Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Man Vs. The Elements

In spite of its title, this blog update isn't about us battling gale force winds as we head south; the weather has been quite the reverse, in fact. A huge high pressure system has been almost stationary over the east coast of Australia and is now only moving slowly eastwards across New Zealand.

This has given us light and not very useful SE breezes for a few days and so we've stopped for a few days at Iluka, at the mouth of the mighty Clarence River. It's here that we have taken an interest in the huge works that man has undertaken to try to manage the elements when the weather isn't so unusually settled.

This image of the entrance to the Clarence River clearly shows the way in which the river has been managed, since the early 1800's, to try to make it a safe, navigable waterway. Of course, until the first quarter of the 20th Century, road and rail links along this coast were pretty sparse so the ability to allow coasting vessels to make port safely was vital to the growth of the region.

The 'training walls' inside the entrance re-directed the river from its original meander at the bottom of the picture and the long breakwaters projecting out to sea were completed in the 1970's. Work camps, temporary railways, huge cranes and rock-carrying barges were all part of the story and it's still in progress;  repairs to the breakwaters are ongoing and there is a grass-seeding program underway to stabilise the sand dunes
We took a walk out to the end of the northern breakwater on a fairly gentle day:

Thousands of tonnes of rock, to be regularly maintained after winter storms

In between the breakwaters, you can still get sizeable, breaking waves so it's vital to exit or enter at the right stage of tide
Like nearly all the rivers on this coast, it has a 'bar entrance' which means that silt carried down the river is dumped, as the flow rate slows, at the entrance to leave a shallow bar. It's visible in the top photo as a crescent shape but is much more obvious in this photo, taken when the river was ebbing:

The bar at a dangerous time
 So the golden rule is to always arrive at the entrance when the tide is flooding inwards and not rushing outwards to meet the incoming wind and swell. Of course, sometimes even the professionals get it wrong!

Whilst we were waiting for the weather, we managed a few walks, some chores and even a session in a gym with a great view:

Lots of Australian parks have these brilliant kits so we use them whenever we can
We moved south again yesterday, a 60nm passage to Coffs Harbour - motor-sailing the whole way, unfortunately, due to the light wind but the trip was enlivened by ships making their way up to Brisbane, fishing boats, dolphins and quite the wettest rain squall we've experienced for quite a while. Coffs Harbour is another example of an artificial harbour, built in the 1920's, but this one isn't on a river so for once we didn't have to do the maths on tide times to arrive safely at a bar entrance.

The breakwater was built to join up to Muttonbird Island in the foreground. The Marina came a lot later.
You'd think that this huge structure would have made the harbour a perfectly-sheltered one but, only last June, there was a violent easterly storm which saw huge waves rolling over the top of the wall.

The marina was badly smashed, two boats were sunk with many more badly damaged and the repair work is still going on.

The crane is hoisting huge pre-cast concrete blocks onto new rocks already laid; the plan is to make the breakwater taller and wider
 It was nice to come into the luxury of a walk-ashore marina, giving us the chance to enjoy long showers and to refill Maunie's water tanks. We went for a refill ourselves at the marina bar and Graham was delighted to find Thatchers Cider on tap, only to be told it had just run out...

Thatchers Cider comes from Somerset in bulk tanks and Coopers Brewery (another family-owned business, based in Adelaide) fills it into kegs and delivers it.
We have managed to put that disappointment behind us and today have moved another 35 miles to Trial Bay, to discover a harbour where, for the moment, man has given up the struggle to beat the elements.

At the point are the remains of Trial Bay Gaol, built to house low-risk prisoners in 1886. Their job was to build a huge, 1500m breakwater from the aptly-named Laggers Point to create a safe anchorage in the bay. The project overran in time and cost and, even as the first 300m of rock wall was built, the waters behind it began to silt up so it was abandoned.

We had hoped to go into the Macleay River to the SW of the photo but apparently there hasn't been a flood to wash the river bar out for several years and now it is deemed too shallow and dangerous for most boats. So we're anchored in the bay instead and it's calm but a little bit rolly. Tomorrow we'll get the maths right to go through the bar entrance at Port Macquarie.

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