After a week at Iluka, we were itching to leave when the SE wind subsided enough to let us escape through the bar. Bar crossings are sometimes daunting and this one was; the swell was big, the breaking waves impressive, but we managed a clean exit.
Our enthusiasm for diving and snorkeling incited us to head offshore towards a group of nine islets called the Solitary Islands. We should have thought a bit more about the effect of eight days of strong wind on the sea state. As we found out, to hook up to a Marine Park mooring (no anchoring allowed in the Marine Reserve), let alone dive there, you need calm conditions and preferably North Easterlies. Despite what we had hoped, the islands offered no protection and most moorings were in the impact zone of some mean waves. So no underwater photos for this post, but plenty of images of waves, bar crossings and pounded islands!
After motor-sailing past North West Rocks, North Solitary, Groper Island and Split Solitary, we appreciate why these islands are called ‘Solitary’. They are wild and rugged, and in the old days of lighthouse keepers, it would indeed have been a very solitary life on them. Discovering what lurks underwater in these marine sanctuaries will be for another time.
We ended up heading back to the coast and anchoring overnight at Coffs Harbour on Saturday. We continued onto Trial Bay and had a few hours’ stop there on Sunday, initially intending to stay overnight, but one of the many changes of weather forecast lead us to get going again late in the evening for an overnight passage to Port Macquarie. We needed to hide in a hurry from another round of mean South-easterlies. Luckily, our friends Waz and Lisa live a few miles up the Hastings River and were waiting for us. It is lovely to spend a few days with them.
The whole trip from Iluka to Port Macquarie has involved motoring into wind with the mainsail up! In fact ever since we have left the Great Barrier Reef, we have not had a day of pure sailing in following winds. It has all been motor-sailing into wind. It is not Take It Easy the sailing catamaran, but Take It Easy the motorboat! What is wrong with this weather?
Here are a few photos from our expedition to the islands and back.