Thursday, June 9, 2016

Back to Oz and Ready to Sail

These we clouds on the horizon that had me confused!
After a wonderful two week adventure in Vietnam and Cambodia, it was time to get back to the boat. Actually I was ready to slow down and rest up! The heat and humidity were very draining and the tour schedule kept us moving every day. It was a fabulous experience!

Upon returning to Sydney and catching a train to Newcastle, we were anxious to provision and prepare the boat for our sail north along the eastern coast of Australia. The coast does not have many bays in which to snuggle into in the event of bad weather. One must go into the rivers that meet the sea. Unfortunately, most of those rivers have bars that must be crossed. That made for interesting route planning.
Looking back at the shore along our route to Port Stephens.
Since we are cautious sailors, we spent time speaking with locals and the Volunteer Marine Rescue guys to learn more about the conditions we could meet and how to cross the bars. The light, wind and tide all need to be favorable before attempting a crossing. Needless to say, we were somewhat apprehensive!

Not exactly sailing weather! But beautiful.
We left the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club, our home from many months, before sunrise and had a very peaceful motor trip out of the river into the sea. The sky was very interesting as there was a layer of fog sitting just above the surface and it gave an eerie effect. In fact, there was a bank of clouds sitting right on the surface to the south. At first I couldn’t get my bearings because it looked like land with hills and trees. It was like a mirage on the water.
We were planning to stop overnight since it was just the two of us. Unfortunately, our timing wasn’t right for the first two places we thought we would stop. We were advised not to cross the bars at the wrong time so we kept going. As usual, the wind was not our friend! It was from the wrong direction and not enough to give us great speed so we motor-sailed.

The beach at Coff's Harbour
We also had the southbound current against us as I think we went too far offshore. We later learned from the locals that closer to shore the current flows north at a much slower rate than the main south-bound current. In addition, we were having trouble getting any speed out of the engine. We have 110 hp Yanmar diesel engine that should have moved us right along. So between the current and the below par motoring, we were not making good progress.

Trillium at the Coff's Harbour dock
Our only choice was to keep going overnight and find a place to stop the next day. Since the engine was under performing, what was to have been an overnight trip to Coff’s Harbour became a three day trip. We did manage to make anchorage at Trial Bay and tied up to the Volunteer Marine Rescue’s emergency buoy having explained that we had engine trouble. When Dennis asked if it was safe to dive under the boat in this anchorage, the VMR person replied, “We haven’t seen any grey suits out there today!” We took that to mean that sharks are in the area at times, but none had been spotted that day!

Dennis, Beverly and Dean hiked up to the top of the hill.
After a good night’s sleep, we left early the next morning so we could make it to Coff’s Harbour marina before dark. Dennis suspected the engine problem was really a propeller problem and he wanted to dive to confirm that theory. He figured the propeller was covered with barnacles from sitting in the harbor so long while we traveled. It turned out that he was right and we had the prop cleaned when we reached our destination in Coff’s Harbour Marina.
Harbour view from the top.
Our niece, Beverly, and her husband, Dean, were meeting us at Coff’s Harbour to sail up to the Gold Coast. Dean is from Australia and they had a trip to visit his parents planned so our dates coincided perfectly. It is always fun to see family and friend out where we are! We had fun for a few days in Coff’s and then on the overnight trip up to Southport on the Gold Coast.
Nowhere to anchor overnight.
Actually, we did our first bar crossing with Beverly and Dean on board – and it was quite memorable! We reached the Gold Coast Seaway at the mouth of the Coomera River after a long sail with a little seasickness for one of our guests. Actually, I kept it under control with just a little queasiness! After calling the VMR to get instructions as to when we should cross over, they told us we could do it NOW! Yikes!
It was mid-tide and quite wild. I gave the wheel to Dennis because I didn’t think I was strong enough to hold the course in the churning water. I had fully expected to be told to wait outside for a couple of hours. Apparently, they VMR thought our boat was big and heavy enough to ride through it. Or maybe they just wanted to be entertained watching us! It was a wild ride.
Land Ho! The Gold Coast
Needless to say, we were all happy to be over the bar inside the Gold Coast Seaway and at anchor in what is called Bum’s Bay! A nice dinner and good night’s sleep was welcomed! Beverly and Dean were going to leave us for a few days to explore the area of South Stradbroke Island where Dean had spent time in his youth.

We were picking up Greg Smith from Everything Marine at The Boat Works to guide us up the river to the boat yard. The Coomera River is very winding and shallow so we appreciated Greg coming to point out the correct turns and branches of the river. The river is lined with homes, many with docks and boats in front of them. It is a very peaceful and pretty area.
The trip up the river took two hours.

Once at The Boat Works, we made arrangements for the new standing rigging and other work. Our goal was to have the boat updated and inspected for anything that needed to be serviced before we head up to Indonesia and across the Indian Ocean. We have a lot of challenging sailing ahead of us and we don’t want to have any failures. We left S/V Trillium in good hands and took off to explore the outback of Australia for nearly two weeks!

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