Thursday, August 28, 2008

Port Stephens to Crowdy Head

We spent 2 nights at Nelson Bay on a maritime mooring waiting for the sea to abate. "Imagine" from Hobart was on the other mooring. I have some great pics (but I have stuffed the camera...more later) of the two Tasmanian boats moored together. These 2 moorings aren't popular as they cause a boat to rock and roll and it is a little disconcerting to be soo close to the beach.

On Tuesday we explored the area in Ini the inflatable. Plenty of dolphins about but we realised if we said "look dolphin" they disappeared. We reckon they were "tourist dolphins" who appear for a quick happy snap. We landed Ini on a beautiful secluded beach at Shoal Bay, just under coastal patrol's hut. When we set off again AK got drenched by a did the camera. We are still trying to get it working after drying it out.

On Wednesday we left Port Stephens heading North for Forster at daybreak. "Imagine" headed South at the same time. Our estimated time at Forster-Tuncurry was 1330. The seas were kind and winds about 10-15knots from the North...yep motoring again!

Once we passed Seal Rock the seas were amazing, a colour that is hard to describe....almost like liquid glass. There was a distinct change in the air, it was warmer and the winds abated. There were whales and plenty of dolphins surfing our bow wave. Manatee, as the current was kind, made very good time so we decided to continue on to Crowdy Head.

The kind currents were somewhat misleading however and sucked us right in! Our calculations unfortunately we based on a good first leg. As the sun set we were still not at Crowdy Head....oops. Looks like AK and Marg have blown their agreement to NOT enter a strange port at night. But we forgive ourselves because with 2 Aries on board rules are made to be stretched.

Crowdy Head is a very small boat harbour on the southern end of the beautiful surfing beach. Really shouldn't be entered with a northern swell. Yep we had a northern swell. On hindsight we would stay at sea, although alls well that ends well (providing the lesson is learnt). We managed to find the very narrow opening and entered the harbour to find the expected empty jetty had a large catamaran berthed alongside! We had booked the jetty with the fish co-op as required and were told the jetty was "all yours". Later we find out - boaties don't book, arrive after the co-op has closed and leave before it has opened....all to avoid the fee!

A stressful 30 minutes followed, we managed to berth without damage to us or the catamaran and spent a very "surgy" night at the jetty. Later we also find out that you can request a berth at the fishing boat jetty which doesn't suffer from surges...oh well!

Many lessons learnt this leg.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Manatee fangs it to Fame Bay

At the recommendation of Peter and Malcolm we decided to opt for the seclusion of Fame Bay (Port Stephens) to wait for reasonable weather before heading further north. One of the many great things about boating is that you get to experience places inaccessible to most
people. Fame Bay was one such place.....
We had the bay to ourselves for most of the time
Boaties site out of the picture
Ruby & Idge share a moment
AK must practice her wildlife the dolphins..not

eagles soared overhead
we watched the moon rise
and the sun set (Idge on the main boom)
we explored
and walked (view of Ini from a midden)
and did what we all do best
We were out of (reception) range so we are behind on our calls, emails and blog. We spent 6 nights at Fame Bay and had our first saltwater dunking....brisk and refreshing! We met Mary and her "cabin boy Christian" who were from Sydney and members of the cruising yacht club. Mary gave Marg some great advice regarding seas. On Monday we returned to Nelson Bay to await decent weather to continue our journey north.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Marina Daze

So....we ordered a patch kit and arranged overnight post. We berthed at D'Albora Marina as we had no way of getting ashore and waited...and waited....and waited. The kit arrived on Thursday. In the meantime Ruby posed for photos for the tourists on the bowsprit as we were berthed next to the whale and dolphin watching boats. The bowsprit was at head height so she will appear in many Korean happy snaps.

Manatee tucked next to the massive tourist boats

We got to know some of the staff, Peter and his dog Malcolm were regular visitors and helped with the repair job when the kit arrived. Most of the deckhands were women and one boat had an all female crew...really nice to see in a still male dominated profession. One of the deckies related stories of whales playing with the boats, apparently they are renowned for it. This area up to Forster is a marine sanctuary so plenty of marine creatures about. Dolphins come into the marina in summer and the boom nets on the back of the tourist boats (you can see one on the big boat nearest to Manatee's bow) are referred to as 'human tea-bag apparatus' due to the plentiful sharks!

Marg and AK took advantage of the marinas 'personal care facilities'-individual bathrooms with unlimited hot water (we really limit our water consumption on Manatee as one should anyway) and a TV room where we could watch some Olympic events.

The rest of the time we took advantage of the pleasant surroundings.

Lots of boats ( heading north from the Sydney Boat Show and heading south from the Hamilton Island Race) pulled into the area seeking refuge as the weather turned nasty so we had a pretty social week. We are both very relaxed, AK has stopped wearing a watch and when asked the time Marg often replies "a quarter past thingy".

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Nelson Bay antics

So....our first night at Nelson Bay....headed to the local wharf and met two live aboard boaties who had been tied to the wharf for ages-despite the 3 day limit. Guess it is winter. The first was very excited to meet us and called out "joe, quick 2 girls with a boat". Joe emerged from his yacht, drink in hand, and the (elderly) lads attempted to entice us to tie Manatee up to the wharf where we could "get to know each other". We bowed out graciously (for us) and took the girls for a lovely walk along the beach where we were moored (only about 50m off!) and enjoyed the sunset.

After having such a lovely evening we decided to continue the bliss and have dinner at "The Wharf" restaurant. We dressed up in our bestest clothes and headed to the marina in our dinghy (inflatable). Thinking it was safer to tie up to the rocks rather than getting locked out of a marina arm we headed off to a remarkably fine dinner. Highly recommend the seafood spaghetti, chowder and the view over the wharf.

We returned to the dinghy to find her wedged under a gangway- perhaps someone had tried to nick her. Unfortunately she suffered a nasty gash...not good for an inflatable. Marg bravely held up her bow so we wouldn't sink as we hurriedly made our way back to Manatee. We left her on the dinghy davitts overnight and sunk gratefully into bed.

Our morning inspection showed a very nasty gash that would need repairing. Now where is that repair kit? We spent hours turning Manatee inside kit. Damn. Reassessing our situation...only 50m to shore, can the girls swim for their walk? Nup. Phoned every possible retailer in the Port Stephens area. Nup no repair kits. Finally sourced one at.....Lake Macquarie....AAGH.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Manatee surfs to Port Stephens

After checking the weather (seas 1.5-2,wind 15-20, swell 1.5-2) we decided it was all systems go at 0530. The bridge opening was booked for 0700 so at dawn we departed "our" jetty.

Pearl on "our"jetty watching the clothes washing process

The bridge was cleared without any problems or "discussions"

Threading Manatee through the narrow Swansea Bridge

After a quick brekkie east of the bridge we logged us all on with Swansea Coast Guard who
requested that we report to Port Stephens Coast Guard half way along Stockton far, so good. Seas were a little choppy at first but we always remain confident in Manatee's seagoing abilities.

Stockton Bight prior to the swell increasing

Toward Stockton Bight the seas became more than choppy, with the swell at times nearing 5metres. It looked like we were perched on top of a two storey building at times. Marg started singing Beach Boys tunes and Jacki started puking. Related....who knows?? We had decided to tether Jacki and Ruby in the wheel house to let them be near us and the breeze rather than downstairs with Pearl and Idge. Our only real concern was the dinghy swinging off the davitts, it showed how unprepared we were to not have Ini the inflatable lashed to the deck. She survived the journey but not her first night at Nelson Bay!
Along the way we heard the coast guard operators talking on a back station which amused us
operator in cultured voice: "did you get the details on Manatee?"
broad Aussie operator: "yeh how many dogs were there?"
Mr culture: "yes, well they are from Tasmania"
Mr Aussie: "yeh I'll get Immigration to clear them in Port, chuckle chuckle"

We are very proud that Manatee hails from Tasmania!

We arrived at Port Stephens heads at 1438 and did a quick survey before mooring on a freebie at Nelson Bay Beach.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Lake Macquarie refuses to let go!

Unlike most weather predictions, the low showing on the synoptic chart arrived on Friday. Gale force winds, choppy seas...yuk! Even the eagle that hovered over the boat wasn't going far. It was fun watching it glide in the air currents. Two days at Styles Point, tied up to a jetty meant that Marg could get 3 ducks to come to the boat when she called out "quack quack", she does have a way with animals.

At least we got all of our washing done.

All of the girls enjoy being tied up to a jetty, it means they have some independance, being able to take themselves to the "park".

Saturday night, boat preparations complete, we hope to head to Port Stephens early Sunday, fingers crossed!

Manatee curses coast guard

Weather was just right for our foray to Port Stephens...the boat was ready, engine smooth, decks clear, all preparation complete. We knew it was the only day available in the near future to head north safely. After a very early night on Wednesday, the alarm was set for 5am on Thursday. This meant we would depart with a tide that was coming into the lake, just what a boat don't want a outgoing tide mixing with waves coming over the bar (from the ocean). As required locally, Marg rang coast guard at 6am (they then contact Swansea Bridge to get it opened) to book a 7am opening. No answer. She kept ringing and finally reached an elderly gentleman who said "oh well, I told the bridge there were no bookings at 5.30am". When reminded that a 1hr only notice was required, he unsuccessfully attempted to contact Swansea Bridge to arrange a opening. No go. Bridge staff weren't answering. Bugger. The tide turned just after 7am, the next incoming tide was after 1300hrs, which meant a arrival at Port Stephens at night... AK and Marg have agreed not to arrive in an unfamiliar port at dark.....and the synoptic chart showed a low over the coast on Friday. Low = bad weather.

There has been considerable controversy regarding the duplication of "volunteer services".....coast guard, coastal patrol etc. AK and Marg have always said "if you're unhappy with the system don't use 'em" .These services take up the slack from the under-funded and under-resourced water police, both don't have Gov't funding and rely on volunteers. If you want to log your journey when on the water, you have these services as an option, unless you have a friend hold your "search and rescue time"- arrival time at next port. We have experienced both the fantastic and the dreadful volunteer. Unfortunately we copped the latter on Thursday morning. More unfortunate was the reality that only coast guard could except a booking for a bridge opening.

So we went sailing on the lake!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Manatee trots to Toronto (Tronto)

Monday brought ferocious weather. AK & Margot felt a dinghy ride to shore would be hairy so decided to berth at the marina at Lake Macquarie Yacht Club. For the second time in our Lake Macquarie visit another yacht sped in front of us to take the last possible spot! Maybe Manatee doesn't like the marina life. We turned her toward Toronto hoping to find shelter from the wind and waves. Half way across the lake the water became calm so we stopped at the public jetty and filled our water tanks. We then moved to the pool which has cleats around its edges for boats to tie up to (Denise says as the result of a wooden boat show held at Toronto every year).

Manatee tied up at Tronto pool - the Norfolk Pine in the foreground was planted in memory of Marg's brother Warren who died in 1989.

Marg spent her early years at Tronto, learnt to swim in this pool and her father Harry taught local kids to swim in this pool. We spent a few days and nights here and had a great time. Idge went exploring at night (too old and slow to hunt these days but she does like to gaze at the night sky) and came back very frisky in the early hours. Ruby thought our many visitors were coming to see her and would run out and greet everyone who came onto the jetty.

It was a very busy few days.....every retired Tronto man came to visit us and chat, the TV show that features Matt Moran was filming in the park and in a restaurant opposite ( a camera operator stripped off and filmed waist deep in the lake-maybe to make MM look like he walks on water??) and most kids that walked past wanted to see the doggies on the boat. A pelican stopped off in the pool for a day and a duck duo waddled around the waterfront.
Once the weather looked like clearing we hightailed it back to Belmont to use the yacht club facilities to do an engine oil change and give the engine a look over. We hoped to leave the lake and head to Port Stephens on Thursday.