Tweet Manookatoo Adventures: Cruising on the Clarence - or, the leisurely pub crawl

Friday, 23 June 2017

Cruising on the Clarence - or, the leisurely pub crawl

Stop 1 - the Pacific Hotel
Pubs were always going to play their part in our time on the Clarence River; both the captain and first mate had separate happy memories of the Pacific Hotel at Yamba, so that was our first destination after we tied up at the Marina on a wet Friday afternoon. While the view was not as clear and blue as we both recalled, it was still lovely looking out over the sea and the break wall and reflecting on our successful entry through the bar and into the river. Talking with locals at the Yamba Yacht Club, it became clear that entry into the Clarence is no mean feat and we were right to be pleased with our achievement!
The brand new jetty at Maclean
Saturday was wet again, with continuing rain forecast along the coastal strip, so we cast off from the Marina just after breakfast, heading upstream and hoping for better weather! We passed the Iluka-Yamba ferry on her way in, then cruised through the narrow northern opening in the middle wall and out into the river proper, cruising past Iluka and Harwood on our way to Maclean. The Clarence River is wide and mostly deep, which made navigation easy. We tied up at the brand new public jetty at Maclean and went for a short walk to investigate the Main Street, check out the local (Scottish) information centre and consider options for lunch and dinner. Most shops close at noon on a Saturday and don't open at all on Sunday, so we were happy to find a nice pork roast at the butchers before returning to Manookatoo for lunch. As the weather had cleared in the afternoon, we went for a long walk, admiring all the historical buildings and the regular references to the town's Scottish roots, including many power poles painted in tartans and dual language street signs! We visited the Big River services club for an afternoon drink overlooking the Clarence before returning to the boat for the night. 
Brushgrove beer garden - with boat view!
Brushgrove Hotel
Sunday dawned with sunshine and blue skies, so after breakfast we cast off and continued upstream. We cruised along beside Woodford Island, the largest inland island in Australia, then tied up at the jetty at Lawrence for a long walk to the ferry crossing, the local museum in the old ABC radio studios, then along the ridge and back into town. All the towns along the Clarence have substantial levee banks, as flooding is a regular issue in the valley - the highest recorded level being in 1890, followed by 2001. Returning to Manookatoo we continued  cruising until we reached the south arm of the river, where pulled up at the public jetty at Cowper and crossed the bridge to Brushgrove, where an old fashioned pub serves delicious lunches on the banks of the river. A lazy afternoon followed, with the captain taking the opportunity to watch his beloved footy team win, then pizzas for dinner and an early night.
Looks low from here!
Drizzle started again on Monday, so the captain cast off while the first mate lazed in bed. Continuing upstream, we stopped at Ulmarra for breakfast. By then the sky had cleared, so we kept heading up the Clarence, bound for Grafton. A stiff wind made the river a little choppy as we approached the Grafton bridge with some caution, being unsure of the clearance below. With a metre or two to spare, we cruised across to the northern shore, tying up at the jetty at the end of Prince Street, the main shopping strip for the town. We were happy to have a secure place to moor as the wind increased over the afternoon. Deciding to explore the town, we walked around the streets on the northern bank before crossing over the double-decker bridge to find the information centre and explore south Grafton. There is a lot of history in the town, which used to be a major inland port, and the many heritage listed buildings reflect this.  We returned to Manookatoo for lunch, then took advantage of the range of supermarkets (and a Dan Murphy's!) to do some restocking of the pantry. A late afternoon drink at The Family Hotel capped off an enjoyable stay in Grafton.
Ulmarra Hotel beer garden
On Tuesday morning the captain took Manookatoo (and the first mate) over to the marina at South Grafton for a walk before breakfast. The smaller township on this side of the river also contains many historic buildings and we took advantage of the local greengrocer and butcher to plan our lunch and dinner. We returned to Manookatoo for breakfast, then cast off, passing under the bridge again to begin our journey back downstream. Just over an hour later we tied up at Ulmarra, a beautiful heritage town with a pub that boasts one of the best beer gardens in NSW, overlooking the river. 
Which team to support in State of Origin??
Wednesday started cold and overcast but by after breakfast the sky was beginning to clear so we took the opportunity to do the historical walk, admiring the many period buildings including a court house, two pubs, a dairy and council chambers. Ulmarra was certainly once bigger than it is now! Most shops these days sell arts and crafts, antiques or coffee and food and it is easy to see why, with lots of tourists stopping here on their way up or down the Pacific Highway. Our next destination was only a couple of hours south, at Lawrence, so we took a leisurely cruise down the river, enjoying a lazy afternoon and an early evening drink in the Lawrence Hotel. The fire was going and the State of Origin was on the TV, but we returned to Manookatoo for dinner and watched the game relaxing in front of our own TV. 
On Thursday morning the sun rose in a blue sky, so we took a stroll across the old wooden bridge and along the riverfront before returning to the boat for breakfast, then we cast off. With the current flowing our way we made good time, pulling in at Maclean to buy some supplies then continuing downstream to Harwood. With the lift bridge closed for repairs there were a couple of yachts on the floating jetty who could go no further, so we tied up at the small fixed jetty. We were unsure whether we would stay the night, but a visit to the Harwood "Hilton" convinced us of the merits of the place! We enjoyed a delicious seafood lunch at the pub and returned in the late afternoon for their pate and a couple of pre dinner drinks. The Pacific Highway crosses the Clarence at Harwood, but it wasn't going to disturb us tonight.
Meeting friends in Iluka
On Friday morning the captain cast off before the first mate was out of bed, bound for Iluka where we had an early morning coffee date with Mary-Anne and Tony before they left for Newcastle. It was great to catch up with them and hear of their plans for a new Marina at Iluka - we'd love to visit again in a few years time and see their new facilities. We filled up with fuel after they left, then cruised across to the mooring they had offered us for the night; it was in a lovely position just near a little sandy beach. We dropped the Brig in the water and went ashore to explore the town and the breakwater, buying bread and mushrooms in the local shops and enjoying a drink at Sedgers  Reef Hotel before returning to Manookatoo for lunch. Later, we cruised across to check out the Yamba Shores Tavern - with a lovely long jetty in front it is a consideration for a night on our return journey! Cruising back, we observed how much the bar had settled, boding well for tomorrow morning's exit. The sun set was spectacular - "red sky at night, sailors' delight"; we look forward to a new destination further north! 
Red sky at night, sailors' delight
Captain's log:
Distance traveled - 72.4 nautical miles
Cruising time - 13 hours 10 minutes
Fuel - 71.5 litres

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