21May2012, Coffs Harbour
We are not hard to please, we just want to be safe and comfortable. The weather offshore here has been close to dead calm this last week, and it looks like we will have a short period of very strong winds and 4 to 5 metre seas between us and favourable conditions for going to Noumea. So we are catching up with friends, doing routine maintenance, getting provisions and meeting new cruising friends. No rush!
The girls from the clinic and their guys asked us to go out to dinner last Friday at a terrific pub restaurant at the Coast Hotel - top food, good prices, and great company: everybody in Coffs seems to be so relaxed!
Back in the marina: Dale and Paula are Americans on "Sunrise" and they are hanging out for a good S to SE breeze, like us, to go to Noumea - we will probably leave at roughly the same time as they do and we are likely to travel at the same sort of speed.
We had lunch today with Bruce and Kay Gilchrist of "Plum Loco", whom we met in Port Vila two years ago. They are locals here, at Bonville, and have a really nice home in a bushland setting (Bruce is a builder) and they really looked after us well - Kay is a fantastic cook.
Other recent friends Julie and Ian on another "Destiny" just left to motor north to Southport and on to Brisbane. They were great company here in the marina.
Please excuse the time between entries - I didn't think my rough language while doing toilet maintenance and oil changes was really of much general interest!
11May2012, Off Cape Hawke
We were up at 0500 today, and dropped the mooring off Nelson Bay beach, quietly motoring out at 0600 with the early morning lobstermen and early charter fishermen. We have had a really very pleasant sail up the coast from there - averaging 5.5 knots in 10 knots of SSW breeze and a blessedly benign 1.5 metre swell. The angle has been a bit far aft to be really what Destiny likes, but consistent enough to avoid too much boom bumping and sail slatting.
The sun is shining, clouds are few, and a large pod of at least 50 dolphins has been shadowing us for an hour or so, riding expertly but effortlessly in the bow wave. There seem to be quite a few youngsters amongst them and it's a very active group.
So far the south-setting East Coast Current hasn't been too troublesome. It's often quite problematic on this part of the coast. We have been keeping a course quite close in to the coast so that may explained the only weak counter-current as it tends to be stronger a bit farther out.
The chart plotter says we should be in Coffs around lunch tomorrow or sooner. Arriving in daylight will be a bonus if that's how it works out.
Cheers for now.
11May2012, Nelson Bay
We spent two lovely quiet nights in Fame Cove in upper Port Stephens. At night, although we were miles from the harbour entrance and only in 5 metres of water, numerous dolphins made their way up with the tide to feed on small fish in the Cove - in the dark you could hear them breathing between mouthfuls!
Today we moved down to Nelson Bay, nearer to the entrance to Port Stephens, to give us a quick exit tomorrow morning when we leave for Coffs Harbour. We are expecting conditions to be quiet at first, building to 25 knots from the South during the day and evening. This should have us in Coffs by early afternoon Sunday after just one overnighter. We are going to make the leg in company with "Windana" and as we are similar in style and weight we will likely be within VHF distance of each other the whole way. Lizzie is still a bit chary of overnight sailing so it will probably be good for her to be sailing in company.
Click here for some photos.
09May2012, Fame Cove
We had a really nice stop in Newcastle - we caught up with our friends Geoff and Helen Watt, having a meal with them at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club Restaurant. Shauna had bought us some new folding bikes and we got them out and cycled all over Newcastle - great fun!
Another bonus was catching up with Shauna's old nursing pal Paula, her husband Simon and their daughter Ciara. Paula is stressed about turning 50 but looks about 20!
We set out from the marina this morning expecting no wind, as per the Met Bureau. Well, surprise surprise we actually had a very useful and consistent breeze of 10 to 14 knots just aft of the beam, which had us skating across Stockton Bight at 6 to 7 knots. We arrived in Port Stephens without any motoring mid-afternoon and came up to Fame Cove - a pretty and isolated small bay which is protected from almost all winds and which is mirror calm. We'll stay here a day or two and try to catch the Southerlies with the next change on Friday or Saturday.
07May2012, Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club
Another light wind day, motor-sailing from Coaster's to Newcastle Harbour. We look likely to be going to Coffs in short hops, grabbing wind as we can, and not in one big leg. So be it - tomorrow we'll probably sit tight here and head for Nelson Bay Wednesday.
We set off about 07:30 today from Coastrer's Retreat in company with Pete and Lizzie on "Windana", a nice Roberts steelie. They got in to Newcastle a little before us and were there to take our lines as we pulled into our berth beside theirs. They are nice, down-to-earth people and we may end up seeing some more of them as we head North.
06May2012, Coaster's Retreat
We have been feeling a little like we did all those years ago when Shauna was 2 weeks overdue to deliver our first son - people were constantly calling and asking: "Haven't you had it yet?". So it has been these last two weeks prior to leaving Sydney. We had intended being away before now, but several things delayed us.
Most importantly, goodbyes to our two sons and their girls - Tom and Amanda in Canberra, and Matt and Jane in Sydney.
John has had to deal with some upheavals at the Foundation - this has been a real strain emotionally and did consume a couple of days with unproductive activity. In the end, he just decided to leave it. Good call!
A couple of last minute boat tasks added a day or two, in particular getting a cover made for our new liferaft (we have bought a new "Great Circle" raft from Brisbane - great service from a very motivated agent). People ask "Are you happy with it?" Well, let's hope we never get the opportunity to form an opinion!
Then, the weather! Finally we got a forecast of good strength Southerlies to carry us up the coast. Today, we set off from the Squadron with a predicted 15 to 20 knots from the South. What we got was 5 to 8 knots from the North - on the nose! So we did what any self-respecting cruisers would do - we motor-sailed to Barrenjoey Head and ducked into Coaster's Retreat for the night, and we hope for something more suitable in the morning. We have a full moon at present and this will be nice to have for the rest of the two days to Coffs Harbour.
Talk to anyone in Sydney this Summer and you'll hear the same comment: "What Summer?". Three weeks ago we took "Destiny" off her mooring and went alongside at Cabarita Marina, thinking that sometime over the next month we would be absolutely certain to get three days running of clear, dry weather so we could paint the decks. Well, you'd think so; but we have had an unbelievable run of showery, cloudy and unsuitable weather. Never enough to be really WET, but enough to prevent us popping open the two-pack polyurethane. We are in the grip of a La Nina that is quite strong and looks like persisting right into Autumn. Oh well, such is life! Anyhow we have been able to do lots of niggly little jobs that normally you'd postpone until you finish the "heavy lifting" so to speak. Meaning lots of little trips to the chandlery and hardware stores.
We are super happy with the Raymarine Widescreen displays we have networked, and moreso as we have the new Raymarine digital radar and AIS overlays going. These features add a whole layer of information and safety that we are relishing. The digital radar is a lot more sensitive and has a high resolution that actually takes some getting used to after our very ancient analogue unit but once you are accustomed to it it's great and having side-by-side screens and overlays is a luxury. The old analogue unit was in perfect working order but wouldn't interface with the Widescreen display so it has found a good home on Claire and Michael's "Trident".
We hauled out just prior to Christmas - at the Squadron this is a quiet time with the yard being basically closed and the shipwrights off on holidays, so we can grind, fill, splash and curse without disturbing anyone important. And also we don't pay hard-stand fees while the yard is closed - bonus! We were really pleasantly surprised at how good the bottom was this time around - very little growth and particularly almost no barnacles. We put a lot of time and effort into prep and priming last year and this seemed to have paid off, so we did the same this year - very thorough wet rub and extensive priming then three coats of ablative Altex bottom paint. Here's hoping!
While we were out we also repainted the topsides with two-pack polyurethane and "Destiny" is looking great again. If we can manage the decks before heading off this year, Shauna will be very happy. Another overdue task was to replace our wind generator which died a slow, stuttering operatic death over a few weeks last time we were away. The internal overspeed brake gave out, then the integral regulator stopped regulating, then the entire epoxy-encased brain inside the thing had some kind of stroke. With Mike's (Wombat) help we fitted an automotive rectifier he "happened to have in the locker" (how often have we heard Mike say those words!) that temporarily gave us DC output at phenomenally high amperages but finally the shaft bearings went to Heaven from all the high-speed activity: and that was that. John purchased a newer model Air Breeze from Defender.com online and it arrived via Fedex within a few days at a significantly lower cost than local retail (about 35% less in fact). Our son Matt helped us with the installation, which wasn't too difficult in any case, and now we are sucking amps from the wind again - and the new Air Breeze is way quieter than the older model.
During haulout the World Yngling Championships were held at the Squadron. There were two events - the World Youth Championships and the World Opens. We ended up acting as a dock-bound mother ship to the Youth fleet - lending and giving shackles, wire, epoxy glue, filler, cleaning supplies and sunblock to kids from as far as Denmark, Germany, Canada and Switzerland. The Youth winning crew was led by Michel Peulen, a nice young fellow from Netherlands who ended up staying with us at home after the event was over - he then hired a car and did some touring before heading home.
We also struck up an acquaintance with Anthony Bell, on "The Count", a charter Beneteau 57. Tony and his partner are really nice people who have a lovely vessel that is both a home and a business for them.
A pleasant interlude was a visit to the Sculptures by the Sea outdoor sculpture exhibition at Bondi Beach - dozens of artworks ranging from the accessible to the outrageous but all fantastic in an outdoor environment - this is an annual event and worth coming to Sydney to see.
So now we are cranking up preparations for the season ahead and hope to be away from Sydney by just after Anzac Day, again moving North to Coffs Harbour and then out to the Pacific. As many of you know we had thought we would be in Asia by now but those family issues have put us back a year or so. Nonetheless, another year of idyllic Pacific island cruising can't be a bad sentence to serve can it? Interestingly, a lot of our friends who have already made it to Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia are now confronting the dilemma of what to do next. The Red Sea and North Indian Ocean are now out of the question except for those lunatics wishing a horrible death at the hands of Somali pirates or having $5 million in the back pocket to pay them off. So some are choosing South Africa as a way to Europe or the USA - as our friends on Wombat found out this is a rough, unpleasant trip over vast ocean spaces with little respite. Many, most recently Stuart and Annabelle on "Troubadour" are shipping their vessels to Europe - an expensive option but in the end cheaper than your lives. This may end up being our choice. Who knows?
John was recently re-reading an old Latin text to keep in practice (never know when you're going to run into a stray Pro-Consul or a division of Legionaries setting up camp do you?) and was interested to read about how Mark Antony cleared the Eastern Mediterranean of pirates in the early days - rough but effective his methods were: he issued an ultimatum to the towns the Phoenician pirates used as bases and the towns that didn't immediately return to peaceful, law-abiding ways simply ceased to exist. They became ground-level dust. Piracy rapidly died out in the Eastern Med.
A few pics can be found here. We'll be back soon!