View Full Version : Mid-winter cruise up the Hawkesbury River & Berowra Creek

The Bigfella
07-22-2008, 07:35 PM
Yesterday was splash day after a week of bottom grinding and antifouling.

Here's the location of all the pain last week, taken from the train on the way down to Hawkesbury River station. Grantala is basically out of view behind the palms, just this side of the travel-lift in the centre of shot. The trip home entails reversing out in the narrow channel beside the marina, a quick spin around, out the channel from The Gut, turn left under the twin road bridges for the F3 freeway and the old Pacific Highway - and home is 13 nautical miles upriver.


On the travel-lift and ready to go. The steel yacht next to me is owned by one of the barge operators on the river and is heading up to my mooring field later this week.


Under the road bridges and up to speed. Nothing too fancy, as I was travelling solo and the only instruments hooked up to the sundeck station so far are the tachos. I sat pretty much on 1,900 rpm plus or minus a bit.


This is the view in the other direction. Milson Island, which used to be a psychiatric facility on the left. The shoreline on the right in the distance is The Vines, a fabulous Bream fishing location.


This isn't a good shot - straight at the sun (yep I shaded the lens, but given I wasn't carrying much fuel, I wasn't going closer) - but I've included it because it shows a significant piece of Australian maritime history - our first new warship, HMAS Parramatta. She's a bit hard to see - but is just to the left of the where the valley meets the river


Parramatta was the first vessel laid down for the Australian Commonwealth Naval Forces. Built in the United Kingdom and commissioned in September 1910, she reached Australia in November 1910, in the company of her sister ship HMAS Yarra....

Now obsolete, Paramatta was laid up, but was recommissioned for training duties in 1925–26. In 1929 she was dismantled and her hulk was towed to the Hawkesbury for use as convict accommodation, but this decision was reversed by public outcry. She was subsequently used as a barge. Paramatta’s hulk was abandoned in the Hawkesbury but in the 1970s her bow and stern were recovered and are now memorials at Garden Island and Parramatta respectively.


The Bigfella
07-22-2008, 07:51 PM
Having turned to port around the end of Milson Island, this is the view with Bar Point to starboard and the start of Berowra Creek straight ahead. Just right of centre is Bar Island. I haven't been ashore there yet, but believe there is plenty of evidence of ballast rocks, etc from old sailing ships. There is also a convict era cemetery I believe.


Taken from the same location, but looking to port. This shows the passage between Milson Island and the mainland. I'm told I could get through, but I prefer the longer way around anyhow. There are some rather interesting houses in there (water access only). I've been through in my small boat a few times.


The Hawksbury swings right at Bar Point but I head straight up Berowra Creek. The Hawksbury is navigable for boats my size as far as the road bridge at Windsor, about 60 km away IIRC.


One of the many beaches around this area - albeit at high tide with not much sand showing. Its pretty much always possible to get one of these to yourself on a weekend. Possibly not on some of the holiday weekends (not that I bother going out on them)


A fortunately rare sight - a floating tree trunk. Behind it are some of the oyster leases and one of the many bays and creeks. Fabulous mud crab territory.


John B
07-22-2008, 07:57 PM
Fascinating area Ian.
Whats the water made of up there?

The Bigfella
07-22-2008, 08:06 PM
I've skipped a few miles of the river to get to here - just passing the last of the houses at Neverfail and looking at the last run down to Berowra Waters. I opened her up here briefly :D


About 1 mile from my mooring is this lovely little spot, Deep Bay which has four public moorings in it. You could be a million miles from anywhere! Passing boats are hardly noticeable.


"Home" is in sight. That's my Markham Whaler (a 12' power cat) sitting on my mooring - the tiny boat just off the point.


Safely on the mooring. Maritime has kindly given me some "attractive" neighbours.


Finally, the view from where I berth the Markham Whaler - she's just out of sight behind the old restaurant. Grantala is the last boat as you head out of this mooring field - visible in the centre of the photo, just right of the radar arch of the largest boat in the shot.


13 nautical miles and a quick dip of the tanks showed each down by eight litres (2 US gallons). Better than 3 nm per US gallon, travelling at about 2/3 hull speed. The trip took 75 minutes. A nice way to spend a mid-winters day.

07-22-2008, 08:11 PM
Marvelous! If the trees were evergreen fir and cedar it would look alot like the Pacific North West.

07-22-2008, 08:17 PM
That's one of the prettiest places I've seen.
I've just marked it on my maps as "place to visit"
One day I'll step onto that little beach and that'll be a good day. :)

07-22-2008, 08:55 PM
Very nice mate!!!

The Bigfella
07-22-2008, 09:25 PM
Fascinating area Ian.
Whats the water made of up there?

Sorry John, I missed your question earlier.

The water is still salt all the way up. The oysters used to grow all the way up to our mooring field, based on the aboriginal middens on the banks - but the river is a bit different since they dammed it way way upstream at Warragamba. Where the HMAS Parramatta is beached for example is now mud, but used to be a fabulous sand beach 50 years or so back (before the water catchement dam). The oysters stop about five miles downstream of my mooring now. although I haven't checked how they are recovering after the QX virus came through. The bag limit is 48 per - and we've been known to do it for many a long year.

A friend caught a good sized Mulloway a couple of miles upstream of my mooring about two years back, and the guys set mudcrab pots just near the boat. We regularly see Bream sheltering under the boat and there are always Mullett around.

John B
07-22-2008, 09:32 PM
Cheers Ian. I just had a nice trip on google earth using your landmarks , even had a look at Grantala!

The Bigfella
07-22-2008, 10:04 PM
I'll add another shot I took yesterday. It shows one of the aboriginal rock carvings on the banks. The local boat club uses this as its emblem.

Its not a good shot - I just took it to see if it would show up and I've clipped it to get a bit closer (shot with a standard length lens). I'll get better shots of this and the Parramatta next time I go down river.


Duncan Gibbs
07-23-2008, 01:31 AM
Very nice mate! Always liked that neck of the woods. Had a mate ages ago (lost contact now) who had a perch on Dangar Island and a dory to row out to the island in. Looking forward to the OP WBF EBS! :D One thing though: We'll have to make it the weekend either before or after the one on which the 20th falls... The Brizzy Wooden Boat show is on that weekend! :eek: (Let's call this political expediency! :D;))

07-23-2008, 02:11 AM
Lovely photos Ian ...I only ever see that country from the train coming South .

Paul Fitzgerald
07-23-2008, 02:20 AM
We sure live in gods own country.
Good shots Ian.
That explains why I didn't see Granalta last time I was in Cowan Creek.
I had your address wrong.

Wooden Boat Fittings
07-23-2008, 03:18 AM
I didn't realise you were near Berowra, Ian. Lovely spot. I don't suppose you've seen Lady Thelma in your travels around there, have you? She's sporting our very first boathook....


07-23-2008, 04:42 AM
Good photos Ian. My first serious go at the tiller of a real yacht was in that neck of the woods. Refuge Cove back down to the Duckpond in the bottom end of Pittwater. Who knows you might see Redwing down that way one day.

The Bigfella
07-23-2008, 04:45 AM
I didn't realise you were near Berowra, Ian. Lovely spot. I don't suppose you've seen Lady Thelma in your travels around there, have you? She's sporting our very first boathook....


Lady Thelma rings a bell, but I don't know why. She may be there - I'll keep an eye out.

Paul - The furtherest up Cowan I've been with Grantala has been to Refuge Bay. I'm thinking that may be the place to hold the WBF EBS in September. I also want to get her up Cowan Creek for the Hairtail next winter.

07-23-2008, 06:15 AM
Thanks for the tour!!

J. Dillon
07-23-2008, 10:25 PM
Thanks for the tour. Nice images. :D I got a feel for the place. Any close up shots of the pictographs ? Like what were they depicting ?


The Bigfella
07-23-2008, 10:57 PM
Thanks for the tour. Nice images. :D I got a feel for the place. Any close up shots of the pictographs ? Like what were they depicting ?


Its a large carving of the outline of a fish Jack. I just snapped it to see if it would show up. I'll do a close run next time I've got the boat out - its only a mile or so from my mooring. There are several large caves down there too that would have been used by the aborigines. Friends of mine actually lived in one for a while many years ago after their house burnt down (they are in their mid 80's now).

07-24-2008, 01:55 AM
Thanks Ian,

Its amazing how far the Hawksbury River extends upstream.
Look forward to more photos.


The Bigfella
07-24-2008, 02:04 AM
I've got an excellent booklet on Cruising the Hawkesbury - a self published book by a couple who cruised it for decades - and given that I used to stack the library shelves at uni for a living, you reckon I'd be able to find it eh? Fat chance. It may be (should be) on the boat.

I saw a note somewhere yesterday that it is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the mouth to the low level road bridge at Windsor. I seem to recall that there is something like 1,200 kilometers of shoreline in that distance - what with all the big creeks and bays.

Here's some history...

Australia's Constitution. An extraordinary event occurred at Refuge Bay on the Hawkesbury River in late March 1891, recorded as the only time politicians came clean in public, Government leaders from Australia's colonies gathered in Sydney for the constitutional convention. They spent the Easter cruising the Hawkesbury River on the Queensland paddle steamer 'Lucinda', showering under a pristine waterfall at Refuge Bay in Ku-ring-gai National Park. Leaders present included Charles Kingston, Sir Edmund Barton, A.J.Thynne, Sir John Downer, Henry Wrixon and Bernhard Wise.


So - given the Oz Politics anniversary is coming up, I propose that Refuge Bay be the location of the Oz Politics WBF EBS ... Grantala will host us (max 22 passengers). Quite appropriate given that the adjacent bay is Americas Bay - where the whalers used to lay over.

Here's the cruising guide:


Captain Blight
07-24-2008, 02:42 AM
OOOOhhhh I wanna go there!!!

How's the area for crocs and sharks and rays and sea wasps and all the other things that Oz is so famous for?

What's that all about, anyway? I hear the least dangerous thing there are some of the sheep; but pretty much everything else will kill you stone dead with a glance at a mile.

The Bigfella
07-24-2008, 02:53 AM
Nah - no major worries around here. Crocs and sea wasps are a couple of thousand miles north. Yeah - there's been the odd shark seen in the river over the years apparently - but not by me. It is salt water after all.

My kids swim in it. I keep them out for a few weeks after heavy rain - because there is runoff from urban areas, but I reckon the fish and oysters are as good as any you will get anywhere in the world.

I've got fond memories from a couple of years back of standing on the back of a mate's river trawler and eating fresh caught mud crabs, cooked in a cut-down beer keg on the back of his boat.

The most dangerous thing I've seen in it was a brown snake - it swam past the boat at the mooring. I jumped in the little boat and "persuaded" it with an oar - as it was heading towards houses with young kids.

07-24-2008, 07:10 PM
Don't believe him Capt Blight, there use to be crocs but the sharks chased them out.:D

C. Ross
07-24-2008, 07:58 PM
Gorgeous Ian. A lovely river on a beautiful boat - can't get better than that.

(Don't think we don't notice the gratuitous "poisonous nasty beastie" that appears in every post from Downunder. You aren't fooling us, we aren't afraid, and we may come to visit!)

Captain Blight
07-25-2008, 01:31 AM
If a Seppo goes swimming in the river, does that count as pollution?

The Bigfella
07-25-2008, 01:48 AM
we may come to visit

... and you'd be very welcome. Grantala isn't quite to the stage where she's up to accommodating international visitors - but hopefully, its not too long before I start staying overnight again. Guests don't have to pay - they just get handed a brush!

You may have noticed a couple of ropes over the cabin top in some of the photos.... no safety rails yet!