Logbook: Coff’s Harbour, NSW, Australia


Coffs Harbour


We found the descriptions of the anchoring at Coffs a little confusing and didn’t have a guidebook yet. The inner anchorage, more protected in general from the swell wrapping in is between the old pier and the marina. The outer anchorage is anywhere outside of the old pier including snugged up against the breakwater to the SE (out of view in the picture). While we were there the boats in the outer anchorage were always rolling more than those in the inner anchorage. We anchored for an hour in the inner anchorage awaiting room inside the marina for us to come in and clear customs.

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Coffs Harbour was an extremely walkable/bus-able place for boaters needing to get to various supplies. There are also tons of small restaurants in the marina area itself and a 5 minute walk outside of the marina. If you want quick groceries, there is a small IGA close by and the enormous Cole’s further away towards town is enough to boggle the mind of someone who has been in the islands for a few years.


As we’ve already mentioned in our passage notes, we found Coff’s welcoming, cozy and in general to suit our tastes. There are gorgeous beaches on either side of the marina with loads of happy dogs, families, surfers and wind sports folks. The small hill overlooking the marina is a great walk with a nice view of the ocean for fun, for exercise and if you want to get a sense of what the swell is doing before you leave.


Carol got in a surf

Passage: New Caledonia to Australia


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We left New Caledonia on 12 Nov 2015. We sailed off of our mooring at Ilot Maitre with our friends aboard SV Dream Time sailing behind us to send us off in style. They broke off to head to another year of lovely gunkholing around Noumea, and we continued sailing out Dumbea Pass pointing at Sydney.


P1070508 (Copy)We knew we would hit a front around 28S and after that the weather was unpredictable but with nothing too scary in the forecast and the MJO was behaving itself. We hoped to sail to Sydney but we knew we wouldn’t know if that was possible until we started pulling weather forecasts after the front.


We started out in 10-15 knot winds, had a bit of light air sailing which over the course of a few days clocked around to the NW. Instead of a few hours of fickle wind while the front passed (as has been our experience in the past) the wind simply flipped 180 degrees to the SSE in the 20-25 kP1070519 (Copy)not range. We reefed down and pointed East until the winds slowly backed around to the ESE and we could continue sailing toward Sydney. After a day or so of this, the forecasts were showing the possibility of an East Coast Low forming over Sydney and so we turned for Coffs Harbour.


At this point we had a 24 hours spinnaker run with an eddy in the Australian current pushing us toward Coffs. Light wind, flat water, sunshine and a favorable current – a Pretorien owners dream! Note: This site gives an excellent visual of the current state of the current.


P1070533 (Copy)The clearance was easy peasy. They took our produce, eggs, cheese and milk and canned meat (poor pate gone) – all as we had anticipated. They examined our shells, took a few pictures, charged the stupidly expensive fee of $380AUD and were on their way. Nice guys.


P1070496 (Copy)Coffs Harbour was a surprising treat. It is a dirty, dusty, slightly run down port filled with a interesting, diverse, salty crowd of honest to goodness sailors. The staff were super friendly. The town was cute and we were picked up when hitch hiking immediately and even given a ride when we were just asking someone about the bus. The showers were hot, high pressure, and with shower heads taller than I am. As an aside, for whatever reason, even though I am only 5’8” most S Pacific shower heads are positioned at my neck requiring (on the few times we’ve been in ports or haul outs) me to crouch down to shampoo. If Coffs were closer to Sydney we would have stayed there for a while but the lure of Christmas and NYE in Sydney proved too difficult to resist.


We made it!


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//WL2K Posting from on Passage

We are currently on passage to Australia and I am midway through my midnight to 5am watch as I'm writing this. We are almost abeam the Gifford Tablemount (a seamount) and in the next day will be passing through a deep section, a valley as it were, of this enormous underwater mountain chain. Our map (link on the left nav bar of this blog) is being updated approxaimately daily as long as the radio comms continue to cooperate..

((As usual, don't panic if it doesn't happen. Our emergency chain is well established and the people in it know who they are.))

So far the passage has been excellent. This isn't to say that it has been easy sailing. Actually it has been a high energy combination of working to keep the boat moving smartly in light air, and reefing her down when the winds come up. Rinse and repeat.

The reason it has been excellent is that we are so excited to be doing it. I don't think we've been this pumped up for a passage since we left Mexico for the Marquesas. This is another leg of "the dream" that we had before leaving the dock. How many times did I imagine the last leg of the Pacifiic Crossing either to NZ or AUS and how many blogs did I read of people making it? A lot...

Making this particular passage rekindles memories of those original hopes, fears and excitement when everything ahead of us was so incredibly unknown. It is one of those cruising moments when you do something for the first time that you dreamt about doing. Those dream come true moments are special and I remember every one of them.

I remember my first swim in clear warm water where I could see the anchor chain (Cabo San Lucas). I remember sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in the sun in full company of the weekend sailors. I remember hoisting the Mexican courtesy flag, making landfall in the Marquesas, my first atoll. Even though these experiences remain amazing on their successive iterations, there is something special about the first.

I would tell you how many miles we have to go except we aren't certain yet which Australian port will be our first landfall, or when we'll arrive there... Welcome to cruising!

Motus and bays // Maa and Uere




As cruisers we tend to spend a lot of time searching out tiny islands surrounded by clear water and fantasyland (fantasysea?) colors. The downside of such tendencies is that we spend a fair amount of our time in lumpy anchorages. Every once in a while the bump gets to us, particularly in a long stretch of windy conditions, and we find ourselves retreating to bays (when available).


New Caledonia has a huge main island, riddled with bays with reasonable anchoring depths and great holding. We’ve spent most of our time here exploring the islets in New Caledonia’s lagoon and have visited only a few spots on the main island besides the capital city of Noumea. Two of those main island anchorages were recent stops in Maa and Uere. Both are wrap around anchorages, protected from most conditions and very well protected from trade wind conditions even allowing for the wind to slop about a bit in angle. They also are another visual and textural side of New Caledonia – big land mass, sometimes desert looking. It’s been lovely, tranquil and we are starting to regain our drive to explore lumpy anchorages again.


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Since we arrived in Tonga/Fiji/New Caledonia it has been a balance for us between time in exposed fabulous anchorages and flat less gorgeous (to us) areas. In the flat we catch up on chores, cleaning, boat work, writing, long walks, etc.


I think this is why we love atolls so much. Even though they are exposed from many angles, you can have very strong trade winds and still be in flat, flat water. On the contrary, small islets get wrap around waves and the wind doesn’t have to change angle much for them to become more exposed.


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Sometimes of course we get flat windless conditions in the more exposed anchorages. Those times are marked in my memories as some of the best cruising we have had. That windless day in Mopelia. Our recent time in Mato. Tauna in the Gambiers…

Kite Spot: Ilot Nge, Nouvelle Caledonie


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Sometimes it is fun to be in a crowd, at a park, particularly on a holiday weekend. We had a great time at Ilot Nge on Halloween weekend. The anchorage and mooring field were packed on the weekend as boats full of working stiffs escaped the capital city of Noumea for a weekend of playing at this marine park. Even with this rush, there were only a hand full of kiters here and we had the water relatively to ourselves (and our friends).  Launch spot: S22°19'35.70" E166°19'13.88"


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The North side of the island was good kiting at all tides. The South side got a little “crunchy” with coral at all but high tide. You could work your way upwind to the waves or to this gorgeous area of flat water over sand where the only obstacle was some spikes coming out of the water from an old shipwreck.




Some of the moorings are in water too shallow for us but there were plenty to choose from and you could anchor outside the mooring field in slightly lumpier water if you chose. We had three excellent days of kiting there and a fun Halloween party on the beach with the crews of Dream Time and Andromeda.


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The Passage Waiting Game


P1110826 (Copy)With the exception of passages to weather, we’ve never really had to wait for weather windows. For as long as we’ve been cruising, when we say “we’ll start looking for a weather window on X date” we have nearly always had an immediate, too close in time window that requires us to scramble to prep or to check out of the country. Instead of fighting boredom and working on our patience, we have historically had to make certain we aren’t rushing and leaving so quickly that we (and the boat) are underprepared.


And so it is with some amusement that I note that we are getting shut down on our upcoming passage to Australia.


I have been watching the weather in between New Caledonia and Australia on and off for months, and I have not seen such disturbed weather, for such a long period of time, between the two, until now. There was a decent, albeit strong wind window before we were ready to start looking and since then the weather windows have either involved long sections of motoring or big fronts (and associated strong wind and seas) anticipated at arrival.  We are listening to the relevant SSB nets to monitor boats on passage, checking the windows we didn’t take and so far, we correctly predicted that they weren’t the right windows for us.


The nice thing about Australia is that although we have preferences on where we make landfall we have nearly 700 miles of coastline, interspersed with legal arrival ports, as a target. This is wildly different from most of the passage making we have done in which we have to arrive at a very specific point in the sea, where there is a pass into an atoll or a safe arrival path into a single clearance port. On the other hand, this is a longer passage, which makes it more difficult to time generally, to a country which is fussy about after hours and weekend clearances, which makes the timing important.


And so we wait and watch. We have another two weeks or so before our visas expire. Depending on who you listen to the S Pacific hurricane season has either already begun or begins at the end of the month. Little pressures that we snuff out before they grow in our minds.




Waiting and watching means keeping the boat in a constant state of near readiness. We have done all of our pre-passage chores. The boat is tidy. We have bought what groceries we could buy in advance for the passage, then eaten them, and now are readying to buy them again. We are still kiting, swimming, and playing, but every move has to be planned with the passage in mind. We can bring out gear if we have time to let it dry and pack it away before leaving…


At the same time that we become antsy, we also don’t want to leave. The tropics at this latitude are starting to truly feel like summer. The weather is glorious, the already excellent kiting conditions now include warmer water and constant sunshine. There is a reason that cyclone season is considered by some to be the best time to cruise. We are very, very jealous of our friends with EU passports who get more than 3 months in French territories.


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