Sunday, 7 April 2013

Port to Port

Sitting in the cockpit on our first morning in Port Stephens we were amazed to see a school of bait fish beside the boat being herded by what we think were Albacore Tuna. The Tuna were herding and eating the bait fish with whole Tuna jumping out of the water at times to dive down on their prey. At the same time terns swooped and dived to grab the hapless surviving bait fish from above.

Our first day in Port Stephens was one of fantastic weather so we took the opportunity to walk up Tomaree Head to be rewarded by great views up and down the coast. We also visited the old WW2 gun emplacements designed to defend the port from invasion. We always take the opportunity to grab a Geocache when we can so also picked one up on the headland as well. We spent the afternoon swimming in Shoal Bay before moving around to Nelson Bay before the next few days of forecast rain arrived.
Steep climb 

Shoal Bay anchorage

The view North from Port Stephens
The next few days were spent largely on the boat in wet weather with the girls doing school, playing games and the odd trip ashore for supplies and a run in the park. It was actually nice to go slow for a few days. We also had a great afternoon with a really nice British cruising family who anchored near us. The girls loved the short but fun play with their two boys after a long period of being playmate deprived. We are certainly finding a paucity of kids on boats as we cruise the coast.

Rainy day entertainment

We had our eyes on the weather as usual looking for a chance to make the 90nm passage to Port Macquarie. The Port Macquarie bar can be nasty so we needed to time our arrival with a high tide during daylight and good conditions, which meant the end of the day for the next few days and then dawn after the weekend. Em and I spent a bit of time debating the forecast, aware that good sailing conditions may not mean good bar conditions due to swell etc, but we wanted wind to sail! At 10:00pm Thursday night we made the snap call to go now for a Friday afternoon arrival as the weekend looked to be too calm and would mean motoring all the way.

We moved the girls from their berth up front back into their sea berth in the middle of the boat, stowed the dinghy and set out at 10:30. It was pitch black and the run out tide at Port Stephens Heads made it a very lumpy exit into some steep seas. Once out we turned North and sailed for Seal Rocks while Em and I settled into our three hours on, three hours off watch system.

Ava slept in the cockpit with me on watch until about 3:00am as it was a bit lumpy for her downstairs while D'Arcy snored through the night in her bunk below!
Ava on watch! 
We had some great sailing on the way up but also some periods of dead calm (requiring some engine assistance to meet the tide time at the bar) and the odd passing shower. The wind was from every direction through the 17 hour trip which kept us busy in the cockpit. When I got up for my watch at 6:00am Em had the sails set well and the boat sailing beautifully in a nice breeze as the sun rose (she's a champion!).

Dawn and we are sailing North in good conditions

It was exciting to sail past Tacking Point lighthouse with great grandparents and grandparents waving to the girls from shore as we passed.

With some trepidation we lined up to cross the bar and surfed the swells in to the narrow entrance with breakers either side. It was a good day on the bar, though for us novices on Aratika 2 there were still some elevated pulses!

Crossing the bar

In the river.

We are snug in the Hastings river now and the girls have already been spirited away by their beloved grandparents for sleepovers and endless treats!

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