Just a quick report to confirm that we checked the weather this morning and changed our minds about waiting until Wednesday! The earlier forecasts had Wednesday with a 15 knot westerly, but this morning it was a 25-30 knot north westerly going southerly. Right direction but too strong when combined with 4-5 meter seas.
So knowing we would probably have to do a lot of motoring, we did a quick sea prep after a lovely breakfast at RMYC. Ably assisted by Jane and Row who made the trip to ensure our new crew Willi the Whale made it to the boat on time, we were able to leave the dock at 11, with an ETA at Newcastle by 5pm.
We did rollout the heady to get an extra knot of speed, and it was pretty comfortable. However, when I called the marina at Newcastle, they had no berth for us 🙁. After an agonising few hours where we tried to work out an alternative anchorage in a pending building northerly, the brilliant people at Newcastle said we could overnight at the fuel dock, and they would berth us in the morning. Huge sighs of relief all round, as the alternative guaranteed safe anchorage would have been Port Stephens, 26 miles further on, with an ETA of 11pm.
We ate dinner as the sun set over Lake Macquarie, and waved to Stu and Megan as we passed Red Head. Pete called the Port to check shipping movements and we saw a busy few hours ahead. There was one ship leaving and two entering around the time we expected to enter the channel, now at 1900 due to some adverse current since sunset.
We watched in fascination as a monster ship exited, with the pilot extricated by helicopter. Then the first ship entered as the pilot was dropped on the second ship, which would be quite close to us. Then to add to the interest, the dredge which had been clearing the berths, decided to exit before the second ship made it to the channel, to dump his dredge at the spoil ground, again quite close to us. We had to work out all this activity from lights on the vessels as it was now dark, as well as listening to the Port workings on the vhf radio. Fortunately the activity was all done by the time we turned into the channel to head up The Hunter River, with no sign of tugs, ships or pilot boats.
We tied up comfortably at fuel dock, had a cup of tea, and an early night. And yes, an AFD – finally! A sense of really having departed is falling on me, now that we have left Sydney and done a little night work.