Summer may be gone but golden days at sea continue to call, writes David Lockwood.
It's been said that autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons put together. This is certainly true in Sydney.
As daylight savings becomes a fading memory in mid-April, as the days shorten and the chill evening air descends, there's a sense of urgency to make hay — or boating fun — while the sun shines.
Yet King Neptune hasn't woken to the fact there is a change of seasons above water. The warm East Australian Current is still pouring down the coast, delivering treasures by way of big-game fish. That's why a bunch of tournaments are staged around Sydney and more southern ports in coming weeks.
But even mere holiday danglers find their best chance of landing something for the dinner table in autumn. The prevailing summer species will be basking in the warm blue water, roaming in search of a baited hook, while the vanguard of winter fish arrive later in the season.
Take a tip and launch your foray at first light, when the morning offshore zephyrs blow down from the dale and seas are calm. Crustaceans also abound so set the nets and get cracking.
South of Sydney, destinations including Jervis and Batemans Bay, Narooma and Bermagui call keen trailerboat anglers. The clear, warm water is also inviting for divers.
If not spearfishing then dive in with a mask and snorkel to ogle the marine life below. There's more of it in early autumn than any other time of the year.
As for now, active boaters regard autumn as the last hurrah.
It's a great time for maintaining your paddling condition, striking out at first light in the brisk morning air. Whether on a sea kayak or stand-up paddleboard, these are the months for frolicking around the foreshores and reconnecting with your inner peace and pilates core strength.
Autumn days also play into the hands — and halyards — of Sydney sailors. But it's more often a season of calm and therefore an opportune time for kids to learn the ropes.
Sign them up in a holiday sailing camp now. Yet the wind or lack thereof doesn't seem to phase the autumn twilight racing clique who, to their credit, don't so much cuss as clink glasses when the puffs go pfft, the sails flag and there's a motor-led charge for the club.
With high-pressure systems at higher latitudes, there's less likelihood of relentless onshore winds. In fact, there is no other boating season so agreeable for offshore boating. At some point in autumn you will experience balmy days where the rich-blue belly of the ocean barely heaves.
As such, it is an opportune time for passage making, for heading north and chasing the sun all the way to tropical climes.
That fact isn't lost on seasoned sailors who have the time to ride the late-autumn southwesterlies — the same winds that inspire the sea mullet to run - from Sydney to the north coast and then port hop the Queensland coast. Many end up at Hamilton Island but others consider Lizard the zenith, holing up in Mrs Watsons Bay until the larder runs dry. Then it's back to Cooktown, Cairns, Townsville and south again.
Closer to home, Port Stephens is ethereal in autumn. It offers all the aforesaid activities, less crowds but excellent connectivity to Sydney by hire car.
Park the boat in Port Stephens for autumn and commute on weekends for a change of scenery. Anywhere from a full day's sail to four hours from Sydney depending on the speed of your yacht or motorboat, Port Stephens and the nearby Myall Lakes are a true boating and fishing Mecca in autumn.
But it can even more fun acting on a whim. Watch the weather and seize those golden autumnal days with both hands.
Head offshore to mix it with the migrating whales, dolphins and sea birds, the whoppers around the fish-aggregating devices and just immerse yourself in wonder of the wide blue yonder. Low-season marina fees at nearby ports are a further enticement if you need one.
Wherever you dip the oars, autumn really is the season for unearthing treasures: postcards in the memory of stunning vermillion sunsets, afternoon strolls along a remote boat-only accessible beach, blissful nights' sleeps in your cabins, kudos from landing a big fish for the family dinner, and the natural high of an endorphin-charged paddle at dawn. It's a mood-lifting season for pleasure boating devoid of those late-summer rains.