Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Heading back North: Newcastle to the Gold Coast

Luckily for us, it was a short trip from Pittwater to Newcastle. We weren’t sure if it was because we hadn’t sailed in a while, or if it really was just rough, but none of us enjoyed the sail and were happy to see the lighthouse marking the entrance to Newcastle. Not that we could have missed it, with all the ships waiting outside! We watched as a huge cargo ship positioned itself in an area marked on the chart as “Pilot boarding area”. Soon we saw a helicopter fly out to the ship, land, and take off again. This is how they deliver the pilots to the ships! We then raced the ship into the channel entrance, and entered together with it. We were awfully close to this ship, making for some great pictures, but it was a little nerve wracking for this first mate!

Racing the ship into the harbor - Newcastle

Once in the sheltered waters, we headed for the same dock we’d been on the last time we were in Newcastle. Not too long after we had tied up, a boat came past, and the skipper told us that he was a subscriber to Dave’s You Tube channel, and had seen some of our videos! We invited him aboard, and we had a beer with Bruce and Baz, local Newcastle-lights / Newcastle-ers (?!). It was great to meet you guys, and thanks for the beer!

We left early the next morning, and sailed to Port Stephens, an area we had missed on our way down. We had heard it was a lovely cruising ground, and were eager to have a look! We anchored in Fame Cove, a lovely, protected bay a little distance down the waterway. The following day, after school, we took the dinghy over to a public jetty, where we were able to tie it up, and walk around for a little to explore. The following day was Tuesday, January 24th, and we moved the boat to Shoal Bay, while waiting for the wind to switch. We anchored in clear, shallow water, so were able to give the hulls another clean, and we all took the opportunity to have a little swim to cool down! 

Sunset in Fame Cove - Port Stephens

On our trip we've seen hundreds of these large jellyfish

I managed to get a good picture of the jellyfish in the calm water in Fame Cove

As predicted, the wind came howling through that night, and we upped anchor and left at 6:00am, in order to make the most of it. We headed for Crowdy Head, where we had stopped on the way down, but as we got closer, we decided we had some time to get a little further, so we kept going, and instead pulled in at Camden Haven / Laurieton. Bruce and Lyn had told us about the United Services Club dock where we could tie up for free. So that’s what we did and still had time for a short walk around the charming town of Laurieton. It is nestled at the base of a big mountain, which, unfortunately, was covered in mist almost the entire time we were there (2 days).

Pelicans wait for a scrap from a local fisherman.  Cool Runnings is in the background at the dock 

We loved this statue of the koala!

The following day, January 26th, was Australia Day, so we decided to stay and enjoy the festivities in Laurieton. The kids took part in all sorts of fun activities, such as nibbling on a cookie (biscuit) to make it into the shape of Australia, doing the gumboot toss, and having the Australian flag painted on their cheeks! All in all, a great day and fun to be able to celebrate this special day with the locals!

Ben and Gaby line up for the cookie eating competition

Not bad!  The extra crumb at the bottom is Tasmania.  Geography lesson at it's best!

Happy Australia Day!

The wind dictated that we had to leave the following day, and we had a great sail, primarily under spinnaker, to Coff’s Harbor. It was a long day, and we entered the harbor at sunset. Unfortunately the moorings that we had been on last time were taken, and there were two other boats anchored outside the harbor. The one boat looked very familiar, and it turned out to be Eric and Gail on Nautilus, our friends from “Bum’s Bay” who had watched Cool Runnings for us when we went to stay with Ingrid and Dave Taylor! We had a quick chat, glad to see them again, but unfortunately we were going in opposite directions, and they were leaving early the next morning to head south, and we were heading north.

The lighthouse at Crowdy Head, seen from the sea this time.  On our way down, we stopped here and visited the lighthouse

The breakwater at Coff's Harbor at sunset

We had to motor the next day, as there was no wind, but at least that worked well for both north and south bound boats! Our stop on this day (Jan 28th), was Yamba. It was another new spot for us, and we battled a bit to find a good spot to anchor, as the river was pretty shallow. But we eventually settled down, and still had time to do some administrative stuff (check bank accounts, sort out health insurance etc!).

The fishing fleet at Yamba

Storm Clouds - Yamba

The following day was another day motoring, and we checked off the miles between Yamba and Ballina. The light winds also made for easier bar crossings, which can always be a potential hazard when entering and exiting the rivers. We left Ballina at dawn on Monday, Jan 30th and headed the last stretch to the Gold Coast. We were able to sail for the last hour or so, the rest of the time we had to motor. After all the bar crossings we had to negotiate, I had not even considered that the one at the Gold Coast Seaway could be a problem, but it turned out to be the most interesting one we had encountered on the whole trip! Dave had to carefully control the boat as the waves were breaking over the bar and we surfed our way back “home”!

Sunrise outside of Yamba, with one of the fishing boats returning from a night out at sea

The Australian Coast can be pretty treacherous - careful navigation is required! 

Cape Byron lighthouse

One happy crew member!

Approaching the Gold Coast under sail

Back in Bum’s Bay, we spent the next 3 days getting the boat ready for the haulout. We had to completely clear the salon area, and empty Benjamin’s cabin. There is a LOT of Lego in that cabin, believe me, but it was a worthwhile exercise as we sorted Lego and labeled boxes, hopefully keeping it neater and easier to pull out and put away in future! We also made new friends: Debi and Jono on “Taka’Oa” were kind enough to lend us their inflatable SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard), and Kayak, so we could give it a try before shelling out precious $$ to get two of our own! We enjoyed drinks on their boat, and they on ours, and we hope to meet up with them again in the Whitsundays, in the Great Barrier Reef!

Dave trying out the SUP

On Friday we moved the boat to The Boatworks, up the Coomera River, and it was a final push to get the boat ready. Dave even removed the water tanks to check everything was watertight behind them, and while we had them out, we gave them a good flush, as we still had a slight sediment from bad Panama water at the bottom of the tanks. Gavin Cubin, a fellow varsity mate of Daves, came to the rescue early that same morning with some spray foam we needed to complete the job, so thanks Gavin!!!

With the tanks back in, the salon and cabins on the port hull empty, we gave ourselves the weekend off, and spent it with William and Pascalle Voerman, Dave’s old sailing friend. While Dave went racing (sailing) with William on his Etchel, Pascalle surprised me with a hair appointment on Saturday morning (first time since I’d left…and boy, did I need it – I think at least 2 inches were cut off!!), and then a shopping trip to purchase a few pairs of new shorts! We had a great weekend – thanks so much, William and Pascalle!

Monday morning at 7:00am was Cool Runnings’ scheduled haul out time, and we were there to capture the moment. They lifted her up in slings, out of the water and into a pen where the hulls were pressure washed. Then the crane moved her to another shed, where she stayed for 3 weeks, for her “manicure and pedicure”, while we went to New Zealand! Dave and I were very impressed with The Boatworks. It is by far the most impressive, and cleanest boatyard we have ever seen, and we felt confident leaving Cool Runnings there while we were gone. Packed and ready to go, we then went to Brian Chambers’ house for Monday and Tuesday, and had a great time catching up with them (thanks, Brian and Carla for having us!!), Really early on Wednesday morning, February 8th, Brian took us to the airport in Brisbane so we could catch our Emirates flight to Auckland!

Cool Runnings gets ready to be lifted out by the big crane

She gets her bum washed!

The Boat Works is a great boat yard!

Ben appreciated this sign in the boat yard!

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