Sunday, 29 July 2012

segment 6, Saturday 28 July 2012, Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour about 80 NM

The tide information is that Coffs is about 15 to 30 mins behind Sydney and high tide will be approx. 4.00pm at 1.65 M. However, as Coffs is a deep water harbour, without a tricky bar to be concerned with, one can arrive at any time, ( except perhaps in big easterly gales when they sometimes close the inner marina harbour if  the seas are  breaking over the northern breakwater wall into the inner marina harbour itself ).

So, whilst  we need not worry about arrival time at Coffs, we still  need to consider the leaving tide and conditions at Port Macquarie. Again we are  ok as we decide to leave at 7.30 am , about 2 hours before the low run out tide , so we should have good clearance ( 1.2m ) at the low spot just opposite the fish co -op, ( about half way between the marina we are moored at  and the entrance break walls).

There was the usual discrepancy with the wind and sea predictions as Buoyweather predicted SE 1.5m seas  and winds 12 to 14 knts from the SW, and the NSW Govt. forecast was for similar seas early on, but winds 20 to 30 knts with seas 2 to 3 m late morning for the Macquarie Coastal region,  but slightly lesser seas for the Coffs Coastal region, (with Smokey Cape/Trial Bay - about 30 nautical miles north of Port Macquarie -  the demarcation point for the different coastal region  forecasts).

We got underway about 5 mins after our new friends in the sailing Cat, Bill and Trish ( who were also tied up at the fuel wharf ) , and waited another couple of mins to give them space , as the channel is narrow and closes to approx. 15 to 20 meters at some points, with moored vessels on either side along parts of the channel.

We pushed off from the fuel wharf and turned to starboard towards the entrance bar about a mile away when immediately we  had to stop to let several dragon boats pass. They had all simultaneously launched from the hidden slipway about 60 m away,about  the same  time we pushed off the fuel wharf. By the look of them they certainly needed the practice as the only thing they seemed to have working together was their laughter and giggles.

Once they were safely behind us we proceeded up the channel , slipping in and out of idle to keep the speed below the 4 knot limit.

The next test this morning was not far away. Up ahead it looked as if the sailing cat had turned and stopped, just before the narrowest part of the channel. I immediately asked rear admiral Julie ( who has better eyesight than Capt. Barry ) whether I was imagining things, as it looked like Bill and Trish were heading back our way. Julie noted that they seemed to be drifting and putting up the main sail, probably for the assault exiting  over the entrance bar.

We squeezed past the sailing cat with a few meters  to spare and proceeded past the fish co-op and dog legged left and right squeezing even closer  past some fishermen in a small boat  blocking the narrowest part of the channel.They apologized , but stayed right there for the next boat to squeeze through.
We finally entered the straight gun barrel between the breakwater walls and immediately saw the swell outside the entrance which was being partly diverted by the breakwall and partly  funneled  inside.

I put the throttles down to about 1600 rpm and we powered through several green  2+ m swells (almost surfable waves )  and almost immediately turned slightly to port to avoid the surf breaking on the bar about 400m further out , where the depth reduced along a straight line  from 11 to 5 m.

Due to the differing weather predictions we decided to proceed for the first couple of hours at about 16 knots ( 1800 rpm at 160 l/h total )  to put the Govt predicted winds and bigger seas behind us by the  time they were due to arrive ( assuming they might be  correct ).
seas a little confused but comfortable

The sky was clear bright blue and the seas were choppy and for about 45 mins we were surfing the 1 + m swell and the speed was varying between 12+ to 17 + knts.
After 2 and 1/2 hours we slowed to the usual passage making 1225 rpm ( 9 to 10 knots at 55 l/h total).

Capt Barry shot some more temperatures on the stabilizer, engine and gearbox parts and checked the steering rattle ( which is only present at  the lower revs ) just to check the state of the nation, but all seemed well down below.

To pass some time Capt Barry decided to check the charts ( which are always open on the chart table ( ie the cook top - and are annotated for the next trip) and read up on the installation and operation of the Vetus rudder sensor and rudder indicator gauges, as during  the  trip , Capt Barry noticed that the Vetus rudder indicators (both helms )  occassionally swung completely off the dial when  turning to starboard ( which is not only irritating , but can be a hindrance in some close quarter situations in marinas ). When this happens the skipper needs to  resort to the autopilot rudder indicator to determine the true position  of the rudders.
Not sure what the issue is here, but a  guess is that it will be the sensor and not the indicators, and either something to do with the vibration coming through the tie rod (unlikely as there is no detectable  vibration at the sensor location )  or when the steering was last serviced and the sensor was possibly re connected with the rotating sensor dial in the incorrect position.  Any way something to occupy Capt Barry's mind and after a fiddle next stop a further report will be given (only if successful of course).
the chart table . Notice the EVER WATCHFUL   rear admiral Julie catching a few ZZZzzzs  on the lounge  in the saloon. Also the coffee pot on the floor (where it can fall no further) and the towel folded on the galley floor at the foot of the freezer drawers is for the cat as the vent to expel the heat comes out at that location.

Half way to Coffs, the seas became quite lumpy and confused and there were constant white caps and a bit of spray on the port side of LAST WORD  , mainly because we had a 1+m  swell from the SE and winds blowing 10 to 16 knts from the west.
seas quite messy with the 15 knot westerly and SE swell. Here we are about 7 nm offshore

As we neared Coffs , Capt Barry phoned the fish co-op ( 6652 2811 ) see what time they closed the fuel wharf, and was told 1.30pm with a call out fee of $110 ( boat size and fuel volume variable ). We were going to miss that by about 15 mins, and decided not to speed up as  fuel was not a priority as we still had over 50% reserves

Capt Barry next phoned the Coffs Harbour International Marina ( 6651 4222 ) and spoke to Eliesia ???who confirmed LAST WORDS  berth ( F19, about the middle of the western most arm opposite the fuel / fish co-op wharf )  , berthing fee ( $65 per night ) and location and description of the berth ( ie no middle pole between boats and on the northern side of the finger). I then asked about the wind conditions in the inner harbour/marina, and was told the winds were blowing  15 to 20 knts from the south -ie Eliesia emphasised it was  a blow off approach.  This amazed Capt Barry as we had been in a westerly all the way up the coast from Port Macquarie and we were only 15 mins out from Coffs.
I asked if there was any marina assistance available when we arrived as we had a fair amount of windage and were not that familiar with the berths and conditions, and Eliesia said she would be there to assist.

Rear admiral Julie was left in charge to enter the harbour as Capt Barry went about preparing ropes and fenders ( both sides ) for what we suspected might be a tricky berthing in he wind.

Well we entered the main harbour with ease and as we approached the end of the historic long jetty that protrudes into the main harbour, we turned to starboard and  settled on a course to  round the green  marker into the inner harbour/marina when a sailing boat ( first timers we later discovered ) came out of the inner marina and changed course to cross right in front of LAST WORD.
Obviously they were temporary Australians.
Whilst it was not a real issue and we just adjusted  our course to pass them on  their port side ( which is the usual protocol ) , it is preferable for  out coming boats to pass in coming boats starboard to starboard on immediately exiting the inner harbour/ marina entrance,  as this gives the incoming boat a wider  swing/turn to line up the inner harbour/marina entrance to allow the exiting boats to see the incoming boat.

LAST WORD  entered the inner harbour/marina and found berth F19 ( as the designations are clearly visible on the ends of the fingers ) , and we noticed the fuel wharf was still open, but decided the wind was a bit tricky, and to just berth the boat.

The promised assistance was not evident so we decided to berth stern first with just the rear admiral to do the ropes.

I went slightly  past the berth to reverse back into the  wind, which was blowing  at least 15 to 20 knts (actually, I  thought about 100 knts at that time) and blowing directly across the finger.
I figured I would have to reverse LAST WORD  into the berth at about a 45 degree  angle and get a back corner rope on then use the bow thruster to straighten up against the wind as there is no middle pole between berths to lean on,  and there was a  boat already in the other side of the common berth opening. I did not want to have the wind on the full side of LAST WORD  until the last part of the berthing, as 35 tons and 2 m of space between boats in that sort of cross wind was not the ideal recipe for a good time.

After commencing the berthing procedure from the pilothouse and placing LAST WORD  at an angle just outside the berth and in front of the already berthed boat sharing our common double pen , I went to the cockpit and picked up the hand remote for the last part of the berthing and  noticed two fellas walking down the F marina arm , about two berths away, with coffees, and asked  for some assistance.
The two chaps immediately put down their coffees and ran to assist. Whilst one of them had obviously never held a rope before, and  Julie was left to give  him competent instructions, the  other chap had some idea and I threw him a  rope already tied to the port aft corner of  LAST WORD  and asked him to put it around the back most marina finger  cleat and to  pull the rope through and keep it tight  as I came in.
Well we got the back in,  and the bow thruster swung the bow in against the wind and we tied off first go without hitting anything .
How close to the other berthed boat we came , I am not sure,  as I never look. I figure LAST WORD  needs to be as close as practical  to the finger we are berthing at, to avoid the other boat.

I thanked the fellas and asked which boat they were on as I wanted to deliver some beers later that afternoon. They said it was not neccessary and that  were two boats down on an East Sail school sailing boat heading to Southport on a lesson.

About then Eliesia turned up with the key to the marina gate (and was knocking off at 2.00pm ), I asked her where the promised assistance was for our berthing, and she commented that they were running the Saturday chook  raffle when we came in , but they stopped and watched , and thought we did a good job without  assistance.
Life is all about priorities I guess.
berthed at last

The wind seemed to die down about an hour after we berthed, always the way, isn't it?

After tying up, plugging in to shore power ( 15 amps only again ) , and hosing down LAST WORD, Julie and I went for a long walk up Muttonbird Island , then around the harbour northern breakwater edges to the historic jetty that protrudes into the main harbour, and checked out the fuel wharf and fish co-op and other shops and facilities.
half way up Muttonbird Island and looking back at the inner harbour /marina and long historic jetty in the main harbour
view from the easternmost viewing platform on Muttonbird Island down into the  surging sea 
one of the local pesky rodents that eat the Mutton bird eggs and are constantly being baited. Julie was trying sign language here for the latest sea and weather conditions, but was given the silent treatment.
at the end of the south eastern inner break wall with LAST WORD   far left

Even though it looked like ok seas and weather to make Yamba the next day , Sunday, rear admiral Julie said a lay day ( or several ) was needed , and Coffs was as good a place as any to spend some down time, and we were in no rush, so we booked at the local restaurant , LATITUDE 30, for dinner the following night.
Latitude 30 has jazz and happy hour between 3.00 and 6.00pm , so that was another option for tomorrow.

We arrived back at the boat after dark and i decided it was time to honour my commitment and take some beers to the two fellows who assisted us on arrival.
I grabbed a beer for myself and wandered down to their boat, and started talking to a fellow standing on the marina arm at the back of their boat. He informed me the boys were inside and they were leaning to sail and delivering the boat to Southport where another crew would take the boat to Hamilton Island for race week (which explained their lack of experience with the ropes when we berthed).
I popped my head inside their sailing boat and asked if i could buy them a beer and discovered  there were 7 on board doing the trip.
So I grabbed a bucket load of beers from LAST WORD and returned and boarded their boat where introductions and good conversation was had for an hour or so.
barter material ( took over from old form of beads )  for assistance during berthing and universal  greeting material for  marina introductions.

They had sailed from Sydney to Coffs in one long leg over several days (about 300 miles )  , and were sailing, in the morning and going right through to Southport, some 150 miles away, in one leg.
Where you  fit 7 blokes inside a 36 foot sailing boat , I am not sure ( and one or two did ask if we needed crew , as they knew we were headed in the same direction - and I think one or two of them were over their sailing lesson ).
They said they used the motor if their speed  fell below 6 knots , but had not needed it yet, and expected to get to Southport for under 60 liters of fuel. I told them i had used approx. 1700 liters to come from Sydney, and stopped each afternoon for exercise, happy hour  and a change of pace.

After returning to LAST WORD  where Julie had had a glass or two of Chardy, we BBQd steaks, cooked  fried rice and prepared a salad and watched some of the Olympic coverage then retired for the evening.

Trip particulars: 80 NM , 6.4 hours,  618 liters,  av 12.5 knts  at 96 l/hr total.

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