2019 Aus Mooloolaba to Coffs

Mon 2 Dec 2019 00:33

Lynne and Rastus wave us off

On our way to Coffs

My attempts to sneak Rastus aboard as a castaway failed because he really didn’t want to leave his very contented life with Lynne and who could blame him; so we waved goodbye to them both as we rounded the corner of Minyama Island for the last time and headed back to sea.

We are getting used to the rapid changes in the Australian weather and choosing the best weather window is becoming something of an art form. This weather window promised a nice sailing breeze, followed by light winds and then a 30 knot wind up Zoonie’s stern followed by a 180 degree turnabout to the same velocity from the south and by the time that happened we planned to be tucked up in Coffs Harbour.

Thanks to our friends Susie and Nick we now had details of all the marinas, yacht clubs and VMR Stations (Voluntary Maritime Rescue) and their phone numbers down the east coast so we had made contact with the marina and they allocated us a berth which we were able to locate on our marina plan, thus we knew exactly where we were going.

Later on in the day the sailing breeze started to fail and we were motoring when we came across a fishing boat, with no AIS on and what looked like an anchor out off the bow. It could have been a sea anchor, with a depth of 118 metres is was unlikely to be a sea-bed anchor. We had moved out towards the dramatic ledge you can see in the photo in search of the famous East Coast Current and were benefiting from it to the tune of over two knots.

There were quite a few ships around, nothing like the English Channel, but plenty compared to what we were used to and they appeared to be changing course to avoid us. I was surprised there were no allocated shipping lanes as there are in the channel at home but later Randall pointed out that it was probably because the current moved from east to west and back on an irregular basis so that the ships, like us, moved to where it was for their passage.

Great swathes of mustard scum covered the water and we could not make out whether it was pollen from the land or some miniscule sea flora. Hundreds of small white shoe-shaped cuttle fish shells floated past and I wondered what had killed them at such a young age, perhaps they were a small sized species, the sea is always full with mysteries.

During the night I listened to ABC Radio while I was on watch. The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital had put out a request for $25,000 to buy watering stations to be distributed in the bush so a variety of animals could have a life- saving drink. In view of the unprecedented early and extensive fires and the global coverage of the unfolding tragedy in a very short time they raised over $500,000 despite the bogus websites that creamed a small amount off until they were discovered.

‘Ember Alert’ from sky born sparks and ‘Watch and Act’ are just two of the warnings, bush fire terminology, constantly being heard on the radio. Sometimes people leave it too late to escape and they just have to take cover and hope for the best.

Residents are trained to work out their own Individual Bush Fire Strategy but it must be terrifying to have a fire moving at 20 mph coming towards your home. Some of the fires are so extensive only a natural break or rain or running out of bush will stop them.

The new day dawned to the ever present sulphur grey skies from the wood smoke. The smell was not one of a happy campfire but of death and destruction and it was depressing. Zoonie was covered with tiny black bits of carbon, despite being miles out to sea and goodness knows what effect this acrid, particle filled air will have on the lungs of all air breathing creatures, humans and animals in the long term.

Around us were lots of pods of long, sleek black false killer whales gliding elegantly through the water. Terns and sooty brown shearwater skimmed over the calm of the morning but as the afternoon approached the barometer was falling and the sea was definitely building, the waves getting bigger from the North East and the swell lifting Zoonie higher and pushing her along with the bountiful current helping us in our race against time.

With the new auto-pilot control unit doing its job in the cockpit we felt that was another one ticked off the list but then the fridge compressor started cutting in and out instead of staying on constantly for a few minutes and then turning off, so maintenance and repairs are on-going. The heater experts down in Hobart now have our Ebespacher hot air heater and are amazed at its size. I think they are treating its repair as a challenge. Rob chats with Nick on numerous occasions as the latter updates us on what they are trying currently. It is too old for them to run their usual diagnostic tests on it so they will dismantle it to check for faults.

By mid-afternoon there were lots of white-caps, breaking crests to the waves, and Zoonie was speeding along at nine knots with a poled out genoa and reefed main, wonderful progress, but we still had 60 miles to go to Coffs, it would be a night-time entry but with no sand bar to worry about that should be fine.

Zoonie careered on towards the shore which was somewhere out there in the dark. Then at last, with the clock approaching ten at night we turned between the two headlands, Muttonbird Island on the right and an old quarry hill with a long harbour arm on the left and were amazed to discover the best night time transit ever. Two massive blue neon triangles that Rob had the sheer fun to keep in line, one above the other until the red and green at the marina entrance came in to view. There was absolutely no chance of losing those lights amidst the other shore lights. The harbour was calm for us but in an easterly the water at the entrance can be so disturbed they have to close the harbour.

As we turned right towards our berth a voice from nearby said “Welcome”.


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