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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!

This morning we enjoyed a lazy morning on board. Then, after a late breakfast of freshly baked crumpets, we headed ashore where we beached the dinghy and enjoyed a walk through the village of Salamander. It was lovely to stretch our legs after three days of being "boat bound".

Our walk eventually took us to the Salamander Shopping Mall where we enjoyed a mid-afternoon coffee and a few delights from Ma Belle Patisserie before Roy received a free haircut at the local barber shop. Yes, free. The young lady, who was an apprentice barber, needed someone to practise on and Roy had no trouble succumbing to the request, given that there was plenty of room for error.

On our return to the dinghy we stumbled across a memorial to HMS / HMAS Psyche, the "Forgotten Cruiser", constructed in 1899 and which, unfortunately, after years of service in the Royal Navy prior to and during the First World War, carrying out patrols off the Burma, Indo-China, the Bay of Bengal and Eastern Australia's coastlines, sank during a storm in Salamander Bay on 8th December 1924, 93 years ago to the day and will always be remembered as one of the first ships of the Royal Australian Navy.

The highlight of our day though, was receiving a video of the twins trying to walk. So far they've both worked out how to stand up and balance on their own, with Carter being so delighted with himself that he started to bounce on his little legs then flopped down again. Brayden on the otherhand managed to stand a little longer and had plenty to say for himself while he did so. We had hoped they would both walk while we were with them, but at least all Grandpa's walking up and down holding their hands caused something to click. Now the fun starts with the Irish triplets running around!

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.

We had an early start this morning to make our way through the Southport seaway just before high tide and, with that, we said our goodbyes to the Southport Yacht Club where Paw Paw spent a month in luxury and where we thoroughly enjoyed the amenities of the surrounding area.

Under sunny blue skies, as we rounded Cape Byron under full sails, we picked up our "magic carpet" ride; an additional 2 to 3 kts of speed, complements of the East Australian Current and enjoyed speeds of 9 to 10 Kts for most of the afternoon.

Tonight, under a bright moon, but with the winds having died down, we're motor-sailing on the genoa along, but still enjoying speeds of up to 8 Kts. We are keeping a vigilant watch though as we duck and dive around numerous cargo ships coming up the coast. We are in the company of a few other yachts and land is constantly visible, as we're only 10 to 15NM off the coast. It's a most unusual passage to say the least!

We were up early again this morning and enjoyed a walk along the beach before a delicious breakfast at Crema Expresso in Tedder Avenue. The rest of the day was spent doing the final preparations for our passage to Sydney, including rigging our new downwind "chicken chute", preparing our passage meals and completely our pre-sail checklist activities.

We've definitely enjoyed our stay in Southport, but as Roy pointed out to the ladies in the marina office, if we stay here any longer, he'll have to purchase a toupee, a Mercedes-Benz and a Southport Yacht Club membership, the latter of which they were more than willing to provide.

This afternoon, after catching up with Keenan, who has been looking after all the babies on his own these past few days, but seems to have survived the ordeal while Brooke enjoyed some "mother-daughter" time in Oregon,we decided to enjoy another walk along the beach, given that we'll be "boat bound" for the next few days.

However, before we even made it to the beach we were both nearly knocked over by an elderly man racing to get the only vacant disabled parking spot. As Elaine jumped backwards and Roy jumped forwards, he came careening into the parking spot, hitting the curb with an almighty bump and then had the audacity to get annoyed with us for walking in front of him, although he admitted to seeing Roy holding Elaine's hand as she limped across the road.

Instead of getting into an altercation with him, we decided to just walk on. What we weren't expecting, however, was that on our way back, he approached us and asked us to please accept his apology for being so rude. Our faith in the aussies was restored!

With the arrival of the bad weather on Saturday night, we had an interrupted night's sleep, but with Elaine's new mattress topper, she still woke fresh as a daisy. So, after catching up with Justine in the UK, she decided to bake soda bread and prepare a full cooked breakfast, something we both struggled to remember the last time we were able to that. Having mushrooms again was definitely a luxury.

After breakfast and while Roy lounged around, Elaine decided it was the perfect day to deck Paw Paw's halls. Then, after a coffee at the Southport Yacht Club, Roy set off on a long walk along the beach to Surfers Paradise while Elaine got stuck into reading our "Cruising the New South Wales Coast" guide and making the necessary navigational notes for our passage to Sydney, specifically around what anchorages are available en route and what conditions are required to cross the bar at the various destinations. Roy's excursion proved to be very fruitful when he stumbled upon one of Elaine's favourite South African chocolates, Peppermint Crisps. While Australia is definitely becoming one of our favourite destinations, finding Peppermint Crisps here could definitely tilt the scales. We topped off the day with drinks at the Yacht Club while enjoying the Sunday evening entertainment.

This morning after breakfast we headed ashore in the dinghy to enjoy a mid-morning coffee at the Australia Fair mall and to top up our provisioning, but on the way back we got absolutely soaked as the heavens opened and it's been bucketing down for hours ever since. Not the best day to do the last of our laundry, but needs must, so we're camped out at the Southport Yacht Club enjoying hot chocolate to warm up. A hearty beef stew for dinner should definitely go down well too.

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