Anchoring by the axis of our desires we find a cure for wanderlust in the creation of a static voyage at Greenwell Point.
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Obviously alien to the place, we haul the dinghy on to the verge, dust the sand from our soggy feet, and search up and down the grassy banks. A frisson of excitement stirs as we try to grasp the culture of the new surrounds. Like a thief, the grand vistas steal our myopic self-interest of finding supplies. In the distance, blue hills stand proud through the sunny haze and the water’s diamonds continue their endless sparkly dance. The symphony of flowery scents greets us amidst the tangy salt laden breeze; I defy anyone to visit Greenwell Point on a sunny day and not become absorbed by scenery & bird song. As we gather our thoughts and shoes, a woman with purposeful strides and convivial smile steps from her waterfront garden and makes a beeline for the “new faces”. Deanne is our welcoming committee. Although short on blazing fanfare from thronged crowds, tugs hooting and people cheering, her welcome into Greenwell Point is definitely on a par, but more noted for its generosity.
“I see you have just arrived, we have a tap right behind that gate, please just come in, and help yourselves to water any time you need it.” She pauses for breath as we allow ourselves to be drawn into the warm embrace of welcome. She continues, “Any help I can give you at all, please just ask, now, would you like a cup of tea, where have you come from . . . .?”
Where we are
This is typical of Greenwell Point. A surf wave of assistance is forever rolling in time and again. Nestled 15 miles south of Kiama and 15 miles north of Jervis Bay, Greenwell Point is a small village of about 1,000 permanent residents, overlooking the charming Crookhaven River. Shoalhaven River entrance is immediately north of Crookhaven Head and that bar is now closed due to silting, but Berry’s Canal unites the two rivers.
Apart from splendid views I wish I owned, the unique town offers a small supermarket, a post office (that sells almost everything) and a rather special Butcher’s; a couple of restaurants, a bowlo, motel, pub, fish and chips on the foreshore and plenty of public boat ramps. Award winning Oyster farms, great fishing, boat hire, sandy beaches, caravan parks, grassy parks, and extraordinarily clear water for a cooling dip. I can circumnavigate the town on my bike in twenty minutes, with just the snap of drying laundry to interrupt the peace.
Pleasure Boating hub of NSW?
Greenwell Point is primarily a fishing village, famous for its oysters, fish and other seafood available around the small town. The town was named after an Aboriginal doctor, ‘Greenwell,’ known for his treatment of snakebite and toothache.
For deep-sea fishing, Greenwell Point supplies a gateway to Sir John Young Banks, or you can watch the trawlers unload their catch and some days dolphins glide into the
river. From ocean-going craft to tinnies, they can all be launched at one of the easy boat ramps in town. Coupled with beach fishing or boat hire, there is little excuse to go home without a good size flathead or bream.
There are two courtesy moorings available for visiting boats, managed by the Shoalhaven Marine Rescue Association that has its base here. About a dozen private moorings are scattered along the river, where the perpetual pumping sea swell never manages to encroach. Anchoring is possible; however, the tidal stream runs rapidly at around two knots at its peak. Almost perfect, the anchorage is peaceful, protected from most winds and secure. Reassuringly, the local neighbourhood watch extends out to the boats.
Once ashore, reaching the bus stop for Nowra, or just the local supermarket can take an extra hour, not because there is far to go. It is the residents; many of them have high strength nautical blood running through their veins. A new boat staying in town creates much interest and the jungle drums beat at an alarming rate in a small community. The 10-minute walk to grab a loaf of bread can take half a day, filled with pleasant conversations. Nowra is the nearest main town, just 15 minutes away in car or regular bus. Selecting the less frantic back roads, cows and horses line the road nonchalantly chewing, they blink lazily at the rapid cars screaming past. Most days you can witness the wonder of a new calf breaking into the world and sometimes there is a cow craving liberty, trotting up the lanes.
Special Residents SMRA
The Shoalhaven Marine Rescue Association operates a 24-hour rescue and radio service. During summer, they can average up to 3,200 calls a month. Volunteers operate the boats and pilot station; these people do not just talk on the radio and rescue. Relentless fund raising is organised all year round and we all know the kind of maintenance boats need. It is one of the busiest rescue associations in NSW.
Sucked into the vortex of village life
Craving a rest from salty sojourns, we settle into village life and soon find ourselves part of the SMRA. With two boats to service, many miles to cover and a mass of eager volunteers, we attend weekly training sessions with Paul Klausen, one of the Skippers. Each Tuesday we train and as we are “at hand”, we can be regularly called to aid a rescue, which are more often than not towing jobs. However, our knowledge does not match the impressive team of Skippers that, week in week out, generously give their time and take the enormous responsibility to lead rescue operations.
Times past, Shoalhaven area
In a Whaleboat, at the end of 1879, Bass and his crew of six traversed south past Black Point and followed around the bight of Seven Mile Beach before discovering the mouth of the Shoalhaven River. Of the river he wrote, “is very narrow at the entrance, the south side of which is formed by a rocky point and the north by a breaking spit of sand which runs from a sandy point . . . the great part being filled up with mud and sand . . ., this place deserves no better name than the Shoals Haven.” Bass and his crew spent three days exploring the Crookhaven River.
The Paddle steamer Coolangatta (built at Shoalhaven) carried farm produce to the ocean-going steamers at Greenwell Point. History books note that the 87 tonne wooden vessel was built in 1840’s and 1865 (in two different sources of information); maybe they started building the boat in the 40’s and finished in ’65. At 99 feet long, it was ideal for its work on the Shoalhaven River. Because of its role, the Coolangatta was affectionately known as “The Wheelbarrow”. In 1870, the great flood washed the Coolangatta out of the river, demolishing at least one house on its wild path. When the floods subsided, a team from Sydney assisted local workers to move the ship back up the river and restore her within just five weeks! Unfortunately, the Skipper was ruined and moved away and it seems the fated Coolangatta was washed down stream in the next flood in 1873 where the crew were forced to abandon the ship. Coolangatta was carried into the unforgiving sea where she was sadly wrecked.
Greenwell Paradise feels like coming home. You see, the town has a special sparkle that’s hard to put your finger on. With an abundance of retirees and holiday homes, many people like to think the town will not change. The supermarket is just six months old and there are great plans for Good Night Island, a pretty islet just across the water. The new eco-resort is in the planning stage. Tourists will keep flocking here and there are vacant shop areas on the main street. The town is simply begging for a café and bakery, but I hope it manages to hang on to its enchanting ambience.
Before the introduction of steam communications, a large fleet of sailing boats was regularly employed, taking cargoes from the river. The year 1854 was a record one for the district in an agricultural sense, as then heavy crops of potatoes and maize were obtained, and fetched high prices. The scarcity of these products in Sydney, owing to vessels being weather bound, very often put the market up and as many as thirty out-ward bound vessels were detained at one time by continuous north east winds. That wind can be a problem these days, which is perhaps the one downside at Greenwell Point. Throughout summer the north easterlies are dominant, thankfully the mooring/anchorage area reaps protection from the northern side of the river. However, a strong north westerly over the fair fetch and against the tidal stream can whip up half-metre seas. The boats on moorings are buffeted between wind and tide and we all “sail” around our anchoring gear. Fortunately, this is not a common occurrence and does not last too long.
A Place to Stay
We have harboured a hope that somewhere in the world was a place for us on land, now it seems there is. Greenwell Point has beguiled us from our roaming, alluring us with the locals unwrapping their smiles and offering the antique courtesy of hat tipping to wish good day. Contentment comes in the form of watching the locals and tourists try their luck for Flathead. Even Benji the dog, who lives on the foreshore with our friend David, leaps his fence to welcome us as we row ashore. The persistent winter rain drums steadily in a soothing beat, creating vivid England greens that stirs a memory of my home. The miasma of clapboard holiday cottages, upturned dinghies, Pelicans perched on lampposts creates Tourette’s syndrome for eyes. With our oars in one garden, our car in another and our pushbikes in yet another, we are spreading our belongings for safekeeping around the town. A pushbike ride is one handed, the other in air for constant waving to the locals partaking in alfresco chatting.
As the sun dips behind the hazy horizon we listen to the Curlew, its long down curving beak issues a mournful cry. Daytime we catch glimpses of the sea eagles, spiralling above, diving and clutching writhing fish. Elegant Pelicans skim past, along the smooth waters, showing off their aerial abilities. Anchored by the axis of our desires we find a cure for waning wonder lust in the creation of a static voyage. The ebb and flow of wants and needs alters unexpectedly for us all. My doubts of buying a house recede back into the murky depths of decisions. We have succeeded in traversing the briar patches of being on the water, now we face the quicksand of land life, but I think it’ll be all right at Greenwell Point.
Timing is critical with the bar entrance into the Crookhaven if a north easter blows, wind against tide makes the bar dangerous. An incoming tide in most winds allows an entrance and with decent depths, it opens up the window of opportunity a little wider.
The entrance has great lead markers/lights to guide you in. Approaching from the south, watch for the shoal against the north side of Wheelers Point. From the north, you can approach in a direct line from Black Point, which is seven miles north of the entrance. The shallowest stretch of water is inside the entrance, with over two metres at low tide.
Shoalhaven Marine Rescue Association
This Association relies on the efforts of volunteers. Over 60% of all marine rescues in NSW are carried out by volunteers. SMRA carry out more rescues than all but one other marine rescue unit in NSW.
The Pilot Station has been manned by Michael and Teresa Beckett for over five years. In 2006, the dedicated group of radio operator’s team took a monthly average of 3200 calls to base and 11 calls for assistance.
It is possible to traverse the rivers all the way to Nowra. The ferry runs cables below the water at around 1.76 metres. The cables can become slack in the racing currents and this could lift the cables, reducing their depth.