Cruising Log - February 2006

These are the first legs of our cruising trip. Our first destination is Eden via Sydney. Eden is near the NSW - Victorian border. There we will meet our friends, Warren & Glenda on their catamaran "Catamaran Imagine". From there we will sail in company leisurely up the east coast of Australia. Our plan is to be in Cairns in August 2006 for the arrival of the Blue Water Rally Group. Hopefully, we will be joining them on our world cruise.

Southport to Ballina - Friday 17th February 2006

Our dearest friend, Elaine sailed with us (Liz & Ray) to Sydney. We departed Marina Mirage about 0745 and met up with our friends, John & Maria, at the Seaway. They have a 40ft Grainger catamaran called "Seehund". They accompanied us to Ballina.

The wind was less than 5 knots from the East, so we both motor-sailed as we wanted to be in Ballina by dusk. It was an enjoyable sail, with one motor on most of the way to keep the speed up, although at times when the breeze was a little stronger we switched the engine off.

On parts of the trip we were accompanied by dolphins swimming on the bow.

We arrived off Ballina around 1900 and radioed for the condition of the bar. We were told that they could no longer see the bar, but at 1700 the bar was described as extreme caution. This was the bottom of the tide, so we were now into 2 hours of flood tide and the seas had subsided quite a bit from earlier in the afternoon. We watched the bar and decided to make a wide entry onto the leads but as there was significant breaking water on the north side we deviated slightly to the middle. Whether this was a mistake or not, I do not know.

As we were entering the river we discovered a rogue wave forming directly behind us. It was 2-3m high and vertical with the top just starting to break. It was the steepness that was concerning as we have had waves much larger than this follow us in without any problems. I must add we had both motors going and no sails - we do not enter a bar under sail unless the conditions are ideal and we know the area thoroughly. If under sail we still have the engines idling ready just in case. Well, the wave broke over our transom and water flooded over the port steps into the cockpit. Thankfully we have good cockpit drains and a high sill under the saloon door (as it was open). The water drained in an instant, although there was sufficient to float our plastic box which houses our 0.5hp air conditioner (when not in use) and trap ropes underneath ! We managed to hold course under engines, the cat just surfing the wave into the river. The twin hulls certainly make holding course much easier, and of course we only have 1.1m depth to worry about. ....And for those of you who are thinking, yes, it is safest to wait to the 4th or 5th hour of a flood tide to enter.

Seahund followed us in without any problems, although they did follow the leads more closely. As I said above, I am not sure this would have made any difference as the wave was right across the river.

Both cats proceeded to the wharf where we tied up and Seahund rafted up to us. We were met there by our friend Jan, who now lives in Ballina. We sipped wine and nibblies late into the night. Later Seahund motored into Mobbs Bay and picked up a courtesy mooring. We were warned by a fellow cruiser that one of the ropes on the mooring was well worn although John said it was still OK. We stayed on the jetty until morning and then motored over to Seahund and rafted up for morning-tea.

We departed about 1100 for Iluka/Yamba while John & Maria decided to stay in Ballina for a couple of days before sailing back to the Gold Coast. It was great to have their company and we will catch up with them in a couple of months on our return cruise.

Ballina to Iluka/Yamba - Saturday

(Elaine & Liz) It was a leisurely cruise down to Iluka. Only a short 35M trip and we sailed most of the way in a light Easterly. At times we sat on the trampolines at the bow. Here, the breeze from the sea flows up through the trampolines making this the coolest place to be. It also provides a splendid place to watch the dolphins when they swim on the bows. Alas, no dolphins this time. I must say that "George", our resident skipper - aka (also known as) Navman Autopilot - does a magnificent job steering the boat, whether to compass, wind or GPS. We would be truly lost without him. Our steering is hydraulic, so this option is simple and effective.

There were no problems crossing the bar and we dropped anchor in the bay at Iluka. There was another cat beside us and as the naked male on board came up to do his exercises he discovered we were nearby and grabbed a pair of shorts before proceeding to the bow.

We tried our luck at fishing without success so we lazed on the trampolines for a while before cooking on the BBQ.

Iluka to Coffs Harbour - Sunday

Once again a nice day, and off we set with a light westerly and one motor. I might mention for those who don't know, that you only lose about 1.5 knots if you use one engine instead of both, but of course half the fuel. So unless we are on a tight deadline, we only use one engine.

Today we have been trolling a line or two. One rod and occasionally a hand reel. Well, we had a hit on the rod but this is a new rod and I am not a good fisherman, so I forgot to switch the "clicker" on so we didn't hear the line being pulled out by our catch until we heard the line break - goodbye to the brand new $28 lure and all the tackle. All I can say is the lure worked first time but unfortunately we didn't get to see what it produced ! Elaine had a bight on the handline with the second lure, a fluoro red pink and blue octopus, but it got away before we saw what it was.

I set up a new line on the rod and transferred the octopus lure to it and set the line out again. A while later I had a strike and after a short time had a 600mm Albacore aboard. For those who don't know, an Albacore is like a Tuna. According to the fishing co-op in Coffs Harbour it is much nicer than a tuna. We can't compare that, but it made lovely sashimi and later dinner grilled on the BBQ. We froze the remainder for another day.

Our plastic box that we store our air-conditional in was extremely useful for gutting the fish, containing all the blood and keeping it off the boat. The lid was useful for filleting. We need another plastic box!

We organised a berth at Coffs Harbour Marina for the night. For those who don't know, the fishing co-op also have berths in case the marina is full.

Coffs Harbour to Trial Bay (South-West Rocks) - Monday

Another leisurely sail with a light westerly early changing to an Easterly later. On arrival we asked about the condition of the bar at the Macleay River, It was Ok but low tide and the forecast was for a southerly change and an increasing easterly swell. This would mean the morning departure would be at low tide and an easterly swell so we decided to stay in Trial Bay.

Trial Bay is referred to as an open roadstead, meaning it is an ocean beach. It is protected from the south and to a smaller extent from the east as well. We decided not to pick up one of the courtesy moorings as they are too exposed to the easterly swell - good move !! After consultation with CP Trial Bay (coastal patrol) we anchored close in to the beach on the northern end neat the jail. With a southerly change forecast, I decided to play cautious and let out 50m of chain. At 0030 it struck - Beginning in the east and then swinging to the south, we registered 52 knots at the top of the mast - goodness knows what is was out in the open as we had mountains between us and the south. It eased to gusts up to 30 knots. We were fine and little swell. Nice to have a chartplotter/GPS so you can see where the anchor is and where you are, ensuring that you are not dragging anchor.

Trial Bay to Laurieton (Camden Haven) - Tuesday

The southerly had subsided and we set off to Laurieton under sail in 10-15 knots. During the day when the breeze was consistently 18 knots and 2-3m seas I decided to reef. I didn't want to have to reef in rougher conditions. To my amazement the boat actually performed better with the reef. We tacked all day into the southerly, shaking out the reef later when the breeze dropped back below 12-15 knots. Later in the afternoon the breeze dropped to 5-8 knots so we started and engine to aid in speed (added a bit over a knot to make 8-9 knots) so we could enter the bar before dusk.

We tied up at the Laurieton RSL Jetty for the night, but alas, we were too late for the RSL Restaurant. It also rained as we were tying up so I got soaked although Liz & Elaine managed to stay fairly dry. Oh well, a lovely hot shower on board fixed that. There are showers available at the RSL Club. We have eaten there before and the food was great.

In the morning Liz went for a quick walk (only 3 blocks away) to the shops for some supplies - fresh bread and fruit, etc.

Laurieton to Sugarloaf Bay (seal Rocks) - Wednesday

We set off in a light westerly that changed to the east. We motorsailed in the morning until the breeze freshened and later it swung to the south. Long tacks were the order of the day. Late in the afternoon as the light was fading we began motorsailing again.

Sugarloaf Bay is a nice little bay protected from the south and east. It is partway between Forster and Pt Stephens on the point. However, use extreme CAUTION when navigating in as there are rocks just above and below the surface surrounded by deep water. There are rocks further out than Curtis shows. CMap gave an excellent position of them - we just set a waypoint between the rocks and entered. On our way out in the morning we noticed a small blowhole like spray coming out from two of the rocks which are marked as swirls on Cmap. The bay itself is crystal clear and there was no swell when we were here. We anchored in 7.5m of water and we could see the bottom clearly. We didn't have time to explore the beach and surrounds but would have been easy to land a dinghy here. Curtis says there are small shops here.

Sugarloaf Bay to Gosford - Thursday

Once again little breeze at first but that soon changed to the east and we were under sails only again. Today we caught our second Albacore. Sashimi for lunch. Later we caught a smaller bluefin tuna or yellowtail - it was a beautiful blue on top with silver underneath and a fluoro yellow stripe down the sides. Anyway while we were contemplating whether to land him or let him go he shook himself off so the decision was made for us.

The wind freshened and we were glad we had steered south originally. Now the wind had shifted south and we needed to head more towards the coast. Later the wind shifted Southeast and we were able to continue our course with sails eased. At one stage we put in a reef as we do not like to get caught and be forced to reef in rougher conditions. Late in the evening the breeze left us and we motored the rest of the way.

Elaine has left us here although I am sure she will come and join us again soon. Liz and I were delighted to have her company and she made the trip so much more enjoyable.

Elaine (left) and Liz (right) preparing a meal. The items on the shelves stay there while we are out to sea.

Sydney to Eden - Soon

After a short stop in Gosford, we will be underway to Eden - stay tuned.