Port Macquarie is, as are so many coastal towns on this part of the coast, an old colonial settlement. From sea the tall stands of Norfolk Island pines so commonly planted in convict times are clearly visible. The footpaths are embedded with the names and life dates of the founding pioneers. Most lived a short life. It’s a pretty and prosperous township and the Port Macquarie Marina is a pleasant ten minute stroll along the foreshore to town. Just across the road from the marina is a large shopping centre. The Marina itself is serviced by a shipwright and hardstand, marine engineers and a small chandlery. There is an excellent cafe onsite.
The cafe supports the local wildlife, in this case a family of Water Dragons who wander fearlessly amongst the diners, nibbling on crumbs and the odd unguarded toe. There is also a population of quite sizeable fish who gather to be fed by cafe patrons around twenty times a day. Some would happily feed two people but we obediently resisted fishing as we are told we were in a marine sanctuary.
The winds are again unfavourable for heading south so we hired a car and headed down to visit Camden Haven and Laurieton. Andrew spent a few years living just inland from here in his childhood and we were keen to see how much the area had changed. We drove out to inspect the Camden Haven River entrance remembering our traumatic aborted entry here on our way north last year. (see ‘when pooped is = pooped as’ if you have not read that entry)
Today the bar is a picture of placidity. We duly noted the warning signs on the breakwall advising mariners of the dangers of the bar and advising life jacket useage! We reckon there should be flashing neon lights about five miles out to sea as well!! But that’s just based on our experience! We regretted not having the chance to feast on local oysters and Yamba prawns from Armstrongs Oyster Barn last year but quickly made up for lost time with a picnic on the river bank at Dunbogan.
After four days the forecast looked promising, winds variable on a 4m swell which was expected to drop off to 2-3 m in the afternoon with 10-15 knot N-NE breezes. Accordingly we planned a long daysail to Broughton Island, expecting to be able to pick up a mooring there at 20.00hrs after a 03.30 hrs start.
We crossed the bar just on the slack tide in the dark, (a first for us) and after clearing the secondary or outer bar area 600m further out we headed for our rhumbline. As did the wind. The forecast of a 4 m swell was correct, but the wind direction wrong. For an hour in the middle of the day it gave us a good sail and Highland Fling hummed along as we delighted in the experience of being completely surrounded by dolphins, all leaping up for some ‘air time’! They were mostly of a smaller species than the bottlenose dolphins we usually see and were very nippy! We must have seen thirty pods during the day.
An hour of fun then the wind again headed us. Reefs in and out, headsail in and out, on it went. In the course of fourteen hours of sailing we covered 81nm and were only halfway through our passage plan. As the afternoon ‘NE seabreeze of 10-15 knots’ was in fact a 20-25 knot headwind we opted instead to turn into Forster for the night.
Cape Hawke Harbour offered us shelter and sleep. Local bushfires added to the haze but the entrance leads were visible from a mile out and the deep and stable entrance made entry a breeze. For $25.00 you can tie up to the wharves on the Tuncurry side but you will require a bargeboard and they cannot be easily fendered any other way.
A kind gentleman took our lines, a sailor himself and complimented us on our skill in sailing in with a double reefed main still up. I did not have the heart to tell him we were too stuffed to pull it down outside in 25 knots!
I thought to phone my brother who lives nearby, but sleep claimed me first.
Up again at 0400hrs and off again. Today’s winds were much friendlier and after beating through the swells to round Seal Rocks we were able to lay a more pleasant course to Port Stephens.
We initally contacted the D Albora marina where we stayed on our way up and were dissapointed to hear that the rates for our 10.5 m vessel were a whopping $130.00 per night. As all the public moorings seemed taken we then contacted Soldiers Point Marina, who invited us to stay at $75.00 per night! Needless to say we accepted immediately!
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!