After the storm

Yesterday

Yesterday

Well, the storm lasted for well on 30 hours – torrential rain and wild winds. After midnight last night, the wind abated and we woke up to a sunny day this morning – the wind have shifted 180 degrees to the West. The water in the marina is a muddy brown from the run off upstream.

Today

Today

The superyacht berths offer exclusivity, which Esprit could get used to!

I say!

I say!

Having filled up the diesel tank on Friday and being holed up all day yesterday, I had the opportunity to look at Esprit’s fuel consumption.

We have sailed and motored about 1,000km in the last 3 weeks and used 129.15l of diesel @ $1.33/l at SYC = $171.77. The 129.15l was consumed over 47.2 hours of motoring at about 2,000 rpm. This means the 54 hp Yanmar engine consumes 2.73l/h, costing us $3.63/h. We do about 6-7 knots/h so the cost per nautical mile is about 60c/nm. Eat your hearts out stinkboats!

I also pulled out the angle grinder this morning to cut the spinnaker pole down from 5.5m to 4.9m to clear the forestay. Drilled out the pop rivets and managed to line up the holes for the pole fitting, using s/s self tappers. Why didn’t you lend me your spare pop rivet gun Malcolm?

Bris Vegas

Our last post from Byron Bay showed a photo of huge Cumulus clouds rolling in from the East. This was a precursor to an East Coast low developing right here.

Clouds rolling in over Byron Bay

Clouds rolling in over Byron Bay

When the wind turned East, we realised that it was time to get to Tweed Heads or the Gold Coast Seaway to get to shelter. We sailed through a number of squalls on the way.

On with the wet weather gear.

On with the wet weather gear.

Tweed Heads bar was a mess of breaking waves, so we pushed on to the Gold Coast, occasionally getting a view of the high rise buildings, between squalls.

Surfers Paradise skyline

Surfers Paradise skyline

After passing some of Australia’s tallest apartment buildings we motored into the manmade Gold Coast Seaway to put down an anchor in Bum’s Bay for Thursday night.

Gold Coast living

Gold Coast living

On Friday our computers delivered the following alert:

NSW Severe Weather Warning: Damaging Winds & Heavy Rain
Source: Bureau of Meteorology

for DAMAGING WINDS, HEAVY RAINFALL, ABNORMALLY HIGH TIDES and DAMAGING SURF

For people in the Northern Rivers, Mid North Coast, Hunter, Metropolitan, Illawarra, South Coast, Central Tablelands, Northern Tablelands and parts of the Southern Tablelands and North West Slopes and Plains Forecast Districts.

Issued at 12:10 pm Friday, 3 June 2016.

SEVERE WEATHER FOR EASTERN NEW SOUTH WALES

An east coast low is forecast to develop off the southern Queensland or northern New South Wales coast late Saturday, and then expected to move southward on Sunday.

DAMAGING WINDS from the NORTHEAST, averaging 60 to 65 km/h with peak gusts in excess of 90 km/h are possible from Saturday afternoon through to Sunday along much of the coast.

Winds are expected to ease and turn northwesterly in the far north early Sunday.

HEAVY RAIN which may lead to FLASH FLOODING is possible in the north Saturday afternoon and over the remainder late Saturday or early Sunday.

Weekend rainfall totals of 80 to 150 mm are likely for much of the area with localised falls between 200 to 300 mm.

ABNORMALLY HIGH TIDES which may cause sea water flooding of low lying areas are possible.

Annie made a few calls to the various marinas close to us and secured a berth at the Southport Yacht Club for two nights. Esprit looked somewhat lost in the superyacht berth allocated to her, but we made sure we she was well tied up. By 5 pm the first wind and rains hit us, just as Marty and Sue who we had invited to dinner, arrived in their dinghy. They managed to get a berth at Mariners Cove Marina next to us.

The rain and the wind was mind boggling, but we had a jolly dinner until they found a short lull in the rain at about 10 pm to motor back to their boat. At about 11 pm we became aware of a persistent cannon like sound near us. On the next marina arm was a yacht busy losing it’s jib as the self furler was unwinding and the wind flogging the sail to pieces. I was looking for a break in the sheets of rain to try and rewind the furler for the absent owner, but this was not to be. Lesson for all yachties: wind your jib sheets at least 5 times around the furled sail in severe winds.

This morning dawned with the sail in shreds and the wind still howling. In the meantime, a bleak Southport is in our stern view. The wind is expected to peak at about 4pm before a Westerly will kick in, bringing sunshine by Monday. A day for catching up with emails and reading, enjoying great coffee from our little Aldi coffee maker!

Heavy rain!

Heavy rain!

 

 

 

Byron Bay

Time moves on! Since the Clarence river, we have had an excellent sail to Ballina where we have spent 3 nights. Karen visited us on Sunday evening on the boat on her way back from Brisbane where she attended a course.

Kazza

Kazza

Mike Wiley also joined us for a drink after racing his skiff on the river. Karen treated us to dinner at the local RSL down the road. Monday was a busy day: Our printer’s wifi connection played up, so I walked 5km there and back to Big W to buy a USB printer cable. Annie did 3 loads of washing at the local laundromat. On Tuesday, Annie had her hair done (a girl has to keep up appearances!) while I did a valet on the inside of the boat, from ceilings to floors. We stocked up with provisions at Woolie’s. Karen picked us up late afternoon for a scenic drive to Lismore, stopping enroute at the Bangalow bowlo for a calming drink after her Fittipaldi driving style.

Karen, Annie and 3 of her mates.

Karen, Annie and 3 of her mates.

Dinner was prepared by her and the 6 guys she shares a beautiful 1895 hospital house with. A lively discussion over much wine about their various medical disciplines followed before she dropped us off at the boat.

At 6:30 today we had to cross the bar at high tide before hoisting the sails at 7:00 for a brisk sail to Byron Bay to the North. We passed Cape Byron, the most easterly tip of Australia at around 11:00 before dropping anchor off the main beach. The clouds rolled in and we have just had a shower.

Cape Byron Lighthouse

Cape Byron Lighthouse

Clouds rolling in over Byron Bay

Clouds rolling in over Byron Bay

The Clarence river

We are now in Ballina, but first a report on the time we enjoyed on the Clarence River. If you look at the Clarence river on Google Maps, you will see that it is quite a river navigable all the way up to Grafton. We entered the river at Iluka and Yamba and after spending the first night anchored in the river, we motored upstream to Harwood where the bridge operator stopped the traffic on the Pacific Highway to open the bridge for us. Quite a bit of old world engineering!

The Harwood bridge over the Clarence river

The Harwood bridge over the Clarence river

Motoring through the opened section

Motoring through the opened section

We passed fairly big ships on the river on our way up to MacLean, a lovely town with Scottish heritage up the river.

Vessels on the river

Vessels on the river

We tied up to the public jetty in MacLean, where we were welcomed by Peter (with a strong Scottish brogue) and invited to sign the visitors book and given brochures about the town. We stocked up with groceries and bought fresh fish caught that day in the river. A relaxing evening with Van Morrison, fresh grilled fish and wine followed.

Esprit tied to the jetty at MacLean

Esprit tied to the jetty at MacLean

The following day was spent exploring this delightful town where all the lamp posts are decorated with Scottish clan tartans. A 5km walk up the hill above the town gave us good views of the area and the Clarence flowing back to the sea.

The MacLachlan tartan colours

The MacLachlan tartan colours

View out to sea, some miles away

View out to sea, some miles away

We then motored down river where an obliging Craig Knox opened the bridge for us again to allow us passage out to Iluka where we anchored in the river for the night. We were delighted to see “Now and Zen” on our AIS approaching the bar at the river mouth. Marty and Sue anchored near us and came over for drinks so that we could catch up with their travels since we last saw them in Port Macquarie.

 

Warmer climate? No!

We decided to stay in Coffs Harbour for two nights as I had to fit a replacement water level sensor to our number 1 water tank. The instrument showed half a tank (150l), but the tank was empty. Before departure in Sydney the agents replaced the number 2 tank sensor as it permanently indicated half a tank (100l). This has me a bit concerned about the accuracy of the 200l diesel tank sensor which shows 75% full.

Having learned our lesson on the passage to Coffs by arriving well after dark, we decided to make an early start to Yamba about 60 nm to the North. We left Coffs at 5:30, setting sails at 6:00 and immediately had a good N-W wind, allowing us to enjoy a beautiful, but cold sunrise, sailing past South Solitary Island. Considering this is Big Banana country we were surprised at how cold the wind was on this leg.

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun

Good day sunshine

Good day sunshine

We continued North making good progress in a freshening N-W, sometimes a bit wet, as we ploughed through a 1.5m swell from the North.

This is supposed to be warmer!

This is supposed to be warmer!

Wet sea conditions

Wet sea conditions

Check the video below:

IMG_1657

We entered Yamba harbour at 16:00 after a 10 hour passage averaging 6 knots. We anchored in the Clarence river off the town of Iluka and had a few stiff whiskey’s! Also note, you can check our progress on skipr.net by selecting the name Esprit in the drop down menu. This will show you our route and where we are at the moment. Today we plan to motor up the Clarence river to visit the town of MacLean.

Long haul to Coffs Harbour

The distance from Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour is about 68 nautical miles, so in a fair wind we can easily manage 6.8 knots which equates to a sailing time of about 10 hours.

We therefore departed Port Macquarie at 7 am on flat seas with a predicted 15 – 20 knot wind – so all good. However, when we passed Crescent Head the flat sea suddenly built up to swells of 2.5 to 3 metres as a result of the 2 – 3 knot South flowing current fighting with the S-E winds.

Working hard in the following sea.

Working hard in the following sea.

As a result, we had to motor sail at about 2,000 rpm to counter the current and make headway. On passing Smoky Cape, the halfway mark, we realised we were running about an hour behind plan. The sea however reduced in height as we moved out of the current, but soon the wind turned N-E – on the nose, slowing us down. Back to the engine!

We arrived in darkness at 7:30pm at the Coffs Harbour Marina to tie up outside their office. We slept well after that. The next morning we climbed Muttonbird Hill which afforded excellent views of the town and surrounds.

View from Muttonbird Hill

View from Muttonbird Hill

Esprit at Coffs Harbour International Marina

Esprit at Coffs Harbour International Marina

We decided to stay another night at the Coffs Harbour “International” Marina (no less) because of the friendly staff and yachties. The day was spent filling the water tanks and chilling generally.

Adventure before dementia

A friend mentioned the above when we set out. Well, leaving Port Stephens last Thursday and hitting 11 knots flying past Broughton Island in a fresh South westerly, brought this saying to mind. We hope to have more exciting sails like this 45nm leg to Tuncurry and Forster.

Leaving Broughton island behind

Leaving Broughton island behind

We put down an anchor opposite the Fish Co-op and spotted “Now and Zen” who we have seen on the AIS over the last two days of sailing. We invited them over and met Marty and Sue from Western Australia who had sailed their boat from Adelaide in South Australia to this spot.

Esprit from Now and Zen

Esprit from Now and Zen

The next morning we set sail for Camden Haven and carried the spinnaker for half the 40 nautical miles and motored the rest as the wind died down. We made our way up the river and put down the anchor at the village of Laurieton. The next day was spent exploring this area on foot and attempting to climb Big Brother mountain behind the village – we gave up halfway up because it was much higher than what we expected.

At the RSL jetty in Laurieton

At the RSL jetty in Laurieton

We consoled ourselves over a couple of beers before sprucing up for a Saturday night at the local RSL club. We shouldn’t have bothered – the friendly locals go out dressed very casually. We had an early night.

Hiking up to Big Brother

Hiking up to Big Brother

 

The following day we did the relatively short sail to Port Macquarie beating into a freshening North easter. By the time we reached the harbour entry, the sea was probably 2-3 metres and we had a hair raising ride in over the bar, trying not to broach the boat in the breaking waves.

We found a quiet little bay next to the Fish co-op and at 4pm, had what Sue describes as a “calming red”. Graeme and Jenny Smith who happened to be in Port Macquarie for the week joined us and Marty and Sue on board for some extended sundowners.

Monday was spent exploring Port Macquarie, which is a delightful town, before joining the Smith’s for dinner.

Jenny, Annie, Graeme & Dirk

Jenny, Annie, Graeme & Dirk

 

Port Stephens

We are currently in Nelson Bay, Port Stephens having motored here on Monday from Lake Macquarie. The predicted Westerly didn’t materialise so we had to resort to the 54 hp. Yanmar to take us the 41 nm over 6 hours. We were in the company of another 44 footer, “Now and Zen”

Approaching Port Stephens

Approaching Port Stephens

We picked up a mooring in Shoal Bay and went ashore early Tuesday for a brisk walk along a beautiful beach, before Annie did her exercise regime and we went for a swim. A surprising number of retirees were swimming and walking along the beach. This was followed by a hearty breakfast.

Shoal Bay

Shoal Bay

Morning walk

Morning walk

We relocated to a mooring in Nelson Bay for Tuesday night. Annie, who is convinced she can feed us from the sea, then splurged money on fishing gear at Brent’s Tackle World. She got the inside info on how to trawl. The new tackle was put to use immediately and although the 500 mm long yellow tail we could see from the boat, didn’t take her bait, she managed to catch a small something which was returned to the water.

Fishing gear

Fishing gear

Success!

Success!

We are cruising around Port Stephens today and will set off to Tuncurry tomorrow, in what “PredictWind” says will be a good South Westerly.

Preparing Esprit for the trip North

We have been very conscious of safety measures for this trip. We are not getting younger or stronger as the years pass. Unlike our South Atlantic race from Cape Town to South America in 1982 and the Indian Ocean race from Mauritius to Durban in 1987, when we were younger, carefree and stronger, we are older and wiser now. So we set about ensuring safety as far as it was possible.

The first rule is: don’t fall overboard; second rule: follow rule one; third rule: guess what, follow rule one and two! Therefore, the first priority was manual self-inflating life jackets with built-in harnesses. These are attached to Jackstays running the length of the boat on both sides, to which we are hooked onto while sailing. Each life jacket has attached an EPIRB which is activated by water, to transmit an emergency signal to Canberra and Marine Rescue giving an accurate position of the person in the water by satellite to within 50m.

Each life jacket also has an AIS beacon attached which is activated by water, to transmit a position of the person in the water to the GPS on board, allowing the person on board to locate the one in the water on the GPS. We also have a self-inflating dan buoy to throw to someone in the water. Needless to say, there is a 4-person liferaft, flares, EPIRB and AIS.

AIS (Automatic Identification System) is a marvelous system which will replace radar in time. It gives an accurate description, position, heading and speed of any commercial vessel (compulsory) and yacht registered, on our GPS (chart plotter). We have the usual VHF radio for communication at sea and mobile phones when within reach of the 4G network up to 50km out to sea. Beyond that, when we sail out into the Pacific we will switch to satellite phones like the Iridium or Inmarsat systems.

The unpredictability of the weather is still the biggest threat to safety in sailing. Weather forecasting has improved dramatically since the blurry weather faxes of the 80’s. In addition to all the free Government meteorological websites, we have subscribed to “PredictWind” which utilizes complex algorithms to calculate optimum departure dates and weather routing for the areas we are sailing into.

Physical systems which require checking are numerous. We have had our rigging (standing and running rigging) checked and adjusted before we set off, as this has stretched and settled down over the last 8 months. We have bought a “SeaClaw” storm drogue for extreme conditions, added another 120m of 18mm rode and a spare anchor. Not least our own physical systems: Annie is as fit as a fiddle after years of gym and I have carefully calibrated my wine consumption to cope with the possible sea conditions.

Shake down cruise

Performance Boating Sales, the importers of Jeanneau yachts in Sydney organised a Jeanneau rally to Newcastle and Port Stephens from the 9th to 14th April 2016. We saw this as a good opportunity to stretch Esprit’s legs for a shake down cruise before we set off North in May.

Approaching Newcastle

Approaching Newcastle

Our friends Ron & Michelle Watson and Peter & Mandy McLean joined us for the sail up the coast. We departed Saturday at 9:30am from Barrenjoey light house in light Easterlies for the 48 nautical mile sail to Newcastle. We had to motor initially, but the wind freshened from the South-east, allowing us to hoist the asymmetrical spinnaker. We arrived at Newcastle Yacht Club around 5pm and after a few sundowners joined the rest of the Jeanneau sailors for dinner and a party on the floating “The Princess”

Michelle, Ron & Annie

Michelle, Ron & Annie

Sunday dawned with some serious headaches, but our new Aldi coffee machine produced some strong blacks to soothe the nerves. We departed at 10am for Port Stephens on a glassy sea with no wind. The 54 hp Yanmar iron genoa came to the rescue and we watched some dolphins as we motored up the coast. A Southerly breeze allowed us to sail the second half of this leg into Port Stephens where we tied up in the d’Albora marina.

Mandy, Dirk & Annie

Mandy, Dirk & Annie

After some sundowners, Peter and Mandy treated us to dinner at the local pub. We had an early night! The following day Annie and I did extensive walks around Port Stephens, which is a beautiful area just 3 hours North of Sydney. With our sailing companions bussing home, Annie and I sailed out of the heads on Tuesday at 8am, into a freshening South-easter.

Annie & Dirk

Annie & Dirk

The seas were rough and with the wind building to 25knots, we reefed the main and furled the headsail by 50% to make good headway at about 8.5 knots. One long tack out to sea allowed us to clear Newcastle by about 4 miles, to ease out and sail a straight beat into Lake Macquarie. We arrived after 7 hours at about 3pm, with enough depth before low tide to clear the bar at the entrance. We picked up a mooring just outside the draw bridge.

The rising tide meant we could sail out of Lake Macquarie at 9am into a moderate 13-18 knot South-easter. One long beat to Barrenjoey light house and we arrived at Royal Motor Yacht Club at 4pm after 7 hours of sailing. The boat performed very well, making a good and dry passage and promising excellent passage making come May. We look forward to this.