bit, then it panics and turns all the way. Maybe disconnect the position indicator so it just stops worrying, but I chickened out and rang the Lake Macquarie marine electronics expert, who said that yes, cutting the indicator free might work, but as it was probably very ill and causing the whole issue it would be better to replace it.
So a couple of days later with a new indicator installed and autohelm happy and willing again we had a look around Lake Macquarie. There was another cruising yacht at Styles Point with a young couple and small child living aboard who were visiting his family nearby who suggested that a visit to the Rathmines Memorial Bowling Club, also nearby, would repay the effort. So we trotted down there, across a concreted area of about an acre which ramped down into the bay waters and past a large barracks like institution building which looked WW2 era and discovered that as well as being a bowling club, that premises was the home of the collected memorabilia of the Rathmines Catalina flying boat base. The walls of the club house were adorned not only with honor boards of bowling trophy winners but also photos of flying boats, flying boat crews and records of flying boat adventures. Models of various versions of Catalinas hung from the ceiling. The gentleman who showed us around said that the local Catalina club had not only acquired their own real live flying Catalina from Spain, I think, which was in Victoria being refurbished and repainted, but they were planning to build a museum to house all their memorabilia and that they'd be flying their flying boat all around Lake Macquarie.
Fancy that. Another spontaneous initiative from within the population honoring the work of the war years generation, in spite of the prevailing disparagement of the fashionably educated of that work as being nought but xenophobic imperialist warmongering.
Then back out of the lake and down to Broken Bay and the Hawkesbury. We had a light northeasterly and were flying our spinnaker, noting that it had a couple of new holes to be patched. And a rain squall approached from the coast, which normally means freshening winds. The prudent thing would have been to douse the spinnaker before the squall arrived but we could see through it and thought it would be brief enough to proceed on the basis that she'd be right. Doubts about whether she would after all be right got to the level of dashing out to save the spinnaker only in mid squall with heavy rain, the worst time, but it was saved, with no damage apart from a nasty bruise on Tina's arm where she fell against a winch. Yes, yes, reef early. Don't be stubborn. Learning, learning.
Subsequent experience of a few Sydney thunderstorms has definitely taught us that reefing early or more likely dropping sails completely is more likely mandatory than merely prudent on approach of one of them.
Into Broken Bay and on to a mooring in Refuge Bay, nicely sheltered with forested sandstone cliffs all around and a waterfall at the head, and peaceful apart from the antics, being Friday evening, of the several houseboats full of good ole boys winding up for their boozy weekend. More drownings per square mile of water in the Hawkesbury than anywhere else in the country. Getting quite close to Sydney now.
Dangar Island, near the rail and Pacific Highway bridges over the Hawkesbury, has less moorings and less good ole boys and we found a spot which was very enjoyable for a few days. Dangar Island has about a hundred houses on it, water access only. It is a ten minute ferry ride from a railway station. Most of the houses are waterfront with their own dinghy landings. This is the case for many areas of river front houses but Dangar seems special because it is a limited geographical entity with houses connected by a network of walking (only) tracks. An obvious sense of close community is evident.
A couple of days at a marina in Pittwater to restock the tucker pantry and the spare parts cupboard and then a very pleasant sail down to Sydney Harbour on a warm north easterly, anchoring at Spring Cove, Manly, just inside North Head. Dinghy ride around the corner to Manly Cove to meet the Manly ferry to pick up my second son Alex who has come for a visit. Next morning was Saturday and we motored into the harbour, not game to pull a sail up because there didn't look there was enough water between all the other boats belting in all directions to allow for the bit of room we like to have when dropping sails. Every corner we motored around delivered a fleet of racing sailboats charging straight at us.
So we ducked and weaved and kept out of trouble but it wasn't very relaxing. Parked in Farm Cove, next to the botanic gardens and the Opera House to consider our situation. The situation seemed very grand but not very accessible. There was a little wharf right next to the Opera House but it didn't look very dinghy friendly and the water was all lumpy from all the wake action of ferries, day cruisers, party boats, jet boats, etc. So we cruised through under the Big Bridge and around into Blackwattle Bay right next to the Sydney Fish Markets.
International cruisers anchored at Sydney fish markets
They were accessible. Nice floating pontoon to tie dinghies to, with several dinghies from the dozen or so international cruising yachts anchored in the bay, and their dinghies were all attached to the pontoon with heavy chains and padlocks. Big city, lock up your stuff. So I upgraded the wire strop I'd been locking ours with, which would succumb to a snip from a decent pair of pliers out of the pocket of a malfeasant punk, to a bit of heavy cable we've been carrying. And we marched off to explore Sydney town. Tell you what, Sydney is a pretty interesting and exciting town. I haven't been here to look around for about 40 years and it's all a bit jazzed up since then. What was exciting then to a callow youth, like the flea markets and the prophets of apocalypse in the parks, seems fairly ratty now, but other things like the architecture, old and new, and the scale of everything, is worth a look.
My long standing Rule of Cities, whereby after three days in one I've had enough and want to get the hell out, might get amended and extended to a few more days or even a couple of weeks. Having one's own accommodation right in the CBD with the ability to change the view whenever we like makes it easier. No charge for anchoring either and we haven't been hassled by Harbour Police or any other authorities like we've heard stories of. Although the Hazard of Cities seems to apply, where the legal tender evaporates from out of our pockets at an alarming rate as soon as we step ashore. Property values seem slightly crazy.
We could sell the boat and get a charmer like one of these in Glebe. People working in the city will pay anything they can to avoid sitting in traffic jams for hours every day I suppose.
Or we could sell the boat and the house and get a penthouse in a beauty like this.
Or sell everything and find a job and get a cupboard in a corner room of one of these.
Near us at the fish markets was Dragon Boat headquarters. Most towns along the coast have a dragon boat brigade. One has to belong to something. They come out on weekends and/or early in the morning and paddle furiously here and there. Bigger towns have two or more and if they come out together then the good old competitive spirit adds greatly to the fury of their paddling. Each boat carries a steerer / shouter who exhorts the paddlers to whatever levels of fury may be required. Well dragon boat central at the Sydney fish markets has dozens of dragon boats. Scores. Racks of them piled up high. Hundreds of furious paddlers charging around the bay being shouted at. A frenzy of shouting and paddling starting early in the morning and going all day. We tended to leave them to it and go wandering around Sydney. And eat fish in the fish markets.
This bloke used to be in a dragon boat crew but he got sick of being shouted at.
First son David turned up for a visit, overlapping with Alex's visit for a day, and we had briefly a Great Mob of Sons which was a great pleasure. We sailed through the harbour, weekday traffic being much less scary than Saturday's, out of the Heads far enough to get the feel of the twang and heft of the Pacific Ocean and then turned around and sailed back in again. Good fun. Might have mucked up the fun a bit one evening during a political debate wherein one son and I have broadly similar political opinions and ganged up a bit on other son who's opinions were in that context divergent. No casualties. I am humbly grateful for many things including my extraordinary good fortune in having sons with whom I can talk civilly, let alone share any opinions with. I couldn't do that with my father when I was their age.
We left the boat at Cammeray Marina in Middle Harbour and went walking in the Blue Mountains for a couple of days. Not quite as easily as that sounds. We'd booked into the marina because it looked like it was in a nice central location in Middle Harbour, had a friendly web site, etc., and it was fine except that its only land access was by a series of narrow stairs 17 miles up a craggy mountain, stairs and steps of a gay variety of materials, shapes and angles. Great for bringing home the shopping. Sort of thing I'd expect to see in south eastern Europe. So getting to the car hire shop required hoiking my little bicycle up this goat track and setting off across the quaint hill and valley landscape not especially friendly to lumbering cyclists.
Anyway the Blue Mountains were very spectacular and we walked over ridges and around slippery cliffs and through ferny dripping dingly dells, guided by Tina's sister Kate and her mate Jeff who live at Blackheath.
4 March Manly Cove
There had been quite a bit of social how do you do in Sydney. Tina has an aunt and five cousins who all have families and all but one of those families live in Sydney and they all visited over the month we were in Lake Macquarie, Pittwater and Sydney Harbour. And we saw an old mate of mine and a couple of friends of my brother and with all that it was quite a fun and busy social time. There are only a small few places in Sydney Harbour where a boating cruiser can leave a dinghy to go ashore and after we'd caught up with everybody we knew it started to seem that Sydney didn't really want to encourage us to come ashore to spend our money. Maybe Sydneysiders are all too busy getting ahead and they haven't got time to make it easy for boaties to join their party. Just about every pontoon or landing where a boatie might think they might leave their dinghy for a while would have a sign on it saying bugger off. So we thought it was time to head north again. We want to be back in Brisbane just after Easter to slip the boat and clean her bottom.
Back into the ocean. Out of the harbour. Always a bit bouncy bounce until you get out into deep water where things settle down a bit.
Broke the main sheet block bracket clean off its traveller cars. Pinged the connecting bolts off like matchsticks. Some clown hadn't tightened the main sheet enough as we came out of Port Stephens and the boom flopped too much one too many times and off the bracket pinged. Tina said something's broken and I said, as is my wont , nonsense, it was just another flop, but when I looked a bit later the block assembly was flying up under the boom which was still sort of restrained by the sheet and the traveller lines but way up from the traveller cars where it should have been. Damn. So down came the mainsail and we proceeded by headsail and motors to Broughton Island, the only island anchorage along this whole piece of coast, where we'd planned to rest the afternoon before an overnight sail up to Port Macquarie. Reattaching the bracket to its cars with bolts slightly lighter than the originals but hopefully strong enough for a temporary fix took care of the rest allocation of the afternoon for one clown and then off we sailed, just on dusk, to arrive at the Port Macquarie bar during the second half of the flood tide in the middle of the next morning.
That's when you go over bars. Second half of the flood tide so that the flow is with the swell and less likely to break and tip boats over. And only with less than 2 meters of swell. Well we did all that and still when we got there we didn't like the look of the Port Macquarie bar. It seemed to be breaking right across occasionally. Occasionally isn't too bad but that bar involves quite a long run through a potentially breaking area and we can't go fast enough to get through in between sets. So we said bugger that and pointed north for Coffs , the next option.
This NSW coast doesn't really allow relaxed day sailing. Between Port Stephens and the Gold Coast the only shelter you can be sure of getting into safely is Coffs. The others all require fairly calm conditions and careful timing. So you end up sailing at night and when there isn't much wind to sail on. Not ideal for cruisers. We motored for some hours and a breeze came up and we sailed for some hours and when it slowed down too much we motor sailed with one motor pushing enough to increase the apparent wind from a light breeze to a sailable breeze and make good time. Then Tina worked out how to do acceleration curves. The best wind for converting wind speed to boat speed is a reach with the apparent wind forward of the beam. A breeze of 10 to 12 knots at about 60 degrees will move us at about 7 knots. Then if it dies or changes direction and comes from behind the beam we slow down below 5 knots and the motors come on. Or Tina works out how to do acceleration curves. I'd read about them but thought they were just some wanky racing manoevre. When the wind goes behind the beam you loosen sails so they fill and push you along but more slowly than when the wind is more forward and you have the sails relatively flat and tight and get an aerofoil effect between the two. So you keep the sails trimmed for a fine reach and when you slow down you point up towards the wind to get the draw thing working again and the apparent wind up and then carefully bear away and that apparent wind comes with you and stays forward because of your speed which is twice what it would be on the same bearing with sails loose and filled out. Then a big wave will slow you down and you have to do it all again. But it's fun and keeps you awake acceleration curving all over the ocean at a fine rate of speed, not necessarily exactly where you wanted to go but more amusing than motoring. A cruiser has to find ways of amusing theirself.
Anyway we got to Coffs the next night and slept for many hours. Next day a motor boat came in who'd been swamped by a wave going in to Port Macquarie. Not sunk but took on enough water to make everyone unhappy and cause some motor trouble. So we were glad we'd declined Port Macquarie's beguiling but treacherous offer of a sheltered anchorage and a calm sleep.
Coffs Harbour. Another rainy day.
We rested a day then we went out for a day. We'd met and spent a bit of time with Grant and Leanne, who live at Bellingen, at Brampton Island last year. They took us and showed us around their town which we liked a very lot and also for a walk in the rainforest in the Dorrigo National Park at the top of that mountain. A very enjoyable day. We would have stayed longer but the next day was a rare opportunity for a mostly daytime sail to get to the bar at Iluka / Yamba on the Clarence River with an acceptably low swell. Having made such a dash up the coast we were keen to get into the Clarence and take it easy for a week or two.
Dorrigo Mountain scenes.
The waves at the Clarence bar weren't breaking but they were heaping and mounding up enough to give the boat a good shove along and make us sure we wouldn't want to be there when the swell was any bigger.
Iluka is perfect. Nice sheltered harbour off the side of the river with plenty of room to anchor. Quiet little town with just enough facilities to sustain life, nice walks, and best of all, a dighy pontoon right in front of the pub.
Now if every town along the coast had one of these so that boaties could get ashore easily then they would and they would spend more money and the economies of those towns would boom and a new age of prosperity and happiness would spread throughout the world.
We went for a walk in the Iluka World Heritage, no less, Rainforest. It was very nice but it seemed a bit leechy and we were only wearing sandals so we curtailed and agreed to go back the next day with better footwear, picnic, etc. Then while walking down the street with an ambition about buying some bananas, my toes felt a bit squishy and were indeed somewhat bloody. A newly fat leech must have gotten jack of being trodden on because he was on the loose and was easily flicked out of my sandal and happened to land on a steel signpole where he managed to stick. Not the best spot for a leech desiring longevity I thought, a metre above the footpath on a steel pole in the bright sunshine. His prospects had to be poor. My heart bled for him. But I tore myself away and strode on, banana bound.
Iluka 18 March
After a week at Iluka and many transactions with the fishermens' coop there, especially concerning the excellent prawns they catch, we moved across the river to Yamba. A bit bigger town with more facilities for tourists and the big influx of mobile retirees the area gets in the winter months. Also with a floating pontoon access wharf encouraging boaties ashore. Much appreciated. Nearly another week there, watching all the weather reports and waiting for an auspicious opportunity to head to sea for the hundred mile leg up to Southport. Walking out along the breakwater wall to inspect the bar entrance, large surf breaking right across it after a southerly blow, enough to prevent the fishing fleet from going out.
Eventually the swell eased and the forecast for a couple of days, Sunday and Monday last, started to look possible for our purposes. We wanted it pretty right because a hundred miles is a fair leg and with bars both ends you need to make the trip in either about 12 hours or about 24 so as to be at the correct time of tide for bar crossing at both ends. We thought that with the renowned east coast southerly ocean current, running at 2 or sometimes 3 or 4 knots against us, we'd have to make it a full overnighter. Sunday and Monday swell and winds were forecast to ease and it was looking like Monday would be calmer and maybe more comfortable for a slowish all nighter. But by Saturday night predictions for the two days were so similar that we said right, let's go Sunday.
Boy, did we get lucky. Sunday morning we slid out of the Clarence with no breaking to be seen on the bar and up came a beautiful southeasterly sailing breeze and no current against us, in fact there seemed to be a good knot helping us along and we were making 8 to 9 knots and starting to have sly thoughts about making it to Southport for the tide that night and getting a night in bed that hadn't been looking very possible. And so we did. Favourable conditions held up all day. The current stayed with us apart from a feeble knot or so of southerly push for a few miles around Point Danger / Tweed and we came in the Gold Coast Seaway just half an hour before high tide, around the corner and parked in front of Seaworld and slid gratefully into bed.
Lucky lucky lucky. All the way from Sydney apart from two short stretches the south ocean current was going the wrong way and helping us. Maybe because we moved mainly when winds were easing after some days of southerlies which can push the current further offshore, some say. Next day, Monday, which had had the same forecast as Sunday, there was no wind at Yamba which would have meant we'd have been motoring and around Byron there was a northerly which would have meant motoring into a head wind. And not making the Seaway until the next morning's tide after grinding away all night. Talk about lucky.
Back in Queensland. Somewhat relieved. Cruising here is much easier. That NSW coast is quite taxing. Might explain why there seemed to be so few boats travelling up or down the coast. Maybe most sensible people just stay somewhere in Queensland for the summer, or leave their boats parked somewhere and go home and do something else. It's just possible that by next summer the novelty might have worn off this boating life enough to either do that; leave it parked and go home, or more likely take it around to SA.
Decisions, decisions. It's an awful burden. But nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.
For now it is nice to be cruising the sheltered waters inside Stradbroke Island with multiple options about where to go each day on our leisurely way back to Manly where we are booked for our annual haul out, bottom scrub, paint, polish and maintenance session just after Easter.
Jumpin Pin, at the gap between North and South Stradbroke Islands
29 March Jumpin Pin
Next chapter begins at; Cruising Queensland second time, 2012