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Thursday, November 24, 2011

November 19 – 24, 2011- Broken Bay, NSW

Nov 19 - Visibility returned after a couple of hours as we sailed to Broken Bay, going with the current for a good part of it. We called ahead to alert (ha ha, warn) Russell and Jan Meggitt that we were on our way. Russ said to meet them at their mooring ball where we would raft with TomKat for the night. We can always count on them for a good time. Kate was fishing off the back of TomKat as Jan relaxed with a glass of wine on the back deck looking beautiful as always. Several of their friends had joined them onboard for happy hour. Russell was leaning against the side laughing with a beer in his hand. This is so typical of these our wonderful Aussie friends. We enjoyed a really nice visit with them and then as darkness settled in we all retired to our own quarters to prepare dinner.

Sunday mid-morning, Nov 20th, we set off for Pittwater but as we turned the corner from America Bay out toward the entrance to Broken Bay we were engulfed in fog that was twice as dense as that coming out of Newcastle! This was scary. We could not even see our own mast. Eerily we could hear engines about us indicating powerboats nearby although we could see none of them until after we felt the roll of their wake. What I feared most was encountering another sailing yacht that we would not hear until it was upon us. We crept as slowly as possible keeping the radar active and all running and deck lights on. After 45 tense minutes we eventually began to see clear patches ahead, although the fog remained thick about us all the way over to Pittwater. What would ordinarily have been about an hour journey lasted a nerve-wracking 3 ½. We arrived at Pittwater in the mid afternoon, searched out a courtesy mooring and not unexpectedly ended up dropping the hook over by Currawong Beach. It is rainy, rainy, ugly.

Early Monday morning we moved across the bay to Palm Beach. When the rain diminished to a misty dribble we set off for shore. Gotta get those legs moving. We ambled over to the ocean side of Palm Beach and onto the set of one of the local TV dramas being filmed. This is the set for "Home and Away". Wow they were filming! We watched a few scenes being filmed and walked around past several of the actors. A few said "Hello" or "G'Day" to us. It was real cool hanging out right there on the set! There was no security to run us off, so I snapped photos of some of the actors performing their scenes, while employing evasive maneuvers to get away from the (literally) hundreds of flies that were besieging us. How in the heck do the actors stand it? This is awful, but it was fun. After a while, in spite of the thrill, we just couldn't take the flies any longer so we walked down the way to a little cafĂ© that appeared to be serving some very nice food. We ordered and then sat down to immediately become savaged by the pesky flies again. Lunch was delicious but overshadowed by the annoyance of our uninvited guests. We set off to walk back to the other side of the bay and back to Palm Beach - then it started to rain. Again. We began hurrying back to the boat when Frank's flip-flop blew out. He was forced to walk the last mile barefooted. Tough guy. We didn't make it back to Destiny before the heavens heaped driving rain on us.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we were absolutely rained in and getting tired of this.  At mid-day we decided to make a break for Sydney. There is just no point sitting here boat-bound. So we weighed anchor and hit it for Sydney Harbour, arriving at Quarantine Bay in late afternoon. The weather was clear and beautiful!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Nov 12 – 19, 2011 – Newcastle, NSW, and Some Very Tragic News

On Saturday we left Port Stephens at 11:30 for Newcastle. It was a relatively uneventful day, other than the regulator continually blowing out the new fuses. Great! We'll just have to deal with that when we arrive in Newcastle.

Nearly the entire time we were here this trip it rained, and rained and rained. Sunday, my first order of business was laundry. I had 6 loads of it piled up so I lugged it all to the laundry room at the marina where I knew I would spend the entire day because there is only one dryer. I was settled in reading a book when Frank popped his head in. He had a very strange look on his face that telegraphed something not good. He said, "Barb, I have some very sad news. Jan from Triple Stars has been washed overboard at sea en route to Bermuda. There are rescue efforts but she has not been found." I sat stunned in a state of disbelief for several minutes. Then when the impact of his words hit me I felt a physical stab of pain strike my solar plexus as though I'd been actually punched, and then I burst into tears. I remember thinking, "This cannot be! No! No! No! This is all wrong! Jan is the safest sailor I know!" She taught ME about safety as sea. She and I had just emailed one another a few days ago as they were making their way with the rally to Bermuda. I knew the weather had turned, but I had no idea it had built to 30-foot seas and that they were helplessly hove-to just one day off the Bermuda coast. They were so close. Then I asked Frank, "What about Rob?" Frank said that Rob has been rescued and was off the boat; Triple Stars was set adrift. (In spite of the "post date", I am actually writing this several months later because it is so painful to recall. I am in fact choking up now and feel the bile rising in my throat at the memory.) Triple Stars set adrift? Rob rescued? This must mean they are not looking real hard for Jan to take these drastic steps. Jan was never found. My beautiful friend is gone and this is all I can write about this.

Thank goodness for the rain, maybe. I was numb for a long while. I spent a lot of time in prayer. Eventually the sun returned and thanks to Frank's encouragement we did take some nice walks. We found a marvelous Farmers Market that is held most Sundays at the Broadmeadow Showground in the morning until 1:00 PM. I'm glad we went. It broke me out of my funk for a little while.

Frank continued his dialogue with the mechanic over the mystery of the regulator. It's a blur to me now and I just let him focus on that. I almost just didn't care. I was at a real low point, and having difficulty really focusing on anything. Besides I was and am sick and tired of things breaking down.

We left Newcastle November19th on a very foggy morning. Visibility was NIL. Gee, what a dismal start to a passage! Thank God for working instruments.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Nov 7 – 11, 2011 – Arrival at Port Stephens in a Raging Storm

November 7th
We are leaving Port this morning, heading south for Port Stephens. Because we have to await the outgoing tide to cross the bar we won't leave before 8:00 am. It is an approx 14-hour trip, so we will be arriving late tonight. The upside is that it is a beautiful day for a sail and forecast is 15-knot winds from the NE. We started out nicely, but soon lost the wind. Where is that 15-knot wind the weather gods promised us? Oh well, we are satisfied that the current is going with us.

We have arrived outside the Port Stephens Heads - it is 10:54 PM. Things got a little hairy the last few hours when a horrendous storm approached from the west (on land), coming our way throwing hail at us and bouts of severe lightening. We had been watching it on radar for some time and praying that we could avoid this ugly thing. As we neared the Heads it seemed to be marching toward us instead of turning south. Captain Frank took us back out to sea while we stayed in constant radio contact with Marine Rescue. The helpful VMR operator gave us updates of the path of the storm. We checked our speed and slowly crisscrossed the offshore coast until finally, and by the Grace of God, the storm passed by allowing us to turn back toward shore, through the Heads and into Port Stephens. God Bless those who were in the path of that thing - it was quite a light show from offshore. I don't think either of us has ever seen so much lightening activity in a concentrated cell like that. Tragically, we knew there were many strikes and almost more tragically it was really quite beautiful. After the storm passed we were left in complete and utter darkness to pick our way through to the anchorage at Nelson Bay.

Tuesday brought lovely blue skies. No one could have imagined the dramatic spectacle that was wrought the night before. We moved over to Shoal Bay, picked up a pink courtesy mooring and then ventured to shore for a long walk along the colorful trails down along the beach and then hiked to top of Tomaree Head. To our surprise there were remains of armament placements where a fort had been built in 1942 and fortified with big guns to protect the headlands from foreign invaders (Japanese I think). It was a very impressive and educational hike to the top. We meandered back down via the golf course, past the dive-bombing white parrots, rainbow lorikeets and cockatoos, the laughing Kookaburras and back to the boat. It truly is peaceful and pretty here, but rolly in the Shoal Beach anchorage. We moved back over to Nelson Bay before nightfall to get away from the rock and roll. Wednesday we went to shore again for a long hike in the direction of Salamander Bay. Thursday it was back to boat chores and an afternoon of television to watch the Australian Open.

Friday, Nov 11th we moved Destiny over to Jimmy's beach took the dinghy to shore there and set off on an hour-long walk along the beach across the isthmus to the ocean side at Providence Bay where the beach is covered in beautiful fine white sand. Although it was very nice on this side of Port Stephens, the winds made staying here too uncomfortable so we moved over to Bagnalls Beach at Nelson Bay, walked into town for dinner and on the way back got dive-bombed by hundreds of rainbow lorikeets, white macaws. At the end of the day, meanwhile back at the Australian Open, Tiger woods was in 1st place.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Oct 21 – Nov 7, 2011 – Boat Maintenance and a little fun in Port Macquarie

On the 21st, we departed Gold Coast at 5:30 AM, during slack tide intending to sail overnight to Coffs Harbour.  The day was perfect for sailing south for Destiny was making great progress picking up a 2-2.5 knot current that literally pushed us through the night in relative comfort. At times we averaged 9 knots. Toward sunset the winds dropped but for the most part we made incredible mileage through the night.  At 5 AM we realized we would be arriving at Coffs Harbour and rather than sit about in the bay to wait for the marina office to open at 8:30, we pressed on knowing we could make Port Macquarie by mid – late afternoon.  What a great passage! We arrive at the entrance around 2:30 on Oct 22nd, noting the bar was totally flat thank goodness! Fortunately the marina had one available mooring left for us. We hooked up and then went for a long walk into town to stretch out our legs and pick up a few groceries.

Sunday, the 23rd was Rugby World Cup Day – we stayed glued to the TV while New Zealand's All Blacks gave us a thrilling victory over France. What a match! It kept us on the edge of our seats the entire game.

On Monday (24th), while it poured rain we enlisted a mechanic to assess a new little problem.  The house batteries are no longer charging from the engine and we keep blowing fuses. He determined that our regulator is shot and ordered a new one. What grieves me so much about this is that the cost is beyond outrageous. The price of a replacement ran approximately 4 times the cost of the one in West Marine's catalogue.  What's even more upsetting is it must be shipped from Sydney at an extra $200+. Had we been in a position obtain one from West Marine we would have, but we needed it now. Frank disconsolately instructed the mechanic to place the order. Our short stay in Port (as the locals call it) would be stretched to over 2 weeks. It is a darn good thing this is one of our favorite towns in NSW.

It rained and rained the next several days. We made short trips into town for provisions but otherwise amused ourselves tackling never ending boat chores. We played a lot of card games and watched a lot of television. What else is a retired couple expected to do?

On the prettier days we took lots of long walks up along the coast – eating at our favorite pub, Finnian's for lunch (best $10 steak on the east coast).  One of my favorite walks is down to Flynn's beach. Just across the street is a great second-hand bookstore/coffee shop.

October morphed into November as we continue to await arrival of our regulator. No matter the weather has not been conducive to moving south anyway and we are quite comfortable here. Tuesday, November 1 was Melbourne Cup Day (like our Kentucky Derby). I had a haircut appointment and didn't care much about the race, so while I set off for the beauty shop, Frank headed over to the local gaming club to watch the event. Sitting in the hair salon awaiting my appointment I amused myself watching all the ladies dressed to the 9's, heads adorned with extravagant hats and fascinators heading in the direction of the club. Frank was in for a real show.

Friday, November 4th we were all set with new regulator and a fistful of fuses. We stopped by the marina office to check out, intending to make a Saturday morning departure. The marina manager smiled as he said, "You won't be going anywhere Saturday morning, Mate. The entire anchorage is used as the Iron Man swim course." He further informed us that we should be up very early – say 5 a.m. – to assist the Maritime boat when he comes by to tie us off out of the way of the course. We were exited at the prospect of being up close and personal in the Iron Man Competition and happily agreed to awaken very early in cooperation.

We eagerly awoke at 5 a.m. on Saturday, Nov 6th brewed a pot of coffee and set ourselves at the ready. Surprisingly Maritime didn't show until nearly 6:20. One man hurriedly tried to push our stern around with the bow of the Maritime vessel in order to tie us out of the way of the racecourse. Just as he secured us to the stern buoy, along came an official yelling to cut us loose! He was the lead kayak directing the elite swimmers around Destiny. The poor Maritime official quickly dropped the line just in time for the lead swimmer to pass our starboard side. And this is how Destiny got to be smack dab in the middle of an Iron Man Triathlon swim course. We delighted sitting on our deck chairs, sipping coffee and cheering the swimmers on. We got some good photos of the participants and the safety officials. After the swim we jumped into the dinghy and made for shore to watch the rest of the events. It was a beautiful day and an exciting one to end our stay in Port.