Yabba Yabba from Yamba

Thu 12 Nov 2009 21:34
11th November 2009
Location Yamba harbour marina 29:26.16S 153:20.85E
This will be shorter, a bit tired and emotional last time!
You left me in the rain at Coffs Harbour, waiting for the sun to put his hat on, but he did not. Saturday was poor, and Sunday was dreadful again, despite the forecast of a gradual improvement. Apparently the rainstorm was just 80 km across, but completely stationary. A state of emergency was eventually declared, which may not be quite as grand as it sounds, but there was certainly a great deal of flood damage, and this is the third time this year in Coffs' that this has happened. Of course the NSW media are in Global Warming meltdown (the puns just keep coming) about all this, just as the Brits were after the Great Flood! So, back in the Coffee Shop late Sunday afternoon, still in my soaking oilskins, but fortified by home made carrot cake, I thought that perhaps it couldn't be any worse out at sea! What a mercifully short memory I have these days! Some calculation showed that if I left at about 11pm, I should arrive in Yamba, 60 nautical miles up the coast, at the top of the tide. Timing would be important, as the river entrance would be affected by the floodwater. When extreme there is almost no flood tide and the water flows outwards the whole time, creating breaking waves against the swell..
So at 22.45 I was letting go my shore lines, just as everyone else had settled down for the night. My neighbour poked his head out to see what I was up to. "Just so long as you don't need a f------ hand, mate" seemed an entirely appropriate comment in the cirumstances!  But the omens were good. The rain had eased, and there was very little wind. The outer harbour was calm. I was expecting a calm night, and then an easterly wind from dawn onwards. The first leg, out to sea and around the Solitary Islands (yes, despite their name, there are actually three of them. So they are called North, South, and North West Solitary Islands), was to the northeast.
Blow me down if a breeze didn't immediatly spring up from this very direction.  All I could do was motor into the waves, and hope that the wind didn't get too strong. Of course, it did, and we were going so slowly that we would never reach the 'tide gate' atYamba. I was about turn round and retreat to Coffs' when I thought what fun my neighbour would have at my expense in the morning. So I had another look at the map, and decided that it would be possible to thread my way through the Solitary Islands, and their associated rocks, rather than go round them, as recomended. In this way I could travel north, rather than north east, and then I could get the sails up, and then we might make some progress. And all this came to pass, and, being dark, I have no idea how close to any bits of rock we may have sailed. Suffice it to say that at dawn North Solitary Island was nicely on our starboard side, about a mile off. There being no more immediate dangers, I left Fleck to her own devices and slept for a little while (this was too close inshore for commercial traffic, and the fishing fleets pack up and head for port at around 4am). Good progress was maintained, and we could finally come off the wind and reach, and finally run, into Yamba. I phoned ahead to the marina asking about the floods and conditions on the bar. No rain here they said, and no floodwater in the Clarence river either. And of course the skies cleared and we came in through the training walls in bright sunshine and with hardly a breaking wave in sight.
Yamba is a quiet little place, quite charming in an Australian way. It is not mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide, which I have begun to take as a good sign. It was recomended in my Pilot Book as a reasonable place for yachts, and by Christopher Gregory as the best place on the coast for prawns. I can report that both recomendations turn out to be well founded. Today I am still catching up on sleep, and begining to relax a little, as we are making good progress against the ticking clock. Tomorrow we may go a bit firther: to Evans Head, or to Ballina. Then I'm hoping for a bit of a southerly change at the weekend, to see me up to the Gold Coast, although the latest forecasts suggest that this may 'stall', and not get up this far: should be nice and cold and wet back in Sydney though!