Sydney to Gold Coast
Leaving the excitement and hustle and bustle of Sydney was not easy. We had been there 8 months and it was beginning to feel like home to some of us. But when Greg finished his work contract on the 3rd May we decided that it was a good time to leave. We were going to spend the next day preparing the boat – food, fuel water etc and head off on the Saturday. At 7:45 on the 4th Sue was asked to do a day relief. Typical!!! Our last day in Sydney. Why could I not have had work before this? It was a good day though and it put a bit more cash in the kitty. I even remembered how to do it!!
Saturday morning we were up early to go to the Fishmarket and get the last bits and pieces (bread, fresh vegetables) for our trip to Broken Bay. Now all we had to do was wait for Neil. There were bus dramas for him. He arrived and we lifted the anchor in the warm sunshine. We were the last of the BYO group. No-one was there to wave us farewell – I suppose someone has to be last.
The harbour was very quiet, but it was Saturday morning, much quieter than we had seen it for a long time. We said goodbye to our temporary home of Sydney as we motored out past the Heads, turning north 3 miles offshore from North Head. The trip to Pittwater was uneventful and we were constantly on the lookout for “Waterwynch” who were leaving the same morning to go to Pittwater too. Even when the sea breeze arrived it was only 8 knots and right on the nose.
PITTWATER, COWAN CREEK
We arrived in Pittwater in the middle of a race event and seaplanes taking off and landing. Hadn’t we done this before? (Melbourne June last year) This made the degree of difficulty in finding the stick we had to round a bit greater but we finally found it as it was getting dark and we motored to Careel Bay where we anchored for the night.
We farewelled Neil the next day after a brief explore of Scotland Island by boat and Church Point where we found a 7 day courtesy mooring to use. We stayed here for a few days. What an interesting place. We were amused by the dinghy commuter jetty and the types of craft. No inflatables here. The boats were all big and strong tinnies or polycraft that had all seen better days. In some places on the jetty the dinghies were 4 deep. When we saw the treatment they received we could understand why no-one had lovely new looking ones.
It was good to have easier access to water here and after a week away in Cowan Creek we filled up at a tap next to the “Pub”. According to one of the locals it is the only “heritage listed” outdoor drinking area in Australia. Everyone buys their grog at the only bottleshop and then proceeds to drink it outside with the other commuters before they all head off home to their island by dinghy or ferry.
Cowan Creek was lovely – isolated and surrounded by bushland as far as Bobbin Head which is a major Marina – strange so far from everything. But the river was peaceful and calm. We explored the tributaries of cowan Creek and many of the sheltered bays.
The first bays encountered in Cowan Creek are America Bay and Refuge Bay. This is where the Krait left from to go to WW2. When we arrived there were hundreds of “balloons” on the water. Later it was revealed that they were moorings for people who usually have their boat at a marina or mooring somewhere else. In the summer I could imagine it would look like any other bay in Sydney Harbour but in May it was empty. On the shore of Refuge Bay is a waterfall where it is quite easy to get water. Some hardy souls even have a shower under it. Not in May though!!!
But Greg did get in the water to check things under the boat. We didn’t like the idea of doing it in Blackwattle Bay – YUK!
The water was still 20 degrees. After he came out we had warm showers in the cockpit. The first time we had been sufficiently isolated and warm enough to do it. That was fun.
We visited Brooklyn at the mouth of the Hawksbury River for a few days on another courtesy mooring provided by NSW Maritime and took the train to Gosford one day. We were unhappy that we could not get up the Hawksbury as it is navigable for many miles but there are power cables and bridges tha tdo not open for boats with masts. So we returned to Church Point for a few days before continuing to head north.
Our next stop was Lake Macquarie but to get there was a bit tricky because we had to co-ordinate a rising tide and an hourly bridge opening at Swansea. In order to do this in daylight we had to leave Pittwater in the evening and arrive at daybreak to catch the right tide. The night was beautiful, though and mild and very, very calm, so calm that the stars were reflected in the water. This was our first overnight sail since we arrived in NSW in July last year. Our guides along the coast were the huge, empty and very well lit coal freighters waiting to be filled at Newcastle. We passed 28 of these monsters between Pittwater and Lake Macquarie and we could see another 30 between Lake Macquarie and Newcastle Harbour.
Everything went according to plan on our arrival. Just before the sun rose we crossed the bar at the Swansea Channel and picked up a mooring to wait for the bridge and watch the sun rise. We negotiated the channel with ease into Lake Macquarie, wondering what all the fuss is about crossing bars. The ones we had crossed had been no challenge at all by following all the rules and recommendations.
Once inside the lake we had a nap as we had been travelling all night. It is a beautiful lake with the large expanse of water surrounded by small townships and bush reserves. Later that afternoon we moved our home to anchor off the Lake Macquarie Yacht Club and went and explored Belmont.
We enjoyed our 2 weeks on the lake very much. There was much to explore – many small townships and bays and anchorages. We were very impressed with the facilities that have been provided for the cruising boats and houseboats. There were pump out stations at many of the jetties and water was not the problem it was in Sydney either.
We did lots of sailing here – the best cruising sailing we had experienced. It was very pleasant just going where the wind took us not worrying about times, tides or getting to a particular destination before dark. We sailed just for fun!! No engine noise – just the sound of the wind on our sails and the water under our keel – well there was water under our keel most of the time!
Our time at Lake Macquarie came to an end too soon, but Sue had not been able to get work there, the schools were all too well organized with their relief staff. So, with our bank balance looking very grim we decided to head straight for Queensland where the possibility of finding work for both of us should be better.
NEWCASTLE TO GOLD COAST
We stopped in at Newcastle to pick up our sailing friend Neil from Bluestone, glad that we had seen what the harbour was like, and had a good rest before our early start on Friday 30th May, to sail in a straight line to Queensland.
We left the week before the big storm washed the coal ship up onto Nobby’s Beach. We thought ourselves very lucky that we weren’t there in that storm.
We had 3 days of very little or no wind. The days were mild and the nights were cool as we ticked off the holiday destinations for future visits, Port Stephens, Coffs Harbour, Smoky Cape, Cape Byron. Something for next time.
We did see whales though, everyday after we left Newcastle we saw them, but only once did we see them breach. Just spray and vast grey backs rolling in the swells and warm water.
The East Coast Current is an interesting phenomenon. We encountered it on the South Coast, but here id flows very strongly bringing warm tropical water to the southern part of the coast.
There is a line of debris in the water – scum, seaweed, etc that the birds and marine life feed on. We saw 2 sharks too feeding in the line of scum. On the landward side of this line the water is cooler and our boat speed was almost 2 knots faster than on the seaward side of it in the current. We were amazed at the difference so we tried to stay out of the current closer to shore, but in places, like at Smoky Cape where the current is strongest it is very close to shore we elected to sail in the current.
We arrived in Queensland at 7 am on the 4th day, very pleased with ourselves for having made it so quickly – we had planned on possibly being 5 days at sea. It made such a
difference with another crew member on board, and we appreciated the time that Neil gave up to help us get to Queensland. We had time to relax between shifts at the wheel and feel ready for our 3 hours there. It also meant that there was someone able to take over if the need to leave the wheel arose.
We arrived at the Gold Coast Seaway about 10:30 after passing Coolangatta and Surfers Paradise in the early morning. Negotiating the channel here can be exciting but that day it was calm at almost slack water. It was crystal clear 6 meters to the sandy bottom. We were amazed at the surfers who paddle their surfboards across the channel to get to the surfing on South Stradbroke Island. Jet skis and sharks patrol these waters too. Fishermen drop their anchor in what appears to be the middle of the channel – anything to catch that elusive fish and there are divers along the rocky shoreline. Power boats rush through and the ubiquitous sport boats and fly-bridge cruisers are regularly rushing through the channel at full-speed because they can.
After dropping Neil off at his boat near the Southport Yacht Club we headed back to Bum’s Bay (Marine Event Stadium) where there is free parking for boats for a limited time. We had a couple of attempts at anchoring, the sandy bottom making it tricky but we did it in the end and we went to bed for a sleep. We were tired and the boat was a mess after 3 days at sea so we had a bit of a rest before dinghying to Bluestone where Margaret had prepared a delicious dinner for us. What a treat!
We spent the next couple of weeks at the Gold Coast looking for work and looking around a bit. Not much you can do there with out any money. It caters for the holiday people with full wallets. We spent a weekend in Brisbane with Donna and Josh (Lumarah GBBC) and took a ferry ride with them along the Brisbane River – something we were very glad we did.
We spent time with Bluestones and their friends at the north end of Wave Break Island at the mouth of the Broadwater – ate too much, laughed a lot, entertained other boats at the anchorage with a dinghy water fight ( 300 years of collective age acting like 18 year olds. It was such good fun though) a campfire on the beach and a night-time swim 5 days before the Winter Solstice. We were happy. It was warm.
By the end of June we were getting very desperate about not having work or money but Greg saved our bacon again by getting a great job in Brisbane, starting on the 2nd July which meant a getting there as quickly as possible.
Friday 29th June we had one of Neil’s legendary dinners for Margaret’s birthday at Tipplers Resort, an anchorage on South Stradbroke Island and after a farewell hangover cure coffee we untied from Bluestone and headed up the inside channel to Brisbane. Much of this area is very shallow and sand shoals move frequently. The depth sounder came dangerously close to 0.0 metres at times We navigated through there without any mishaps and arrived at the bottom end of Moreton Bay at about midday and, because there was a good southerly breeze blowing we shook out the headsail and sailed across Moreton Bay to the entrance leads at the mouth of the Brisbane River arriving at about 3:30 in the afternoon. At times we were doing 8 knots – WOW!!!
Our first challenge on arriving in the Brisbane River was to find somewhere to anchor for the night before it got dark. We tried at what appeared to be an anchorage just upstream from the Gateway Bridge near the mouth of the river, but the anchor would not bite – the wind and the tidal stream kept on pulling the anchor out. “Let’s head up to Norris Point” an anchorage closer to the city but we were not sure where it was – the snaking river can be very confusing in the dark. So we decided in the end to go to where boats anchor near the pile moorings at the Botanical Gardens in the city. This is where our river trip with Donna and Josh was useful. We knew what it was like there. Fortunately, by the time we arrived there the tide was slack and we could safely anchor, putting out another one at the stern to keep us pointing in the same direction and then we went to bed. We were hoping that we didn't move during the night
This meant that we could spend Sunday exploring ways for Greg to get to his job on Monday at Coorparoo.
We are now at the Gardens Point Pile Moorings. These moorings are great. They cannot be booked so when I saw one with out any ropes attached (That is the way you know that they are taken) I quickly went and attached some ropes to it and we moved the boat after Greg got home that night. We will be here for some time. We have shower and laundry facilities and water available and a safe place to tie up the dinghy. It gets a bit rocky with the ferries whizzing past us but the rocking is not too bad – we are on a boat after all. The champagne has not been spilt and it is not dangerous. The current in the river can be a bit exciting in the dinghy for us Hobartians as we have not experienced it but we are learning to live with the ebb and flow of the river tides.
3 years summary
Highlights of our 3 YEARS IN BRISBANE
our address: Gardens Point Marina, Brisbane, 5 blocks to the centre of the city
We have grown our family by 5 grand children
Our wedding on the Gold Coast
Our friends wedding on the Gold Coast a year later – same place . . .
Sunshine Coast – Kawana Waters, Caloundra, Noosa, Montville
Gold Coast and hinterland
Lone Pine Koala Park
St Helena and Moreton Bay Is
Tangalooma Resort and wrecks
Mooloolaba, Maroochydore (Sunshine Coast)
3 short visits to Melbourne for work and to see family
Perth via Melbourne (2008-9)
Hobart via E Australia by car via Boonah (2009/10)
Visits to WA
SAW live shows
Ladysmith Black Mombasa
the Kransky Sisters
The Scared Weird Little Guys
Cricket at the GABBA (Aus v Pakistan Australia won)
Nearly all of BYO have been here while we have been here – and they all left before us AGAIN
Many yachts - many friendships
ABORTED DEPARTURE FOR NEW ADVENTURES FRIDAY October 1 2010
After finishing work we spent many weeks on the Gold Coast preparing the boat for our passage east. We had finished with Brisbane. A new framework for a permanent bimini was made by Greg and the pilothouse upsides and roof were painted. It had not been touched since we left Hobart. It still had the undercoat we had put on days before we left Geilston Bay 4 years earlier; now it was badly oxidised and there were rust streaks to patch as well. We had been too busy to do anything about it till now. So one of our tasks was to sand, grind and scrape all the old paint off, and repaint the cabin so it was as shiny as the hull. It was a lot of hard work. But she looks so much better when we had finished.
We had broken at least one of the engine mounts at some time in Lupi’s past 9only recently discovered)and this was beginning to cause problem so we bought some new ones of the correct specifications for our boat, and installed them. They unexpectedly collapsed while looking for whales one day (another story), so we researched, purchased and installed a new set, heavier duty one, they collapsed too. It was really hard to work out what was going on. We tried everything to level out the engine beds and eventually we had success. But it was a long and frustrating process. Solar panels were attached (we now had 4). We had found a suitable auto pilot and had installed that toodidn't work yet, we would make the adjustments on the way to Fiji. We were "ready" to leave Australia. So we arranged with Customs to come to the Gold Coast and check us out. They will do that but need more than 24 hours notice to do it.
We said goodbye to our Queensland friends, filled up with water and fuel and another year’s supply of food when the phone rang. It was Customs checking that we were still going. The weather was a bit wild and I was feeling a bit anxious – OK I was feeling very anxious. They granted us another day and said they would see us tomorrow – Tomorrow was Friday. Everyone knows that you do NOT leave port on a Friday – except us. Customs asked if we were superstitious – of course we said, “No, why?” They told us – just another of those sailors superstitions. They are very superstitious lot. We were not worried.
They cleared us out and stamped our papers. All we had to do now was to fill up with fuel at the fuel berth and submit our papers to claim the duty for the fuel we were taking out of the country. The weather had eased a bit. We were off on our adventure to the Pacific – next stop New Caledonia. ...
Or not ...
As we left the Gold Coast seaway the wind increased from 15-20 knots to 20-25 knots. It wasn’t that dramatic but just a bit more than we would have liked to settle into several days at sea. We estimated a week to 10 days to get from Australia to New Caledonia. Anxiety was getting to us both. Greg was feeling ill and I was not feeling great either.
After a few hours, just after it got dark, there was a terrible ripping sound. The semi-furled headsail had torn right across to the furler. The wind had increased to about 30 knots and the torn sail was wrapping itself around the forestay. Greg, in his full wetweather and safety gear, disappeared up front for a long time with another sail in the dark to try and wrestle the torn sail down and install the emergency one. Ropes jammed as the bow of the boat dived through waves and soaked the poor skipper. We could not get the torn sail up or down. With the old sail flapping and the replacement not setting very well we struggled on our journey to New Caledonia. We will re-assess the situation in daylight. We were not going to be defeated. By daylight we could see the damage to the sail – it was terminal. We were motoring and after 20 hours were only about 10 miles north of the seaway but about 20 miles out to sea. Not that far!
For the next 3 days of wet, windy and miserable weather we flopped around in the East Australian Current and were dragged south before Greg finally agreed he’d had enough. I was ready to turn around after the sail tore. He was exhausted from seasickness and was starting to make irrational decisions due to lack of sleep, dehydration and anxiety. The auto pilot we had installed was not working so we were back to hand steering. The weather had deteriorated; it was raining now as well. In 3 days we were still only 80 miles away from the seaway but south of it and still 20 miles out to sea. We were finally out of the sight of land but we were not able to celebrate this achievement. We gradually headed in toward the coast. The satellite phone didn't work and we could not get a signal for the mobile phones so far from shore. By the time we were 9 miles from Cape Byron we had phone signal enough to call Customs to let them know we were returning to the Gold Coast. We estimated 12 hours but it took over 24 hours to travel the distance. The last night at sea was the wettest in southern Queensland history to that point and we were out in it. The person on watch (me Crew Sue mostly)was soaked in seconds, but fortunately for us, this time it was not freezing cold. We headed closer to shore to find our bearings- landmarks, lights we could keep to port. – so many times the boat swung around in a complete circle as we had no bearings to steer by except the GPS and it was slow to react to changes in the helm. Often, by then it was too late and we had begun a turn. It was a very trying and exhausting few days for both of us.
At one point we were only a few hundred metres from the surf break on one of the beaches. Just as it was getting light I wondered what the white line was to our left: it was the top of breaking waves. I could not see where we were on the chart as it had frozen as it sat on the table inside the saloon and I could not leave the helm to fix it. Greg was sleeping.
Never have I been so glad to see the towering high rise buildings of the Gold Coast. As we surfed into the seaway at the Gold Coast on a 3metre wave we had a radio call from the Seaway tower to call Customs when we were settled. It was a scary entry. Because of the wild weather that had hammered the Gold Coast for 3 days there was large surf running and heading straight into the seaway. Jetskis were playing in the surf on Wave break Island inside the entrance. We could hear a roar behind us as we turned to come through the entrance and there was a large – huge - wall of water rising up behind us and picking up the stern of Lupari 2 and threatening to break over her but she lifted up and the wave rolled underneath her. We were much relieved, although steering her was quite a challenge. We were glad that we were familiar with the seaway and could get a good line on it avoiding the shallow sandbar outside.
Many spectators watched us limp into Bum’s Bay (Marine Stadium) with our torn sails and our pride in tatters. After we anchored, our friends and even strangers were very kind to us, offering us help with getting sails to shore and even the loan of a car.
When we dropped anchor we realised that we had lost all our drinking water too – a hose had come off the water tank and all our drinking water had drained into the bilge and been pumped away. It seems that we were not meant to go east at that time. It took us several days to recover from our time at sea. Customs returned a few days later and stamped our passports apologising for the “Did not Depart” stamp which cancelled out our departure stamp – the first ones in our new books. They were very kind and compassionate.
We now never leave on a voyage on a Friday. We have become superstitious boaties too. A young student of mine had drawn a farewell card. On it he had drawn the boat and a message to “Go west” maybe we should have noted the prediction.
We had lots of work to do before we were ready to go anywhere. A new sail had to be measured and ordered. The auto pilot had to be made to work and watertanks had to be secured. Was I ready to go back out to sea? I was very anxious about it but we were cruisers not people who live aboard a boat so what were we going to do?
our poor tattered sail
The Clarence River,
The Clarence River is a lovely peaceful haven for yachties after crossing the challenging river entrance bar.. Anchoring in the boat harbour at Iluka is safe and calm. It is good holding and there is very little fetch and lots of swinging room. Even in winds over 25 knots we felt safe here. We walked to Iluka Bluff through the rainforest, 2.5km of lush vegetation and much cooler than the outside, although we were hot when we arrived. A walk to Iluka Beach on another day was not as far and we refreshed our feet in the ocean when we arrived. The water in the anchorage, although warm, was not recommended for swimming because of potential sharks and the water was dirty with the runoff from recent rains.
Yamba, on the southern bank of the river, is a lovely town, busy with holiday makers. It derived its income from the tourists that flock there in the summer. It has all the facilities – good shopping but without a car some of it is quite a walk from where we could tie up the dinghy. It was great to walk out along the seawall to watch the surfers on the southern side beach and the boats fishing in the river entrance. Dolphins were fishing there too.
The river flows through a flood plain that is only just above high water. The river was particularly high while we were there because of the wet summer we had been experiencing. It would not take much to put the water level over the banks and there was evidence of past floods everywhere we went. Later on there was more flooding on the river catchment.
The river banks were a verdant green with lush vegetation right to the water's edge. The predominant industries here are 1) fishing. It is one of the largest prawn fishing ports in Eastern Australia. (they are cheaper than meat here. What a shame)
2) sugarcane growing and processing with a mill and refinery .Evidence of the history of cane growing is abundant along the river with tripod cane derricks dotted along the river banks where barges used to come to collect the cane from the growers and float it down river to the mill in Harwood. It is done by trucks now. Harvesting was in progress while we were there
4)there used to be a large timber industry there too where cedar was cut from the forests.
From Yamba and Iluka we motored upstream toward Grafton, stopping on the way at Harwood, where we looked at another yacht (Nantucket 44) for sale and waited for the bridge at Harwood to open. 24 hours notice must be given for the operators to come and open it. Once through it was just around the corner to Maclean, the Scottish town in Australia, and anchored for the night. We went for a stroll through this little town and thought it very cute, especially when a lone piper, appropriately dressed played in the local pub. How Scottish is that! The lower half of the power poles here are painted tartan each one representing a Scottish clan.
After a night at Maclean we motored up the river to the little village of Ulmarra, which is heritage listed and has been the setting for some Australian movies: The Picture show Man and the TV series Fields of Fire. We were to meet some friends of friends here. Afternoon tea was a great way to meet and get to know each other.
The next day three yachts, our new friends, their friends and Lupari2 all headed to Grafton. It was a nervous and anxious time for us all as we sailed (motored) under the high voltage power cables that cross the river just before we reached Grafton. But with frequent communication and modern technology we all made it safely underneath with metres to spare
While in Grafton we did our Christmas shopping at the new enlarged shopping plaza there and looked at the other shops in the main street as well. It is not far from the jetty where sailors can tie up their dinghies in relative safety.
On the southern bank of the river is South Grafton where the main street is heritage listed as well. It is very quaint and many of the shops are cafes and art galleries.
The bridge takes vehicles and trains. Vehicles on the top level and trains beneath. We were amazed at the length of some of the freight trains that crossed the river carrying goods from the southern states to the north . . .
We had Christmas in Grafton with our new friends and the first guest to arrive was a beautiful green tree frog. It was a mystery how he came to be on the duckboard but we suspect that it arrived on a raft of weed floating down the river. We had a great day and made some good friends. It was a very social time up the river at Grafton
There was a lot of weed floating down the river and after a day of heavy rain the amount of weed was even greater. Elodea which trapped water fern and rafts of water hyacinth that had been growing in the fresh water along the river banks had been ripped free with the water pressure. Great logs also floated down the river. Rafts of weed would catch on our anchor chain and it was really hard to pull away.
The only downside of our trip up the Clarence River was the quality of communications. For people who rely heavily on the internet we had difficulties sending our Christmas greetings to our friends and families which we felt a bit sad about, and we could not get good ABC TV reception. As avid watchers of ABC TV we missed it – the ads on the available stations were driving us mad by the time we returned to Iluka.
When we returned to Iluka the river flooded. We watched with disbelief as vision of the destruction in Toowoomba was screened on TV and then the Brisbane floods. We were in our own flood. The pub at Brushgrove was inundated and some of Grafton and Maclean were too. Hay bales, dead animals and logs were threatening craft in the main channel of the river, but at Iluka, in the yacht basin behind the seawall it was calm and safe. The flood waters did not reach to the top of the breakwall.
We loved our holiday in the Clarence River. It was so relaxing. We had days of hot weather and lots of days of rain where we found things to occupy ourselves. We even did a few jobs that needed doing We were a bit sad that on the hot days we could not go swimming, I was getting used to our daily swim on the Gold Coast - it was just too dangerous to swim in the flood affected waters.