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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May 14th – 18th Coff’s Harbour & Yamba

Coff's Harbour was a very quick stop where I got some laundry done and Frank took care of a few bits of boat business. We didn't do anything that would merit noteworthy mention.

The next stop, Yamba, was entirely new to us. The entrance from the Sea is known for taking boats and lives who attempt to cross the bar here entering the Clarence River.  We donned our safety gear and braced ourselves for the crossing over. It was rough. It was quite unpleasant and after getting through, we appreciated that we had chosen the optimum time and tide to navigate this nasty bar.  Leaving would be another challenge, but by now we are losing the fear and gaining a healthy and wise respectful knowledge of these Australian river entrances. The port at this river entrance is shared by two small towns: Yamba and Iluka.

We decided on Yamba, probably because we'd heard it mentioned by other cruisers and had heard nothing of Iluka. In fact we were such greenhorns that we tended to float and wander around for a long time through the shallows trying to locate a spot to anchor.  Could this be right? Are keelboats really intended to come in here? This place is shallow! We nearly ran aground a few times, trying to locate channel markers. Several spots used range markers instead, so we had to look up, look down and look all around! The markers were often jumbled and confusing to us, nearly putting us to the wrong side of a sandbar. We could spot other yachts but scratched our heads in despair wondering how on Earth they got in "there".

Eventually we made our way into what appeared to be an anchorage with some moorings. It was a very small area that did not look promising. As I stood on the bow, surveying potential sites to drop the hook, I announced to Frank that there was no room and we should try elsewhere. He insisted that this is the place he had been told to anchor. So of course, a debate ensued wherein I challenged him: "Who told you?" He responded with a vague, "They all told me." and of course I asked, "Who is They?"  Sometimes it goes on like this until we come to a compromise of sorts. The compromise this time was that I acquiesced because I was causing Frank considerable angst by arguing the point and he was tired and feeling stressed from the tense maneuvering into this place. We dropped the hook. I chewed on my fingernails and bit my tongue until I could no longer manage to keep it in, and exclaimed to him; "But, Frank, we are sitting in the middle of the Ferry route/waterway – won't we get into trouble?"  He did not respond, just shot me a "Frank Look" and continued about the task of settling in.

Sure enough, a Ferry approached, dodging us and not looking very pleased. Frank, being ever the optimist said to me that the boat (Destiny) would turn and then we would be out of the way. After a considerable amount of time this did not happen and we got a call from Marine Rescue  (Oz's coast guard), asking us to move. The kind volunteer directed us to the marina that we did not realize was available, as it looked like a commercial fishing boat wharf. Apparently inside of that and over a bit is a nice marina that had a casual berth available to us. Frank was dismayed and I kept my mouth firmly shut as we weighed anchor and moved into the proffered berth.

Once we got settled in, we took off for an exploratory walk to shake out our sea legs and to expel a bit of tension. All around were signs and advertisements that Yamba is the Top holiday spot in Australia…the best town in Australia, and so on. We think we must have hit it at LOW season, because we were not so impressed as all that. Most everything was closed, and in all fairness the weather was gloomy, overcast and cold. We took off in one direction in search of sights and amenities. Eventually, several miles up the road we came to a small shopping center where we had a coffee and bought some groceries. As we were setting back out, however, the heavens broke loose and unloaded a torrential downpour. We stood and stood under an outdoor awning, waiting for a break while the shops around us began to close for the evening. Finally, the rains abated and we made a run for it – really we made a hobble for it since our backpacks and arms were laden with groceries. It is difficult to run with a backpack full of orange juice and milk slamming up and down on one's back!  We darted and weaved our way toward the marina, getting soaked in the process. We would have hopped on a bus if we had seen one. Taxicabs were not around this neck of the town either, so we continued on foot until we came to the Fisherman's Co-op. We had been noticing ads for Yamba Prawns – the best (in the world maybe?). We stuck our noses into the co-op to see what all the fuss was bout with these prawns.  The price for these petite beauties was close to $60/kg. My goodness! Frank quizzed the lady at the counter, asking what is so special about these small to medium-size prawns, and she exclaimed "Yamba Prawns are locally caught and known all through Australia as being simply the best!". Well, OK then. We must have some!  Frank grimaced as he handed over our payment for ½ kg of these delectable crustaceans, and then onward we trekked back to the marina, soaked to the bone.

Returning to Destiny, we stowed goods, dried off, changed clothes and then settled in to enjoy our much-anticipated dinner. The prawns were good, but by Texas Gulf Coast seafood standards, we were not impressed – particularly by the gold-plated price of these little beauties. That's all right we had a nice adventure, nonetheless.

We arose early the next morning so to do a little more exploring before moving on.  We ventured out in the opposite direction this morning, toward the Australia-famous beaches of Yamba. By now, we were chanting, "Yamba, Damba Doo!"  The walks were very nice along the hilly shore, but again, the town was if not asleep getting ready for a long winter's nap. The small town looked like so many others we had already visited. Eventually we stumbled upon a café that was open for business and breakfasted on freshly baked, homemade victuals (vittles, in Beverly Hillbillies Speak!).  It was very tasty, and although I cannot remember the name of the café, it got our vote.

Although we never figured how Yamba is so famous, we enjoyed our short stay, however, we will not put it down in the books as a "Must see and do".  At 1 PM, we departed Yamba, making our way back out the Clarence River's challenging bar. Frank manned the helm masterfully and Destiny handled it beautifully. Only a few bits and pieces tossed about the cabins and galley.


Judy & Bill Rouse aboard S/V BeBe said...

Barb, I think everything in AU is overrated and overpriced. If some of those Yamba Aussies came to South Padre Island, Texas, they'd think they died and gone to heaven!


Judy & Bill Rouse aboard S/V BeBe said...

At least they mostly speak the same language...Bill