In the early days before the coming of steam boats, the picturesque coastline up from Sydney and welcome sight of Nobbys on a clear day were an event to be looked forward to by the crew of the little 'sixty milers'. However if the weather turned foul and a south easterly gale whipped up mountainous waves, it was a different story and the narrow passage became a nightmare. The channel was tortuous and shallow, and full of shoals. The deepest water that could be expected at low tide was 15 feet, and that was limited to a narrow, tricky channel. The dangers were well known from earliest exploration and settlement. 
"Sunday, 14 June, 1801. - At 6 a.m. bore up and made all possible sail, the Coal Island (an island in the entrance) N.N.W. 6 miles. At half-past 10, I went on shore withDr. Harris, to examine the entrance, which we found very narrow.
On the left hand side going in was a reef of rocks from the island, with much heavy serf breaking on it; on the right was an extensive flat, with a tremendous roll of sand breakers over it. The channel in was troubled with much heavy swell, and did all but break, so that I hove the boats head round and pulled out again; sounded 5 fms. On considering the risk we run of bringing the vessel in without well ascertaining the channel, I pulled in, carrying from 5 to 4 and 3 1/2 fathoms close to the island. On our getting on shore we climbed up this steep island and hoisted a flagg as a signal this was the right place.'Ensign Barralierwho accompanied the expedition to make a survey of the harbour wrote 'Such a fearful passage one has to clear to arrive in this fine harbour.
The roaring of the waves thrown one upon the other, breaking with a fearful noise on the steep rocks of the isle and furiously rolling on to the sands of the opposite shore, inspire with awe the most intrepid seaman
Customs Officers employed at Newcastle 1820's - 1850.
In 1830 the Sydney Gazette gave the following report of the wreck of the famous little packet the Lord Liverpool......
We regret to announce the almost total wreck of the Lord Liverpool on the evening of Tuesday last. She left Sydney, for Newcastle on the preceding Saturday, having on board, Mr. and Mrs. Cobb,Mr. Hosking, Mr. Parker,Dr. Parmeter, and about forty assigned servants, and after a smart gusty passage of about seven hours, arrived off Nobby's Island, where she was obliged to cast anchor, owing to an adverse wind and a tremendous surf which rendered it impossible to make the harbour of Newcastle. The pilot,Mr. Hughes, came off immediately, andCaptain Taggartlost no time in sending the passengers ashore, who were safely landed after undergoing a very severe ducking.
The prisoners were put ashore on Nobbys. The little vessel weathered the storm pretty well until Tuesday, when after making several ineffectual efforts to tack in, in the course of the day, she became entangled among the rocky shoals, about seven o'clock in the evening, and soon began to fill through two great fissures in her bottom. Her masts were cut away and all the usual methods resorted to in order to get her off, but without success; nor was the removal of the cargo, consisting principally of sugar and soft goods, effected before it had sustained considerable damage from the sea water. Every assistance was afforded by the authorities at the settlement; - the government boats, well manned, were ordered out, and several private boats, among others, one belonging toDr. Moran rendered every possible aid on the distressing occasion. A number of gentlemen, also, amongst whom were Mr. Commissioner Therry, Dr. Moran, Mr. Solicitor Williams etc encouraged the boats' crews by their own example, and liberally distributed grog and other refreshments to the men, to excite and reward their exertions.
Captain Taggart is almost inconsolable at the misfortune; and it is but justice to that very clever mariner, to state that no blame whatever is attributable to him. At the period of the latest accounts, the vessel was on her beam ends, and some hopes were entertained that the very great efforts which were then making, would succeed in getting her afloat again, and that the damage would not ultimately prove to be so great as to render her repair impracticable.'
(*The Lord Liverpool was floated and in December it was reported that she was being taken to Sydney for repairs.)
The treacherous waters around Nobbys became known throughout the world and mariners sighting the infamous island in stormy weather often knew what they were up against. With luck they made it through the narrow passage, however over the years many mariners have been consigned to a 'watery grave' as their tiny vessels failed to traverse the fearful passage.
Customs Terms - Select from the drop down list -
VESSELS AT NEWCASTLE
Vessels at Newcastle in the first thirty years of settlement (Date is the earliest reference found - some vessels traded for several years):
1801 Anna Josepha owned by Lord and Meehan; crew of 28. 170 tons. Took 100 tons of coal and 4000 feet of timber from Newcastle to Sydney in October 1801
1801 Lady Nelson. Lieutenant James Grant directed by Gov. King to take the Lady Nelson to H.R. in June 1801
1801 Norfolk. Govt. owned. Seized by escaping convicts at Hawkesbury and lost at Pirate Point, Newcastle.
1803 Edwin - Took a sample of coal from a new mine at Newcastle to Sydney. Owned by J. Palmer. 16 tons. 3 crew. Wrecked in 1816. Captain and crew walked 100 miles to Newcastle
1803 James - Owned by T. Raby and in 1804, the frame of a house.
1803 Nautilis - Master James Black. 18 crew. To Newcastle in August (in ballast). In August 1816 the Master, Edward Edwards implicated in escape of prisoners from Newcastle and in November 1816 went ashore at Newcastle.
1803 Raven - Owned by T. Raby. Sailing to Hunter River in May
1804 Governor King - Owned by Kable & Underwood. Coal and 64 logs of cedar to Sydney in February. Wrecked at Hunter River in 1806
1810 Sally. Master James Brown. Taking supplies to Newcastle settlement in January. Wrecked after springing a leak near Reid's Mistake in 1812.
1810 Speedwell. - Master William Johnston taking supplies to Newcastle in January 1810. In 1814 seized by convicts. Master William Patten in 1814.
1811 Eliza - Owner Joseph Underwood. Wrecked at Port Stephens in July
1811 Northumberland. Owner Mr. Blaxcell. Missing for 5 weeks since sailing to the Hunter.
1811 Perseverance. Master Robert Murray. Ran aground at Newcastle
1812 Boyd - Lost on a beach between Hunter River and Port Stephens known as the sandhills. Full freight of wheat.
1812 Mary - Owned and built by John Redmond, Chief constable at Sydney. Loading coal for the Indian market in 1812
1816 Elizabeth Henrietta - Launch of the Elizabeth Henrietta, govt. vessel 150 tons in June. Master John Ross. Mrs Ross and crew member drowned at Hunter River in August when vessel upset her moorings. Wrecked at Newcastle 1825.
1816 Elizabeth and Mary- Owned by Mr. Underwood. Reported to have gone on shore at Newcastle
1816 Kangaroo. Joseph Ross acting as pilot for the Kangaroo in and out of Newcastle harbour
1816. Recovery. Master Peter Hibbs. Wrecked at Port Stephens in July. Passengers walked to Newcastle
1816 Windsor. Owned by Henry Major. Wrecked at the Long Reef after departing Newcastle for Sydney
1816 Nautilis. Ran aground at Newcastle. Said to be blocking the clearing channel
1817 Endeavour. New schooner owned by John Black. Lost in a gale at Newcastle in December
1820 Princess Charlotte. Took Commissioner Bigge to Newcastle in February. George Williams First mate.
1821 Newcastle - Built at Hunter River in 6 months. 3 1/2 ton schooner. Owned by Mr. Street in 1826.
1821 Snapper. - In June made the shortest trip to date between Sydney and Newcastle - 38 hrs.
1822 Magnet - Wrecked at Newcastle. Owned by Thomas Wilson
1823 Calder. Wrecked at Newcastle. Captain William Worth. Owned by Peter Dillon.
1823 Mars. Sloop built at Newcastle 30 tons. Wrecked at Port Stephens 1826
1824 Fame - Brig. Thomas Young master. Trader between Sydney and Newcastle
1824 Lord Liverpool. Alexander Livingstone master. Coppered, copper fastened cutter established as a regular packet for passengers and goods between Sydney and Newcastle. In 1827 took the first load of coal from Lake Macquarie to Sydney.
1824 Sally. Taking prisoner to Newcastle in December.
1825 Nereid. Captain Forbes. Wrecked 10 miles north of Newcastle
1825 Sophia - Owned by Edward Cory commencing trade between Sydney and Newcastle in December.
1826 Balberook - Sloop belonging to A.A. Company. Wrecked off Port Stephens. Select here for an account of the wreck
1826 Charlotte - 10 tons.. Took 10 days from Sydney to Newcastle. Wrecked on the beach five miles from Newcastle in September 1827
1826 Currency Lass - Cutter built for T.W.M. Winder at Captain Livingston's farm. 100 tons. Launched October 400 people attended. Captain Taggart
1826 Elizabeth - Purchased by John Smith of Newcastle. Trader between Newcastle and Sydney
1826 Gurnett - 15 tons. Seized by escaping convicts. Belonging to Mr. Street of Sydney
1826 St. Michael - Arrived in Newcastle having lost her sails in a storm. Purchased by the owners of the Lord Liverpool.
1827 Amelia - Seized at Newcastle for having arrived with a cargo of liquor without permission
1827 Australia - Owned by A. A. Company. Taking 2 steam engines to Port Stephens
1827 Australian Lad - Cutter. Trader between Newcastle and Sydney. Totally lost and crew perished October.
1827. Lambton - 82 tons. Cutter owned by the A.A. Company. Captain Corlette. Based at Port Stephens.
1828 Darling - Colonial Schooner. Passengers and goods from Sydney to Newcastle. January
1828 Dove - Lost in a storm to the north of Port Stephens. 7 lives lost. June
1828 Governor Arthur - Trading between Sydney and Newcastle March
1829 Samuel - 50 tons. Taking coals to Sydney in September