Saturday, November 16, 2013

Going to the Nut House

The Nut House nestled in the valley
I am running away to the bush and have been lucky enough to find some bush tucked up the end of a valley in the Huon. I have been talking about this next project for a while now but it finally looks like it is coming together.  Fern studded wet forest reaches up the north face of the valley and to the south there is dry blue gum forests. In the middle at the base of the valley is a clearing bisected by two creeks that chuckle relentlessly through even more ferns.

The valley was originally the site of a large small fruits farm which fell victim to the 1967 bush fires. Word has it that the couple who had the farm, committed suicide shortly afterwards. It must have been devastating but the house miraculously survived.

Not so Grand Designs
Jimmy Barnes apparently used to hide out on the neighbouring property until the locals worked out who he was and he had to move on.

Ferns, Ferns, Ferns!
I never set out to become a Walnut farmer but maybe the hundred or so walnut trees growing in the valley base might form the basis of a food forest. The simple principles I investigated with the little cabin at Took-End will be the basis of this place. Water is drawn from the creeks, renewable power will be generated from off the grid solar panels but this time I am aiming for hot water on tap...Sheer Luxury!!

One of the creeks gurgling down the valley.
It all kicks off just before Christmas and

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Getting South

Moonbow storming across Storm Bay

A few days ago I sailed Moonbow across Storm Bay marking the end of our winter cruise. Six weeks earlier I had been in Airlie Beach and decided that it was time to head south. The beginning of August sees the southeast tradewinds well established in the Whitsundays and is perhaps the least ideal time to sail south. Clear of the tradewinds the next challenge would be the winter southwesterlies on the NSW coast and then a winter crossing of Bass Strait. I hate pounding to windward, most likely an after effect of the BT Global Challenge, and I will do anything for an easy sail.

So in light of the gap between my expectations and the seasonal weather conditions I thought I would share my observations on how to have champagne sailing against all prevailing wisdom. The key techniques are as follows;

1. Patience. It was very much a case of being prepared to wait for the small gaps in the weather that would provide favourable conditions. These gaps could be quite small at times and start at odd hours of the night. The abundance of weather forecasts made it possible to pick these gaps to "make hay while the sun shined". Equally important was being prepared to stop and hunker down in anchorages when it was not favourable. Not too hard to take, given the beautiful anchorages along the coast.

2. Ride the Tide. The tidal flow on the Queensland coast can be quite significant and by timing my passages I was often able to take a free ride down the coast, adding a couple of knots to boat speed at times. I was lucky enough to ride the tide south into Shoalwater Bay and then on tacking out to the east, ride the ebbing tide to the east. A lovely win-win scenario.

3. EAC. In a similar vein the East Australian Current was a real boost, hooking into that as soon as I sailed out from Fraser Island. Its effect was noticable as far as Bass Strait and at times reached four knots.

4. Lots of Options. I am aware now of more anchorages and refuges along the coast and as this array of options grew so did my ability to utilise small weather windows. I could keep making miles in favourable conditions knowing that there was refuge close at hand. Barred river entrances that I had discounted as too risky previously I discovered were workable in some, if not all weather conditions.

5. Pre-positioning. In cases where favourable conditions were preceded by slow but non threatening conditions I would head out early so I was in place to take advantage of the favourable conditions when they arrived. An example of this was heading out of Southport in the morning,  into a 10-15 knot southerly.  The headwind was not strong so it was easy on the boat. I didn't make many miles but by sunset when the wind swung into the east, Moonbow was down at Tweed Heads and took advantage of the fair winds immediately. This allowed me to make the very most of favourable weather windows.

6. Playing the Swings. This was a tactic used to good effect by my friend Nick who had sailed his WestSail 33 south against the trade winds just a month before me. He would head off around midnight when the wind had either died or had been influenced by a land breeze effect to be SW and ride it on a starboard tack down the coast. The sun would rise and the warming of the land would see the wind back into the southeast which would make a port tack more favourable.

7. Trade Wind Interruptus. As steady and relentless as trade winds may appear they are not beyond interruption or at least easing. This occurs as low pressure systems cause havoc on the NSW coast. Simply put, it seems that the bigger the storm on the NSW coast the greater the lull in the trade winds on the Queensland coast. Between Great Keppel Island and Hervey Bay I enjoyed a northerly wind, so trade winds are by no means absolute.

 Seven easy steps to champagne sailing, makes it look so simple. I should confess that the 185 mile jump from Eden to Babel Island did not go quite to script. I was fifteen miles short of the shelter of Babel Island when the wind swung to the west and blew 30-40 knots. This is definitely outside my preferred operating limits and led to an uncomfortable day of sailing east of Flinder Island. In retrospect, I knew that the weather window was marginal in duration and more PATIENCE would have seen me wait for a better window and have yet another dream run.

Sailing down Tasmania's east coast I could see snow on mountain tops but spring is taking hold here in Hobart. I am looking forward to doing some cruising in Tasmania's waterways over the summer.

The Beautiful Apache sailed across Storm Bay with Moonbow.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Whitsunday Wanderings

Beating out to Border Island
It felt like the southeasterly tradewinds would never ease but eventually they did and I set off to explore the Whitsunday Islands. Heading out from Airlie Beach toward Nara Inlet it was still a wet ride close reaching across the trades but it wasnt long before I eased sheets and ran down into Nara Inlet. With Moonbvow anchored I headed off to find the Ngaro cave paintings which were well presented. Sitting near the cave I thought it was a pretty good place to live an aboriginal life. A good cave with water views, sheltered waters for the canoes, lots of seafood and a waterfall nearby. I headed to the waterfall in the late afternoon and washed in the stone pools above the waterfall.

Sailing out the next day I came across Vicki who had worked as a forecaster at Casey Station last summer. She had chartered a yacht for some cruising and it was great to see her. Clear of Nara I beat toward the passage between Hook and Whitsunday Islands where the current was running strongly against me. From there on, there was no protection and the short beat out to Border Island was exposed.

The discomfort was worth it and Border Island has some great snorkelling. Batfish were quick to gather round me when I launched into the water, and all the corals and fish in the books were there to see first hand.

The next stop was Hazelwood Island and by then the wind had eased considerably. A light southeasterly saw me set full sail with the genoa. Dropping the anchor just outside the coral reef I was quick to get ashore for a walk, finding a vast amount of plastics washed up on the windward side of the island. Bushy on the Tiki 26 dropped by the next morning for a quick chat and then I headed off for Whitehaven Beach but the tidal flow took me north. Instead I stopped at Esk Island for a morning snorkel and lunch before heading into Tongue Bay. 
Lunch at Esk Island
Tongue Bay is heavily used by charter vessels and a bit of a zoo. The up side is a track leading over to Whitehaven Beach with the magificent view up Hill Inlet that appears so often in tourist brochures. 
The Iconic Hill Inlet - Whitsunday Island
The tradewinds continued to ease and by the next day it was completely out of puff. I drifted off the anchor and crawled into Dumbell Island for another morning snorkel and Lunch. The wind filled in gently by midday and I joined the drifting whales. Their breathing could be heard for a  mile in the calm conditions. It was a day for the spiunnaker and it hauled Moonbow gracefully round the tip of Hook Island. I saw Guy on his Tiki 21, sailing on the horizon and as I sailed into Butterfly Bay there was Pete on Sand Dollar moored up. Sundowners on the Tiki with Guy, Josh and Pete we were joined by Lars and B who arrived in the last light aboard the Mini transat 'Wings". A beautiful anchorage with great company.

I headed to Stonehaven around the corner the next day in search of phone reception. The previous day whales had been playing amongst the moored yachts but I didnt get that show. Apart from mobile reception, Stonehaven didnt really appeal, having been spoilt by some five star anchorages over the past week so the next day I headed for Airlie Beach. A good place to wait out the increasing trade winds.

It look like the next lull might come next week and I think it might be time to start the move south.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Down the Trade Wind Funnel

Sailing into Airlie Beach this morning with a blustery trade wind belting down over the hills I realised how far away I wrote the last blog. I was in the Moordor that is Gladstone and from there I headed up the inside of Curtis Island to negotiate what is called The Narrows. It is here that cattle from Curtis Island are driven across to the mainland during low tide. There is in fact one spot on the channel that sits 2.5m above low water datum. Oddly you only need 1.5m plus vessel draft to get through due to the water heaping up at the narrows. I had an easy run with no less than 1metre under the keel which made my trepidations in Gladstone seem out of place.

Emerging at the north end of the narrows I could see the Keppel Islands in haze on the horizon and a sea breeze filled in to get me there after a brilliant sunset. The next morning revealed crystal clear water and a snorkel revealed an electric drill alongside the anchor chain. Odd!!

I had been scheming with my friend Nick to rendezvous in the islands as he sailed south and I north. He rang in the afternoon to say he was held put by strong headwinds and to let me know that the coastline between us was about to be shutdown for a military exercise. No time for resting in the beauty of the Keppel Islands. I headed for Rosslyn Bay to get some extra diesel for Nick and the next day was on my way north again. An overnight stop in Freshwater Bay and then on to the Percy Islands.

We had organised to meet at West Bay, Middle Percy but as I approached it became apparent that West Bay would be very uncomfortable. I managed to raise Nick on the VHF just a few miles from West Bay and after hearing he had tried to get out, I quickly tacked around and headed for South Percy Island where I found some shelter.

Waking the next morning I found I had anchored next to a lovely yellow Wharram Tiki 26 with tan Sails. I could see an energetic guy busy about the deck and  I knew he would be an interesting character. I caught up with "Bushy" on the beach after some beachcombing and got some stories of his subsistence life along the coast over some coffee.

Percy island Sailing
The wind eased in the afternoon and so I thought I had better take the opportunity to catch up with Nick before we started chasing each other round the island group. A great sail took me round to West Bay where I found no yachts at all, so remembering he had mentioned North East Island I carried on and sure enough, that was where Nick and everyone else was.

The Open 40, Spirit of Downunder, that I raced against in the 1999 Osaka Race was on its way back from yet another Osaka Race. They were amongst a lovely group of people who met on the beach around a drift wood fire for a top evening. The next day the wind again eased briefly and the bay emptied quickly with everyone going their own ways. Nick and I headed off to South Percy Island and enjoyed a great day of sailing.

Nick and Mackroro

It was sad to up anchor and set sail from the Percy Islands and I took a short twenty mile hop to Digby Island which I found all to myself. The next morning I woke to find a thick cloak of fog had descended on me. Sailing out of Digby Island I felt my way along the string of islands that stretched toward Mackay. Gaining confidence I set the spinnaker and by mid morning the fog lifted and by late afternoon was rounding the Mackay breakwater for an overnight resupply.

Digby Island

Brampton Island was the first stop out of Mackay and what felt like the beginning of the Whitsunday Islands. On final approaches I converged with the Neuroamance crew coming in from St Bees Island and we shared the anchorage at Brampton. The resort at Brampton was shut and looked like it had been for several years. The resort's legacy was a great network of tracks in the National Park but their lack of use means that they are starting to be overgrown and indeed the whole island has a distinct feeling like the LOST series.

The tracks of Brampton starting to be reclaimed by nature
Pressing on I anchored at Goldsmith Island. Its intense wind bullets drove me out to Thomas Island the next day, but its rolly and blustery anchorage had me heading for Lindeman Island the next day. Lindeman Island was idylic initially but returning from a hike ashore, the rock n roll had returned. Finally I found a calm anchorage at Cid harbour, Whitsunday island the following day. A hike ashore led up to Whitsunday Peak and an amazing view despite the cloudy skies. On a clear day it must be breathtaking.

Snugly anchored off the sailing club at Airlie beach I will wait till these days of 25-30 knot trade winds abate. A circuit of the Whitsundays seems like a logical next step.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Super Moon Sailing

I walked for hours across Fraser Island in the light rain feeling the sand between my toes but never found a lake. I did find a crystal clear stream for a bath and amongst the vine strewn forest I saw an evil little cane toad. The tide had turned when I returned to Moonbow so with a few hours of daylight left I rode the tide around to South White Cliffs and put the shallowest part of the Sandy Strait behind me.

Sandy Strait Sailing
Saturday morning I set sails and went with the tide to Hervey Bay. I had ideas of anchoring off the north end of Fraser Island but the wind was making it a lee, so after briefly considering anchoring off the townships of Hervey Bay, I kept sailing and literally sailed into the sunset. A supermoon caused by the moon being closer than normal to the earth, light up the sea all night. Bundaberg was an option but not as inspiring as the little town of 1770. Captain Cook made a landing here in 1770 and after negotiating the tight channel, I found a little hole which I hoped would have enough water left to float Moonbow when the tide receded. 1770 is a lovely little hamlet which makes a great beef burger with caramelised onion jam and is so confident of the quality of their coffee, they feel confident to charge five dollars per cup.

Into the Sunset
A short hop of just over ten miles the next day before a gentle south westerly brought me to Pancake Creek. It is almost a mirror image of the creek at 1770 in many ways but with no town it looks more like Captain Cook would have seen it. A couple of kilometres through the bush down a little track brought me to the immaculately maintained Bustard Head lighthouse. It was odd to see a sistership to the amphibious LARCs we use at Macquarie Island loaded with tourists making a visit. I was quizzed on my origin and having established my credentials as a yachtie I was allowed to pass. There seems to be a turf war between the historical society that have the lease on the lighthouse and the Castaway Backpackers who fly in on a small plane. The plane lands on a nearby beach and the backpackers get a castaway experience of bush camping. It seems the culture clash of high spirited young people with the obsessive compulsive old farts of the historical society has led the backpackers to be banned from the lighthouse turf, with signs to the effect erected along the path.

Pancake Creek ( The hungry sandflies are massing just out of view)
An early start was needed from Pancake Creek to catch the tide into Gladstone. The supermoon was still glowing as I set the spinnaker and Moonbow started eating up the miles. I counted 23 ships waiting off Gladstone as the sun rose and I carefully crept up the outside of the shipping lane to avoid their movements. Gladstone was like sailing into Moordor, The smelters, power station, iron ore loaders and of course the new LNG development made an erie landscape. It gets weird at night when from within the town you can look out and in all directions there are the twinkling lights of these industrial facilities. The streets are a mass of high visibility clothing and lines of workers file between buses and ferrys that take them between the LNG Plant and their accomodation.

Super Moon Sailing
I am busy restocking Moonbow with food as there are some long stretches without towns coming up. That done I will be glad to get going tomorrow and head for Hummocky Island. The first of the little islands on the Coral Coast for me.

Since leaving Sydney;
- 56 litres of diesel used
- 848 nautical miles logged

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tangles at Tangalooma

The rain is tapping gently on the deck this morning as Moonbow swings to the tide in the sheltered waters of the Great Sandy Strait. In Southport a week ago I woke up and cancelled my appointment with the taylor for a Don Johnston suit, decided not to trade Moonbow in on a cigarette speedboat and after farewells, hauled the anchor up. I headed north through the Broadwater toward Moreton Bay. Bizzarely apartment buildings rose up from the mangrove swamps and then abruptly the Miami style suburbia gave way to sand islands and mangroves. Just a few hours later I dropped anchor at Tipplers where sandy wallabies foraged along the beach.

The Wallabies of Tipplers
The next stage of the inside passage provided more challenging pilotage and with Alan Lucas talking of the picturesque qualities of the Canopia Channel I gave it a go. Little channels everywhere and I confess I found the bottom and went aground. Oddly with the port lateral mark just a few metres off Moonbow's port beam. The tide was with us and it wasn't long before it picked us up and swept us on along the channel. The final stage of the channel had a suprising number of substantial vessels wrecked along the coast. Clearly a severe storm had swept through to cause such havoc in these sheltered waterways.

Aground next to the lateral mark.
It was with a certain amount of relief that we emerged into Moreton Bay and hoisted sails again. Storming across Moreton Bay with a stiff westerly I was headed for the anchorage in the lee of the Tangalooma Wrecks. Not an ideal anchorage in these conditions but in the absence of options I knew it would be workable. Getting in there proved the challenge and in the last of the daylight I was surfing through breakers toward a lee shore with the depthsounder registering lows only beaten in the Canopia Channel earlier in the day. It was a relief when I got into the trench that ran along the beach and then found the lee between the wrecks and the beach to drop anchor.

Tangalooma Wrecks on a good day.
It was a rolly and uncomfortable night that served its purpose but provided little rest. The next morning when the sun came up I could have been mistaken for thinking that the tidal currents had swept me off to a better place. The water was glass calm, the breakers gone and the beach ever so inviting. Coming in through the surf the night before the dinghy had been keener than Moonbow and on a few occasions I noticed it dance up past the cockpit. It was during all that cavorting that it threw the oars out. I really should have stowed them on Moonbow. I headed ashore for a walk along the beach and to my surprise found both oars resting amongst the sea weed. We were complete again!

The strong westerly had swept a lot of Brisbane's plastic waste up on the beach so it was a fruitful day of beach combing with the help of the National Parks Ranger.

The second night at Tangalmooma was no picnic either and so about three o'clock in the morning I had no problem getting up and setting sail to catch the outgoing tide. The labyrinth of sand banks reminded me of the Riddle of the Sands and provided a great pilotage exercise as I picked by way through the unmarked channels to keep away from the shipping. A good westerly kept the pace up and I arrive off Point Cartwright, Mooloolaba about mid morning. I started the engine, dropped the sails and heard the oil pressure alarm. I checked the oil and refilled it. Started up and made it halfway to the bar. This process repeated itself four times in all, with me getting faster at refilling as the channel got tighter. Having poured in the last drop of spare oil I made the berth at the marina.

I was a little dejected to be honest but Ben from Dolphin Marine came over and we found that one of the engine mounts had broken. We suspected that this had caused the oil line to rupture but later found that the engine had landed on the oil filter and split it. Within a couple of days Ben had it all sorted and I felt a lot better. Mooloolaba is a nice place to be stranded and it allowed me time to do some maintenance and restock supplies.

North from Mooloolaba
Yesterday I choofed out of Mooloolaba, set the main and yankee and enjoyed a beautiful sail before a 20 knot southerly. Rounding Double Island Point amidst a heavy rain squall, an ambling Humpback Whale surfaced just ten metres off the beam. It was heading north too and we travelled together for about an hour before I altered course for the Wide Bay Bar. The whale would go along the outside of Fraser Island but I took the short cut through the Great Sandy Straits. The bar is wide but all efforts to place markers on the shifting sand banks at the bar have failed. The heavy surf sweeping them away. The wind took us in, with the last light of the day highlighting the breakers on the sand bars. As darkness fell I eased sheets and ran before the wind in the calm waters of the Great Sandy Straits, to drop anchor at Gary's Anchorage.

The rain is still falling but when I finish this pot of coffee, I am off to try and find the clear fresh water lakes that Fraser Island is renown for. So much to see!

Since leaving Sydney;
- 50 litres of diesel used
- 708 nautical miles logged.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Border Crossing

The Solitary Islands stretched out before me as I headed Moonbow out of Coffs Harbour. A good southerly wind had filled in just before dawn and I set the twin headsails as soon as I cleared the breakwater. A Harmony 34 left at the same time and not long after a big cat followed us. The saying "two boats makes a race" is so true. The big cat blew us off before we had cleared the Solitary Islands. The Harmony 34 didn't have a spinnaker pole so its downwind sailing angle was pretty shallow. They had boat speed over Moonbow but we could sail so much deeper. Eventually their boat speed prevailed and I haven't seen them since.
South Solitary Island
Mid afternoon I gybed in toward the coast to get out of the southbound current before night fell. I came on the coast at Yamba just as another rain squall passed. Lashed by the rain, I started to reconsider carrying on through the night for Southport. I checked the tides at Yamba and they were perfect for entry and also exit the next morning. The wind forecast had changed and the wind was meant to hold in the following day. So it was, that I dropped anchor at Yamba for the night for a good deep sleep.

Heading out the next day I was passed at the river entrance by two other Hobart yachts that took off at full speed up the coast. The weather forecast didn't quite hold true. The wind had dropped significantly and left a washing machine sea which broke the gooseneck sadly. The wind eventually came in from the east and by dusk I had the spinnaker up and was hauling past Cape Byron. The wind held into the night and was to be the best sailing of trip reaching along in the dark toward the bright lights that rose out of the sea at the Gold Coast.
Sailing "Footloose" after breaking the gooseneck
It was 0400 when I finally dropped the anchor at Southport in a small sandy basin officially called the "Aquatic Stadium" but known locally as "Bums Bay". An eclectic mix of vessels, from house boats which seem to be continually sinking or dragging anchor, International cruisers and of course the eccentric boats. It is this later category that I find most interesting. There is a Bolger 30 that draws just 13"with tan sails of course and Captain Gecko at the helm. There is the beautiful Russell McNabb gaff ketch "Gypsy Pearl" with dinghy "Black Pearl" and of course a particularly fine Wharram cat "Ta2".

The Calm of Southport
A new DSC VHF radio with AIS finally caught up with me and I have spent the day installing it. Phil West at Sheerline Spars is machining up a new gooseneck part today and I hope to have that fitted soon and be heading off up the inside of Stradbroke Island. It feels good to have the NSW coast behind me and I am really looking forward to getting up to Fraser Island, perhaps only a week away.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Great Day Sailing

Sitting in Forster the next forecast was Monday with 25-30 knots easing to 15-25 in the morning before decreasing below 10 knots in the evening. Sunday was a full blown gale but by Tuesday it looked like the wind would all be gone. I decided that an early start with Monday mornings high tide was my best option and while I might have a bit of a rough ride initially it would be moderating and with any luck I would make as many miles as I could before the wind collapsed.

Wing & Wing
The reality was to prove better. I nosed Moonbow out over the bar in the dark and found a nice westerly blowing. Starting with the full main and yankee I quickly set the mizzen. Not long after, I changed to the genoa and then swapped that for the spinnaker. The wind freshened and it was back to the genoa but we were making great miles in an easy fashion with the Aries wind vane doing most of the steering.

A bit after ten the wind swung into the south and hovered around 20-25 knots. I set the yankee and genoa, wing & wing and Moonbow took off. A couple of hours of this I dropped the mizzen and mainsail which didn't seem to harm our speed much at all. I was still ticking off the headlands as they streamed past. The sea was providing a few good surfs and this killed any ideas I had entertained of stopping in Port Macquarie. I was nervous about that bar entrance as it was, but with a seaway it would be too interesting for me. Moonbow was making such good miles, that Coffs Harbour was the obvious objective.

Aries loving the added pressure
The wind kept up, with some easing around sunset and then around midnight swung back into the southwest. By that stage I was past Smoky Cape and could see the lights of Coffs on the horizon. Smoky Cape will always stick in my mind from the 1999 Melbourne Osaka Race when a deep low had formed off the east coast. The cold front had hit the fleet around Gabo Island and by the time we got to the north coast it was still raging. Tired and ragged, I made a radphone call to the meteorologist, Roger Badham, enquiring as to whether it would be less severe offshore or maybe inshore. He was great but he didn't give me any hope for a reprieve anywhere, so we decided to take "time out" and head for Coffs Harbour. That plan went out the window as we passed Smoky Cape and heard that Coffs Harbour had been closed. We took a hard left turn and I have this distinct memory of surfing side ways down a wave as I desperately made a bid to get under the lee of Smoky Cape. We dropped anchor in Trial Bay with much relief. The little Adams 10 had done well and we spent the next day listening in to the HF radio of competitors pitchpoling, sinking, rolling and loosing steering. We had planned to head off the next day but in light of the dramas that unfolded we were happy to spend another day in the relative security of Smoky Cape. The rest of the race to Japan was straightforward and I still regard anchoring under Smoky Cape as one of the best tactical decisions.

The wind held all the way and I eventually tied up in Coffs Harbour around 0400, tired but having had a really cracking sail. It is about fifty miles to Yamba or 150 miles to the Southport Seaway. Saturday looks promising with a 15-20 knot southeasterly so we will see how far I get.

PS. The phone got wet on this leg and I had thought I wouldn't have any photos but then I found these two photos has been automatically synced to Facebook and the iCloud. Bless technology!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Broughton Island

Heading for Broughton Island
It was easy spending time in Port Stephens but after a diversion to Fame Cove (named after a schooner not the musical), I headed out with a gentle north westerly land breeze bound for Broughton Island. The sea was calm and while progress was slow in a light breeze it was easy miles. Moonbow slipped into Esmeralda Cove under full sail in the early afternoon. The fisherman's shacks were deserted and I had the whole island to myself.
Esmeralda Cove, Broughton Island
With Moonbow packed away and secure I rowed ashore and headed out along the little tracks. Broughton Island is the largest offshore island in NSW and offers so much. Teeming with wildlife I saw a tiny snake and lots of birds. Apart from Esmeralda Cove there are two other anchorages, which between them offer protection from all winds. The coastline has it all from sheer cliffs to great little sandy beaches. The beaches became the target for some beachcombing the next day which collected the following plastics and two bonus lead dive weights.

Beachcombing Bootie on Providence Beach, Broughton Island
I am constantly cruising the Weatherzone weather app these days to identify opportunities to make miles up the coast. This past week has been predominantly northerly winds, which is not the southerlies I was hoping for this time of year. A nasty front was brewing and the wind was going to swing into the NW before the fronts arrival. This would allow a fetch up the coast in the protection of the land. It looked like Saturday might offer what I was looking for, so I was up before the sun. I hoisted the sails, slipped the mooring and headed out past the sea cliffs of Little Broughton Island.

Dawn heading north from Broughton Island
At sunrise, Moonbow was close hauled and on course for Seal Rocks, making easy miles. Arriving at Seal Rocks about midday I was faced with a dead beat to Forster and just as I had accepted a night of plodding against the wind, I realised I could drop the anchor in the lee of Seal Rocks and do the miles to Forster on Sunday when the wind would have swung into a more favourable angle. Tacking into Seal Rocks, I saw the "rat runs" through the rocks that we used to use racing north to avoid the south bound current, were letting quite a bit of swell through. Not a problem as I spied a very solid headland a mile down the coast. If I was looking for comfort from the chart, I didnt find it in the name "Treachery Head". I dont know what the history is but I suspect that the local aboriginal people might have kicked a goal here. Treachery Head provided a workable anchorage just outside the surf zone.
Approaching Cape Hawke
The next morning I awoke to humpback whales breaching a mile off the stern.  I hauled up the anchor and with a reef in the main and yankee, headed out to chase those whales down. There were whales in sight all morning and they put on quite a show breaching and tail slapping. The wind came and went with the rain squalls but not long after rounding Cape Hawke, on final approach to the entrance at Forster, the cold front caught up with me. I had just taken in all the sails leaving Moonbow to crawl under motor against the 40 knots. It was only the GPS that convinced me that we were making any headway. Finally we made it to the bar and the incoming tide picked us up and whisked us up the channel where I dropped the anchor with a great sense of relief. Another 40 knot rain squall came in and I ducked below decks, leaving it to pressure wash all the salt off the rigging.

I have Moonbow alongside today and while it is still blowing quite hard offshore it looks like tomorrow might be a good day for making some more miles north. Port Macquarie maybe?

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Migration Starts

Farewell Sydney
Winter is well under way and I am reaching for my thermals, so it was time to up anchor and head north. Sydney had been fun socially and the people great. I will surely be back. Moonbow was finally ready with the exception of a new VHF DSC AIS radio which was on back order. It will have to catch up with me later or I will turn into one of these cruisers who are always waiting in port for parts to arrive.
A nice south easterly carried Moonbow out the heads and then promptly died. I wondered whether it might be best to creep back into Sydney Harbour but it was too early in the mission to accept defeat. Pressing onto Port Stephens was just going to mean a lot of flopping around, so I altered course for Coaster's Retreat in Pittwater. A modest start of just 14 miles but a lovely cove nestled in the Kuringai Chase National Park. So appealing, that with little prospect of wind the following day, I stayed put pondering whether I should adopt the sail one day and rest the next philosophy.

Wing & Wing for Breakfast
An early start on Monday at 0330 saw Moonbow catch a nice land breeze out of Broken Bay. Dawn came to us off Terrigal and a southwesterly pushed us along under twin headsails and full main and mizzen. Charging along I considered dinner at Port Stephens but a series of rain squals in the afternoon left me crashing around in a washing machine sea in Stockton Bight. Just as I was desending into madness at all the banging and crashing the wind returned. Interestingly the forecast easterly wind never eventuated and it stayed in the southwest all day. The number of ships anchored off Newcastle had reduced from over 25 last year to about five yestreday. This could either indicate reduced export of coal (hopefully) or more effcient loading with a new coal loading facility in Newcastle (likely).

The approach to Port Stephens is arguably the most spectacular of any port on the NSW coast. Even in the dark, light up by the full moon, the massive headlands and islands that surround the entrance are very impressive. A bit after 2200 I dropped the anchor in Shoal Bay, tuckered out, I packed up the sails, ate and was asleep in minutes.

Port Stephens
This morning,  I nearly fell out of the bunk as Moonbow rolled in the swell, so I relocated to a calmer anchorage at Nelson Bay. A great spot for stocking up on food and supplies. The wind is in the north, so it looks like I will be here a couple of days. Broughton Island is just ten miles up the coast and I am thinking I might catch an early morning north westerly and get out to this special spot in a few days time. I will let you know how I go.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Red Sails in the Sunset

Well it finally happened today after years of dreaming. The tan sails arrived in two tiny packages tied up in string from the loft in Hong Kong. I couldnt believe that all the sails could be in the two parcels or maybe they had taken my metric measurements and cut them out in imperial. My mind had gone wild with the possible errors, too shorter luff, too long in the foot or boltropes and slides that didnt fit the tracks. Well I am happy to report that they fitted like a glove.

If Only I could fold sails up that small.
There are always some details that suprise and none more so than when the sails come from so far away. The slides looked a little weaker than the previous ones and I might yet swap them over. The covers are a snug fit but that is growing on me. It was suprising to see wire luffs in the headsails still these days but the bronze hanks are like the wichard clip hanks. They avoid the hard stainless that can wear on the forestay. One very happy customer and I look forward to taking them for their first sail this weekend.

The sails were one of the last jobs before being ready to head up the coast bound for the Great Barrier Reef. It feels like one of Stephen Fry's "Last Chance to See" missions, to see the Great Barrier Reef up close and personal before it looses its UNESCO World Heritage status due to degradation. The pilgrimage feeling is reinforced by the number of yachts I am noticing in the anchorages and online making their way north. All sorts, large and small being drawn north by ever warmer winds.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Back from a summer in Antarctica and I have finally worked out how to put together a small video. It is basic and I have yet to conquer sound and other special effects but I think the awesome power of the ship and the majesty of Antarctica carries this one off. It was shot from the monkey deck of the Aurora Australis during the approaches to Casey station during the V2 resupply voyage in December 2012. I moved ashore from the ship at Casey and spent the summer boating around the Windmill Islands before flying back from the Wilkins Aerodrome in late February.

Aboard Moonbow now, I am scoping out camera positions onboard for some upcoming cruising. Sailing videos to come.