From Lake Macquarie, we picked up one of Tom’s sailing buddies Peter early in the morning and headed south to the Hawkesbury River. Not long into the trip the wind became confused, making it difficult to weave our way around all the gargantuan ships that were waiting their turn to enter Newcastle Harbour. From a distance we saw some whales swimming past with their tails waving hello in the air. But soon we had an even more amazing greeting as we were passing a ship whose crew were all out on deck watching the spectacle. No, the spectacle wasn’t us, but a whale probably less than 50 metres from us that fully breached in the air and came crashing down creating a massive wave that we surfed all the way to the Hawkesbury. Okay okay, maybe the wave and surfing have been a little embellished, but the whale DID fully breach next to us!
After all the whale and ship dodging excitement, the trip was long and slow. Eventually we did make it into the Hawkesbury where we bid adieu to Peter and found ourselves a mooring for the night. We woke up on our Refuge Bay mooring the next day to some gorgeous scenery. There was a small waterfall nearby and we were able to hike a vague path, emerging at rock pools above the waterfall with stunning views across the bay and our little Makroro bobbing about below.
The following week the sky filled with those pesky nimbus clouds and rained continuously, putting a little bit of a literal dampener on our holiday. We were lucky some days though and even managed to stay completely dry for a 7km walk from Waratah Bay to Bobbin Head where we stopped for lunch. The weather gods were looking down on us with sympathy and they held off on the rain until we got back to the boat.
As well as exploring the Hawkesbury and Cowan Creek areas, we sailed into Pittwater on the northern fringe of Sydney. I have honestly never seen so many yachts in one place and our beige and brown coloured Makroro looked completely out of place among all the very white, clean, expensive yachts of the elite. We hung around this area with it’s clear greeny-blue waters for about a week before having to return to Newcastle and the working life.
We set out at 5am on a Friday morning with good southerly winds predicted. Upon exiting the headlands, the swell was all over the place and what little wind there was didn’t know if it was Arthur or Martha. We rocked around at the mercy of a confused swell with all our belongings flying across the cabin below and the boom hurling from one side to the other threatening to knock us overboard should we get in its way. I was visibly and audibly ‘shit-scared’, so we turned back to toward the safety of the mooring buoys in Pittwater. We were just approaching the sheltered bay when our engine failed and the wind had died completely. Thankfully Makroro’s 9 tonne body had enough momentum to carry us to the closest buoy – the police buoy, to which no unauthorised vessels should moor. Sorry water police, we had no choice! Tom spent the next 3 hours changing the fuel filters and bleeding air out of the fuel lines. Finally, the engine started and the oil pressure alarm started going off. We then found oil was squirting out of the oil pressure switch and our bilge was completely full of black oil. A good 12 hours after we’d set out, we had the engine mostly sorted, the oil mopped up, and finally were able to retire for the day. It’s lucky we did turn around, because with a dead engine and absolutely no wind, we would probably still be floating about in the sea right now.
Back to working life now, we’ve had to leave the boat in the Hawkesbury until we can fix the problems with the engine so that it won’t happen again next time we attempt the journey home. This will mean somehow removing the fuel tanks and thoroughly cleaning them so we don’t get clogged fuel filters again if the tanks are shaken up.