Electric launch

16ft Duffy anchored in Middle Harbour

Last Friday was nice sunny day and I’d arranged to go boating with Steven from Eco-Boats down at Northbridge. Steven’s business is to sell and rent electric boats of various sorts and I went for a tour around Middle Harbour on his 16ft Duffy launch. Looking as though it should be on an English river with its full awning its actually really well suited to the Australian sunny days.

It makes for a really pleasant way to explore Middle Harbour. The boat is kept at Northbridge Marina and we cruised around to Bantry Bay which I remember from 80’s when I sailed on Sydney Harbour in a yacht owned by me and a mate, Chris White. (You can catch up with Chris and Dianne on their blog). Bantry Bay was one of my favourite places in the harbour – its amazing because from the bay, all you can see around you is wild Australian bush.  And this is in the middle of one of the world’s busiest cities. So it was a treat to go back to Bantry Bay and find that its still as private as ever – mind you it was midweek when no one else was there – Steve tells me it can be crowded on summer weekends.

Nice luxury for an afternoon on the harbour

This boat is imported from the US and Duffy makes the whole package.  It runs on six 6 volt batteries and you can easily get a good half day’s cruising from a charge.  The prop is attached to the rudder, so its really responsive to steering and can turn in its own length.  This makes it quite easy to drive for people who aren’t experienced with boats.

If you’d like a day out on Middle Harbour and like to try out the silence of an electric boat, check out Steve’s website for all the details you need.

He also imports various electric drives for retro fitting to diesel powered cruisers and sailing boats, so its a good site for those interested in converting to fume free boating.


Careel Bay is on the doorstep of the rugged Ku-ring-gai national park and I’ve just spent the last week or so there with Deb exploring the interesting bays and anchorages.

There's a climb up to this waterfall at Castle Lagoon

Searching for waterfalls was one of our favourite adventures ashore.  The one in Refuge Bay is well known – its right on the beach and kind of obvious.  And many of the other inlets have waterfalls but they’re not immediately obvious.  But we were lucky because it was often raining that gentle misty rain and it meant they were all flowing nicely.

Ross and Sandra Cook visited as well the first weekend and they showed us around – they knew this area well from sailing their boats here.

We had Castle Lagoon to ourselves...

The whole area is the flooded lower reaches of the Hawkesbury River and the creeks that flowed into it.  I guess it got flooded when the last ice age ended.  So now we have steep sandstone gorges with deep water right up the banks. Here’s a link to a cool landsat image of this area.

The National Parks provide moorings in most of the bays and inlets for use by visitors – an overnight limit means musical chairs for moorings on weekends. But weekdays we could choose pretty much anywhere.  But Jerusalem Bay’s three moorings were already taken when we arrived in the afternoon.  But then America Bay is a good fallback – it has dozens of moorings.

me: Did you say 79 dollars?

cashier: Oh yes – ours is an expensive shop. Our prices are really high you know – this is the only shop around here.

There’s a kind of wild honesty in this exchange at the kiosk at Cottage Point.   She didn’t even make the slightest no attempt to make excuses about their high prices.

Waterfall at America Bay - also a climb up to here.

We expected the groceries to cost about 30 bucks.  So be warned.  Carry plenty of spare change if you shop at Cottage Point.  Its an otherwise a delightful settlement on Cowan Creek. Surrounded by wild bushland and yet not that far from suburbia – perhaps 20 minutes drive.  Or 20 minutes by dinghy from Castle lagoon.

And how about the shark…  on the way in to Cottage Point a shark jumped full length and did a 360 spin while out of the water. A case of Dolphin envy no doubt.  It was about 4 ft long and grey with white trim.  I’ve never seen a shark jump out of the water before.

And I took a look at the Torqeedo humming gently at back of the dinghy and decided that it could it do with a little more throttle.

photography: Sandra Cooke
Shark bait

Sailing in these waters can be quite a challenge, especially with the wind coming from where we are heading.  Because of the steep slopes beside these narrow inlets the wind swirls around and never seems to stay the same strength and direction for more than a minute or two. And most of the time when we sailed it was on the jib alone.  It could be slow or difficult to tack in these conditions so I found it useful to have the motor running at a very low throttle – even set at a measley 100 watts was enough to help her around in the tacks, and be barely using any power.  And as soon as she picked up just a little speed from the wind, the power used by the motor would drop away to zero.  This was nice compromise and made for quiet comfortable sailing.

On the last day the wind was very light and I expected it to stay light until the afternoon. We were looking forward to a gentle sail back to Careel Bay.  I’d put the full main up to get the most of the light airs when soon after leaving America Bay the wind picked up a little.  In the gusts we were doing 12 to 15 knots and because of the flat water she doing it really easily.  I noticed about then that the motor was acting like a generator and putting plenty of power back into the batteries.  The Torqeedo Cruise 4 is not promoted as having this capability so this came as a nice surprise.

Yoeman's Bay

It was while I was checking the amps – running at up to 18 amps charging the batteries – that I felt her accelerating madly. Deb was at the wheel and called my attention.  We were copping a powerful gust of wind and in a matter of seconds we were doing 25 knots and she was heeled more than I was used to. I was standing ready to release main sheet traveller when we noticed the dinghy and two bean bags being dragged off the port trampoline by the wind.  Our attention was needed elsewhere and we could only watch as one by one they went overboard.  The melee kept up for about a minute before the gust died away and we were back sailing at a sedate 15 knots again.

Pity we had to drop the main and go back in search of our flotsam…

Thats the fastest she’s been since I’ve owned her.  It sure is a wild ride. Here’s a movie by Sandra from a few days earlier with just the jib – she’s doing about 10 knots CS-Pittwater-Mar010 – iPhone

Going back to pick up things meant we used the motor more than I intended so we had to run the genset for a while to top up the batteries while going back to Careel bay. So it was comforting to have this backup power supply.

I’m now back on the mooring and tidying up ready for the next adventure.  As with most outings something seems to get broken…  this time it was the antenna for the GPS that was taken away off the aft deck.  Owning a boat and sticking to a budget just don’t mix.

Swimming buddies