Port Stephens to Coffs Harbour.A free mooring in Fame Cove, Port Stephens.
Back inside Nelson Bay, to a mooring in Shoal Bay. Later that day we spotted friends mark and Mel in the cat "Tell Tales" also moored, and as it turned out, they'd poked their nose into the shoal as well, and also turned back.
Next morning, we were all up and on the case a little earlier for a lovely early morning sail with the offshore Westerlies. A slight inconvenience was the auto-pilot failing to fire, so it was a hand-steering day. The wind dropped off in the afternoon, and we motored for the last bit in glassy conditions....and Mel shot the accompanying pic just before we rounded the headland and into the twin towns of Forster/Tuncurry. An easy bar crossing (I've been a bit paranoid about bar crossings) and a night in the river, tied up to a shaky little wharf near the fishing co-op.
We anchored in the middle of the river, off the Laurieton Servicemens Club, where our old catamaran friends "Gemini Lady" and "Kirra Kirra" were tied up to the wharf. I quickly pumped up and launched the dinghy, and motored across to have a quick beer with them and catch up on any news. They were both heading North in the morning, so we had first dibs once they'd left for a spot at the wharf.
The Club provides fresh water on their private wharf, and maintains a shower and toilet facility for cruising yachties, all for free. It's a big pokies club, and the town of Laurieton seems to be THE spot to retire on the pension. We were more than happy to make the most of the cheap meals, and Mary even won the Vegetarian Meat Tray raffle!
The river at Camden Haven's a beaut spot, with a big green mountain as a backdrop. The old adage about cruising goes something like "Sail to beautiful exotic locations to fix your boat", and it was back to the bilge for me. All that work I'd done cleaning out the toilet drains had resulted in a lot of the crap running into the bilge and clogging up the pump. Anyway, there was a shower handy and another learning experience was under my belt.
We enjoyed buzzing around the river in the dinghy, but I still didn't get to surf that left hander off the North Wall.
I did spend a few hours studying the Bar under low tide conditions, (it wasn't pleasant) so we made sure that our exit was planned carefully for the high tide.
Which set us up nicely for an early departure for the final leg to Coffs Harbour.
As all of our recent passages, we'd chosen an easy day, and it was just that. Light winds, and the motor doing the work with the sails being almost a decoration.
It was a landmark day though....we had our first whale encounter!
I'd been out on the bowsprit, doing something with the staysail, when I saw the whaletail diving off our starboard bow. Whoo! And then saw it again once Mary had been alerted as well. Then, we saw the distinctive humpback shapes as we passed.
The next landmark of course, was to arrive into the protection of Coffs Harbour. Docked behind us was "Gemini Lady" and we had a few drinks with Tim and Leanne. Tim's been advising me on how to best manage our electricity usage and charging, and I've been learning!
That evening, we dined with the "Gemini Lady" crew and their friends, both catamarans setting sail in the morning for the 7-day passage to New Caledonia. Exciting stuff!
Despite the storm damage from a wild summer, Coffs Harbour is a great place to be docked, where there's a real buzz around travelling yachts. There's boats coming in and out from everywhere. Italy, America, New Zealand, Tasmania, and everywhere else. Interesting, well travelled yachts, all with stories to tell. They make our little coastal jaunts look a bit wimpy, but its inspiring to see them.
So that's where we are. Weather's been great, although starting to get chilly. Time to head North again!