Sydney to Brisbane, July-September 2007

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Cammeray Marina (Sydney)

Tuesday 22 May 2007 to Wednesday 11 July 2007

Cammeray Marina is the favourite anchorage of cruising yachties in Sydney. It lies in a narrow inlet off Middle Harbour, near Northbridge. The steep sides of the inlet are covered in natural bush and very expensive real estate. Fortunately the former prevails in the general view, and there is enough of it that one awakens to the sounds of kookaburras, bellbirds and currawongs. Food scraps thrown overboard bring large numbers of bream and two very well-fed geese that belong to Kelvin, the marina manager. Cammeray Marina has been owned by the Rabbitt family for two generations, and there is a 60s beach shack feel about the wooden jetties, the barbecue area, the utility area where you can use the fridge or microwave, or borrow a book from the library of paperbacks left by other passing yachties. It is also very sheltered, and we hardly felt the storm force winds that occurred in June. Nahani's topsides were a lot cleaner from all the rain,though!

There are two ways to get to the Marina, by dinghy from the jetty at the end of Tunk's Park, or by climbing the 107 stairs down from Cowdroy Street. You can be in Sydney CBD in about 20 minutes by bus from a stop about 10 minutes from the top of the stairs. Cammeray is a great location, although not particularly close to shops. In June we drove our aged 760 Volvo up to Sydney. Having the car enabled us to socialise and shop in greater comfort (yet more boat bits) Climbing the stairs still kept us fit enough, we felt.

The first days following our arrival in May were beautiful, warm and sunny. Peter's daughter Barb joined us for the weekend and we explored Middle Harbour by dinghy one day, and took Nahani back out through the Heads for a day sail on another. We'd thought of going down into the main Harbour, but the sight of hundreds of sails put us off, and out at sea we had the pleasure of seeing the James Craig in full rig. We sailed out to meet her and then followed her back into the Harbour.

We returned to Melbourne and missed the bad storms in early June. We drove back to Sydney on 18 June to a spell of cold, wet and windy weather, but we managed a day sail in Middle Harbour with friend Liz Hepburn before another trip back to Melbourne at end June. The first week in July was mostly dry, but still cold and windy. We took Helen's cousin Eda Michelle for a Middle Harbour sail on 4 July, but conditions rapidly became very gusty, and getting back into the pen was a terrifying exercise - we eventually made it with much assistance from Clint and Matt, from the Marina. We waited out a wet and windy weekend before heading off to Pittwater.

Sydney to Pittwater (Broken Bay)

Wednesday 11 July 2007

On a cold wet Wednesday, we left our berth in Cammeray at about 0945 in order to be at the Spit Bridge for the first opening at 1015. We were the only boat waiting and went through without incident. We motored on out of Middle Harbour, then put up both headsails. We left the motor on until we were clear of the Manly Ferry route, then sailed out through the Heads into 2.5 metre swells and a SW wind. Heading out, the cross swell was a little uncomfortable but once well clear of the Heads we turned north with wind and swell behind us. We had a comfortable sail in 15-20kt winds, speed varying from 4 to 6kt averaging about 4.5kt. No rain while at sea and the sun came out for long enough for us to reach for the sunscreen. At midday we were off Long Reef Point and by 1430 Barranjoey Head was abeam. In Pittwater there was no swell, the wind eased but was on the nose as we headed south. We tacked for a short time, then motor sailed, eventually dropped all sails and motored down to the Royal Motor Yacht Club, dodging the many yachts having a Wednesday afternoon sail as we went. [Top]

Royal Motor Yacht Club, Broken Bay

Wed 11 to Sat 21 July 2007

The RMYC is on the East side of Pittwater, opposite Scotland Island. Arriving at about 1600 on 11 July, we were welcomed in by Peter Moxham and pointed to a nice large berth, into which we did our first ever reverse berthing - absolutely trouble free. Sake immediately leapt on to the jetty and went for a walk. We think the RMYC reminded him of Lindisfarne - he was up to his old tricks of jumping on to other people's power boats. RMYC is very friendly and helpful. Thursday was sunny and we dinghied round Scotland Island. On Friday it rained, and we returned to Cammeray to retrieve the car. On Saturday 14 July nephew Charles, Georgie and their kids came for an afternoon sail - around Scotland Island again to avoid all the racing yachts. Helen went back to Melbourne for three days and returned, with cold, to cold windy conditions from Wednesday to Friday. But by Saturday 21 July it had improved and we left RMYC to see more of Broken Bay. [Top]

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Cruising in Broken Bay

Saturday 21 to Wednesday 25 July 2007

On the morning of 21 July we met the Watsons, travelling north in Ankira, an East Coast 31. We'd seen their boat in Eden, sailed up from Sydney the same day, and finally met in the showers at RMYC (as you do). We visited each others' boat and chatted between filling up with water and diesel, then gave them a lift into Mona Vale where we lunched together and we did some final provisioning. We finally pulled away from the RMYC fuel jetty at about 1430, dodged through the Saturday afternoon racers under motor, then sailed round to America Bay where we picked up a mooring just on sunset. It's lovely to be alone in a bay, looking at the stars, after a long spell of marina life. Cat less than impressed with the absence of heaters, despite being offered a hot water bottle.

Sunday was rainy, so we stayed put. In the afternoon the Watson's came past in Ankira, so we invited them to dinner. Just on dusk they came over in their dinghy and we had a most enjoyable evening sharing a roast, a couple of bottles of red and lots of sailing yarns.

We spent the next two days exploring Cowan Creek and its various extensions, mostly by motor. We went down Cowan Creek as far as Bobbin Head, moored at the end of Smith's Creek on Monday evening, explored Coal and Candle Creek on Tuesday. These creeks all run down into Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, and so the high steep-sided banks are largely undeveloped, just eucalypts and other natives clinging to granite boulders. One imagines that all of Sydney Harbour must have looked like this once. There are marinas at Bobbin Head, Cottage Point and down Coal and Candle Creek, but Smith's Creek has no development, no road access and we were the only boat moored there. The steep sides reduce the sunlight hours and it was very chilly at night. We woke to fog rising off the water - eerily beautiful.

After two days of creek crawling the mate was getting slightly claustrophobic, so we headed out across Broken Bay and the mouth of the Hawkesbury to Little Patonga, a pleasant beach from which we could see the open sea, Barranjoey lighthouse and various navigation lights flashing, be rocked gently by the SE swell, and feel more like a sea-going yacht and less like a river-based motor boat. In the morning we sailed back across Broken Bay and down into Pittwater before the Wednesday afternoon racers got going. We motored round into Towler's Bay and Lovett Bay which we hadn't yet explored, stopping for a barbecue aboard in the former. With no wind we motored back past Church Point to the RMYC, where we left the boat while we flew off to give seminars in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. [Top]

Broken Bay to Newcastle

Thursday 2 August 2007

We gave seminars in Sydney (Peter) and Melbourne (Helen) on 31 July, and Helen flew back to Sydney to return to the boat. We spent Wednesday in voyage preparation, had a good meal and a very early night, and motored out of Broken Bay at about 0045, bright moonlight reflecting from, unfortunately, calm water. It had been blowing when we went to sleep at 2000, but for the first 8 hours of our trip we motored in a flat calm. About and hour and a half after sunrise, the wind came up and we had a very pleasant, if not very fast, sail up to Newcastle.

Chief points of interest in an otherwise uneventful trip were sighting a couple of whales travelling north, who were doing whale things - blowing, slapping the water with their tails. We had a good sight of them through the binoculars and I was quite happy to have them at a reasonable distance. We were also happy to keep distance between Nahani and the dozens (literally) of bulk carriers which anchor in the area south of Newcastle. We could see their lights during the night as we motored toward Norah Head, and tacked between them during the day as we approached Newcastle. Fortunately, none of them decided to move, so we had no avoidance issues.

Coming into Newcastle Harbour we had to dodge a fishing boat and a dredger, but there was plenty of room for all of us, and a couple of dolphins. We made a respectable entry into a pen at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club, assisted by Paul (the dock master) and Phil (from the next boat). Although a bit sleep-deprived, we summoned up the energy to take a walk around the marina and nearby area. [Top]

Newcastle to Port Stephens

Saturday 4 August 2007

We spent a rainy Friday at the Sydney Boat Show. Getting there and back was a Major Expedition. At 0823 we caught the InterCity train from Wickham station (near the marina). It's a wonderful train journey. First you see a the outskirts of Newcastle, then country towns including the legendary Woy Woy. At Gosford you come to Brisbane Water, the part of Broken Bay we hadn't explored in Nahani because of its very shallow entrance. The train goes all along the western shore, then climbs a hill, into a tunnel and pops out on to the bridge over the Hawkesbury. On the other side it skirts Ku-ring-gai Chase, climbing and winding through the trees and granite, then descends into the Northwestern suburbs starting at Hornsby, crosses the Paramatta River to Strathfield and comes into Sydney via the inner west. We'd brought books to while away the three hour journey, but were kept too interested to open them.

From Central to Darling Harbour by tram (just like home) and into the Boat Show. There we gathered information about engines (in case good old Kieren, our Perkins 4108, becomes unmaintainable) and about 12v, daylight viewable screens to use with a chart plotter. And we looked at everything else there was to see, bought a folding bucket, a pair of dive goggles and a buffer (it was seriously cheap). Finally staggered out after dark, had a quick meal in Darling Harbour, went by monorail and foot to Wynyard, bus and foot to the RMYC at Pittwater, where we collected the car and drove back to Newcastle, arriving about 2300.

After a long day on Friday and with a short sail ahead, we could afford to lie abed until 0830, enjoy breakfast on deck in the sun, take our time preparing. At 1130 we motored down the Newcastle channel, passing the floating channel markers which look like tall angular women in calf-length skirts, arms akimbo, with lampshades on their heads.

At last, we had a day with ample wind, and from the right direction. It does however make harder work for the helmsperson, managing quartering seas without jibing. Judicious use of preventer and jib pole meant that we were doing 5 or 6kt most of the day, over 7kt at times. Despite good speed it was late in the day when we entered Port Stephens, and of course, the lead lights for the harbour were in direct line with the setting sun. We missed a turning point and had to backtrack, and there was some minor tension between navigator and helmswoman. But we had the help of a very patient Coast Guard, and with his assistance we found our way down to Fly Point, and picked up a courtesy mooring there just after dark.

When we retired to bed after a good meal, Nahani was rocking gently. A couple of hours later she was swinging rapidly in strong winds. With only 2.5m depth and a hireboat on a mooring less than a boatlength away, this was worrying and we spent the rest of the night awake and dressed in case we needed to move in a hurry. At dawn we dropped the mooring and motored west further into Port Stephens, taking a berth at The Anchorage. It remained terribly windy all day, so that we were deterred from much outdoor activity, apart from a walk with the cat. Our memory of Port Stephens is consequently not particularly favourable, perhaps unfairly, but we watched the weather observations in nearby places, and the winds were generally 10kt worse where we were. [Top]

Port Stephens to Coffs Harbour

Monday 6 to Wednesday 8 August 2007

We timed our departure on Monday to cross Port Stephens bar at the right tide, which was about noon. We sailed all that day and night and the next day up past Camden Haven, and Port Macquarie. We began sailing wing and wing with a following wind which dropped after dark, and we motor-sailed until the wind strengthened again about 0200. Mid-morning we decided to head into the coast to escape a 2kt adverse current. We gained some speed, but had to tack out to sea again as the wind went round to the NW.The Watson's, in Ankira, left Camden Haven just after we passed it, overtook us during our tacking manoeuvres to round Korogoro Head. We chased them North and we both had to tack out to round Smoky Cape, heading out to the strangely shaped Fish Rock. With the sun setting and wind rising, we kept sail on to try and get to Trial Bay before dark and steering was hard work. We dropped sail as it got dark, a little prematurely - we motored through lumpy swells which got worse when we slowed down inside Trial Bay to try and find some moorings. Ankira, in ahead of us and with shallower draft, had crossed the bar into the river, but we decided to stay out in the bay, despite the heavy swell. Unable to locate the moorings we headed into the more sheltered end of the bay and dropped anchor. Nahani was rolling heavily and we decided eating was ill-advised. We wedged ourselves into the seaberths and were so tired we slept well, despite the motion.

As we were preparing to weigh anchor next morning, we heard Peter Watson on the radio saying that Ankira had touched, broached and shipped a wave on their way out over the bar, and we were glad we'd stayed outside, even if it was bumpy. The wind had dropped over night and by morning Trial Bay was pink and misty, with much less swell. We motored all the way to Coffs Harbour, sails up when the wind went to the NE, but more for decoration than serious effect. Two whales passed us at lunch time, much closer this time. We reached Coffs about 1500 and Peter and Marianne were there to take our lines, having got in about an hour ahead of us. We had tea together that night in the local Chinese, and saw more of them on Thursday as we explored the harbour area, did our washing and restocked our provisions, ready for the next leg. [Top]

Coffs Harbour to Yamba

Friday 10 August 2007

Coffs to Yamba is 55nm, just far enough to mean that we had to leave early if we wanted to make the bar crossing at the right tide and before dark. At 0545 we were slipping out of the Marina at Coffs, as was Simply Irresistible, also Yamba-bound. They cleared the harbour ahead of us and we lost sight of them in the haze. We motor-sailed the whole day, as we could not maintain the necessary speed otherwise with the wind more or less on the nose. We suspect that Simply Irresistible sailed as they did a lot of tacking. It was a faster boat, but we arrived ahead of them because we put the autopilot on and just headed straight, letting the sails assist when the wind allowed. At one point the wind increased to over 25 kt, and we reefed, but it eased quite quickly and we went back to full sail. We arrived at the mouth of the Clarence on schedule and had no trouble with the bar. Negotiating the shallow entry to the Marina was trickier. First we had to try and pick up lead lights staring into the setting sun. Then we found that about half of Yamba's large trawler fleet was heading out at sunset to take advantage of the optimum tide for bar crossing, and in the narrow channels it was hard to know how best to keep Nahani out of their way. Once around Dart Island we were facing away from the sun and it was quite easy to follow the leads and beacons down to the marina. We were making a nicely timed entry when the helmswoman had a senior moment and put the engine into forward instead of reverse. When the captain shouted at her because the boat wasn't slowing, she put the throttle down further before realising her mistake, and Nahani tried to climb onto the jetty. There were enough people watching to make it seriously embarrassing. Surprisingly, the only real damage was to the helmswoman's pride, although there is a bit less paint on the bow. Weary from 11 hours of motor noise, we went through the formalities with Joyce, who manages everything here, then spent the evening organising transport for the following week. [Top]

A month in Yamba

Friday 10 August to Wednesday 12 September 2007

We spent a happy month with Nahani in Yamba Marina, safe and very well-run. Unfortunately the weather wasn't nearly as friendly as the people, and we spent a number of wet days aboard doing boat work. We also had to make a number of trips away - Peter to Adelaide for a funeral, both of us back to Melbourne mid-August, both of us to Mt Isa late August, and then Helen to Melbourne again early September. Returning from the first trip south we retrieved the car from Newcastle, so we had transport to get around Yamba and to drive back and forth to Grafton and Brisbane airports. In between wet weather and flying interstate visits, we explored Yamba and environs, and made excursions up river by dinghy and by car.

On Saturday 11 August we walked into Yamba and explored the town which is very attractive. In the afternoon I visited Serendipity where Tim and Moira provided advice on local catteries. Late in the evening we launched the dinghy and went across the river to Iluka to see the Watsons, who'd followed us a day later and gone into the Iluka Boat Harbour. They'd experienced similar conditions to us on their trip up.

On Sunday 12 August Pam Ditton drove down from Byron Bay to visit. Given that Peter had to leave on his journey to Adelaide at 1500, we decided to hire a tinny to do some river exploring, rather than move Nahani. We had a lovely potter round the islands upriver from the Marina, then went to the Yamba Shores Tavern for lunch. When we returned to the tinny the engine wouldn't start, and we had to radio for a tow. Fortunately Peter still had plenty of time to get back to the ship, change and set off for Coolangatta, where he caught a direct flight to Adelaide. Meanwhile Pam and Helen chatted on before she returned to Byron Bay. Later Helen went to the local Sports Club with a group of the permanent liveaboards from the Marina - a very interesting group and it was a most enjoyable evening.

Monday 3 September was warm and sunny and we went up river by dinghy, all the way to the bridge where the Pacific Highway crosses the Clarence, pulling in to the bank for brief walks ashore and lunch on the way up. We expected to be able to drift back with tide and current assisting, but a strong NE/NW wind came up and if we cut the motor, we went upstream rather than down. The river also got quite choppy, which made refuelling more difficult. At one point we unwisely tried to refuel by picking up a mooring, rather than going in to the bank, and the boat rocked so much that Peter lost his grip on the petrol tank and it went o/b. But it was retrieved without shipping water into the petrol, and we moved to a jetty to finish refuelling successfully. Next time we pulled into a beach again, but shortly after managed to run aground when the steersman was looking somewhere other than at the shoal directly in front. But we were back at dusk after a largely enjoyable excursion. Peter is now working on a better system for refuelling our little outboard which only runs for about an hour on a tankful.

The following Monday we did the "Tourist Drive" through Maclean and Brushgrove down to Ulmarra, where we had a pub lunch by the river. This route follows the shallower South Arm of the Clarence, not navigable by yacht, so driving is the only option. On Tuesday, between preparations for going to sea again, we took the ferry across to Iluka for the afternoon and enjoyed a walk through this rather sleepy holiday town. [Top]

Yamba to Southport

Wednesday 12 September 2007

We left Yamba early at 0730, as we'd estimated that it would take us about 24 hours to sail up the coast. We negotiated the Clarence entrance comfortably on a rising tide, and put up sail in a light Westerly once out of the harbour. This didn't last long and we had to resort to motoring, but later in the morning a brisk easterly came up and we had a great sail for the rest of the morning and afternoon until the wind started to go round to the north. Sailing hard on the wind, we couldn't stop the jib from flapping and realised that the leach line had broken. The flapping drove us crazy and is bad for the sail, so we furled the jib and dropped our speed back. At the time we weren't concerned as, if we'd kept up the 5-6kt speed, we would have arrived at Southport at about 0400 in the dark. Later we regretted not having made all speed when we could. Headed by the wind and a strong current, we made very slow progress past Ballina and Cape Byron, finally clearing the latter about 2100. The wind and current remained unfavorable and we motored slowly up to Danger Reefs during the night, with the wind easing and going to the West. After Danger Reef we had enough wind to sail again, and it was back to SW so we had a pleasant 4-5kt reach into Southport enjoying the dawn and sunrise lighting up the Gold Coast highrise. We entered the Southport Seaway about 0930 and headed down to Southport Yacht Squadron, who'd promised us a berth for the night. The allocated berth was beside a very large stinkboat which was about to go out, so we went into a double pen beside it instead (easy!) as a temporary measure. The SYC were happy for us to stay there, so we didn't have to move. We have had to keep Sake out of sight, as it's a No Animals marina. He's getting over a mild burst of cat flu picked up in the cattery in Yamba, so we let him bask in the sun for a bit disguised as a hat before secreting him back below when we went exploring.

We had a short zizz after berthing, then spent some time with the charts working out how to tackle the inland route to Moreton Bay. Next, we went ashore for an overdue shower, a visit to the chandlery (very helpful staff) and some lunch at the club. Refreshed, we went for a walk down the beach to Surfers Paradise (or is that Surface Paradise?). We stand out from the locals as obvious blow-ins from the deep South in our long sleeves, long pants, hats and socks (Peter only) and with our pallor (Helen only). Women we've seen in the yacht club look as though they were candidates for Miss Southport circa 1965 – everyone is tanned and blonde. The highrise are omnipresent and some are architecturally challenging. One hotel looks as though it was designed by Ludwig of Bavaria's architect, the one who did Neuschwanstein. In between there are parks and walks along the lagoons which we found unexpectedly pleasant and attractive. But we felt a day in the Gold Coast was probably enough. [Top]

Southport to RQYS Manly in Brisbane

Friday 14 to Saturday 15 September 2007

The cruising yachties in Yamba all advised us that we would be able to take the inland route from the Gold Coast to Moreton Bay, provided we made sure we went through the shallowest sections on a rising tide. This meant yet another early start, but it was a beautiful morning and not really a hardship to be up at 0600 and away at 0700, even for martyrs to matutolypea like us. There was also minimal boat traffic in Southport at that hour of the morning. We motored slowly into a headwind and incoming tide up to the seaway entrance, then made faster progress travelling north with the incoming tide. We were motoring up the Broadwater when the steersperson missed seeing a beacon and we ran aground on the edge of a bank. Fortunately the combination of a strong headwind and a rising tide made it reasonably easy to back the boat off again and on we went, making good time to reach the shoals approaching Jacob's Well before high tide. We came through these without mishap, using the chartplotter on the computer to find the deepest route. Once past Jacob's Well we had a contrary tide so we planned to stop for a lunch break and a rest, but it proved difficult to find a suitable place to stop. We tried a small sideways move out of the channel, but were in danger of running aground again so moved on, finally finding an appropriate place at about 1340. After lunch and a nap, we set off again for what we expected to be a more straightforward part of the journey. The pause in the journey meant that we now had a favourable tidal flow again, but also that the shallows were getting shallower, and we had quite a few more challenging moments before we finally motored round into the strait between Macleay and Russell Islands, and dropped our anchor in a lovely spot on the south side of Lamb Island.

The inland route is full of contrasts. At the beginning you travel past the Gold Coast canal developments which look like Donclestowe with water instead of hills. Further north the sanddunes, mudflats and mangroves are probably as they have been for thousands of years, except for the regularly placed shoal markers. But every now and then one gets a glimpse through a gap in the mangroves of a major new development, a marina or club, with lots of large new shiny stinkboats. Jacob's Well is an older settlement, with lots of older yachts and power boats on moorings. Our nighttime anchorage reminded us of Pittwater. Russell, Macleay and Lamb islands are all populated, but unlike the Gold Coast the houses are discreet and hidden in the natural bush. There are more yachts and fewer powerboats. The area is within commuting distance of Brisbane, and shallow draft catamaran ferries, rather like the Rivercats that go up the Parramatta in Sydney, ply between wharves on the islands and Brisbane. There are also several carferries serving the islands, which are big enough to have roads (the islands, not the ferries). We felt the wash from the ferries a bit, but not enough to bother us. After two early mornings and an overnight sail we went to bed early and slept for about 10 hours.

We could afford the luxury of a later start on Saturday, and headed off at about high tide, back to the Main Channel and up into Moreton Bay. The wind was again in the north, but we managed to sail about half the trip across Moreton Bay to Manly, with the wind progressively rising to over 20kt. We struck our sails early and followed a line of boats down into Manly Boat Harbour. We were dreading berthing in such a strong wind, but we were fortunate in being given the downwind side of a double pen, so we didn't have to worry about blowing down on another boat. A combined effort by the crew (she does forward, he does reverse) took Nahani into the designated pen quite neatly. As usual, there was a helpful person there to take a line, but we almost didn't need him. We felt triumphant, both for managing berthing in difficult conditions, and because we'd finally reached Brisbane.

Nahani was in RQYS for two months. During that time Helen made flying visits to Mt Isa, then Melbourne, then Peter and Helen drove to Rainbow Beach before Helen returned to Melbourne. Peter stayed another week being host to daughter Barb. They didn't take Nahani out, but did take a ferry trip across to Moreton Island for the day. Barb swam and Peter sandboarded. Sorry, no pictures yet!

For various reasons we decided to do the last leg of our journey north by car rather than by sailing to Tin Can Bay. So the ship stayed in Brisbane while we caught up with Tasmanian cousins Claire and Gösta, who were visiting daughter Alex, son-in-law Brent and new grandchild Max. When we weren't admiring the baby and Brent and Alex's new house, or enjoying the boundless hospitality of Brent's parents Bart and Jen, we went on a day tour of Fraser Island and drove north to Hervey Bay to see Steve and Chrisy (Nahani's builders) on Solar Driftwood, a Tayana yacht that they are bringing back up to good sailing condition. We enjoyed our break from liveaboard life, staying in a flat belonging to Audrey, a neighbour of Bart and Jen's. The cat particularly enjoyed having more space inside and Audrey's pretty garden to run around in.

The time we did spend living aboard in RQYS was quite social. We entertained Jeremy and Penny, old Tassie friends from Rosinante who were also berthed there. Helen's ex-work colleague Andrew Chesterman came down for a drink and a chat. We joined George and Stephanie on the boat next door for drinks, and in Helen's various absences, Peter was looked after by them, and by Ian and Garth and their partners on Dauntless. [Top]