This is the story of four middle aged guys who are now tasked with bringing the boat from her old home in Pittwater to her temporary home in Manly, Brisbane.
It is also the birth of the now legendary Capt'n Willi Cinque.
These are emails that I sent to a few people to let them know of our progress. Unbeknownst to me the log was proving popular as friends forwarded them to friends. I think more than 500 people finally tracked our progress!
Port Jackson to Pittwater
Well we are finally off. We left Sydney on a very cold and bleak morning with a strong wind warning. Fortunately it was S/SE and we figured we could get to Pittwater before the wind caught us, which was correct. Parked at Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club until they rudely told us to bugger off, so then moored at the Royal Motor Club where they made us very welcome. Free berth if we ate in their restaurant. Very nice.
It’s now 5.30 am and we are getting ready for a big push to Newcastle. The forecast is better, still S/SE whereas tomorrow it should swing to the north. The weather is still miserable and I think we’ll have rain, but we’ll still be going the right way!
Dreamagic is behaving herself beautifully and I am starting to fall in love. The crew are still all OK with each other although they are starting to smell a bit!
Well that’s it. Sun is up and we must away.
Pittwater to Newcastle
A rather ignominious start. 300 metres from the berth we ran aground! Pulled ourselves off after 30 minutes ( I am not sure that came out right!) and with a strong wind warning we were on our way.
Weather was still grey and threatening but we cleared Barrenjoey and set sail for Newcastle. The sea was lumpy and we were heavily reefed but Dreamagic seems to revel in the adversity. The three that can sail were loving it, the other two will come around.
Mid morning an albatross started following us! I can’t remember if that is good or bad but eventually he turned off. Then a pod of dolphins surfed in our pressure wave for a while which was just magic.
We finally got to Newcastle at about 3.30 averaging about 5.75 knts. This is the first time I have taken Dreamagic into ocean and I was very pleased with the way she handled things.
Just had dinner at the local pub. The boys are now watching a DVD while I attend to the more mundane chores like plotting tomorrow’s course. (Port Stephens) The decks are wet with testosterone and I keep tripping over egos. It’s amazing what I little bad weather and wearing a Musto can do for a guy! Everyone is an around the world sailor! Still, tomorrow is forecast NE 15/20 so if we go, tomorrow night will be reason for celebration.
I think that’s all for now, I am knackered!
Newcastle to Port Stephens
Weather is still being unkind. 15/20 knts on the nose but and it took us 9 hours to cover 27 nms. Still the boat flew in the conditions and again we were accompanied by pods of dolphins. Port Stephens is very pretty but with some treacherous rocks guarding the entrance. I am coming to grips with cmap4 which must be the most confusing PC programme I have ever used. Anyway it did us proud and we are here safe.
We called Port Stephens Marina, owned by DÁlboro who own every Marina around. Yes, they have one berth left but we need to be there by 5 to pay them. How much? $160 a night! To tie up to a piece of concrete! We are currently hanging off a mooring in a small bay just inside the heads.
And speaking of heads, one of ours keeps backing up at sea with unfortunate and smelly results. This is the one fitted with the Ëlectrosan” system which electrifies your waste and turns it into nutritious fish food. Delightful! Anyway, the fish will have to go hungry as I am going to deep six it as soon as we get somewhere I can work.
Because of this bloody weather we are only going to Broughton Island today. It’s only 8 nms, but that will make tomorrows target 40nms and the weather is forecast to be kinder! We can see Broughton from here and as we are averaging 6 knts even we shouldn’t get lost!
That’s all folks. Next thrilling installment as soon as I can. Be good, stay safe and don’t do anything I wouldn’t.
Port Stephens to Tuncurry
This morning saw our heroes have a late start. Actually if I didn’t bang about and generally shame them every morning would be a late start, but with only 8 nms to go I could afford to let the little dears sleep in. Actually, having spent 4 nights sleeping on this boat I now know why it is so difficult to convince girls to go to bed. Men belch, fart, and make noises that if were being made by an animal, you would put it down. Des snores enough that the sides of the cabin shake. Dallas is probably the most disconcerting in that he will rhythmically snore, then suddenly stop. Just when you think he may have died he starts again. Then there is the farting…. Well, let’s leave it there.
After breakfast we got going under motor on a fantastic morning. Glassy sea, no wind, no cloud. Just that light blue crisp sky. We were at Broughton by 10.30 but it looked inhospitable so we decided to push to Tuncurry. Richard is a mad keen fisherman, (I’ll eat it, but I think it’s cruel. How is that for hypocrisy?) so we set a mackerel line and towed that for 45 nms. So far then, fish 45 Dreamagic 0 Secretly I am rooting for the fish!
We logged on with the Coast Guard who asked us whether we had filed a trip report before. We had done so the previous day but they had lost it, so much amusement as we gave them all our details again. (It may occur to you that if we find that amusing, life aboard is boring. It probably is and I think we should get out more!)
Rounding Seal Rocks the wind started to fill and had enough East in it to hold a sail so we set ours. A Farr 40 came alongside and as is the rules, if two yachts are on the same ocean they will race. We are longer, but they are lighter, a race boat, and had their Kevlar, Mylar, La la,, posh sails up. Modesty forbids me giving the result.
Our personal pod of dolphins joined us for an hour or so, wind filled to 15, we were hooting. Best days sailing yet, or maybe we are just learning to sail the boat. We are pointing up to 30, we could outpoint the Farr by a couple of points, so I was very smug when we got to Tuncurry.
The smugness dissipated on seeing the bar though. We were at 1 hour after low tide and the rollers were huge. We called the Coast Guard to make sure there was enough water but it looked horrendous. Anyway, without much choice we surfed in touching 9 knts at one stage. It is very disconcerting to be sailing through a channel with people either side only up to their waist in water. I was expecting a round of applause from the beach.
Our problems were not over once inside. The bar may be dredged but the channel is shallow. We are anchored outside the Fish CoOp in about 3 metres. The bridge, which is far to low for us is about 200 meters downstream, the sandbar is less than a boat length to starboard, and the CoOp is about 50 Meters to Port. They say a skipper never sleeps on his boat and that is very true at anchor. Dreamagic is still in the same spot she was in, but I have been up and down like a whore’s draws all night and consequently am tired and have a headache. The others had a good nights sleep, bless ém. Oh, I just rang the ships bell by accident! Sorry about that.
We were blessed with a magnificent moon rise though. It came up without cloud right in the mouth of the harbour wall. Very yellow on a velvet sky. Fantastic!
Well that’s all folks. Thanks for reading, thanks so much for your replies and good wishes, and tonight should see us tied alongside at Port Macquarie. Showers and laundry! I just have to get her out through the rollers we surfed in on.
Tuncurry to Port Macquarie
Yesterday morning finds our intrepid sailors waking to a beautiful crisp, windless day so we pushed off about 7.00am and made for the bar. How different from yesterday! Deep, not a ripple in the water. A lone dolphin escorted us out and we set course for Port Macquarie.
We motored most of the morning and employed George, our autopilot to do most of the work. Everyone sat around reading or listening to music. Every now and again I would give a radio sked to Voluntary Marine Radio Port Stephens or Port Macquarie but it was more to give them something to do. VMR are a bunch of amateur radio guys who log ships on and track their progress. One logs on at the start of the voyage and then off again when you are safe in port. I get the impression that they are mostly retired and bored because they can’t do enough for us as we make our way up the coast. They sort out phone numbers, stats, depths etc, even make calls to marinas which we could and would prefer to do ourselves. Nice to know someone cares.
We have now travelled 110 nms towing a piece of string so the score stands at Fish 110, Dreamagic 0. Go Fish! Richard, who knows everything there is to know about fishing, (and pretty much anything else you want to know) is taking some ribbing. Lucky we are not relying on him for dinner.
Mid afternoon the wind started to fill so we hoisted the sails and scudded across the sea at about 6, sometimes 7 knots. As we get to know the boat she is just getting better. We are all pleased, even Des is raving about her, which is unheard of.
We arrived at the entrance to Port Macquarie at 4.30 which is absolutely low tide across the bar. Alan Lucas’s Cruising The NSW Coast says this is one of the worst bar crossings on the coast and should be taken on the third hour of the tide. (For those reading this who don’t sail, the rule of 12ths says that 1/12th of the water will move over the bar in the first hour, 2/12ths in the second, 3/12ths in the 3rd and 4th, 2/12ths in the 5th and 1/12th in the final hour. Therefore the 3rd hour would have half the water over the bar, so its nearly as deep as its going to be, and will still rise a bit if you touch.)
To add to our problems, it was a king tide because of the full moon, so a super low, at 0.08 meters. Calling the Coastguard we were told that the depth over the bar was 2 meters, we draw 2.2, so any wave over .2 of a meter would dump us on the bottom. The waves were 2 meters! Potentially then a crossing would pick her up, drop her on her keel, probably instantly turning the boat into a Jacuzzi as the keel came up through the hull.
Our only proposition was to wait offshore for a couple of hours. The sun was setting over the land making seeing the lead marks impossible, even with my new peril sensitive sunglasses. (They are the ones that go completely black at any sign of danger, only allowing me to see once the hazard has passed). Non the less I am the skipper, and as such responsible for the safety of the boat and her crew. My word is LAW so that is my decision. We wait.
I can think of worse things to do than an evening sail off the Port Macquarie heads. The wind is fresh, the weather is beautiful, and we are in good company. Then disaster struck. A call from the galley reveals that we have run out of beer. Quick thinking on my part averted a mutiny when I revealed my secret stash of wine, but within an hour that too was reduced to empty casks. Finally, having drunk their aftershave, the alcohol based suntan gel and the antiseptic in the first aid kit they were mellow enough to attempt the bar.
Well we obviously made it, or I would not be writing this, but it was a close thing. This one made yesterday’s look like a playground kids ride. Finally we tied up at the marina and an exhausted crew wandered over the road for emergency provisioning and then to a restaurant for dinner.
As I write this, sitting at the nav table I can hear the surf over the bar. In a moment I will raise the crew, (usually done by opening each cabin door cautiously and prodding with a fully extended boathook,) and attempt to cross it the other way.
Now you can’t tell me this isn’t fun! Next stop Coffs Harbour where I am going to rest the boat for the day, provision, do some maintenance and clean her, and everyone else is going to be somewhere else.
Til next time!
Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour
The day started well. After writing this mornings log I want up on deck to watch a magnificent sunrise and listen to the dawn chorus of sea birds supported by the belches, farts and noises I can’t begin to describe emanating from my sleeping crew below.
I was sampling the smell of the ozone, mixed with the delicate smells of our backed up head plus the various body odours, when down the berth came two twenty something lovelies with matching hair colour, newly purchased Nautica sailing jackets and designer deck shoes. All smiles, boobs and ipods, they were obviously out for a good time.
Now you know that look a girl gives you when she just wants your body? No, neither do I, but I thought that a well chosen remark may at least start my day with a smile. Unfortunately, as I was about to engage in witty repartee, Des appeared behind me in just his jocks, scratching his personals and getting ready to relieve himself over the back of Dreamagic. They climbed onto the Gin Palace moored beside us and were heard giggling while relaying the story to their father.
Bloody feral yachties! They come into a yacht club on Saturday with a fresh shirt and a $50 note, and by the following Friday they haven’t changed either. We left in rather a hurry and crossed another benign bar, making a lie of the horror it had inflicted the day before.
Today was the longest day we have made so far. 13 hours and about 83 nms. Fish now 193, Dreamagic 0. Still we are amusing them I suppose. Today was also the best sailing day. After motoring most of the morning the wind picked up and we sailed up to Coffs arriving about 9.30 pm. No bars here, (no alcohol either as the Yacht Club was shut ) but trying to get in at night was tricky to say the least. Still all good.
Tomorrow we are staying in Coffs Harbour to make repairs, provision, and sit on something that isn’t moving. .
Thanks again to everyone who has written words of encouragement,. I’ll keep you posted with the next installment.
Coffs Harbour to Coffs Harbour
Now you would think that as a native Englishman, a budding wordsmith and a professional sales trainer I would have a reasonable command of the English Language. However such are the vagaries of the medium that when I said we would have a “Lay Day” in Coffs Harbour what I meant was that we would clean the boat. What they understood was, well anyway it wasn’t the same. I have enclosed a photo of a very rare event, the boys actually cleaning the boat. You may notice that it has been taken from the rocks above the boat, and there is a Marina Gate between the photographer, me and the crew. The whole event was only achieved because I had the only key to the gate, and the town with its attendant bawdy houses, was on my side of it.
We taxied into town where the boys had a liquid breakfast in the RSL and I went shopping for a couple of light bulb replacements. Coffs is a beautiful city which is completely devoid of car accessory shops. If I want to be trained, groomed, buy sheet music, employed, solicited, (by a solicitor, not..actually what is the difference?) have a wedding arranged, my pet sheared, my watch fixed. Easy! If I want a 12 volt bulb for a car life gets more difficult.
At midday I returned to the RSL with a plastic eggbox and a new shirt to find that my crew had finished the liquid breakfast, but had started liquid lunch. I have a friend who lives near Coffs Harbour so we met for a delightful lunch before she took me on a tour of the surrounding area. I had been to Coffs for a week in 07 and thought I had seen the area but I hadn’t really appreciated it. Sawtell is really quaint, actually it is all God’s Own Country. We also drove to a lighting specialist and bought 4 bulbs for the boat.
We got back to the Yacht Club in time to find the boys had finished lunch and were tucking into a liquid afternoon tea. They have certainly adapted to the salty sea dog life of a sailor, have spent considerable time learning the vernacular, and were now colouring their sentences with the more spicy examples. They had also been shopping! So with the 4 bulbs I had bought, the 6 bulbs Des had bought, and the 2 bulbs Richard had bought we have enough light to be seen in Brisbane.
We left the boys enjoying a light liquid dinner and walked the boardwalk to Muttonbird Island. Now this was very special. In the dark the Muttonbirds fly like bats, swooping very close to any intruders, (us) to protect their nests and also to feed on moths they catch on the wing. The chicks are born and raised in burrows hidden in massive undergrowth sometimes very near the path. There were hundreds of these. The calls of the chicks was like a long low moan, but if you stopped to try to see them they were smart enough to keep quiet and another somewhere else would start up. It was dark, eerie, mournful, and fantastic! Thanks Patricia for all your help with the day.
I returned to the boat to find our crew now enjoying supper from the bottom of a glass, and with no hope of trying to catch up, I retired.
Karma. This morning I feel a million dollars. We have 60 nms to cover and no alternative plan so it has to be an early start. 5.30 I am up, and by 6 so are they. Grumbling, mumbling but up. While tea was being made and the cabin sole was being indentified underneath the detritus from last nights dinner party I got the weather forecast. 20/30 nts N/W 3 metre seas. We can’t go!
Now I just have to go and tell them they got up for nothing.
Cap’n Willi Cinque
Coffs Harbour. Day 2
I thought that I would experience some resistance when I had got them all up just to tell them we were not going to go, but the hangovers were still in place so they filed back to their bunks grateful for the chance of rest.
A sorry crew finally surfaced at about 11 and we had a very sober lunch in town before retiring for an early tea and early night.
Dallas left us today and flew back to Cairns. He had never been sailing before and although he put up a terrific innings, decided that Ocean sailing wasn’t for him. He had fallen and hurt himself just before the trip started and was in a bit of pain so that could not have helped.
Coffs Harbour to Yamba
The Strong Wind Warning was still in place but forecast to swing to S/E. It was a difficult decision to leave Coffs but I decided to escape the sirens, so we sneaked out into the harbour at 4.30am. The crew was well rested, complaints were at a manageable level, and the sea was like glass. We had 60 nms to travel but as the wind freshens it will help us. By mid afternoon we were still travelling on a glass sea, and closing for the Yamba bar. So much for the Bureau Forecast! The marina was small and friendly, the pub and subsequent Chinese restaurant was inviting and hospitable, and so the crew of Dreamagic did what we do best.
Yamba to Ballina
Morning dawned to find Ken Done had visited with his red paint brush, the music was blaring, and again we look like a bunch of gypsies who have squatted in Millionaires Row. The tide was very against us, and a strong wind warning was in place. The tide was my main concern so we took off before while we could still get out. The wind was fresh, but The Bureau haven’t been right yet and there was no reason to think the land breeze not die.
Jesus, I hate it when that happens! This time the Bureau got it exactly right and we are now on the wrong side of Yamba bar with not enough depth to get back, 30 knots of wind and 3 metre swells. The ONLY good thing here is that it is behind us. Ballina is 35 nms away, but if we can’t cross that bar, Gold Coast Seaway is 97 nms. Foul weather on, lifejackets on deck, harnesses on deck we surfed to Ballina at speeds reaching 10 knts.
3 hours out of Ballina Richard mentioned that he didn’t know we had a jacuzzi aboard. We don’t! Then why is there so much water in the bottom of the boat? If this ever happens the first thing one does is ascertain where the water is coming from, and the easiest way to do that is to taste it. If it’s salt, it’s coming from the outside in, and that is not good. If it’s fresh it is either rain, or from our tanks. As a newby to sailing, and as I was a bit busy surfing a 12 ton boat down the side of cliff without letting her broach and roll at the bottom, I invited Richard to perform this simple task. And yes, I know the aft head is backed up. Christ! Crew aren’t like they used to be! England didn’t get the largest Empire in the World by worrying about a little poo!
A bladder of wine had fallen from its hiding place and jammed under the galley tap. Because the sink was closed for rough weather it did the best that it could and held 5 litres, and deposited the other 170 onto the cabin sole. Inviting the bilge pump to now join the fun, they conspired to empty our aft tanks contents into the ocean. Now you would have thought I might have at least heard the pump but over the noises of the engine thumping, the rigging screaming and my sphincter muscle threatening to embarrass me through fear, I didn’t.
We were making fantastic time and about an hour out I called Coast Guard Ballina to get the condition of the bar. “The bar is really good at the moment” was the response from the radio. From our vantage point “Good” would not be the adjective I would use but I suspect they were selling tickets to the public to watch boaties attempt a crossing, and perhaps even running a book. Put me down for $500 that they’ll hit the North Wall.
Once over the next problem is where to park. We called the Coastguard to thank them and ask for the Marina telephone number. “We don’t have a Marina, but you can anchor in Mobs Bay with the other ferals”.
I enclose a photo of Dreamagic on the poshest council wharf outside a café, and 50 metres from the high street, the RSL and the pub. Unfortunately my crew noticed this as soon as I tied up so they are in the aforementioned establishment. I have asked who owns this wharf and how long can I stay and was told Council, and as long as you like. So all is not bad even though it is a wet, overcast and miserable day.
In closing, as I was coming back from the café, two 7 year old kids on bikes and covered in some coloured sweet drink they had been sharing approached me. ‘Is that your boat Mister?” asked one. “Yep” Wow! Where have you come from?” asked the other. “Sydney”. “Can we have a look on board?” What can you say? Des and I let them aboard and they played at being Ocean Sailors, Pirates, Naval Captains. Sailing the high seas, looking for treasure, saving damsels in distress.
Just like us really.
Ballina to Southport
My pep talk must have done some good because the crew were up at 5.00am, kettle on, boat locked down and ready for off. We motored out to the entrance to the bar which was pumping on a half tide. Unfortunately we got hit by a couple of big ones in succession which shook the boat as she came down off them. The boat smashed into the second with enough force to knock the glass out of the barometer, one ceiling light out of its socket, and the drip tray out of the BBQ! Well that certainly got everyone’s attention, and then we were through.
The day was grey and threatening rain but we motorsailed up towards Point Danger. A pod of dolphins kept us company, and more ominously a shark followed us for a short while. Point Danger is the border of Queensland and New South Wales, and sure enough, as we crossed brilliant sunshine.
By 3.00 we had crossed the Southport Seaway, competing with jetskis, surfers, even swimmers. Through to the Broadwater and we were greeted with anything that could float out for the day. There were boats everywhere. Gin Palaces, complete with optional grotesque pack, shouted volumes about their owners. Every fishing boat had a tuna tower so high that you would get vertigo before you got seasick. We found Southport Yacht Club, located our berth and made for the other bar, the one in the club.
I love visiting the Gold Coast and this time was no exception. The club had a duet singing, everyone was dressed in white and blue, dripping with gold and bling, and looking fashionably nautical. Plastic surgeons and personal trainers must make a fortune down here with the amount of tight, lithe, taut pensioners here.
We decided to celebrate the end of our ocean passage. A great night, copious quantities of Red Wine and finally to bed for the last dash to Brisbane. We are doing that inside Stradbroke Island so all motoring tomorrow.
Southport Insider channel
Despite a huge night at the SYC we were up, abluted and ready to go by 5.00am. The plan is to motor up the inside channel to the bottom of Moreton Bay, then sail the last bit into Manly all flags flying. I have done this trip dozens of times and with a light breeze blowing and sun shining all bears well.
By 5.30 pm 4 sailors are back in Southport after the most disappointing and frustrating day. The channels are very silted compared to how they were some with only .5 metre at low. Add a low high water of .9 and even waiting for the top of the tide we can’t get through with our draft. (Paul, stop smirking! Bloody cat sailors.) Anyway if I ran aground once I ran aground about 40 times trying to get through. In the end we gave up.
The only highlight of a miserable day was spotting a Manta Ray which came up quite near our boat and cartwheeled on the surface showing its wings.
We had dinner at an Italian restaurant in Tedder Avenue and an early night. Tomorrow we are going through the seaway and round Stradbroke and Moreton coming in from the North. Total trip will be about 90 nms so we are leaving at 5.00 again, and maybe back in Manly about 10pm tonight. And we thought we had completed the ocean leg!
Ah well, at least we get one more day at sea.
Cap’t Willi Cinque
Southport to Manly (Second attempt)
Tuesday dawned a beautiful sunny Queensland day with NNE winds to 15 knts. After a 5 am start we motorsailed the 97 nms to Manly at speeds in excess of 7 knts our arrival coinciding with a beautiful sunset. The auto pilot did all the work, the GPS navigated, and all we had to do on board is ensure we didn’t hit anything.
The entire trip we have been dragging a line trying to entice a fish. I think I mentioned before that the score was about Dreamagic 0 fish now 700 Nms, Well off Cape Moreton we actually had a strike! Something took the lure, bent the hooks straight, put teeth marks in the body of the thing and then spat it out. The one that got away. Richard hasn’t tired of talking about it.
I used to compete in the WAGS at Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron so we entered her in that on Wednesday. WAGS, or Wednesday Afternoon Gentlemen’s Sailing is an event run by most yacht clubs around the world to promote sailing. It’s a fun event and anyone can turn up, jump on a boat and spend the afternoon fun racing yachts.
Boy, has that changed since I was here! Now, it’s more like the Sydney Hobart. Crews out on the rail, screaming, shouting, about 40 yachts in the fleet. I would love to say we won but we didn’t. We did hold our own though and came a creditable 35th or something.
Well that’s about it. We had a very unmemorable dinner in a Thai restaurant last night to say goodbye, it’s 5.00 am and the crew are getting ready to leave, catch a train and then a plane to Cairns. Dreamagic is now at her home for the next two months.and that is the end of the adventure. A bit of an anticlimax really. The planning, the execution, it’s all behind us now and only the memories are left. Well until the Brisbane to Gladstone anyway!
That’s all folks.