No diving at the Solitary Islands

After a week at Iluka, we were itching to leave when the SE wind subsided enough to let us escape through the bar.  Bar crossings are sometimes daunting and this one was; the swell was big, the breaking waves impressive, but we managed a clean exit.

Our enthusiasm for diving and snorkeling incited us to head offshore towards a group of nine islets called the Solitary Islands. We should have thought a bit more about the effect of eight days of strong wind on the sea state.  As we found out, to hook up to a Marine Park mooring (no anchoring allowed in the Marine Reserve), let alone dive there, you need calm conditions and preferably North Easterlies. Despite what we had hoped, the islands offered no protection and most moorings were in the impact zone of some mean waves. So no underwater photos for this post, but plenty of images of waves, bar crossings and pounded islands!

Passage to Coffs via Solitaries-5

The bar in front of the Clarence River

After motor-sailing past North West Rocks, North Solitary, Groper Island and Split Solitary, we appreciate why these islands are called ‘Solitary’. They are wild and rugged, and in the old days of lighthouse keepers, it would indeed have been a very solitary life on them.  Discovering what lurks underwater in these marine sanctuaries will be for another time.

Passage to Coffs via Solitaries-6

North West Rocks and North Solitary

We ended up heading back to the coast and anchoring overnight at Coffs Harbour on Saturday.  We continued onto Trial Bay and had a few hours’ stop there on Sunday, initially intending to stay overnight, but one of the many changes of weather forecast lead us to get going again late in the evening for an overnight passage to Port Macquarie.  We needed to hide in a hurry from another round of mean South-easterlies.  Luckily, our friends Waz and Lisa live a few miles up the Hastings River and were waiting for us.  It is lovely to spend a few days with them.

The whole trip from Iluka to Port Macquarie has involved motoring into wind with the mainsail up!  In fact ever since we have left the Great Barrier Reef, we have not had a day of pure sailing in following winds.  It has all been motor-sailing into wind. It is not Take It Easy the sailing catamaran, but Take It Easy the motorboat!  What is wrong with this weather?

Here are a few photos from our expedition to the islands and back.




8 thoughts on “No diving at the Solitary Islands

  1. You have had a busy time lately,but I am sure you have gained from it. Good to find a quiet river to rest up at also friends to visit. How is the cat handling it, must be getting used to it by now?? Do hope the weather will change for you, cheers.

    • Hi Terry – for once we are happy the weather is keeping us in one place. Plenty of time to catch up with our friends. Bengie is a bit bored but it’s better than the cattery! She is very adaptable and never sea sick!

  2. wow what an adventure with the bar crossings, I do remember one we had which was a bit hairy, but these seem worse. Continue having fun in spite of the weather.

    • Way too much motoring and being stuck from one place to the next for days on end, but at least this time at Port Macquarie our friends are here and they are spoiling us. Wade and Waz are doing boy things in the shed and Lisa and I are talking visual arts so the only one not so chirpy is Bengie on the boat anchored in the middle of the river!

  3. Oh Chris…and you were so much looking forward to the Solitary’s. Brace yourself, I believe there may be an East Coast Low coming your way. Cheers Trish (currently hunkering down at Kingfisher!)

    • At least in the river we are safe but then the next challenge is crossing the bar to get out! It could take a few more days for the swell to settle down.
      Kingfisher – well at least you are sheltered too!

  4. The photo of the breaking waves exiting the Clarence looks ominous. I presume that was the break off to the side & it was just a (Large?) swell in the channel?
    I am coming south as crew on a 38ft DuFour in a couple of weeks from Bne to Tamar river Tassie. Our first intended stop after departure will be Coffs but if the weather turns then the Clarence is an option.
    I don’t think the DuFour will surf as well as Take it Easy and the skipper will freak if there are any curlers behind us……….not quite so bad punching out thro them.

    • No boat likes to go through breakers. If they are breaking right on the bar, din’t go through. Keep going south or stay out! Coffs win’t break in all but the worst weather. The waves feathering in the photos are on either side of the channel. The curler at Port Macquarie was some distance away and petered out. But both bar crossings were a tense time, as often is the case!

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