The first stop upon leaving Scarborough Marina was the nearby Moreton Island. The sand dunes had us reverting to excited 8 year olds as we ran about and tried to slide down them. There is so much more to explore in this area but with more bad weather coming we skipped south to hide from the wind in the mangroves near Stradbrook Island.
Once the weather cleared we continued on our way South. In contrast to the isolated beaches we had grown used to, the city skyline now loomed on the horizon. Mansions replaced mangroves and powerboats blasted through the previously serene water.
A brief stop to re-provision and we were heading out of the Gold Coast Seaway, back into the open ocean in an attempt to make our way south in the light northerly forecast. The northerly winds don’t come around very often and we needed to take every opportunity if we wanted to make it down to Sydney in time for Christmas. Pushed along by the East Australian Current, we were making some great progress under spinnaker, easily averaging 7 knots and often reaching double figures with no stress on ourselves or Florence. Cloud cover and nightfall had us dropping the spinnaker as the skies blackened.
After a fairly uneventful night watch and another day spent slipping along in the current, the radio mentioned a boat to the south of us having to turn back due to bad weather. The wind had switched around to the south, meaning whatever had turned them around was coming our way. With nothing on the forecast we radioed the coastguard but no other information could be gained. Most of the harbours on this section of coast have breaking waves at the entrance caused by shallow sand bars, meaning they should only be entered in good weather and at the right state of the tide. With no harbour entrance reachable before dusk, our only options were to reef down and sit out what ever was coming, or turn back towards the last safe harbour, 50 miles (a least 9 hours) behind us. Either way we would have to face the weather at sea and in the dark. As darkness fell, the wind was not only on the nose but reaching 30 knots in the gusts, quickly building a big, steep sea against the 4 knot current. We reefed down to storm sails to slow Florence down and stop her jumping off and pounding into the steep waves. We have learned to be patient in these situations, making progress forward would be uncomfortable and put strain on Florence so we were happy to wait it out, the only thing giving us any forward motion was the south flowing current. Torrential rain, thunder and forked lightening all added to the excitement. It was two tired, bedraggled sailors who gratefully sailed into the calm of Port Stephens the following day.
With some strong winds now forecast we ventured up a creek in Port Stephens and anchored off a some beautiful houses set back from the water. While visiting his boat on the mooring in front of his house, David popped over to say hello. We were soon exchanging stories over coffee and before we knew it he had offered us a lift to the shops/use of his car/washing machine and shower. Once squeaky clean, we enjoyed hearing more about his adventures over a few beers, it turned out that David has sailed to many of the same places as us. The welcome we have received from strangers has been one of the most surprising and humbling aspects of our trip. It takes a special kind of person to welcome a couple of wayward sailors into your home like long-lost friends.
With Sydney Harbour just one overnight sail away, we were on the home stretch. Despite leaving on the first northerly forecast that didn’t include any thunderstorms, we were battered by an almighty thunderstorm at nightfall. At the worst point, forked lightening hit the water less than a mile away from us. Heavy rainfall and 30+ knot squalls made life on watch pretty miserable, while down below, despite having the curtains closed lightening would light up the whole cabin. Sydney Harbour was a very welcome sight the following morning, we might be staying here for a while.
5 thoughts on “Sailing South to Sydney”
You are both amazing! I have to admit that I started following your blog because I wanted to follow Florence’s travels as her previous owner John Turtle was a very old and dear family friend and I was so happy to hear that Florence was off on a big adventure! The stories and experiences you share are just wonderful! Thank you for taking the time to keep us all updated on your adventures. With kind regards, Eilir
Hi Eilir, Thanks for your kind words. We were lucky enough meet John when he and Jenny invited us to dinner after we had purchased Florence. We actually have a copy of his poem book on board which we re-read on long passages. Thanks for getting in touch. Matt and Amy
Hi There – How far South are you coming? Melbourne? Adelaide?
No further South than Sydney we’re afraid, otherwise it would a very long trip back up to Thailand this year.
Cheers Matt and Amy
Bummer! I was hoping you might be heading our way (we live in Adelaide), so I’ll guess I’ll just keep following online.
How long are you in Sydney & whereabouts have you moored Flo whilst you’re there?