Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sydney to Brisbane - The fast way to the sun (Mk1)

Well, after all the rain and great westerly winds we were certainly keen to get moving and up to Queensland. The plan was for Ryan, Nick and Nick’s parents to sail Lucey Blue as quickly as possible to Brisbane (Sam being prone to seasickness and unable to take any medication due to feeding Eric...we decided she'd fly up with Emily and Eric when we got close). The distance from Sydney to Brisbane is only about 500 nautical miles in a straight line, but you can rarely ever sail in a straight line and the Australia East coast current tends to average about 1-2 knots in the wrong direction so we planned on the trip taking a week.

After the normal long, LONG list of last minute jobs Lucey Blue was provisioned and ready to go on the evening of 10 June. The weather looked good - if a tad windy - and we decided, given the forecast weather, that the best bet was to leave that night, ride out the southerly change and push up the coast to get above a low that was forming off the north coast of NSW. The forecast for the next 24 hours was for gale force, south to south-westerly winds with a 4 metre south-easterly swell and a 2 metre sea with conditions improving within 48 hours.

We left Middle Harbour at 20:00 and motored slowly out towards the Sydney Heads getting Ryan to bed, attaching the safety lines and setting the sails for the windy night ahead. We finally made it out of Sydney Harbour at about 21:30 under a third reefed main and blade jib. The seas through Sydney Heads were confused as normal, but within the hour the sea conditions had settled into a steady state and Lucey Blue was trucking along at 8-9 knots in rather squally conditions.

It is always hard to fall into the proper watch roster on the first night at sea. But the plan was for Dad and I to take 6 hour shifts. The roster is designed to ensure someone is always awake and on look out for ships and changes to the weather conditions etc. I managed to get a break for about an hour or two before my official watch started. But in the conditions I got little real rest – it is hard to sleep when surfing down large waves at 10-12 knots.

Lucey Blue was sailing extremely well and felt safe at all times. The only real issue was the amount of water coming over the decks and finding its way into the boat. It is amazing how quickly you find leaks when waves smash into you and we had a few unwanted indoor water features. Luckily the leaks were not serious - probably the most annoying "water feature" was from the port light alongside the bunk in our cabin whose rubber seal proved to be not up to task and failed to stop much water at all. Instant water!

By sunrise Lucey Blue was about 20 nautical miles east of Port Stephens. We had covered the last 80 nautical miles very quickly, but with the boat a tad damp, the forecast changing for the worse and an uncomfortable motion we decided to head into port to tidy up and ensure that Ryan actually enjoyed his first ocean trip rather than just surviving his first "long sail".

The sun came out when we changed course and headed to the coast. The boat's motion also improved and we all managed to have something for breakfast. By lunchtime we were on a public mooring at Nelson Bay and shortly thereafter all aboard Lucey Blue were in bed for an afternoon nap.

The next morning Ryan found a victim of the gale off Sydney - a small flying fish had got tangled in the lines on deck. Ryan insisted that we check to see if the fish was hungry so we careful performed a minor operation and found an empty belly. We both smelt nice and fishy, but the local dolphins were pleased and before long we had a couple swim past to clean up the left over bits of flying fish sushi.

We ended up staying in Port Stephens for about a week. The low-pressure system we had hoped to out run intensified and caused major flooding in northern NSW before slowly meandering its ways down the coast to sit off Seal Rocks - just north of us.

With 40 to 50 knots easterly winds just off the coast we used the spare time to fix the leaks, clean up the boat, calibrate our Raymarine electronics, install the new friction hinges into our Goiot hatches and move equipment around to trim the boat properly. At one point we had to move up to Fame Bay to get out of the wind. It provided a nice place to explore.

Ryan enjoyed his time with Grandma and Grandpa and spent his days playing on the beach, helping with the washing, drawing and dreaming about all the Lego he "really must have"…….

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