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  #1  
Old 01-27-2008
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Womboat's Woyage

Ok then. Read on if you dare. Plucking nasal hair may well be more interesting but should you proceed on your own heads be it. Despite the fact that from your, oh gentle reader’s point of view, that this would have to be the most boring cruise report since Noah was a lad, I’ve been impressed upon to put finger to keyboard and tell all. Having put this off for a couple of weeks now plus one aborted attempt where I lost a previous version in a crash the time has come according to a passing walrus, to talk of many things. So , dear reader, here be the truth of the strange and terrifying voyage of the good ship Silver Raven and her valiant crew. Oh hear us when we cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea.

The wondrous Ms Wombat and your esteemed reporter actually had somewhat more ambitious plans when the sloop Silver Raven aka the Womboat slipped quietly out through Sydney Heads early afternoon New Year’s Eve 2007. The Ms and Mr Wombat had envisioned a plan as daring as yet conceived. Unconcerned by thought of personal safety the Womboat was headed north into uncharted waters never before seen by man or beast other than the dreaded Kraken of ancient mythology. Through raging whirlpools, past signs warning of resident dragons we ventured without heed of personal safety.

Yeah, well, maybe not quite. To be honest, not a condition with which I am well acquainted, we had intended an unambitious New Years cruise from Sydney to Port Stephens. Port Stephens lies some 80nms in a straight line north of Port Jackson , the harbour more commonly known as Sydney. We were expecting and indeed it so came to pass, nor-easterly winds which are the prevailing breeze this time of year in these parts, tempered only by the occasional southerly change. With the Nor-Easterly blowing Port Stephens became a destination 120nms away but under normal conditions easily attained.

This day however there was an exception. A cyclonic depression was ruling the weather north of Sydney. Not that this was directly effecting the central NSW coast except that is had produced a decent sized nor easterly set that was giving the coast a severe talking to and all of Sydney’s beaches had been closed. Nonetheless the intrepid crew of stentorian marsupials put to sea , disdainful of personal safety……oh dear, he’s off again……with the heroic tales of Cook, Magellan, Columbus and Zheng He etched into their minds.

Off shore the swell was just that. There was little white water simply a rolling swell, albeit of impressive size, that in fact was of only small hindrance. With a NE wind blowing our course was slightly south of due west, the intention being to head out to sea for five or so miles then tack back inshore to clear Bangally Head and then a close reach into Broken Bay where we planned to anchor for the night before proceeding to Port Stephens the next day. To clarify, from the north headland of Sydney, Barrenjoey, the entrance to Broken Bay is hidden by Bangally, so Bangally is the prominent landmark.

This had not been the original plan but owing to the fact that the one immutable fact of Womboat life is to always be late for anything and everything life has to offer. Our plan had been to get out of Sydney as early as possible to make an overnight passage north arriving in Port Stephens early the following day. The Womboat is not exactly a speed machine and reckoning on beating at an average of 5 – 8 knots we were figuring on a 15 - 20 hour passage. Our late departure made a hop to Broken Bay followed by a day passage north a more logical step and we were in no hurry after all.

Heading north from Sydney there is only one obstacle and that a minor one. Just north of Sydney is Long Reef. An underwater rocky platform that extends out to sea some distance from the juncture of Narrabeen and Dee Why beaches. Long Reef is the reason we first beat out to sea and is usually of no great concern but on this day with the swell coming down onto the coast Long Reef was breaking heavily and so the decision to give it a wide berth. Not wide enough , alas, and we soon realised that the set was pushing us on shore and in order to stay in relatively calm waters we would need to tack back out to sea again. This we did and all was well until we tacked again to lay Bangally Head.

It was, as we came about, the moment that the best laid plans of wombat and woman decided to gang eft a-gley. As I winched in the jib sheet the first mate yelled a cry of warning that something was amiss. Looking aloft your skipper realised with alarm that the leach chord pocket has snared on one of the mast steps , opening a seam from clew to head. I leapt forward to release the snag but the damage was done. We settled the sail but with the leach cord gone the leach itself flogged nastily and we realise with mounting dismay that repairs were needed should we wish to continue on our perilous path.

So, dear reader, as you have probably realised by now a relatively minor problem had occurred. Let’s be fair, the ship was hardly endangered, life and limb not at risk and after a quick visit to a sailmaker we would be on our way. Alas, twas New Year’s Day tomorrow and the reality was that we were unlikely to find a working sailmaker at this time of year and so it was. Anchoring under the lee of the north head of Broken Bay we pulled down the sail and endeavoured to effect repairs all of which proved unsuccessful. An horizontal tear would have held with tape but this was vertical around 13 metres long and tape failed even before we had the sail aloft. To be frank, hand stitching of a seam that long held no appeal so in true Womboat fashion we uttered a jolly “oh bugger it” and settled down to spend a quiet couple of weeks exploring the creeks and bays of Broken Bay and the streams that enter it.

Broken Bay is in itself a fine small cruising ground. Off to it’s south is Pittwater, crowded with other craft at any time of the year but especially during the holidays. West leads to Cowan Creek, Coal and Candle Creek and Smiths Creek while to the north west lies the town of Brooklyn and the Hawkesbury River which is restricted to non masted vessels due to the railway bridge that crosses the Hawkesbury at Brooklyn.

So Day one ended with your heroes not celebrating the New Year at sea as planned but snugged up under Box Head in Iron Ladder Bay. ILB is a pleasant enough spot spoilt somewhat by a consistent slop that swirls around Box Head. It’s an anchorage made for an overnight stop before heading further on but not advisable for longer stays due to the aforementioned slop. One of the local comorants found our pulpit the perfect spot for fish spotting and feather drying. I like these amiable critters so we were more than happy for her to visit.



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Last edited by tdw; 07-31-2008 at 11:18 PM.
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  #2  
Old 01-27-2008
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Part the Second

Next morning we headed off to a small, more sheltered bay named Little Pittwater. Home to a colony of sea eagles , six in all
(up from only a single pair last year), it is an encouraging sign for a species that was headed for extinction not all that many years ago. Fairy penguins also inhabit these waters with a breeding colony on Lion Island which is a designated sanctuary, off limits to humans, so the penguins can breed in peace. Again they are lovely little critters with the somewhat surprising ability to sound like a dog barking. We’d passed half a dozen or so on the trip up from Sydney and it does take you slightly aback to hear a dog barking five miles out to sea.



Day three dawned bright and sunny and we headed across the bay to enter Cowan Creek and thence into Smiths Creek. Smiths is a minor gem. Although the best anchorages are quite busy this time of year, out of season you can easily find yourself completely alone and to realise you are in fact only 20 odd miles from Sydney as the crow flies can be a surprise. The creek itself is typical of the area, surrounded by eucalypt forest and steep hills, it can be up to 20 metres deep right up to the shore. Of interest is the fact that during WWII a squadron of US warships was anchored here in case the Japanese decided to launch an all out attack on Sydney. I dare say that if you have to be at war that is the way to do it.





Nonetheless, there are a number of excellent anchorages in Smiths and we puttered into our favourite where a couple of other craft lay at anchor including old friends of ours from previous years, John and Beatrice aboard Skoota. I love these guys despite your Wombat’s well known distaste for all things religious. Skoota is a wee 24’er of some 30 years age and John and Beatrice are a lovely couple, well into their 70s and coming to the end of a life time of coastal cruising. John is a retired boatbuilder. Committed Christians both of them, Beatrice spends her days knitting patchwork rugs and going for the occasional swim while John putters about in their dinghy, cooking, fishing and paying other yachties the occasional visit. Beatrice is also a bible smuggler who regularly visits places where Christianity is banned taking with her a quantity of bibles to distribute to those who need and want them. Irrespective of your views I find that an endearing quality. They are quite the pair. The kind of people who give Christianity a good name.






John and Beatrice have owned Skoota for over 20 years and in their younger days regularly explored the NSW coast from their home base of Saratoga. Now, as the years pass and age takes its toll they satisfy themselves with grubbing about in places like Smiths where they’ll anchor out for a couple of weeks now and then. John is a resourceful chap who has made Skoota quite the comfortable small home away from home. It must be said that from the look of him he will probably outlive me.
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Last edited by tdw; 07-31-2008 at 11:17 PM.
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Old 01-27-2008
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The Next Bit

The bay we were anchored in, as far as I can gather unnamed, has good holding in 10 metres and shoals onto a sandflat that extends into a small creek with a couple of small waterfalls at it’s head. Rays are a constant sight on the flats their “We Done Steve Irwin” t-shirts a source of great amusement. Cormorants fish in the shallows where fish abound. An ancient Aboriginal camp is visible with middens of oyster shells a sign of the plenty that existed here before the white man’s arrival. While the indigenous people have long since been driven out of the area it must have once been quite the paradise.


We ended up spending an enjoyable few days here made even more so by an enterprising couple who each day load up their launch with fresh prawns and oysters which they sell around the anchorages. This made up for my somewhat lamentable fishing skills.



Your Wombats happen to share the same birthday and so we always like to make an occasion of it. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that on our birthday we ambled down to Cottage Point where we lunched long and hard. This was turning into a severe trial for ship and crew but we were prepared to tough it out come what may. If you ever visit this area I do urge you to take lunch at Cottage Point Inn, you won’t regret it. That evening we headed on down to Refuge Bay where we picked up a vacant courtesy mooring and slumbered peacefully, the well earned sleep of the overly fed and watered. As the saying goes, it’s a hard life but someone has to do it.






I’ve also previously mentioned this but in the early seventies there was a small fibro cottage where this house now sits and I had the pleasure to live there for some time.



Refuge and it’s neighbour America are without doubt the finest anchorages within spitting distance of Sydney. Sadly victims of their own superb qualities they are jam packed with other boats at this time of year but courtesy moorings are always available so it was a most convenient spot to pass the night. I didn’t get a chance to chat with them but we were anchored near a lovely aluminium sloop ‘Tin Tin’. Nice bit of kit.

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Last edited by tdw; 07-31-2008 at 11:07 PM.
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Old 01-27-2008
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Last Bit

Next day we headed into the town of Brooklyn to do a spot of reprovisioning and to take advantage of an old mates restaurant that sits above the marina. This was really starting to turn into a trial but soldier on we would. While I topped up on ice, water and diesel the Ms W walked to a local market run by a Chinese couple who have the good grace to fill their freezer with home made dim sim, dumplings and ricey things wrapped in banana leaves. So we lunched on more local oysters and fish and chips before heading off into the wild, chinese nibblies on the menu for the morrow. The kick back and relax attitude of this area is exemplified by the fellow who pulled up alongside for a chat as we slowly motored out of Brooklyn.






From Brooklyn we took ourselves off to Coal and Candle Creek. A neat pun, it’s named for a bloke called Colin Campbell who had a shack on the creek in the 19th century. Coal and Candle is best known for the ginormous marina near it’s head in Akuna Bay. Honestly it’s a horrid place but does good bathroom. After a week or so of ‘navy showers’ we were more than ready for a long soak after which we headed down stream to a tiny bay our friend at Cottage Point had told us about. To be frank we’d never thought of anchoring in the creek due to the great depths and, so we thought, lack of decent anchorages. Lo and behold our friend’s secret bay was a joy. Tucked in behind a small headland with a low tide only beach and resident Sea Eagles, Green Turtle and Cormorants, it proved a gem and we spent the next four or five days there with the bay all to ourselves. Because of the marina there is a lot of passing traffic but the bay is mostly protected from the wash and at night utterly secluded. A great find.







Sadly for us our time here was drawing to a close. A southerly change was moving up the coast and work commitments required that we be back in Sydney soon so we moved back down to America’s Bay before heading out through Barrenjoey Heads and setting sail for Sydney. A nice Nor Easterly was blowing and we were in no hurry so we left the damaged headsail furled and under main alone we moved on south at six odd knots arriving back in Sydney after an uneventful sail. That evening we motored up to one of our favourite Sydney Harbour anchorages in Balls Head Bay spending one last night aboard before we headed on home to clean up the old dear and try and convince ourselves that life on shore was not all that bad.

Ah me, how we can deceive ourselves. Life on shore sucks compared to life on the water. Despite the storms and raging seas we had come through relatively unscathed and looking forward to our next adventure.

So there you go, so I guilded the lily a tad and some of this is complete rubbish but we did have a fine time. If you are still with me gentle reader, thanks for your time and I do have to say that while I’m somewhat embarrassed by the fact that a relatively unambitious cruise ended up being even less ambitious than planned do I care ? Not a jot, cos as we all know all to well, ‘there is nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’. Thank you Water Rat my rodential friend, thank you ball boys, thank you linesmen. Thank you Silver Raven. Thank you Ms Wombat, I love you dearly, you made this holiday more enjoyable than it otherwise might have been and that is saying something.

Goodnight and Goodluck my friends may all your disasters be as enjoyable as ours.

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Last edited by tdw; 07-31-2008 at 11:11 PM.
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Old 01-27-2008
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Very good and entertaining read. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 01-27-2008
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TDW,thank you for the interesting read and pics,especially loved the malamute looks just like ours but she would never get near the boat or water,110 pounds of chicken s***t
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Last edited by Cruiserwannabe; 01-27-2008 at 09:55 AM.
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Old 01-27-2008
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enjoyed sailing with you ,through your pictures..thanks
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Old 01-27-2008
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Thanks Womby...great read for us in northern climes! It is always a good sail that leaves you wanting more.
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Old 01-27-2008
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Good on'ya Wombat.
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Old 01-27-2008
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Now that is the kind of contribution that links the members of this board together as sailors.
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