Sailing Yacht SEA BUNNY

Australia 2005 -6

Christmas and New Year in Sydney, boat maintenance, coastal cruising

After a couple of weeks in Bundaberg it was time to head down towards Brisbane for another short stay and then down to Sydney for Christmas and the New Year.  Maintenance issues then intervened as we had to replace the gearbox - necessitating 3 weeks on the hard in what must almost be the most expensive haulout facility in the world and incurring the displeasure of NSW Maritime by spending a month on a mooring.  Once that was fixed we could enjoy cruising Broken Bay before retruning to Scarborough near Brisbane.

Medical issues (Susan this time) then intervened and prevented our planned trip up to the Whitsundays and the Barrier Reef, which was deferred for a year.


Bundaberg

A week of activities organised by the Yacht Club at Bundaberg, starting with a champagne lunch for the Melborne Cup on our arrival day, makes us feel very welcome in Australia.

There are also a tour of the rum distillary, a visit to the customs cutter, numerous lunches and evening meals and a local market. The marina also runs a complimentary bus into town

Great Sandy Strait

Heading south from Bundaberg our first cruising destination was the Great Sandy Strait between Fraser Island and the mainland. While there we aimed to do a tour on Fraser Island.

On arrival the weather was not good so we sheltered behind Woody Island before heading over to Fraser the next day. We managed to book a tour and use the pool, but the weather was closing in again and we headed for shelter again, this time in the Susan River, which branches off the Mary River near its mouth.

It blew strongly from the SE for a couple of days. This set up significant wind over tide conditions on the ebb, so it was not as comfortable a spot as we had anticipated. Because of the weather we had to postpone our tour.

Fraser Island

Fraser Island

The tour of Fraser Island was on a large 4-wheel drive bus. We visited and swam in one of the very pure fresh water lakes, took a light aircraft flight over the island, taking off from the beach and got a good impression of the fragile ecology of the largest sand island in the world.

Through the strait

Despite dire warnings about the shallowness of the central part of the Great Sandy Strait, we never saw depths of less than 4 metres, just before a spring high tide.

Having got through we stopped for lunch in Garry's Anchorage behind Stewart Island before heading on to join Amoenitas at anchor off Elbow Point, ready for an early departure across Wide Bay Bar in the morning.

Great Sandy Strait to Scarborough

We cross Wide Bay Bar before high water. It is benign, with just a small swell.

The plan is to enter Moreton Bay and anchor up for whatever is left of the night under the lee of Moreton Island, before crossing to Scarborough the next day. Dave on Amoenitas has been advised of a suitable transit anchorage in easterly conditions.

We enter Moreton Bay by the route taken by the main ship channel, staying outside the channel itself, rather than the more direct North East Channel. As a result the other boats are well tucked up be the time we reach the anchorage south of Bulmer at 0300.

Nevertheless we leave again at 0900 and are berthed in Scarborough at 1300.

Scarborough

Our original intention was to stay in Scarborough only about a week before heading on down to Sydney.

The generator is sent off to the local agents for servicing, while we plan a few days away by hire car.

Unfortunately the generator is diagnosed to be beyond repair, so we bite the bullet and order a new one, which then has to be fitted, so our stay is extended. The marina, though busy, are very accommodating.

Stradbrook Islands

With the generator replaced and commissioned, we are running late for getting to Sydney for Christmas, finally leaving Scarborough on 14 December.

The initial route takes us down through Moreton Bay and into the channels between North and South Stradbrook Islands and the mainland. There are a couple of very shallow patches on this route, which means we have to break the journey overnight to go through on a rising high tide. Approaching the Gold Coast some of the channel markers are somewhat confusing, yellow stakes being used to mark shallows rather than having "no navigational significance". We misjudge the height of tide once and the markers once, running aground in soft mud two or three times. It's like sailing on the east coast of England.

Finally we reach the exit to the sea at Southport. The weather forecast is bad however, so we anchor in the "marine stadium" and get a taxi into Southport, returning in torrential rain.

Yamba

Yamba

The next day the weather is much better and we pass out through the Gold Coast Seaway for an overnight passage to Yamba, where we arrive early morning, having had thunder, lightning and squalls.

We anchor for breakfast while the marina helpfully move boats to put us in a deep water slot.

Yamba is a very pleasant town and the marina is very helpful. We walk in to the town, pick up some Christmas treats in the delicatessen and spend a couple of hours on the beach, where Richard goes for a swim. Next day we have a hearty walk to Clarence Heads and view the entrance.


Port Stephens

The next leg is down to Port Stephens, 215 miles. We leave on the last of the flood tide on a sunny day. We have light winds most of the way, so do a fair bit of motorsailing. On the evening of the second we monitor an emergency situation out to sea involving a fishing boat that is taking water. The Coastal Patrol (Dads Navy) mobilise two helicopters and get a large pump out to the casualty. Another fishing boat is also standing by.

We get to Port Stephens about 0300 and pick up a courtesy buoy off Nelson Bay Marina.

The next day we go into the marina to get fuel and are allowed to stay on the dock while we head up to the supermarket for supplies.


Port Stephens to Sydney

Port Stephens to Sydney

We leave Port Stephens in the late afternoon. When we report to Coastal Patrol they check that we have heard the forecast, which is predicting a southerly change to come through the next day. We reckon we will be in Sydney by then, so carry on. Perhaps with later knowledge of exactly what may be involved in a southerly change in this part of the world we would not have left.

As we pass Newcastle in the dark Susan has an interesting watch trying to make sense of what ships are doing. The wind does head us but is not very strong. It is just a bit rolly motoring into it.

We enter Sydney harbour on the morning of 23 December and head up past the Opera House and under the harbour bridge.


Sydney

We have been having trouble for some time with our gearbox slipping. When we get this checked out opens a bag of worms which results in the replacement of the gearbox, shaft and propeller and a stay of nearly four months in Sydney. The following summarise the highlights and low points

Sydney highlights

A quiet Christmas Day at anchor

Sydney Hobart start

New Years Eve fireworks

Australia Day Celebrations

Performances at the Opera House

 

Middle Harbour

 

Helpfulness and friendliness of the people

Sydney low points

Dragging the anchor in a severe southerly change

Crowded anchorages and inconsiderate powerboat drivers

A month on a mooring with no engine

Two weeks on the hardstand and especially the cost of space on the hardstand

Broken Bay

With Sea Bunny back in commission we start back towards Scarborough.

We spend 10 days in Broken Bay, a very pleasant and relaxing time after all the work in Sydney, although we do have to take the bus into town one day. We do several of the walks in the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park.

We make good use of our CCCA membership, using several of the club moorings.

Pittwater

Aboriginal carving, West Head

We start our visit to Broken Bay on a club mooring at Coasters Retreat. By taking the ferry to Mackerel Bay we get access to the coast path round to Resolute Beach and then up to West Headpast some aboriginal rock carvings, returning by the road. We get a lift for some of the way back.

America Bay

America Bay

We spend Easter on a club mooring in America Bay, taking a cliff path up the to an excellent viewpoint. The route was difficult to find being signed from the top but not from the bottom!


Jerusalem Bay

Jerusalem Bay

This long inlet provides a well-sheltered anchorage at the head, with access to a path leading up to the village of Cowan, just outside the National Park, where there is also a station where one could get a train to Sydney.

Cowan and Smiths Creeks

Top of Smith's Creek

We explore Cowan Creek up to the limit of navigation at Bobbin Head before returning to look for an overnight mooring. We find a courtesy mooring in Lord's Bay but it is marked for a maximum of 11 metres. Correctly so as it is too close to the shore for us. We head down Smith's Creek, finding a suitable mooring at the head.

In the morning we take the dinghy up into the mangroves, probably about a mile. Very quiet, with juvenile rays in the surprisingly clear water.

We take photos of each other to send home to the girls - Susan's nursing colleagues who are about to have a 40-year reunion in France.

Akuna Bay

We need to get fuel and water so we head up to the marina at Akuna Bay at the head of Coal and Candle Creek. Their website states that there is access from here to some aboriginal rock carvings but no-one seems to know anything about these. We conclude that it probably refers to the ones we have seen at West Head.

We fill up with water and charge the batteries. However, we decline the fuel as the cost is horrendous. There is apparently a fuel dock at Brooklyn which has more reasonable prices.

Brooklyn

There is indeed fuelling at Brooklyn at a fairly run-down marina, also restaurants. We fill with diesel and have lunch in the snack bar before returning to Little Jerusalem Bay for the night.

Palm Beach and Barrenjoey Head

Palm Beach and Barrenjoey Head

We return to Coasters Retreat. Finding the CCCA buoy occupied we anchor outside the moorings and take the ferry over to Palm Beach.

We walk past the golf course and along the sandy isthmus before climbing up to the lighthouse on Berranjoey Head. From here there are excellent views over the Pittwater.


Summer Bay

Palm Beach is otherwise known as Summer Bay in the TV soap Home and Away.

Broken Bay to Port Stephens

Making an early start from Coasters Retreat gets us to Port Stephens just after dark in good conditions of a S to SW wind of 20 knots.

As the mooring buoys off Nelson Bay are all occupied we anchor outside before moving on to Salamander Bay the next morning.

Port Stephens

We spend several days in Port Stephens, mostly on courtesy moorings.

In Salamander Bay we catch up with the catamaran This Way Up which is being prepared for the Darwin to Kupang Rally. They have much work to do as the boat was struck by lightning earlier in the year, destroying most of the electrics.

Salamander Bay is also a short walk from a large shopping centre, where we go to stock up with essentials.

Fame Cove in the north of the harbour is a virtually landlocked inlet and very peaceful.

Aussie mateship

Before leaving Port Stephens we go to Nelson Bay Marina and take a day berth (free) to visit the supermarket and bottle shop.

With the shopping finished we relinquish our berth and head outside for a vacant courtesy mooring. On trying to pick it up we discover that NSW Maritime have removed the strop, presumably at the end of the season by their calendar. They have, however, left the thimble, leaving little space to feed a line through the eye on the buoy.

The tide is running strongly and the wind blowing fairly strongly across the tide. With Sea Bunny's high freeboard it proves difficult to hold the boat steady enough for long enough to rig a line. We have several attempts losing one and a half boathooks in the process.

A swimmer approaches and offers to feed the line for us. We accept the offer and taking care to keep the boat well clear of him, get a line secured.

Apparently he had been watching our attempts from his waterfront apartment. Deciding he could bear it no longer he came down to the beach, put his wetsuit on, and swam out to put us out of our misery. How we laughed and thanked him!

Port Stephens to Coffs Harbour

The next leg of our trip north is 220 miles to Coffs Harbour. Again we leave early, hoping to arrive before dark.

Conditions on the first day are good, sunny with a light southwesterly, slowly backing to southeast. There is not enough wind to sail though.

In the evening there is lightning all round, but still clear skies. Overnight it clouds over and the wind swings round to the northwest. Fortunately the wind is still light, so we can motorsail into it. For a while it strengthens from the west, enabling us to sail, but soon dies again.

We arrive at Coffs just after dusk and anchor outside the boat harbour. The courtesy buoys have been removed

Coffs Harbour

In the morning we are found a space in the marina and are told to get in there quickly before someone else takes it!

We use Coffs Harbour as a base for a hire car trip up into the Dorrigo National Park .

Coffs Harbour to Gold Coast Seaway

This is another overnight trip of 160 miles. The weather is fine with following winds which, however, fall light on the second morning.

We reach the Seaway at lunchtime and head north past the Gold Coast developments, hoping to get past the shallow bits before dark.

Jacobs Well and Tipplers Passage

There is a significant difference in tide times between the entrance to the Seaway and the shallow patch south of Jacobs Well. We have not fully taken this into account. We run out of water and retreat to anchor

There is an American boat also waiting at anchor. Drawing less than us they succeed in getting through at their next attempt. However, it is nearly dusk and high water is not until 1954 so we decide to abandon the attempt until the morning. We backtrack and anchor off Tipplers Passage.

The next morning we have an early start and get through both shallow patches without further incident.

Back to Scarborough

We overnight at Lazaret Gully on Peel Island before proceeding to Scarborough.

Not much has changed!

Scarborough

We got the boat ready for our planned season cruising the Cumberland Island (including the Whitsundays). We had even wrapped the fruit in foil!

Before heading off Susan had a routine breast ultrasound. The resulting early visit from the "breast cancer fairy" resulted in rapid rethinking of our sailing season. Between her surgery and commencing radiotherapy we flew to the Red Centre for a ten day break.

The seven weeks of radiotherapy in south Brisbane we interspersed with sightseeing in and around the area. The major change were the flight tickets for our long over due visit to the UK, this could not now happen until two weeks after her completed treatment.

Almost no more sailing in 2006

After Susan's radiotherapy we had a 2-month visit to the UK, three weeks on the boat in Scarborough during which time we did leave the marina for a few hours to try out our new mainsail and genoa, followed by a trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore

 

 

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Last updated from Durban Marina on 15 December 2015

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