Between Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie
Quite a crowd had gathered by the time the ship was ready to depart, with the wind already building. With a new crew there was much to do to get everything onboard ready for sea. Then finally we were ready to go, the lines were cast off, the ship spun around and headed out through the breakwater, out to sea. I remember that daunting feeling of the unknown within myself that first time I headed to sea. As we departed Coffs with a strong northerly breeze building, I am sure several of our volunteers were wondering what they had really got themselves into. Life at sea on a traditional sailing ship is so removed from a life that most people would consider normal. I remember that first day I headed out to sea on a sailing ship, with all sorts of strange commands being called out, lines being pulled, and a tangle of ropes all over the deck. There was for me, I suppose, an added dimension of confusion on my first day at sea for the ship I was on was called “Nadezhda” and all of the commands on deck were in Russian. Though to be fair, unless one is accustomed to the nomenclature of the sea, I suppose it makes no difference what language the commands are called in. For to hear orders being boomed out with all the fortitude required to compete with a gale of wind; “Ease mainsail lee brace, weather the sheet, and haul taut the tack”, leads most landlubbers to confusion. It was a fast run down the coast towards Port Macquarie with force six winds from the NNE. With the ship pushing along under mainsail and fore, holding a consistent eight knots of speed over the ground. And under such glorious sailing conditions I could feel a buzz of happiness spread over the permanent members of crew. For after a month of beating to windward from Cairns, it was a pleasure to be able to get the yards off the backstays and run with a decent wind. But it was soon to become apparent that the greatest problem I faced was to slow the ship down. For although it was beautiful sailing, at the rate we were going we would be at Port Macquarie by midnight. So at dusk we brought in the mainsail and spent the night under foresail alone, trying to hold our position off Port Macquarie. This wasn’t helped by the wind picking up to gale force at times, creating quite a confused sea with the ship rolling heavily on occasions. At dawn we could see Perpendicular Head, so I had to accept that we would have to motor to try and reach the entrance to Port Macquarie by eleven o’clock. There is always a pain in ones heart when having to start the engines on a sailing vessel, but alas with running to timetables sometimes this becomes inevitable. So we motored up against the wind to be ready to cross the bar on schedule. Unfortunately the sea was still quite confused from the night before, and the wind was again building. So by the time we eventually arrived ready to cross the bar it was not looking good. With no experience of crossing this bar and a certain amount of exhaustion within myself and the crew, and the weather quickly deteriorating, I made the hard decision of postponing our entry until the following day. Sometimes there lies within one an uneasy feeling that something just doesn’t feel right and if that is the case, I feel it best to go with that feeling, (albeit the fact that it was friday the thirteenth as well). However, the safety of the ship and crew must come first and if it doesn’t feel right then there is probably a good reason. Nonetheless, it is never an easy decision to make and with several of the crew feeling drawn by the perils of seasickness, I felt my decision hit them hard as we headed back out to sea; but with northeasterly gales again forecast that night it was the best place for the safety of the ship. So finally the engines were turned off and we hoisted sail again. It was going to be a tough run to get back up to Port Macquarie with all elements of the weather, wind, tide and swell, trying to push us south. The crew seemed to lack enthusiasm as they struggled against the wind while hoisting the mainsail. So with the foresail I sung out a rendition of ‘Haul away Joe’, for at times there can be nothing like a good hearty sea shanty to lift spirits on a hard pull. And it managed to boost some life back into a few of the crew, even those plagued by mal de mer. The wind had already built back up to a good force six and so off we went. We sailed into the night hard on the wind, but by midnight the wind was starting to ease and we had already been pushed down to Crowdy Head. Under the moonlight sky we cleared away both sails and started to motor back up toward Port Macquarie. We kept close to the coast to try and take advantage of any counter current that might take us north. The wind had almost disappeared as we arrived off the entrance at ten o’clock in the morning. Everything was now looking and feeling considerably better for crossing the bar. Port Macquarie sea rescue headed out to meet our ship and one of their volunteers jumped aboard to pilot us across the bar. We arrived in the entrance to the Hastings River just as a civic function gathered ashore was welcoming us. The ships constable - Vic Sullivan was run ashore by the sea rescue to present a ‘message stick’ to the local indigenous community. Then Duyfken continued down the Hastings River to settle alongside at Jordan’s Boating Centre, an idyllic setting for the ship on its stay in Port Macquarie.