Coffs Harbour

Wed 7 Oct 2009 03:17
7th October 2009
Position 30:18.5S 153:09E
First, to deal with criticsm, these position points are intended to be approximate only, but I hope that todays position will place us somewhere in Coffs Harbour. Just not sure how to deal with 09 degrees: would the computer prefer 9 or 09? Does he take sugar? Oh, well!
The criticism (you know who you are) was that a previous position put us in the Elizabeth Street Post Office in Brisbane, and not on the water at all. You lot expect me to power up the GPS everytime I write home? I get the positions from our pilot book sketch charts, which rather confirms that these should not indeed be used for navigation!
"Awesome" said Charlie's friends as she announced her final travel plan to sail down the East Australian Coast on a yacht. A sadly debased and dumbed word in the current vernacular. So, here is what awesome means in practice, and don't forget that whilst this is all going on, you can't fix your make up, wash your hair, or go to the loo because it makes you feel even sicker!!
The Gold Coast Inland Sea: the Broadwater, seduces the would be sailor with its gentle winds and flat (bar the speedboat wakes) surface. And so it was when we cast off from the $60 per night Southport Yacht Club Marina, fuelled up, and set off down the Gold Coast Seaway: the dregged channel leading to the Open Pacific. Notices warned us of strong tides and breaking seas, but we veterans of the Mad Mile on the Wide Bay Bar took it all in our stride, fortified as we were by antiseasick pills to keep the early tea in place, and with the bonus of lots of dolphins to view as a distraction. The visual landmarks were good, and we were soon out safely into deep in not entirely restful water. As feared the wind was south, where we were headed, but a comfortable 14 kts, and we made good progress beating into it, and towards the big swells off Point Danger. Such comforting terminology. Having left on the late afternoon flood tide, it was soon dark. Apart from an episode in which the wind did a maddening 360 degree turn in an hour, we did well; reaching the point at 02.00 on Monday morning. The wind then died away and we motored uncomfortably into the swell until 06.00 when a wind sprang up from the south west, sufficient to enable us to sail close hauled in a generally south south east direction, and with much more comfort as the boat healed constantly, and pitched less into the short swell. Dawn was an overcast affair: leaden skies, and some spits of rain. This did little to encourage a breakfast spirit amongst the crew, but we were now making good progress with the additional East Coast Current under us, and by mid morning the sun had put his hat on, and all was well with the world.
At lunchtime another 'calm': the horrid clatter of slatting sails and rig on the rolling sea: not conducive for lunch either! But then an excellent easterly set in and we were quickly bowling along, soon passing Yamba, our backup destination on the Clarence River. Progress in the evening sunshine was again good, but heavy clouds were developing around us at dusk, with lightning all over the place. Once again the wind abated. Charlie was foolish enough to ask if ships were ever struck by lightning, and what would happen, and I was foolish enough to give a truthful answer. At least his put the crew in a 'last supper' frame of mind, and we agreed that bread and a tin of tomato soup would be possible. Its a good job no one suggested the macedonia nut cookies as dessert: I'd wolfed these down the previous night! The soup session was interrupted by a thundersquall with a max of 30 kts of wind. Fortunately it didn't last long, but we were then left with a 9 knot south westerly: hopeless for serious windward sailing, and I decided on the engine. We were all tired, and there were shoals and inslands to be avoided in the long approach to Coffs Harbour. The entire trawler fleet as well, as it turned out. Just for 30 mins did the wind blow with sufficient force in a reasonable direction: just long enough for me to raise and set the sails, and then take them all down yet again!
The previous day we had contacted Coffs Harbour to arrange an accessible berth, and this turned out to have been a good idea, as we came on to the Harbour leading lights (they are all a lovely blue fluoro colour) in the dead of night, and nudged over the shallows of the inner harbour (we have done a lot of this!) at 05.00. Berthing was pretty slick, by our standards, but we didn't spend much time admiring our warps and springs, and we were all asleep as the sun rose over the sea wall.
160 miles in 36 hours. Not bad, really, but hardly awesome.