We had an early start on Thursday - luckily the girls woke up themselves at 5.45am, so it wasn't too difficult to get everyone ready and out the door by 7.30. We walked back down to the Light Rail - much easier downhill, and in the early morning, compared to yesterday afternoon. We got to Central Station in plenty of time to transfer to our train to take us up to Hawkesbury River, where we were picked up at the station by one of the houseboat company employees.
Our boat was called Josephine, and we spent about an hour getting everything on board (I'd ordered our groceries via Coles Online, so they were there waiting for us - much easier than carrying them all with us!), watching the safety video, being shown how to use everything on board (especially the toilet), organising life jackets etc, then we were piloted out into the river and left to our own devices! It was a beautiful sunny day, pleasantly warm, and the boat was very easy to drive.
We motored under the rail bridge (so exciting) then past the opening to the ocean (in the distance) and past an increasing number (and variety of colours) of jellyfish. We reached Jerusalem Creek at low tide and it looked magnificent, exposed sand banks and mangroves between high cliffs. All of the public moorings were taken and we tried to anchor but it was much trickier than the instructions made it seem, so we decided to move on. There was a bay with a beach just to the south of the creek, with 3 available public moorings, so we pulled in there. Our first attempt at mooring took us a while, especially with the swell and the tide, but we got it eventually.
We all jumped into the row boat and rowed to shore. The girls were a bit nervous. I hadn't rowed for many years and the life jacket made it trickier (Tony and I ditched the life jackets for subsequent trips) - it came back to me quickly and I enjoyed it. On the beach we discovered a huge colony of soldier crabs - whenever we went close it looked like the ground was moving, there were so many of them. Watching them burrow into the sand when we got too close was fascinating too. We played in the water and went for a walk up into the mangroves, tried snorkelling a little and saw lots of little fish. As Tony was pulling the row boat back into the water he saw a Port Jackson Shark, and Caitlin stepped on something (possibly another little shark) that bit her.
Back to the houseboat and we got moving again. One of the cool things about being on the boat was that we could eat (and prepare food) while we were on the move. We ate and sat out the front or back of the boat, or chatted inside, took lots of photos, listened to music, surrounded by a magnificent view. A very very pleasant way to travel.
We headed down to the far end of Smiths Creek, where we'd hoped to go snorkelling. It was higher tide by now so not so much shallow water and we weren't sure if there would even be beaches as such this far from the ocean. We moored (much more easily this time) and spent an hour or so sitting on the boat enjoying the tranquility of the bay, watching the birds, dangling our feet in the water etc. Caitlin was a bit spooked after being bitten earlier and decided not to go in the water here, and after a while we moved to Stingray Bay, a bit closer to the entrance to the creek. Tony took the big kids for a row - Amelie didn't want to get back in the rowboat so she and I stayed on board and played with her sticker book. The others rowed to the end of the bay and climbed up on the rocks, and went snorkelling. Tony cut his foot on the rocks and Caitlin saw a stingray which freaked her out, so they came back fairly quickly. We had sausages in bread for tea, sitting up on top of the boat, then watched the sun set over the high cliffs. Once it was dark we went to bed fairly quickly rather than using up battery power on lights for too long.
(I don't have photos available of today at the moment - will include some when I get access to them)