Logbook: Newcastle, NSW, Australia


With boat work (Livia) and a trip back to Canada (Carol) in the cards for Team Giddyup, we parked SV Estrellita 5.10b for a month at a slip at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club in Newcastle, NSW, Australia.

It was fun to be in a marina for a month. We didn’t worry about the weather every day. We went running regularly. There was a boardwalk all of the way into downtown from the marina dock and we went for long sweaty walks. We took long showers, rinsed the boat, did laundry, and were able to focus on boat projects without worrying about stowing items for transit and with easy access to supplies.

We found the community at the NCYC to be a treat. Great staff, fun people on the docks, lots of sail training and dinghy sailing. The town is a working class base with gentrification happening and so, for us, it was a fun mix of working port, down and gritty, and fancy coffee, craft beer, type places. There is a large farmers market and every kind of shopping we could want.

We sailed away from the port of Newcastle at dawn towards the big city - Sydney.

The sudden proliferation of boater Christmas lists

BonVoyage5 (2)If you are a cruising blog reader, you’ve probably already figured this out but if not, let me clue you into a little secret.

The main reason that people who read boating blogs are inundated with Christmas present suggestions this time of year is to trick Amazon into giving boaters money. The gear links in the posts are usually tagged with the boaters’ Amazon Affiliates number. Whether you buy the piece of the gear that they link, or something else for yourself or your loved ones, whether you buy it right then or in the next day or so, the boater gets paid by Amazon for generating a sale.

This is, as I see it, a win-win situation. Obviously, it is a win for the boater, but how is it a win for YOU?

First of all, you have managed to give money to a boater without any money coming out of your pocket. You buy yourself a present, the boater gets a beer. You get to feel good about that without having to pay a single cent for it. You win!

Second of all, we boaters feel guilty about being money grubbers and so we usually put a lot of time and energy into our gear recommendations. The motivation may be suspect, but the recommendations are real. Most of us are probably sitting at our nav or salon tables, looking around our bluewater cruising vessels at all of the gear inside, and trying to think what our favorite (linkable) pieces of gear are. Good solid useful recommendations for fun well tested gear – you win!

And so, with that in mind, I tried to think of three inexpensive items that we use regularly, have lasted, and have solved problems on our boat.

P1070610 (Copy)1.) Black Diamond USB rechargeable headlamps. Now that I have said that, you will ask yourselves, why did it take so long for these to be invented?! BD now makes headlamps that can be plugged into any 12V USB charger (which are everywhere in our boats 12 outlets now that all of our electronics are USB chargeable) and recharged. This solves two problems: not having to carry batteries around and the corrosion that is a constant problem on the metal prongs that touch the battery. No more running out of batteries, or carrying around so many that they get old and leak. And no more sanding the corroded little metal prongs in order to make the stupid things work!

P1070609 (Copy)2) Stick on velcro. This may sound weird but good stick on velcro is difficult to find and has solved numerous install issues for us. What problem does it solve? Holes in your boat! You can mount remote controls, ipads, pictures, all kinds of things on your boat without drilling any holes in your boat. When you change your mind, pull the velcro, use some residue remover, and it’s like it never happened.

P1070611 (Copy)3) Reusable produce bags. We’ve all switched to reusable shopping bags already, right? But you still use the plastic bags in the produce aisle, don’t you? I’ve posted about these before as they were a liquid motivation purchase, but years later these babies are still going strong. All they are is a small mesh bag with a drawstring that can hold an huge bundle of produce, and are washable and long lasting. I have used these at every market from French Polynesia through Fiji and New Caledonia. Every small plastic bag you can avoid using in the islands is a big gain. I used them today in Australia at the Newcastle farmers’ market.

Passage Notes: A shark bit (hit?) our tow gen

P1070537 (Copy)

It was daylight and I was on watch. We were about 300nm off the E Coast of Australia near the Lord Howe Seamount Chain. Our tow gen, which is normally suspended by ropes from our stern pulpit, banged into the stern pulpit. This sometimes happens in big following seas when the tow gen propeller surfs a wave and slackens the line. When it happens, we jam ropes or other soft things between it and the stern pulpit to prevent damage. This time I sat staring at the stern pulpit for a second because the seas weren’t that big. The tow gen banged again against the pulpit. I thought maybe something was fouling the propeller and looked behind the boat toward the prop.

I saw a huge dorsal fin surface, moving sideways to our path. As it crossed where the tow gen prop was trailing, the back of the shark also rose out of the water for a second. I caught only a glimpse of it and I am terrible at estimating size and distance but I can tell you that I have never been in the water with a shark that big.

P1070539 (Copy)I squealed. Carol raced up from down below. And we watched the shark, now under water, pacing the tow gen prop, then falling further back but still visible in the waves pacing our boat. I took some video but of course the camera was downstairs initially and so it was too late when we brought it up (the story of cruising and wildlife usually). There is a grainy moment in the video where Carol and I see the shark with our eyes, but this screen shot (below) just shows something darkish in a wavelet.

When we pulled the propeller upon landfall in Coffs harbour several days later, it had candy stripe strips of paint removed from its shaft as if something hard/sharp had been pressed against it while it was spinning. Was it the shark’s skin when it bumped it? Did it actually bite it? We have no idea. There was also a gouge out of the propeller blade.

We had heard that sharks hit tow propellers but we had never spoken to anyone who had actually had it happen. I can state for the official record that they DO!

Terrible pic of the shark that bit our tow gen


Click on the dollar and buy Livia and Carol a cold frosty one:


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