7. Jervis Bay (NSW)

June 10-12  Canberra to Jervis Bay

After an early rise, we were on the road by 9am and headed north along the Federal Hwy, a luxurious dual carriageway which eventually turns into the Hume Hwy and winds its way to Goulburn and on towards Sydney. At Moss Vale, we left the Hume, and joined the Illawarra Hwy to cut through to the coast at Shellharbour. We knew that we had a 1000m to drop before hitting the coast but we were not quite ready for the awesome experience of towing a 25’ boat down the Macquarie Pass, 15 kms of down, down and more down. It was low gear, brakes, anchor over the side, grab some trees etc. It was such a long way and so narrow. For much of the trip, we followed behind a yellow truck with a trailer and figured that he would shield us from anything oncoming but he eventually pulled over and insisted we pass.

Once at the bottom, I naively thought that we would run along a coastal plain south to Jervis Bay. For a while, things were good, running on the Princes Hwy in the form of a big freeway but this eventually gave out, turning into terrible road works that wound through coastal mountains then into a horrific stretch between Kiama and Berry. We arrived in Jervis Bay, our next sailing destination, in a state of complete exhaustion.

We had chosen to launch at Callala Bay on the northern shore. The town consists of a small cluster of rather impressive beach houses with an associated school and shopping centre. Amazingly, there is no fuel outlet so it was a good thing we had enough for our needs. We found the launching ramp and a parking bay good enough to stay in for a bit. We walked to the shops, then returned to slowly rig the mast and ready Sandpiper for sea. Chatting to some locals, it seems the navy is currently bombarding the eastern shore of Jervis Bay (as they do) so a number of excellent sailing destinations are out of bounds. The positive signs were that everyone was bringing in loads of big squid, so we are hopeful of returning to a seafood diet. We rigged and settled down for the night, ready to launch in the morning.

With the morning temperature still low, we slept late and took our time getting in the water. The ramp is an interesting affair, very steep and without a finger jetty. A regular long high jetty is nearby but is about 5 metres away from the ramp so long lines are needed to control the boat. The area is subject to a low surge and even a small shore break in places. This surprised me because Jervis Bay is quite deep but the further south one heads the larger the swell effect. Good team work saw us in the water and up against the jetty for a brief time before motoring out to check out a suggested overnight anchorage behind Red Point. Jervis Bay is a marine park and many areas are total sanctuary zones, meaning no anchoring. In our case, all forecast winds were in the northern quadrant we were committed to returning to Callala Bay at the end of the day. Red Point looked good, with a secure anchorage area behind a protruding finger of reef, but no better than the anchorage around the launching area.

We raised all sail and headed south across the bay to an area known as the “Hole in the Wall” after a beach side rock formation. The low rolling swell increased markedly as we drew closer to the entrance to the open ocean but it was long and low and the wind waves small so sailing was pleasant, despite the temperature. As we passed the spectacular Point Perpendicular, the northern headland on the Jervis Bay entrance, the dull thuds of exploding ordinance started. We watched the shore line in vain for explosions or smoke trails but saw none, although later in the day a smoke trail from a shell landing did show up.

Point Perpendicular
Bowen Island and Governor Head

The beaches we were headed for were not suitable for a landing without the tender set up due to the onshore breeze so we admired them from the water and sailed towards the western shore and past HMAS Creswell, a naval training facility, and towards the small settlement of Hyams Beach. A naval helicopter appeared, flying low, and headed towards a large power boat motoring out of HMAS Creswell. It must have been practising dropping men onto the boat because we could see it hovering over the vessel with what appeared to be people being lowered on lines. The enormous cloud of spray caused by the rotors actually looked like smoke and must have been unbearable for the sailors on board the boat.

The rest of the sail was more of a motor straight back into the wind past the little towns of Hyams Beach and Vincentia. We bypassed the larger settlement of Huskisson, which has a narrow river inlet and boat ramp. Along the way, we marvelled at the gannets feeding. They pick their prey from quite a height, then dive steeply, entering the water like a bomb hitting. They seem to be underwater for some time before suddenly popping to the surface like a cork. It is an amazing spectacle. We headed across to the area that we had seen fishermen successfully squid fishing the previous afternoon and drifted for an hour or so. We were actually disappointed that we only caught one but at least it was a big one and enough for a delicious meal.  

Callala Bay Anchorage at sunrise

Sunset over the National Park

A down-side of the fishing was that I had to retrieve fishing rods from their storage space under the cabin floor. On lifting the floor, I found, to my horror, that there was quite a lot of greeny-brown liquid sloshing around in the bilge. It had two distinctive odours; (1) portable toilet chemical (2) urine. It seems the porta-potty cap was leaking, and the contents ended up in the bilge. Fortunately, the toilet had only been used for No 1s since its last emptying. Even so, soaking up loads of chemical infused urine and sluicing out with Napisan was not a pleasant job. Christine watched. She does real nappies with the grandchildren so I guess we are square.

The night anchorage was taken up inside the main mooring area with no public mooring vacant but we made sure we anchored over sand and left the precious seagrass undisturbed. As night fell, I turned on the LED spotlight at the rear of the boat in the hope of attracting squid. The squid stayed away but we did lure a big school of yellowtail scad. I caught one to rig up on a squid jig but this tasty morsel also failed to attract anything. The poor little fellow died in vain.

Our time on Jervis Bay has been very short, yet the place has definite appeal. The water is clean and sparkling. The warm Pacific Current keeps the water warmer than its latitude would suggest and the large area of marine reserves maintains a healthy population of marine life. The surrounding forests are equally attractive.  All in all, a place worthy of a visit.

June 13 & 14 Shellharbour & Wollongong

The morning was incredibly beautiful, with low mists drifting over a glassed out anchorage. It was a warmer morning than any we have experienced for weeks and we both donned shorts for the trip back through the moorings to haul the boat out. The clutch on the Power Winch failed again with the boat only inches from its destination so we had to muck around a bit to get things squared away. Sourcing the required parts for the winch in Sydney is a priority. Once on the hard ground again, we squared things away and prepared to hit the road to Shellharbour, an outer suburb of Wollongong.

The thought of driving back over the terrible stretches of the Princes Hwy filled us with fear but the return proved easier than the drive down. Perhaps we were fresher or maybe it was the fact that the sun was shining. It still wasn’t fun, but at least it was bearable.

Shellharbour Village is a delightful seaside village with more eating establishments than people, with the result that prices are excellent and options plentiful. We set up camp in the Shellharbour Seaside Tourist Park and marvelled at the amazing views across the bay to the industry of Wollongong in the distance. Lots of surfers braved what appeared to be suicidal conditions with a big swell running. Christine caught up on a lot of washing while I headed down into the bilges to deal with more of the left over nasty stuff.

After housework and showers, we walked into the village to stroll up the hill along the main street, purchase a few bits from the butcher and stroll down, pausing for a suitable break at the local pub. We even managed to sit outside and have a beer, the first time we’ve managed this since SA.