Christmas Trip to Sydney (second trip to Sydney)

Liz and I sailed 'Blue Magic' to Sydney for the Christmas Holidays 2004-5. Our strategy was to port each night, trying different anchorages where possible. Steven (our eldest son) and I sailed back to the Gold Coast. We would be away for 21 days, but would only get 10 days in Sydney. Below is our report on the trip.

Photos from the trip

Gold Coast to Gosford

DAY 1: Southport - Ballina (Saturday 18th December, 2004)

Liz and I were joined by my brother, Colin, and his mate, Brian, for the first leg. We motored until late morning when a light Easterly of 8-10 knots arrived. Up went the sails and off with the engines. At 10 knots on the beam we were getting just over 6 knots, although I must admit we had a little help from the current. By mid afternoon the breeze had dropped substantially and swung to the South (on the nose). Down with the sails and back to the motors. We stopped at Ballina and let our passengers, Colin and Brian, off. We then anchored in Mobbs Bay (Ballina). Out came the fishing line and within minutes we had caught 3 nice sized flathead so we let the smallest one go and cooked the other two on the BBQ for dinner.

DAY 2: Ballina - Iluka/Yamba

Liz and I set off in a light NE of 0-5 knots. We hoisted the sails assisted by the starboard engine ticking at 2500rpm. An hour later the breeze swung to the N at 8-12 knots so we turned the engine off. We goosed the sails (tied the jib to the opposite side) and turned on 'George' (our Navman autopilot). Liz and I sat on the trampolines on the bow. While at the bow a pod of dolphins came over to surf the bow waves. There were three baby dolphins hugging their mothers. It looked like they must be attached with wires as they followed every course change of their mothers' exactly. On arriving inside the bar we ditched the sails and motored into Iluka Bay and picked up a courtesy mooring.

DAY 3: Iluka - Iluka (heading for Coffs Harbour)

We set off early as there was a strong Southerly forecast for the afternoon. There was no wind so we motored. Less than two hours later the Southerly hit at about 23 knots. We motored into it for another hour when we heard a delivery skipper in front of us radio he was turning back. Being cautious, we decided to do likewise, returning to Iluka Bay where this time we anchored.

DAY 4: Iluka - Trial Bay

Again we departed early, but this time in a 15 knot Southerly and choppy seas. With the wind on the nose, we motored at a respectable 7 knots at 3000 rpm. Just after midday the breeze had lightened to SSE 5-10 knots. As our course had also changed more S, up went the sails and we motorsailed for the next 6 hours. Arriving at Trial Bay, we picked up a courtesy mooring for the night - the forecast was good. Trial Bay is an open roadstead (ocean bay) - there is nearly always some swell, but a cat is much more comfortable than a yacht.

DAY 5: Trial Bay - Forster/Tuncurry

Another early start and no wind. By midday we were motorsailing in a NNE of 7-8 knots. Although the breeze lightened mid-afternoon we kept motorsailing until off Forster. We dropped anchored opposite the Tuncurry Fishing Co-op.

Day 6: Forster/Tuncurry - Gosford

A mid-morning departure after refuelling. Once again, virtually no wind, so motoring again. As we motored past "Dallyance II" (Geoff and Katina) - they were anchored with us at Forster/Tuncurry - I called them on the radio and had a nice long chat. They had been cruising the Queensland coast as far north as Lizard Island for the past 11 months and were now headed home (Melbourne). By 5.00pm the wind had picked up to 12-15 knots from the SE but the forecast was for strong winds and thunderstorms with hail warnings, so we decided to keep motoring and not hoist the sails. The lightening started in the evening, out to sea in the south. As it approached we noted a tanker changing course into us as he headed inshore to avoid the now many lightening strikes closing from seaward. As we turned he turned so we flashed him with a torch - finally he saw us and we avoided each other. I did not want to use the radio as the many lightening strikes were now grounding in the sea all around us. Finally the storm left us and we motored into Broken Bay and to Gosford, anchoring in the canal at St Huberts Island at around 1am.

Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race - 26th December, 2004

We departed St Huberts Island at 7.30am. Our aerial touched as we went under the Rip Bridge. Liz and I were joined by our kids (now adults) and their partners, our good friends Carol & Daryl and their kids (also adults) and partners and my brothers Graham and Phil and his friend - 18 in total. (You might think this is overloading, but one of these cats is surveyed to carry 38 passengers and 2 crew.) There was plenty of room. Most of the young ones were on the trampolines for the trip to Sydney, while us oldies stayed aft. Well, all except one of the boyfriends who was extremely seasick! We had a great day, anchoring inside North Head for lunch then motoring over to the northern end of the heads to view the start and watch the yachts proceed out to sea. We followed for a short distance out and south before turning for Gosford, returning home about 6.00pm.

New Years Fireworks on Sydney Harbour

Liz and I departed at 9am so we could get under the bridge, refuelled at Booker Bay and collected our good friends Carol & Daryl. We motorsailed to Vaucluse and then motored to Shark Island where we dropped anchor for the night. There were already many boats anchored there and elsewhere in the harbour, but as the evening drew on, more and more boats came and anchored. We had a great view right up the harbour. We had a BBQ dinner, followed by a display from a boat nearby - boys and girls skinny dipping!

There were fireworks at Manly followed by the 9.00pm and midnight fireworks on the Harbour. They were spectacular, although we felt the ball from the bridge was a disappointment. We thought it was just obscured by smoke, but others said the same.

After bacon and eggs it was a late departure and motor back to Gosford, stopping at Lobster beach and a dinghy ride while we awaited the tide to get under the bridge.

Gosford - Southport

Liz had to return to work so she drove back with Michael (son) and Margo (Steven's fiancee). Steven (eldest son) and I sailed the boat back to Southport.

DAY 1: Gosford - Port Stephens (Sunday 2nd January, 2005)

Having said goodbye to family, we departed at 9.00am and again no wind. By 1.00pm we had a light E 5-8 knots so we hoisted the sails and motorsailed until we reached the northern end of Stockton Bight. Tacking proved to be very inefficient here, so we pulled the sails down and motored into Port Stephens and anchored in Shoal Bay. A strong SW was forecast overnight and it was soon upon us. Overnight we recorded gusts up to 21 knots in the protected Bay.

DAY 2: Port Stephens - Laurieton (Camden Haven)

We set off at 9.00am in a light ESE 6 knots, with sails up assisted by an engine. By 6.00pm the breeze had swung NNE at 10 knots, but we were now changing course into it, so off with the sails and on with both engines. We anchored off Laurieton RSL at 9.30pm.

DAY 3: Laurieton - Macleay River (South West Rocks)

The forecast was for winds 10-15 knots in the morning, 15-20 in the afternoon and freshening to 20-30 knots and wind warnings current for late in the day. We set off with no wind! It stayed that way all day until we arrived at the Macleay River at 3.30pm. We anchored opposite the Tavern. The winds did pick up in the evening but had died by morning.

DAY 4: Macleay River - Coffs Harbour

Once again the same forecast with wind warnings for later in the day. We set off with no wind again although it picked up on the way. However, it was on the nose and with the warnings we did not want to lose time tacking into the breeze, so we motored for an early arrival into Coffs at 12.45pm. The Marinas were all full because of the Pittwater-Coffs Harbour Race, so we refuelled and anchored in the outer harbour. After a couple of hours, the cat (catamaran) beside us started to drift requiring them to reset their anchor. Another hour later and we had to do likewise. The ground is prone to drifting! We inflated the dinghy and Steven swam me in to shore - beats rowing! Later he swam me out again. Then we had a BBQ dinner. We swung about during the night and we did get some breezes early in the evening.

DAY 5: Coffs Harbour - Ballina

Another identical forecast and again no wind! Yesterday while refuelling I spoke to a commercial fisherman and he said the weather forecasting is consistently way over the top. If we headed the warnings we would still be in Port Stephens! We motored all day until the southerly finally arrived at 5.30pm. We only let the jib out as we were close to Ballina and it wasn't worth the trouble to hoist the main - fortunately for us - as it only lasted 20 minutes and reached 8 knots. Back to no wind and motors, arriving in Ballina at 8.45pm. We waited here to pick up our good friends, Ken and Elaine, who would be joining us for the night and tomorrows sail to Southport. Liz and Margo came with them and Liz drove the car home. Once on board, we motored to the Trawler Harbour where we tied up for the night.

For those interested, contrary to popular belief, the Trawler Harbour Marina is available for little cost. Call "End of Dreams" on Channel 73. Apparently, the same applies at other ports.

DAY 6: Ballina - Southport

We departed the jetty just before 6.45am, just as all the trawlers start to return from a nights fishing. Similar wind forecast, although not quite as fresh, so no warnings. Once again we set off in no wind. By 10.00am we had our sails up, but with both engines as well since we only had a W 3-5 knots. By 2.00pm it had freshened to SE 10 knots, so off with the motors. We had a lovely sail, wind behind freshening 10-15 knots. Two gybes close to the Seaway to set our course into the Seaway and we sailed inside at 4.10pm (daylight saving time). By 4.45pm (3.45pm Qld) we were tied up home at Marina Mirage. A lovely afternoons sail!


As usual, the boat performed admirably. We had a great time. It is not something I would like to do if the boat wasn't comfortable and easy to handle 2 up. We can't wait to go full-time cruising. Only then will we be able to wait for the right winds to travel and leave the motors off. It's not that they are noisy, it's that we long to just sail with the wind.


Distances covered (by GPS)
Southport to Gosford - 461 Miles covered (includes 32M Iluka roundtrip)
Gosford/Sydney/Gosford/Sydney/Gosford - 105 Miles
Gosford to Southport - 424 Miles