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Date: 18 Nov 2012 22:22:02
Title: Coastal Cruising - Riders on the storm!

Lat 32:43.02S
Lon 152:06.26E

We miss the trade winds! Our sail down the coast has been fun, hairy, scary, quick, slow and everything in-between. Coastal sailing is definitely more challenging that the cruisiness of sailing in the trade winds across the Pacific. Mostly because the weather is so changeable and we are having to watch it like hawks. Luckily, being close to land means we have phone reception and the iPhone has been invaluable as we have been able to get up to date forecasts from the internet most of the time.

Port Bundaberg Marina

Mystic at Bundy marina

Our sail from Bundaberg was actually a motor to Fraser Island, as there was no wind. We were glad to leave Bundy and be on our way after being there for over a week, having expected to only be there for two days! On the way, we caught another Marlin! A bit smaller than the one Jamie caught in Fakarava, but Archie was pleased he had matched Jamie's fishing success! We unhooked it and gave it another chance at life because we really didn't need the food. Sailing (motoring) through the Sandy Straits between Fraser Island was fun - it was very calm, and quite serene - we anchored for the night off the island and then got up at 4am (first light) to carry on through the straits. We crossed The Bar at the south of the island without any problems - it can be quite dangerous as it is exposed to the trade winds and there are numerous shoals which must be navigated around. The Aussies have a great marine rescue system where by you sign on with them in your port of departure, and you check in and out with them over the radio as you travel down the coast - after you've signed off with them in one area, they send your details and an ETA to the next station who is then awaiting your check in. If you went missing or something happened, the authorities would be aware very quickly. They also give weather updates all day, so for once we have had the VHF on the time and I am getting plenty of radio practise! The VMR (volunteer marine rescue) at Fraser Island gave us GPS waypoints as a route across the bar and it was pretty easy with these in hand.

Ricky Marlin's mate received a better fate!

Sunset over the Sandy Straits

Motor sailing through the sandy straits - dead calm early morning

From Fraser, we sailed south, and slightly offshore to get into the East Australian coast current. This is brilliant - free speed! We spent most of Thursday night sailing downwind with 25kts of wind behind us, and 3 knots of favourable current, so we were hooning along at 10kts for the whole night! If only it had continued…a southerly front was coming up the coast and while it wasn't meant to last more than about 15hrs we decided to seek shelter and not risk anything. We are desperate to get to Sydney, but Mystic definitely comes first at this stage of the trip and the most important priority is getting her back in one piece! We've witnessed a lot of southerly fronts on the aussie coast during the last 5 years and they are generally quite brutal when they first hit. So we pulled into a town called Yamba, which is 50 miles north of Coffs Harbour. Getting over the bar and through the breakwater was quite interesting with the tide ripping in and a couple of people watched us from the shore as we rolled around in the swell. We tied up at the marina just as the southerly arrived and brought a lashing of rain with it, so we were glad to have got to safety just in time. Yamba is a holiday town, full of caravan parks and stink boats, but the town is alright and we had a good curry despite having to walk to town in the rain.


On Saturday morning, there seemed to be no wind. We had expected the southerly to last all day, but it seemed to have passed overnight. We hot footed it out of the marina, never having even seen a member of staff as we arrived at 7pm and left at 7am! (Don't worry we are not total gypo's and did pay our way!) We knew we had a window of only about 36 hrs to get to Sydney before the next southerly front came in so we were eager to get going asap. We had to motor into the wind, although it was quite light, it was still a headwind so progress was slow, but it was still progress! Last night we had been expecting easterly winds of about 15kts which would have been great for an easy sail down the coast. What we got was 30kts of SE wind, with rain, thunder and lightning storms all night! The swell increased, and we were rolling around, still doing 7 or 8 knots with 3 reefs in both sails! It was quite a ride! We never felt out of control though, with so little sail out, and Mystic coped really well. We got very wet, didn't sleep much, but at least we were getting some good miles on the clock. 

Knarly conditions early this morning

Just a few storms around! iPhone being very useful.

The wind, swell and storms calmed down this morning and with an updated weather report we realised that we just had too many miles to do to be able to get to Sydney before the next southerly front came up the coast. We only needed another 12 hrs and we would have got back this evening. So it's a little frustrating, particularly as with some hindsight we could have made different choices that would have meant we arrived tonight. Still, Port Stephens is a really beautiful bay and we have been here before on long weekends from Sydney. As we entered the bay this evening, we were accompanied by loads of dolphins and we even saw a whale breaching! We are now tied up in a marina here, and expect to be here for 2 nights. At least we can get some more cleaning done and make Mystic spick and span for her glorious arrival into Sydney!! (or spend some time in the pool, sauna and spa that is attached to the marina!)

Dolphins escorted us into Port Stephens this evening

Me with very orange looking hair! Happy to be escaping the southerly winds.

A small 36 hr window between two massive southerly fronts looks like it might appear on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning so if the forecast holds then we will sail overnight on Tuesday and get to Sydney about midday on Wednesday. We really hope there's no more delays. We only have 90 miles to go and feel so close! We must get back before Friday as we're meant to be having an engagement party on Friday night!

This is what we are avoiding. Red = 50mph winds (no thanks!)

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