06 January 2015 | Lake Macquarie, NSW, Australia
Lake Macquarie NSW
7th January 2015
Position : 33 01.76'S:151 37.64'E
Valiam wont be going to Tasmania this summer. We decided to head north again back to Queensland. Sometimes sailors change their mind and that is what has happened. Instead, in a couple of weeks we will drive down to Victoria to see Bill's folks and catch a plane across to Hobart in time for the Wooden Boat Festival. We've done a lot of sailing recently, especially Bill so weve decided to take it easy and have a relaxing sail along the NSW coast instead. We have crossed Bass Strait 3 times before waiting for weather windows in harbours and we will do it again. But just not this summer.
The New Years Eve fireworks were spectacular and we enjoyed Sydney very much. On Monday we did actually begin heading south sailing to windward in a southerly but out there we just decided to turn around and aim for our favourite spot in Pittwater. Just in time for sundowners after picking up a mooring in Refuge Bay. Soon we had visitors : Jan and David Parks on SV Alegria del Mar. It turned out they were Lake Macquarie locals heading there the next day. As Tuesday was the last morning before the strong northerlies would be beating down the east coast for days, we decided we would tag along.
And tag along we did. We have always wanted to sail into Lake Macquarie but each time we have been rushing past at the wrong time. The timing of the tides to cross the bar in the right conditions, shallow channel and booking the Swansea bridge means you have to plan it and stay more than a night. Willy weather showed that high tide would be at 12.35pm at Swansea, NSW so we were all good to go by 6.45am. With a light east to southeasterly we motor sailed keeping our speed to at least 7 knots to get there in time. It is 37 nautical miles from Pittwater.
With Alegria in front taking the lead, we communicated by mobile phone. Later in the morning David phoned and said that according to his navionics charts, high tide was at 9.56am. What?!! I checked with bom.gov.au and yes high tide at Swansea bar was 9.56, two and a half hours earlier than we planned. What was it with Willy weather?? It seems there are 2 tide readings for lake Macquarie.....Would there be enough water for Valiam to cross at half tide with her 2.1m draft? Hurried messages to a couple of local women sailors I knew from the Women Who Sail Australia group had them scrambing for information for us. Calculating the tide height of that morning, the conclusion was that there would be around 2.4 metres at the shallow point at 1pm. Bill also spoke to Marine Rescue and they were confident we would get through. The seas were calm and as we turned around Moon island the wind just started kicking in from the northeast.
Following Alegria, Jan phoned to say it was 9 ft at the shallow point. When we went past it at 12.30pm, it was 3.3 metres. Huge sigh of relief. Alegria and Valiam drifted around in circles waiting for the bridge to open at 1pm. With the tide coming out, Bill said it was easier to control steering Valiam through the narrow gap without getting her rigging caught. So we chug chugged along the winding channel. Near the end called the 'drop -off' into the lake looked quite shallow. I had a quick look at the depth sounder - 2.4 m!!!! What?!! But soon we were in deep water following Alegria down to Murrays Beach.
After picking up a mooring, David and Jan picked us up in their dinghy to go up to the café. Celebratory drinks all round. Valiam is now in Lake Macquarie! My other good sailing friend Shelley who has a yacht Orac in Lake Macquarie has been encouraging us to stop here for years. It really is lovely here. Flat water, native bush down to the water in many places and one of the local dolphins came to say hello to us today.
Now we are anchored off a pretty headland called Green Point. Its quite windy outside but protected here. Another couple of local sailors Sue and G will be popping over later anchoring nearby to meet up. Lake Macquarie is a very friendly place and it looks like we will be here a while, until Monday at least waiting for the northerlies to die down.
Valiam coming through the Swansea bridge. photo by Jan Parks