Seven Mile Creek
Position: 24 03.16 S 151 33.41 E
By the time we approached Round Hill Head, the headland behind which the township of 1770 is situated, it was well after dark. There was no way we were going to enter this small estuary outside of daylight hours, so we decided to continue around the promontory and into Bustard Bay. We were concerned that the easterly swell would wrap around the headland and create an uncomfortable anchorage but decided to have a look and if it was too unpleasant to continue north. We sailed most of the way in, handing sail and motoring the last half mile as soundings shallowed. The wind was still fresh in the bay, but the sea and swell were minimal so, at 2050, we dropped anchor and settled for the rest of the night. Unfortunately, later in the night, perhaps due to the falling tide, we found that the swell increased and in fact created a rather uncomfortable night after all.
Nonetheless, the crew managed to get a little sleep and we arose at at 0700 to ring the local volunteer marine rescue group to see whether entering 1770 was feasible. The VMR operator was non-committal (most refuse to give any advice these days due to fear of potential litigation) so we decided to motor over and have a look at the entrance for ourselves. If conditions looked OK we would go in, if not then we would continue on to Turkey Beach. (Pancake Creek had been discounted due to a recent report received on the yachty grapevine about the surf across its entrance.)
Weighing anchor at 0830 for a 0915 high water, we motored over to the entrance. Conditions looked reasonable as we approached, with minimal wave action and no breaking seas. Kate was against going in but I wanted to give it a go, so I turned Sylph’s bows towards the buoys marking the entrance across the bar and cautiously continued in.
The entrance indeed proved shallow, with the depth sounder showing a minimum depth of only a foot under the keel as we crossed. The waves were also a little steeper than they seemed from the outside, and I suspect we rode one over the shallowest part of the bar. Once in, however, the channel deepened to a more comfortable meter or so beneath Sylph’s 1.8 meter draught. We motored over to what I thought might prove a suitable anchorage where several boats were moored but as we motored in the depth suddenly shoaled and we found ourselves scraping bottom. I turned Sylph around back into deeper water. This clearly was not going to work. If we were touching bottom at high tide than at low tide we would be high and dry. Back in the deeper water, I agreed with Kate that the attractions of 1770 were insufficient to warrant the trouble of finding a spot in the inlet where we could swing to anchor relatively stress free. We turned Sylph’s bow back towards the entrance to retrace the GPS track we had come in on. This time at the entrance, however, the waves did not work to our advantage and Sylph’s keel touched twice before we were out past the bar and in clear water again.
We motored back around Round Hill Head where, once clear of its lee, the wind and swell both suddenly picked up. While the strength of the wind might have been in alignment with the height of the swell, their directions were not. I did not like the prospect of turning into the southerly wind to set the mainsail while having the easterly swell on the beam, inevitably causing Sylph to roll heavily. Consequently, and unusually for me, I decided to opt for the headsail only. This ended up working pretty well, and we bustled our way northward with the wind off the starboard quarter at a merry six knots.
At 1035 we gybed to bring the wind on the port quarter to round Bustard Head and make for Rodds Harbour. Our intention was to aim for Turkey Beach but as we approached the entrance it became clear that the wind would be blowing straight down the channel. Also, the tide was still ebbing and combined with the wind against us was going to make for a long, slow and uncomfortable motor to Turkey Beach. Consequently, instead of turning left at Middle Head, I decided to continue straight, up Seven Mile Creek, thereby keeping the wind on the beam, and to seek a sheltered anchorage in the lee of Innes Head.
The general area consists of large expanses of shallow water with lots of sand bars and the deeper channels are mostly unmarked. With minimal landmarks one is left dependent on GPS for finding one’s way, something I am still not entirely comfortable with. Fortunately, the sandbars to starboard at low tide show up as a streak of white breaking water so we at least had this visual reference to confirm that what the GPS plotter was telling us was actually aligned with the waterways around us. As we negotiated the channels, I was reminded of Maurice Griffith’s collection of sailing yarns in The Magic of the Swatchways. It is now hard to imagine this long-gone era of small wooden boats, mostly engineless and with only a compass to find their way. However, Sylph is now snug at anchor and the fact is that without modern navigation aids we would likely not be here. The world has its problems but, for the most part, they are good problems to have.
All is well.