PORT STEPHENS 2015 / 16

Day 1 – Wed 30 Dec 15

Well we have finally started the first adventure with Quo Vadis! We left Canberra later than expected and finally got away at 1000. 490 km, two stops (under protest) and six hours later we arrived at Soldiers Point boat ramp where it took us another couple to rig the boat and prepare it for its first (for us) salt water launching.

Soldiers Point

IMG_1662V and Cabin Boy went over and checked into the Marina – the staff were handing out free cocktails to residents; the bathrooms were bigger than a suite at the Hilton and the restaurants were calling. I checked out the triple boat ramp which had a constant flow of cars/boats/trailers waiting three deep to use it. No worries! Launching was uneventful however the ramp was steep and slippery – must remember to retrieve at high tide.

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Once we launched we motored the 500 metres over to Soldiers Point Marina where we have booked a berth for 10 days. We are not planning to spend every night alongside – however it gives great options if the weather turns. Very luxurious and in a great location protected from the prevailing NE – SE winds. Filtered drinking water to each finger, electricity, and free cable TV connection (Cabin Boy very disappointed that we don’t have a TV on the boat!). Late dinner was a delivery pizza (thanks Nana) and then to bed.

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Day 2 – Thu 31 Dec 2015

It always seems that the first night on a boat is a restless one – listening to new sounds and just getting used to being afloat – all except Cabin Boy who woke up and declared “thats so cool, I just closed my eyes, and then I opened them and its light!”. D and V not so lucky!

After a walk, an inspection of the apartment sized ablutions, the complimentary coffees and a copy of the world renowned Newcastle Herald, and a few odd jobs (moving trailer and car to secure car parking in the Marina) we got underway for a little explore. All in all we are very happy with the boat- the increased water line does make a difference to boat speed and comfort, the engine in the well is quiet (especially with the cover over it), and the dodger and bimini provide great protection and shade. It is a much easier boat to live on.

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Motored and sailed about 12 nm today while we tried out some boat handling, points of sail (including a decent spinnaker run). We headed east from Soldiers Point, following the southern side of the Bay, taking in Kangaroo Point, Salamander Bay, Corlette (had a quick look at the old Peppers Port Stephens now the Anchorage), Nelson Bay and the harbour and then back to Bagnalls Beach for lunch. Keel / rudder up and anchored in 1 metre, about 100 metres off the beach for a swim and lunch.

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Temperatures were in the high 20s and the wind was a perfect 10-12 knots, – had a great post lunch sail home with Cabin Boy at the helm. Two dolphins joined us for about 5 minutes which was a highlight of the trip back! Unfortunately no photos of this – we were all too busy pointing and cheering!

FullSizeRender 2Dinner at the marina was a great way to see out the New Year – one of the best meals we have had for ages. Cabin Boy picked the best dishes on the menu – so we will have to go back just to have what he had! Saw Banoffee Pie on the menu so will have to bring Nana here.

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Overall a great end to 2015! V and X both doing porpoise impersonations in their sleep and will not see the New Year in at midnight! Happy New Year to all. D.

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Day 3 – Fri 1 Jan 2016

Well no nice photos for today! It was a day of small goals! We all slept in and then decided to go for a drive and check out the local townships from the land. Very crowded in Nelsons Bay with what looked like half of Sydney on holidays and looking for brunch. We turned around and headed back to Soldiers Point where we had a great lunch at the Greek seafood restaurant at the marina.

This afternoon was siesta time for D who has discovered the cockpit seats are 2 metres long and make an excellent day bed. V and Cabin Boy played cards for a couple of hours. We hired two kayaks this afternoon and spent an hour or so paddling around the local waters, weaving in and out of the oyster farms, then a swim at a local beach. Sausages cooked at the local public BBQ and then back to the boat to eat them, clean up the boat, showers, cards and bed!

There is an east coast low forming with predicted winds of 35 knots building over the next couple of days. The plan for 2 Jan is to get as much sailing in as possible before the weather arrives. We will make sure that we are alongside when it hits! Lots of rain forecast as well so thankful that we have the car – unfortunately Cabin Boy saw the advertisement for Fighter World so we will probably end up there later in the week!

 

Day 4 – Sat 2 Jan 2016

V was up early this morning for a walk around the foreshore and beach, while D remained on board to watch over a sleeping Cabin Boy. Who had to be forcibly woken to make it in time for breakfast at the floating cafe on the jetty (scrambled eggs, hot chocolates, toasted croissants). We have both come to the conclusion that he is “growing in his sleep” again!

After breakfast we tidied up the boat, and got ready for a sail. The forecast high winds this morning didn’t eventuate so we did a lot of motoring, and we headed out to the west to check out the bay. We had a good look at Fame Cove – a definite for later in this trip or another stay – very well protected, public moorings and no development anywhere to be seen.

North Arm Cove was a nice bay with a settlement by the same name – some very nice real estate – and we came across a yacht that we had read about Friday’s Child a 45 foot Blue Water Cruising Yacht. It was just as spectacular in the flesh!

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Still no wind – but a forecast southerly change expected in the afternoon so we motored over to Tanilba Bay for lunch and to find a beach. Success! We found a great beach, protected from the prevailing wind, and we were able to put the keel/rudder up and motor close inshore, anchoring in about a metre of water.

IMG_1686 Had a great swim, play on the sand, crab catching expedition and then a great lunch aboard. This was followed by some excitement when the large yacht twice our size, anchored behind us, caught fire – smoke billowing from the cabin and crew running around deck with fire extinguishers. We motored over to see if they needed another couple of extinguishers – however they had managed to put it out.

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IMG_1695Sails up on Quo Vadis and then a great sail back to the Marina. We had some excitement of our own when the engine would not engage reverse, or if it did the engine cut out. We aborted our first attempt – in 15+ knots – put the sails up, got sorted out and tried again. Same problem – engine cut out. On the third attempt we just came in hot without reverse which made for an interesting arrival. All good. Of course the marina staff arrived with two cocktails five minutes after we docked – I would have much preferred them five minutes earlier with fenders and docklines!

V and X now playing cards and we are now discussing options for dinner! Parental choice would be a chicken curry – Cabin Boy likes the idea of having a pizza delivered to the boat?? Weather not looking good for next two days – and we need to get an marine engineer to look at the outboard so not sure what will happen over the next few days!

Total of 15nm today.

Edit 1: PS – it was pizza!

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Day 5 – Sun 3 Jan 2016

Leisurely start to the day – bacon, eggs and toast prepared on board, with a newspaper, coffees and a hot chocolate delivered to the boat. Then the rain really started to come down – really come down. With rain too heavy to even get off the boat without getting soaked we used the time to prepare dinner and try out the expresso machine. The  massaman curry took about an hour to prepare and smelled great!

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A few games of cards later, a noodle lunch aboard, there was finally a break in the weather and we decided to make a run for the car to head out to Fighter World at RAAF Williamtown. The museum was a great experience and well worth the time – Cabin Boy was fascinated. A great range of aircraft from Fokker Triplanes, replica Spitfire, Typhoon, Me BF-109 to the first generation jets – Sabre, Meteor, Vampire, MIG 21, Hunter and then onto the Mirage and F1111.

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F111 and Mirage

 

After we had gotten over our RAAF fix we headed off to explore some of the local villages. We had a quick look around the working harbour at Nelson Bay, checked out d’Albora Marina (and reaffirmed that we are in a much better position at Soldiers Point). After a quick afternoon tea of fish and chips at the harbour we had a nice drive around Shoal Bay and Fingal Bay, followed by a quick shopping trip to restock.

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The massaman curry made an excellent dinner, then cards, showers and bed. The BOM has predicted more of the same for tomorrow – with the addition of 30 knot winds!

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Rainfall since 0900 (as at 1930).

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Weather Radar

And just to confirm everything we looked out of the cabin!

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Cabin Boy has asked me to include the photo he took of the fish around the marina! Hundreds of little fish in a whirlpool around the submerged light, providing dinner for the bigger fish . . . there is always a bigger fish!

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Day 6 – Mon 4 Jan 2016

Another miserable weather day! Not too much report as we spent very little time on the boat. After a quick breakfast on board we drove into Newcastle – about an hour away – to see if we could find a movie cinema! Success for D and X who convinced a reluctant V that she really did want to see Star Wars VII The Force Awakens! Great movie however timings and the cinema location meant that we missed lunch, so on the way home to the boat we looked for a coffee shop / sandwich shop. Again not much success but we came across an excellent pie shop – D and X happy, V not so much but she was very hungry at this stage.

Very pleased to be alongside at the Marina – it gives us lots of secure options. 100 mm of rain forecast for tomorrow, with local storm , wind and flood warnings. 😦

Cabin Boy still enjoying the trip though!

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Day 7 – Tue 5 Jan 2016

Well it has continued to bucket rain and the SE wind has picked up to around 30 knots and is expected to shift to south and increase overnight to over 35 knots (18 m/s). The Myall Lake system, just to our north, which was to be an alternate location for us if the wind became too high – is now in flood with local townships being evacuated. We listened to the news this evening and there were reports of rainfall as high as 200mm in an hour!

Two of the three crew slept very well last night (and slept in!), while the skipper who was up at 3 am checking lines on the boat, as well as those boats upwind of Quo Vadis, was not so lucky!

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One of the great things about small towns is their community spirit. Our plans to go see another movie changed when we saw a small sign by the road advertising a Lego display. We followed the water logged signs with barely legible running ink to the local primary school where we were asked to donate $10 as an entrance fee to support the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service. Cabin Boy was a little reticent to part with the money – we explained that it was for a good cause and that the price was not much to satisfy our curiosity!

It was the best money that we have spent all trip! An amazing array of Lego from diorama depicting the Centenary of ANZAC to Star Wars, a small city, to a Lego Technic robot that was able to solve a Rubiks Cube! All staffed by volunteers raising money to support the local community.

 

Another thing about small towns is their quirkiness! The following sign was posted outside the local Anglican church – we thought that it would appeal to Karen!

 

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All that Lego watching created a huge appetite so we took the opportunity to introduce Cabin Boy to the culinary delights of the local Hogsbreath Cafe where he ate a steak bigger than his head. After celebrating the “festival of meat” it was still raining so we then did a bit of shopping, including buying some new braided nylon mooring lines – a small bit of insurance!

By the time we got back to the marina the weather was still deteriorating.

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Unfortunately the marina is exposed to the south, so after replacing the mooring lines we made the decision to take a local motel room for the next two nights. Having just had a look at the weather radar and wind speeds we are very happy that we have made the right decision! I have never seen such constant rain since we were in Darwin. We are on the 4th floor – so no chance of flooding! We gave some consideration to retrieving the boat and ending the holiday early, however that opportunity was missed as the weather and wind would make manoeuvring on an exposed boat ramp not worth the trouble.

D.

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Windspeed

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Local Weather Radar

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Rainfall since 0900!

 

Day 8 – Wed 6 Jan 2016

OK – definitely very happy that we slept in the motel last night. We went down to the boat this morning and the weather was terrible – apart from the (now usual) heavy rain – the wind has shifted south and is blowing straight into the marina. We are lucky that where Quo Vadis is berthed she is blowing off the  jetty. The combination of wind, tide and wave action was lifting some of the lighter boats that are on the windward side of their berths up and dropping them on the jetty. The boat was bouncing around way too much to be comfortable, although it is secure. After taking some more gear off the boat, and dropping all the external canvas (bimini, dodger, boom tent) we had a late breakfast at the marina coffee shop with all the other drowned rats! The video below shows the view from the motel last night!

And the marina this morning which recorded 40 knot (74 km/hr or 21 m/s) gusts and 35 knots constant (65 km/hr or 18 m/s).

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The upside has been the motel room balcony “wild life” experience – as all the birds try to get out of the rain to dry off!

And Cabin Boy has discovered that some are quite tame!

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So its now really a rest day with nothing much to do but catch up on some reading, dry out some clothes and wait for the weather to clear. Even if it were possible to retrieve the boat – which it is not as the marina is now closed and the boat ramp is too exposed – the wind is too strong to drop the mast for trailering.

Flood evacuations are still occuring regionally for some of the communities along rivers and low lying areas; the local airport is shut; as are the trains! A helpful friend in Canberra has just SMS’d me to let me know that the fording capacity of our car is only 600mm and that its a good thing that we have a boat!

Spirits are still high – although if there are any mutterings I have threatened to take them to see Star Wars again! The cartoon from this mornings paper summed it up nicely.

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Finished the evening with a Thai meal from the local Thai restaurant. Cabin Boy tried his first fried ice-cream . . . and has now decided that his first will also be his last . . . there is a lot of his mother in him!

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D.

 

Day 9 – Thu 7 Jan 2016

Weather is starting to moderate and the sun is peeking through every now and then. At least the rain is no longer constant – with just three or four showers today. We went down to the boat this morning, grabbed a coffee at the marina, chatted to the other Noelex 25 owner, and met with a canvas trimmer who is going to make a hatch cover and a foredeck cover for Cabin Boy. The foredeck cover will allow Cabin Boy to have his hatch open when it is raining, maintain airflow and when we eventually have some sun, lower the temperature in the V-berth. Hopefully it will look something like this, but in blue:

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Met up with two marine outboard mechanics who had a look at the outboard and couldn’t replicate the fault! They offered to take the outboard out of the boat for a look – however at $100 a hour and an hour to get it out and an hour to get it back in (electrical charging circuits, special mountings, throttle controls, ignition) – we decided to give it a miss. They increased the idle settings and spent 30 minutes playing with it. It all seems fine now – for now!  They have a workshop where if I can bring the boat around on the trailer, then can access the engine and drop the leg without removing it from the boat – saves time and money. Next time we come I can book them out for two hours and they will service the engine before we launch.

We finally made it to the Shark and Ray Encounter so that Cabin Boy can swim with the sharks! We were very happy for him to do this until we found out that an adult has to accompany children under 12 yrs. Dad drew the short straw while Mum took photos. It was actually an excellent activity – really well run. Have a look at the next three videos! Dad made friends with a ray while Cabin Boy got really close and personal!

While it was a great experience, and Cabin Boy certainly thought it was a highlight, I am not sure it is one that we need to do again 🙂

We are not sure what our plans are for tomorrow – if the swell and wind has decreased enough we might retrieve and head home. Regardless we will move out of the motel and back onto the boat, and try again on Saturday morning.

Day 10 – Fri 8 Jan 2016

It was an early morning start to get down to the marina to see what the wind and tide were doing. Still a bit marginal but we elected to retrieve early as the wind was picking up again and we had gotten ourselves into that mental mindset of “going home”.

No issues on the retrieve. The increase in the engine rpm/idling speed has solved the cutting out problem when changing from forward to reverse. No problems getting the boat onto the trailer. I should not have worried about how well the Territory would pull the boat up the ramp – no issues at all!

We got underway at 1045 and were back at home by 1640- a great run back even though the traffic on the Hume Hwy was constant. No issues.

Final Thoughts

We had a long talk about the trip on the way home in the car. While it was very disappointing that we did not get the sailing time in that we had hoped for, we were all satisfied that we made the most of the time and opportunities that were available. The boat was a great success and the trip gave us greater insight on what we have to sort out for longer stays on board. As we were driving south we saw the sign for Bobbin Head and almost pulled off to launch the boat again and have a night there – we will save this for another time. We are certainly more confident to trailer the boat longer distances.

We have also decided that we need to practice more or docking – on Blue Print it did make it much easier having an outboard on the transom that could be swivelled!

So some statistics!

Average fuel economy towing – 12.4 litres / 100 km

Fuel Used – 178 litres diesel

Distance travelled (Car) – 1430 km

Distance travelled (boat) – 30 nm

 

 

5 thoughts

  1. Cabin Boy I loved the fish pic. You are in a very scenic part of the world. Fighter World looks fascinating. Poppy would love it. Thank you for showing us all the wonderful photographs of your time in Port Stephens. How clever you are to know how to play cards. The only card game I can play is “fish”. You will have to teach me how to play more games. We have had a lot of rain here, too. I await, with great excitement, your next blog. I hope it contains some pics of Newcastle.
    Love Nanna Karen

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    • Hi Nana, thank you for the message and reading our blog. I have also asked my friend Oliver to have a read as well. He is in my class. The card is called “Sevens” and I really like it. I can’t wait to show you how to play it. It is still very wet but it is cool being in the boat when it is raining. Love X.

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  2. Cabin Boy, I love your positive attitude. If the weather is only going to improve marginally on Wednesday afternoon perhaps it is time to think of coming home? I couldn’t find Port Stephens on the weather channel; found Newcastle postcode 2300, found Soldiers Point postcode 2317, looked at their 10-day forecast and the rain seems to abate to “showers” later in the week. It must be very frustrating for Mummy, who I am sure has lots of work to do before commencing work on Monday; perhaps you should make her do her homework while you are all on the boat.
    Love Nanna (with a double “n” – the Swedish way)
    PS: Can’t wait to learn how to play 7s.

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  3. When I tried to access quovadisadventures.com there was a couple of lines saying that this was not available because of robots.txt? I clicked anyway and found the Further Adventures of Quo Vadis. Cabin Boy, I only liked the fried doughnut dough but left the ice cream. I appreciated the cartoon.
    Love Nanna Karen

    Like

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