On Tuesday we had a delightful sail up the coast from Broken Bay. We pulled out at 6 AM with a southeast wind picking up once the sun rose. We were soon sailing our way up the coast. We had a beautiful sunrise, and a few miles north we had a pod of dolphin join us, dancing off our bows as we picked our way among a giant field of anchored cargo ships parked south of New Castle. There were over 25 ships spread out over a dozen miles down the coast.
Although we were able to make 7+ knots under sail, we had to turn on an engine to give ourselves a little boost to increase our speed. At 7 knots we would make Port Stephens well before light, but we had a physics problem. The physics was a 2 knot current against us which is a known feature of this part of the Australia waters. Hence, our speed over ground was not the 6+ knots we required to arrive well before dark. With a few hundred RPM of engines we were able to increase our speed quite easily by over a knot. Fortunately, later in the day the winds picked up and we were able to shut off the engine.
We arrived a little earlier also due to my decision to have us pull in to Nelson Bay which is closer to the entrance of Port Stephens. There are three public moorings in Nelson Bay just outside the marina. They can only be used for 24 hours – which we soon found was fine with us. We were moored right in front of a pretty little white sand beach, and the water was calm. It was a wonderful feeling to be parked off a beach again after 6 weeks in Sydney.
We had dinner on board and a relaxing evening before heading to bed early. At 1AM or so, I woke up because the mooring ball was banging against the hull. This happens sometimes if the line is too long and the winds die off and currents move the boat around. I went up and shortened the line and that improved the situation. However, a few minutes later we suddenly had a what seemed like a bunch of boats creating wake around the boat. I went out and there was a bunch of disturbed water coming into the bay and the wind was picking up. Before long, it started raining. We were rocking around like we were in a washing machine! It was a rain squall. An hour later, it finally calmed down and I got back to sleep. Just about dawn, we started rocking again! This time it was from the fishing boats leaving the marina and marching past the moorings. This is when we decided it was ok not to stay more than 24 hours here.
The weather was awesome though and we went ashore in the dinghy to learn more about the area. We got some lunch and enjoyed the touristy town which had lots of little shops and restaurants. Then we went to the nearby grocery store and got some fresh provisions. Very pleasant! Afterwards, we returned to Tahina and relaxed a bit.
We then dropped the mooring line and motored out further west in Port Stephens to Soldier’s Point. We were told they have a nice marina and yacht club here. We saw some boats racing as we approached and we connected to a mooring there. I went ashore to talk to the marina and discuss our options. We hoped to find a mooring we could rent while we do some shore-based travel. The marina looked very nice and they apparently have won several awards here in Australia. After a short discussion with the manager, we soon not only had a mooring for a month, but we were fortunate to have picked the right one to pick up and were already on the only one available!
I went back to get Karen and we went ashore together to get a tour of the facilities by the manager. They have the nicest bathrooms and showers we have ever seen in a marina (I’ll have to take pictures later). They are nicer than most hotels we’ve been to. Wow! Karen was disappointed they only have one set of laundry machines, but it was clean and air-conditioned with a nice lounge with TV and Internet nearby. They also have a courtesy car we can use to go to local stores. We have definitely moved up in the world.
The sailboat race was coming to an end, so we walked over to the yacht club. We were immediately invited to sign in as guests and were soon having a wonderful time drinking beer and wine and chatting with some very nice Australian sailors. They invited us to come again any time and gave us all kinds of information on the local area. What a warm welcome!
It was a wonderful clear day with cool dry air. Capped off with getting our boat situated and a bunch of new local friends, it just doesn’t get much better than this!