Cruising South Coast NSW

Published Sun 13 Feb 2022

Cruising South Coast NSW


About midday on Wednesday 2 February I received a call inviting me to assist some friends to bring their boats back from the Sapphire Coast to Jervis Bay and perhaps through to Shellharbour Marina.
By 16:00 I was on the road and looking forward to three days of lively sailing with a strong wind warning in place. A large high was situated centrally over Tasmania and the South Easterly had been blowing onto the coast since Tuesday with the promise of large East South East swell building as time went on.
Meeting up at the Bermagui Beach Hotel soon after 19:30 for a bite to eat and a closer look at the weather saw us off to our bunks with the alarms set to 05:30 for 06:00 departure from Bermagui Marina.
The boats, a South Coast 32 with a fractional rig built in Unanderra in the early 90’s and a Beneteau 399 about 10 years younger. Both boats, with a skipper and one crew stepped out into 18 to 23 knots of Southerly wind and 2 to 3 metre East South East waves. The 32 footer carried a reefed mainsail and 60% Genoa and the 399 headsail only as we made our way north towards Cape Dromadery with a view to staying west of Montague Island. The large swell rolled easily under the boat for the most part with the skipper on the tiller working a little harder when the bigger of the waves pushed the stern off to Port. The cockpit was awash with seawater from time to time as foam from broken chop splashed over the combing.
Rain threatened most of the day but the scuds skirted around us and the wind remained constant around 20 knots although it did back to the South South East off Tuross Head around mid-morning.
We were still able to fill the headsail at this angle so the main stayed up also and we were making good time to our first destination of Snapper Island, Batemans Bay.
As we approached the Tollgate Islands I could see the 399 well up ahead and he turned to Port to enter the Bay. Marine Rescue Batemans Bay, having seen him heading down towards Snapper Island called him up on the VHF and advised him of a yacht that was having problems offshore. They had been beating south into the weather motor sailing when they developed engine trouble and subsequently shredded their headsail. The VMR crew were heading out to their assistance with the intention of towing them onto the public mooring at Snapper Island. While they left it up to the skipper of the 399, it was obvious that they would leave the mooring free for the stricken vessel.
The Beneteau diverted to Maloneys Beach where there is a public mooring and hooked up there for a very uncomfortable night as it is well exposed to the South East, especially when the tide rose and the swell was able to pass over the reef there that normally provides a bit of protection. We headed for Snapper Island and received the same call from VMR and advised that we would anchor off the Island well clear of the public mooring. The wind lifted to 30 knots at the Island and then moved to the South West putting us beam on to the swell and we also had a very uncomfortable night although the holding was good and except for swinging around as the wind and current saw fit we stayed put.
Up early the next morning and the forecast had increased to 20 to 25 knots SSE and 3 to 4 metre SE swell. The options were to go into the marina at Batemans Bay and stay several days waiting for things to improve or step out and see what we get. Ulladulla was an option 25 miles up the coast so we ventured out and gave it a go. We tried a double reefed main and some headsail but were soon overpowered and life on the tiller was difficult. We started the motor and headed up wind to get rid of the main and this improved things immensely. Back off the breeze and running downwind with a large swell on the beam we soldiered on hour after hour. Passing Ulladulla we were about 10 miles off and the boat was probably handling the seas better than the crew so while the boat seemed happy, so were we and we kept going for our destination of Jervis Bay. The wind gusted to around 27 knots and a couple of larger waves, easily 5 metres, loomed over us but just like the rest of them, lifted the boat up and passed under us easily with boat speed increasing nicely as we slid down the other side into the trough waiting to be lifted again by the next one.
As usual, the approach to Jervis Bay was a mess although the sun was now shining and the deep blue of the sea water highlighted the chop all over the surface along the cliffs of Governor Head, the south head of the entrance to JB.
After another big day at sea it was good to get into Hole in the Wall and out of the wind. All the moorings were taken up with boats escaping Callala Bay moorings which are well known for suffering harshly in strong southerly weather. Anchoring is permitted there outside the 10 metre contour and, after 2 attempts, both boats found good holding and settled in for the night. This was the end of the line for the South Coast 32 as she lies on a mooring in Currumbene Creek so I jumped ship to the Beneteau as she was going through to Shellharbour the next morning.
A very civilised start to the day saw us leaving the heads around 08:30 and into another strong wind warning with hazardous surf but eager to make a mile. We saw wind from the South West early on and as we made our way along the cliffs towards Little Beacroft in extremely messy conditions the wind increased from the SE and conditions were ugly. We wanted to give Sir John Young Banks a wide berth so we tracked a little more east and as Culburra Beach came into view the sea calmed down considerably. The wind piped up over 27 knots from time to time but the auto helm handled most of the waves passing under our stern with human intervention only required a few times.
Greenwell Point, Coolangatta Mountain, Gerroa, Kiama and Minnamurra came and went as the hours went by and soon it was time to round Bass Point and head for the marina. Running all day under headsail alone we wound a lot of it away before putting the wind on the beam and heading in towards the gravel loader and the entrance to Shellharbour Marina. The time was 15:00 and the time to start the motor soon came around however, after putting it into gear it soon shut itself
The stopper knot on the lazy sheet had come undone with the flapping created during the jibe and the sheet had fallen off the boat and wrapped tight around the propeller. With the sea conditions as they were it was too dangerous to dive on the boat so a call was put into Marine Rescue Port Kembla who responded to their Shellharbour RIB based in the marina.
In the meantime, we pointed the boat to the North East under bare poles but found that our heading would see us onto Martin Island very quickly as we still had about 3 knots of boat speed. We put a small amount of headsail up which gave us steerage and maintained a safer course while waiting for a tow. Around 16:30 Shellharbour 30, the RIB out of Shellharbour Marina, approached our position which was now about 5 miles NE of the marina. After several attempts to pass a tow rope to us we were able to hook up and the long tow in commenced, initially way too fast but with good radio communications on Chanel 77 a suitable pace was established and we were soon in a comfortable berth within the marina.
This was my second visit to Shellharbour Marina and the second time of having to dive on a propeller to clear foreign objects. The sheet rope came off easily despite being wrapped so tightly it felt like steel wire rope up on the winch. No apparent damage, not even to the sheet rope and we were soon sipping on a cool beer and relaxing after three hectic but enjoyable days of cruising.

Dave Waples
Wollongong Yacht Club