The Trip North on Wirraway - 2006 travel blog

Men of Luma Luma

Wirraway on a lean

Enroute to Iluka

Rain Rain Rain

Dismal Skies

Reflections at Iluka

Lost fishermen at Iluka

LFB Chloe

Leaving Iluka

Leaving Port Stephens

Whale at Barenjoey

The Last Sunset

The good ship Wirraway

The day we left.

While waiting for the weather at Mooloolaba, we met some interesting men on the little catamaran Luma Luma. It was a makeshift thing, totally exposed to the elements as it was. They had sailed her all the way from Coffs Harbour. It was such a wet ride, they wore wetsuits! They certainly had the pioneering spirit, and John and I will never forget them.

When we eventually left Mooloolaba, heading for Yamba Iluka, we had been through that many rain squalls during the night that we'd lost count. We'd also been dodging container ships and had had to hale some on the radio. At around midnight, John said he was feeling sick and had to go down below. Visibility was zero. A rain squall cleared and I suddenly saw three lights straight ahead, very, very close. There was one white light low down to my left, a white light higher up dead ahead, and a red light low down to my right. I slowed the boat down to try to figure out what was going on, and realised it was a container ship crossing across our bow. I quickly diverted to starboard, and watched as the ship passed by to my left, and could clearly see inside its cabin. It remained in sight for another couple of minutes, before another rain squall closed in, and the ship completely disappeared. I looked around our little boat, and it was totally black. The only thing I could see was the rain illuminated in our white stern light. It was as though Wirraway was in a void. I sat down and realised all I could do was trust.

The next afternoon when we were safely at Iluka, John and I were sitting up on deck with our wet weather gear, boots and mats drying out in the sun. Sitting there, we saw the fishing trawlers heading out, one by one, and it occurred to us that these fishermen go out all night, mostly every night, in conditions far worse than we've ever even dreamed of, much less experienced. We talked about it for a while, and thought about these unsung heroes in their rugged old boats with the beautiful sounding names.

To the brave men who fish on the wild, windy seas

Who fish with their hearts on the wild, windy seas

Say 'aye!

To the Chloe's, L Margo's and the Annabelle Lee's,

Say 'aye!

Say 'aye!

Say 'aye!

We left Iluka on a beautiful clear morning and eventually had a nice 30 knot north easterly to blow us into Coffs. In fact, it was blowing so hard, we had trouble getting Wirraway into the berth at the marina, and were constantly being blown off. By this stage, John was huffing and puffing, but thanks to the help of some other cruisers and trusty old Darren, we were able to eventually safely secure Wirraway. We'd planned to stay at Coffs for a while, but 2 days later we were off again in a 22 knot northerly, bound for Port Stephens. Again, we dodged container ships all during that night, with some of them even trying to cut us off at times, going on the inside when we were only half a mile from land! Eventually though, that particular ship realised there was no room and made a radical course change to port. 24 hours it took us to reach Port Stephens, and we were very glad to be back in such a familiar and much loved port.

Two days later, with a forecast of W/NW winds to 30 knots, decreasing to 20 knots in the afternoon, we started out on our last leg of the entire trip. Port Stephens to Barenjoey. It was a beautiful, hot morning, but the winds were from the south! By 2pm we were hobby-horsing our way home. The sky looked ominous as well, with mackerel sky and mares tails, and it was very hazy.

Over the radio, a gale warning was issued. Top priority warning - severe weather was coming our way, with north westerlies predicted up to 90 klms per hour! Coastal Patrol kept radioing us, to check our position, and to see if we were OK. It was such a dramatic, eerie finish to the whole thing. The weather didn't eventuate of course, just a weird calm stayed with us the rest of the trip. Eventually, tired, happy, stressed, excited and depressed, we arrived at Barenjoey at 9pm. Our journey was over!

And what of it? What can we sum up from the trip? 2,158 nautical miles logged, and that was without taking into account going through the back way at Moreton Bay, and all the travelling we did for the 2 months at the Whitsundays. Quite a feat.

Strongest wind: 30 knots plus from South Percy Islands to Scawfell

Longest leg: 183 miles, Mooloolaba to Iluka

Longest time underway: 32 hours

Fastest speed: 10.3 knots (COG) - Coffs to Port Stephens.

Time away: May 19th to September 23rd - just over 4 months.

And what else? What of reassuring names of some of the places? Deception Bay, Wreck Reef, Danger Point, Trial Bay....

Still, we did it. There were a few times we wanted to give up, but we didn't.

And to that, we say 'aye!

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