Hawksebury River

Jerusalem Bay

From the Whitsunday Islands, we ran 960 miles south to the Hawksebury River system just north of Sydney. What started out as a side-trip, mainly for a convenient place to leave Dirona while we travelled back to the US, turned out to be a memorable part of the trip. The scenery and anchorages there were beautiful, but the real surprise was the town of Gosford. We went there planning to stop just for a few nights, and finally dragged ourselves away after ten days.

Highlights of the Hawksebury River adventure are below. Alan Lucas’ Cruising the Coral Coast had excellent advice–his large-scale charts were particurlarly useful for entering Gosford and navigating the upper reaches of the Hawksebury River, which are largely not covered by our C-Map or Navionics charts.

Refuge Bay
We stopped for our first night at popular Refuge Bay–described by some offshore sailors as one of the most beautiful in the world. That might be a bit of a stretch, but it is worth a multi-day stay. The anchorage has good shelter with bluffs all around and a waterfall and small beach at the head.
Gosford Sailing Club
The active Gosford Sailing Club holds a race every Wednesday in the summer. We were anchored just off the finish line and enjoyed an excellent show–we haven’t watched a sailboat race from Dirona since the Hawaii Yacht Club’s Friday night races. The sailing club takes their racing seriously–non-racing members apparently are defined as “non-sailing” members.
Lady Kendall II
The people of Gosford are among the most friendly we’ve encountered on what is becoming a fairly long trip. We had a great time chatting with some of the locals on board the Lady Kendall II. The man to James’ right is the Gosford Ocean Cruising Club port captain. This does not sound like a stressful position–a British boat visited Gosford about three years ago, and we’re apparently the only other foreign boat since. :)
Tom Slingsby
Gosford local Tom Slingsby was out in an Oracle Team USA Moth class sailing hydrofoil. The five-time Laser world champion was strategist for Oracle Team USA’s America’s Cup winning team, and currently is stategist, helsman and sailing team manager for when Oracle next defends the cup.
On a dinghy tour of the bay, we saw someone assembling what looked like another Moth class sailing hydrofoil. We went ashore and met Joel Castle, brother-in-law of Tom Slingsby, who’d we’d seen out sailing a Moth yesterday. Joel just had the foils faired and painted, and was reassembling his Moth. We spent ages watching Joel sail around the bay. The Moths are exciting to watch, especially as they come up onto the foils, but look incredibly difficult to manage.
In addition to the Wednesday twilight race, Saturday is an even bigger big race day for the Gosford Sailing Club. Well over fifty boats were out today, including the Laser and Etchells fleets. We had a good view of the action from Dirona.
Gosford Sailing Club
David Slingsby, a Gosford Sailing Club director, invited us to the club for drinks after the race. We had a great time chatting with the group about sailboat racing and our trip across the South Pacific. Surprisingly, David’s wife Mavis, seated opposite James, also is from Seattle.
Four-Island Cruise
Allan Draper invited us as his guests on the Lady Kendall II for their Four-Island Cruise. We had a wonderful day touring the Hawkesbury area–even at eight knots it took the better part of a day to see it all.
Foiling camp
Gosford Sailing Club director David Slingsby offered us the opportunity to meet the defending America’s Cup champions, Oracle Team USA, who were at nearby Lake Macquarie for Foiling Camp. Read more …
Hawksebury River
We finally pulled ourselves away from Gosford to explore other parts of the Hawkesbury River system. The scenery along the Hawksebury is striking, particularly on this stretch between the Dharug and Marramarra National parks.
Wisemans Ferry
The ferry at Wisemans Ferry is the first of two cable ferries crossings that we will pass going upriver. When the ferry is docked with its flashing yellow light off, the cable will be lying on the bottom and it’s safe to proceed. We’d crossed a cable ferry before in the dinghy, but never in Dirona–it definitely had our attention. This particularly crossing was busy enough that two ferries were running about every ten minutes, so we didn’t have much time to pass.
Calabash Bay
We anchored for the night in beautiful Calabash Bay with the Marramarra National Park to our north. We were on the park side of the channel, with houses in the distance on the other side.

Peats Bite
We were thinking of running the tender south to Berowra Waters, and maybe finding a pub for a quick lunch, when David Slingsby sent us email asking if we were planning to have lunch at Peats Bite. Our cruising guide showed the location nearby, and we figured we could get a burger there as well as anywhere, so off we went. Our first hint that this was an unusual place is that they don’t even have a sign. We subsequently learned they don’t have a road, nor utility power, and run everything on generators. Our next clue that this was not a casual pub was the rose sangria we were offered upon landing. The lunch turned out to be a fabulous seven-course meal served over several hours. In the intimate setting, we met the owners and many of the other diners–everyone got a kick out of our “we came by for a burger” story. After the meal, we lingered with the other guests in the party-like atmosphere and eventually dragged ourselves back to Dirona around 11pm that night. We had a wonderful time–it definitely was the best “lunch” we’d ever had. In fact, it might be the best meal we’ve ever had. Having enjoyed ourselves so much, it’s now obvious why the floatplanes were bringing in guests from as far away as Sydney.
M1 Pacific Motorway
On a low but rising tide, we worked 5-6 miles up Mooney Mooney Creek in the dinghy. The 1,575′-long, 246′-high Mooney Mooney Bridge carries the M1 Pacific Motorway across the creek high above us.
Jerusalem Bay
The anchorage at Jerusalem Bay is absolutely beautiful, with sandstone cliffs on one side, forest on the other, and a winding creek at the head.
A section of New South Wales’ Great North Walk passes along the head of Jerusalem Bay. This large monitor was sunning in the track and wouldn’t move until we got within a couple of feet. They aren’t supposed to be dangerous, but neither one of us was inclined to verify that claim.
Smiths Creek
This is the morning view looking southwest from the anchorage at Smiths Creek.
Throughout our stay at Smiths Creek, raucous Cockatiels swooped around the anchorage and called out from the trees.

Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations and more on a map, with the complete log of our cruise through the Hawksebury River system. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://www.mvdirona.com/maps/LocationCurrent.html.

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