Port Macquarie to Crowdy Head

We stayed in Port Macquarie for six days – shut in by the weather outside the bar. It was great! Port Macquarie is MUCH more interesting and accessible (by boat) than Coffs Harbour.

Obviously, in order for it to appeal to me, the library has to be good. And lo… the library is GOOD. Big, lightfilled, spacious and HEAPSO good books. The only sad thing was the 500MB download limit on the wifi, but you can’t, apparently, have everything.

Seed library - at the awesome Port Macquarie Library

We were able to pay three dollars and get a ‘Visitor’s Card’ – which meant we were able to borrow three books. Why…why could they not have made it an even number? It was a recipe for sibling warfare….

Anyway. M and the Smalls did some jumping off the pier. There was tree climbing. And birds…

Bella Luna on a public mooring. Port Macquarie.

Some kind of cockatoo.

We found a great bookshop, some awesome op-shops and I went for a solo walk one morning along a creek, which was invigorating in its solitude.

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One night we had a knock on the hull – not that common when you’re hanging off a mooring. It was Ben from Slippery Gypsy who we met over in Kettering, again in Strahan, we followed him through the Denison Canal – and most recently found him again at the Gold Coast. It was great to see another sailing person!

He is a guy with one eye always on the surf. But I was interested in what he had to say about Lord Howe Island, where he’d spent a few weeks – and had even worked there for a bit.

Everything he said just reaffirmed my desire to go there and hang out for a while. It can be a bit of a hell sail – one of my previous bosses told me a few times about his horrible journey there in someone’s boat.

However, ‘by boat’ is the only way that we would ever be able to get there – it’s very expensive to fly – and then you’d have to pay for accommodation…and who does that? It’s unfortunate that it is not a port that you can leave Australia from to sail overseas – meaning, it’s not a ‘checkout’ point.

From what I’ve read, when you leave a checkout point on the mainland, if you then stop off at Lord Howe Island you can only stay there for 72 hours. SEVENTY TWO HOURS? That’s like eating one awesome oyster when you planned to devour a dozen. Terrible. I will research further…

We took a trip up the river to check it out, and got as far as the Pacific Highway bridge, which effectively ensures that anything with a mast goes no further. On the way back we were briefly adopted by a dolphin….SQUEE!

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There were many lovely waterside houses, and a few frightening canal estates that were the definition of the words ‘underwhelming’ and ‘souless’. Cruel, I know. But fair.

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We departed Port Macquarie (of which I had become quite fond) at about 8am on Thursday, February 22nd.

“It’s going to be a bit bouncy, just for the first little bit,” said M blithely, “Just make sure there’s nothing that will fall down.”

I made breakfast and did a rudimentary check for potential falling objects. Small DB and I lay on the couch. Small Z was still in bed. M, clearly hankering for his Boys Own Adventure, motored us across the bar. The waves seemed H-U-G-E. Holy crap…

M, although I couldn’t see his face, sat in the captain’s chair swigging his cup of coffee, and – as Bella Luna swooped up and down – I could just feel him thrilling to every second of it.

I held Honey the Boatcat on my lap, as Small DB looked wearily across at me.

“Will it be like this all day?”

“No bug, just another half an hour – until we get right out at sea…”

Once the whole drama subsided a bit, things flattened out. There was not a lot of wind. This is annoying in itself – the sails flap, it’s harder to steer… M had replaced the belt on Hoo-Ray the Autopie, but the conditions were so wispy, it didn’t really help…

Blah. We sloshed our way onwards with sibling brawls, the banishment of Small DB to her bunk, M stalking to the front of the boat for some solitary mantime (in lieu of a shed) until Crowdy Head finally came into view.

Imagine a headland sticking out of the coast into the sea. Now draw a little circle down the bottom of one side of it (the Queensland side, not the Victorian side) – that’s the harbour. Seriously. It’s as if it was someone’s little project – to make a titchy little harbour by piling up a ring of large rocks.

As we got closer, in the absence of an aerial view, I still couldn’t see how we were going to get in… Until I could…

Crowdy Head.

It looked TINY – a little gap in the rock ring. Closer to it, we were obviously going to fit through with no trouble, but it was still crazy how tiny and protected it was inside. And how abandoned.

The pier had obviously seen far better days. The fishing co-op had closed down. There were maybe four boats tied up – including a marine rescue vessel on one of those raft things (I assume to prevent rescue-mission-ruining barnacles from accumulating).

There was a large cabin cruiser kind of thing tied up to a little random jetty – and the jetty looked better looked after than most of the the other infrastructure. There looked like there was enough room at one end of the jetty for Bella Luna to tie up…

“How about over there?” I pointed it out to M. “We could pull up behind that big boat?”

“Nah,” said M, “not enough room. We’ll tie up to the other side of the pier. Can you get the ropes sorted?”

And so began a relationship-testing effort of tying Bella Luna to a busted up old pier. I had assumed (never assume) that the ends of our mooring lines were around the cleats on the boat…it was only as we were a few metres from the pier I realised they were just near the cleats and had to hastily secure them.

Then the fenders were hanging too far down to protect the side of the boat from being stabbed by the side of the pier and they had to be adjusted. M was trying to keep us steady as the wind was blowing us away from the pier… and I could sense him trying to throttle back his impatience with me as I fumbled around with knots and fasteners.

On a couple of occasions he told me to “stay calm” and to “calm down”… immediately ricocheting me from fairly calm to moderately homicidal.

It wasn’t until I’d jumped on to the pier and wrapped a line around a pole on the other side that I really understood what M was trying to do – secure a line from the back of the boat to the pier, then swing the front inward and secure that too…

As you can imagine, he was stuck to the steering wheel, me and my tagliatelle arms were trying to pull in a couple of tonnes of boat while keeping the rope around the pole. I would pull in a bit of slack, but as I tried to pull the rope further around the pole, the boat would heave away again…

In the end M had to put the engines in neutral and heave on the line – giving me a bit more slack to work with. Then we had to do much the same with the line from the front of the boat – again, M abandoning the steering wheel to help pull the boat closer to the goddamn pier – he had told me which pole to wrap this line around – but the pole was SQUARE and impossible to pull the rope freely around it.

If I had been braver and everything hadn’t felt so difficult, I would have followed my brain’s suggestion to wrap it around a ROUND lightpole that was just nearby…which is exactly what M did when he eventually made it on to the pier. In the meantime, he was looking completely infuriated as I tried to hold on to the rope and he endeavoured to get the fenders into a better position – I hadn’t attached them high enough…

…one of them dropped into the water and floated gaily away. I thought M was going to implode with frustration. Eventually we got Bella Luna secured, M using nearly all our ropes to keep her in place.

The Smalls and I walked around the harbour to fetch the fender, which had washed up on the boatramp. On our way we saw a tiny red postbox, a sign saying it was 500metres to the lighthouse and many houses – most of which looked like vacant holiday accommodation…

Back at Bella Luna things still felt a bit iffy. M had gone for a short reconnisance mission and his equilibrium appeared to have been restored.

“Hey!” he said, climbing back aboard. “This pier is awful. Let’s go and tie up behind that big boat on that jetty over there.”

I looked at him, dead-eyed. “OK.”

Tying up to the other jetty was a breeze compared to what we had just endured. We were tucked in just behind the cabin cruiser – and M had gone and tied the fenders to the pier poles before Bella Luna got there. We tied up and he made me practice the tugboat hitch – a very useful knot that refuses to hook into my brain…

There was water – so we were able to fill up the tanks – HUZZAH! We went for an exploratory walk through the houses and up to the lovely little lighthouse…

Crowdy Head.

And back down again.

We had, as usual, left Honey the Boatcat locked in the bathroom as we do whenever we go out. She has food, water, a litter tray and two open hatches for breeze. If cats weren’t supposed to do a stupid amount of sleeping, I would feel bad for her, but…

When we got back, she greeted us up on deck. She has finally perfected the ability jump up into the sink, reach out and put her paw on the doorknob and set herself free…

Boatcat. Solar panels. Ocean.

It was a balm to the soul to be tied up to a pier. The weather cool. There were leftovers for dinner. Verdict? We like Crowdy Head. Beautiful, shutdown, isolated…

Crowdy Head.


  1. Amandarose

    We holiday there every October. It’s actually very close to a bigger town Harrington.
    Which has a bit of a a fake feel, one of those golf estates, but Crowdy has great National Park camping not far from the harbour.

    1. Beth

      We sailed past Harrington. Up at the Crowdy Head lighthouse there was an arrow pointing to it – but presumably it’s not accessible by sea or it would have been a stopover option!

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