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.