It doesn't feel like it was that long ago we were logging Day 500 and Day 600 since starting our circumnavigation, but here we are on Day 700. Simply incredible and a glance at our yellowbrick track brings back, in an instant, all the wonderful memories we've collected along the way. Of course, our hope is that we can continue to enjoy and, more importantly, appreciate, this fabulous lifestyle with each new experience.Yesterday evening as we watched the sunset, we had the pleasure of seeing more dolphins that had entered the bay. Whether it was Roy's choice of dreadful music he had decided to blast out from a new playlist or just natural curiosity that attracted them to Paw Paw, we will never know, but they certainly came close enough to investigate the racket. After a delightful walk on the beach and then on to Colette Point this morning, we said goodbye to Port Stephens for our overnight sail to Sydney. Sailing under full sails in 10 to 15 Kts of wind out of the ENE, in flat sea and, under blue sunny skies, we couldn't ask for much more! Then, while in the process of writing this blog, we heard an almighty whoosh sound far too close to Paw Paw for comfort. As Roy undertook a hasty departure from the navigation station in the saloon to the helm station, with Elaine hot on his heels, our investigations revealed a huge whale less than 50 Ft from our starboard stern. After surfacing a few times, it disappeared and resurfaced less than 15 Ft from our port side midships. It then disappeared again and resurfaced midships on our starboard side, where it followed us for a little while longer. What a marvellous sight, albeit rather disconcerting having such a huge creature so close to us. It seems the amazing experiences continue unabated!
Although we were frustrated by the weather window closing sooner than forecast, which subsequently forced us to stop at Port Stephens rather than being able to continue on to Pittwater or Sydney, we're glad we diverted for a host of reasons.At about 12NM out we had a wind shift from a northerly of 6 Kts to a southerly of 25 Kts in a space of two minutes, destroying our starboard genoa car stirrup. Fortunately the stronger winds didn't last long, allowing us to make our destination safely, but the winds have stayed southerly and in the completely wrong direction for us to head further south. Then, after we were anchored, had a nap and had just finished putting Paw Paw back in order, a thunderstorm developed packing winds of 32 Kts. Fortunately that too only lasted about twenty minutes. Per the latest forecast, it appears we'll be here until after the weekend at least. However, we're definitely not complaining. The area reminds us of the Bay of Islands in New Zealand with the same "sleepy hollow" feel. It is very picturesque and, more importantly, tranquil; a welcome change after our whirlwind trip to the US and the hubbub of Southport. There is, of course, one major exception to the Bay of Islands in that the majority of bays here all have bars, restaurants, shops etc, on shore. We're anchored in Salamander Bay, from where it is apparently a short walk to the Salamander Shopping Mall and various amenities which we hope to explore tomorrow. The highlight of our day though, was our dolphin escort. A pod of about twenty to thirty dolphins frolicked in Paw Paw's bows and to either side of her from about 6NM out until we reached the entrance to Port Stephens and we were lined up with the leading light. At that point they simply disappeared. Although we have seen dolphins in various parts of the world, we have never had the experience of an escort. It was a very special encounter indeed!
Another look at the weather prompted us to reluctantly change our destination from Sydney to Port Stephens. Unfortunately the unfavorable weather associated with a low pressure system is now forecast to come further up the coast than previously predicted. So, rather than having it meet us en route, we decided to slow down to make Port Stephens by first light tomorrow morning. This will coincide with the rising tide and allow us to make a safe entry.Trying to slow down in the East Australian Current is another matter entirely though. With a slither of a headsail out, we were still doing an average of 6.2 Kts. Tonight, however, we're motor-sailing with a full headsail and one engine ticking over, which is giving us a little more control. There is definitely plenty to keep us occupied, especially all the cargo ships which reminds us of Panama City in many ways. There is also a huge bush fire raging and we can smell the resulting smoke nearly 10NM offshore. Add to that the haze from the smoke on top of a very dark night while we await the moon and vigilance is definitely required. Of course, having dolphins to entertain us on two separate occasions today made our day.