Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Pieces of Eight Gold Coast to Sydney
This article details our journey back from Queensland to Sydney with our new yacht Catlypso (then named Pieces of Eight - in this article it is referred to as Pieces of Eight, its name at the time) after we purchased it. On board with me from the first day was Heinz Bendinger, a diving buddy.
Wednesday 18 June 2014 - Coomera to Southport, Gold Coast
The boat was put back on the sealift at about 1530 after being on the hardstand for almost a week at Boatworks . By the time we we ready to leave, it was 1600. We motored down the Coomera River on the Gold Coast. We used 2200 rpm on both motors and were doing about 7.7 kts (with a current). When we reached the Broadwater, we had to use 2,800 rpm was it was getting dark and there was 9 kts of southerly wind to beat into, rising to 12 to 15 kts when passing the Gold Coast Seaway. We arrived at Bums Bay, correctly called Marine Stadium, which is a very protected bay north of Seaworld and next to the Seaway.
|Bums Bay, the view towards the north||This shows our trip from Gold Coast to Sydney|
Each colour represents a day's travel
Click to see larger version
We arrived there at about 1730 and it took a while to find a suitable spot to anchor. There were lots of boats here, but nowhere as many as there were in late May 2014 when we had a look. Finally we found a spot (we wanted lots of room as we had never tried the anchor winch etc before).
We had trouble using the winch as the anchor chain had a lot of rust on it. This kept jamming up the winch head and required constant pulling up and dropping of the winch. By 1820 we were anchored successfully. After a few more dropping and raising of the anchor over the following few days, all the surface rust was knocked off and it now works perfectly first go. I set an anchor alarm on my laptop so that if the boat moved we would be alerted.
Heinz cooked us pasta with arabiarta sauce with some ham. We had a few beers and then listened to the second State of Origin rugby league match. For those who are not aware, this is an annual series of tree matches played between New South Wales and Queensland. Queensland had won the past eight series but this year NSW was ahead winning the first match. Finally Heinz figured out how to use the TV and we watched the last few minutes.
NSW ended up winning 6 to 4 in a very exciting match. The drought was over!
I went to bed at 2230. About 2245 it blew 15 kts for 15 minutes and also at about 0200 it blew 10 kts.
Thursday 19 June 2014 - Southport, Gold Coast to Tweed Heads
We woke up at 0630 but as we did not have far to go today, I stayed in bed and read till 0745 when I listened to the ABC Radio news. We discovered that the toilet was flushing straight out to sea instead of going into the holding tank. We did not know how this worked so it was something we needed to figure out today.
|Bums Bay, the view towards the south||A humpback whale slapping its tail off Surfers Paradise|
We had breakfast and were visited by a duck which enjoyed the bread Heinz gave it. We decided to leave at 0900 which was a bugger, as it started to rain then. We again had problems with the anchor and it took a while to get it up. The rain stopped as we left the Seaway. I logged onto VMR Gold Coast Seaway and gave them the proposed ETA at the Tweed River.
We headed out to sea, the bar had little swell on it. There was a metre or two of slop in the open ocean and 7 to 8 kts of westerly wind. We had trouble with the main sail as it would not go up. Figured out that the reefing ropes were holding it down. When we did get it up, I had problems steering as it seemed that the starboard prop had not feathered, thus causing drag. Then, a few flaps of the sail and the bottom ripped in two places. Bugger! We knew that it was not perfect, but did not think this would happen.
|Looking back towards Surfers Paradise||Another humpback whale off Surfers Paradise|
We put up the screecher and sailed at 90Âș to the wind (westerly). We were doing about 5 to 5.5 kts in a 7 to 9 kt wind. Just after noon we saw a couple of small humpback whales. We were by now about 5.5 nm off Surfers Paradise.
At 1300 we tacked back towards shore. We were doing almost 6 kts but not gaining any distance towards Tweed Heads. At 1315 we turned on one motor at 2400 rpm, dropped the sail, and made 5.5 kts. We saw lots more humpback whales, some tail flapping, some breaching and some fin slapping. We arrived at the Tweed River bar at about 1540 and had a very safe crossing. There was some swell and a few waves stood up, but it was nothing.
I logged off with Marine Rescue Tweed Heads. We motored up the river into an outgoing tide and then went into the Terranora Inlet. We anchored about 30 metres north of the wharf in about 2.5 metres. Before this however, I ran aground as there is a sand bar that runs parallel to the shore just off the wharf. I easily reversed off. The spot is very protected and conveniently located near the wharf and the Old Pacific Highway.
|Pieces of Eight anchored off the public wharf at Tweed Heads||Another shot of Pieces of Eight at Tweed Heads|
It was now 1620. Kelly was flying into the Gold Coast Airport at 1930 and was going to catch a cab to here (about 10 minutes or so). I sent Kelly an SMS of the address to come to and then cooked dinner of spaghetti bolognaise. Heinz and I both had showers and then a beer while we waited for Kelly.
Her plane was late, arriving at 2020. We had again tried to start the outboard but had no luck. We attached some ropes to it and I paddled to shore. Kelly arrived at the wharf before I did! I got rid of some rubbish in nearby bins and then rowed us back to the boat.
We had the spag bol and another drink and sat and talked about what had happened over the past few days.
We went to bed about 2200 and slept well.
Friday 20 June 2014 - Tweed Heads to Ballina
Got up at 0600 and had breakfast. Pulled up anchor at 0630 and head down towards the ocean. The tide was running out at 2.5 to 3 kts. The waves at the bar were standing up and making it very choppy. Turned 45Âș to port as soon as past the breakwater as straight ahead is shallow. Did a loop to starboard and went around Cook Island. Past here we put up the screecher, doing 4.5 kts. We then put up the main to the third reef as this means the damaged section is still down.
|Sunrise at Tweed Heads anchorage||Michael at the helm going out of the Tweed River|
|Cook Island||Kelly with Mt Warning in the background|
Wind was 7 to 8 kts westerly and we were doing 8 kts or so in very calm seas. At Cudgen Headland we saw two humpback whales, the first of the trip for Kelly. At 0845 we changed the main to the second reef when we realised we could without having the damaged section in the wind. The wind dropped to 5 to 6 kts and our speed to only 4 kts. We saw more whales at 0905 and a dozen dolphins.
At 0915 we started the starboard motor as going too slow. At 2000 rpm we went up to 6 kts. At 1025 we tacked back towards Cape Byron as we were heading too far out to sea. We dropped the screecher soon after, only doing 4.5 kts. Later, the wind went to south-east and we picked up to 6 kts.
|Pieces of Eight as we approach Byron Bay, the seas are so flat|
The seas were almost mirror like, even with this wind. Heinz had two fishing lines out and caught a reasonably large fish. We did not know what it was, although later I think it was a bonito of some sort. He also lost one. At 1430 we took down the main sail and at 1450 we turned on the other motor. We were doing almost 8 kts. There were lots of whales seen this afternoon, a total of 62 for the day!
We crossed the Richmond River bar at Ballina at 1515. The tide was still coming in so it was very flat. We stuck to the starboard side of the entrance. We went a short distance to Mobbs Bay which is on the southern side of the river just before the main part of town. This is a shallow bay, very protected and a nice spot to stay. We anchored here at 1530. We picked a spot in line with the port channel marker which indicates the entrance to the bay and the white pole at the eastern end of the bay.
|Heinz and the fish he caught||Kelly and Michael as we approach Cape Byron|
|Cape Byron at left and Julian Rocks at right||Kelly and Michael having their first sundowners on Pieces of Eight|
As Ian Gowan is joining us tomorrow morning, we had to reorganise a lot of the stuff we had stored on his berth. This took a while as we had to figure out where to put it all.
At 1700 we had sundowners, the first Kelly and I have had on the boat. Kelly made a salad and I cooked porterhouse steaks and sausages. It was a very nice meal. We went to bed early at 2000 as we had some late nights and early mornings so far. I read for a bit and then to sleep at 2030. Today was sunny and about 21ÂșC.
Saturday 21 June 2014 - Ballina to Yamba
An early start today as we have a lot of water to cross. We also have to pick up Ian Gowan from the wharf at Ballina. We get up at 0545 and have breakfast before upping anchor at 0620. We motor over to the public wharf and discover that we probably could have tied up here last night as there is a yacht on the other arm of the wharf.
Ian is waiting for us with his wife Sharon. Ian is a dive buddy from Sydney who moved to Port Macquarie a few years back for work. He is an experienced sailor. He has also purchased some diesel for us so we transfer 40 litres into our tank, filling it. We have another 20 litre container that he bought as well as about 23 litres I purchased at Boatworks. For the 40 litres we have used so far, we did 20.6 engine hours meaning 1.9 litres per hour.
|Pieces of Eight at Ballina Wharf||Heinz, Ian, Kelly and Michael just before leaving Ballina|
We said goodbye to Sharon (who will drive to Yamba to meet us tonight) and headed out. The bar was flat as a tack and once outside we put up the sails. We were heading 152Âș at 5 to 6 kts and then we changed to 164Âș with winds of 10 to 12 kts. This gave us a speed of 8 to 9 kts. About 1045 the wind dropped to 7 to 8 kts and our speed to 6 kts. The wind has been from 60Âș starboard.
We did not see any whales on the first part of the leg as we are 12 nm off Evans Head, the whales are a lot closer to shore out of the current that is running to the south (the famous Eastern Australian Current - Finding Nemo). It is sunny and a pleasant 21ÂșC.
|Kelly and Michael way off the coast||Heinz and Ian relaxing on the foredeck|
At 1200 we tack to 298Âș when 15 nm off Yamba. We are only doing 4 kts and we changed to the jib to sail closer to the wind. The speed eventually dropped to 2 kts so at 1230 we dropped sails and turned on one engine at 2200 rpm. This gave us 5.3 kts. By 1345 we are doing 6 to 6.5 kts, still on one engine. Closer to shore the speed dropped back to 5 to 6 kts.
As we approached the Clarence River bar at Yamba, we came in from the north-east as per the cruising guide. However, the waves were standing up a fair bit so we came further over to the southern side and then into the river at about 1515. Of course we had both engines going at this time.
We went into Yamba Bay and found a public mooring. The condition of the rope on the top was very poor so we had to use a few bits of our own to make it safe. One thing we discovered is that the boat is not really well set up to moor. We need to look at this once we get home.
|Pieces of Eight approaching Yamba||Sunset at Yamba|
It was 1600 by the time we were moored. At this time I noticed that the port engine timer was not working. However, I later discovered that it is, but sometimes it is not visible, perhaps when it is warm. We had another good run today, although a bit more wind would have been nice.
Later, Sharon Gowan arrives and Ian and I row the tender ashore to collect her. She brings a few nibblies that we have with sundowners. Later, there was a big thunderstorm and a bit of rain for 30 minutes. Kelly cooked beef stroganoff and pasta.
Sunday 22 June 2014 - Yamba to Coffs Harbour
We were up at 0545, had some tea and coffee before heading to a wharf near the marina to drop off Sharon. We crossed the bar at 0645, very flat but a couple of waves stood up. It was one third out from low tide. At 0700 we raised the main and jib. It was very foggy, even out to sea.
|Fishing trawlers entering the Clarence River as Pieces of Eight leaves Yamba||The approaching storm|
The first humpback whales were seen at 0715, five in one pod. We were looking for Migaloo, the white whale, which had passed Port Macquarie the night before and Sydney a few days earlier. However, we did not sight it at all. At 0755 we started one engine as the wind dropped. Using 2200 rpm we were doing 6 kts.
We only had it on for five minutes as the wind increased to 9 kts. This had us doing 5 to 6 kts, but we were heading back towards the shore and would eventually have to tack out to sea.
|A great rainbow as we get closer to the storm||One of the many humpback whales we saw today|
At 0820 we put up the screecher and took down the jib. We were now doing 6 kts in 8 kts of wind. At 0920 we put the jib back up and the screecher down. There was a light sprinkle of rain about this time. At 0955 we took the jib down and put one engine on as the wind dropped and turned more to the south. By 1015 we had some more rain and the wind dropped further so we pulled the main sail down.
There was a double rainbow to the south with thunder and lightning. At 1050 we were using one engine at 2400 rpm and doing 5 kts in a southerly 10 kt wind. It was still 21ÂșC but cool due to the southerly wind. At 1120 we swapped to the other engine and at 1145 raised the screecher. This added one knot. At 1210 we dropped the screecher as the wind turned more southerly. At 1240 we passed inside North Solitary Island and then later North West Solitary Island.
|Ian has a nap, sailing is so exhausting :)||South Solitary Island, home to many brilliant dive sites|
At 1250 I started the other engine, both now running at 2200 rpm giving us a bit over 6 kts into a 10 to 12 kt southerly wind and sloppy seas. We passed inside Groper Island and then outside Split Solitary Island. We increased the engines to 2600 rpm to get to Coffs Harbour before 1700. Arrived at the breakwater at 1640 and anchored on southern side, east of new boat ramp and about off the old one at 1650.
We all had showers and then some beers. Before dark we added 45 litres from our containers to the diesel tank. We have used about 85 litres so far, 38.9 engine hours which gives 2.06 litres per hour per engine (note we have been running higher than the most economical setting of 2200 rpm).
|Split Solitary Island||Muttonbird Island, the northern headland of Coffs Harbour|
Dinner was again cooked by Kelly, a Thai green curry chicken and rice, very spicy. There was a lot of lightning out to sea later. The wind also turned to west or west-north-west but was very light. We went to bed early, 2030, but read for a while before going to sleep at 2115.
Today was a very good day, we sailed a long way (although motoring for a bit) and saw a total of 35 humpback whales. We also passed some of the most spectacular parts of the coast of New South Wales.
Monday 23 June 2014 - Coffs Harbour to Port Macquarie
The boat turned a few times during the night and the anchor alarm went off. At 0430 the wind turned north-west and the alarm went off again. At 0500 we were up and having coffee and tea for an early start. The plan was to get to Port Macquarie and if possible, Camden Haven. It was fine and cool at 13ÂșC.
|Dawn just after leaving Coffs Harbour||A bit later south of Coffs Harbour|
We upped anchor at 0540 and by 0540 we were outside the harbour. It was still very dark so we used radar and the chartplotter to safely navigate our way. We motored east of Korff Island and set course for Smoky Cape at South West Rocks. Both engines were on at 2200 rpm giving 6.7 kts. Very flat seas today.
At 0620 we went to raise the main sail but discovered that I had not tightened the main halyard. It was now tangled around the radar reflectors and the spreaders! Bugger. I managed to free one but the other was stuck fast. Heinz offered to climb the mast and we hooked up the spinnaker halyard to his lifejacket. Luckily the seas were flat and the mast has steps, so it was a matter of him climbing and us using the halyard to ensure he could not fall. He freed it quickly.
|The cute little boat north of South West Rocks||Smoky Cape Lighthouse at South West Rocks|
We put the main and screecher up. We were doing 6.5 to 7 kts in 5 kts of westerly wind and one engine on at 2200 rpm. At 0730 the wind increased to 6 to 7 kts and at 0830 it had dropped back to 2 kts. We were now doing 5.5 kts on the one engine.
At 0945 we took the screecher down as there was less than a knot of wind. We started the second engine and at 2400 rpm we were doing 6.7 kts. An hour later the wind had increased to about 5 kts so we put up the screecher again. Now were doing 6.8 kts on one engine. A bit later the wind dropped again as did our speed to 6.2 kts.
|Fish Rock off Smoky Cape,|
one of my all time favourite dive sites
|Approaching the Hastings River bar at Port Macquarie|
Off Grassy Head a cute little boat, sort of like an old harbour work boat, passed us motoring north. At 1200 we passed Smoky Cape at South West Rocks and then Fish Rock which is just south-east of Smoky Cape. Fish Rock is a great dive site, I have spent so much time underwater here, and in fact, will be back up here for a week's diving in less than three weeks. As we pass, each dive shop had a boat out diving.
The wind was still only 3 to 4 kts but we kept our speed at 6.6 kts. So much for the forecast which was supposed to be 10 to 15 kts northerly. At the most we saw 7 kts westerly.
|A photograph of the entrance into the Hastings River at Port Macquarie, taken from our drone in 2018|
We we still motoring at 1440 and at 1635 we crossed the Port Macquarie bar and entered the Hastings River. The water was very flat. There is a new directional sector light that shows the channel into the river. We went into Back Channel and at 1655 we anchored between the marina and the boat ramp. It was 3.5 metres deep.
|Kelly and Michael at Port Macquarie||Another shot of the great sunset|
Today we motored a lot, 14.2 hours in total. We used about 40 litres giving a consumption of 2.82 litres. Today we saw 18 whales.
We had some "sundowners" and then Kelly once again (not sure why she is insisting on cooking) made beef Chinese style with noodles. By 2100 it was overcast with little wind and 17ÂșC.
Tuesday 24 June 2014 - Port Macquarie to Camden Haven
We decided to only sail to Camden Haven today so that tomorrow we had less distance to travel. We were up at 0700 and after a quick breakfast, I checked the engine oil in both engines (okay) and we raised anchor at 0750. We exited the Hastings River over another very flat bar at 0805. Once clear of the bar, we raised the jib and mail sails. We were doing 5.2 kts in a 7 kt westerly.
| South of Port Macquarie||Kelly throwing overboard her first "message in a bottle"|
Last night when the toilet was used I noticed that it was overflowing into the river. I had thought I dumped it the other day but obviously not. I worked out that there is a second valve that needs to be opened to dump the wastes, this one is in the port engine compartment. It is hard to get to, being behind the fuel filter. Before we put the sails up we opened both the valves and dumped all the toilet wastes!
By 0845 we were doing 7.4 kts but 45 minutes later we were back to 4.6 kts. At 0930 just south of Tacking Point Lighthouse, Kelly threw overboard a bottle with a message in it. This is the first of many we plan to put out over the coming years. It will be interesting to see if we get a response to it.
At 1000 we were becalmed but soon after the wind picked up a little and we were doing 5 kts. We had a lot of dolphins on the bow around this time. By 1100 we were becalmed again so had to motor the rest of the way.
|Ian at the helm south of Port Macquarie||Approaching the Camden Haven bar|
We crossed the Camden Haven bar at 1230 with Kelly at the helm for her first bar crossing in charge. The tide was running out and there were a few waves that stood up. Kelly steered up to the Visitors' Wharf when I took over. The Visitors' Wharf has space for two boats. The southern spot was taken so I eased the boat onto the other end. We tied up at 1300.
The Visitors' Wharf is located next to the Laurieton United Services Club and only two blocks from the town centre. The club provides a toilet and shower for yachties to use ($50 deposit for the key) and there is also a water tap on the wharf. A great feature that encourages people to stop here and replenish.
Kelly stayed with the boat while Ian, Heinz and I walked to town to get some lunch. We got fish and chips and also found the Coles supermarket for later. We had lunch on the covered table next to the wharf.
Kelly walked up to the supermarket to get some supplies and we filled the water tanks. I later walked up and met her and carried back the food. Earlier I purchased some gin for her and a multi meter. I then used this to see where the wind generator might be failing. It appears it is generating no electricity at all as there was nothing detected in the top starboard engine compartment where the cable comes through. We also added the remaining 20 litres of diesel that Ian brought with him when he boarded in Ballina. The tank was now full (200 litres).
|Pieces of Eight tied up to the|
Visitors Wharf at Camden Haven
|The Laurieton United Services Club|
At 1530 I walked to the club and got the key to the facilities. We also decided to eat dinner here. Sharon is coming to get Ian, so she will join us as well. Ian is leaving today as he has to work tomorrow. Later we took turns to go to the showers. They are not the newest or cleanest you will ever see, but the water was hot and plentiful. Thank you to the club and the town.
When Sharon arrived, she took me to the petrol station where I purchased 40 litres of diesel. We took this back to the boat and then went to dinner. Dinner was very nice, I had a few James Squires 150 Lashes Pale Ales and the Tuesday $15 special which was soup (potato and bacon) and chicken schnitzel. Very nice.
We were back at the boat by 2015 and after another beer, we went to bed.
Wednesday 25 June 2014 - Camden Haven to Seal Rocks
The forecast for the next two days is not great, very strong westerly winds. However, in the morning they are forecast to be not too bad, so we decide to leave early and see how far we can get. The intention is to get to Port Stephens if we can (78 nm), with a fallback of Forster and then Seal Rocks if the winds are too strong.
We got up at 0500 and had coffee and tea. We started to leave the wharf at 0540, but we had some problems. The tide was incoming, so my plan was that after all the springers had been released, Heinz would undo the stern rope and then quickly afterwards, Kelly the bow one. I would then reverse out into the river. A great plan, but!!
Heinz released the stern line but he was on the wharf. As soon as he did this, the stern swung out. He then did not get to the bow quick enough and our port bow threatened to hit the other yacht moored at the wharf. I reversed to bring us back parallel to the wharf.
Heinz jumped on and Kelly released the bow. Now the problem was that the starboard stern was too close to the wharf, I could not reverse, so I had to go forward. Of course this made the stern swing to the starboard and it was going to collide with the wharf. Heinz attempted to push us off (successfully) but he slipped (no shoes) and fell overboard. As he did, his feet and legs hit the wharf pylon.
The big problem was the pylon was covered in oysters. Heinz scraped his legs all over the place and worse, cut his feet, one quite bad. He climbed back on the wharf and I had to go back in to get him. This was done successfully. Kelly tended to his injuries as I motored down the river. He probably should have got some stitches, but as anyone who knows him will attest, he declined. It was 0550 by now.
|Going down Camden Haven River||Kelly at sunrise south of Camden Haven|
We crossed the bar at 0615, it was as flat as a tack this time and there was little wind despite what the forecast said it would be. We motored out and around Telegraph Rock (hit by SS Telegraph) and headed south.
At 0630 I turned off one engine and 15 minutes later we hoisted the main sail and then the jib. We still had one engine running at 2500 rpm giving us 6.7 kts. At 0805 I turned off the engine and we were doing 7 kts in 11 to 15 kts of westerly wind. At 0835 we had hundreds of dolphins around the boat, surfing the bow and along side and behind. It was amazing. There were many small ones and some very large ones. They stayed with us for 10 minutes or so. We were still doing 6.5 to 7.5 knots.
At 1005 we pulled in the jib and raised the screecher, as the wind dropped to 8 to 10 kts. This took our speed up from 5.5 kts to 7 to 7.5 kts. Ten minutes later the wind dropped yet again, so at 1030 we started one engine. With it running at 2200 rpm were are doing 7 to 8 kts. Later I turned the motor off and sailed.
|Kelly at the helm off Forster||Dolphins off Forster|
Soon the wind got up to 23 kts, the swell out here was two metres from the south and it was a very choppy one to one and a half metre sea from the west. At 1200 we dropped the jib and then the main as it was too windy and we needed to head back towards land. We motored towards Charlotte Head as we decided to only go to Seal Rocks and also to get out of the wind. As this direction was too close to the wind to sail, we had to motor. It was about 8 nm away. Once we were half way there the seas were much better. The wind also dropped to 15 kts which would go down to 12 or up to 19.
As mentioned, by now we had decided that we would head to Seal Rocks for the night. We were doing 4.5 to 5 kts on one engine at 2400 rpm. A bit later our speed picked up to 6 to 7 kts as we were in calmer water and must have had a current.
Once at Seal Rocks we motored past the main beach but decided it was much more protected at Number One Beach. At 1455 we anchored at the western end of Number One Beach. We were in six metres and about 100 metres off the beach. We put out 30 metres of chain and I set two anchor alarms. It is flat as a tack here and relatively protected, but the potential exists for the wind to come up tonight.
We logged off with Forster MR as they look after this spot (we were originally to log off with Port Stephens MR but when I advised Port Stephens of our plan change they transferred us).
|Number One Beach, Seal Rocks - Seal Rocks Village at far left|
Before dinner, Kelly changed the dressings on Heinz's feet and we had some cheese and biscuits for sundowners. Tonight is much colder than the past week, only 16ÂșC at 1930. Kelly cooked chicken pesto pasta and we went to bed at 2015.
The anchor alarms went off a few times just after we got into bed and then again at about 2130. We turned right around at times and were facing back towards the lighthouse (the opposite of when we anchored). Today and yesterday we used about 35 litres of diesel at 3 litres per engine per hour (higher as we were running at higher rpm).
Thursday 26 June 2014 - Seal Rocks to Port Stephens
The anchor alarm went off again this morning at 0500. This was again caused by the boat turning on the anchoring spot when the wind changed direction. Today we were up at 0700 as we decided last night we would only go to Port Stephens as the forecast is for winds to 23 kts westerly. I checked the winds at Williamtown RAAF base (just south of where were are now) and it was only 11 to 17 kts.
|This is Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse at Seal Rocks||Broughton Island|
At 0740 we pulled up the anchor and motored out to sea. We had both engines on, doing 7 kts at 2100 rpm. As we got past the start of the Sugarloaf Point headland, we put up the jib and had one engine going at 2300 rpm. This gave us a speed of 4.5 to 5 kts in 12 to 15 kts of wind. A little later the wind dropped and then a little later it went back up again to 16 to 19 kts. However, our speed was still only 5 kts due to the very sloppy seas.
About 0930 a catamaran passed us heading north, but it was well out to sea. We were heading in a direct line to the eastern side of Broughton Island which would let us safely pass the island. We dodged the various reefs and rocks south of Sugarloaf Point (a few of which Kelly and I have dived). Just before 1000 another cat passed heading north.
At 1040 we called Marine Rescue Port Stephens to advise that we were 1.8 nm north-east of Little Broughton Island and to amend our ETA at Port Stephens to 1400 from the previously advised 1300. It was much calmer behind the island but this did not last long. The wind was mostly 18 to 20 kts.
Today we were visited by three pods of dolphins, with numbers from a few dozen to 50 or so. We could not get any good photos due to the rough seas.
After Broughton Island we travelled between Cabbage Tree and Boondelbah Islands. At 1250 we entered Port Stephens, using the sector light which is located in the trees above the beach on Corrie Island about 5.5 nm away. It is very hard to see in the daylight, but I could just make it out.
|Approaching Port Stephens, Cabbage Tree Island|
is the large one on right
|Sunset at Shoal Bay inside Port Stephens|
We motored over to Shoal Bay as there are a few public moorings there. The wind was still a very strong westerly, so this had a little protection. As far as I could see there were at least seven public moorings provided by the Port Stephens Marine Park. We selected one nearest the boat ramp, but probably should not have as it was very shallow, only about 0.5 metre below our keels.
We had a lot of problems hooking up. As I previously mentioned, the bridle on our boat will not readily let us tie off to a mooring. In the end we had to run a line from the mooring to to the bridle and then a backup from the mooring to the boat. When doing this, the wind dragged the boat over the mooring and it ended up submerged with the rope stuck on our port keel. I had to reverse on the starboard engine in a circle and it came free.
We need to figure out an easier and better way to connect to a mooring (once home I did and had some new bridles made). It took us till 1330 to moor. We then had lunch. After this I washed the solar panels as they were covered in salt. I added the 40 litres of diesel I purchased in Camden Haven, we now have about 150 litres in the tank.
Today we did 8.6 engine hours and used about 25 litres. This is 2.9 litres per hour.
At 1715 we had sundowners and at 1800 dinner went on. Kelly roasted potatoes and carrots in the oven and I cooked a marinated flat lamb shoulder on the barbecue. The meat was ready after 55 minutes but the vegies took a bit longer. An excellent meal. We went to bed early at about 2015 as we are getting up at 0430 tomorrow.
Friday 27 June 2014 - Port Stephens to Broken Bay
The plan today is for the longest leg of the trip, but also one that has a bit of possible danger if the winds are much stronger than forecast. As such, we planned on a very early start to get past the most open section of the trip (the first bit) before the wind gets too strong.
During the night we had a few minor problems. At 0015 the wind came up to 20 plus kts for about 90 minutes. Then, at 0300 the anchor alarms went off as the wind had dropped and the now incoming current had pushed the boat over the mooring buoy. It was now knocking on the hulls and underside. We shortened the line but it kept happening. I started the engines and backed off. This solved the problem for a while but it happened again. We did not sleep from 0300 till we got up at 0430.
We had tea and coffee and then headed off at 0500. We went out using radar and the chart plotter as it was extremely dark, there was not even any moonlight this morning. We used the southern side of the entrance this time rather than the northern side (the centre has a shallow sand bar just inside the heads).
We exited Port Stephens at 0520. At 0650 when there was enough light we put up the main and screecher. The wind was 12 kts westerly which meant that we had the wind at about 60Âș. The wind came up to 15 to 18 kts which gave us a speed of 7 to 8.5 kts.
I set course for Cape Three Points, which is south of Terrigal and just north of Broken Bay. This meant that we were well off Stockton Beach and at 0800 we passed 10.5 nm east of Newcastle. The wind had dropped a little to 12 to 15 kts but our speed was still the same. It was a very sloppy sea, with 1 to 1.5 metre swell from the south (which was less than at 0600). There were lots of waves coming over the bows and one even rolled right down the starboard side and into the cockpit. More about this later.
|The huge expanse of Stockton Beach|
provides little protection from the winds
|One of the huge coal ships anchored south of Newcastle|
At 1015 we came inside the first of three coal ships anchored off Swansea Heads. These were waiting their turn to enter Newcastle Harbour to load with coal. We had earlier passed another anchored much closer in and another that we had shadowed from Port Stephens.
When we logged on this morning with Marine Rescue Port Stephens we had advised we would check in at Swansea Heads with MR Lake Macquarie. Kelly did this. At this time it looked like we would be able to bypass Broken Bay and head to Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) and still arrive there before 1700 and sunset. We still had a lot of time to make this decision.
Around here I phoned my former workmates (and dive buddies) Eddy and Louise to see if they were at their new home at Caves Beach, just south of Swansea. They were, so they went to the headland and reported they could see us as we passed the coal ships.
Just past here the wind dropped to 8 to 10 kts. Our speed was still 8 kts as the wind had a bit more north in it. At 1045 the wind dropped further to 6 kts and our speed to 5 kts. I started one engine at 2200 rpm which boosted our speed to 7.4 kts. The seas were now quite flat, with just a roll from the south.
At 1120 Kelly noticed that there were three ropes trailing under the boat (she saw them through the escape hatch). We stopped the engine and saw that the ropes were the reefing ropes. At the same time we noticed that the port trampoline was broken, the pins had ripped right through the fibreglass. This had already happened before and been repaired and there was at least one already broken. We had already known that we would have to do something about this once we got home. We were back underway 10 minutes later. It must have been done by one of the waves that came over the bow.
|Barrenjoey Headland, the southern|
head of Broken Bay
|Looking into Coasters Retreat towards The Basin|
Just after this I turned off the engine as the wind was back above 10 kts. However, by 1135 it was back on again. Our speed still had us getting to Port Jackson before 1700. At 1155 we were abeam of Norah Head Lighthouse and at 1330 off Avoca Beach. Here a humpback whale surfaced 15 metres off the port bow.
At 1410 the wind dropped so much we pulled down the screecher and soon after we decided we could not get to Port Jackson before sunset. Kelly extended our ETA for Broken Bay to 1600. Soon after we dropped the main sail and motored on both engines at 2200 rpm at 6.5 kts. When I dropped the sail I noticed that the top two cars for the sail were broken, worn on one side. Bugger!
We came into Broken Bay and entered Pittwater. We looked at Greater Mackeral Beach but decided to go to Coasters Retreat. Here we used a boat club mooring. It was exactly 1600 as we logged off with Marine Rescue Sydney.
|Looking from Coasters Retreat towards Palm Beach|
Today we did the longest run of the trip by far, 74.3 nm. This distance was from mooring to mooring. Note that the cruising guide says that the distance from Port Stephens to Broken Bay is 79 nm, but it seems that this was calculated by adding together the distances from each to Newcastle. When going direct, there is a huge distance that is not sailed into and out of Newcastle. It is probably more like 70 nm.
We had showers and and then sundowners in this beautiful spot. The spot has Ku-ring-gai National Park on the western side and on the south, some houses and behind them the national park. It is protected from all but north-easterly winds.
Heinz cooked sausages and rump steaks while Kelly made a salad. The fuel level is somewhere over 120 litres (I cannot see it properly), so our 10 hours today means we used about 2.5 to 3 litres per engine hour.
We went to bed at 2005 and read till 2100.
Saturday 28 June 2014 - Broken Bay to Port Hacking
The forecast for today is very strong winds with an extremely strong change late in the afternoon. The winds for most of the day are supposed to be northerly which will be fantastic for us as we will only be able to use the jib or screecher.
|A panoramic photograph of the Palm Beach area from out to sea - Barrenjoey Headland to right|
We got up at 0600 and had tea and coffee (once at sea we have something more). We departed at 0625 and motored out to the ocean. We logged on with Marine Rescue Sydney and gave an ETA of 1400 for Port Hacking and a check in of 1000 for Port Jackson. We dumped the holding tank outside Barrenjoey Headland and used both engines at 2600 rpm to make 7.9 kts (there was little wind).
At 0750 off Turmetta Head we put up the screecher in 12 kts. We turned off one engine and we were doing 7.3 kts at 2400 rpm. The wind was from almost due north. At 0820 we turned off the engine as the wind was now 15 to 20 kts. We were doing 8 to 9 kts, surfing some waves at over 12 kts.
It was very exciting sailing, although Kelly did not like it when she was at the helm. I ended up hand steering most of today's run as the auto pilot was very erratic in handling the following winds and seas.
|A panoramic photograph of Sydney Heads as we pass by - North Head right of centre|
At 0850 we passed Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) so we changed our ETA for Port Hacking to 1130. The wind was now 10 to 14 kts with some 17 kts, still from the north. We still doing were doing 7 to 8 kts.
At 1020 we were approaching Botany Bay. There was a very slow moving container ship coming into the bay. At first we were moving quicker than it, but as we got closer it picked up its speed. I ended up changing course to port so we could pass behind it. At the same time, there was another ship exiting Botany Bay. I had to start both engines and run for about 5 minutes to get across its track safely.
At 1050 we entered Bate Bay (off Cronulla), the wind was a constant 10 to 12 kts and we were making 7 to 8 kts. It was very calm here. Around here Kelly noticed that the little seat at the port bow was missing. A later check of photos show that it probably went missing yesterday morning at the same time the trampoline got damaged.
|Looking back at North Head from south of the harbour||Sailing off Bondi Beach|
|Looking into Botany Bay as|
one ship enters and one exits
|Approaching Port Hacking, Cronulla at right|
At 1125 we entered Port Hacking and pulled down the screecher. We motored up Port Hacking to Darks Bay and tied up to the public mooring at 1200. We had sailed 38.8 nm today at an average of 6.59 kts. What a great run. By the way, Darks Bay is an excellent location to stop, bounded by the Royal National Park on three sides.
We made some lunch and then packed up our gear. We needed to remove all the bed sheets, towels etc so we could wash them. Once this was done we motored the one nautical mile to Yowie Bay Wharf. This is the wharf we use when diving. Our neighbour Gerard brought our small tender to the wharf and then took Kelly and a lot of our things home.
|Moored at Darks Bay, |
our favourite spot on Port Hacking
|Pieces of Eight at Yowie Bay Wharf|
Kelly had to get some things from home to make the mooring better than the attempts when we moored in Port Stephens, Yamba and Broken Bay. She brought back some stainless steel chain, a large clip and some other things. When she came back, we motored over to our temporary mooring (a commercial one we need to use till we get our own one). We successfully moored, after changing how we did it originally.
Heinz and I rowed to the boat ramp and then I went back for Kelly. The wind was quite strong now from the north-west, but it was not too bad rowing into it. After we left the wharf and were driving home, a horrendous westerly change hit, with the wind gusting to over 50 kts all over Sydney. We went back on the Monday to check the mooring and all was well. Hopefully if it can survive this wind it will survive anything.
What a great trip! Even though we took 10 days to travel from the Gold Coast to Sydney, it was not all that rushed. It would be better to do it over 14 days if you could as this would let you have a few rest days. It could be done quicker and if the wind was a bit stronger earlier in the trip, we could have cut a day or two off it.
We had a few problems and broke some things, but all of these were items we knew were not in good condition, although we had hoped that they would last longer before we needed to replace them.
Distance covered: 483.8 nautical miles
Average per day: 49.7 nautical miles (once we left Tweed Heads)
Maximum speed: 12.1 knots
Engine hours: 83.8 hours
Diesel used: 193 litre
Average fuel consumption: 2.30 litres per engine hour
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