Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Eden to Bermagui
10/4/16 to 24/4/16
( Blog readers please note - by left clicking on  photos you will see them full size and a photo gallery below. The same applies for previous blog posts..see blog archives below.)

Cookie has kept a daily diary of all our voyages, dating back to our first trips in Crystal Voyager in South Australia’s lower Lakes and Coorong. For us they are a joyous record of wonderful times afloat, and reading them, for us is to take a delightful and priceless trip back in time. A feature of her diaries is her “daily picture” where with her Derwent pencils in deft and creative mode she recreates her “image of the day”. She is a dab hand with the Derwents and from her diary this Blog is a by-product. She is often to be found in the cockpit, out at sea, immersed in a diary production. Her diary for 10/4/16 said simply “5.30 alarm sounded and we were galvanised (sort of!). Had a cuppa and were away by 6am”. Out at sea and making some 40 miles up the coast to Bermagui she would wryly remind me that “we are living the cruising dream, going from port to port, fixing our boat” Yes there were important things needing to be fixed aboard Calista.
The smoky haze over Eden at dawn

We had consigned two important boat related parcels to the Eden Post Office, but with this being the weekend and a forecast change on Monday making getting alongside the wharves problematical for a further day or two, Cookie’s creative mind came up with an obvious solution, head up the coast to Bermagui, one of our favourite places, from where we could somehow get back to Eden by road and in the meantime start the process of attending to our serious problem on board; the solar panels that were looking for all the world as though their effective life was at an end. Having effective solar panels to charge our batteries was vital to us, so fixing the problem when they were failing was vital too. In Bermagui we intended to attend to this problem, even if it meant delays in sourcing and installing new ones. This had to be done, and soon. The question was…where?

The coastal landscape north from Eden takes one past some of New South Wales’ coastal treasures, Merimbula, Tathra, Mimosa Rocks and the Mimosa National Park. We looked forward to supping on these vistas, but on this day the air was filled with smoke from controlled burns in the forests and it lay, languid and opaque over the scenery. We sailed when we could, motored when we could not sail, and eventually the unmistakeable sighting of the water tower atop the headland meant that Bermagui, beautiful Bermi, was nigh.
The familiar water tower and township of Bermi

We were last at Bermagui in December 2011 (see blog – calista10.blogspot.com), waiting for days on end for gales to clear from Gabo Island and eastern Bass Strait. Rounding the headland, the shapely lines of Horseshoe Bay, with the town nestling behind seemed much the same although on entering the channel to the harbour the new marina “fingers” that had added accommodation for additional 40 or so boats, was an immediate and welcome embellishment. We were fortunate that this was now in place, and it is already filled to near capacity. One berth remained however and we nestled into our Bermi home like a chihuahua between bull mastiffs, alongside a brace of multi storied sea palaces. These ghostly behemoths are a different species to our little ship and they make deep inroads into the fossil fuel resources of the planet every time they put to sea. Their names, too reflect their masculinity and status, hairy chested and autocratic. Dominator, Gladiator, Intimidator, Mascerator…..power with glory: palaces of gin.

The Chihuahua amongst  the Bull Mastiffs !

 Gordon, one of the local boat owners who co-manages the facility, was there to lend a hand with our lines. Ah, limited paperwork, maximum informality, totally friendly and typically Bermagui. A walk beyond the marina, and up into town confirmed that in timeless Bermagui little has changed, except that the little supermarket had been been consumed, as an eel gulps a minnow, by the new Woolies in town. Even here the good burghers of Bermi have held sway and demanded of the retailer that they could have their new supermarket, but its façade must reflect the character of the region, with forest timbers softening the inevitable concrete and glass. It has often galled us that our local supermarkets at Victor Harbor are bland replicas of other nondescript centres: from nameless suburbs; with no character, no soul, driven primarily by the bottom line.

Local contacts are worth more than Google, in places like Bermagui. In this case the lady at the Bermi Information Centre showed us the way when Google could not. “I think Rob at the Marina has a car that he hires out. Look I’ll give you his number…and no, you won’t find it online…it’s just a word of mouth thing…and yes….. the only other town with hire cars is Narooma and you’d need to catch a bus to get there…personally, I’d give Rob a call”. Easy. Everyone knows Rob and everyone knows that Rob is a good bloke.  Now we know that Rob is a good bloke as well, and a mover and shaker to boot, but more of R Grimstone later.

Rob’s car is a Pajero, and its thirst was that of a cameleer arriving at Birdsville. Our gratitude rivalled its consumption because not only were we soon on the road to Eden, but in answer to his question about how long we were staying and us relating our solar problems, his response was…”you should give Harley a ring…he does solar and electrical work in the marina and if you get on to him, remind him that I still want some things done at my place…but give him a call”.
The $25 a day wharf at Eden......much rather be at Bermi!

The hinterland to Eden, via the folksy town of Cobargo and the bigger berg of Bega, down the National Highway was, aesthetically, the poorer cousin of the forested coastline we had enjoyed from out at sea. At Bega, in spite of our keenness to make Eden, it seemed desirable to divert into the cheesery which we found to be dominated by its tearooms and an information centre. Here we liked the cheddars, but feeling overwhelmed and uneasy amidst the throng of tourists and tour buses, the excess of humanity soon had us heading south, to Eden.

Reaching Eden by highway has convenience as its sole virtue, above that of arriving by sea. Its semi – industrial posterior along Highway One is no match for the approach from Green Cape into Twofold Bay.  The harbor is reached via the main street alongside the Museum dedicated to the last of the Killer Whales of Eden, Old Tom, whose symbiotic relationship with the local whalers has become the stuff of legend. Old Tom’s skull, complete with worn teeth from grappling harpoon lines has captivated young and old for generations. We passed on to the harbour, just as the predicted westerly kicked in, making conditions uncomfortable for any yacht wishing to come alongside for reprovisioning. Our enquires at the Harbor Office concerning moorings and tie-up locations were met with an air of taciturn disinterest and we were again thankful, that apart from the smoky passage, we were in Bermagui. Happily, though, the replacement head unit of our on-board entertainment system, which had failed early in this voyage, and a key device called an Optimiser, which will allow us to connect to the internet when beyond Telstra, were both waiting there for us at the Post Office.  One of the practical difficulties of being “at sea” is that we are often unsure where to send ongoing mail, given that our destinations can change, with circumstances sometimes beyond our control. In this case, a landing in Eden looked a safe bet until the weather intervened. People, who live their lives via regimentation, might be best to bypass life on a cruising yacht like ours.  
Tathra SLSC and beach viewed from the Jetty
Another beautiful beach on our south coast drive

Although the “Coastal Tourist Drive” north from Eden to Bermagui promised oceanic vistas, in truth its proximity to the sea was marginal at best. Merimbula and Pambula are ever popular, yet we found the coastal port of Tathra to have most appeal. Its jetty, a survivor from the era of coastal shipping, is impressive, although in recent years its story has been shrouded in melancholy and tragedy. In 2008, a 28 year old father plus his two young boys drowned there one evening when the boys fell in and the father drowned as well trying to help them, and in early April 2014 a senior female member of the local surf club was taken by a shark on a group swim to the wharf. Some of the swimmers saw the shark, but their close companion, Christine Armstrong, who had turned back to shore, had disappeared.  Her husband, Rob, was amongst the swimmers, and understandably, today, Tathra’s beauty is tinged with sadness, as the impact of these events drove deep into the feelings of this tight knit local community. We resolved that any swims along Bermagui’s Horseshoe Bay, would be undertaken as close as we could to shore.
Deceased solar panels

Back at Bermi, Harley the electrician visited to declare our Solar Panels terminally unwell and developed a plan to install new ones in a matter of days. Our hope of making for Bateman’s Bay then on to Jervis Bay while the weather held were dashed with Harley’s message that his supplier could not supply until sometime in May. We were back to square one, and having to re-ignite Cookie’s initial enquiries, that had been put on hold. Then came the challenge of accessing panels that would maximise the output that we could locate on our rear bimini, or “shelter”, but with an order in place a weekend passed by and we were left watching vessles, including Brian and Maree on Urchin, arrive and head north, like so many migrating Humpback Whales.
Home away from home... Horseshoe Bay Bermagui

We had to concede though, that if one was to be becalmed in a location for a while, you’d pick Bermagui every time. The marina is but a stroll from Bermi’s Horseshoe Bay, and the chance of a daily return swim across the bay became an event we longed for, with the water temperature hovering above 20 degrees being an added bonus. Swimming at Horseshoe Bay, had us feeling very much at a home away from home.
The Blue Pool

It was easy to be tempted into town for a stroll, a browse, a baked offering, or for no particular reason at all. Beyond the town centre and over the headland is found Bermi’s beautiful Blue Pool, where a swim in this sea pool is to swim with an aquarium of fish, and even an inquisitive octopus. Extending beyond the town are coastal walks of differing degrees of difficulty, and we were grateful that Cookie’s bung knee was now less bung, following a pre-voyage arthroscopy, and that her nimble self was increasingly in evidence. Whilst lots of cruising folk may embrace the option to lounge whilst in port, we have always sought to exercise our option to exercise, and if possible to include the local environment in the process.
Downtown Bermagui

One weekend saw Bermagui come alive with the throb and roar of a thousand bikes as the town played host to the Sixth Annual Bermagui Bike Rally, a bikers extravaganza, aimed at allowing two-wheeled mates a chance to convivialise – and to mount a take-over of the Bermi Hotel; or so it seemed. Rob Grimstone was at the helm of this event which was more than a Triumph, it was BMW, Harley and Indian, too. There were rock bands, displays, and memorabilia, and apart from the mateship that was impossible to miss, there was an underlying purpose to it all. A few years ago Rob’s mum became a victim of cancer and Rob, being the bloke that he is, resolved to do something about this, if not for his mum, then maybe for others. The Rally raises money for cancer research, and when the two wheel exodus rolled out at rally’s end, this noble cause was nearly $40,000 better off. What was also off was Rob’s signature beard, all for a good cause, and nearly a thousand dollars in the kitty for the unveiling. Onya, Rob.
The older we get the better we was!

The marina, like Port Fairy’s Moyne River has its resident stingrays, immense in size, and one or two of them, plus a host of fry, were regularly sighted, as well, on our daily swims. A fever of stingrays and a pod of pelicans – yes these collective nouns are correct – would gather like clockwork with the arrival of recreational fishers at the marina fish processing area. The pelicans are well fed and correspondingly tame while the rays gather in the water by the boat ramp like Labrador pups at a Sunday barbecue. Like the rays of Port Fairy, it was hard to put forward a compelling case, as to why they should ever leave the harbour and put to sea. They would regularly glide past the fish’n chip café and other eateries at the Bermagui Fisherman’s Cooperative much to the astonishment of tourists who were not expecting to spy such a denizen of the deep at close quarters.

Bermagui has long been associated with big game fishing and a fine weekend day typically sees an exodus of boats making for the marlin. These days a catch and release policy seems to be closely followed, but the possibility of fighting a fine fish brings tight-line heroes from near and far. It is evident that catching bill-fish can be more than just fishing, but a prominent driver of life. I fish to live and I live to fish… One screaming reel devotee at Bermi obviously had his piscatorial passion conflict with other supposedly important things in life. His boat, polished and gleaming for the fray, was called ….wait for this…..She Left. We were not sure whether to laugh or cry. No doubt he continued fishing after she left.

Our Bermi evenings were eased by the proximity of the Co-Op, where with commercial fishing boats disgorging their catches on the wharf for the Sydney Fish Market, there was always a selection of fresh fillets to be had at their fish shop, primed for the griddle on Calista. Apart from the local pub, we enjoyed two stellar nights at the little, but fabulous River Rock Café. We don’t think that Friday nights at the River Rock are advertised because you have to be lucky to get in at the best of times. We had the River Rock recommended to us when we were confined to port in 2010, and one of our first questions to locals this time was “does the River Rock still do Friday nights?”. You bet, but you’d better book, was advice from the top shelf. The River Rock specialises in Mexican cuisine but we were not drawn there in any special degree for the nachos and the enchiladas, or for the BYO that went with it. Matt and Jackie are mine hosts at the RR, and when not providing mex-cellent dishes, are both musos of considerable note.

The RR is only open on Friday nights and features an “open mike” showcase of local talent, both skilled and in the making.  With everyone noshing and chatting, Jackie normally kicks off the entertainment by climbing onto the piano where her command of the sharps and flats and her resonant voice soon has her squeezing life out of popular covers and some offerings of her own. Then, as if by magic, others emerge from the crowd with their instruments and the River Rock gets rocking. The venue attracts talent from near and far, and unless one is insufferably dull, a great night out is guaranteed. For us being total strangers, to be welcomed and included as we were has us knowing why people love living in Bermagui.
Local Musos ! One of them had too many reds!

Back on board, though, a solution to our solar panel woes was as hard to reach as a hip pocket in a singlet. Yes, we had new light weight panels installed that put out plenty of energy, but somewhere between the charge controllers and our battery bank we had loads of electrons doing their own thing, just like the musos at the River Rock. New, high quality controllers were not playing fair and the batteries took on voltages that would have made them, and us boil. Getting answers to this all-encompassing problem was proving a nightmare, and as our frustration grew, so the days drifted by.
Exploring the Bermagui River on our kayaks

Eventually, it was the weather that called a halt to our anguish. Our original plan to call in to the Bateman’s Bay and Jervis Bay areas disappeared alongside unscheduled days in port. With a window of fair weather approaching, and with days of unkind northerlies beyond, we resolved to pack away our tools, and make overnight for Port Hacking, just south of Sydney. There with some fresh advice and renewed hope supplied by Keith, the co-manager of the Bermi Marina, we readied to go. Keith’s professional background was in electrical engineering and his arrival on the scene was akin to the cavalry saving the day on an aged western. At least we were leaving with hope and a plan. First, though, it was time to bid farewell to beautiful Bermagui, and as the strong winds from a passing cold front headed to the north, we would follow in its wake. The moon was nearly full and there is little to compare with night sailing out at sea, with the soft light of the lunar orb showing the way.

Sunset ..Bermagui River

1 comment:

  1. Too bad you weren't able to catch up with Frank, I bet he was disappointed.