Leaving lovely Lake Macquarie

Monday 18th April – I peered out from the companionway to watch the sparrows sing and dance on Blue Heeler’s life-lines. The oily flat water was steamy as the warm sunlight spread over Crangan Bay, Lake Macquarie.

But today would be washing day. To help us locate a laundromat, we searched the internet, utilised Google Earth to locate the road, and our eyes to distinguish a path to the road. It worked! We anchored not far from the end of Laycock Road in Kilaben Bay and Wayne dropped me off with a bag-load of washing. I walked up a steep hill then only a kilometre or so until I reached the laundromat. While my load was in the dryer, I went for a walk across to Carey Bay. A very small complex of seemingly odd shops for this part of the world – lawyer, chiropractor, awards and medals shop, a closed cafe and a bottle shop. On my way home I picked up a couple of bottles of red (that was the first mistake) and trotted back to the end of road where Wayne would be waiting in the dinghy. Back on board and all the fresh washing packed away, we again motored around to the Wangi District Workers Club and this time we berthed against their jetty to take advantage of the water and power available. After we’d tied the boat up, lifted the dinghy out and locked it all up, we strolled across to the club to pay the very reasonable $10 per night fee and have a couple of beers (second mistake). Unfortunately their toilets didn’t have showers, but that’s okay cause we can shower on the boat. “Wayne, you might want to leave your hat behind” I suggested to him as we left. “What for, it’s not a yacht club” he retorted. We’d just entered the bar and before we had a chance to say anything the bartender exclaimed “Would you kindly remove your hat please sir. It’s a policy of the club”.

Hair washing day!

With his hat tucked away in my bag and a schooner of VB in each of our bellies, we chatted about sailing and life in general while we downed a schooner of Tooheys Old. We agreed that since the fee of $10 was so reasonable, we’d stay for a meal at the bistro too. After our cheap and cheerful meal we retired back to the boat whereupon I surprised Wayne by revealing a bottle of red I’d bought earlier (third mistake). Many mistakes later we fell asleep and woke up the next day with throbbing heads. Needless to say, the rest of a day was spent reading, computer work, although I made the effort to wash my hair and walk to the shops to get a couple of loaves of bread.

Tuesday 19th April – A flotilla of large motor cruisers arrived at the jetty today. The larger boat decided he wanted our spot and managed to nudge his way to the top of the ‘T’ shaped pier just in front of our bow. As he was thrusting and propelling his vessel into the dock, wifey was running around the deck with the lines seemingly unsure of what to do. I walked to their beam and asked her to throw me her line which I tied off on a cleat. I ran to the bow and watched with horror as his anchor contacted the waste collection bin at the end of the small pier. I grabbed the bowline and tied off as Wayne tied off the stern line. Not sure how wifey would have managed tying off the 15m cruiser on her own. With the Mother Ship safely ensconced, the Alpha-male of the flotilla thanked us for our help then began yelling at his wife to sort out the lines as he waved the other boats to come in. The other two cruisers began their approach to the jetty but the location of our little Blue Heeler had upset the flotilla’s plans of berthing close to each other. One of the cruisers, another at least 15m managed to wedge his boat right behind us. All tied up it wasn’t long before they washed down their very clean boats, changed from their blue and white stripe tops and congratulated themselves on a job well done with VB for the boys and Chardonnay for the girls. The cruiser behind us had such a large TV screen inside that when we sat in our cockpit, it felt like we were at a drive-in. These boats are certainly manoeuvrable and have all the mod-cons. It’s good to see people enjoying life on the water – no matter how they travel.

Wednesday 20th April – Still at the Wangi jetty, I spent the morning using up as much water as possible – cooking rice, pasta, filling bottles, washing silk-sheets, getting ready to replenish our water reserves by filling up in the morning before we leave. Today we stretched our legs and walked around the local area looking at the various houses along the bays. Back for some lunch, a read of Cap’n Fatty Goodlander’s Red Sea Run, it wasn’t long before I slipped into a very long granny nap.

We waved goodbye to the flotilla of cruisers and each of the wifey’s on board had a fresh change of clothes and make-up for the departure while hubbies thrust and propelled their million dollar boats out of the harbour.

We went back to the Worker’s Club for tea tonight. After eating our very tasty Laksa and Pad Thai, we sat in the outer bar area on the periphery of a group of tables gathered for Wednesday’s Trivia Night at the Wangi Workers Club. We enjoyed a few glasses of Shiraz and joined in on the fun guessing answers from the sidelines.

Thursday 21st April – With the sun shining, we cast off the lines at the jetty and motored on our way across Lake Macquarie mid-morning. High tide was expected at 11am; however, to get the most out of the tidal stream, we’d travel a little later than high tide to get the maximum overflow height at the drop-over.

A very shallow channel

With no charts available for Lake Macquarie, the reverse trip from the drop-over down the channel to the Swansea Bridge was easier as we just followed our chart-plotter’s track data from the original trip down the channel. As an additional aid, Wayne imported into Google Earth photographic images of the depth soundings taken of the channel in February. I then used my Excel skills to export route data from our chart plotter and convert into a suitable format to import into Google Earth. Hey presto – not only did we have the previous track to follow on the chart plotter, but a Google Earth version of the channel complete with depths, channel markers and waypoints! Mind you, it was still very shallow and we could see the bottom very clearly some times. As I’ve always said, you can never have enough data, no matter where it comes from!

Blue Heeler, along with a yacht and motor cruiser passed through the 1pm opening of the bridge, with the yacht and Blue Heeler grabbing one of the courtesy moorings on the eastern side as the motor-cruiser sped off for an afternoon of fishing. It’s too shallow to cross the Swansea Bar this afternoon, so we are waiting until high tide at 11pm tonight to cross the bar and head north to Port Stephens, some 40+ miles/8 hours away. It should be a lovely night and hopefully we’ll get some wind so we don’t have to run the engine and ruin the mood. The moon tonight will be 85% full and should illuminate our trip along the way. Our ETA at Port Stephens should be around 7am on Good Friday, just in time for a hot-cross-bun and a hot chocolate. Best wishes to everyone for a safe Easter break and ANZAC Day holiday.

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Sailing the world aboard Blue Heeler
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