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The Voyage of Spectacle East Australian Current

The Voyage

Spectacles

Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

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Bali, Indonesia

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The Voyage of Spectacle

Archive for the ‘East Australian Current’ Category

Arrival in Newcastle

Posted by: melissa
Imagine my surprise when this kayaker pulled up next to me to say hello!

Imagine my surprise when this kayaker pulled up next to me to say hello!

Yesterday, we ate lunch, showered, paid our tab at the chandlery, paid the marina bill, and we were off.  We headed off to find a diesel dock since the D’Albora Rushcutters Bay Marina was remodeling its diesel dock rendering it unavailable.  We were referred to the Point Piper marina at Rose Bay, but when we called the port captain, he did not know how deep it was at his own diesel dock.  We were quite amazed at that, but we figured we’d head over and get a look-see for ourselves. 

As we entered the fairway, we noticed that most of the dock was occupied by power boats … that’s usually a sign of shallow water since power boats have much shallower draft than displacement boats.  I yelled to some guys on the dock and they were not optimistic about our chances of clearing the bottom at the diesel dock.  As they were giving me a rash of shit about my All Blacks fleece, the wind caught the bow pretty severely and everybody scrambled to fend us off of several huge power boats.  One of the guys suggested the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron near the Opera House, so we set off back the way we came. 

RSYS was able to accommodate us, and we filled one of our two tanks with diesel in hopes of a cheaper price per liter outside of Sydney Harbor.  Then we went for our final pass through the Harbor, under the bridge, and by the Opera House.  We both felt really sad to be leaving.  As we went through the headlands exiting the fabulousness and safety of Port Jackson, I experienced some post-traumatic stress as well … we were voluntarily going back out onto the Tasman Sea which had beaten us up so badly on our previous passage.  But it was relatively calm.  I was suddenly shaken out of my thoughts by a hearty “G’ Day!”  There was a guy in a kayak right next to us!  We had a quick chat, and then he turned and went back into the Harbor.

The overnight sail was rather uneventful.  The East Australian Current is hard to predict and a very big consideration since it can be extremely strong.  It runs in a southerly direction, oftentimes up to 3-4 knots.  Since we’re going north, we will normally assume adverse current, but there are eddies where the current reverses direction.  The current effect is less pronounced closer to land, so that was our passage strategy.  And yes, we have been looking for Nemo!

We arrived at the Newcastle approach about two hours before dawn, so we puttered around in circles until the sun came up.  And since it was dawn, I was obviously on watch.  Right at first light, at least 20 freighters set off to sea all heading in various directions.  It was pretty neat.

I woke Andy up and we began our approach between the massive breakwaters into the well protected harbor in Newcastle.  We easily found the marina, tied up, checked in, had some breakfast, and settled in for a nap.

Arrival in Coffs Harbour

Posted by: melissa

Yesterday, we had big plans to leave Newcastle at first light since Coffs Harbor was about 175 miles away and the East Australian Current is always a concern.  Unfortunately, we slept in so soundly, and then suffered some separation anxiety with the marina’s cheap, fast, and reliable wifi.  But we managed to shove off around 10:30 with a flexible plan of making landfall at Port Stephens (about 5 hours away), Coffs Harbour (about 30 hours away), or Gold Coast (about 55 hours away).

As we made our way through the channel, we noticed a lot of traffic.  One tugboat was leading a container ship out, and another tugboat was leading another container ship in.  Several container ships were loitering outside the breakwater waiting to be taken in.  Since we usually see freighters from afar, seeing one up close is a weird reminder of how gigantic they actually are. 

We made our way through the breakwaters and found a nice, calm, flat Tasman Sea … just like we like it!  Andy went below to check our position, and then I heard a loud booming noise.  I looked in the general direction of the noise, and having grown up within a couple of miles of an Air Force base, I knew that some kind of fighter jet was headed in our direction. 

The trick to communicating on a boat is the delicate balance between notification with a sense of urgency and scaring someone to death with a tone of emergency or impending disaster.  I leaned into the companion way, and as calmly as I could, I said “military plane” in a flat but loud voice.  Andy shot up immediately to catch the show.  It made a wide loop out over the ocean at fairly low altitude … deafeningly loud and very exciting.

About 10 minutes later, we had a humpback whale sighting!  Again, I leaned into the companion way, and as calmly as I could, I said “whale” in a flat but loud voice.  Again, you have to be careful not to communicate a message of panic or emergency, but rather just a really cool sightseeing opportunity.  Anyway, it was a pod of at least three whales traveling up the coast together.  We mostly saw their spouts and backs … no flukes or fins or full breeches this time, but very cool nonetheless.

The rest of the day was quite nice and uneventful.  I’m reading a book called Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.  It won a Pulitzer Prize and I can definitely see why.  Andy’s reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and constantly shaking his head at the disturbing tale. 

This storm, and the weather warning of high winds, chased us all the way into Coffs Harbour.

This storm, and the weather warning of high winds, chased us all the way into Coffs Harbour.

Unfortunately, we downloaded some weather forecasts and a weather warning had just been issued for high winds for our area around Coffs Harbour the following night.  As I mentioned, we had decided that if we didn’t make it to Coffs Harbour for a daytime arrival, we would try to press on to Gold Coast.  This new weather warning killed that idea promptly, so we had to pick up the pace a little bit to make sure we made it to Coffs Harbor with daylight to spare. 

And we just barely made it!  Literally, we had minutes to spare as a huge, angry-looking storm chased us in to shelter.  The slip was barely big enough to hold us and the neighboring boat already moored there, but, in his best performance yet, Andy perfectly threaded the needle.  Oh, bowthruster, how do we love thee?  Let me count the ways!

We grabbed the shower bag, stopped at the marina office, and per their instructions, opened the lockbox to obtain the keys.  We had dinner at the closest restaurant, and it was actually pretty good.  I had yellow fin tuna that was probably just a few hours fresh, although, I felt Andy’s brother, Erik, also known as the Seahadist (the seafood Jihadist), breathing down my neck for not eating something else (Artic Char?).  His overwhelming knowledge about, and activism to stop, overfishing are really cutting into my enjoyment of seafood!

Arrival in Gold Coast — Welcome to Queensland!

Posted by: melissa

Well, during the passage from Coffs Harbour to Gold Coast, we passed two milestones.  First, we said goodbye to New South Wales, and hello to Queensland.  Second, we left the latitude of 30 and higher behind us.  I am relieved to have re-entered the milder waters and warmer temperatures of the 20s … equator, here we come!

Our departure from Coffs Harbour was delayed by a couple of hours because of the tide.  Low water was at 10:30 a.m. so we waited until noon to give ourselves some leeway.  Plus, Coffs Harbour was hit hard by a recent storm that pounded the harbor and damaged the marina.  The channel entrance was still undergoing some redredging as part of the recovery. 

We went through the breakwater and headed offshore slightly, but only about 2-3 miles to try and avoid current.  As night fell however, we started seeing more and more fishing vessels, and we were forced to go further out away from the coastline to stay out of traffic.  The wind completely died and we were forced to motor as well. 

At dawn, we passed by Byron’s Bay which is the eastern most point of Australia.  By that time, I was heavily into my next book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is a plot driven page turner which is nice on long passages.  Andy highly recommended it, as well as the sequel called The Girl Who Played with Fire.  Evidently there’s a third in this Stieg Larsson trilogy, but we don’t have it onboard. 

Anyway, I was totally engrossed when a humpback whale surfaced and blew its spout less than 50 yards away from the boat.  It was startling, but so incredible.  We’ve seen a lot of whales now, and it never gets old.  It’s just amazing to experience such a rare and exotic animal in such natural way … no tour group, no whale-watching guides, no throwing food in the water … just observing a whale doing what whales do, and have instinctually done, for millions of years.  Being that close is like meeting a dinosaur or something.  It’s awesome, in the truest definition of the word.

The sun was shining and as predicted, the weather was really warming up.  I may be able to put away my Newcastle Knights hat and scarf for good shortly!  Unfortunately, 20 knots of wind turned right on the nose, so it looked like motoring the rest of the way.  Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise were quickly in view — it looks like Miami with sky rises and huge white sand beaches. 

The approach to Gold Coast was pretty chaotic.

The approach to Gold Coast was pretty chaotic.

We located the channel entrance mostly by following the 30 or so boats heading in after a Sunday afternoon on the water.  The currents going over the sandbar were weird enough, but the wakes of macho, speed demon, power boats bounced us around as well.  Dinghies, jet skis, fishing boats, whale-watching power catamarans, party barges … it was pretty much total chaos.  But, we turned the corner and followed the very distinct aids to navigation, easily found the marina, filled up with diesel, found our slip, and settled in.


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