Port Stephens Sail Away September 2015
Team Windcraft’s Port Stephens rally began as a means for our owners to build confidence and gain experience of coastal sailing while part of a fleet.
Over the years it has developed into an annual highlight that families extend and adapt so they can share more time on the water with friends and loved ones.
In 2015 (our 9th year) we saw a staggered departure from Sydney, Pittwater and Port Hacking. Some boats left as early as Tuesday. More photos here
By Friday around 12 of the 22 boats gathered at Newcastle and enjoyed the excellent facilities and a fantastic atmosphere.
There are so many varied experiences and so many stories, we thought we’d tell the story of the 2015 Sail Away through a few different sets of eyes…
Ross Smith Hanse 415 “2easy”
“Our Hanse 415 still had the new boat smell… and I had only a few days experience sailing her through sessions with Team Windcraft and a calm return sail from Pittwater to Darling Harbour with the Smart Boating team.
So I was very much looking forward to our first ‘big’ Sail Away… and of course the comfort of being part of a large group of fellow owners with Team Windcraft experts close by.
“It wasn’t long before we we were in the thick of some challenging weather on our way to Newcastle. Concentrating on the course and sail settings in these conditions was a fabulous experience and being able to compare our progress to similar boats gave us an immediate comparison of right or wrong. At times we screamed along at 10 to 10.5 knots which was very exciting. ”2easy” exceeded our expectations in her ease of handling.
“Watching different approaches into Newcastle from other crews in a heavy swell and breeze was educational to say the least. Over dinner and drinks at Newcastle Yacht Club, more experienced owners freely shared helpful advice with us which we much appreciated. The next day threw similar conditions at us, and we bravely (or foolishly) tried several different procedures like MoB Drill which cost us a few hours but was a tremendous learning experience.
“When we finally reached the Anchorage at Port Stephens, it was lovely to be greeted by the Windcraft team who helped us berth, explained the plan for the weekend… and of course gave us a very welcome cold beer!
“We sailed back on the Monday with 12 other Hanse and Moody boats. We started early and were soon accompanied by six humpbacks who put on a wonderful show with constant tail slapping around the boat – what a treat!
The dolphins at the bow could not compete with this spectacular show which eventually headed off to entertain Greg and Ross on ”Lady Janie”. We arrived back at Bayview just on dusk, nursing faces that hurt from smiling too much, and enjoyed a cold beer before heading back to dry land and reality.
I can happily say that our minimal sailing experience was no hindrance since we were welcomed by other crews and immediately made to feel like part of the Windcraft family. Special thanks to Hayden for coming on board for some electrical systems instruction after the Saturday night dinner and Mary for her other talent of introductions to like-minded characters.
Team Windcraft’s Iain Bishop 385 “Waternut”
“I was lucky enough to join Mark and Helen Stephens on board Hanse 385 ”Waternut” for the sail up. Last year Mark and Helen had literally just got the boat so hired a skipper to help with the sail. This year they felt confident to go it alone with me on board ‘just in case’… they did a brilliant job in testing conditions and really didn’t need me at all!
“We had a fast and exciting sail, sometimes hitting 12/13 knots down the big swell. At times the wind gusted to 30 knots and kept us all on our toes. I’ve heard a few claims to the top speed… but the prize probably belongs to David Newton on his new Dehler 46 “YKnot” with 17.3 knots!
”It was lovely to be always in sight of other boats in the fleet – at one stage ”Lady Janie” a 415 passed us. We sailed a lot of the way with Hanse 415 ”2Easy” and saw Hanse 400e “Caprice” . Helen and Mark loved the sail and in the testing conditions were very glad they’d chosen to fit a boom preventer. From my side it was a wonderful exhilarating sail with great company and the 385 sailed just beautifully.
For the Newcastle to Port Stephens leg the wind dropped but since we were travelling into the swell it was very rolly - a few crews mentioned feeling a bit green at times. There were some big dumps of rain and even hail to contend with but we were lucky enough to miss most of them. The wind filled in later in the morning which made the going more pleasant. An enormous pod of around 50 dolphins was a absolute delight and whales welcomed us at the entrance to Port Stephens.
Murray Kellam on Moody 41 Classic “Wollamai”
Margot and I have been involved in all of the last six Port Stephens sail-away weekends.
Over the last few years increasing numbers of yachts have enjoyed a stopover in Newcastle at the CYC, which is always welcoming and provides excellent facilities. The Newcastle waterfront is becoming more and more come alive with restaurants and cafes.
This year Ruth and Steve on “Marquise” (Moody 41), Chris and Kate on their new “Bilbungra” (Hanse 445) and Margot and I on “Wollamai” (Moody 41) all left Pittwater on Wednesday – a perfect sunny spring day expecting wild southerly change the next day.
A light southeasterly breeze ranging between five and 15 knots with calm seas made for a pleasantly mixed sail and motor sail to Newcastle. The prediction for strong winds, thunderstorms and lumpy seas on the Thursday and Friday proved correct and those of us who had had a quiet restful time in Newcastle greeted others who arrived fully togged in their wet weather gear!
Amongst those who braved the stormy conditions were Mark and Helen on Waternut (Hanse 385), Ross and Leanne on 2 Easy (Hanse 415), Sue and John on Imagine (Hanse 430), Brian and Amanda on Dalwhinnie (Moody 45), Alasdair, Tracy, Anton and Glenda on Four Seasons (Hanse 400) and Julianne and John on Pegasus (Hanse 400).
A number of us headed for Port Stephens on the Saturday morning and enjoyed a mostly clear day with a light northwesterly breeze.
We always get a very good welcome from The Anchorage at Port Stephens and this year was no exception. Alistair who manages the marina has been looking after our fleet for many years now. He always groups our boats together and is very helpful and obliging to Windcraft team and owners.
The Anchorage dedicated some lovely rooms for our big dinner and breakfast to us with a newly completed all weather deck – perfect for relaxing pre-dinner drinks. It was particularly magic to look down at the fleet below us from the deck – all the Hanse Group boats lined up made an impressive sight!
Dinner that night at the Anchorage was, as usual, a great evening with opportunities for meeting old friends and making new ones. In our case, amongst the new friends were John and Tina on Harmony (Hanse 350). We had owned their H350 previously and we had a nostalgic visit to the boat in Port Stephens.
It was great to see a boat that we had enjoyed so much in such good condition. Obviously the boat is giving as much joy to its delightful new owners as it did for us.
Sunday saw a cloudy day in Port Stephens but the rain stayed off long enough for us all to enjoy a vast quantity of prawns accompanied by nice cold sparkling wine and beer, all provided by the Windcraft Team and Club Marine in a park on the beach near the Anchorage.
Team Windcraft’s Hayden and Ross drove the superfast Axopar 28 all the way from Bayview. On Sunday morning this provided great entertainment for kids young and old!
However dire warnings of southerly gales over the next few days influenced the majority of the fleet to depart Port Stephens early the next morning. The marina was alive with activity the next morning as at least 13 yachts departed during one hour.
The run home to Pittwater for us and to Port Jackson for others was with a light nor’easter, which strengthened to 15 knots or so by late afternoon. Another glorious spring day concluded a highly enjoyable few days. Thanks to the Windcraft team who were involved in both the hard work of planning the event, and in making the weekend so enjoyable for we owners.
Andrew Kemp Port Stephens to Pittwater on Hanse 355 “Penzance”
With weather forecast showing a big southerly coming through late Tuesday, most boats including us decided to head home early Monday morning. Between 5 and 6am all you could see was a of procession yachts leaving the marina… navigation lights on… and heading to the sunrise.
Our boat Hanse 355 “Penzance” was a real family affair with father and sons sailing together (and me ‘Dad’ getting a sleep in while my son helmed!).
The spectacular sunrise, worth absolutely worth the early rise and it was relatively warm which made time on deck really pleasant. The wind started off light form the north west, but there was just enough to get the G2 up. The swell was gentle enough for us to enjoy a nice white wine to go with our lunch!
Highlights were dolphins off the bow and a magnificent and playful whale was spotted close by. And of course the fact that we could always see another Hanse for the whole trip made us feel we were very much part of a community.
2013 was a great year with 110 people on 26 boats (including 3 Moodys) enjoyed a fabulous sail up the coast and the social side of boating on some of the best waterways in the world. Pictures and video here
2012 sailors were blessed with blue skies, fair winds and lots of camaraderie. Pictures and full 2012 Port Stephens story here
2011 was a fantastic event despite some very poor weather. Read more about 2011 Port Stephens story here