Posted by yachtcamomile
I haven’t written any thing for the website for ages because we’ve been so busy but I wanted to fill in some gaps before we continue on our travels.
After Australia Day the weather took a turn for the worse and we couldn’t leave Sydney until 30th January. It was sad leaving Sydney for the last time, we had enjoyed our time in the city but it was time to start heading north again.
We sailed to Pittwater where we spent 4 days with rain on and off so we didn’t do a lot. Monday 4th February we arrived at Lake Macquarie. A saltwater lake that covers an area 4 times the size of Sydney harbour. We spent a week in the lake trying various anchorages as the wind changed direction; they had some nice pelicans there.
On the 7th February we took the bus to Newcastle, which occupies a bizarre parallel universe to its namesake in northern England. Both were once grimy industrial mill towns based on coal mining that in recent years have been transformed into pleasant places to visit. Both have a fanatical devotion to their local sports teams, although for the Australian Newcastle its rugby rather than football, but that’s where the similarity ends. The Australian Newcastle is sunny most of the time and a surf beach around every bend.
We took a walk to fort Scratchley, which was one of the few gun installations in Australia to fire a gun in anger in WWII. On 8th June 1942 a Japanese sub suddenly surfaced raining shells on the city, Fort Scratchley returned fire negating the threat after just four rounds.
It’s now open to the public with a fascinating walk through the old casements and a view over Nobby’s beach and out to the harbour entrance.
We continued our walk along the sea front, through the gardens and up to the obelisk, which stands on the site of one of the earliest windmills in Australia.
The 11th February brought brisk winds, which gave us a good sail to Port Stephens. We spent a couple of days doing ‘jobs’ (the jobs list never seems to get smaller) tied to a buoy in Nelson bay. Valentines day was gloriously sunny so we decided to unwrap the bikes and go on a bike ride. We headed east to the Tomaree National park where ‘you’re bound to spot a koala or wallaby’, how many did we see? None!!
But we left the bikes and climbed the Tomaree Head Summit walk and enjoyed the spectacular views back down across the peninsular with Shoal bay on one side and across One Mile beach stretching across to Fingal Bay on the other.
We climbed back down and cycled to Fingal Bay for our picnic lunch. We treated ourselves to an Indian meal in the evening for Valentines Day.
Nelson Bay was hosting a fishing competition over the weekend which would have made the anchorage uncomfortable with all the wash from the gin palaces so we motored across the bay and crept up to Hawks nest on the flood tide touching the bottom a couple of times. There was an anchorage at the top with enough water for us to stay for a few days. Hawks Nest and its neighbour Tea Gardens were sleepy little towns where not very much happens! We went ashore for a walk and found a lovely beach on the other side of the peninsular.
Sunday we crept back down the river to Nelson just in time to see the winning team land their huge Marlin weighing in at a massive 180kgs. It was a beautiful creature and I really felt it should be swimming free but at least it was donated to the local Meals on Wheels and not wasted.
Monday 18th we went on a longer bike ride. We stopped for a rest at Harbour bay (the Aussies aren’t very imaginative with their names although there wasn’t a harbour in this bay).
Then continued on to Anna bay at the western end of the Tomaree National park (not a single koala or wallaby spotted again) backed by the amazing Worimi Conservation lands home to the Worimi people who have lived here for thousands of years.
The Worimi Conservation Lands are the longest moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere stretching over 35km. Think Lawrence of Arabia to get an idea of the sight surrounding us; shimmering sand as far as the eye could see.
On our return we took Camomile into the harbour for our 3 free days on the pontoon inside. It was nice to be alongside for a change and spent the next few days doing shopping and washing.
This is Bracken who belonged to the boat next door but decided we were a good bet for a peaceful sleep while his owner wasn’t looking. Isn’t he beautiful? I wish we could keep him but he had to go back.
After being in Port Stephens for 10 days Thursday 21st brought a weather window allowing us to leave Port Stephens for Camden Haven. We had dolphins swimming in our bow as we left and a good weather window ahead of us……
After the storm (see next blog) we managed to get into Coffs harbour on Saturday 23rd. We were befriended by lots of people all anxious to hear our story and how we managed to survive the storm, including Graham from the VMR who we had spoken to every 2 hours throughout the night. He had been plotting our position and keeping the Maritime services informed of our position who, he said, would have come out to rescue us if any thing drastic had happened. That would have meant abandoning ship and having let the dinghy go Bill was determined Camomile wasn’t going the same way.
Graham informed us our dinghy was on the beach about 5 miles away and took Bill out to see it. Sadly it lay on the beach looking very sad full of sand with the outboard laying next to it with just it’s security wire holding them together. The outboard was put in Graham’s Ute and brought back to the boat but there wasn’t anything Bill could do to revive it. I spent the rest of the day trying to get everything back to where it belonged. I had to wash the floor 3 times to remove all traces of the salt water.
Sunday was spent in the laundry washing all the towels that had been used to mop up the numerous dousings and we were kindly invited to Grahams house for a welcome meal, he also generously lent us his vehicle to borrow while we were in the harbour.
It meant that for the next few days we were able to take the torn sail and the sailbag to the sail maker to be repaired and the bent metalwork to Gary the metalworker. It was strange travelling in a car again.
The sprayhood had been torn both sides with the weight of seawater on it. We stripped it off the frame and I set about repairing it.
Fortunately it had torn along the seam, which was quite easy to re-sew, but the area around the handle was badly shredded so I had to sew a patch over it.
The tear along the other side needed a patch too.
Thursday 28th the sail and metalwork was ready to pick up so off we went in Graham’s car to pick everything up. We also did a big shop. Life is so much easier with a car.
It was great being in a marina for a change, each morning I went for my run up over Mutton bird island to look at the sea. Gradually during our stay it had calmed down but it took several days, good job we came in when we did. Bill worked hard getting the boat back into working order so we could leave, he takes up the next part of the story.