Sunday, November 25, 2018

Eden - shelter from the storm

Many of you will be aware that there has been some pretty nasty weather in NSW in the last few days (SA and VIC also copped it pretty hard too).  We are happy to report that we have been safely tucked up in Eden, southern NSW since Tuesday, sheltering from the wild weather in Two Fold Bay - well known to sailors heading south to Bass Strait and Tasmania.

We left Jervis Bay late last Monday morning for the 130 odd nautical mile voyage to Eden.  We enjoyed a good reach with jib and main in moderate easterly winds for about 6 or 7 hours, averaging around 8 knots.  As the afternoon faded the wind freshened and went north so we pulled the main down and went to our night sailing rig of poled out jib.

Roz helming like an old hand.
A sudden thuddery, juddery jolt at about 5pm startled us (understatement!) and looking behind we realised we had run over a creature - possibly a small whale (minke?) or a large dolphin. We felt dreadful as we looked behind and caught brief glimpses of it struggling in the water,  and hoped the poor thing would recover from its ramming. Fortunately for us no damage to our boat. The depth gauge had gone from 100+ metres to 3.3 metres as we passed over it.

We sailed through the night with Roz having her first night sail experience, taking her watch and doing a magnificent job steering down the waves in the dark.  The seas were short, steep and awkward, making for a rather uncomfortable rolly-polly motion as we ran downwind. Jenni was somewhat out of action for the first time with the dreaded "mal de mer" and consequently bunked off for most of the trip.

Dawn on Tuesday saw as arrive in beautiful  Eden - made famous in more recent history as a refuge and rescue point for Sydney Hobart yachts needing to escape the race before hitting Bass Strait.

Eden has a fantastic harbour which although quite open to the east offers sheltered bays on both sides.  The town itself is small and friendly (about the size of Denmark WA) and well used to catering for seafaring folk.  It has a history in whaling and fishing and an unusual story of Killer Whales working with the early whalers by rounding up the poor whales and trapping them in the bay for the humans to kill.  The Orcas reward was to feast on the whale's tongue and mouth - apparently the best bits if you are an Orca, and then they would leave the rest for the humans.  A curious and gruesome story told in the local museum.
Eden wharf and dinghy parking spot.
Watching the weather forecasts, we prepared ourselves for the gale and storms due on Friday and the weekend.  Thursday was a prelude with thunderous skies developing in the afternoon and a short, sharp hail storm just to put us on our toes.  Fortunately we were prepared, back on-board after a day in town and firmly secured to a new courtesy mooring sheltered from the west. We slept soundly Thursday night.

Ice anyone?
Friday the wind came in fiercely as forecast.  We had an exciting dinghy ride to shore to go to town  again and meet new friends Deb and Brian, local sailors who have been helping us try and source a new solar panel.  Eden town is on top of a hill and the wind was wild up there!  We finished our errands on shore and then planned our strategy for getting back on-board from our little dinghy. Happy to say all three of us made it home to Upstart without mishap.

Friday night got a bit uncomfortable on the mooring with the waves and swell slapping the boat around as the wind had swung more to the south. So yesterday with the strong winds continuing to blow, we moved over to the southern side of the bay for more shelter at Boydtown.

We are now anchored in a beautiful protected spot, enjoying the flatter water here and listening to the wind howl over the top of us.  Right in front of us is a lovely old hotel on the beach - the Seahorse Inn which we are heading to tonight for a slap-up meal and celebration of a certain crew member's birthday.

We will wait here in Eden until things calm down and we get a good window of weather for us to turn around the corner and head west.  Next stop is Wilson's Promontory about 220 miles away.

Deceptively calm at the lovely Boydtown beach.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Port Jackson

I am writing today in the huge and beautiful Jervis Bay where we have had a bit of Albany style weather. It had been raining and cloudy for several days since we arrived on Tuesday and then finally turned into a beautiful sunny day yesterday.
Gorgeous sheltered mooring at Hole In the Wall, Jervis Bay

But I need to back up a bit to when we left Pittwater over a week ago on Saturday the 10th.
Sailing south from Pittwater to Sydney, overtaking some Americans in their 50 footer. 
Two yachts always equals a race!

We had an opportunity to try a bit of open water windward sailing in a fresh breeze, not that we are thinking of making a habit of it of course. We set off with the staysail up for the first time in its life, a reef in the main and a good solid 25kts of wind. The boat sailed very well like that until the breeze dropped a little bit and we needed to put the staysail away and go for the genoa. It was a bumpy sail in the steep seas common in the area in a southerly wind but the wind kept backing and we made it on one tack.
Jenni hanging out and hanging on to tighten the jib leach cord

Sydney Harbour [Port Jackson] was really delightful. Easy to find a mooring or a space to anchor and such an interesting diversity of places and activities around the shore line. We had lunch one day hanging off a mooring about 200m upstream from the bridge and Kirribilli House in the bush with an old boatyard nestled in among the trees and surrounded by old wooden boats in the process of decay and/or restoration.

The iconic opera house and bridge from our self-guided harbour cruise

Under the bridge we go

Berry Bay, Sydney Harbour.  Old world maritime charm right in the city

We stayed as usual until Tuesday when the weekly northerly wind arrived. We left just before dawn to do the 87 miles to Jervis Bay with Roz and Nigel on board.
Our last night in Sydney, squeezed in amongst the millions at the Cruising Yacht Club.
Upstart between the blue and yellow yachts.

Leaving Sydney Heads at dawn, we passed our new friend Murray who was sailing in from the south and snapped a few photos  for us.  Thanks Murray!

We had a brisk run down to Jervis Bay, hoisting the asymmetric kite not long after clearing the heads. We flew that for about 6 hours til the wind got too fresh for comfort and then switched to poled out headsail only (no main all day). Averaging 8 to 9 knots in the afternoon with top speed 15.5. We got to Jervis in 11 hours - 90 miles. Pretty good we thought!
The lovely asymmetric spinnaker driving us south.

15.5 knots top speed with just this sail up!

Nigel and Chris enjoying the fresh downwind run to Jervis

We copped some very strong gusts as we turned into the Bay around the appropriately named Point Perpendicular,  30-40 knots which blew out our wind generator - unfortunately it should have auto stopped itself but didn't. The cliffs had a massive acceleration effect on the already strong wind and I think also some katabatic effect as well, it was very strong for a while.
Rounding Point Perpendicular into Jervis Bay.  Looking fairly benign but we are about to cop 30 - 40 knots on the nose!

Jervis Bay has been a good stop for us.  Great to catch up with Nigel and Cecilia who live here and to check out the beautiful bay and national park where we are moored.   Whilst it kept us down below reading books for a while, the soggy weather allowed us to top up our water tanks with lovely rain water.

Grateful thanks to Nigel and Cecelia for their wonderful hospitality and fabulous shore-crew support. 
Port Jackson Shark spiral egg -  a common find amongst the kelp on the shores of Jervis Bay

The crew exploring the wild coast of Wreck Bay just outside the Jervis Bay.

Sundowner with good friends - Roz, Nigel and Cecelia.

Even though its Monday, we are heading off south again today to Eden.  Last stop on the NSW coast.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Arriving in Pittwater and collecting more gear.

We did our usual Tuesday thing this week and left the lovely Port Stephens behind at 5am with the promise from all weather forecasters of a nice 15kt northerly breeze for our sail down to Pittwater.

This time we had Roz on board who had joined us over the weekend from Albany. 

Our fresh new crew Roz working hard in the cockpit.
Before we left Port Stephens, we spent Sunday and Monday exploring further into the harbour and had a very pretty and peaceful night at Fame Cove sharing with just 2 other boats.

Fame Cove, Port Stephens - perfect sheltered anchorage.

Up the creek with the trusty tomato (aka the Tohatsu 3.5hp outboard)

Gorgeous Fame Cove sunset

We set off from Port Stephens early Tuesday morning with the prospect of an easy day cruise to Pittwater flying the asymmetric spinnaker.  Sadly the breeze never came and we ended up motoring the whole way over glassy seas. We covered the 76 miles to Broken Bay in about 11 hours and the auto pilot had a good day of not very challenging steering.

Entering Broken Bay after a long day of motoring when the promised wind didn't appear.

I think we had a mental picture of the Hawksbury and Pittwater being really busy, hard to find somewhere to anchor or moor and just generally a bit hectic like the Gold Coast. It was a lovely surprise to cruise in late in the afternoon and find an empty bay full of pink visitors moorings waiting for us. We are in Morning Bay which is on the west side of the Pittwater, surrounded by the Ku Ring Gai  Chase National Park.
The lovely quiet Morning Bay in Pittwater, far from the maddening crowd.

Upstart tucked right in close to the shore

It is very quiet and peaceful little bay, just a handful of houses with only water access and all with their own jetty on the shore backed by the national park. A YHA 100m up the track with nice hot rainwater showers and the only disturbance to the peace is the occasional dinghy coming past taking someone to work or the shops.

There are just squillions of yachts in this waterway, mostly on moorings on the opposite shores, with only a couple of metres between the boats. There is racing every day it seems and not a jetski to be seen anywhere, I think they must be banned.

Roz and Jenni got their land-legs back hiking up the hill behind the bay to take in the stunning views and meet some locals.

Other locals preferred to colour co-ordinate with our trusty tomato (Tohatsu)

Yesterday it rained all day and Jenni and Chris went on a long dinghy journey to find the young couple from Alaska who we had bought a small water maker from, and to find a bank so we could pay for it. A successful mission, we are now the proud owners of a little PowerSurvivor40e which I am hoping to fit soon so that we can have drinking water that doesn't taste bad. It runs on a measly 4 amps at 12 volts and produces about 5 litres and hour. A lovely high quality piece of engineering from the Swiss.

Talking of new gear, while we were in Coffs we had a day trip in a little backpackers hire car and drove down to South West Rocks to pick up an old Aries wind vane steering gear we bought months ago sight unseen for a song. It looks great and is lashed to the bulkhead in the forward cabin for the rest of the journey home.

Today Chris finally got around to changing the primary fuel filter and water trap. So glad he did it, the glass bowl was full of rusty water and gunk, an engine failure waiting to happen.
Yerk!  Good job Chris!
(technical explanation - the grungy fuel filter way overdue for replacement)

We are planning to make a move to Sydney Harbour in the next day or so.  For now we are enjoying the tranquility on our side of Pittwater.

Rainy day in Morning Bay.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Wild Ride to Port Stephens.

Tuesday seems to have become our day to leave lately and according to plan we left Coffs Harbour on Tuesday at 9.30am.
The forecast once again was for a 24 hour window of northerly wind, light during the day and then stronger in the night, returning to southerly in the morning on Wednesday. Therefore we had a day to sail the 170 miles to Port Stephens. A bit of a big ask but we reasoned that the southerly at the end would be light to start with and that we would make it without having to struggle against a strong wind.
It all went according to plan of course and our first ocean voyage with just the two of us on board was fantastic and lots of fun. We put up the big asymmetric kite as soon as we left in a light building breeze and were soon scooting along at up to 9kts.

Flying the asymmetric spinnaker for the first time.
There was about half a dozen other yachts waiting for the breeze to go south and we all left on the same morning so we had company all through the day and the night and we could see several of them all the time.
In the late afternoon we thought the wind had risen in strength enough for us to take the kite down for the night and put out the jib with a pole to keep it steady. The spinnaker has a 'sock' which is pulled down over the sail to contain it before it is lowered which meant that it was very easy for the two of us to manage it.
The wind continued to build until the middle of the night and we were soon speeding along again with the top speed record of 13.3 knots going to Jenni on the helm in the wee hours of the morning. Once a hoon always a hoon, right?
A misty dawn showed us the pretty profile of the hills of the Port Stephens area and we motored  the last two hours in through the few islands close to the entrance and anchored just inside the harbour, which by the way is larger than Sydney Harbour. As it happened we made  the 166 miles in 23 hours, an average of 7.3 knots for the trip.
Approaching Port Stephens harbour entrance
We had a day of rest overlooking a little holiday town called Shoal Bay and this morning climbed to the top of the hill on the southern side of the harbour entrance for some great views. We even both went swimming on the ocean side, chilly but very nice on a deserted beach.
Shoal Bay anchorage on the right. Zenith Beach on the left.

Shoal Bay from the top of Tomaree Head

Zenith Beach - all to ourselves for a refreshing swim.
The wind has now gone back to the north for a couple of days so we have moved to a more sheltered spot at Nelson Bay and tomorrow we will go exploring deeper into the harbour.

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