Broulee Island, NSW South Coast
Friday 3 November 2017
The final leg home from Sydney to Melbourne officially began yesterday afternoon around 3:30pm as we eased our way out of our berth at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) in Rushcutters Bay, being careful not to take the corners off any other yachts parked nearby … like Brindabella et al.
Bob Brenac, our long-time, Sydney-based supporter and volunteer – plus 50-year CYCA member it must be said (like his father before him) – had arranged a morning meeting with the CEO of the club, Ms Karen Grega, so that I could officially say thank you on behalf of Medical Sailing Ministries; plus present her with an official (limited edition) “MSM Mission 2017 Shirt”
As I mentioned in my letter to Ms Grega…
“Access to a marina berth, along with the club’s facilities, at the critical before-and-after stages really is invaluable, enabling us to address the many, many “last minute” tasks that inevitably pop up, in an efficient manner.
It’s also a glorious part of the world in which to live, even for just a few days, here on Sydney Harbour, surrounded as we are in Rushcutters Bay, by so much Australian sailing history and “royalty”.
This is the fourth MSM Vanuatu Mission since 2009 and so this is the eighth time CYCA has extended to us their welcome. Again, we appreciate this so much and Medical Sailing Ministries is greatly indebted to you.”
It was then back to Chimere for a wonderful salad-kind of lunch, with nuts, celery, tuna … prepared by Edith, along with some of the bread she’d baked yesterday. Great to have the actual author of the official Chimere Cook Book on board. And the one also responsible for compiling the very, very long shopping list, and then taking a leading role in the purchase and stowing aboard of same – was that just 6 months ago!?
The weather forecast had been a bit hostile to sailing south, since Cam and his gang of four docked mid-day Monday, but it was now taking a turn for the better.
Ray, who’d caught the train back to Melbourne on Monday night (for some home-comforts) was now back on board having caught the Wednesday night train back again.
Our plan was to get away around 2:00pm, after we’d caught up with Sydney resident Phil Ross, the editor of the sailing magazine Cruising Helmsman. Despite all our emails over several years, we’d never quite been able to arrange a face-to-face. As it turned out Phil just happened to be at the CYCA yesterday afternoon and it seemed an opportunity too good to pass up.
After waving good-bye to Phil, retrieving the lines, and mercifully NOT hitting anything, we took the opportunity to cruise up past the Opera House, under The Bridge and in-out, around, past and behind an amazing variety of craft – from an HMAS War Ship and an 18 foot skiff, to more ferries, yachts, and pleasure craft (some doing the same as us) than we could count. Even a three-masted tall ship doing their regular “Twilight Harbour Cruise”.
Soon enough we’d made it back past the Fort, around towards Manly (watching out for the ferry – each way) then out through North and South Head into the rising swell. It was now around 5:00pm and pretty soon we were clear of the rocks and setting a course south with an easterly breeze of about 15-20 knots moving us along at around 6-7 knots.
As is the custom, we took it in turns to keep watch through the night, with Bruce and Edith taking first shift, then Ray and I relieving them around 12 midnight. The moon was bright and with the glow of Sydney, plus the lights of planes, seemingly queued head to tail into the night-sky waiting to land and then taking off, we were rarely short of things to keep us engaged.
The wind changed throughout the night, first North-east, then to the north, then north-west, then west … all the while ol’faithful Perkins chugged away in the background doing 1600 RPM, enabling us to maintain our speed in the lumpy sea left over from three days of strong southerly winds
Dawn was greeting with many pairs of albatrosses, gliding and swooping close-by in their effortless, magestic way.
Keeping tabs on the changing weather forecasts, we initially thought we could make it to Eden, way down near the Victorian border, where we could sit out the next southerly blow. In the end, the 35-30kts southerly change came through earlier than expected and so in anticipation of this we had already started to close the coast, with a view to finding a snug anchorage behind Broulee Island, just south of Batemans Bay; 135 miles south of Sydney, but still 70-odd miles short of Eden.
A quick glance at our “vessel tracker” will show the hard right turn we made earlier this afternoon. There’s no hiding out here anymore and I must say, there are times I’m tempted to turn the thing off!
Two hours from the coast the southerly wind-change hit us, and after putting two reefs in the mainsail and reducing the jib by around 50%, we were soon loping along at 8 knots in a south west direction; the coastal detail – the trees, the rocks, the hills and buildings – becoming more and more distinct the closer we got.
The temperature also dropped and Ray, having crewed with Cam from Vanuatu, was finally seen to put on long pants and I’m sure I could see steam from my breath.
Our depth sounder shows the water temperature at around 21 degrees, which is a bit lower than the 29 degrees in Vanuatu. Can’t wait to see what it says when we finally make it around into Bass Strait
Anchoring here at Broulee Island was something of a text-book landing. Edith on the helm, Ray and I dropping the sails in the lee of the headland, then Bruce and I finally setting the anchor, all the while making sure we got as close to the coast as we dared while still keeping plenty of water beneath the keel.
And this truly is a wonderful spot. Flat calm, as the occasional gusts of wind shake and shudder the rigging above.
Soon after turning off the engine and everyone breathing a sigh of relief, the cheese and crackers appeared along with a hot drink of choice – coffee, hot chocolate, even English Breakfast if desired.
Out beyond the point white caps could be seen on the waves and as late afternoon moved into early evening Edith and Bruce set about preparing a tag-team culinary delight. I know it’s got potatoes, cheese, onions, bacon and many other things … all baked in the oven. “And lemon-slice for dessert!” I just heard Edith yell.
So this must be what cruising sailors do. First, wait for the wind to blow their way. Second, set sail and go-with-the wind, then Third, seek shelter when the wind blows the wrong way – cool.
Our current plan, using the above “algorithm” is to stick it out here till Sunday when the wind is expected to blow from a northerly direction hopefully taking us right round the corner, past Gabo Island and into Bass Strait. Once there we will high-tail it to Refuge Cove on Wilson’s Prom before the next south-west change comes through Tuesday. Sounds like a plan !!
It’s funny, dropping anchor here on the south coast of NSW, memories of anchoring in a dozen or more Vanuatu villages come to mind. Will any canoes come out? If not, maybe we could buy or trade some paw paws, or pamplemousse in the village tomorrow morning? But no, a quick glance along the beach reveals signs of development, beach houses and street lights to name just two. Confirming once again that we are definitely home. Back to “normal” life once more.
Smooth seas, fair breeze and cruising home …