Saturday, 27 June 2015

Sailing Around Australia; Whale Tails.

The Boatworks, Coomera, Gold Coast QLD

28/6/2015 Whale Tails

During our trip from Iluka / Yamba to the Gold Coast we had an up close encounter with a whale.

The wave of a giant flipper caught our attention.

Followed by the big splash as the flipper smashed the surface.

Lying on it's side doing a shark impression.

Not drowning... waving!

Definitely a humpback

Coming closer

and closer!

One flick of the tail, a deep dive... and it was gone.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Sailing around Australia; Clarence River, Scary Bar Crossing

Clarence River, NSW 

20/6/2015 -  The Clarence River, Scary Bar Crossing

There’s been quite a bit of activity lately on our Sailing Around Australia Adventures. After a day or so stopover in Coff’s Harbour we moved on to the Clarence River.

We found tackling the Clarence River mouth bar is not for the feint hearted. After some fear and trepidation was pumped into us by several people we had spoken to about it, we called the Iluka /Yamba Marine rescue as we approached.

The reply was that the bar conditions were pretty good, but it was up to us to decide whether or not to cross it, and whether to use the south entry path or the north.

As we talked to the Marine rescue, we saw fishing trawlers coming across the bar and rounding the southern rock wall, heading back to shore then doing a large arc to take them  out to sea.

I watched the next trawler come out and as it got level with the rock wall, a large wave with streaming white water off the top, pushed right through and smashed against the southern wall. It picked up the 100 or so tonnes of trawler like a rubber ducky in a bath tub. This immediately scrubbed the southern entry for us.

Easy Tiger has what are called mini keels. That is the keels underneath are far smaller than a normal yacht, which is great if you want to go into shallow waters, but not great if you have a side on force. With a side force such as wind or current, Easy Tiger can literally be pushed sideways without too much effort.

If we had tried to go into the Clarence river using the southern entry line, powerful swell could have hit Easy Tiger side on and without deep keels to hold our line we would be swept sideways on to the rock wall.

So in keeping with the playschool tradition of selecting a window to look through, I calmly suggested to Leanne that we would use the northern entrance line today.

Across the middle of the entrance to the Clarence river, there is a large sand bank where the sand that has been carried out by the river water lies. In order to get to the northern line, we motored around this area, going slightly past the bar. What's scary about this is that waves are breaking on to this sand bar, so we are trying to go in between the breaking waves and the rock wall.

As we turned Easy Tiger on to the northern entrance line for the Clarence River, I said to Leanne to keep an eye out for any big waves. Too late. A 2 metre wave broke about 20 metres square on our port side.  I spun the helm hard to starboard , but there wasn’t enough time to turn away and surf down the wave. The white water slammed into Easy Tiger and lifted the port hull up about 2 metres.

If we were on a small hobie cat, or surf cat half the fun would have been to sail along with one hull up in the air while all those on board would hang off the side. When we are in a 12metre, 9 tonne boat with all our worldly possessions on board, sailing along at a steep angle with one hull up, is the exact opposite of fun.

Fortunately, the wave that hit is passed by without pushing us sideways towards the rock wall too much. I was able to recover with some effort on the helm and continue our on the northern route into the river.

Normally, with bar crossings there is a line marked on the chart that you should follow. This day I had Leanne following on the electronic chart known as Navionics. Navionics is an app Leanne has on her Ipad, that uses GPS to show you where you are on the chart. So, Leanne would let me know which way to turn according to the line and I was able to keep a visual check.

As we entered through the rockwalls either side that create the channel we had to go diagonally to follow the proper route. I was being advised by Leanne to turn to port, but the more I turned, the more sideways the boat travelled down the channel. The ingoing tide creates quite a current that we seemed to be at the mercy of. Fortunately no harm done, just the skippers heart rate once again reaching the pounding stage.

Not far up the Clarence River, is another rock wall, that “fences” of the Iluka bay. This makes a serene anchorage with room for many boats.

There is a jetty there where we tied up our dinghy and ventured ashore to find the very pleasant small town of Iluka. Venturing a bit further we found the walk trail to Iluka Bluff, which is a very nice stroll trough some rainforest.

The next day we set out on a dinghy adventure with Neville and Amanda off Bossa Nova. The dinghy enjoyed zooming along the calm waters of the river, so we found ourselves in the town of Yamba in quick time.

After some hard work walking up a steep hill we found the Pacific Hotel. This hotel has spectacular views from the restaurant over the Clarence river entrance bar. Of course it didn’t look half as scary from there. 

Neville, Amanda and The author at Iluka Bluff

Iluka Bluff, the town of Yamba in the background

Men at walk

Waves punt the shore, even when there is not much swell.

What about those legs ay? 

Ok, so they have a faster catamaran... and a faster dinghy! DOH!

The view form the Pacific Hotel, Yamba

Friday, 12 June 2015

Sailing Around Australia; Crashing into Coffs Harbour

Coffs Harbour, NSW

12/6/2015 Crashing in to Coffs Harbour

Easy Tiger and crew have arrived in Coffs Harbour. Interestingly, Coffs Harbour completes a circumnavigation of Australia (minus Tasmania) by Easy Tiger.

The original owners had sailed Easy Tiger from Airlie Beach as far south as Coffs Harbour, before the boat was returned to the Gold Coast. It was there when we purchased it.

One local chap who has been around the Coffs Harbour for a long time came and introduced himself. He said he remembered the Easy Tiger from when it was next to his boat in the marina some years ago.

I only hope that the previous owners made a less spectacular entry into the Coffs Harbour Marina than we did yesterday.

For the last month and a bit, our sailing around Australia adventure has sort of lulled us into a false sense of security. During that time the only marina we have tied up to was at Cronulla, where we were berthed on the end of a jetty and Dave and Jack were on hand to catch ropes and help tie us on.

Since then we have been either tying on to public mooring buoys or anchoring through Sydney Harbour, Hawkesbury River, Port Stephens, Camden Haven and Trial Bay.

This day began well enough. We upped anchor at 0700hrs and set off from Trial Bay side by side with Paul and Sjarny on Skellum. The breeze was behind us and we made really good progress.  Just as we made it to our first waypoint and were preparing to turn the boat on to a new course, the fishing rod Leanne had out made the whizzing sound and bent into a tight curve. We had a fish and a big one.

For the next twenty minutes it was pretty chaotic on Easy Tiger. The fishing department (Leanne) trying to haul the fish in and the Sailing department (Me) trying to bring the boat around on the wind to stall our speed, which in 16knots of wind with our screecher up was driving us at nearly 8 knots.

Hauling in a 10kilo Tuna while doing 8 knots is no mean feat. Leanne and I had several attempts at bringing it closer to the boat only to hear the line whizz out as the fish fought for it’s life. I finally managed to get the boat around to wind which stalls the speed and with a huge effort we were able to slowly wind the fish in.

Once aboard Leanne’s fishing rituals were completed, then we turned the boat back towards Coffs Harbour, reset the sails and waited for the wind to start pushing as forward. By this time Skellum was a dot on the horizon.

As Leanne “processed” the great lump of Tuna, the wind picked up to 20 knots or so and we were again making good headway. Unfortunately a nasty 2nd swell was starting to knock us about and Leanne went down with a heavyduty bout of seasickness.

The weather continued to deteriorate and with Leanne already sick, we decided to contact the Coffs Harbour Marina again, to see if we could have the comfort of a still, secure berth for the night.

We also contacted Skellum, thinking that they would be in the anchorage by now. Maybe they could give us an insight into the conditions and capacity inside the breakwater, which is reported as being a bit of a dodgy anchorage. To our surprise, they said that they were in the marina, having rung ahead only an hour before.

We were a bit miffed, seeing that we had rung yesterday and were told they would get back to us, but unfortunately they didn’t. This meant there was a strong possibility that Skellum had been sold the last berth suitable for a catamaran.

That would also mean that we had to choose between anchoring in a section of the breakwater that had big rolling swell from one direction and 25knots of wind from the other direction. That would make for a really bad night. The other option was to continue through to Yamba, meaning sailing overnight and then waiting for the right tide most of the next day.

In a moment of desperation, Leanne rang Coff’s Harbour Marina, and asked why they hadn’t replied yet let others in in the meantime. She was told that they would make a berth available, but it was their last resort.

By now the wind was howling at over 20 knots blowing straight into the marina. The panic set in immediately as I rounded the end of the rock wall and saw how crowded and narrow the marina was. There would be no room for error in here and now with the wind pushing us in there would be no turning back.

I screamed to Leanne who was in position on the bow for directions to our berth. I knew there was someone waiting to catch our ropes, but could see no-one. I steered hard to the right the wind blew us to the left as we dodged around the of the boats lying either side of the channel.

“You’ve got to go in there and up the end” shouted Leanne, who was pointing to an even narrower channel to the left. I pulled the throttles as far into reverse as possible to stop out increasing forward momentum and swung the helm hard over. We only just took the corner, nearly collecting the bow of a boaton the inside of the corner but the rear of the boat swung wide. I looked out the other side of the boat to see our stern swinging fast and wide. We were increasing our pace around the corner, straight towards the bows of berthed catamarans. All I could do was close my eyes and wait for the sound of cracking and crushing fibreglass. I yelled out “fend off at the back”, knowing it was a fruitless order.

Somehow unknown to me we missed the bowsprits and bows jutting out. It must have been millimeters. My next challenge was instantly upon us. The pen that the marina had allocated us was probably better suited to an 8 or 9 metre single hull boat. Easy Tiger is 12metres long and 7.5 wide.

As the wind ushered us toward the end of the channel so again, I hauled the throttles back and the engines screamed into reverse at maximum revs. Our forward momentum was briefly halted, allowing me to slam one motor into forwards to spin the boat to an angle that now had us sliding sideways down the channel.

As Easy Tigers bows were almost in line with our allotted berth Leanne shouted “Forward”. Instantly I pushed the throttles forward as far as they could go, and Easy Tiger lurched forward into the pen. About half way in the wind caught us again, and pushed the boat on to the end of the pontoon causing a large scrape on our port hull.

Thankfully, Paul and Sjarny from Skellum were on hand to help fend off and were marvelous at assisting to tie ropes on.

Now in the berth that was simply too small, looking like an elephant in a Hyundai Getz, we attached every rope we had, to every available cleat on the decrepit old jetty.

Several times during the night, we got up to tighten ropes, but unfortunately Easy Tiger danced and pranced like a horse in the mounting yard all night. On closer inspection at daybreak I found that the rocking and rolling boat was not due to loose ropes, but in fact it was the old jetty cleats and in fact the port side jetty was twisting and flexing. The whole scenario looked ready for disaster at any minute.

The next day the weather was patchy. One minute it was raining, the next it was windy. We had things to do in town and needed water in our tanks. Each time we stepped out it would start raining again. Then the wind would blow the rain way and cause Easy Tiger to rock and roll in her ill fitting berth.

Finally a break in the weather around lunchtime saw us complete our tasks. Then in orderly fashion and overflowing with apprehension we took off the ropes one by one, started the motors, carefully selected reverse and slipped quietly out of the Coff’s Harbour Marina without incident.

Looking back I would say that this was one occasion I was happy to lose a race and be second to our destination. Thanks to Paul and Sjarny for their help with our crash landing. For their prize we gave them some of the Tuna.

The Tuna that cost us the "race" with Skellum....thankfully.

Easy Tiger looking like an elephant in a hyundai.

Whales seen at Camden Haven and Trial Bay

Leanne's done well with some photos of pelicans at Camden Haven

Monday, 8 June 2015

Sailing Around Australia; The Name Game

Forster/ Tuncurry to Camden Haven NSW

9/6/2015 – The Name Game

Easy Tiger’s sailing around Australia adventures will take us past Seal Rocks today.

While it may seem that in itself is not really unusual, the interesting thing is,  this will be the 6th Seal rocks, seal island or seal something that we have sailed by.

There is a Seal Island in Western Australia. There is also Seal Island in South Australia and not to be outdone, Victoria has a Seal Island as well.

Google earth also mentions that Seal Island’s exist in Canada and South Africa but I will have to take their word for it because we won’t be passing by either of these any time soon.

While on the subject of names, we also passed by our 2nd Sugarloaf bay on our way to Forster / Tuncurry. Strangely, it is the 2nd Sugarloaf in New South Wales, the other being in middle Sydney Harbour.

 There is a Mount Sugarloaf near the town of Richmond and just to add a bit of sweetness, Victoria has a sugarloaf reservoir and WA has a popular surfing beach called sugarloaf rock in the south west.

Also popular, it seems, is naming islands after early explorers. This is a fine and noble gesture to those  very brave and intrepid people that discovered and mapped our country. But, why did we have to have three Flinders Islands? One in tassie, one in South Australia and one in New South Wales?

Come on now. Who ever does the name game could have been quite a bit more imaginative. Yes, it’s true that many little rocks and mini islands that we pass have seals on them, but do they all have to be called seal something?

Also, as we usually only pass by at a snails pace, staring at the rock and island formations can make one believe that they look like anything you set your mind to, so not every bulbous hill looks like bread.

Yes those that discovered and mapped our country deserve the recognition, but did they not have a middle name? Perhaps like the password on our bank accounts, could they have used their mother’s maiden name or the name of their first pet?

It’s something to think about as we are on passage from Forster to Camden Haven.  I must finish this as we are about to navigate past Seal Rocks the 3rd. Today though I have renamed them as Davy rocks and Dinky Island.

Yet another Sugarloaf. 

The locals keep a lookout over the bar, along with the marine rescue HQ  in the background

The bridge joins Forster and Tuncurry. It also halts our progress  upstream.

Another Bar crossed in and out.

After convincing the Bossa Nova crew to buy new fishing gear, the least Leanne could do was help them rig it up.