Ballina, plan B

Thu 12 Nov 2009 23:13
Friday 13th November
Location: The Richmond River Estuary, off Ballina. 28:52.28S 153:32.69E
Plan A was to sail from Iluka to Evans Head: and I was up with the larks and crossed the Clarence River bar at 07.00, perfect timing, and I only had to do battle with the returning fishing fleet: full steam ahead, and repairing their nets or whatever it is that they do when you are hoping they are looking to see if anyone is trying to come in the opposite direction! Out in the bay there was no wind at all, and I had to motor yet again. There was a reverse current close inshore, and in three hours I was abreast of Evans Head. this is such a shallow place that the bar has less than a metre of water at low tide, so rather than wait for six hours I decided to carry on to the next place; Ballina. Rewarded for my boldness by a super sail: the wind got up late morning (which is typical), and for a change Fleck seemed to relish beating into it, making 5kts, and tacking through just 90 degrees.So we sailed 40 miles to cover the 20 miles distance, but in good time to catch the tide over the Richmond River bar, and with cloudless skies, a warm breeze, and calm seas, we had the spray hood down the whole way.
The Richmond is as big as the Clarence, but not nearly so attractive. Everywhere is very flat. It is three miles up to the anchorage off the Town of Ballina, and then a half mile in the poor old dinghy. There are no other visitors. The Grey Nomads and the Surfers all head for Byron Bay just a few miles further up the coast, but there is nowhere there to park a yacht. Ballina is spread out along the Pacific Highway: I walk along this to get fronm the dinghy landing to the Town. The road is an unremarkable piece of single carriageway tarmac, it is the trucks that tell you that this in fact the only road north: huge things that I associate with American 'Road Movies'. Each truck has a towed trailer just as big as the truck, and these vehicles often travel in pairs: all decked out in the transport Company logos, the effect is of a small train.
Ballina, when you get to it, is not so bad. Nice old spaghetti western style falsly grandiose fronts to the 'old' buildings on the main street, with the Malls tucked discreetly away as usual on one side, and high rise residential developement on the other, fronting the river.  And the biggest RSL Club that I have seen anywhere (See previous for 'clubs'), with its own multistory car park. I thought that with a Club that big the hotels might also proove to be shining examples of their ilke. And I was right. Saved however by the discovery of Squire's Golden Ale at the third time of asking.
Today there is supoposed to be a southerly change, and certainly there is cloud about as I write. Hopefully I will get up to the Gold Coast overnight with a following wind, but I'm doing the weather forecasts next, and so at this stage I'm planning no more than my coffe shop stop later this morning. Oh, and I am loving Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall so much that I am rationing myself to 25 pages at a time. There seems to have been no time for painting, and little for my piano practice, in reality it is my stress and time management that is at fault: If all you have to worry about is getting back to Bundaberg by the begining of December, that is all you worry about!!