Heading North 30 55.87S 153 10.85E

Mike and Liz Downing
Sat 22 Jun 2013 05:07
Left Newcastle yesterday morning to continue the journey north. The New South Wales coast can be difficult and there's always the possibility of getting stuck in port somewhere. So when the forecast of 5-10kt winds yesterday suggested there could be 24 hours of motoring, we decided better that and make progress than perhaps having to wait another week for favourable winds. As it happens we had 16 hours of motoring, but spread throughout the day and apart from the start, it was all motor sailing. The start was interesting. We had planned to leave a day earlier, but on calling Port Control discovered the swell outside was 5 to 6 meters (the marina is quite a way in land and you have no idea what the sea conditions are like). One of their pilots then came back (by helicopter - they use helicopters rather than boats) and confirmed that it was 5 to 6 metres several miles offshore. That was enough for us to decide we really hadn't seen much of Newcastle and another day to see a bit more would be a good idea! It was a pity as the 10-20kts of wind forecast would have made for a good sailing day. Catching the bus from town to harbour entrance we watched the waves breaking against the shore and were pleased with the decision. 
Leaving yesterday the swell was down to 3 to 4 metres and the wind was down to 5kts or less. The coast here is shallow and in the first 10 miles yesterday it was no more than 150ft. So we weren't too sure what 4 metre swells would be like - how steep would they be? Motoring out, the swell was on the beam and every so often all that could be seen was a wall of water coming towards us, but apart from a bit of a roll Aurora B lifted up to each one and gently went down the other side. On ocean passages you expect a minimum of 2-3 metre swell, but that's normally in water 12,000 feet deep. 
The first 24 hours was mixed sailing - the 5-10kts forecast wind turned into 25kts and a churning sea for a couple of hours, but it was from the south, so behind us and with both genoas poled out we flew along at 7 - 8kts. Then the wind dropped and the way forward was barred by a big thunderstorm system. Sailing slowly (3kts) with little wind we were glad not to catch it up as the lightning lit up the sky. Luckily it moved just offshore and stayed there all night, leaving an open 5 mile corridor next to the shore where the skies were clear and the full moon lit up the way ahead. But it was so cold, even with 2 fleeces and all our foul weather gear on.
So far today it's be lovely sailing - 15-20kts from the southwest so the windward pole is up again and we're making good progress against the current. The seas are still up - 2 to 3 meters most of the time with the occasional much larger swells (they come in 2s and 3s), but the sun is shining!  (It rained or was overcast all of yesterday.) The position above is our noon position today (Saturday). Since leaving Newcastle we've covered 137 miles. No pictures below as sending this while at sea and the comms are too slow and costly.
We have seen some wildlife!  It's the season for the humpback whales to migrate north, we've seen a few breaching a fair way from us.  Also lots of seabirds including albatross.