Port Macquarie to Southport

The next installment on our passage up the Australian east coast – ultimate destination: the Whitsunday Islands!

After a well deserved rest in Port Macquarie, with some good hot meals and copious use of the hot water in the showers at the marina, we set off from the Port Marina at 9am on Saturday 24 June. This late start was to catch the Port Macquarie sand bar at the rising tide four hours after low tide.

After the excitement of getting across the bar the previous day, this turned into a complete non-event!

The wind was a dead southerly. Even on a broad reach we were either reaching offshore or back inshore. The East Coast Current was also now making its presence known, with a 2 knot southerly set pushing us back from our intended course. At first I thought we might really go offshore – 100 miles – to get in the reverse eddy of the current and more consistent wind, but sanity prevailed!. At about midday, and about 20 miles out, I poled out the genoa and set the main by the lee. We were running dead square and making 6 to 7 knots in the water. Unfortunately with the southerly set of 1.5 to 2 knots on the edge of the East Coast Current, this was only 4 to 5 knots over the ground. The challenge was to maintain exactly the right wind angle in the rolling swell and with the breeze shifting ever so slightly all the time. The autopilot was set in wind-vane mode for the first time – and it worked a treat! We were running square hands off.

Running by the lee...


Fortunately the autopilot was working flawlessly. Saturday night we ran dead square all night with the genoa poled out and the main by the lee. The autopilot was on wind vane mode and, apart from accepting the occasional wind shift alarm, I didn’t touch anything for 11 hours! Quite amazing lying down below and feeling the boat rush along at hull speed with the autopilot keeping the sails perfectly trimmed. I couldn’t sleep though – the thought of the autopilot disconnecting with crew dozing at the helm, probably soon followed by a wild broach,was enough to keep my eyes wide open! Sunday 25 May was a perfect downwind day with moderate swells and we poled out the asymmetric spinnaker, cruising under sunny skies, fishing (not catching anything – but we tried) and sunning ourselves. Greg cooked dinner – yum pasta with tomato sauce and smoked oysters!

We had a good night. We motored from 2000 Sunday to 0100 on Monday morning. After not sleeping the previous night I made myself comfortable in the v-berth (as far away as possible from the roar of the engine!) and fell asleep after checking Greg was ok. I woke at about half past midnight and noticed the wind had breezed uo at around 10 knots. The engine was killed and we were sailing again at 5 knots.

The wind abated between Cape Byron and Coolangatta just after sunrise, but we were still making 5 knots through water in 7 knots true wind. Unfortunately, the East Coast Current was running 1 to 1.5 knots on the bow, leaving us with around 4 knots over the ground. Even so, we were still making very good time and it was a lovely sunrise… It already felt more tropical and it was quite pleasant on deck. The water temp was up to 23 degrees. Greg cooked boerewors on the metho stove one hour out of Southport. He and Ben made instant mash to go with it; great! I know who will be doing galley duties from now on… Also, must get a little gas barbie for pushpit rail; not fun frying sausage in the pan down below[ad]