Camden Bar in quiet mood. Note difference in pic shown at the bottom of this post!
In a dramatic turn of events the weather turned nasty as a monster East Coast low developed off South East Queensland on Friday. As two troughs collided and formed one big low a shudder of impending danger ran through the sailing community.
Before I get to tell you about my first encounter with an East Coast low there is some catching up to do.
Last post described our delight in finding a fine berth in Port Stephens. Spoilt with good coffee, friends to share it with and mostly pleasant weather we put in a very enjoyable stay in this delightful place. Despite our good intentions to explore the region and its many interesting bays and lagoons we were hamstrung by some rough bay conditions whipped up by strong Westerlies for a number of days prior to departure.
Resolving to return and see more of this delightful place we put to sea once more, this time in company with Steal Away, (Shane and Debbie Cameron) and Trufflehound (David Halton). The length of our voyage and time of departure to Laurieton was determined in part by the need to arrive in ideal conditions for crossing the bar safely, this dictated that we leave shortly after sunset.
The journey was a little lumpy in stages but that didn’t diminish our delight at finally getting in a good sail for the majority of time. Arriving off Point Perpendicular before our companions we jigged around till they arrived. Despite the tide only just turning, the bar and subsequent river proved to have ample water for our deep keels. Gliding through the channel we took on the sights of Dunbogan and Laurieton shorelines, the abundant boats and wildlife in this picturesque place.
We weren’t able to come alongside the Services jetty at first as another craft occupied the only available position. To our delight however they moved off the next morning and we docked, made our ropes fast and hopped off to enjoy some shore time, the first for many days.
Thus began our exploration of this wonderful region of Northern NSW.
View from North Brother Mountain with Camden Bar in distance.
The geography of Laurieton determines that the town stays relatively unspoilt, the river unpolluted and the pace gentle.
On the other side of the Camden River lies Dunbogan and its nature is one of tourist town, ocean beaches and caravan parks. This arrangement works well and the locals like it that way. We found the town friendly and welcoming, scenic and easy to find our way around.
This was the end of the journey for Trufflehound and for Dave this was home and he drove us around, visiting some iconic places such as North Brother mountain and nearby Port Macquarie.
Bureau of Meteorology the day the East Coast Low formed. Red is 35-45 Knots (65 -84 km/hr) Brown is 45 knots +.
Next day a mighty East Coast low formed off the Southern Queensland coast and the nightmare began. The Bureau of Meteorology had been warning of severe weather conditions for a week now and everyone knew it was coming.
On the Friday two fronts collided forming one big East Coast low that quickly began carving its path of destruction Southwards.
Extreme high winds and torrential rain began to fall on the Sunshine/Brisbane/Gold Coast regions and we knew it was just a matter of time before it was our turn.
Massive seas to 11 metres, whipped up by the cyclonic winds began to lash the coastline and tear it apart.
Down here in Laurieton we didn’t have to wait long for our turn. Within 24 hours the winds in our area were howling and huge sheets of rain were being dumped on our deck. Being tied up to a solid dock meant the Freespirit was safe enough, though concern for our lines and contact with the dock superstructure meant that sleep was scarce and stress levels high.
The next 24 hours were like being in a giant washing machine then late Sunday conditions eased and a wind shift indicated that the main body of the low had (finally) passed by.
Pic taken from opposite rock wall to the top pic above, taken the day after the East Coast Low hit Camden Bar.
In its path were sunken boats, beaches washed away, lives lost, destruction everywhere. Being called the worst on record, this East Coast low formed in Queensland and extended all the way down the East Coast of Australia to Tasmania.
Even as I write, Tasmania is experiencing wild weather, severe flooding and people have gone missing.
What a mad weekend it has been.