MAKING THE MOST OF THE COAST
JOHN ZAMMIT has been enjoying the cruising lifestyle for years...
If you include all of the islands, Australia’s coastline stretches over 59,000km – and, with most of Australia’s population living along the coast, it’s no wonder we’re considered a boating nation. While many of us like to go boating relatively close to home, there are those who venture out cruising to distant destinations.
Having experienced the cruising lifestyle onboard a powerboat (or should I say powerboats, as I’ve made numerous trips on boats other than my own), there is something very special about being out on the bluewater in favourable seas and a gentle swell, cruising to a distant port. Along the way, there’s the added pleasure of making friends and meeting interesting people during stopovers at various marinas, yacht clubs and anchorages where other mariners are only too happy to share their experiences and pass-on tips or local knowledge.
Untold secluded beaches, superb fishing grounds, pristine dive sites and navigable rivers to explore, are to be found all around the Australian coastline. For the most part, there are plenty of destinations, both large and small, with safe harbours or ports where you can get fuel and provisions, generally within reasonably short cruising legs.
READY TO CRUISE
Obviously, coastal passage making requires a suitable vessel, which is properly equipped and has enough fuel capacity for such a journey. Suitability of boats varies, dependant on where and how long you intend to cruise, the number people onboard and other relevant details.
You also should be very familir with your boat, have at least a basic understanding of simple mechanics and be able to understand a basic weather chart. The other important factor is knowing where you can find information regarding destinations, weather and safety.
These days, thankfully, information on just about anything is just a simple click away via the internet. With web access generally available along most of the coast, a web-accessible computer is essential kit onboard. As is your trusty VHF (and/or HF) radio, which, provides a direct line of communication with other vessels and shore-based Coast Guard and Marine Rescue stations. Communicating your intentions with the local Coast Guard or Marine Rescue base allows them to track your vessel as you cruise. Your tracking sheet is progressively passed along to the next station as you periodically check-in along the way.
Coast Guard and Marine Rescue organisations are also excellent sources of information about local weather and sea conditions, as well as for providing information on any coastal bars you may need to navigate. Assuming you have a seaworthy vessel, some common sense and have done a bit of research, there is no doubt cruising the coast will provide some wonderful experiences sure to provide long-lasting memories.
ENJOY EVERY MINUTE
My own personal experiences have been primarily along the east coast, up and down from Melbourne to Queensland, but I have many friends who’ve cruised far and wide – south to Tasmania and north to the Whitsundays and far beyond. I’ve yet to hear of anyone who’s come back disappointed.
All of my trips have been enjoyable, but a highlight was spending nearly four weeks cruising from the Gold Coast to Melbourne with my partner and another couple, friends who had just taken delivery of a brand new 47’ flybridge cruiser. Along the way, at various times, friends and family would join us for occasional legs of the trip.
Our cruise took us south from the Gold Coast stopping overnight – and in some cases a few days – at destinations including at Yamba, Port Macquarie, Port Stephens (where we spent a wonderful Christmas Day), then on to Sydney where we explored Pittwater, Cowan Creek and the entrance to the Hawkesbury River.
Next stop was Sydney Harbour, arriving in time to join hundreds of other vessels anchored in the harbour to watch the spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks. After a couple of days, continuing south, we called in to Port Hacking, Jervis Bay, Ulladulla, Bermagui, Lakes Entrance, Port Welshpool and Phillip Island, before cruising into Port Phillip and our home port of Williamstown.
As far as research and preparation goes, there are some excellent publications available including the Alan Lucas Cruising Guides.
'Cruising the Coral Coast' covers the whole of the east coast of Queensland, the Torres Strait and the Great Barrier Reef (including notes on the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Coral Sea).
'Cruising the NSW Coast' covers the coastline from Victoria’s Gabo Island up to Point Danger, near the border of New South Wales and Queensland, and includes the Gold Coast Seaway (entrance to the Gold Coast Broadwater).
David Colfelt’s 100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef – the Whitsunday Islands is another good reference. It contains 256 pages of information, including 100 pages of full-colour maps of anchorages including detailed sailing directions around the Whitsundays.
On so many occasions while cruising I’ve been fortunate to see some wonderful and unforgettable sights including breaching whales, seals, dolphins (on many occasions surfing our bow wave), and one time even watched a navy submarine surface a short distance from our boat while we were anchored in Jervis Bay.
That’s not to say I haven’t experienced some uncomfortable situations while out at sea either – but, with the right preparation, equipment and a bit of common sense, most ‘situations’ can be minimised.
Do yourself a favour… do the research and get out there. It’s well worth the effort!