Port Hacking to Lakes Entrance

Well I know the delivery to Adelaide happened a few months ago now, but think it is still worth writing about, particularly as the section from Port Hacking to Apollo Bay in November was one of the more demanding but most beautiful sections of the delivery.

After spending a week in the tranquil waters of Gymea Bay in upper Port Hacking sorting out the various ‘new boat’ issues that we had discovered on the first leg of the delivery, Venom headed south towards Eden.

During our stay we had been very fortunate to have been pampered by Bob and Kim whilst Phil very kindly hosted us on his pylon berth. This made doing all the odd jobs much easier and was a beautiful little spot to do them all in as well. The bonus was to have Bob and Kim’s ‘Voodoo‘ and Phil’s ‘Bandersnatch II‘ right next to us as well.

Venom and Bandersnatch II

Unfortunately I had to return to work, but we were fortunate to have Larry Jamieson join Bob and James for the next part of the the delivery. Larry is a hugely experienced sailor, having sailed on heaps of big boats (with a variety of numbers of hulls) in Australia and round the world – so his experience and knowledge was great to tap into.

The leg from Port Hacking to Eden was pretty uneventful – lightish south easterlies requiring a fair bit of motor sailing. Finding somewhere to come alongside at Eden without damaging your boat is always a challenge, but thankfully we were able to raft up alongside Patriot, a large powerboat – and, of course, Larry just happened to know some of the crew!

Larry – yes there had been a bit of wind that day!

After a few nights there waiting for some strong souwesterlies to abate around the corner (or did the crew just like Patriot’s luxury?), we had to move to Boyd Bay as Patriot headed off to NZ and there was nowhere suitable left to tie up at Eden. This did at least give us a chance to moor for the first time – with mooring on a bridle from the stern being much easier to do than from the bow.

Venom moored from the stern

Despite there being a persistently nasty 20-25 knot southerly patch blowing off Green Cape (as it seems to want to do around November/December), we headed off towards Lakes Entrance to get there before the next westerly cold front hit. Despite a pretty rough beat there was the promise that the wind would abate and come round a bit more to the west once passed Gabo Island.

Bob bashing into the southerly off Green Cape

Unlike many forecasts – this one actually came to pass – with motor sailing again the order of the day along the East Gippsland coast. We timed the arrival at Lakes Entrance really well and were able to come in late in the flood with pretty good conditions on the bar.

Having said good conditions, Lakes Entrance has a fearful reputation, and even good conditions can raise the pulse when you have a 10.4m wide boat and you see that concrete and rock walls will greet you if something goes wrong! But Gippsland Ports have done a fantastic job at keeping the bar at a good depth, and providing all sorts of information about conditions on the bar. The webcam is particularly helpful and allows you to see what conditions you might expect in various wind and tidal conditions beforehand.

So we tied up at a visitor’s berth in the very peaceful Cunnighame Arm – ideally located just across the road from the Pub.

But the bushfires that were to afflict Gippsland and the NSW south coast had just started…..

Gold Coast to Adelaide delivery

After sorting out some of the teething problems associated with a new boat and enjoying the hospitality of the Southport Yacht Club, we started the first leg of the delivery in mid October. It is 1400NM between Southport and Adelaide, and the trip would be made more difficult by having to constantly sail towards the many approaching frontal systems present at this time of year.

Leg 1: Southport to Port Stephens

We crossed the bar early in the morning and headed south into a light souwesterly.

The smoke haze from the bushfires inland cleared transiently, but by Tweed Heads we were back into it again – where we would stay until close to Port Stephens.

Thankfully the breeze freshened a bit so we were able to make good time beating down the coast, but the smoke was heavy and ash was falling on the decks at times. There were many dead mutton birds in the water – perhaps the weaker ones overcome by smoke late on their migration South.
The southerly swell was up around 3m from the previous strong winds, making conditions during the evening a little unpleasant. The wind dropped out, forcing us to motor sail nearly all of the night.

By later the next morning, the smoke had cleared and the breeze shifted to the north and freshened. As a gale warning had been issued, we decided to head into Port Stephens instead of continuing to Port Hacking as planned.

Thankfully D’Albora Marina at Nelson Bay had a suitable berth that was relatively easy to get onto despite the increasingly fresh northerly winds.
Unfortunately there is no ULP at the marina, so a 800m trip up the main street to the nearest service station was needed to get more fuel. But at least we had 300NM under our belts without any problems.

Leg 2: Port Stephens to Port Hacking

The wind moderated overnight, and although a gale was forecast later in the day, we decided to head off before dawn to make the 90NM run to Port Hacking before the southerly front arrived in the afternoon. Things went mostly to plan, with the light northerly in the early morning strengthening and shifting westerly and the smoke clearing. We had made good time motor sailing then started to scoot along under sail as the breeze freshened. By Broken Bay, we were getting 25 knot gusts and by Port Jackson there were 30 knot bullets coming out the heads.

After dropping the heavy weather jib and putting in a 3rd reef, the boat was solid and handled the conditions well. We hugged the coast as we made our way past Port Botany then crossed Bate Bay making sure we kept West of Osborn Rocks that lie on the rhumb line, and entering Port Hacking in the early afternoon.

We then motored up the windy, and sometimes very shallow, channel leading up to our destination of Gymea Bay. We safely crossed under the power lines that run from Buraneer Point to Maianbar. The sign on the water states the clearance is only 9m, but the power line tower on the point is 30m high and it’s base is probably another 15-20m above the water – so our total fly height of 22.5m was not a problem.

Soon after, we had our first grounding – missing a turn in the channel that had developed over previous years and running into the new sand bank. It was a rookie error of navigation on my part – relying too much at the chart plotter rather than carefully looking at the water ahead and the channel markers. Thankfully our grounding was brief and we completed the last part up to Gymea Bay uneventfully. After tying up to the pylons and pontoon kindly lent to us we watched the front roll in later in the afternoon.