Passage to Port Macquarie

Our long-awaited passage south to Port Macquarie finally happened this week and we are anchored in front of our friends’ place, ready for the wedding festivities after a 220nm sail from the Gold Coast.

We got ready to leave the Gold Coast during the weekend: quick shop, laundry, goodbyes to friends and family. We even took our ship’s cat for the last of her beach walks for a while. Bengie likes walking and scratching in the sand. But there is something about ambling through the reeds in particular that she loves. Whether it is the smells, the feel of the grasses rubbing along her body, the sensation against her whiskers… and then there are the dead leaves with something heavenly (read evil) that she just must drag her face and body through. It is nice to see her obviously enjoying herself.

The sail south

One of the problems with sailing the NSW coast is that there are not many places to hide that are not up a barred river. Ballina, Yamba, and even our destination of Port Macquarie all have a bar to negotiate, so you must time your arrival with the tides and consider the overrun from the river. Some bar crossings are harder than others especially when there is swell. Another issue is the number of cray pots laid out along the coast, ready to assault your rudders and props. If you are travelling in daylight you can keep an eye out but at night coming in close to the coast is fraught with danger. All this to say we did not want to do the hell run nonstop to Port Macquarie. We are not big on overnighters at the best of times, but with all of this in mind and being wrecked physically, we were keen to find an alternative!

After checking and rechecking and re-rechecking the forecasts, we knew we had a short window of northerlies – just two days – to get south. It was going to be tight! Wade decided we would leave the Gold Coast on Sunday, motor out through the Seaway in a light SE breeze bound for Byron Bay 50nm away, then use the next two days of strong northerlies to cover the 100nm to Coffs Harbour and 70 to Port Macquarie. And we would have to pray that the swell would not be too bad so we could get into Port!

Dawn departure from the Gold Coast Seaway

There was no pretense at sailing on the first hop. We had both engines on with the light SE on our nose. The ocean was a little lumpy but quite reasonable. We reached Byron Bay by 1.00pm, anchored in 8m of water in front of town, initially sitting beam to shore. We were going to go for a snorkel at Julian Rocks, however we were too tired to bother and both had a snooze instead! The breeze was forecast to change to the north that evening and it did. We spent the night stern to the beach… not ideal but passable.

We often stop at Byron Bay on the way north or south. It is never all that comfortable, particularly when the bay is a lee shore, as it was this time, but Anui rides the swell well. It’s just a spot to break the journey and stop for the night then move on! No nice sunset to speak of, although the view towards Wollumbin (Mt Warning) was quite beautiful.

Mt Warning as we reached Byron Bay

Clearer sky in the late afternoon

Monday and Tuesday were forecast to have strong northerlies blowing, just what we needed for the next two longer hops to Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie.

Our passage to Coffs was lively. After a few hours of motoring while the wind was too light, things picked up and the screecher was up! And then it became more and more blowy: 25-30 knots from the stern. It was fast and fun!

We had the dinghy set up high on the davits to test the ‘offshore’ position and it worked well. Despite the following sea and 21/2 meter swell, there was no slapping or splashing at all.

The dinghy in the offshore position
Jib on to blanket the screecher and make it easier to furl it as the wind picks up!

Eventually it became too windy for the screecher and we swapped it for the smaller jib, swooshing into Coffs Harbour after a 12-hour passage. We hooked on to one of the public moorings next to the wooden pier and settled in for a comfortable night.

Entrance into Coffs Harbour
Moored next to the pier

Our last hop was an easy 70nm with a strong northerly forecast but the 25+ knots did not eventuate. No early rise this time. The breeze was steady at the start, so the screecher was on duty as soon as we were out of the harbour, then it lightened, and we added the jib, goose winged. We were nervous about setting up the spinnaker instead with the strong wind warning. It was a comfortable downwind ride.

Jib and Screecher goose winged

Although we arrived at Port Macquarie at the wrong time for the tide and got pushed around in the chop, it all panned out okay. We were hooked onto a public mooring in front of town by 4.30 pm.

Choppy entrance with the tide overrun

Later that day we copped an almighty storm. We could see it building. The light was eerie, the mammatus clouds impressive, and we registered 48 knot gusts! Just as well we were on the mooring, doing the full 360! The downpour came and went and things calmed down again.

Rescue boat at the ready!
Downpour about to descend on us!

We had a repeat of the clobbering the next day, but it passed as quickly as it came, ending with a double rainbow low to the water!

A social time

We generally connect with two couples when we come to Port Macquarie, Meredith and Brian who are sailors and have been following our adventures for years, and of course our dear friends Warrick and Lisa.

On the first night we saw Meredith and Brian who were keen to escape their house renovations. We can relate to that! Luckily they were on board before the storm and witnessed the sight as it developed. Once things had calmed down we shared a meal and enjoyed a good old catch up.

We lazed around on the next day, attending to a few things in town, and then moved up the Hastings River for Warrick and Lisa’s wedding. There we will be for a few days, anchored as usual in front of their place. The big gig happens on Saturday. With lots of their guests camping on the grounds for the weekend and a forecast for more storms, we reckon we have the best accommodation!

Anchored at Blackman’s Point

17 thoughts on “Passage to Port Macquarie

  1. Wow, your photos are incredibly beautiful, guys! The city looks mystical in the distance, the white water so beautiful. I’m jealous! Enjoy your time with friends! ❤️😊🇦🇺

  2. At last you are back to life as it should be, dancing and skipping along on the waves enjoying the wind and some pretty impressive skies along the way. Have a lovely time catching up with friends and sharing happy times. And give the poor weary bodies some rest too!

  3. Loved the shots of Bengie enjoying the long grass. Pepa loves rolling in very smelly places which results in a bath. Very yuk. Enjoy the wedding, friends, dancing, wine and good food. You are right I think you have the best spot to overnight. Enjoy you very clean boat.

  4. Thank you for the photo of Mt Warning, sailing past I remember my husband-to-be saying as we turned in from the Pacific Highway to the fabled Mullumbimby – close your eyes, then open . . . ’tis magic’ . . . on land, it is !! Glad you all got to hug friends . . .

  5. Enjoyed your sailing exploits yet again! Pity we weren’t still in Coffs to say g’day ….. enjoy your stay in Port guys!

    • We thought of you two and wished you had been there when we pulled into Coffs. Always an easy stop as long as the wind isn’t easterly. Might use the harbour as a base while exploring the Solitaries on the way back up!

  6. Welcome welcome welcome…welcome back!
    It’s always tremendous to see you both again, even when it’s not a big party!!
    Everything is going like clockwork in our preparations for our 100+ guests. Thanks again for all your help and support! Our wedding (and my 60th) celebrations shared with our family and friends will be forever memorable…we are so thankful you both could make the special journey for our occasion.
    Waz and Lisa

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