We have seen the last of the Gold Coast for a while! We said goodbye to our local friends including our cruising friends on Oceaneer, and turned right at the Seaway for the first time in two years, bound for Melbourne.
Overnighter to Port Macquarie
Having spent the last two months floating around in protected waters we needed to get our sea legs back! Starting with a 30 hour passage certainly blows the cobwebs away, especially after a cyclone! It was exhilarating to be on our way, back in our element, enjoying the movement of the boat, the brisk sail and the feel of the ocean. It was so good after weeks of being cooped up in the Broadwater!
We had a fast run on Sunday, zooming along effortlessly at 10 to 12 knot speed, with peaks at 14.5. The breeze was at the perfect angle and we had the advantage of the Australian East Coast Current, having got to the 100m depth line, about 12nm offshore. Getting that far offshore also means less worry about floating buoys, small motor boats drift fishing and getting in your way. It was great fun.
Although the wind died down during the night and we had to turn the engines on, the conditions were easy on us. We generally do two hour watches throughout the night, whereby one person is up keeping an eye on things. It gets hard when it is just the two of us. The first round is all good, but subsequent ones get a bit ordinary as you get more and more sleep deprived. But we managed!
We came into Port Macquarie at noon on Monday, picked up the last available public mooring in front of town, tidied up our abode and had a snooze. Later in the afternoon, our friends Waz and Lisa joined us for a feast on board. Lisa reluctantly left us that evening, but Waz stayed, having agreed to crew with us to Eden.
Overnighter to Port Hacking
At dawn on Tuesday the three of us took off for another overnighter, this time to Port Hacking, South of Sydney. With a SE change forecast to come in early the next morning, but a brisk NE breeze before that, we figured we might make it in time to take shelter at Jibbon Beach, 186nm further south. It was another nice passage. There were new experiences for Waz: sailing under screecher, then a long spinnaker sail, watching, the shearwater rafts and jumping dolphins, enjoying a brilliant sunset, the excitement of his first ever night passage, and the special treat: dawn at sea on his watch.
As the evening was approaching, we swapped the spinnaker for the screecher. It is always wise to reduce sails overnight, and as it turned out, the wind suddenly picked up for a short period to 25 knots and made the job of collapsing the beast interesting to say the least! Luckily, our spinnaker is stored into a sock, making deploying and dousing a bit more manageable. Waz can vouch for the power of that sail, even once it had been socked!
The night sail under screecher was a noisy affair, with a following sea and waves pushing us along, crashing under the bridge deck, and we were kept busy during our watches with many ships to dodge offshore of Newcastle. It is always a bit daunting the first time you do a night watch, as was the case for Waz. You are on your own, and for the length of your watch, you are responsible for the ship. You know that if you need, you can call for help from the skipper, but you want to do your best. You keep an eye on the navigation software, on AIS (the Automatic Identification System which transmits nearby ships’ position, course and speed and alerts you if you are on a collision course); you do a visual check around the boat every ten minutes, try to make sense of all the lights from nearby vessels, keep an eye on the sails. You also get this sense of awe as you gaze at the Milky Way, feel the boat rushing through the night, and sometimes see phosphorescence in its wake.
None of us got much sleep with the racket and busy coast line, but there is no doubt that three people sharing the night watches is much easier than the two of us doing this as a couple!
We sailed well until six the next morning. We were just off Sydney Heads when the northerly died down, then a strong SE set in, forcing us to motor into it for a couple of hours till we reached Port Hacking.
We stayed at Port Hacking for two days, waiting for the southerly to pass. We used our pause time well, catching up with Sydney friends Lucy and son Eric on the first day, and our friend Sue the next, enjoying a walk ashore together and taking the opportunity to clean up Anui’s grubby waterline from weeks of doing nothing!
One of the advantages of going south is the obvious change of temperature: it is cooler, less humid and all together much more pleasant than summer in tropical Queensland! The temperature of the ocean however is a notable drawback: from 26oC in Queensland, to 19oC in NSW, and we know it will get even colder in Victoria! Brrgh!
Today as we post this, the northerly has returned briefly so we are underway again. We are intending to do yet another overnighter to Eden, a 200nm passage. There is however a southerly change coming back on Saturday so it looks like we will get stuck at Eden for a few days. This is where Waz will be leaving us, but later next week, Murray, Wade’s brother, is keen to join us for the Eden to Melbourne leg.
We are very pleased with our progress. Although long overnight passages leave you feeling a bit wrecked, when you are on a mission, they make a huge difference to the distances you can cover quickly. We are confident we will get to Melbourne in time for our medical appointments, even with a potential week long break in the flow.
Stay tuned for the next instalment in our mission.