|Logbook||Entry 2 - 2007|
Date First Posted: February 5, 2007
Log Entry Start Date - January 22, 2007
Log Entry End Date - February 5, 2007
Locations Covered - Brisbane to Sydney
Present Location: Cammeray Marina, Middle Harbour (Sydney, Australia)
Latitude: 33 Deg 49.0 S Longitude: 151 Deg 13.4 E
Weather: Mid 80's, partly cloudy
Distance covered since last entry: 531 nautical miles
Total distance traveled since departure from Antigua: 10,705 nautical miles
Our passage to Coffs Harbour was a relatively easy overnight passage from Scarborough, about 240 nautical miles. First we had to follow several channels through Moreton Bay which encompasses the Greater Brisbane area. These channels appear to be natural grooves in sandbars made by the prevailing tidal currents, and don’t quite provide an “easy in and out” to the area. Just getting outside of the bay took nearly 4 hours until we were headed down the Australian coast. The East Australian Current is a major southerly current along the coast, and we were hoping it would help us pick up time that we lost working against the tides crossing Moreton Bay. We had a great sunrise enroute.
In fact, the current averaged nearly three knots, which allowed us to take advantage of light winds and sail, or just poke along at low engine speeds and still make good time. All we cared about was to get into Coffs Harbour before dark on the second day.
One of the weather patterns along the east coast of Australia is the “southerly change” which in the worst case can be the “southerly buster”. These are associated with the passage of a cold front that tracks from the south coast of Australia and then up the east coast. During the summer months (December to May), the prevailing winds are from the east to northeast. When these fronts pass through every few days, the winds first pickup in speed from the northeast, and then suddenly switch to the south. When we first arrived in Australia in late October, the final day of our passage included one of these wind shifts that went from the northeast to northwest to light calms and then 30 to 35 knots out of the south with 25 foot seas caused by the wind against the prevailing current.
Well, we knew that at least a mild southerly change was expected late in the day that we arrived in Coffs Harbour, but we didn’t figure it would affect us. Wrong! Only about 4 miles from the marina, the wind did its thing and instead of gently motorsailing into port, we had strong winds and waves right on our bow. Just a matter of an hour or less and we would have been in and avoided it. Next time we’ll pay a bit more attention.
As expected the weather after the front was not the best for going south so we took our time to explore Coffs Harbour. The harbor itself was manmade formed by building seawalls to connect a nearby island and enclose a modest sized bay.
The marina holds several hundred boats along with a sizeable fishing fleet. Nearby are a small shopping center and a restaurant strip that was amazing for its diversity and size given the small town we were in. In the space of one block there were over a dozen small restaurants; at least two Italian, two Indian, two Thai, and one or two Chinese restaurants along with more traditional “seafood” restaurants and gourmet coffee shops. We only visited one of the restaurants along this strip, but will return later this year and sample more.
The downtown of Coffs Harbour is supposedly a 30 minute walk from the marina. It was actually more like 45 minutes, not to mention the several good sized hills. We were told there are over 50,000 people in the “metropolitan area”, which seems to be centered on the summer tourist trade. Downtown had some shopping malls, a neat little pedestrian mall with bistros along the sides, and a regional museum. There is even an airport landing regional jets.
The area has several golf courses. While a very highly rated course was too far of a taxi ride for us to play, we did go to the local golf club and got in our first round of golf of the year. Pretty nice clubhouse for the members and a well maintained course. Too bad we were out of practice. Now we have an excuse to play more in order to get back into practice.
A major holiday is “Australia Day” which happened to fall on Friday, January 26th. The fellow on the boat next to us couldn’t explain the significance of this holiday except that it was a day off work and a chance to party with a bunch of friends. He did his part by taking over a dozen guests out for a sail and swim off his boat during the day. There was a small carnival with rides just next to the marina, and to our surprise a pretty good fireworks show.
This past week our daughter, Jennifer, became engaged to her boyfriend, Matt Snyder. After many phone calls back and forth to home, we decided to celebrate in Australia.
The next day Nancy invited several dock neighbors for a sundown party on Encore II. We introduced the happy couple via the photo in the foreground we are holding.
Don (at left in the picture), from s/v Aquavit, is a single handler from Canada that we met in Noumea, New Caledonia. His story was told in an earlier log entry, but briefly he ran away from home at the age of 16, smuggled himself over the border in Detroit, went to the Gulf Coast and became a merchant seaman, and finally became a geologist advising New Caledonia on its offshore mineral assets.
Another couple (Vito and Melinda and their daughter Amanda), New Yorkers from s/v Wanderer were dock neighbors also in Noumea. It was interesting hearing their history of sailing on Long Island Sound and then the Caribbean. An Aussie couple from s/v Osiris joined us as well. They had just sold their house in the Perth area, bought their boat in the Caribbean and had it sailed back to Australia. They’re now living aboard at the dock while a new home is being built on a hill overlooking the coast. What a view they have. Oh, by the way, just as our guests were climbing aboard, one of those “southerly busters” hit, with peak winds of nearly 50 knots. We lost a few appetizers overboard in the gusts while we were checking the lines on our boat. The party moved below.
Small world that it is, we found out that one of the marina managers was actually from Toronto, Canada, just a short trip from our home. We will definitely stop back at Coffs Harbour when we return to Brisbane later this year and hopefully meet up with friends we made and met at the dock.
We waited in Coffs Harbour for a weather window that would give us 36 hours of favorable winds in order to reach Sydney with another overnight sail. For several days in a row, Monday the 29th promised modest winds from the northeast, ideal conditions. We left at dawn only to be met by south winds and seas on the nose. While we could still have made the passage in those conditions, we opted to stop at dark at Port Macquarie, a river harbor that we could enter well before dark on a rising tide. Most of the ports along this coast are up rivers that can be difficult to enter at times. Typically there is a very shallow area called a “bar” that runs perpendicular to the river mouth, just a ways offshore. While the water in the river itself may be deep and the water offshore very deep, this sandbar can be less than 10 feet deep. With strong winds and waves coming onshore, especially when the tide is falling, increasing the flow out of the river, breaking waves can result on these bars. In the troughs of the waves, the water may not be deep enough to cross, and even if it is still deep enough, surfing through these waves can be dangerous. The volunteer coast guard at each port can be called to determine if the bar is safe to cross, and if not, then all you can do is to wait, perhaps for hours, or continue to another port. The danger is enough that it is a law that everyone must wear a life jacket when on a boat crossing a bar.
With Encore’s size, we can probably deal with most bar conditions, but we still called for advice, and were told that conditions were moderate. Up the river is a small marina with a number of moorings. We picked up an open mooring and called it a day. We had broken some lines called lazy jacks that help collect the mainsail when it is lowered, and before it got too dark, Paul had to be hoisted up the mast to fix them. The first repair failed and Paul had to go up the mast again the next morning before we left. We did meet a couple of sailors in their dinghies that came by to advise us on which mooring to use and to help us get secured. We’ll probably stop at Port Macquarie on our way back to Brisbane in April.
From Port Macquarie, it would still be an overnight sail to Sydney, and the weather didn’t look like it would be good for that long, so the next day we only went as far as Port Stevens. This is a huge bay at the mouth of several rivers, altogether larger than Sydney Harbour. At a distance of over 100 miles, we were fortunate to arrive just at dusk and followed our GPS waypoints and the flashing buoys in the dark about 8 miles up a channel to a marina attached to a small resort.
In the morning, we awoke to find a small but beautiful complex with a gourmet restaurant, pool, hot tub and beach. We had found the marina on the Internet and had called for a reservation. It was a treat for a day and two nights as we waited for the next cold front and southerly shift to go through. We took a taxi into the town (Nelson Bay), checked out the commercial marina for future reference, had a great breakfast and then walked along a beach and nature preserve walkway back to our boat (nearly 3 miles). After lunch, we were ready to sit by the pool and rest our legs.
Although the coast is relatively low, it seems that just at the entrance to the major ports (Coffs Harbour, Port Stevens, Sydney), there are significant cliffs if not small peaks. Referred to as "heads", they guard the entrance. Here we are leaving the heads at Port Stevens. We will definitely return to Port Stevens in April and use it as a base to leave the boat while we take several days to tour the Hunter Valley wine region that begins just inland.
Our final day passage to Sydney started just after dawn and was a 13 hour motor sail of again nearly 100 miles, with overcast skies and a little misting rain. The winds were OK but not great, and the dark skies and cool temps made for what seemed like an even longer day. Arriving through the headlands to the Sydney Harbour just before dark, we dropped anchor off a beach at Manly, a suburb about 4 miles from the center of the city that is on the North Harbor. We could see the skyline, but would have to wait to get an up close view of what has been called the most beautiful harbor in the world.
The next morning we motored around to Cammeray Marina in Middle Harbor, a small, family owned marina that was recommended by many of the cruisers we had met in the past. The number of boats in the Sydney area is amazing. Everywhere you look there are marinas and moorings with thousands of boats.
Overlooking Middle Harbor are some fabulous homes nestled together on the steep hills along the shores. Every available foot of space has a home built on it, sometimes three or four homes staggered in a row from the shore to the top. Later we were told that this wasn't even the most posh section of Sydney.
Our friends, Desmond and Sue, who had been visiting relatives in Australia, had made plans to visit with us for a few days before they returned home. They picked us up the morning after we arrived and took us on a whirlwind driving tour of Sydney and neighboring Broken Bay to the north.
From our marina we drove over the famous Harbour Bridge, past the Sydney Opera House and then stopped at a couple of marinas on the way to a Doyles, a classic fish restaurant near South Head, the southern cape at the entrance to Sydney Harbor. The locals call the bridge the "coat hanger" for its unique appearance.
The entrance to Sydney Harbour is protected by the North and South Heads, and spans several miles. Sydney and its suburbs sit on both sides of the bay. The famous Bondi Beach is just down the coast from South Head. Here we are on an overlook at South Head with North Head in the distance.
While Cammeray Marina is only a short drive from downtown (4 miles), it is a steep climb from the docks up to the street (109 steps) and then a hike to the nearest bus stop and even a further walk to any shops or restaurants. As a result, we’re looking for some additional marinas or moorings nearer downtown. One stop was at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, Australia's premier yacht club that hosts the famous Sydney to Hobart race each year. So far we haven’t had any luck finding space, but Michael and Eleanor, friends of Desmond and Sue, know the past commodore there, so we might have an in.
After lunch, we crossed back to North Sydney and continued up the coast past Manly and on to Palm Beach just outside of Broken Bay. Broken Bay is a large cruising area about 20 miles north of Sydney. One arm, called Pittwater, is filled with boats, marinas and yacht clubs. The beaches on the Pacific side are favorites for surfers.
This beach is where the lifesaving teams practice going out through the surf in their rescue boats. On this day the surf wasn't so high, but we could imagine that it could get a lot worse. Walking along the beach you had to be careful not to step on the small man-o-war jelly fish with their long tentacles.
Further back in Broken Bay is the Kuring Gai Chase National Park. The park is absolutely pristine with deep channels, rocky inlets, thick forests and wild kangaroos. We stopped at a remote marina in Akuna Bay deep in the park. Other than the marina and a coffee shop, there is nothing else there and now that the “high season” is over, during the week we hardly saw anyone on the boats docked there. This area was even more isolated given that someone has been sabotaging the telephone lines, and for the past week, the lines were cut and no calls (even cell), or Internet was available. Further into the park, a large forest fire had been started a few weeks ago, and hundreds of acres were charred.
Before Desmond and Sue (at left) flew home, we had another lunch with them, Sue’s brother Chris, and their friends, Michael and Eleanor. Although Michael and Eleanor grew up in Australia, they now live in the Detroit area. They’re on sabbatical spending many months back here. We tried a restaurant just under the Harbour Bridge on the North Sydney side, but couldn’t get a table. So, we took one of the frequent ferries to the opposite shore, getting off at Circular Quay.
This area sits between the Opera House, the Bridge, the cruise ship docks, and the Rocks, the oldest part of Sydney.
The Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognizable structures in the world. Designed to look like the billowing sails of a ship, it anchors the center of the harbor. We've booked tickets for a performance in March. The Opera House hosts over 3000 events and 2 million people each year. Completed in 1973 it has over 1000 rooms.
Definitely this spot is the starting point of any sightseeing in the city and a beautiful setting for a Sunday lunch. In just a couple days we already feel we’re learning our way around.
We’re looking forward to spending a lot of time here. We are well stocked with guide books, including one listing the 25 top walks/drives in Sydney, which alone would keep us busy for a month. We also have a lot of friends and contacts here. We hope to spend more time with Michael and Eleanor and perhaps a round of golf with Chris. We have several Australian friends we met cruising the Pacific that live in Sydney as well as Pacific cruising friends visiting here like us.
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