Vagabonding – The Hawkesbury and Pittwater experience

Week 19

Australia is beautiful – fact

The Basin, Pittwater
The Basin, Pittwater

We’ve seen some seriously beautiful places on our travels so far and the Pittwater and the Hawkesbury presented some of the most picturesque views we’ve seen to date. The challenge in this blog is to keep the picture count sensible as almost every shot was a keeper.

We hired a boat for 3 days and, along with Jenni’s dad John, went for an adventure on the water. The boat was a 34′ Clipper. An older vessel but luxurious. Polished wood, 6 berth, 2 showers and toilets and a walk around deck.

The Clipper
The Clipper

Jenni and I had our laptops and internet hotspot so attending to work requirements wouldn’t be a problem on this trip.

I have hardly ever been on a small boat never mind be given charge of a very expensive one to drive around in. I know nothing about boats or boating. Australians take to the water like baby turtles as soon as they are hatched. That’s because the water around Australia warm (mostly) and fun (mostly). I’m a farmer from Ireland. A trip to the seaside for us as kids was enduring biting cold winds, freezing seas and an ice cream, if you were lucky. You never, ever went in the water. We fished in rivers and off the piers but never left the land. Fishing boats were for explorers and burly fishermen types with thick knitted Aran woollen jumpers. Professionals if you like. Luckily John is an expert on boats and Jenni is a dab hand at fishing and mooring as we discovered. More on that later.

I’d been sent some T’s & C’s to read before we picked up the craft, two of which were;

  1. Don’t use the anchor
  2. Don’t pull up to a pier or other dock

If I can’t use the anchor or pull up to a pier the only way to get ashore was to use the mooring points and row the little boat, I discovered was called a tender, to the shore.

Therefore the adventure started before we left shore. I spent a while watching YouTube instructional videos on how to moor a boat and how to steer a boat and how not to crash a boat and drown everyone.

Captain Jim
Captain Jim

 

After a stop for provisions we picked up the craft. Terry, the friendly boat hand, showed me how to switch it on and off, how to make it go forward and back and a told me a few other essential rules like don’t move at night, don’t use the anchor, go easy on the lights as you’ll run down the battery etc etc. After the debrief Terry drove us out of the dock a bit then jumped in the little tender he had dragged along, waved and left us to our own devices.

The YouTube videos must have made some impact as we made it into deeper waters without incident. Quickly I discovered how to transfer the controls to the top deck where I could not only see better but also discovered it had a boating sat nav gps gadget thingy.  This showed me the blue bits to keep the boat in and how much water was under you. Both those pieces of information are very useful to a novice. It also had snail trials tracing the routes all the other who had hired this before me had taken. I figured if I stayed between the left most and right most trails then I’d have a good chance of getting through this.

West Head Battery

We were rounding the headland that separated the Pittwater from the Hawkesbury. On the banks we saw these gun emplacements. I discovered they were called the West Head Battery.

West Head Battery
West Head Battery

From the West Head Battery Web Site

Between the mouth of the Hawkesbury River and Pittwater, is Ku-ring-gai National Park, here, below the cliffs of Commodore Heights lay the remains of an old defence complex that has become known as West Head Battery (WHB). Access to the site is extremely difficult and over the years the installations became overgrown, at the same time historical detail became equally ‘lost’.
During WWII this Battery formed the first line of a system of defences protecting Pittwater, the Hawkesbury Rail Bridge and Woy Woy Rail Tunnel. This old defence installation has two particularly unique features:

  1. Gun Battery – it is the only dual 4.7” gun battery in Australia.
  2. Inclined Railway – it is the only defence system in Australia that had an inclined railway to service it.

We’d picked our first mooring and fishing place, Yeoman’s Bay. The first task was to hook a mooring spot. Jenni was a natural, she made the complicated manoeuvre look effortless.

Mooring the boat
Mooring the boat

We had to moor a few times on this trip and each time Jenni hooked it up and got us moored without issue or incident. I just pointed the boat at the coloured floating ball and if I got generally close, she got it.

Yeoman’s Bay

The journey to Yeoman’s Bay took about an hour. The river was calm, the sun was shining, the company divine and the experience memorable. What a great start to the trip.

There’s a line from a movie “Put yourself in the way of beauty” and we did. There was beauty everywhere on this part of the journey, and in all parts of the trip as it turned out.

JIM_5956
Yeomans Bay
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Yeomans Bay

If you read my blogs you’ll know I’m a fan of superlatives so I’ll try a good one for this, Yeomans Bay was magnificent. Every angle was a picture postcard. About 2 minutes after we moored John has his fishing line in the water, 30 seconds later Jenni did too. Jenni caught a few fish, most were too small to keep so they went back. She hooked a huge whiting and got it as far as the surface but it broke free just before we could get the bucket under it to bring it aboard. Meanwhile I fired up the bar-b-que. I pretty happy with this view while BBQ-ing.

Bar-B-Que on the river
Bar-B-Que on the river

And John went farther afield to try and catch some dinner.

Gone Fishing
Gone Fishing

After some non seafood related lunch we demoored, unmoored, left Yeoman’s Bay for American Bay for our chosen overnight stop.

American  Bay

Fishing in American Bay
Fishing in American Bay

It was almost dusk by the time Jenni effortlessly hooked us up to another mooring point in American Bay and temperatures were dropping. About a minute after docking John had his fishing line in the water, 30 seconds later so did Jenni. There’s a pattern forming here.

Dusk in American Bay
Dusk in American Bay

We had this entire bay to ourselves this night and it was peaceful and beautiful. It certainly wasn’t interrupted by the sound of fish being caught.

Working and Relaxing

Working on the Clipper
Working on the Clipper

Jenni and I had some key work tasks to complete for the morning. It gets dark about 5:30pm at this time of year on the water so after dinner we retired to our bunks and fired up the laptops. We’ve become expert at balancing work and Vagabonding.

This is Jenni on working on the boat while we made our way to American Bay. An nice office with a view to work out of.

Mixing work and Vagabonding
Mixing work and Vagabonding

It was so dark in American Bay, no light pollution at all. I could see millions of stars. I tried to capture the scene on camera but boats on water are uncooperative and it refused to stop moving for even the 30 seconds I needed to take the picture. So you’ll have to use your imagination and visualise the sky, cloudless and star filled.

Sunrise American Bay

Sunrise, American Bay
Sunrise, American Bay

The Sun rises at about 6:30am. John rises about 5:30am and starts fishing. It’s at this point I should tell you a bit about Jenni’s father John. He’s a man of colossal wit and intellect.  He has incredible energy, leaping around the boat and in and out of the tender like a teenager. He knows all about boating and on this trip I learned a lot about how not to kill everyone on board. That’s useful for someone driving a boat with others on board.

John early morning fishing
John early morning fishing

Eventually Jim and Jenni rise. Black coffee was in order.

It was a beautiful, misty morning in American Bay. Today our plans were to stay here for a while and fish a bit, work a bit, then drive to another bay later in the morning. The plan worked perfectly.

Jenni did a bit more fishing too.

 

Look at that casting style
Look at that casting style

The Basin

The stopping place for this day was to be The Basin, an inlet around the heads the other way. It was a beautiful morning and the river was calmer than the day before.

I was getting the hang of this boat piloting thing. I knew all I needed now was a cool hat and some Vegemite on toast and I’d pass for an expert.

Breakfast on board
Breakfast on board

John came onto the bridge to check my Captains uniform and piloting skills.

You see that blue stuff, that's water, stay in that!
You see that blue stuff, that’s water, stay in that!

With my trusty boating sat nav I knew when it was OK to go closer to the shore. We went a bit closer to take a look at these outstanding properties. John told us when he last went boating in the Pittwater 50 years ago there were maybe 4 fisherman’s huts on the shore of this part of the river. Wouldn’t want to guess how many millions one 7 bedroom mansions would cost.

The run between American Bay and The Basin took us through a smack of jellyfish. Yes that’s right, smack of jellyfish. Look it up. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of them floating around the boat, and some of them were huge. We could hear them smack against the side of the boat as drove through them. As I was driving I wasn’t able to take a picture of the huge number of them, I did get this picture of one of them though to show what they look like.

Australian Jellyfish
Australian Jellyfish

 

The Basin

This was a bit more of a popular spot. Even though it was mid week there were about 20 boats moored all around us. Again Jenni hooked the rope up without incident and moored us to our chosen spot. And again the fishing lines were in the water not long after that.

Fishing
Fishing
Me not fishing
Me not fishing

I may have given the impression that fish were not caught, that was deliberate and for some comic effect. Fish were caught, of the right size and were promptly gutted and filleted and put on ice for breakfast on the last day.

It's a whopper
It’s a whopper

About lunchtime we booked a water taxi to take us to Palm Beach across the river. There are no moorings in Palm Beach so we couldn’t park,anchor, moor, go there in this boat.

Water Taxi

On the Water Taxi
On the Water Taxi
On the Water Taxi
On the Water Taxi

The water taxi was fast, we crossed the river in 5 minutes and we headed into Barrenjoey House for lunch.

Barrenjoey House
Barrenjoey House
Sumptuous Lunch at Barrenjoey House
Sumptuous Lunch at Barrenjoey House

We had Morton Bay Bugs, they’re a lot like lobster but nicer, Fatoush with smoked trout, a bucket of fresh prawns and some home baked bread. The food was delicious and worth the trip. As we were taxiing and not driving the boat again that afternoon the beer was nice too, I had a very acceptable Kosciusko Pale Ale.

Palm Beach. Enjoying the view after lunch
Palm Beach. Enjoying the view after lunch

After lunch it was back to the Clipper on the water taxi for some more fishing fun before it got dark. When we got back we noticed there were a lot fewer boats moored in the bay.

The Last Day

We were greeted by a beautiful sunrise on the last day.

Sunrise over The Basin
Sunrise over The Basin

Our plan for the morning before we left the boat back was for Jenni and I to go for an explore around Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park while John cooked us up some breakfast with the fish caught over the last few days. After demonstrating some unique gymnastics skills I made it into the tender and sparked up the engine and Jenni and I rode it to the beach and went for an explore.

The Basin, Pittwater
The Basin, Pittwater

On the shoreline there’s a camp site and basic facility block with toilets and showers. We used the showers the previous day and discovered the water wasn’t heated, in fact I’m pretty sure the water went through a chiller. I still had a shower though, builds character as my dad would say. The water taxi guy told us that there a lady who lives in the camp site permanently, she’s been there for years. We saw her tent the previous day, it was a small one person pop up tent, no frills. She certainly must have character, the beauty of this place must be worth it for her.

Almost unbelievably the shore in the early morning was like a real life demonstration of the infinite variety of Australian wildlife, there were wallabies, kookaburras, goannas and a hundred little birds I recognised but didn’t know the name of.

Unimpressed Kookaburra
Unimpressed Kookaburra

Of course work never stops, but this Kookaburra seemed unimpressed with Jenni’s phone style. I always thought Goannas were cute not dangerous but I forgot for a second where I was. Luckily there was this poster to remind me everything in Australia is a possible threat to humans.

Dangerous Goanna Poster
Dangerous Goanna Poster

That being said all the animals we encountered seemed very comfortable around humans, none of them paid us any attention.

Apart from river there was only one path in and out of this park, and it was steep.

About halfway up there was a ridge and a break in the trees and we got a great view of our boat in the bay.

View from the ridge
View from the ridge

After exploring a while we walked back to the shore. Looking across at the boat we saw John on deck, you’ll never guess what he was doing?

Still fishing
Still fishing

As a humorous last episode the outboard motor on the little boat died and I had to row the tender back to the Clipper. The local ferry turned up on cue and I held it up for a while as I rowed across its path and tried to remember how to row and turn while rowing. A few NSW water police who’d turned up for a training course were standing on the shoreline having a great time watching me try to avoid the worlds slowest boat collision.

Ferry
The Ferry I almost hit

Jenni and I got back safely, and had the marvellous breakfast John had created. Eventually, and with a warm glow, we set off back to the wharf to return the Clipper.

Good bye Pittwater and Hawkesbury rivers. You’ve been great hosts. We hope to return soon for a repeat performance.

 

 

 

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