Sailing North 2018

Set off from Bermagui with the wind behind me at 6:30am in the morning with a 12 knot southerly.  Was it great to start an expidition with the wind aft of the beam? The trip along the coast was just great and I arrived off Ulladulla with a strong wind warning and not good sea so I called it a day and turned towards Ulladulla harbour.  I came alongside a trawler about three out and secured myself after quite a rock and roll passage.  Now to sleep.
Next day I cast off and headed out.  The sea was down and the wind had completely gone so it was motoring.... was this the start of something? Dropped anchor on the northern shore of Jervis Bay just after noon and set about securing all the things that had shifted during the previous days.
Up early as the sun was rising and passed Point Perpendicular in the grey dawn with not much wind.  This continued all the way to Wollangong Harbour where I went along side and then moved to the courtesy meering.  A fishing boat had sunk while alongside the reason they think was some youngsters had been below and damaged some pipes and the water started to flow in then cascaded in as it listed to starboard.  A large crane was called in to put two slings around it and lift it out which they did crushing the vessel.  They then dropped it onto some blocks at the bow and stern and broke its back.  Well, job completed but bugger what happend to the vessel.

pointperp  ruby1 Dean Nick Ruby2 boat1   boat2 

Short visit from Nick and the family for dinner then off north with a strong wind off the land almost to Sydney where it dropped and had to motor into the Basin in Pittwater just before dark.  Rose early and set off towards Coffs Harbour for an overnighter.  The wind was again from the west and expected to rise. Off Port Stephens the wind was about 25 knots and Malua was handleing the conditions well with one reef and a well rolled up genoa.  I may have forgotten just how well Malua handles these conditions because the next thing I knew was she was rounding up, the off course alarm was going off and all hell broke loose.

I disconnected the autopilot and turned the small wheel - with difficulty to get back on course.  Pressed the autopilot button to seer and the situation repeated itself.  Well I must have too much sail up so furled the genoa and again set the course but the autopilot would not respond.

Decisions, decisions.  I cant continue north up the coast in this wind and sea so it must be Port Stephens.  I have never been in here so I drop the main and head for the middle of the entrance.  I cant go below to look at the chart or adjust the magnification because I am struggling to keep a course hand steering.  I was abeam of the entrance and about to turn south around the headland when I notice the water surface change ahead of me.  There was a slight over-fall which I immediately recognised as water flowing over a shallow shoal into deeper water.  Hard to starboard and stop the engine.  Now I have to go below to look at the chart.  Well, well, there is a shallow sand bank running from the south headland almost across the entrance with the channel further north with some leads.  OK pick up the leads and follow them in and I am now in smooth water and the pressure is off.  The challenges of single handed sailing.

Now to find a place to anchor and discover what is causing the autopilot to not perform.  In Port Stephens that is an easy decision so I steered south from the entrance and dropped the anchor in sand off the Shoal Bay Forest Reserve.

Now the investigation.  On previous occasions some years ago it was a poor connection in the power to the unit or the amount of current being drawn.  All of those I had rectified but as in all boats - go over the obvious.  I could find nothing that was wrong so I had to go deeper – that meant getting to the Autopilot unit itself.  Now I had accessed it just before shipping Malua to Europe so I knew the problems and the effort required but being a few years older and one may say wiser I did not want to do that again so I took my saw and cut the bottom out of the lazerette locker to which the autopilot was attached and bingo I now have the unit in the cockpit ready for a dismantle.

But first I had to find a more secure anchorage so started up the bay towards Salamander Bay and a mooring.  Which I attached to in preparation of going ashore.  Barlows was the place I had sourced most of my Lumar and Whitlock part but they had closed down so no luck calling the new distributor for a spare electric clutch which I thought was the problem but my contact list gave up the name of the person who had assisted me during Malua’s fit out.  I ask did he know of anyone who had this item and Yes he did and he gave me the number.  Hello from New Zealand.  Do you have this part? Yes I will HDL it to you this afternoon what address?  No DHL dont deliver to a mooring so I gave them the local chandlery.  Four days later it arrived and I was back reassembling the autopilot.

Did it work? No unfortunately it failed at the next test due to the incorrect shims being inserted in the clutch.  Being a single sailor you can not afford to loose your autopilot while sailing across the ocean so I had to implement Plan B.  A hydraulic ram autopilot from Coursemaster.  They dispatched overnight a Hydrive Hydraulic steering Unit which would integrate into my Simrad system.  All I had to do was fit the ram and motor to a bulkhead and then connect the ram to the steering arm of the quadrant.

I have on Malua a folding bike I purchased in New York so out that came and a long ride to Bunnings to purchase the parts which included a quarter sheet of marine ply.  Now that is fine to slip into the back of a VW Caddy or ute but on a bike it was a completely different story but having cycled through the snow to collect supplies in the USA I had done it before and come equipped with the ropes and clamps to attach it to the bike and ride back to the RIB and Malua.  I slept well that evening.

With some sawing, cutting and bolting I had the Hydrive secured to a bulkhead along with the pump.  I extended the control wires from the Whitlock in such a way that I could reconnect it in the event the hydraulic system failed.  Now to reinstall the Whitlock unit again in the lazerette.  This was quite easy but I made an executive decision not to fiberglass the plywood into the surrounding bulkhead just in-case I had to remove it in the near future.  The outcome was that the lazerette was not waterproof from waves sloshing along the deck but from experience I knew that did not happen very often and the volume of water was not great BUT I had overlooked the gaz breather hole which exited to the stern scoop.  Well above the waterline under normal condition but I was to enter some abnormal storm conditions after leaving Coffs Harbour on the way to New Cal.  That is a story in itself which I will tell in a later chapter…

Up early after a few days R&R and out the heads northwards towards Coffs Harbour.  An easy uneventful sail and dropped anchor in the harbour before taking up a mooring to the north of the pier.

Now to wait for a weather window and to stock up on some extras for the passage.  I have fond memories of this locations as it was my second time as a landfall from passages across the Pacific although the first time I had spent 10 days in a trawler berth waiting for a East Coast low to pass.  Was that a sign to be careful of these systems?

autopilotdrivehydrolinkinstalledalt viewCoffs Harbour
After the low passed I set off for the crossing here...

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