Where was I?
Fri 6 Nov 2009 08:40
Location: Anchorage outside Nelson Bay, Port Stevens
Date 3rd November (Vide Infra!!)
Ah yes, Palm beach. Sounds idillic, but you should have seen the mud that came up with the anchor! That was at 06.00 hours on Monday, the 2nd November. I spent ages leaning over the pulpit cleaning it, lurching up and down, as we motored out of Pittwater under autopilot. Perhaps I looked from the shore like a carved wooden figurehead. Out in Broken Bay some wind had sprung up, and by 08.00 we were running up the coast (its an unfortunate nautical term: running is always the slowest point of sailing, because as you sail away from the wind its apparent strength decreases) with the sails goosewinged at about three miles an hour. Early cloud gave way to bright sunshine - a grand day! Gentle progress was maintained for 23 miles, before the wind shifted north and died away, for a while it was possible to motorsail, but the final 27 miles to Port Stevens were under power. You have to keep moving, because there is a current against you of about one mph. So a 27 mile trip is 28 miles if you do 27 miles per hour, but 36 miles if you only manage three mph. No wonder the Australians favour fast boats, and I hope that my daughter Hannah is agreeing with the maths. To avoid the worst of the current we hugged the Newcastle Bight: a long white sand beach tucked up into the north of a wide bay. Newcastle is one of the more appropriately appropriated of English town names: there were many ships at anchor outside the port, waiting their turn to load with coal, which is a big export to China, where there isn't enough. So complacent Australia is responsible for Global Warming. I say complacent, but the people are lovely, I have yet to meet the stereotypes that we read about in the European Press. There is however a certain jingoism, and the fates have played well for Australia in the current GFC (I know my acronyms). Hilariously Prime Minister Kevin Rudd picked up some brownie points this weekend by explaining in a weekend newspaper that this financial buoyancy was all due to the hard work and spirit of your average Australian. Maybe Gordon could use the same trick as a 'get out of jail' card. 'Fellow Citizens, especially you ordinary Sun readers, this whole f------ mess is entirely due to your hard work and spirit!'
I digress, but these anchored ships did look very fine silhouetted against the setting sun, and it set me thinking. A bit later, as we were still in much the same place for the aforesaid reasons, the moon came out and the white sand beach became a stunning silver band. The sea was calm, and the major headlands stood out, sharply defined, black. Entering Port Stevens at midnight was fun: lining up the sectored leading lights is a bit like a computer game: you feel that it is all on a screen, and that it is the waves crashing on the rocks around you that are imaginary. Stay on the leading lights and you can ignore all other sensory information. Believe that no one could even think of moving the lights!
I had noted some mooring buoys during our previous visit, and wished to avoid the costly Marina, especially as I don't need to wash as much as Charlie! Last time they were all empty, but now a yacht was attached to one and all. I let go the anchor close by, hoping that I wouldn't be in anyone's way in the morning, and slept well. Next day was very hot, mid 30's. A important day in the Calender. No Conny, not that, it's the Melbourne Cup! This is like the Ascott Gold Cup. Australia being big, not everyone can get down to Melbourne, but this does not stop the tradition of Ladies Day. Everyone gets up in their glad rags and they head for clubs and restaurants for a protracted session of drinking, eating and on line gambling. Everywhere else is closed (even the fishermans co-operative for fresh fish!), worse than Christmes Day in Guadeloupe (see very old blog!). Anyway I managed some shopping in the skeleton staffed and skeletaly stocked local supermarket, and back in the anchorage had a nice cold beer with some guys in another boat hwo were off to Lord Howe Island as part of a rally. It seems that moorings have to be booked in advance, and that because of the rally, there are none. Anchoring is not allowed in the Island's lagoon, so the only option is to move on without stopping, or anchor on the unprotected windward side of the Island: must be diabolical. Given the additional vagaries of the Tasman sea, I had already rather discounted the Idea of visiting that Island anyway: no doubt it is an experience for the locals, but I have been very fortunate, and have been to to quite a lot of Pacific Islands already. Anyway this boat, it was thick with sand and salt, I am very glad I have something of a compulsion about these things. The cockpit cushions were sticky with the stuff, and you could feel the damp soaking through your clothes as you sat down. To cap my discomfort we were invaded by huge flying ants: these things know a thing or two about exceptional hot weather, wherever they are on the planet. I pleaded a leaking seacock or somesuch and returned to base, spending time in the dinghy to clean the sand from my feet!! They were nice guys, and I hope they have a good trip, and I did earn my beer by ferrying them ashore earlier in the day.
Frozen prawn salad for supper and the weather in the Marina Office shows a southerly change coming through tonight, on which I shall try to catch a ride tomorrow.