Queensland to Hobart, Oct 2011

Southport to Newcastle

Thursday 13 to Saturday 15 October 2011

Link to Picasa gallery

Carroll joins the crew when Barb leaves on Monday, and we enjoy a couple of days in the Gold Coast before setting sail. We carefully assess all available weather forecasts and it appears that we will get a spell of wind with variable strength but a reasonably constant northerly direction starting on Thursday, so we decide to make it a longish trip and head for Newcastle. So much for forecasts. We leave the Southport fuel jetty at about 8am Thursday, and sail out of the Gold Coast Seaway into a SE wind. We motor down to Point Danger, confident that the wind will start to shift more northerly at about the same time as our track turns more southerly. But... no. Skies turn grey and threatening. The wind goes to the south. There are thunderstorms. And rain. And it's cold. Some time in the middle of the first night we get a brief spell of easterly winds and manage to turn the motor off and sail for about an hour and a half, before the wind goes to the north, dead astern. Just as the mate is trying to adjust the sails for a following wind, the autopilot gives up, the boat goes off course, we jibe over, the captain wakes up... and although the wind direction is now helpful, it isn't strong enough to be really useful, so it's back to motor sailing and we have to drop the main in the dark, something we normally try to avoid. On the second day we have more storms, more rain and more southerly winds, right on the nose. More motoring, no sails. Captain is OK, but the crew is on the edge of seasickness, and both members fall over that edge and have to reach for a bucket once each. Fortunately, both immediately feel better afterwards. Late on the second day the wind returns to gentle northerly again, favorable, but not enough strength to be really useful. We pole out the jib, and get some benefit, but never enough to turn the motor off. Cloudy skies mean we see little of the full moon and no stars at night, and the sun rises almost imperceptibly behind the cloud banks, so no nice sunrises either. We are very glad we have an extra crew member, because although none of the journey is really difficult, the constant motor noise is stressful, and we are all able to get some relief from it by getting longer time off watch to sleep, or from having the distraction of someone to talk to (shout to?) when on watch.

However our journey isn't all gloom. We see whales as we leave the seaway on the first day. They are visible for about half an hour, blowing and slapping their tails. Later a couple of dolphin cross our path. And about mid-morning on the third day, the sun comes out, winds are favorable and so gentle that although useless for sailing, at least the seas are now calm, and the crew regain their appetites. Then we see a pod of whales only a short distance away, directly in front. They disappear for a period, and when they next surface, they are just in front of us, and so close that we are in danger of going right through the middle of the pod. We do a 360 and come back round between the whales and the coast, by which time they've submerged. The next time they surface we see them blowing behind us. As we cross Stockton Bight, just north of Newcastle, another pod surfaces right beside us, between us and the shore. And one obligingly breaches, right up close. We see a repeat performance a little further back when they next surface behind us. And so our journey finishes on a high note, and we motor past the "dancing ladies" channel markers at the mouth of the Hunter in calm weather and sunshine, and are comfortably berthed in the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club by 4pm. A compensation for having to motor very nearly the whole way is that we keep up an average of over 6kt, so make the journey of over 350nm in 55 hours (for those of you worrying about the arithmetic, we left in Queensland time, arrived in NSW time, on daylight saving). We sit on the deck in the sun enjoying our celebratory G&Ts, watching a cormorant catch fish in the river, and a hawk catching its evening meal on the shore. After two and half days of less than ideal conditions, it is bliss to be quiet and stationary. [Top]

Newcastle to Sydney, via Broken Bay

Tuesday 18 to Wednesday 19 October 2011

Link to Picasa gallery

We leave Newcastle under grey skies, with even a drop of rain, but it soon becomes sunny and warm. No wind however, so once again we motor, all the way to Broken Bay, where we pick up a mooring in America Bay for the night. Several more whale sightings en route. Beautiful evening and very quiet night.

America Bay equally beautiful in the morning, if a trifle chilly. Sunny weather rapidly brings warmth, and we have a slowly increasing tail wind. About half an hour from North Head we are finally able to sail. We run down with just the jib up and have the pleasure of sailing into Sydney Harbour. We have to put the motor on a couple of times to dodge other yachts and ferries, but we sail almost all the way to Rushcutter's Bay, where we make a difficult entrance into a berth in the CYCA. The berth allocated is the outermost one on an arm, requiring us to do a 180 degree turn in a distance that is much too short for Nahani. Moored boats just beyond the entrance to the arm and a huge 30m Swan berthed on the end of the arm opposite prevent us from widening the turning circle. As we find ourselves in the aisle between arms but unable to make the turn into the pen, a racing yacht comes down toward us, very unwilling to make any allowances for our difficulties. Captain reverses out, scarily close to the Swan and missing the moored yacht behind by a stern wave ripple as the racing yacht comes through, followed by several more WAGS boats (Wednesday Afternoon Gentlemen Sailors). Captain takes our boat back out of the way toward the end of the bay, where we run aground. Crew struggles to free the anchor, in case we need to pause and reconsider, but the captain manages to get Nahani off, and can now turn her so that we can head more or less directly round the Swan and into the pen, where we tie up without any contact with the Beneteau in the other half of the rather narrow pen. We heave huge sighs of relief, as the captain wasn't sure our insurance would cover damage to a Swan (about the most expensive yacht you can buy).

We decide that the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia is a misnomer - there are very few cruising yachts in the marina. It is largely occupied by racing yachts, Farrs and Beneteaus, and we watch as they whip in and out of their berths, WAGS returning, evening racers going out. Next we discover that the CYCA is missing a vital requirement for cruisers - a laundry. Not only do they not have one, they don't have useful information about where to find a laundromat. Fortunately we have access to local knowledge. Rob Nichols was to join the crew, but a virus has laid him low and he comes to apologise for being unable to come. His friend Cathy helpfully drives us to a laundromat and supermarket, and after shopping and washing we have an easy walk back across a park from the Puddleduck laundromat to the marina. We dine at the yacht club in the evening - good food but very noisy with all the racing crews there eating and drinking. [Top]

Sydney to Eden

Thursday 20 to Friday 21 October 2011

Link to Picasa gallery

Diane joins the crew in Sydney, arriving on Wednesday with lots of good provisions. When we slip out of the berth early Thursday morning we have two crew to assist with any fending off required, the captain on the helm and the mate holding the bowline to keep the bow away from the Beneteau, and we make a very easy exit, especially compared with our entrance the day before. We motor out of the harbour in a very gentle northerly. The wind is stronger once we get out through the heads, but not strong enough for a good speed, even with a poled out jib. The captain decides to get out the MPS, and we have the usual half and hour of getting ready to fly the big sail: bowsprit out, sheet attached, sail hauled up with sock ready to go. Captain pulls up the sock, sail fills, and then we try to furl the jib. Sock catches in the top of the jib as we furl. Unfurl. Start again. Process repeats as bits of the sail, sock haul lines, manage to get caught up in the furled jib on each attempt to furl it. In the middle the wind shifs and strengthens, so both sails try to jibe over, increasing their propensity to tangle up. Eventually we manage to get the jib furled and the MPS back down on the deck, at which point the captain packs it back into the anchor locker in disgust. Once we have our breath back, we reset the jib on the other side, and by afternoon we have enough wind to make good progress under jib alone.

We then have a lovely sail on a warm sunny afternoon, with several more whale sightings, some very close. Wind strengthens and after dark we are racing along, with the captain and Carroll on watch. When the mate and Diane take over the wind eases as we watch the moon rise, and at about 0230 speed has sunk to about 3kt and we reluctantly put the motor back on. Motor sailing continues into the morning, until the wind drops to the point where any sail is counterproductive, so we motor on in calm conditions. Wind then goes round to the south, slowly strengthening until we are motoring into a big chop, and the ride gets very bouncy. To make the ride easier we put up a bit of sail and tack until the wind starts to diminish again, and we go back to heading straight to Eden under motor, arriving at the mouth of Twofold Bay on schedule at 2100. We take the now familiar route round the naval jetty where we find East Boyd bay empty, and anchor easily in the middle. We dine on beautiful gourmet pies that Di has brought from Delicia in Willoughby, very welcome as it has been too rough to eat dinner en route. [Top]

Eden to Spring Bay/Prosser Bay

Wednesday 26 to Saturday 29 October 2011

Link to Picasa gallery

After four pleasant days in Eden, three spent in the town and one back in East Boyd Bay, we leave at 0800 Wednesday with the boat prepared for serious sailing: fresh bread and biscuits baked, casserole made, dinghy inverted, everything well stowed, plastic curtain installed in the cockpit to keep out the breeze. As expected, we begin the day motoring into a light S wind, boredom of motoring relieved by a whale sighting and two pods of dolphin which play around the boat for about 20 minutes each. By the time we reach Cape Howe the wind has gone round to ENE and we put up single-reefed main, staysail and jib. At first the wind is still under 10kt, not enough to keep up our target 6kt average without the motor going as well, but by about 1800 the wind has gone around to the NE and strengthened to 14kt - motor off at last. From then we have a great run through Wednesday night, Thursday and Thursday night with favorable wind and current, boat speeds getting up over 8kt and up to 9 once or twice.

By Thursday evening the wind has gone round to the N so we drop the main and we sail the rest of the way on jib alone, still doing 5-6.5kt. Late Thursday we can see the Furneaux Group in the distance, and at sunrise on Friday we look eagerly for signs of land, but Tasmania is invisible behind a pall of grey cloud, most unwelcoming. By 0930 Friday morning we are approaching Wineglass Bay, but with a big NE swell running we decide it would be an uncomfortable anchorage. It is also raining and very misty on shore on the Freycinet Peninsula, so we can't even enjoy the scenery. Wind goes further round, we jibe the headsail and decide to continue south as long as the wind is northerly. Forecast is for 25 to 30kt in the afternoon, and just as we are approaching Schouten Passage we get a spell of very strong wind, gusting over 30kt, so we put the motor on, scurry down to the passage and leave the motor on to ensure we get through safely. Then it's motor off for a leisurely sail under jib in the calmer waters inshore of Schouten down to Spring Bay. Wind eases as we approach Spring Bay so we furl the jib and put the motor on again for the last few miles to the entrance of Spring Bay and up to the top of the bay where we anchor at about 1800. Very welcome hot showers all round.

We've eaten well en route thanks to Di's contributions to the provisions - a second round of the gourmet pies and her beef casserole were eaten as we sailed, and once anchored we enjoy the mate's casserole that she cooked in Eden. Our anchorage in Spring Bay is a bit exposed, but the holding is very good, so we know we will cope when the forecast southerly change comes in over night.

We wake to rain and very cold winds, and about mid-morning Saturday we move down to a more sheltered anchorage in Prosser Bay. Weather continues cold and showery but after our great run across the Strait we enjoy the opportunity to be lazy, and indulge ourselves in decadent pastimes like baking scones for afternoon tea, and running the generator so that we can watch The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency in the evening. [Top]

Prosser Bay (Orford) to Hobart

Sunday 30 October 2011

Link to Picasa gallery

Up early, anchor aweigh at 0720. Motor out of Prosser Bay, down through Mercury Passage on the inside of Maria Island, down Marion Bay, through the Marion Narrows in good conditions (high tide, minimum wave action), across Blackman Bay. We follow the police launch through the Dunalley Canal, where we attempt to drop off the usual token of appreciation (a couple of cans) to the bridge supervisor on the way through. We've managed it with two aboard on several occasions, and so we think it will be really easy with four, but a bit of back-seat steering from the skipper causes the helmswoman to swing the boat to the right at the critical moment, the bucket is out of reach and the throw from the crew misses the target. As we continue on we see a fishing expedition commence and hope that our offering was duly retrieved from the canal.

Once in Norfolk Bay we put up sail and make good time across the bay, use a bit of motor once we get into the Flinders Passage, motor sail down Frederick Henry Bay into a stiff southerly, sail to Betsey Island, motor through the passage on the north side of the island, sail across to the Iron Pot and into the mouth of the Derwent. Here we drop the main and have a lovely run up the river under headsail alone.

With all sails furled we motor through the familiar moored boats outside the RYCT, and into the channel that leads to the pen. The channel seems narrower than we remember and the rock sides steeper - as we move into the basin and the captain swings the boat a little to the right in preparation for the turn into the pen there is a nasty clonk - we're aground on the rocks! We move forward, another clonk, and we realise the tide is exceptionally low. But we make the turn into the berth with only a minor brush with the post on one side, mate picks up the slider line successfully and Vicky and JB are there to pass us our mooring lines. We greet them, and Penny and Jeremy on Rosinante who are now our neighbours at the rear, then all the crew retire below for a celebratory drink.

From our farthest north point just over a month ago, we've travelled 1200nm as the seagull flies, probably nearer to 1500nm taking into account the curve of the coast and travel in and out of harbours. We've done the trip from Southport to Hobart in 18 days elapsed, including several days at rest in Newcastle and in Eden. We feel it's quite an achievement. [Top]