Sunday, June 26, 2016

Coffs Harbor to Scarborough Marina
10/6/16 – 18/6/16

( 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.)

Leaving Coffs Harbor was a necessity born of the need to reach the Gold Coast for repairs, but also because the fuel wharf and unloading dock to which we had been tied was the property of the Fishing Cooperative and not the Marina, and the Coop wanted yachts off their wharf so that commercial activities could return. This was totally understandable: so on the morning of Friday 10 June, we released our lines, and before dawn, made our way out of the Marina and then the harbour. The forecast for fine conditions and a low swell might mean an easy over-nighter to the Gold Coast, although we were leaving port against the old adage that you do not do so on a Friday.
Morning light, South Solitary Island

As we turned our head to the north, with the light of South Solitary Island flashing off our starboard bow, it was good to hoist sails again, and settle into a day at sea, leaving all that had happened at Coffs Harbor receding in our wake. There was no water egress into the bilges, the motor and rudder were functioning as they should, so we set a course between the islands and reefs that dot the seas to the north of Coffs and made for our waypoint off Wooli. We were not the only ones making north, as in the afternoon; Cookie’s sharp eyes spotted a pod of Humpback Whales, making north like so many voyagers on yachts, for the warm seas of the Whitsundays. We wondered how they had gotten on in the storm. Later the pines ashore on the skyline marked the headland at Yamba, and into the dusk and evening Evans Head was seen and passed to port. Closer to midnight with us hugging the coast, allowing the plethora of big ships their space out to sea, we slipped past the surfing mecca of Ballina and before long the powerful light of Cape Byron indicated that we were approaching Australia’s most easterly point. We are acutely fond of Cape Byron, with its iconic lighthouse and light station, although our fondness for Byron Bay itself has crumbled over the years under the relentless pressure of people; too many people for our liking.

Splicing new mooring lines
Sunset over Evans Head

Cookie knows that on occasion I can be accused of being a person of habit. Before, when passing Cape Byron, I have celebrated this geographic milestone in an entirely philistine way. I have a bowl of Weetbix. Knowing this, and knowing me, as we changed watch on midnight, and I completed our scheduled radio check-in with Marine Rescue Byron Bay, she looked at me curiously until, with nary a word, I reached for the time honoured bowl, the biscuits, the milk, and abandoned a portion of my off-watch time in the interests of a time honoured tradition.

As the revellers lurched and swayed in the hotspots of Byron, we slid past unnoticed, whilst I slept and Cookie duelled with a fishing boat ahead that held an erratic track, causing us to change course to port, then starboard, because although we are well lit at night, we can never be sure that the other boat has seen us. In the pre-dawn we kept the reefs of Point Danger on the Queensland border well off to port, as the loom of the Gold Coast morphed into high rises aplenty and the keenest of the fishers made seaward in their boats. We are not fond of the Gold Coast: its glitz, its brassy pretence and its hubbub do nothing for us, although as the sun peeped above the horizon in the east, and ruddy light danced on the myriad of windows on the high rises, like a mirror ball in an 80’s disco, it was a flash sight to behold.
Gold Coast skyline

So many of our legs of this journey have been governed by the time we needed to arrive at our destination, and arriving at the Gold Coast seaway was a prime example of this. Back in Coffs we had calculated the sea miles to the Gold Coast, examined the tides at the Seaway, and worked out that if we wanted to arrive at the Seaway, on a rising tide, with a low swell, then departing Coffs at 0530 was what we had to do. If counting back meant leaving at one am, then this is what we would do. Gentleman’s Hours, with a light breakfast, a sip of Earl Grey and a look at the morning papers before setting sail might suit weekend sailors, but cruisers march to a different drum.
Entering the Gold Coast Seaway

We have seen photos of yachts risking all, making seaward from the Gold Coast Seaway, but this is something we try to avoid, at all costs. As it was a gentleman in a 1920’s clinker dinghy, in striped blazer and boater, with lady and parasol reclining in the stern, might have dibbed and dabbed in the seaway on this most salubrious of mornings. We passed through without challenge, except from a mixed grill of craft, which flitted hither and yon with little reference to safe passage procedures in a confined waterway. One guy had anchored in mid channel to fish in his tinnie. We were now in Queensland!

Anyone wanting to do a refresher on marine marks, buoyage and safe working indicators should spend a morning plying the waters of the Gold Coast’s Broadwater. They are all there, lateral marks, special marks, isolated danger marks, cardinal marks and safe water marks. Then again, you could do as many of the locals seem to do, hold down the throttle, ignore the navigation beacons and go like the clappers. When we turned into the Coomera River, with mansions on the left and mangroves under threat on the right we hoped that we might be free of the boat-jocks in the Broadwater until we heard a high pitched buzz from a host of motors, all screaming at the top of their limits. Then they roared toward us, tinnies, a brace of them and more, each helmed by a teenage maniac, with wild eyes under the twin impacts of testosterone and benzene. What on earth were these kids doing, tearing along a public waterway, on the brink of losing control, with the obvious risk that, in the event of a capsize,  a lad could so easily be chopped to pieces by a following boat before anyone knew what happened. The Gold Coast! You can stick it we think. It is not our cup of anything.

Luxury lifestyles on the Coomera River

Having made good time up the Coomera River, we arrived at Boat Works in time to see the faces of two old friends, Cran and Ann, who were about to leave for Brisbane, but had allowed enough time to show us “the ropes” of Lettin Go before they departed. It was such a bonus to see them again. Then, Craig from Signature Yacht Services arrived with more good news. Due to a cancellation on the slipway, we would be able to be hauled out on Monday morning, first thing, and lose no time in getting our hull inspected and a plan put in place to repair Calista. So far, so good, in fact so far, much better than good we thought.

Tropical garden facade on one of the Boat Works sheds

Boat Works on the Coomera River advertises itself as Australia’s Greatest Boat Yard, and it would be hard to find anyone who would dispute this. It is the doyen of boat facilities, and we had never before seen anything like it. On cue at 8am on Monday, a lift out crane, crawled toward us like a Stegosaurus on wheels and plucked us from the river as a sea eagle might snatch an eel from a sluggish stream. Calista disappeared under the care of a host of boat paramedics whilst we were ushered into the hotel-like foyer to complete our arrival formalities. We were made comfortable, presented with our welcome pack, and given vouchers for coffee and muffins at the Boat Works Café, just in case we were shy of nutrients. “Go and get a coffee, we’ll look after your boat” was the word from the delightful Amy, who is as friendly a face of an organisation as one could imagine. “Do you need a car” she continued, “If you do, I can have one of our courtesy cars available for you this afternoon if you need it…and by the way, this key will get you in to the en-suite bathrooms that are there for our guests. We’ll show you where they are…maybe after you go and enjoy your coffee.  We can recommend the blueberry muffins…”  All this in a boat yard!
One of the hardstand areas at the Boat Works

Outside another boat was plucked from the water by a mechanical monster, and disappeared in the direction of the biggest repair sheds we have ever seen. ”Amy, the yard looks pretty busy, so how many boats would you haul out here in a year” we asked. “Over 2000” she replied, without so much of a blink. Yes, this was some boat yard. The Galley is far more than a boat yard cafeteria, and with its charming aspect, marine décor, diverse menu and ever friendly staff, for us it was manna from heaven. The only things stressed here were the boards on the Indonesian style tables, that were so attractive that Cookie, in a moment of weakness, spoke about “borrowing” one for our outside setting at home, although home, for us, felt far more than a half a continent away.
Being lifted out

The amazing remote controlled travel lift for large catamarans

After the pleasure cometh the business, and with the welcome processes at the Boat Works having worked a treat, it was time to find Craig, and our ship. She had been cleaned below the water line and, now, on a hard stand outside Craig’s work sheds, it was evident that, yes we had been lucky to save Calista at Coffs Harbor. Her port-side had suffered significant above water abrasions, and below the water, where the finger had threatened to breach her hull, the deep lacerations, showed how our intervention in the tempest had come in the nick of time. We found Craig deep in thought, and wondering how best to get us repaired, in a reasonable time frame, and with an end result that was satisfying for us and acceptable for his devotion to professional excellence. We knew that the last thing that Craig needed was Calista to repair: his crew were booked solid for weeks and we knew that he was already turning away work from other vessels damaged in the storm. Craig was doing us a favour by offering to help us out.

Calista outside Craig's shed at far end of one of the many rows of sheds.

Repairing the gouges with a layer of fibreglass

Craig painting the final coat

The final gelcoat patchwork

On the face of it, the necessary repairs looked reasonably simple to achieve, but there were complexities and difficulties that we had not foreseen. Fibre-glassing the gouges were the easy bit, and applying gel-coat for a “finish” was not hard, either. From there though, things got tricky. The gel-coat could not match the rest of Calista’s port-side and the best outcome could only be achieved by painting the entire side and not just the 40% that was damaged. Going down this pathway though required our boat in a shed to meet EPA spraying regulations, and that involved taking down Calista’s mast and dismantling all of our stays, ropes, mast fittings and the like. As Craig explained it… “spraying gives our best outcome, but the mast has to come down, and my experience is that with the mast down you will find a host of other things that are needing to be done, and you are likely to still be here in August.” He could see the looks on our faces, and continued…”and then there is the problem of a shed. We don’t have one and can’t get one at present, even if we decided to go that way.” Our fine morning was now tarnished and the blueberry muffins, which had been nestling agreeably within, might easily be making a second appearance. Then Craig continued….”but there is another way. If the insurance company agreed that a haul out, mast out, and paint was the only way to achieve an agreeable outcome, they might approve of us doing a structurally sound fix for now, getting you back on the water and on your way on your trip, and agreeing to do the ‘proper fix’ later, maybe even when you get back to SA.” We remembered the words of Michael, the Marine Surveyor back in Coffs Harbor. “Get yourselves to Boat Works if you can and we’ll be guided by what Craig says is needed to repair your boat”. Then, Craig continued, “if you want to go that way, this gets us a practical outcome in a reasonable time frame, and with a bit of luck, you’ll be back on the water by the end of the week. I’ll talk to your insurers, about the sense of this plan if you like”. Now we knew why Cran and Ann had so strongly recommended Craig as being one of the best in the business, whose bottom line was not just dollars, but about good folk like us who needed the help of a caring professional. Craig had been a sailor too, and had an idea what we were going through.

The only sticking point was the potential for our insurers to baulk at Craig’s plan. When other repairers confirmed the “mast down” pathway as having no alternative, our insurers agreed that if we were ok with a “functional fix now, proper fix later”, then we should proceed with this as soon as we could. In truth, Craig was already underway with repairing the hull, which had to happen, whatever the outcome with the insurers. This gave us the opportunity to get a courtesy car, courtesy of the good Amy, and head into the Gold Coast to get some things crossed off Cookie’s never-ending list. Whilst Craig glassed, gel-coated and faired our hull we took the opportunity to attend to Calista’s undersides, by changing an anode, and applying some antifoul paint to some trims and leading edges. She would look as good as she possibly could when the Stegosaurus arrived to return her to the brine.

Touching up the antifoul

We took the opportunity on Thursday night, the eve of our re-immersion, to dine at The Galley to celebrate an outcome that, thanks to Craig, Cran and Ann, was beyond our expectations. The week had seen the edge of winter arrive, and patrons at The Galley were understandably thin on the ground. Our desire to carouse was truncated a little by the decision of management to shut shop early, and the staff was deeply apologetic, at having to hustle us off into the chill of the evening. The following morning, with Calista afloat, Craig came down to see that our backstay was correctly re-fitted and to see us on our way. We were deeply grateful for all that Craig had done for us. Cran and Ann had been spot on, in their estimation of Craig and Signature Yacht Services.
Dining at the Galley Restaurant at the Boat Works

Just before we released our lines and headed off down the Coomera, Cookie was passing The Galley, and the Manager rushed out to say farewell. She had a parting gift of three muffins, just to see us on our way and to say sorry, again, for the early closure the previous night. Then the very good Amy arrived with our departure pack, yes, departure pack, including a host of goodies, a Boat Works stubby holder and a fine Boat Works cap. On the side of the cap is the claim, Australia’s Greatest Boatyard and this is a claim that few, ourselves included, would challenge.

The adage about time and tide waiting for no man, applied also to us as we made our way down the Coomera River. With us free to resume our voyage, we had a decision to make. We were now at a point that apart from a range of achievable tasks on Cookie’s list, we could ready ourselves to take advantage of the next weather window, and following Customs / Border Security clearance, leave Australian waters for Noumea. A key question, was, from where did we want to manage our final preparations? We could have headed for the nearby Gold Coast, but we needed to be in a marina to get best access to provisioning and, for us the Gold Coast was expensive and undesirable. Our other alternative was to make for one of the more agreeable marinas on the shores of Moreton Bay just outside the port of Brisbane, and with some internet sleuthing and a phone-call or two we had set our sights on the Scarborough Marina, near Redcliffe, just north-east of the city. Besides, accessing Border Security officials was easier from here as the port of Brisbane was not far away.

Getting to Scarborough could be done by exiting the Gold Coast Seaway and making by sea via the outside of South and North Stradbroke, and Moreton Islands, or by taking the inland waterways that snaked their way from the Gold Coast and emerged on the shores of Moreton Bay. With unpleasant weather on the way, we opted to lose no time in taking the rising afternoon tide and from the Broadwater, make our way up the up the main stream, and over a set of shoals, to drop anchor in the vicinity of Jacob’s Well on sunset.

Our anchorage near Jacob's Well

The Gold Coast to Moreton Bay region contains a labyrinth of channels, a number of islands, some riverside towns, and is a mecca for boating and fishing enthusiasts. Our evening on the edge of the channel not far from Jacob’s Well was interrupted by runabouts and tinnies, piloted by weekenders we assumed, making their way up and down the river, setting crab-pots and getting in an evening fish in the calm of the Friday night. We set an extra anchor light and hoped that the fishers kept their eyes open as they made their way up and down the stream. It was good to be afloat again and to have our anchor and ground tackle deployed, to give us security throughout the night.

The maze of channel markers near Karragarra Island

Shallow drafted vessels heading north, like catamarans and houseboats, can take the Canipa Passage, abeam of South and North Stradbroke Islands, and the delightfully named Jumpinpin Bar that separates the two, whilst for us, being deeper of keel we are best served by taking the Main Channel to Jacob Wells and beyond. Our early morning rise and departure, was designed to pre-empt the crab-potters and we were soon making our way beyond Jacobs Well, to Steglitz and the Horizon Shores Marina, Cabbage Tree Point and upstream where a vehicular ferry does a busy trade in conveying cars and people to Karragarra Island by the boatload. By some dint of fortune, we have charts for these waterways, and luckily we had included these in our chart portfolios, before leaving home. This passage was both interesting and comfortable, and being well marked allowed us to make our way to Moreton Bay, easily and in good time.
Hazy, glassy conditions in Moreton Bay as we pass the Fairway Beacon

Beyond Macleay and Peel Island the waters of Moreton Bay open up with a glimpse of Brisbane’s distant skyline appearing off the port bow. The day was fine, the waters mirror smooth and a number of boats, both large and small were out to take advantage of the Saturday and the delicious conditions. Passing St Helena and Mud Islands, the Fairway Beacon of the Brisbane Ship Channel came into view, with beyond it the Redcliffe peninsula and to starboard, the outline of Bribie Island to the north. To the north-east we had a clear view of Moreton Island, where to its north, and around Cape Moreton, we would make our way seaward to Noumea.
Scarborough Marina Basin

Afternoon light on the fishing fleet

In no time, it seemed, we had picked up the leads to the Scarborough Marina, and found our way into the extensive basin that accommodates the Scarborough facility, along with the Moreton Bay Boat Club and the smaller Compass Marina. We tied up, met Brian the cheerful weekend manager, and immediately felt at home. The Scarborough Marina is a convivial and laid-back facility, which we felt would suit our needs perfectly. With the weather about to change and some further complexity in the extended outlook, it was likely that we would be at Scarborough for several days at least. Then, in returning to Calista, we noted a figure emerge from a boat on another row. We had last seen Marcel Didelot, who we had known when he lived at Middleton, next to our home at Port Elliot, on his newly acquired yacht, at Wirrina before his departure for a new life afloat somewhere on Australia’s East Coast. We strolled around to Marcel’s 42’ Dufor, “Diddys”, and Marcel was as surprised to see us as we had been to see him. We asked him about his plans and he said that as soon as possible he was heading for Noumea! Marcel was hoping to have his son Philippe, and brother of Robyn, his late wife, join him for this passage, which would be his first beyond the coast of Australia. We quickly agreed that provided the weather and our respective programs aligned, we could travel in convoy. That would be a win-win for us both.

In the meantime, having travelled 1881 nautical miles from Wirrina to Scarborough Marina, since March 1st, we would have time to prepare for the long haul across the Coral Sea to Noumea in New Caledonia. We had missed good windows of weather whilst under repair, and now we would have to be patient in waiting for another window to arrive. It was a good time to pause and reflect on what had been a truly remarkable one hundred and twenty days at sea.

When the weather permits, our last blog before departure should give our departure details and an indication of how this blog can be posted given the restrictions that we will have in accessing the internet.

Sunset Fish"n"chips Scarborough Beach

1 comment:

  1. Great to hear you have arrived safe and sound in Noumea, congratulations to you both!
    Sally and Trevor