Today we made our passage from Coffs to Yamba through the Solitary Is group to add a little variety to the passage and hopefully by staying closer inshore we might avoid the full strength of the EAC which peaked at 1.7kts adverse but was generally around 0.5kt. The coastal scenery was a little clearer due to old Sol being more obvious than for the past week. Most prominent headlands, beaches and associated landmarks were easily identifiable and this certainly makes the passage more interesting as the information provided by Alan Lucas in 'Cruising the NSW Coast' becomes relevant.
We bowled along at between 8 and 9 knots until 9nm from our last waypoint when the EAC suddenly disappeared and shortly after the wind dropped to 3kts. I shook out the reef in the main and vainly tried to keep sailing for a couple of miles but could achieve no more than 1.5kts so not wanting to enter the Clarence in the dark I started up the iron topsails and motorsailed to within a mile of the entrance and dropped all sail. The sea and swell maintained their presence at up to 3m and that contributed to a fairly boisterous trip.
Arriving off the Clarence River entrance at our estimated ETA of 1730 Marine rescue Iluka/Yamba called us to advise they had eyeballed our approach and to advise that the southern entrance to the river was impassable and that we might like to check out the northern entry before making any attempt at entry. From our perspective the southern entrance looked like a marine incident waiting to happen with quite obvious large breaking swells for at least 0.5nm seaward extending 60 % across the entrance from the south and well inward along the southern sea wall. Motoring along about 1nm offshore to the northern approach we got a pretty good Captain Cook at the whole bar which wasn't all that encouraging but I was confident I had observed a gap in the breaking waves and white water about a third of the distance from the end of the northern sea wall towards the southern wall. Lyn puts a lot of faith in my ability and with her confident and thinking it couldn't be any worse than the seas of the last couple of days we committed to entering. My little darling even had the guts to try and get a couple of photos as we crossed the bar, my concern was that if she gripped the camera as tightly as her hand hold the camera would look like a crumpled chip packet nonetheless she did it and as always with photos of swell they rarely depict the full glory of the moment. Not wanting to understate the situation if I say that the swell was the biggest I have entered a river in and the one that broke just behind us and stood us up at about 45 degrees as it forced it's way beneath us was an OMG or FARQ moment you'll know why the marine forecasts always say swell may be twice the height indicated. Marine rescue monitored our entry from their post near the entry and called us to say well done after we were safely inside. And that's all I'm saying on the matter.
We've made arrangements through Seawind to allow a local shipwright to do the couple of warranty jobs while we are here in Yamba waiting for the weather to abate and become more favourable for our next leg to Southport. Unfortunately due to the delays we have experienced Lyn will not be able to do this passage and will return to Noosa on Sunday by road. A friend and long time sailing buddy Bevan will bring the car down here on Saturday and sail to Scarborough with me where Lyn will rejoin me for the last passage home.
Yamba is a lovely place and everytime I come here I like it even more. There is that old Noosa pace and atmosphere that we grew up with evident here. The locals are unpretentious and friendly so it might be a case of watch this space. The prawns are sweet and the beer is cold.
Well land lubbers I've got a boat to wash when Lyn finishes her Nanna nap.
Fair winds, Brian and Lyn.