January was coming to an end, and it was high time we cruised Broken Bay and the Pittwater north of Sydney. Steve had arranged for some work to be done on Adagio at the Palm Beach Slipway. On a mooring just off of the Palm Beach Marine wharf, we had a diver clean the waterline, check the zincs on the saildrives and clean fouling from the props and thruhulls. We are surrounded by beautiful yachts of every description, and each afternoon a fleet of sailboats races up and down the channel. Very pretty, with the national park across the water. Lovely pink sunset. Gusty winds in the 20â€™s all day. After a couple of days on the mooring and a couple of visits by bus to the nearby town of Avalon for fresh produce, we headed for the Cowan Creek area of Broken Bay for some cruising in pristine waters.
We anchored in Refuge Bay, just outside the crescent of dozens of moorings of all descriptions. Eight other boats picked up moorings close in to shore. The cruising guide says this is the prettiest anchorage on the Australian east coast. It is certainly as pretty as the anchorages in the Whitsundays. Sandstone cliffs and boulders down to the waterâ€™s edge. Many types of trees clinging to rocks and crevices. Wind is moderate and only a slight chop. Much calmer than at Palm Beach.
Over the next few days we explored the creeks and channels and picked up moorings at Cottage Point (Ku-rin-gai Motor Yacht Club) and Yeomans Bay. The previous week had been the height of the boating season for Sydneysiders. Now all was quiet and very pretty. Our timing had been perfect. Dorothy and Steve launched the kayak and Dorothy spent an hour exploring the upper reaches of the bay and Yeomans Creek where there are mangroves. Two very large wedge-tailed eagles allowed Dorothy to paddle quietly up to look at them. They are about a meter high when perched, with a wingspan of more than a meter when flying. Several fish of 6â€ jumped out of the water from time to time. Beautiful wind- and water-carved sandstone boulders line the shore. Tree-clad cliffs hung with ferns rise up steeply from the shore. A red power cat named â€œCappucino Catâ€ came into the bay selling coffee, ice-cream, hot meat pies, newspapers, sodas and bottled water. The 15â€™ sailboat nearby must have been really happy, as they couldn’t have any cooking/refrig aboard. Dorothy bought an ice-cream bar. Steve had already bought a newspaper at Cottage Point. The waters were pristine, no litter or garbage anywhere, even after the thousands of Sydney holiday makers over the recent school holidays. We were very impressed. On the weekend, Sydneysiders again brought their boats to these bays.
We returned to Palm Beach on Wednesday and brought Adagio alongside the pontoon at Palm Beach Marine for Simon to apply a temporary patch to the New Years Eve damage to our port bow. In the morning a fairy penguin swam around Adagio, feeding quietly and watching for predators. The following morning we went to Royal Prince Alfred YC for rig check, then a fuel stop. The Royal Prince Alfred YC fuel dock is accessible only through a very narrow entrance between pilings. We would not go in there again. Peter on the fuel dock is very cordial and helpful.
Our weather window was opening for our passage south to Eden. “Sydney coastal waters: Broken Bay to Port Hacking: NE 10/15 increasing to 20 knots in the afternoon. 1-2 m seas with a 1-2 m swell. Friday NE 15/20. Current wave ht. 1.3 m with a 6.5 knot NE wind.” We departed Pittwater on the morning of February 6. Beautiful morning. The seas were down from the day before. As we proceeded south along the NSW coast, we passed several sailboats, some going north, some going south. Dorothy phoned and spoke to Susan Goodall in Russell, New Zealand to inform her of our cruising plans. She and David had just purchased a Whiting 29â€™ sailboat named â€œImagineâ€.
By early afternoon the wind speed had increased from 6 to 15 knots, and by 5 PM we were sailing happily again before 23 knots of true wind speed. Against a 1/2 knot East Australian Current, we still maintained an average of 10 knots over the ground, with occasional surfing speeds of 15 knots of fun sailing. We chatted on the radio with each volunteer marine rescue service as we sailed past. The woman manning the Port Kembla radio said that we “made her day”, watching us sail by so fast.
At 9 PM we were sailing in 26 knots of wind as we passed Ulladullah, and at 5 AM we had 30 knots of wind speed and a falling barometer. Our anchor was set securely in the sand off the beach at the park just west of Snug Cove/Cattleman Bay, Twofold Bay, Eden at 1015 hours February 7. What a wonderful sail it had been. From anchor at Palm Beach to anchor at Snug Cove was 232 nm in 27 hours, averaging 8.6 knots for the passage. From 1442 hr on 02/06 to 0600 hr on 02/07, distance of 154 nm in 15.25 hrs, our average speed over the ground was 10.1 knots in winds of 18-30 knots. “Fast is fun”.
For a few days we rafted Adagio alongside a party barge, named “SAMBA!”. It was marooned in Eden awaiting engine repair, on its way to Melbourne. This location gave us easy access to the dinghy dock when we wanted to go ashore. However we worried about the ancient electrical wiring aboard SAMBA, and the bright flashing lights displayed when there was a party aboard.
We took Allegro for a spin around Twofold Bay, visiting all the beaches and anchorages, and looking to see if we could still anchor over by the “Chip Mill”, in spite of construction by the Australian Navy of a munitions facility on that side of the bay. We found the access to be free and clear and plenty of space for a half dozen boats or more to anchor. We lunched at the Oyster Bar cafe, walked in to town to use the Internet connection at the Council Offices, then dined at the Waterhouse restaurant – delicious prawns. We were waiting for a weather window for our passage across Bass Strait and on to Hobart. On February 14 the day was overcast and the weather report is a real mixed bag with winds forecast from every direction. Possibly our weather window for Saturday has closed. We connected our shore power. An old ketch named â€œJOSHUA T â€œcame in with steering problems. We took the bus to Merimbula to buy blueberries at the grocery and to access the broadband Internet connection at â€œAs It Isâ€, near the post office. A Japanese cruising boat arrived, but we didn’t get the chance to meet the crew.
Two sailing cats arrived on February 15, “HIPPO(CAMPUS”), and later “Cat’s Chorus” owned by an English couple. We spoke to owners Jackie and Ray and crew Tom. They are heading for Melbourne. A cold front was expected to cross the south coast Monday afternoon, so on Sunday we motored across Twofold Bay and anchored in East Boyd Bay. We were soon joined by the crews of the two other catamarans, as well as Paul and Judy from “Meridian of Sydney.” We had all of these crew members (10 guests in all) over to Adagio for sundowners.
Tuesday was a calm, sunny morning, with the full moon setting at sunrise. The previous night we we had sundowners aboard HIPPO, owned by Sue and Mike, son Patrick, crew and professional technical-diver Callum Watts. Sue served us fresh mussels in coconut chili sauce (to die for!). She collected the mussels from rocks near the old whaling station ashore.
Our weather window arrived on Thursday, from the Adagio log: Eastern Bass Strait, Thurs till midnight: E 15/20 strengthening to 20/30 knots during the day. Sea 1.5 to 2 m rising to 2 to 3 m. Southeasterly swell 1 to 2 m. Friday: NE 20/30. Sat: E/ NE 20/30 knots easing to 15/20 knots. At 0630 on February 20, we departed Eden for Hobart. Depart Eden for Hobart in light rain. So three catamarans and one monhull are heading south into Bass Strait: “Meridian of Sydney”, “Cats Chorus”, and “Hippo”.