It appears Helios was destined to cruise; most of you would have already enjoyed the previous owners of Helios’s journey to North Queensland. We purchased Helios in December 2018 and with some long service leave owed in May-July, 2019 we started to plan our 1st extended cruise to Lake Macquarie – for both us & onboard Helios.
After a few weeks of preparation, loading of supplies, cooking / vacuum sealing & freezing of meals (thankfully Integrity Motor Yacht’s are designed with plenty of storage – unsure if this was all meant for wine), our plan was to be self-sufficient as being 1st timers on the Lake we were unsure of the accessibility of supermarkets, more about this later.
The day had finally arrived (Monday 13th May) we dropped our mooring @ Berowra Waters for the cruise to Pittwater to pre-position ourselves for an early start on Tuesday. After a morning walk and with our two dogs (Betty & Nelly) and one cat (Batman) on board we departed the Basin @ approx. 0725hrs – predicted seas where 0.6mtr waves with a 0.6mtr swell from SW www.windy.com appeared to be a little lumpier than that but all-in-all a pretty good day for cruising 1800rpm @ 6.8-7.5knots.
Departing Broken Bay to the North you will see the last of the coastlines imposing cliff lines, further north is smaller to medium outcrops. Significant points of interest is Crackneck Point which on a clear day you can make out the Bahai Temple which is well inland, if you look south you can still make out the high-rise buildings of Sydney and its haze of pollution, the entrance to Tuggerah Lakes – only accessible to runabouts, Norah Head with a lighthouse, Bird Islet – which would be an interesting Island to explore, tall chimneys of the powerhouses on the shore of Lake Munmorah and then just at the entrance to the mighty lake you round Moon Islet. After six hours of cruising we rounded Moon Islet and crossed a very flat Lake Macquarie bar, coming in from the sea there are readily picked up entrance leads that navigate into the channel to approach the bridge. Courtesy moorings are located on either side of the bridge (three on the eastern side & two on the western side), which are convenient when waiting for your bridge opening time these need to booked at least one hour prior through Marine Rescue Lake Macquarie marinerescuelakemacquarie.com.au (02) 4971 3498. We picked up a courtesy mooring on the East side of the Swansea Bridge awaiting our pre-booked 1400hrs bridge opening – we were met by our friends (three year Balcolyn locals) to assist us with the Swansea Channel which initially appears daunting to navigate, however once in channel markers are easy to follow – just need to keep your wits about you.
Our 1st night on the Lake would be spent on a borrowed mooring at Balcolyn, the next day we were excited to be beginning our long-awaited unplanned exploration of the Lake – our cruising friends had some bays they wish to take us to but mostly it was just going to be a gentle cruise and find a bay to anchor or make use of the courtesy moorings – which are all clearly marked on the Lake Macquarie map available on the RMS website. Before the voyage, we joined the RMYC Toronto which enabled us the free use of Marina facilities one night per week and also use of their two moorings (Summerland Point & Browns Point).
The Lake is a magnificent cruising location, there is always somewhere for a safe overnight anchorage to ensure you are out of the prevailing winds. It would be too long to give you a day-by-day story; however, we found the Lake to be a fabulous place with plenty of facilities e.g. Public Wharves with water & some with pump-out stations, and plenty of rubbish bins to remove evidence of excessive wine consumption – once again all marked on the Lake Macquarie map. People may not realise but Lake Macquarie is Australia’s largest saltwater lake and is four times the size of Sydney Harbour with 175km of shoreline, from north to south the lake is 23kms and approx. 8kms at its widest.
Here are some of our most memorable anchorages and why:
Rathmines: has a pump-out station and water facility on the public wharf as well as a tremendous new wharf called ‘F’ Wharf due to its shape which also has water facilities – we utilised this new wharf mid-way through our journey for a few nights due to the predicted strong westerly winds. There are also three courtesy moorings in this area. Rathmines was home to the Catalina flying boats during WWII and at its peak strength of almost 3,000 RAAF personnel in 1944-45. It comprised 230 buildings and marine facilities and there were forty aircraft in service. Each year a Catalina Festival is held at the original site of the airbase, which we attended, there were vintage cars & hot rods, food stalls, markets and heaps of aerial displays – there is so much history in this area which includes a War Memorial near the Rathmines Memorial Bowling Club to remember the 332 Airmen from the base lost their lives in flying boat operations during the war.
Also in this area is a short walk to the township of Rathmines with an IGA, Butcher, Take-Away, Pet Shop & Grooming Saloon and Bottle Shop. There is also for those interested in wooden boats a variety of men’s shed here called the Lake Macquarie Classic Boatshed which is open Tuesdays & Thursdays from 0900-1300hrs.
Gwandalan: We utilised the Courtesy Mooring directly in front of the Bowling Club, however, is pretty shallow for those boats that draw more than 1.3mtrs, you can tie up at the Bowlo’s wharf once again keep an eye on you depth – which has a good restaurant and the township with all the conveniences you need is just a short stroll away.
Murray’s Beach: This area is experiencing a great deal of development with a Cafe, Jetty with water, public toilets & lovely walking paths and 2 x Courtesy moorings.
RMYC Toronto: As mentioned earlier we joined the club as part of our planning as we thought at some stage would be nice to go out for dinner – which we did on a Friday night – delightful dinner, very friendly staff, Jo even succeeded by winning a raffle which she kindly donated to a young local girl who was very impressed, the night finished with some dancing. The main shopping centre of Toronto is only a short stroll which certainly has everything you would require, all chain supermarkets, if not a member of RMYC, south of there is a new large public wharf which is closer to the Toronto township.
Wangi Wangi: Once again we grabbed the courtesy mooring just a short tender trip from the Wangi Wangi RSL – the RSL does have a jetty but unfortunately is currently unusable for tying up; however you can utilise it for access to the RSL via dingy and possibly the biggest IGA you will ever visit with all supplies from fresh fruit, vegetables & meat to a deli and bottle shop, there is also a Thai restaurant in the shopping centre. From the public boat ramp just, a short walk is a service station if you require tender fuel or LPG and across the road is a hardware store. The Wangi Workers Club also has a wharf with pump-out & water and you can stay overnight for $25 / night with power. On the south side of Wangi point is a public wharf with water & pump-out station.
Warners Bay: Developing yuppie area, lots of Cafes / Restaurants along the beachside road and just behind this is a supermarket … easy anchorage out front and a short tender trip to the foreshore. We had just a short stay here for lunch with friends at an Italian Deli. An innovative art trail adorns the Lake Macquarie foreshore from Belmont to Warners Bay, although we didn’t see the whole trail as for us and the dogs it was just a little too busy.
After lunch we cruised down the eastern shoreline which is a mixture of development & Nature Reserves, at Green Point there is a courtesy mooring but we chose to cruise further around to Cardiff Point where there is a public wharf so we could pick-up friends (Belmont locals) who would join us for lunch the next day.
Trinity Bay Marina: This is a new marina and is currently under a great deal of development and are selling house, land and marina packages, although we didn’t stay here we fuelled up before the cruise home – no fenders or ropes required and they have pump-out and water available. Andrew (manager) has offered for Team Integrity to raft-up on the marina.
Summerland Point: We picked up the RMYC mooring for the night – this also was an impressive area with wharf, pump-out and water. On land, there is a great park area with tables/toilets and only a very short walk in the little township is an IGA, a couple of restaurants & takeaway and bottle shop. The foreshore offers a pleasant walk in front of the houses.
Bird Cage Point, Wyee Point, Pulbah Island & Browns Point: Although no facilities or buildings excellent anchorages or courtesy moorings to be one with nature – access to land with walking tracks through State Nature Reserves, ideal locations for afternoon strolls to enjoy the amazing sunsets, the beaches and landing areas are not sand they are small peddles but still safe for the bottom of your tender. Pulbah Island has four courtesy moorings – two on the North & two on the Southside of the Island, Browns Point has one courtesy mooring near the RMYC one.
Dora Creek: Although we didn’t stay here overnight, was a nice gentle cruise up the creek to a wharf just before the road and rail bridge which is worth the exploration up the creek in your tender – Oh well will put that on the list for next time. We tied up at the wharf and went across the road for some takeaway fish and chips, worth the trip – IGA, bottle shop & fresh fish store also in the row of shops. There is a train station here which would make for an easy pick-up of passengers.
We had originally only planned to spend three weeks on the lake however due to an East coast low and predication of up to 5.1mtr S waves with 3.6mtr SE swell and 30kt SW winds it was decided to sit it out until better sea-going conditions – a wise old sailor once said to me; “The worst thing you can have when cruising is a calendar”. So, we sat it out and waited until after the July long weekend when the forecast was suitable with a prediction of 0.6mtr NE waves with 0.4mtr N swell and 10-15kt S winds; dropping our overnight mooring on the east side of the Swansea Bridge we commenced our cruise towards the open ocean, just after rounding Moon Islet as I set our course on the plotter Jo let out a loud scream, I thought ‘what the’ and as she pointed to about 20mtrs off the starboard bow I saw a large splash from a whale re-entering the water after breaching, placing the motor into neutral we witnessed two whales swimming north and blowing out of their blowholes … this voyage just kept giving … after six hours of very smooth cruising, we entered Broken Bay with amazingly calm conditions.
This voyage achieved all of our desired outcomes:
- Relax & Unwind
- Explore Lake Macquarie
- Cruising & Catching up with great friends
- Ocean Cruising
- Learning the In’s & Out’s of Helios
- Develop system’s for start-up, mooring/anchoring/marina berthing/raft-ups & shut downs (not just for each other but for the dogs & cat as well)
We were very impressed with this cruising wonderland and all the wonderfully maintained facilities, it was a regular to witness toilets being cleaned and paths being blown early in the mornings whilst out on our morning walks with the dogs, the whole lake foreshore is so very well maintained. Maybe due to the time of year we visited but the Lake was extremely quiet therefore we mostly had no dramas in picking up a courtesy mooring or tying up to a wharf and sometimes if we liked the area staying for a couple of days. Of one note the wharves are set-up for tying up with cruisers, so can be a little high and difficult to climb out of your tender. To sum up Lake Macquarie: absolutely breath-taking sunsets and wonderful flat-water playground well worth the effort to plan – certainly one for the cruising bucket list.
Mick & Jo