We awoke early on Tuesday 3 May and made the hasty but informed decision to sail to Coffs Harbour; the weather window was ideal for a quick run but the weather was deteriorating on Thursday. By my estimates, it was just over 170nm and would take around 35 hours. Leaving at 0730, this would mean we would get to Coffs at 1830 at night the following day – not ideal however the entry is clear and quite straightforward so off we went. We motored the hour or so following the channel markers of Port Stephens taking a similar route to that we came in on.
As we passed Tomaree Headland I was pleased to see a large turtle bobbing on the surface taking a quick breath before he dipped below and swam away. The surf was big and huge swells were breaking high on the northern bank and across the shallow shoal to the south. It’s always rougher through a harbour entrance until the steady swell of the ocean is reached. Once out the ocean swell remained constant for the rest of the journey. By 0930 we’d turned off the engine and unfurled the sails. Not too much main at first; there was a strong wind warning in place and we’d learnt to play it safe at first rather than going in with all guns blazing.
Sucked along by the 15-20 winds we had a pleasant day sail managing to achieve 5 miles per hour on average. Our watch roster began at 1500 and I went down for the first rest leaving Wayne in the cockpit to keep watch. We diligently kept to our schedule – me 6-9am; Wayne 9-midnight; me midnight to 3am; Wayne 3-6am; me 6-9am. I was still a little tired and had the beginning of a headache at 9am so I went down for an hour or so. By 10.30am I had a splitting headache and knew it was another sailing migraine. I don’t know what causes it; although I don’t get the usual seasickness (nauseous, dry mouth, etc) I do get migraines sometimes when sailing.
During our trip on Wednesday 4th May the wind was steady S/SW up to 25 knots and the seas were fair, around 1.5m swell. We had no rain during the journey which was a bonus as we were expecting at least a few thunderstorms. The weather forecast suggests Thursday was to have winds of up to 30 knots and 3m swells. We considered bypassing Coffs if we arrived too late and continuing to Yamba, however with large swells, strong winds and the potential to arrive at the Yamba bar in the early hours – not ideal – we agreed we’d head for Coffs Harbour.
We were tracking at around 5-6 knots but it wasn’t enough to ensure our arrival at Coffs before sunset; I estimated 1800 at the earliest. Just after 1400, Wayne cranked the engine and we motor-sailed the final 15 miles to make sure we got there with some sunlight. We managed 6-7 knots and arrived at Coffs by 1715, just on sunset. When we arrived I still had a headache and Wayne was very tired so I think it was the best decision to stay for a couple of days to ride out the weather. After a feed of sausages, carrots and potatoes, we were both asleep in the saloon by 1900 and fortunately not disturbed by the anchor alarm during the night.
It’s 0630 on Thursday 5 May and I’m sitting in the cockpit writing my diary with the warm sun on my cheek sipping a warm cup of tea. It’s around 15 knots inside the harbour and the swell outside doesn’t appear to be higher than yesterday when we arrived. It’s meant to increase today up to 35 knots though. Today we’ll plan our ongoing journey. We’re not far from Queensland so we may decide to bypass Yamba and save the Clarence River for next time by continuing a little further into the Banana State.
The weather is cooling and I can feel winter coming on. I’ve been wearing my thermal top, socks and tracky-dacks these past couple of days to keep warm. It’s around 22 degrees on land but a little cooler out here; I’m looking forward to a little bit of sunshine and northern warmth. Almost time for the news on the ABC – it’s all been about Osama Bin Laden’s death or Karl Stefanovic’s Gold Logie win… interesting times!