The first opportunity arrived in early July and we scrabbled to leave Middle Harbour on the 14:30 Spit Bridge opening.
We left the harbour on the evening of the 5th of July and sailed/motorsailed north, hugging the coast to avoid the east Australian current that can flow at a speed of over three knots - not fun if you are traveling in the opposite direction!
Our new sails and feathering propellers proved themselves on the first night with Lucey Blue surging along at 8 to 9 knots in a 14 to 17 knot north westerly wind. By dawn we were located just north of Port Stephens on flat sea with a number of local fishing boats.
The wind died off during the day and swung around to the southwest so we motorsailed most of the next twenty four hours to keep up our boat speed. We enjoyed a visit from a pod of dolphins on the evening of the 6th and arrived off Coffs Harbour at dawn on the 7th of July.
We passed South Solitary Island in perfect conditions with blue skies and 15 to 20 knot southerly winds. Lucey Blue was really enjoying the conditions and her crew was entertained most of the day by humpback whales sunning themselves along the coast and thrashing their tails against the growing southerly swell.
By nightfall on the 7th Lucey Blue was located off Yamba and the weather forecast indicated that a change was due to hit the region overnight. We reduced sail that evening to a triple reefed main and our blade jib as there is nothing worse than having to reduce sail in rough conditions at night. We also decided to take Lucey Blue further offshore to gain extra searoom if required.
The southerly wind picked up steadily and Lucey Blue sailed along at 8 to 9 knots in the growing seas. By midnight we were located off Ballina in two to three metre seas. Unfortunately we also found the east Australian current was running strongly at two knots against the sea which was making the waves rather pointy.
The southerly front hit at around 02:00 on the 8th of July with 35 to 40 knot winds, three metre breaking waves and heavy rain. Lucey Blue was sailing safely, but our boat speed was too high for conservative cruising folk - consistently 10 plus knots - and we were slewing around as we surfed down waves at 15 plus knots.
To reduce the load generated by the sails/sea we reduced sail to just the triple reefed main and unfeathered our MaxProp propellers. The postive impact on the boat's motion and our overall comfort was dramatic. Most of the improvement came from using our now rotating unfeathered propellers as mini sea drouges to provide extra drag at the stern. We had not considered using the propellers in this fashion when we purchased them, but the ability to change from no drag (feathered propellers) to drag (unfeathered propellers) is a fantastic feature.
After a long wet and rather bouncy night we decided to pull into the Gold Coast Seaway and by about 10:00 on the 8th of July we were anchored just behind Seaworld and watching filming of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie!
We left the next moring and motored through the narrows behind the Stradbroke Islands before reaching Dockside Marina on the Brisbane river at 17:00. The trip through the backwaters was fun, but obviously not everyone makes it through the shallows and overhanging powerlines safely...