Me and my crew of four just got back from our Port Stephens to Lord Howe Island cruise
. Lord Howe Island is a wonderful place. It's physically beautiful with twin majestic peaks, has prolific birdlife, healthy reefs
and excellent snorkelling/diving. There are several stunning walking trails including the famous Mount Gower 8-10 hour guided walk on fixed ropes part of the way. The island fully deserves its World Heritage status and reputation as one of the most beautiful islands of the Pacific. There were enough shore-side activities to keep us busy during our stay, including a small museum which hosts regular lectures.
It took us 70 hours to get out there and 58 hours to get back in our Lavezzi
. We ended up spending 10 days on a mooring
in the lagoon
just off Dawson's Point about 500 metres from the jetty. The mooring
cost us about AUD 70 per day including admin fees
and environmental levies. We felt this was acceptable given the location and the good facilities ashore. Bikes can be hired for $55 per week and basic provisioning
is possible. Wifi
is available with the best deal providing 1gb for $10. Remarkably, we were the only visiting yacht during our entire stay.
The main reason Lord Howe is not visited more often by yachts is that it is a true offshore destination
and the northern Tasman Sea is one of the more challenging stretches of water
. The area is subject to both tropical lows coming from the north as well as vigorous fronts from the south and the occasional but dreaded East Coast
Lows which can develop rapidly off the coast of eastern Australia
. There are also many currents including various eddies and branches of the East Australian Current
. Of course these currents can be useful as they were to us on our return when we effortlessly averaged close to 10 knots SOG for several hours. On our way out, however, we had a difficult 24 hours battling a 25-33 knot
southerly, 3-4 metre seas and a north-flowing current
which threatened to push us away from Lord Howe. Careful passage
planning, routing and a good crew are essential. One great feature of Lord Howe is that you can get a personal briefing from the resident Bureau of Meteorology officer at the airport
- just give Amy a call on VHF
12 to arrange a visit.
I had heard bad stories of extreme discomfort in the lagoon
at high tide. In reality it wasn't too bad at all but this was largely due to being on a catamaran
. Conditions are also better during neap tides. The shallow draft
of a catamaran was also very helpful giving us more options for mooring and getting in and out of the lagoon. We entered though North Passage
almost at low tide with a 3-metre SSE swell running and it was fine. Likewise we departed at half-tide through a developed SW swell and the North Passage was also fine although big rollers were spectacularly breaking on either side of us. The main concern was depth
inside the lagoon which is scattered with many coral
heads and I wouldn't be so keen to visit Lord Howe on a monohull
Overall, this was one of the best cruises, and indeed travel experiences, of my life.