If as you read our posts you feel our voyage is a series of stops and starts, you are quite right. Some of the interruptions are great fun, others are frustrating. So for our fourth week out of lockdown we again have a mix!

New halyard

Our main halyard failure last week stopped us in our tracks. We lost three days, having to order some 65 meters of spectra and get that sent from a Newcastle chandlery to the Nelson Bay boatyard.

Replacing a main halyard is not easy. How do you get up the mast? Our ATN Mast Climber came in rather handy. It is a system of two ascenders, a bosun chair and foot straps. It allows you to get up the mast unaided using a static line. Wade used the topping lift for that (a line that normally runs from the top of the mast to the end of the boom). It is safe, but slow and physically demanding. This short video shows the set up and climbing process.

Wade inching his way up the mast
New halyard all laid out for a smooth haul up

The halyard was delivered on Friday afternoon. We did the change over in two parts: first we had to extricate the old halyard from inside the mast. It had snapped under pressure and was all twisted and tangled inside the mast. Then we had to drop a mouse – a weighted line you lower inside the mast to attach the new halyard to and haul it up. By the time we got the mouse down the mast, were able to locate it and get it out with a hook through a narrow slot at the base of the mast, we were running out of light. The next morning was more straight forward: a climb up the mast, haul up the mouse with the halyard attached, affix it to the top of the mast, come back down!

Next challenge: the batteries

While we were in Nelson Bay, Steve Cody of Melbourne Marine Electronics came to visit us on his way down from Brisbane to Pittwater for a couple of jobs! It was just a friendly visit, but he came armed with a battery analyser. Good man! The verdict: our AGM batteries are still reasonably good, so we will keep monitoring and can delay the change over to lithium till later! Phew! Steve stayed overnight. We celebrated not needing to spend a small fortune on lithiums with a few glasses of red, a chilli con carne and lots of sailing stories.

Things are looking up – all is fixed by sunset

Sailing on

Feeling happy all was under control again, we were ready to head off on Sunday. We did three hops: Seal Rocks, Laurieton and the long awaited stopover at Port Macquarie.

Seal Rocks

Our passage to Seal Rocks was an uneventful motor-sail with very little wind. We did not see many whales but a few dolphins escorted us for a short while though!

Approaching Seal Rocks from the southern side
Seal Rocks Lighthouse from the northern side

Sugarloaf Bay at Seal Rocks is a really pleasant anchorage, nice and protected in a southerly and would be good too in a westerly. Two other cats were anchored in the bay but there was plenty of space. We threw the pick to the right of them and were very comfortable. And having had the engines ticking along for a few hours the batteries were fully charged and the water hot for a shower! We would have liked to linger and explore ashore the next day, but with a northerly forecast on Tuesday, we only stayed overnight.

Stormy sunset at Sugarloaf Bay


Monday morning was quite a different day: more wind early in the morning, but also squalls and storms! The sky was ominous, the light eerie.

Storm clouds and rain ahead
Eerie clouds and a whale blowing in the distance
Sailing… but not for long!

With the squalls came frequent wind changes and we kept rolling and unrolling the screecher, switching the engines on and off!

The whales were active and made us aware of who was boss! We saw several lobtailing repeatedly, an activity in which they stick their tail out of the water into the air, swing it around, and then slap it on the water’s surface. Their power is awesome. You just hold your breath as you sail past, click away with the camera and hope a few shots will come out! You also feel very privileged to witness these moments from your own boat. The purpose of lobtailing is unknown, but may be done as a warning to the rest of the pod of danger – a passing Anui for instance – another form of communication, or to loosen parasites on the skin of the tail. Humpback whales lobtail more when the seas are rough and stormy and their songs are difficult to hear, which explains why they seem more acrobatic when the ocean is agitated than when it is calm.

Showing who has right of way!
After four or five beats, this whale has run out of energy!

Once you see the tail go down, you know the whale is diving down deep and it will not surface again for quite a long while.

A bit further, another whale dives down as we get close.

As the day progressed the wind moved further south but stayed very light and up went the spinnaker! We had not seen Bluey for months so were a bit rusty on the set up but eventually got it flying and enjoyed a slow leisurely sled ride for the rest of the way. If any record was broken it was for the slowest kite ride … we got down to 2.5 knots before giving up and turning the engines on for the last few miles. Even the gannets did not feel like flying!

Bluey struggling to stay up in 4 knots of wind!
The gannets can’t be bothered either!

With all those changes of wind direction and strength our overnight anchorage plan kept changing: Port Macquarie was a bit too optimistic, Crowdy Head not optimistic enough! In the end we made it to Laurieton – about 50nm. You gotta stay flexible!

The distinctive Perpendicular Point at Camden Haven
Coming through the Camden Haven bar

Once safely through the bar, we went up river to Laurieton, where we picked up one of two vacant public moorings. There is also space for a couple of boats along the jetty, although those were taken. Laurieton is a delightful spot, protected, scenic and it was lovely to spend the next morning serenaded by birds, in the sunshine, waiting for the tide to be right to get out again.

Arriving at Laurieton

Port Macquarie – Yeah!

It left a short 15 nm run on Tuesday to reach our long awaited stopover at Port Macquarie. We had a lazy start, needing to work the tide with two bar crossings! We waited till afternoon for the tide to be right to get out at Camden Haven and in at high tide at Port Macquarie. It helps to be able to check the web cams at both spots. It was a motor in a light breeze on the nose.

Tacking Point Lighthouse
Coming through the bar and the breakwater
Motoring up the Hastings River

Once through the Breakwater, we motored 10 kms up the Hastings River to anchor in front of our friends’ house. Waz and Lisa are like family. It is so nice to finally be able to spend some time together. Last time we were here was during our shake down sail on Anui after we purchased her… a year and a half ago! And we are lucky enough to have another couple to catch up with: Meredith & Brian who have been following our adventures for years.

Anchored in front of Waz & Lisa’s home
Sundowners on the river!

So as you can guess, we will be at Port Macquarie for a little while! But we also know that when we leave, some time next week, it will be to sail to Queensland! The border is opening on 10 July at long last and since we have been out of Victoria for more than two weeks, a month in fact, we can get in without quarantine.

15 thoughts on “Stop-Start-Stop

  1. Terrific pictures, Chris. I hope, there won’t be any more repairs to the cat. Take care. 🙂

  2. Wow. I was a little dizzy from watching the video on climbing the mast–the techniques looked a lot like those used in rockclimbing. You images are awesome, Chris, and I especially enjoyed those of the whales. Amazing. It was nice to hear that your AGM batteries are still good after your lengthy series of equipment issues. I know that maintaining and repairing is part of life at sea, but is seems like you have had more than your share of problems in the recent past. It is great to hear you are having the chance to relax a bit and re-connect with some friends. Take care.

    • Hi Mike – we get periods where bits to fix are never ending and peak! Let’s hope we get a pause from that! But the sights at sea and the time with dear friends make up for all this!

    • Hi Mick – We aren’t sure how old the halyard was but we were lucky the failure happened where and when it did. We are moving along, although we have a week in Port Macquarie spending time with friends and waiting for a new set of halyards and sheets to arrive. At least now we know the QLD border is opened and hopefully they won’t change their mind with all the VIC Covid drama.

  3. Nice to see you guys getting away up north. Funny thing, after seeing all your scenic north coast spots, Claire said (ironically) that she was feeling homesick! My wee Scottish lassie missing our coastal camping and kayak adventures.
    Good job on the halyard … reading it, was like I was there, helping ….. and Wade up the mast on what could have been an early model PG harness …. Spectra, not Dyneema? Again, more flying memories …
    Here’s hoping for more 15kt southerlies for you!

    • Hi – Claire will be even more homesick when we get to Coffs next week and hopefully to QLD shortly after! Spectra first the halyards! No stretch wanted! And yes the bosun chair looks like a ball breaking PG harness!

  4. Glad you are out and about again. I’m just living vicariously while we’re stuck in another lockdown in VIC! Even Whitworths Melb has closed down this time.
    Hey, keep an eye on the weather (of course you do!) but they’re talking the possibility of an East Coast Low developing next week. Might not happen hopefully! Stay safe guys.

    • Hi Neville – so frustrating isn’t it. We feel for you and our other Melbourne friends.
      Thanks for the heads up about the possible East Coast low. We are in Coffs while the northerlies are blowing… we will keep an eye out. Would not be good here! Let’s hope we can make it to Yamba beforehand. That bar would be ugly too!

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