5 Dec 2015

Arrived NZ

OK, OK, I know.

We've not updated the blog for a while (too busy 'doing' rather than blogging) but now Harlequin is settled in New Zealand for a while, there will be time for a bit of a catch-up, so watch this space. Promise!

Meantime, here's the big picture of our second Tasman crossing: 1,300 nm from Southport, Queensland to Opua then Whangarei, NZ from 14 -27 Nov 15...

18 Mar 2015

Sydney photo-op'

A rather dull icon...
OK, it had to be done: the classic photo opportunity by the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The weather was a bit dull at first attempt, as we motored by en-route to anchor in Blackwattle Bay by the Anzac Bridge - an interesting anchorage, right in the CBD by the Sydney Fish Market.

So we came back with friends for a Sydney Harbour cruise and timed the weather perfectly this time...

Lunch in Rose Bay


Group selfieTHE picture

14 Mar 2015

Arriving Sydney

North Head
On 14 March we finally entered Port Jackson, which includes North, Middle and Sydney Harbours - plenty for us to explore over the next fortnight. And what a striking view, as we entered: sails everywhere, with all the yacht and dinghy clubs out racing, the fleets all 'threading the needle' between the high-speed ferries and each other.

Family-free zone
We motored pretty close under North Head as we expected family to be there for an arrival photo op'. Turns out they were actually stuck in a traffic-jam in Manly - how very Sydney, a city where it takes a minimum of 45 minutes to drive anywhere!

Who should we meet instead? Why, Chris Mallet, former DBYC member and Harlequin of old (nick-named 'The Commodore' during the rudder loss incident in PNG), as he flashed past on an Adams 10, pre-start maneuvering for a MHYC Saturday race.

Wave from 'The Commodore'
Then in to Middle Harbour itself to await the 1500 opening of the Spit Bridge and a short motor up to Cammeray Marina where we'd booked a berth alongside for the night - the better to have family & friends aboard to pop a few bottles of arrival fizz!

Spit Bridge
Just as well we were on time, though, as we just caught the crew of another yacht who had taken our spot and were just stepping off for a night ashore! Luckily the dock manager arrived and re-located them to a nearby mooring, or all our arrival fizz-popping plans would have been blown!

Shortly after, the important groceries were delivered: ice-cold beer, bubbly, ice and nibbles. All to be sherpa'ed down the 200 steps to the marina, but that just served to work up a thirst! Let the party commence!

Cheers from Sydney!!!

13 Mar 2015

Pittwater & the Hawkesbury River

Next stop Pittwater - getting so close to Sydney we can almost taste it! Can certainly see it's effects at night!

Setting off through the Swansea Channel (against the flood this time, to again catch the bar at high tide) was no problem - getting expert by now, a lot more confident when you know it can be done. Another ex-SA Ozzie, Gavin accompanied us for the short trip as a suck-it-and-see before hopefully joining us again next month for the longer sail back north to the Gold Coast.

America Bay
We had the fishing lines out immediately and Sue quickly reeled in a couple of mahi-mahi for Gavin to land. Not keepers, though, so back they went. We expected something bigger along later, but sadly that wasn't to happen.

Sue loves spiders...
Arriving quite late in Pittwater, we went straight to anchorage at Careel Bay, where Gavin disembarked the next morning. Then off to explore the Hawkesbury!

First In America Bay, from where we hiked a sweltering 20 km along the Lambert Peninsula to West Head to check out the aboriginal carvings, general wildlife and superb views over Pittwater.

Then up the Hawkesbury River to famous Refuge Bay. "Considered by cruisers to be one of the world's best anchorages..." [Alan Lucas] might be a bit of a stretch, but it's certainly pretty. We nick-named it 'The Bay of 1,000 Moorings', after the sea of private moorings cluttering the place. Including 2 or 3 public moorings, one of which we grabbed.

Sphinx monument ...and explanation
Thence all the way up Cowan Creek to Bobbin Head marina, not to overnight, but to check out hikes at the Tourist Info office at the Kuring-gai National Park, and to fill with water. We picked up a public mooring in Houseboat Bay then dinghied ashore in the morning for a long hike to the Sphinx war memorial - quite something.

And so on: exploring Castle Bay, Jerusalem Bay, Pinta Bay, and lastly Hallets Beach where we enjoyed afternoon drinkies with Heather & Steve aboard cat Inforapenny II. Sadly, we couldn't stay for their CYA sail-in and beach party the next day.

Hawkesbury River

All lovely, but by now we were looking forward to the Big Arrival in Sydney, so after a fortnight amongst the lakes, rivers and creeks it was time for our last leg south to Port Jackson...

[Not forgetting the fascinating aboriginal art, possibly thousands of years old...]

carving 1 carving 2 carving 3
sign 1 sign 2 sign 3

10 Mar 2015

Navigating by Google Earth

A small aside, for those who haven't heard of the Google Earth plug-in available for chart-plotters such as OpenCPN, which is the laptop nav program we use at our nav station. It's free to download, as are many of the charts, depending on where you are in the world.

Here is a pic' of our plotter, as we dangled on the mooring waiting for the Swansea bridge to open. To be followed by a spot of pretty tight navigation/pilotage between sand banks - a prime use for the GE plug-in. It shows the GE window with present position indicated; the GE window view moves and scales automatically with the main OpenCPN chart picture...

GE plug-in for OpenCPN

We also found it very useful in places like Fiji where the charts are inaccurate and out of date. Coral grows swiftly in these areas! Often GE was the only nav aid we had there, besides the Mk I Eyeball, with someone up the mast, sitting on the first spreader.

If you expect to be out of coms, and therefore off-line, you can even scan an area in advance then save the GE cache for use later. Again, we've used this technique successfully and would recommend it in out-of-the-way areas with poor chartage. An on-line article here describes it, courtesy of Yachting World and Rory Garland aboard SV Soggy Paws.

The program SAS.Planet is also discussed, of which we have no experience, but will be experimenting later...

9 Mar 2015

Lake Macquarie

Lake Macquarie
Leaving Newcastle for Sydney, it was never our intention to visit Lake Macquarie.

The pilot notes and chart for the approach through the Swansea Channel just seemed a little daunting, with shifting sandbanks and incomplete dredging v's our 2.2 m draft. Best to get a local pilot they suggest - so why bother? I took a ride down there on 'The Beast' to check it out, and watched a yacht having fun and games as they convincingly snagged the mooring line around keel & rudder in the fast-flowing current at the bridge. Hmmm...

Swansea Channel
Then a chance conversation with a couple of locals at the NCYC seemed to suggest otherwise. They were now using a different, more effective dredger and, perhaps more importantly, a different dredging technique (removing the dredged sands completely), so the channel should be "no problem" at high tide. OK then.

Further investigation raised the question of which high tide. One has to cross the outer bar (actually a projecting coal seam) at local high tide obviously, then wait for a spell on one of the public moorings short of the bridge for one of the scheduled opening times.

But no rush, since high tide at the other end of the channel, one of the shallowest parts known as "The Dropover" into Lake Macquarie, occurs 3 hrs later than at the entrance! The lake has a very small tidal range, and simply empties through the narrow channel until about half tide, when it starts to re-fill. Varying slightly with actual lake levels due recent rainfall, barometric pressure, etc.

All went well on the day, never seeing less than 2 or 3 feet under the keel, which is just as well since, riding the flood, the boat was making 4 kts - even motoring at min RPM for steerage. Getting the navigation (mostly pilotage) wrong would result in riding up onto a sandbank a fair distance, at that speed!

Harlequin track, to and from the bridge
After a short but windy passage from Newcastle, and the concentration through the channel (solo on this leg), bursting out into the huge salt-water lake (Australia's largest) was like arriving in a different world.

The sun was shining, fishermen were everywhere (many jigging for squid), speedboats flew by with screaming kids on boogy-boards and doughnuts, yachts cruised more sedately past, everyone smiling and waving, having a whale of a time. And we nearly missed this!
Catalina memorial

First night we anchored off the WWII flying boat ramps at Rathmines (with all their history) then moved up to Marmong Point marina to collect Sue, inbound by train to Booragul station.

And so followed a week of exploring the various nooks and crannies of the northern (and deepest) half of the lake, sometimes at anchor but often overnighting at the public piers - not a problem, it seemed in the post-school holiday off season. Also alongside at the RMYC, Toronto, and even one night at the Wangi Wangi Workers Club pier. What a brilliant name!

Just chillin'...

Bottom line: thoroughly recommended, and I wouldn't let the Swansea Channel put anyone off visiting the lovely Lake Macquarie...

23 Feb 2015


Various kayak trips exploring the harbour
Newcastle's NCYC was the perfect spot to secure Harlequin for a while. In fact, it turned out to be a month!

Marking time for a spell, the town offered a wide variety of shops, services, entertainment, sights, history, some excellent surf beaches and possibly the world's best ice-cream to be found outside Italy, at Kiwi Waffle 'n Cones on Zaara Street. You've got to try it and see.

The Beast
We also invested in a couple of fold-up bikes to explore further afield, and are kicking ourselves for not doing so earlier. They were perfect for exploring far & wide in the beautiful summer weather.

Finally, the loan of a monster BMW 1200LT motorbike made transport even easier. But not having ridden a motorbike in years - and never anything as large as this beast - one had to try very hard not to drop it! In fact that's what the huge bike became known as: 'The Beast'!

Nuff chat. Let the pictures tell the story...

A wet Aussie Day...

with pipe bands...

and Dad's Army!

Jo loves her ice-cream

Beaches closed for sharks


Welcome to Port Newcastle

Colin & Glenda visit

Wreck walk

Nobby's Head

Marlin catch

Newcastle cathedral

     And finally...


...and now.

22 Feb 2015

Ocean life video

Here's a brief switch away from Harlequin's adventures..

We're so often amazed by the awesome (sic) moments we experience travelling the seas & oceans, but find impossible to capture on film. This video does it so well...

25 Jan 2015

Yamba - Coffs Harbour - Newcastle

Departing Yamba marina & associated channel was less fraught, as was crossing the bar outbound on the second half of the flood. A good breeze and our ever-helpful East Aussie Current had us making a steady 8 kts SOG which made short work of the 60 nm to Coffs Harbour.

The only incident of note being a visit by a large pod of extremely frisky dolphins, including some youngsters that became increasingly friendly (belly up) under the bow until 'clunk', the falling bow connected with one. A single "Squeak!", and the entire pod vanished in the blink of an eye. Hopefully without any serious injury.

Coffs' famous Big Banana
Our Friday night supper at Coffs was a fish & chip takeaway from the local cafe - a treat we'd been discussing all day as the alternative to actually catching the promised tuna. Or mahi-mahi, or anything frankly. Also nice to receive a visit from more of Matt's family, who appear to be spread in their hundreds throughout the eastern seaboard!

The plan was to spend the weekend here, but the weather had other ideas. The forecast was shaping up for a spell of strong southerlies, which would trap us in port for 5 days. We could either weather the shift in Coffs Harbour (and after the Big Banana, there ain't a lot to do there) or bite the bullet and depart immediately for an overnight all the way to Newcastle. A quick check with the crew and we agreed we'd go for it.
Slowing down by this stage...

We just had to wrest Matt back from the bosom of his family (sorry, Matt) and refuel, which involved a couple of hours' delay after a queue of trawlers and a Police launch. Then we were off for the 200 nm hop down the coast to Newcastle.

Welcome to Newcastle

The welcoming 'Destiny'
(marking Newcastle's
About 7 nm off the coast we found the EAC, with the sea temp shooting up from 19 to 25 degs C. And for hour after hour we enjoyed a 'magic carpet' ride of 10-11 kts SOG. This was whilst motor-sailing at 5-6 kts. No surprise then, that we covered the 200 nm in 24 hrs, allowing birthday-boy Steve at the helm to playfully beat the last few miles into harbour in beautiful sunshine.

Arrival alongside at Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club (NCYC) was snag-less, well in time for the next day's celebration of Australia Day, and to take Steve out for his Thai birthday dinner. Happy 52nd, Steve!