Take a break from the rain

Your soaked, the winds are up and waves crashing in. But rotten weather does not have to spoil your next trip on the water, especially at these escapes.

Your soaked, the winds are up and waves crashing in. But rotten weather does not have to spoil your next trip on the water, especially at these escapes.

Come on! It ain't that bad. Compared with other countries, our boating off-season is a holiday. Just think about shovelling snow. Or not. When the weather turns turtle and cabin fever encroaches, there are actually some great boating escapes in Sydney.

So it was for us these past two weeks. We were pinned down by the east coast low-pressure bomb that had the peak-swell readings hitting more than 10 metres and lingering in the four-to-five-metre waves for some days thereafter. On top of that was 40 knots of wind. And rain.

But we were reminded that things weren't quite so bad after the clouds parted. After all, there are few better bolt-holes for avoiding a big southerly buster and gale-force sou'wester than the calms of Coasters Retreat, where more than a week was spent catching fish, pumping yabbies, patting wallabies, bushwalking, paddling and more.

Sally forth, fair-weather sailors. Here are 10 great ports in a storm when less-than-perfect Sydney boating weather strikes. Don't forget the pea-and-ham soup.

Kincumber Broadwater: OK, the wife reckons it's a hellhole. But maybe that was due to the torrential rain that filled our tender to the gunwales. Or perhaps it was the impending flu and our sick daughter. But when the bad weather strikes in Brisbane Water, rather than chance the bar, you can find sanctuary in the Kincumber Broadwater - provided your boat has a shallow draft. Range all the way up Cockle Creek, past Davistown and Empire Bay, at the top of the tide and ghost over the sandbank at the top of the creek. It's not for the faint-hearted but once inside the Broadwater there's an abundance of fish and, on baited line, big crabs.

The Basin: A great escape from southerly weather, Coaster's Retreat and The Basin have it all. There's great fishing - pump yabbies at low tide and flick them over the flats for whiting - safe swimming for the kiddies, plenty of grass to stretch the legs, undercover barbecues, garbage disposal facilities and friendly wallabies.

Bushwalks head back up the ridge to a water hole perfect for bathing, or walk around Coaster's Retreat to Soldiers Point and the namesake trail. Catch the Palm Beach Ferry from Bonnie Doon Wharf to Mackerel Beach for a change of scenery and across to Palm Beach for club grub from the Palm Beach RSL.

Refuge Bay: True to name, it's an ideal bolt-hole when the weather's so bad you don't want to chance it crossing the mouth of Broken Bay and passing around West Head.

The waterfall really cranks in wet weather - although a recent landfall is a warning to keep clear - while the views from atop are spectacular. Take care with your footing. The small sand beach is popular with children as the tide falls, while the whale-size gibber is a popular resting place with beer in hand as the shadows lengthen. The abundance of moorings adds to the appeal of Refuge and adjoining America's Bay for raft-ups and hanging out.

Smiths Creek: This popular tributary to Cowan Creek is a real home away from home, with a number of bays and moorings but deep enough water to drop anchor and run a stern line to a rock ashore. Anchored so, boaters raft up in social groups during the holiday high season. But as the warmth wanes, it becomes so quiet and protected that you can feel totally disconnected. There's enough water in the creek at the head of Stingray Bay to take a freshwater bath should supplies be low.

Dangar Island: Anchored off the northern side of the island well clear of the ferry wharf provides a good hold over a mud bottom just a short tender ride to the cafe with hot coffee and supplies. As there are no cars - locals use wheelbarrows instead - the family can gad about the island with glee. A well-defined track circles Dangar, provides good views, and ranges to Bradleys Beach on the northern side, which has sand and safe shallow water over a soft mud bottom. The fishing out yonder on Dangar Island Shoals is great for flathead and blue swimmer crabs.

Sugarloaf Bay: The best sanctuary in Sydney Harbour is Sugarloaf Bay. There are four public moorings below the signature hill, but also plenty of anchoring opportunities in the headwaters of Castle Cove.

Bushwalks are available, along with good fishing and paddling opportunities. If the weather isn't from the south, Bantry Bay with eight moorings offers a unique setting and protection nearby. You can take a gas barbecue to shore near the wharf or, in winter, simply sit with a mug of soup in hand.

Store Beach: Sydney's best boating beach, tucked in behind North Head, offers protection in the pocket of the very southern corner.

Regulars fore and aft anchor and raft up here, with their bows facing west towards the occasional ferry wash. Wake up in the morning and look astern and it looks like anywhere but Sydney Harbour. But give Store Beach a miss when the winter westerlies are blowing as it's a dreaded lee shore.

South West Arm: Deep, calm and accommodating, South West Arm is the pick of the anchorages in Port Hacking. Surrounding national park shores and clean water add to the setting, while the five public moorings and high storm-protection factor are welcome.

Darling Harbour: There are more attractions, diversions and activities for a month of not-so-sunny Mondays in downtown Darling Harbour. The marina offers berthing, power and water for big and little boats.

A marina somewhere: In a storm, there's no more secure place than a marina. But more than just a parking lot, today's top marinas lay it on, with laundry and detailing services, usually an eatery or two, perhaps a swimming pool, a courtesy car or bicycle. D'Albora Marina in Akuna Bay is a real sanctuary, the Royal Motor Yacht Club at Newport has the lot, while Soldiers Point Marina steps up its on-board service. Time can be well spent at a marina.

Then when the weather breaks, you can head back out again.


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