Keen to get south while the weather and tides stayed favourable we were up at dawn and heading out across a mirror calm bar at 0700hrs. We were in company with four other yachts heading south and the day promised easy sailing.
We transited the bar through the southern entrance and remarked to each other that that was one the last bars we would need to cross for some time. We felt very pleased with the crossing and it was all smiles until just a half a nautical mile along the engine stopped. We restarted it and it stopped again. With 60 nm of light to variable winds to get to Coffs Harbour we reluctantly decided to turn the bows and attempt to sail back in. We had crossed the bar at the top of the rising tide an so now had the daunting prospect of tacking back across the bar, through the gap in the middle wall and through the winding Yamba Channel in order to get to Yamba Marina. The wind was blowing directly down the river, on the nose for an incoming yacht.The Skipper and crew of ‘Roseanne’, a big bilge keeled steel Adams yacht very kindly offered to drop their sails and give us a tow. We gratefully accepted, feeling bad because we knew this would put them behind in their sailing.
And so it was that Fling crossed the bar again, only this time under tow for the first time in our history of owning her! Roseanne’s crew did a fabulous job, especially considering they hadn’t entered the Yamba Channel themselves in years and that the channel is very narrow and very shallow.
Once in the marina we contacted the marine diesel mechanic who came and diagnosed fuel contamination. A last farewell (or fare-less-well) gift from Queensland! The last time we had left Fling in Moreton Bay we had left her with full tanks and biocide but this was not enough to save us from the dreaded fungal growth. Andrew and John, the mechanic spent the entire day draining and cleaning out the tanks. We refuelled with our reserve fuel, knowing it was nice and fresh. Satisfied the problem was fixed we turned our attention to the weather. Alas southerly winds for the next two days. A promising northerly the day after became useless as a southerly change of 25-30 knots later in the day did not allow enough time to cross the bar and make the sixty nm passage to Coff’s before the change came in.
Finally on the Saturday morning a northerly of 15- 20 knots was forecast. Dead low tide was at around 0700 hrs. We decided to give it a go. The only challenge was exiting the Yamba Channel in almost no water. With 0.0m of water under the keel we passed through the two very shallow spots to the main river channel. With plently of water under the keel we exited the bar straight out through the centre as it was again perfectly flat calm.
How good to be out on the ocean again! Fling’s motor purred as the first two hours offered up no wind of any kind. As the day progressed we had the heady in and out, a full main up then eventually sailed with double reefed main and no headsail.
The wind remained dead astern and built to 25 knots, kindly going to the ENE and allowing us to gybe as we approached Coffs Harbour. What a day!
We lost count of the number of whales we saw, sometimes in pods of five or six. We estimate around thirty sightings. Amazing really that such large aminals can hide so effectively in the water as soon as a camera is pointed at them! Andrew saw one whale completely clear of the water, but had his hands full with the helm at the time.
Nine and a half hours had us in Coffs, where we will leave Fling for a few weeks as we return home to spend some time with family.
What’s happening…Revelling in settling into life on the Sunshine Coast and loving having our dear Highland Fling parked at the bottom of the garden, where she waits patiently to go whale watching each week!