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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.