Monthly Archives: May 2010

Secret Water…Somewhere on the Hawkesbury

Autumn Morning Mist on the Hawkesbury

Where’s your Secret Water? Last weekend we were lucky enough to join some friends at their very own secret water on the Hawkesbury, and because they’d like it to stay that way there will be no Google maps or Navionics charts with this post!

The Hawkesbury is one of the major rivers of the coastal region of New South Wales, a river system that virtually encircles the metropolitan area of Sydney. First explored in 1788, the river was a major transport route for food during the 1800s and as such at various locations along its meandering banks is a treasure chest of settler and convict relics; sandstone buildings made to last and convict built wharves peeping out from under the mangroves and gum trees.

A couple of days sitting by the river, an impromptu long lunch with old friends (accessible only by boat) and a brisk morning walk in the bush, had me dreaming once again of a sea change. An hour from Sydney and a million miles from care.  

Tide on the Bend

The 2004 film the Oyster Farmer was filmed on unrevealed locations along the river, epitomising, as the film did, the draw of living in one of the many boat access only communities dotted along its banks.

The Hawkesbury River is home to Australia’s Last River Boat Postman who delivers mail, milk, groceries and newspapers to isolated homes and hamlets. You can cruise the Hawkesbury with the River Boat Postman as he delivers his goods along with an interesting and knowledgeable commentary of the river and its history. But be careful, because if you do pay the ferryman, like me you will likely be Googling Hawkesbury River Real Estate and calculating travel times to work to secure your very own secret water. I hear the Spencer Village Store is up for sale…..

Home is the Sailor Home from the Sea

Ella's Pink Lady off Sydney Heads

Over the last few weeks I have found myself reflecting on the much criticised, chronicled and at last congratulated adventures of Jessica Watson, teen solo round the world sailor.

Among the sailing and boating fraternity, opinions have abound on records, racing, technological assistance, mental stamina,  sponsorship and the likelihood of success (defined in a variety of ways). Amongst the wider community there have similarly been differences of opinion on what would motivate parental encouragement of such a potentially risky endeavor.

After absorbing all the commentary and opinion I’ve  come to a number of my own conclusions on what to make of it all.

The first is that Jessica’s voyage has been a triumph for the philosophy that an uncomplicated childhood in which your parents allow you to go on “lots of little adventures” and in which they take a very active role in your education makes for a confident young person with the ability, self belief and resilience to tackle life’s challenges…and to inspire others to do the same.

There are a lot of mean spirited and misinformed armchair adventurers out there who, despite having never been to sea themselves, have some very heated opinions on the topic and lack the usual fuel of justification that is “wasting tax payers money”. If you’ve been offshore in a yacht in anything more than forty knots of breeze in the middle of the night, then you’ll know that no amount of technological assistance or gadgetry can absolutely guarantee you a safe passage home to your loved ones.

My final conclusion, to use the words of Robert Louis Stevenson and so aptly quoted by Jessica’s mum is that “Home is the Sailor, Home from the Sea”. I’m sure there is not a mariner anywhere on land or at sea that would not agree with this and feel glad to hear of a fellow sailor’s safe return to port.

Hidden Treasure up The Georges River

Treasure Hunting

It often happens that when out and about in the tinny there is more to look at and see than can be covered in one blog post, and I return home with a memory card full of photos and a brain buzzing with inspiration. Thus was the case after we’d spent a couple of hours snapping vintage boats at the Variety Club Putt Putt Regatta back in March.  The smell of two stroke and diesel fumes we’d inhaled after loitering around the regatta course was eventually too much for us so we cranked up the Mercury and went exploring up The Georges River. Georges River is quite different to Port Hacking, deeper, less sandy and I’m told offers a higher likelihood of an encounter with a noah (that’s shark for anyone not familiar with the Aussie slang).

This little jaunt was the perfect example of why sometimes its best to just follow the river and see where it takes you.  We cruised up the river at a refreshing 15 knots, admiring the waterside shacks, boatsheds and jetties, belonging to an array of residences ranging from opulent to “shabby chic”. We didn’t get all the way up the river (an adventure for another day) but grumbling tummies led us to stop in Como where we expected to find perhaps a café or kiosk offering the usual marina style fare of fish and chips, ice cream etc.

Hmmm...GPS not updating fast enough!?

To our surprise we came across an unusual combination of chandlery, granny craft and Asian cuisine. We pulled up at the Como marina where you can hire tinnies for the day and browsed around the charming chandlery, an outlet providing for all the practical requirements of the small boat owner and fisherman as well as some nauticalia for your home or boatshed such as mobiles and model boats.

Crab nets... a bargain at twice the price!


Just outside the store was the “Café de Dogge” where your salty sea dog can help himself to a drink and be tied up if necessary. Sadly Rhubarb wasn’t with us to do her own review of the facilities.

Cafe de Dogue

Wandering on we passed a quirky little shop “The Marina Craft Nook”, stocked with beautiful creations from an array of local artists and crafters, seemingly manned by one of their elderly husbands sitting on a deck chair. Beautiful little girls dresses selling for a song that would fetch four times the price in a mosman boutique and knitted tea cosies that tugged at my heart strings saying “pick me”.

Take me home in time for tea!

Marina Craft Nook

We finished the trip with a casual Thai feast enjoyed in the shade of a beautiful garden that belongs to the Thai Rim Nan, a restaurant that resides tastefully in a gorgeous weatherboard heritage cottage at the entrance to the Marina.

The Thai Rim Nam

 Heading home via the boat ramp at Tom Ugly’s bridge where we launched, I had to reconcile myself with the decision not to purchase the pink hobby horse OR the $8 crab net. Much to Chris’ dread I’ll have to go back.

Sorely tempted


Google Map

Tom Ugly’s Boat Ramp

This map shows the marina at Tom Uglys Bridge on the western side of the bridge. We launched the tinny on the eastern side of the bridge which is accessible via a slip road from either side of Princes Highway. The ramp can be a little slippery and easier to launch with two people.

Como Marina Boat Hire

Grays Point to Jibbon Beach: Autumn Days on Port Hacking

Tinny Track to Jibbon Beach

A clearing fog, steam powered chugger, dolphins splashing off Jibbon beach and little boys fishing from the wharfs dotted along the river bank. Just picture it. Well actually you’ll have to because a combination of wriggling toddler, unsympathetic tinny skipper, technical camera problems and having the agility that comes with being  seven months pregnant meant I hardly captured any of it on camera. By the time we got to Jibbon beach the camera was actually confiscated from me due to the ridiculousness of my predicament and the general angst it was causing on board. Imagine the chaos if Rhubarb had been in attendance?

When we got to Jibbon beach my frustration evapourated. What a stunning spot to pull up for morning tea and a dig around in the sand.

Jibbon Beach

No sooner had we laid eyes on the beach and started assessing how to land, I spotted some activity in the water beyond an anchored dive boat; dolphins! I’ve seen my fair share of dolphins on races and deliveries and the thrill of getting close to them never goes away. This time though the thrill was taken to a level I haven’t experienced before. Sharing the moment with your two year old daughter for the first time and who has so far only seen dolphins in story books, was simply magic. I wish I could have bottled the excitement. Of course the confiscated camera was immediately reclaimed but I’m afraid the shots I managed are, at best, just evidence of what we saw, along with a vast number of snaps of splashes and ripples where dolphins had been.

Spot the fin

And a nose....?

Absolute Proof!

The pod of dolphins soon departed and we headed back toward the beach to attempt to land. However not long after we pulled up we realised that the small surge would actually make landing the tinny a bit tricky with the current capabilities of the crew on board so we set the anchor, cracked open the thermos and put the camera away. A happy hour was then spent soaking up the autumn sun.

Useful information and activities

  • Jibbon beach is part of a number of Royal National Park bush walks and makes a great spot for a picnic a swim or as a stop off on the way to surf Jibbon bombora.
  •  The water is very clear (listed on NSW parks and wildlife as the cleanest beach in Port hacking complying with 100% of bacterial indicators) and so is perfect for snorkeling.
  • On May 15th Parks and Wildlife are running a discovery activity “Jibbon Headland and Rock Engraving”. Join an Aboriginal Discovery ranger and take a leisurely stroll along Jibbon Beach to the rock engravings at Jibbon Point, hear why this site is important to the Aboriginal people. For more info click on the link below.

Getting to Jibbon Beach

  • We took the tinny from Swallow Rock Boat ramp at Grays Point, a distance of about 2.5 nautical miles.  If you’d like the navionics track file please drop me an email. I still haven’t managed to upload the file type to the blog yet!
  • You can drive to Bundeena (about a 1 hour and 15 minute trip from Sydney CBD) and then walk along to the beach from the ferry wharf. There are also numerous bush walking tracks that lead to Bundeena including the Jibbon Beach Loop
  • You can also reach Bundeena by ferry from Cronulla (and Cronulla via train on the Illawarra line)

Useful Links

Google Map of Jibbon Beach

Great Information on walking the Jibbon Loop Track from Wild Walks

Swallow Rock Boat Ramp

Cronulla Ferry Time Table

Jibbon Headland and Rock Engraving Discovery Activity (scroll down)

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