The weather windows to head south this year, being northerlies have been short lived and followed by a strong southerly change, usually around 30 knots with thunderstorms in some cases. We have had troughs by the dozen! It's early December and still they come!
However, we no complain! Our longest passage along the NSW coast was a little over 200 miles, but more of that later!
We had a 24 hour window to scoot the 90 miles from Southport to Yamba. The swell was more of a concern as we needed to get in over the bar at the Clarence River. It appears that the swell dies down within 12 hours after a blow. The southerly will die down and there will be usually a day of Light SE winds with a NE seabreeze, followed by a NE'ly the next day. We wait for the NE'ly which gives us a great sail in around 20 knots! The EAC was pumping; we had 3 knots with us passing Byron Bay, with Laine and Terry (Virgos Child) ashore telling us we looked fast! BOM's updated forecast put in a little Sou'easter late evening! Great! We hit it 20 miles north of Yamba. A bit of a slog, but we had made good time with wind and seas easing as we approached the bar, so with calm seas and little wind, over we went with no moon near the top of the flood. We could not see any breaking seas and we had spoken to a cat who crossed earlier on an ebb and said it was flatter than the seas outside! That was just before the southerly hit and should have been a warning of what was to come. Nothing like getting into flat water and dropping the hook!
The Clarence River Bar on a good day....the bar breaks on the leads, so don't follow the leads but come in on a SW course to the end of the southern breakwater...inbetween 2 breaks!!
We had a great time in Yamba catching up with Margaret, exploring the town,
and finding some nice real estate up the river.
We hid up the river near Maclean waiting for another blow to pass, having to organise a bridge opening.
There were many sugar cane fires, which look great at night as long as they are not close enough to drop soot on the boat!
Its great being tucked up the river when its blowing outside! The public dock was available, but the choice of anchorages were more peaceful.
These small wallabies were very prolific and thought they were hiding!
Almost two weeks later we had another small window to jump the 200 or so miles to Port Stephens. Many yachts were out there in the same weather window! Our back up plan was to go into Coffs if the forecast changed. With us was Billabong, a Bavaria whom we met up the Clarence. We departed with a little residual swell at the bottom of the tide at 0600 before the wind came in! Easy to dip around close to the southern breakwater and scoot around the breakers!
Whilst Billabong went out to the edge of the shelf to find the current, we skunked along the 100 to 200m line and found the same. We had mostly 3 knots with us once past Coffs, then smoked along at 10 and 11 knots with a 4 knot current fromTrial Bay. We had to exit the current early as we would have been entering Port Stephens in the dark and on an ebb. That gave us a 200 mile run in 24 hours. Billabong continued through to Pittwater. We had a 30 knot following breeze from midnight, helping us along with the current. Fantastic sailing! We encountered a few ships heading north and gave one ship a scare when we pinged him with our radar...it was 0200 and we were going to take his stern but we think he saw our radar and thought we were heading towards him as he did an abrupt 90 degree turn. Strange him being between us and the shore. He must have been trying to get out of the current.
As we were expecting another southerly blow later that day, we had made a reservation at Soldiers Point Marina for a mooring, which with the special, worked out at $35/day. With this came a complimentary car (new small Mercedes no less!), a library with free internet and complimentary wine, amazing ensuite showers and complementary bicycles. What an absolute bargain. They are such nice people there and a great restaurant to boot!
Trevor and Emma came up for the weekend and had a condo around the corner. We had some nice meals and a walk on the headland overlooking the entrance. Although a longer stay in Port Stephens would have been good, another weather window popped up, giving us a day with northerlies to get the 65 miles down to Pittwater.
It's a bit of a trek getting out of Port Stephens and around the headlands to eventually head south.
Two hours after our departure we still had 65 miles to go to Pittwater....the same as from our mooring! A strange day evolved as we were shrouded in heavy fog until 1100 hours. We could hear a ship off Newcastle blowing its foghorn. We could not see it until it was a mile away! It was waiting to go into Newcastle. They do not like ships anchoring there now after the last disaster so the ships book their berth when they enter the reef in up north and slowly drift down with the current. As we were motoring we had the radar on as well as the AIS, so I guess the ship could pick our radar up and maybe thought it was a ship heading for him!
It was just so fabulous to get into Pittwater. Wow! We picked up a mooring in Towler's Bay for the night whist the wind was still north. You can use these moorings if you do not get off the boat, so if the owner comes along you can move. It seemed that there was a general relaxed attitude towards moorings in general.
We found another mooring near the motor boat club and made it our base. We found out from some local paddlers that Church Point was the place to go for coffee and to catch the bus into the Mona Vale shops. There is a great dinghy dock at Church Point for those who live on Scotland Island. We hard some interesting stories about Scotland Island and seems that perhaps paradise is not at all what it is cracked up to be for some! Still looked idyllic to us!
Trevor and Emma visited us for the day and we took a hike around Barrenjoey. Spectacular views!
The storm that came in one night gave us a two hour sound and light show, but thankfully no more than 25 knots. Storms were raging all up the coast. We had enough time to wander up Cowan Creek for the next blow, which was so well protected. With 35 knots at North Head (Sydney Harbour) we had nothing over 10 knots...just lots of rain..and lots of waterfalls!
Showing the coloured rock as opposed to the sexy legs!!
Another day of northerlies almost 2 weeks later we zipped off to Sydney Harbour on a beautiful easterly! Magic sailing through the heads and down past the iconic Opera House and bridge....
ending up squeezing into Blackwattle Bay at the back of the city, near the fish markets. Another great chunder and frightening event which seemed to go around us until a bolt of lightening must have earthed on Anzac Bridge as it lit up all around us with lots of zapping and sizzling...thankfully all the yachts there were ok. The loud bang made us jump. Alan from Amnesia was visiting; he made a quick exit.
What a place to be for a while! Great access to the city, ferries and light rail. We zipped everywhere! Just up the road were the Glebe shops and a great laundry.
We did wonder what this ship was thinking..but they berth just the other side of the old bridge!
The Opera House is all that its cracked up tp be!
We decided to move around into Middle Harbour and found some great walks and anchorages.
Trevor and Emma came to visit and took us shopping. We walked up Bantry Bay and enjoyed the magnificent view. The bays around Middle Harbour are very protected and offer a few cafés to enjoy. There is a mobile coffee 'shop' that comes around on the weekend, also offering papers. You would never guess you are in the middle of such a metropolis.
Our favourite places in Middle Harbour are either side of Spit Bridge for the great cafés, restaurants and walks around the headlands. The buses depart from the either side if the bridge and it's a quick ride into town. Roseville Chase, by the Roseville Marina is very protected and offers similar, although only one cafe.
There is also a great protected anchorage up the third arm, being Sugarloaf bay where there are also some complimentary moorings. There are many places to anchor is water under 10 m, but depth is an issue....being too much as opposed to too little! It's all excellent holding in mud and sand.
Previously in the week, we had met up with Richard, whom I used to work with. His in-laws and family were on their new boat behind us in Bantry Bay....so we were delighted again to catch up! Such a small world the boating community. Richard and Mark have two beautiful children and it was just so wonderful meeting them.
The waterways of Sydney offer many secure anchorages, even around the moorings, where you can find depth and don't mind the ferries in the main hoarbour! We have motored around most of the bays. Perhaps it might be a little more busy in January, but apparently after New Year it settles down again. We thought we would find more visiting yachts...but not so. Hopefully later. Paddling out in Middle Harbour in the early morning I found two penguins floating about! Wow! Apparently there were sharks around too, but I figured I was safe if the penguins were. There are many Bull sharks that come back to Sydney Harbour for summer!
A fantastic 6 months cruising and more than 1500 nm along the east coast. Although we have sat out some blows, we were well tucked up and saw nothing over 32 knots. Part of that was sheer luck NAND the rest picking protected anchorages and keeping an eye on the weather. Every night the wind dropped and mostly went west or SW, even in the big blows. During the whole 6 months we had wind over 12 knots at night only a handful of times. Every other night the wind dropped out with the sunset and rose after sunrise. How good is that! The east coast is certainly up there with the best in the world, but then again, every anchorage and sail is weather dependent! We are happy to be sailing now more than we are motoring. Is that because for the first time in 10 years we are sailing outside the tropics?
We have now scoped out the essential bits of Sydney accessible by boat (which is a lot!) and look forward to showing the family around!