Our blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Voyage to Port Stephens ~ December 23 , 2009

The Bureau's mechanical voice droned on, “Calm tomorrow till midday then increasing north winds with thunderstorms developing.”

"Perfect," I told Judith. "We’re off tomorrow for Port Stephens." An open sea voyage of 80 nm (150km).

We’d had good times at Camden Haven. Enjoyed the camaraderie of other yachties, climbed the mountain, watched the Sunday double feature. What more could we do?

At dawn, Jim and Chris's Twelfth Night was a just  reflection at the calm river mouth. A few minutes later, Dennis and Barbara let go their mooring lines behind us. Jude joined me to wish them a safe journey while our video recorded lovely songbirds greeting the morning.

Although each of us was heading to Port Stephens, probably a fifteen hour journey, I was not in a hurry to join my fellow travellers. I don’t like calms, especially the ones frequent early mornings. I'd rather wait than motor, even if it means staying out all night. Besides, Jude needed to shop, and I had to return books to the library which wouldn’t open till ten.

At noon, the Alaskan boat with Mike, Elisha and baby Eli, motored passed on their way to join the fleet upon the windless waters. Meanwhile we were entertaining three giggling twelve year olds interested in joining our ship. The two girls were blushing, a bit frightened, while the boy was showing us his muscles.

Exiting the Camden Haven River thrust us into a blue world with a tight line of wool stretched where it met the sky. To our right rose the bold red headland we’d climbed, where the humpback whale had frolicked on his way south. By the time we’d powered around it, a slight ripple broke the glassy surface. Feeling its energizing caress, we unrolled the headsail to its max, and then silenced the donk to sit back and relaxed.

Ever increasingly that wind took Banyandah faster down the coast, assisted by a fairly strong current that at one point had our GPS saying we were covering nine nautical miles an hour. That would put us at Port Stephens about midnight, so I hunkered down to catch some rest.

Relishing her time alone under open blue heavens, Jude is not like me. She doesn’t just sit back to gaze at the passing horizon. No, she’s checking the log and GPS, looking over the chart, calculating speed and drift, watching seabirds and looking them up. So, by the time I arose for sundowners, she gave me such a complete rundown that I felt I’d been right beside her the whole afternoon.

Nightfall brought black clouds over the land, spitting silver flashes, and wet droplets, that had me fearing we’d not have that sweet northerly much longer. Jude went to bed, and I stayed topsides, entranced by nature even when the rain started to fall. And good that I did. Our steady wind suddenly went berserk. Roaring and shifting round n’round before falling to a whisper that was overshadowed by my noisy rope work, resetting the sails. But to no avail. We either headed straight for a dark land or for an equally dark horizon.

With cars, you simply follow the road. But using nature’s power requires more cleverness, and patience, especially on a rainy dark night. Midnight found us dawdling along at a slow walking pace. The next hour stole the last of our breeze, so I roused my crewmate and fired up the iron topsail to find us a home for the night.

Unlike car travel, coming into a new place is a bit frightening, as well as exhilarating at the same time. Strange lights, flashing red, white, green, intermixed with yellow streetlamps punctuating the inky night. Meanwhile, shadowy islets slipped silently past. By 2 AM, we passed the headlands, found some quiet water and quickly plonk down the anchor into emptiness. It was silent, smooth and windless.

I won’t say we were up at daybreak, but our first sight revealed Banyandah alone atop a platter rippled by a pod of porpoise feeding while in the distance, tiny tinnies were seen, backed by walkers on a yellow shore with those abrupt lumps we’d seen as shadows.

No comments:

Post a Comment