52 Miles from Coffs Harbour
Still we fight the headwinds. As planned, we departed Mooloolaba at noon on Sunday, clearing the breakwaters at 1225. As forecast, the change had come through overnight, bringing squally winds, they had eased by the time we departed but the direction remained unchanged – SE. We motored around Point Cartwright and got under sail, stretching away to the SSW with everything set, braced up sharp on a bowline as usual. That now rare sight, an Australian merchant ship, was encountered soon after as the north bound bulk carrier “Cementco” crossed close ahead in ballast. They would have had a good view of us close aboard their port side. Getting down close to the shoals at the entrance to Moreton Bay, the breeze eased, we handed sail and stood seawards under power. Passing close under the light on Cape Moreton, we carried on out to the SE, trying to gain an offing for when the breeze fills in again. Another uncomfortable night under power but we made good ground in the light conditions. Yesterday morning, soon after daylight, the breeze began to fill in, and wonder of wonders, not the forecast SE’ly but a NW’ly. We got under sail quickly, setting all square sails and stood away south, with the yards off the backstays for the first time on this passage. Later the breeze veered more N’ly and we ran square, making good time, the East Australian Current helping us along as well. We were about 30 miles off the coast now as we passed from Queensland into NSW. The good conditions were not to last however. A gusty S’ly change was making its way up the coast and expecting it to come through overnight, we snugged her down, unlatching the main bonnet and handing spritsail and topsails. Running under the courses overnight, we still continued to make good time until 0400 when the battle again commenced. The breeze slowly backed NW’ly, SW’ly and eventually into the SSE, we wore ship and stood inshore, once again braced up sharp on a port tack. Wind and sea built quickly and we soon began to make heavy weather of it, labouring in the steep seas. By noon today we were only 52 miles from Coffs Harbour, but that may as well have been 5200 miles with this weather. The afternoon becoming gloomy and overcast, there was no easing of the wind as was forecast and we closed the coast, the distinct Clarence Peak being the first landmark raised. At 1630, some 12 miles S of Yamba and only 2 miles off the breakers ashore, we wore ship and stood to sea again. The ship is trying hard, under just the courses, I was expecting to lose ground but we hold our own, in a few hours time we will be back at our noon position. We continue to pitch and roll heavily, seasickness has reappeared with some aboard and I expect it will be an uncomfortable night. There is no shift in wind forecast for a couple of days yet and with nowhere to hide along this coast we will just have to keep trying to ply to windward as best we can.