Sailing to Sydney

Mon 21 Dec 2015 07:40
33:48.697S 151:17.110E

The setting sun making an inverted version of the Aboriginal Flag: Black for the aborigines, red for the earth, with a yellow sun, the giver of life.

We got itchy. We’d been in Newcastle for 4 nights already, we’d explored the cycle way as far as it went in both directions, we’d had a couple of good evenings with friends, we’d even been to the cinema (James Bond!). We both woke up feeling it was time to go and the weather was right so it was decided. Sydney wasn’t far, just 70 miles or so down the coast but the winds weren’t predicted to be strong so we should have left early morning to be sure of coming in by sundown. We decided to make a quick run to the shops, as it would be harder to get provisions aboard when anchored in Sydney (strange to have to provision to go to a city), then we’d leave by midday and make a slow overnight trip down. 

After some magnificent helming by Phil we got out of the berth and up between the pontoons into the channel. With no bow thruster and the wind on the beam penning us in it can be dead tricky to get out of these places. As soon as we backed out the wind was pushing us back down, and the bow wouldn’t swing through the wind to head out, so Phil set off to reverse up the gap between the pontoons. Problem is, with prop walk (the tendency of the propeller to rotate the boat as well as push it forwards or back, it’s always worse in reverse) it’s hard to go backwards in a straight line so half way up the pontoons Phil made use of a handy empty finger to execute a 5 point turn, spin us around and head us out forwards. As is usually the case with these manoeuvres, we had quite an audience of folk on their boats, quietly clutching a roving fender just in case it all went to pot. So, with a few nautical nods of approval and a thumbs up from our spectators, we headed off to The Harbour City.

Ghostly Sydney City skyline appearing on the horizon - I wouldn’t have seen it except that I was checking out the schooner with the binoculars, telephoto lens captured it.

We ended up going too fast. There was more wind than predicted, so we left the main down and the jib furled, just going on a reefed mizzen and a staysail, but even then Lochmarin, with her clean slippery bottom still barnacle free (after we cleaned her in Port Vila before the crossing to Australia), was slipping friction free through the water and we were going to arrive at 1 o’clock in the morning. Hum. Bad timing. We could just heave to and stand off till daylight of course, but it would be a long night of watches and just outside a busy port isn’t a great place to hang around, so we changed our minds, un-reefed the mizzen, put the jib out and let her have her head, knowing we couldn’t get there in daylight but, as there’s plenty of navigation lights, deciding to go just inside the heads and anchor for the night.

Closer and clearer as the sun went down…

We weren’t going to make it before sun down, as we’d thought, but there were good lights and we had good charts, and the moon a just past it’s first quarter would give us some light. It was great fun going in, figuring out what lights we should see from the chart, spotting them for real on deck, watching the AISs of the big ships and ferries and matching them to the lights we could see moving ahead, unravelling them all from the cars and building lights - no traffic lights to mimic navigation lights and confuse us this time! So, soon after 10pm we were around the heads and in Spring Cove, scanning around with the search light to check there were no obstacles nearby before we dropped the hook.

It was a good anchor beer, sitting on deck in the quiet of the night time, watching the last of the ferries leaving from Manly Cove. We’d sailed to Sydney.

A race we weren’t going to win!