The Hawkesbury River

Sun 1 Nov 2009 11:38
Saturday 31-09-2009, and Sunday 01-11-09
Locations Refuge Bay, Cowan Creek 33:35.9S 151:14.8E
               Palm Beach, Pittwater 33:35.9S 151:18.9E
Not sure if the software allows two locations in one blog, but this is where I have spent the weekend, along with many many Sidneysiders.  At last they have all gone home, the afternoon north easterly has abated, and even the Pittwater is now peaceful. I think that I last wrote as my crew jumped ship, and I left Sydney. The wind was blowing straight down the harbour, just the opposite of when we arrived, so I had to motor out, just as we had motored in. Not a bad thing with so much traffic to avoid. Once clear of North Head all the sails were hoisted, and we tacked north. The NE breeze obliged by swinging round a bit to the ENE, allowing even this old tub to sail due north. She scraped her port gunwale on every headland between Sydney and the Hawkesbury entrance, but we got there without a tack. A perfect sailing day, warm with a relatively calm sea, and bright sunshine. A whale did a total body leap and a side flop just by the boat, and I sailed through a fleet of racing yachts without incident. Once inside the Entrance to Broken bay there was a catermaran race to be negotiated, quite tricky in the confined bay, and they travel so fast. Fleck must be the slowest 34 footer ever made, but I should not complain, remember the tortoise!
We then ran up the Hawkesbury to Cowan Creek and Refuge Bay: recomended by our neighbour at the Cruising Yacht Club as THE anchorage on the East Australian Coast. Not bad I must admit, perfect shelter, and steep cliffs all around. Set within a National Park, so no shoreside developement. The bay was full of boats, and there seemed to be a system of mooring buoys that I couldn't fathom at all. Anyway there was tons of room to anchor, so no problem, and a lovely evening glow on the rocks as the sun dipped. Sitting in the cockpit I became aware of something unusual. It was quiet. Quite disconcerting. Charlie talks a lot of the time, and Mark all of the time. I fed them books to try to control things, but only Rankin's Rebus stories had the slightest effect. Finally you get used to it, but now this eerie silence. Anyway, a peaceful night, in every sense.
Sunday morning and a flat calm. I started work on some bits of teak that I bought in Sydney to control leaks under my spray hood, as I anticipate quite a lot of beating in the next few weeks. Some progress, but at eleven a breeze got up and with the falling tide Fleck beat back down river to the Pittwater. A stark contrast: an open bay, packed with motor boats, sailing boats, ferries and even seaplanes.  I nearly ran aground, but then found my way to the recomended anchorage off Palm Beach, dropping the anchor into 10 metres of water over mud, but with quite a sea running, and by now 25kts of wind. I put out all my chain, but did not risk leaving the boat. Why move to such a place? The answer I am afraid to admit is that I have bought an Aussie dongle for my computer. The coverage is generally excellent all along the coast, so my new friends at the CYC tell me, and all the skippers use it to get online weather forecasts for the Sydney Hobart race, etc. There are several excellent weather services, all giving rather different forecasts, so you can choose the weather that you want. Only problem, no reception in Refuge Bay. Anyway the concensus is that tomorrow there will be light wind, but at least some of it will come from the south, so I'm off early towards Port Stevens.
Very glad that I've been into the Hawkesbury. Broken Bay, the entrance, was spotted by Cooke in 1788, but he didn't realise that a river stretched beyond, navigable as far as Windsor, where we had a coffee on our Blue Mountain trip two days ago. With no roads the waterway was an important early transport route into the interior . You should all read The Secret River, by Kate someone or other. It isn't a great novel, but it does capture the time and the atmosphere of the place in those early days. Of course it is just a Sydney Suburb now, but still a magnificent sailing area, like the Helford River in Cornwall, but I have to admit, on a rather grander scale.