Beginner to Pittwater: an Amazing Story

September 23, 2014

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Today we are publishing a story by Benjamin Williams, a recent graduate of the sailing school and a member of our club.

In just six short months we've gone from absolute beginners to sailing the ocean and living aboard our 23 ft yacht, something we definitely didn't think was possible at the start of the year – and we owe many thanks to Balmain Sailing Club for helping us get there.

The Little Blue

In March 2014, a small blue yacht named Dolphin came up for auction on eBay; without a single clue what we were buying or even how to sail, we took a punt and bought the 23ft Hood. 

Two weeks later, we had our first sailing lesson through the Balmain Sailing School learning the ropes with Nick and Cameron on the Beginners Laser course. Having done a lot more swimming than sailing, we were getting very eager to take Dolphin out on the harbour. 

The sailing school had taught us the points of sail and we were starting to capsize a lot less, but we were still lacking the confidence to hoist the mainsail on Dolphin.

We contacted the Sailing School seeking private lessons to show us the 'ropes' of a keelboat.  Lyn Evans happily obliged and showed us the ins and outs of our vessel.  From that moment on we've been obsessed with sailing and sail every chance we get.

But after four months of sailing Sydney Harbour, we wanted to spread our canvas wings and sail the big blue, so in September we planned to do just that by sailing to Pittwater.

The Big Blue

As directed by Lyn, we made our way to the heads on a beautiful sunny day with a 14 knot southerly. We had a relaxing one-metre swell and a very cruisy sail head to head.

We originally thought it would be a 'quick' three hour journey, but it took us a whopping seven hours as we lost the wind in the afternoon.

When we finally arrived, we moored at Church Point with Holmeport Marinas - toilet and shower facilities are a must when you have a 23 ft boat!  We had some friends meeting us for a weekend of sailing, on their 37 ft Cavalier, named New Horizons (the same boat Kay Cottee sailed the world in).

Our rendezvous point was Refuge Bay a sheltered cove roughly 2-3 hours’ sail from our marina. But with 22 knot winds we made it in great time, even with our reefed mainsail.

If you haven't sailed to Refuge Bay I highly recommend it, there are plenty of places to moor for the night and the best part is the stunning waterfall (PLUS the added bonus of having bad phone reception, so you've got nothing else to do but relax).

The next day we sailed over to Patonga, a secluded little suburb on the Central Coast.  There are public moorings available for small vessels; however we did manage to moor New Horizons with about 10 cm to spare between the sand and the keel (low tide); it was well worth the risk for Patonga's fish and chips.

After nine days in Pittwater, it was time to sail back to Sydney Harbour. The winds were forecast to be a 15-20 knot northerly, the swell was roughly two metres, and was very choppy in comparison with our first trip.

As we swung around the Barrenjoey Lighthouse into the big blue, a pod of Dolphins swam under our vessel; they were so close we could almost reach out and touch them.

With the northerly behind us we broad reached back to Sydney in record time (shaving three hours off our original time) and sailed safely back to our mooring in Hunters Hill.

For the more visual at heart, we’ve captured the highlights of our sailing trip in this three-minute video:

Benjamin Williams,
The Hopeful Sailor

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