Sydney / Brisbane - Into the tropics (1/2)

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The advantage for boaters as they voyage north along the Pacific coast is that they have access to services and infrastructure. Stretching from the edge of the Southern Ocean to the Torres Straits, along an island larger than all of Europe, it’s a long voyage I have enjoyed doing several times. Best broken into two legs – Sydney to Brisbane and then the tropical leg north to Torres Strait – the region offers pristine cruising with few other yachts. This first story of a two-part guide covers the Sydney to Brisbane leg.

The perfect multihull playground

To be completely honest, I’ve done this cruise in both monohulls and multihulls. But it’s the latter that is undeniably better suited for comfortable coastal cruising where the more interesting shallow anchorages can be explored by multihull. Also, the prevailing southerly wind will be mostly behind you in the tropics. The region’s size means that there are two distinct weather zones – the more temperate southern half and the tropical northern part that is in the hurricane zone during the Australian summer (November through February). ‘Cyclones’ are the name Australians give to their hurricanes, and they can be fierce, such as Cyclone Debbie that destroyed much of the Whitsunday Islands yachting sector in the far north during March 2017. The Whitsundays remind me of my time cruising the Caribbean, a myriad of islands but with much quieter beaches and mostly deep anchorages. Offshore from the Whitsundays is where the Great Barrier Reef begins, creating a sheltered cruising ground all the way to the Torres Strait. We’ll be coming back to that soon…

Sydney Harbour

For those crossing the sometimes-bumpy Tasman Sea from New Zealand, Sydney Harbour will remind them of Auckland but on a larger scale and the harbor is one of the very best in the world for sailors. We enjoy year-round racing and cruising with fleets of multihulls and monohulls. Sadly, the world-famous Sydney-Hobart race is one I’ve only done on monohulls, as multihulls are still not allowed (unlike the Fastnet and Bermuda races). Many cruisers watch the start of this race on December 26 and then enjoy the worldfamous fireworks for New Year. The Harbour offers many sheltered bays and deep water right up to the shore. Long-term free anchorages are right in the heart of the city at Blackwattle Bay, but anchoring near beaches in the northern part of the city around Manly is also popular with blue water voyagers. Services are abundant with modern yacht slipways, chandlers and many yacht clubs that make visitors welcome. It’s here that paper charts and cartridges for electronic ones for the voyage north can be bought at chandlers or the Boat Books store. For those wishing to explore in detail on their way north, the pilot books from local sailor Alan Lucas are essential – Cruising the Coral Coast is indispensable for navigating the myriad channels behind the Great Barrier Reef.

Sailing north More secluded ...

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