Arrived Wollongong

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Thu 21 Mar 2024 02:19

Position: 34 25.28 S 150 54.40 E
Alongside Wollongong Boat Harbour
Wind: S F3, gentle breeze
Sea: calm Swell: nil
Weather: sunny, mild
Day's Run: 68nm

It was a wild and woolly night but we have made it safely to Wollongong.

We approached Jervis Bay at 1530 and as expected the seas became higher and steeper, partly due to the gradually increasing wind strength but mostly because the East Australia Current accelerates as it passes by this steep headland jutting out prominently from the coastline, and also because the waves reflect off its high vertical rock faces and sets up an interference pattern of wave trains reinforcing and annulling one another just like a giant high school physics experiment.

We had passed this particular Charybdis towards dusk and the next Scylla to negotiate was the tidal races over the shallows of the Sir John Young Bank, marked on the chart as "Dangerous sea in South and S.E. winds". Fortunately we managed to remain on the inside of its hazards and once past I thought we could relax a little for the remainder of the passage to Wollongong. However, this proved a false hope.

As we progressed up the coast the winds increased to near gale force as predicted by the Bureau and the seas increased to two to three meters, rolling under Sylph's stern, occasionally sending her surfing down their fronts with the odd one breaking noisily nearby. At 2330 we were approaching Martin Island, about five miles south of Wollongong Boat Harbour. It was time to alter course to the NW which would involve a gybe. First I put the third reef in the main to reduce the force of the boom crashing across which, once completed, I noticed made no difference to our speed. We then gybed and as luck would have it as we did so a large wave broke over the cockpit sending torrents of water into the cockpit and all over Ada who was sitting in the shelter of the dodger on the leeward side. We rolled heavily which established that I had not secured Sylph down below as well as I might have done as numerous items migrated from the port side over to starboard. I sent Ada below to dry off and clean things up a bit while I continued looking after Sylph on deck.

Once the gybe was completed, I rolled up the jib and found we were still sailing at five to six knots so decided to continue under triple reefed main alone. By now the light of Flagstaff Point, the boat harbour's headland, was flashing bright red fine of the port bow. As we approached the headland we shifted into the light's reassuring white sector and continued to rapidly close our destination. Just after midnight I attempted to flash up the engine but as often happens in rough weather some air had somehow made itself into the fuel system (at least that is what I think the problem is) and it took me some time to get the engine started. Fortunately the engine batteries were fully charged and handled the repetitive drain of the starter motor. With the engine running, I gave a sigh of relief and returned my attention to the navigation.

At 0030 we rounded Flagstaff Point and I was grateful that the seas obligingly abated as we gained its lee. The entrance to the harbour is well marked with flashing red and green lights marking the end of the entrance breakwaters and a set of easily seen leads lit with distinctive blue vertical lights guide one in through the narrow channel. Once within the harbour's sheltered waters, Ada dropped the main and we scouted around for a safe place to secure Sylph for the remainder of the night. Unfortunately the one and only public mooring was already occupied by another yacht so we picked small blue fishing boat whose freeboard roughly matched Sylph's, then prepared lines and fenders for coming alongside.

At 0100 we were snugly alongside and, after a quick tidy up on deck and down below, the crew turned in for a well-earned rest.

All is well.