For most people Celeste has been known only as Celeste the racing yacht. For the family Celeste has also been the holiday cruise. The pots and pans, the knives and forks, the mugs and the glasses together with the paraphernalia for living on a yacht come out of storage and once again Celeste is ready to go cruising. We cruised with usually two but occasionally four crew. Our destination of choice Port Stephens.
Port Stephens is 82 miles from Sydney. The passage in Celeste was, with the right weather, a delightful day’s run. A westerly or southerly with a bit of strength gave the boat a 12-hour passage. As we were only cruising a nor’easter meant an overnight stay in Lake Macquarie or Newcastle was on the cards.
Celeste is set up for single-handed sailing. All the sheets and halyards lead back to the cockpit up to the second reef. When short-handed the steering can be shared with Britney, (as in Britney steers) the autopilot.
Celeste has perfected the art of heaving to. Put the helm down, tack the boat, leave the jib sheeted on the windward side, adjust the mainsail sheet and Celeste will slowly fore-reach while you have a nice cup of tea or cook a meal and, if you have crew to stand watch, the leather settees make a great bed.
A night arrival requires a bit of careful navigation. The lighthouse on Point Stephens requires a careful rounding as the rocks extend nearly half a mile to east of the light. To enter Port Stephens at night use the sectored lead light on Corrie Island. Stay on the leads until you are passed the entrance bar. Once past the bar Celeste’s usual mooring was at Marina Little Beach behind Nelson Head.
The water off the Nelson Head is unique on the NSW coast in that it had the tidal flow and is sufficiently strong to have a tidal diamond, a way of calculating tidal flow, on the chart. Running at up to four knots the current of Nelson Head can be quite a trap for the unwary. The Marina had a delightful little restaurant attached last time I was there.
Eight miles from Port Stephens Broughton Island is, for most of the year, a near deserted desert island. Only over the Christmas holidays are you likely to have to share your secluded anchorage. If you know the Island you will know the anchorage on the southern end of Coal Shaft Beach. Tucked in the southern end of the bay with protective reef to the south this anchorage makes for a most comfortable stay in all but a strong westerly. For many years this was the preferred anchorage of the beautiful Robert Clarke designed South Wind with occasionally Celeste moored nearby.
There are two other anchorages on Broughton, Esmeralda Cove and Providence Beach. Esmeralda is open to the south and Providence is open to the northeast. With a careful eye on the weather Broughton Island is a great island experience.
Within Port Stephens there are miles of bays and islands to explore. Fame Cove with its dolphins, Hawks Nest, for powerboats, the entrance to Myall Lakes.
All services are available in Nelsons Bay as are, usually, berths at d’Albora Marina.