Saturday, March 28, 2009

Manatee's tales from Yamba (1)

Idgi was the first off Manatee the next day (after lots of sleeping from us all). She quickly stuck her head down neighbouring boats' hatches to see if anyone was at home.

Idgi looking relaxed at the marina

We all introduced ourselves to the people and dog on the boat opposite. Skeeter their adolescent male dog took a liking to Ruby but unfortunately Ruby (and Idgi) didn't respond to his enthusiastic loving.
The marina has lots of people living on their boats who actually cruise. There are also a couple of houseboats who cruise the mighty Clarence River. There are 2 couples who have stopped here on different boats for births. Ginger-Lily was conceived in Guam by her Australian parents who have done lots of sailing around SE Asia. Erik was born in Grafton and his Norwegian family aim to be in Thailand for Xmas. Lots of other people are waiting here for the right weather to continue North.

We have fallen in love with really is paradise. The town is full of very friendly people and the environment is beautiful. Clean beaches and a beautiful river. Prawns fresh and cheap...perfect!
A friendly local joins us for lunch
Pearl & Marg on Pippi Beach
After 3 days we got ready to leave. Cyclone Hamish was off the Qld coast but far enough North (we thought) to not bother us. Raelene an experienced yachtie had a chat to AK and said "Hmm, going tomorrow, you do know there is a cyclone off the Qld coast?" AK assured her that we had seen the weather and the cyclone was moving further offshore. "Hmm" said Raelene "have you sailed up North when there is a cyclone further up?" "Well no". " I have" said Raelene "and I bent my boat! The seas travel south and its bloody miserable. Brisbane is the pits anyway, why the hell are you going there?"
So we decided to stay a little longer. Then in those seas we were keen to get out in, a tanker lost its containers and managed to run over one, spilling muck into Moreton Bay and the Brisbane River. Glad we waited it out.

Dave (the sailor we met on Laurieton LUSC jetty) who we were catching up with in Brisbane, rang. Don't come to Brisbane he advised. It's the pits! No berths for yachts, the pile berths in the Brisbane River where we were planning on staying are full. Waterways is planning to move on those yachts that have become permanently planted on the berths to give visitors somewhere to stay...sometime. He was anchored in the river and experiencing shocking thunderstorms, wash from the ferries and having an unpleasant time. He decided to go further north.
So we decided to stay in Yamba a little longer!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Coffs to Tweed (let's make that Yamba!)

Marg's ribs felt a little better, most of the bruising had gone down, so it was time to continue North. Motoring, not sailing. Her ribs weren't that good! We left Coffs marina around 11oo on Monday with a nav plan of 27hrs till the Tweed River. The wind was still from the SE at 10kts and the swell was 1-1.5 from the south. Pretty good conditions. We expected to be abeam Yamba at roughly 2200hrs.

Jacki and Ruby were tethered upstairs in the wheelhouse, Pearl took up her position on the saloon couch and Idge settled in the v-berth. Lots of shoals around the Solitary Islands gave us a rough ride. More than pretty rough...AK was at the helm and had to hang on to avoid falling over. The fridge door sprung open and disgorged its contents. Pearl thought all her dreams had come true...but she couldn't get her balance to fossick. We contemplated heading back to Coffs but after giving ourselves and the sea time, things settled and we continued North.

After a few hours we realised that the water pump was continuously whirring...what the? The hot water tank was heating up and then emptying through the overflow pipe. First time its happened. 700 litres of water (our entire fresh water tank) was discharged into the bilge...yikes. After a brief discussion AK disappeared into the engine room to attempt to remember (always difficult in a stressful situation) how to stop the fresh water engine cooling system diverting to the hot water tank. The brain whirred in unison with the water pump...this valve and that. Done. Better pull the fuse on the pump before it burns itself out. Done. Bloody hell, what else can go wrong!

Night fell, we were joined by many dolphins at dusk, always a reassuring sight. Our nav plan had us travelling at 15nm offshore. Although we have radar, GPS and do our chart work, we remain cautious of the coast at night, as well as fishing nets which are impossible to see in the dark.

We decided as this leg was giving our stress levels a shake up, whoever wasn't on watch would nap in the wheelhouse rather than downstairs. What else could go wrong? Well we could get stuck in the East Coast Current, which we had read wasn't strong on this part of the coast. Guess it's all relative, but I'd call 3-4 kts pretty strong. At times we were doing less than 1kt...but at least we weren't going backwards! And we had company...a tanker was starboard for the entire trip!

Marg trawled this trip and caught a mahi mahi. A flying fish managed to "fly" through the open wheelhouse window...what amazing creatures. Their fins really do look like wings. We found another on the deck at first light.

Just before dawn we decided to call it a hard leg and enter the Clarence River to head for Yamba. Contacted Yamba/Iluka VMR to get a bar report, who were informative. "Gee the sea looks rough, but I guess you'd know that....the bar is calm!" Calm it was, but the river is confusing. Again VMR assisted by giving us directions to Yamba. We also had to stop and get a fisherman to point us in the right direction!

We decided to head for the marina, even though there are great spots for anchoring, as we didn't have any water and we were exhausted. We remembered a bloke who was moored near us in Drummoyne saying to be careful when we navigated the Clarence to Yamba as he had got wedged on a sandbank in the shallow water. Remembering this we both looked at the depth sounder to see that we had 0.1m under our keel. Marg swung the wheel and she managed to avoid the sand. Hallelujah.

The marina allocated us a berth that was reasonably easy to navigate in to. After tying up we fell gratefully into bed. What a trip! 25hrs to Yamba.

Manatee chills at Coffs

The Coffs marina

We all spent a very pleasant week at Coffs taking our nightly constitutional to Muttonbird Island along the breakwater where the girls were very careful to not step foot above the high water mark as it was national park!

Idge being careful to not step foot on National Park!

AK was in her element as the marina was below the circuit for Coffs Airport. What bliss, sitting on the deck watching aircraft on finals (usually).

under the circuit...bliss! (spot the aircraft)

Marg had a fish off the jetty, caught nothing, but you should have been there to see the ones that got away!

A friendly dolphin at the jetty. Maybe that's why no fish were caught.

We ate our way through some fantastic restaurants, which were about 30 mins walk away from the marina so we didn't feel tooo guilty. If you're up around Coffs, "Watermark" is highly recommended, for fresh food cooked imaginatively. The waitress couldn't help herself in telling us that the restaurant was owned by two women (who were life partners).
The yacht club had a great view and we spent a few pleasant afternoons on the verandah watching the sea.
View from yacht club verandah
On one of our walks we saw a catamaran being pushed from the beach by a group standing in knee deep water. We later found out from the skipper that it is 53' and he dragged while trying to anchor. For quite a while it looked like they were going to be beached ( a crane company turned up, how's that for a small town grape vine!), but the cat was finally turned so that it's outboards could be started. This is the spot that VMR recommends for anchoring, and until recently had Waterways courtesy moorings. Waterways has removed ALL it's courtesy moorings up this way.
The beach minus catamaran.
It was a very pleasant week, the water was warm and the air was clean, and Marg's ribs felt a little better.