Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Iluka to Southport

With thoughts of sunny walks along beautiful beaches, swimming in warm surf and catching fish for dinner our time on The Clarence River didn't quite live up to expectations. Fortunately our time spent with my (John's) Aunty Sue, who lives at Iluka, more than compensated for the less than perfect weather. It began with fresh king prawns for lunch at Aunty Sue's and over the week in Iluka included many cuppas and catching up on family news and reminiscing. My Dad's and Aunty Sue's parents retired to Iluka and as a child I spent many memorable holidays here from the sixties onwards.

rainforest on The Bluff Nature walk

We managed to fit in between rainy days, a walk through the peaceful Nature Reserve rainforest to The Bluff Beach for a quick swim then back along the main Iluka Beach to town followed by a birthday celebration gathering for Aunty Sue at the Boatshed Cafe with the volunteers from the op shop for afternoon tea.

Sea eagle nest on telegraph pole Iluka

The anchorage in the bay is very secure and convenient to the beaches and all the town services including good coffee at Hullabaloo and fresh and good value fish & chips at the Fisherman's Co-Op.

The safe anchorage in the Iluka Bay

Miff performing maintenance in an exotic port

morning coffee & John's Mum's dateloaf Iluka

The well set up dinghy pontoon in the bay in front of the pub

Osprey nest on mobile tower Iluka

Ibis wandering the streets of Iluka
The day before leaving Iluka we drove to Woody Head with Aunty Sue to take in the scenery and share an ice cream. This was also a good place to get an idea of what the sea conditions were like for the next leg to Southport.

Woody Head interpretation sign

John and Aunty Sue at Woody Head
A short walk from the anchorage is the entrance wall, popular with fisherman, and a good viewing platform to survey the state of the barway. Always reassuring to know what to expect before committing.

fishing trawler heading out of the Clarence River mouth for a nights fishing
Monday 4 June
Aunty Sue's Birthday. Weighed anchor at 0645 on a clear blue morning with a light westerly blowing. Passed Moriaty's wall and waved to Aunty Sue as she sent us on our way. Cleared the entrance past a well behaved bar and out onto a gentle SSE swell. As the breeze picked up to 10-20kn WSW we made good time in reaching Cape Byron, 52 nm north by 1530.
 Between The Clarence and Cape Byron we had the thrill of siting at least six separate pods of humpback whales some way in the distance but clear enough to see them breaching and tail slapping with spectacular results. Also to complete the nature display we saw a turtle and had dolphins swimming alongside.

Cape Byron light Australia's most easterly point

distinctive landmark of Mt Warning off the Byron coast

As the sun set the wind increased to 15-25kn W and a brilliant moon rose in the east. By now we had a double reefed main and genoa but were still averaging 5.5kn. Because we wanted to wait until daylight to enter the Southport Seaway we needed to slow somewhat. Unfortunately we didn't have a lot of choice but to slow as we headed more NW from Tweed Heads and the wind also swung to the NW and kicked up a sharp short 2m + sea. We ended up having a pretty uncomfortable 6 hrs before tucking in close to the shore and motorsailing for the last 2 hrs in a dropping wind. The entry into Southport Seaway was very straightforward in an offshore breeze and rising tide. We soon found our way to Bum's Bay and a good anchorage for a well earned rest.

sunset north of Byron Bay

The Gold Coast south of the Seaway
Tuesday 5 June
After a couple of hours recovery nap we woke with the very big surprise of finding our friends from Tas , Tim and Sal, in the carpark opposite our anchorage waving at us. Of course we didn't delay in going ashore and heading to the nearest wine bar for a celebratory drink and catch-up. That evening we found a good value dinner at a Burleigh Heads hotel followed the next day by a very nice lunch at Tim's cafe choice in beautiful Burleigh sunshine.

beachside Tai Chi for the masses at Burleigh Heads

Saturday 9 June
Having sampled the gentler side of Goldcoast life, replenished supplies including a gas refill and the added bonus of seeing our Tassie friends it was time for a farewell coffee with Tim and Sal before continuing north. We anchored at the sheltered Tipplers Passage, South Stradbroke, a couple of hours away, in just enough water amongst the weekend revellers and powerboats.