Drive to Port Stephens

Saturday 30th April 2016

 

We had quite a bit of running around to do that would involve bus trips, or even taxis as gas bottles are not allowed on buses, so we decided to hire a car for a couple of days to make it all a lot easier.  We found that Budget had a deal on which meant that we could get a compact car – an i20 or similar – for $106 for 2 days, or $110 for 4 days!  So we splashed out on the extra $4 and booked it for 4 days.  When we arrived at the Budget depot to collect it, we had been upgraded free of charge to an i30 – even better!

 

We had ample time to get all our running (or driving) around jobs done, and so today we decided to make use of the car for purely recreational purposes, and headed off to explore Port Stephens, our possible next stop along the coast.  We went first to Nelson’s Bay which has the main town of Port Stephens.  We had a stroll along the front and a bite of lunch in a cafe on the beach

 

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Nelson Bay beach – the yachts are on the public moorings.                          On the breakwater looking into Nelson Bay Marina.

 

Then we drove up a steep hill to visit Nelson Head Inner Lighthouse and the Port Stephens Marine Rescue base. 

 

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Nelson Head Inner Lighthouse is the building to the left, Marine Rescue to the right.

 

The lighthouse was built on Nelson Head in 1872.  The light room is attached to and on the left of the lightkeeper’s house, which was built three years later for the original keeper William Glover.  The lighthouse was powered by four kerosene lamps, each of which shone through one of the windows in the light room.  Three were white lights and one was red, providing a white-red-white sector light, one white of which could be seen up to 10 miles out to sea.  The red light became visible once the vessel was inside the bay, and another white was visible once it had safely passed Nelson Head.

 

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It is astonishing to think that the light from these  kerosene lamps could be strong enough to guide mariners safely through the Heads.

 

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A white light shone through this window.                                             Our anchor light is minute compared to this!

 

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Looking from the Inner Lighthouse out to the entrance to Port Stephens, and from the Marine Rescue base.

 

The kerosene lamps were replaced by electric lamps in 1946, and these were placed under electronic control in 1984, negating the need for a manned lighthouse.  In 1995 a solar-powered occulting white and red sector light was installed.  (Occulting is the opposite of flashing, in that the amount of time the light is on is greater than the amount it is off.)  We wandered around the museum rooms in the lightkeeper’s house and then popped upstairs to say hello to the folks at Marine Rescue. 

 

We were sad to hear that the ‘Danial Thain’, an ex-RNLI Arun-class lifeboat originally named ‘Spirit of Tayside’ that had spent the first 20 years of her life on the River Tay in Scotland, was about to be retired after almost another 20 years’ service in Port Stephens.  It was becoming too costly to run and would be replaced with a smaller, faster, modern model.  They asked if we wanted to buy her – we suggested the Australian Maritime Museum might like her instead!

 

We drove on to look at Shoal Bay next door, and Fingal Bay on the coast just before the entrance to Port Stephens, where we might anchor overnight depending on conditions, and then on the way back off the peninsula we stopped at Soldier’s Point.  Here we watched a while as locals launched or hauled out their motor boats.  We had no idea this was so popular, but the dozens of empty trailers in the car park told its own story.  There were three slipways, and all were in use the whole time we stood there watching the comings and goings. Fascinating to see how the Aussies spend their leisure time.

 

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Fingal Bay is on the coast, before the entrance to Port Stephens.

It looked very calm today.

 

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Three slipways, with a boat in each waiting to come out.                                              All that gets wet are the feet!

 

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A really slick operation bringing the trailer to the boat.  

 

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Pelicans waited in the hope that fish would need cleaning, and they could clear up the mess.