Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas from Kangaroo Island


Well as it happened, as often happens in fact we had a change of plan as conditions dictated. We did leave our favourite ditch in Western Port, Victoria on Friday evening  14th December to catch the first of the ebb tide back down to Cowes to be ready to leave the following morning.

The forecast was for strong easterly winds easing during the day and we went to bed with the alarm set for an early start. As it happened Chris had a bad night for sleeping and we snoozed on until later in the morning. The breeze was still quite strong but moderating so we set off heading west.

Apollo Bay was not a possibility as the swell was still running at about 2.5 meters and the Harbour Master there advised us against trying to enter the tricky harbour after the strong weather and big seas.  So, we decided to double the length of our trip and head straight for Port Fairy, a total of 157 miles. It was a bit of a strange voyage as the wind died completely by 15:30 hrs and we motored all through the night finally setting sail again for a few hours of sunny gentle windward sailing in the morning to take us into Port Fairy.

Charming Port Fairy. Snugly tied up in the river in the middle of town.
Port Fairy is gorgeous. We entered the river through a narrow channel between two walls built in the mid 1800s which took us to a very protected dock right in the middle of town. We enjoyed a couple of days relaxing and resting.  Shopping and eating out seemed to take most of the time. The harbour master was extremely helpful and we felt very well looked after.

Taking in the scenery at Port Fairy.  Good to see the magpie observing the rules!
Port Fairy lighthouse.  We marvel at these wonderful old structures.

We set off again mid-morning last Thursday to do another full day's sailing of 165 miles to Robe, our first stop in South Australia.

The curiously long and very flat Lady Julia Percy Island near Portland on our way to Robe.
Reminded us of a Keating quip - a mile wide and an inch deep!

We carried the asymmetric kite until dark which was lovely sailing. Straight downwind yet again so we were gybing along trying to not be too rolly. The kite came down for the night and was replaced by the poled-out jib. Slow progress during the night but there were so many cray pots we did not risk running the motor until dawn. As we approached Robe later in the morning the breeze came back enabling us to sail into the bay.

The lovely Assy flying us along

The marina at Robe is through the narrowest of channels between two walls into a tiny round pond where the occasional swell surge makes some alarming whirlpools and swirls in the water. Jenni bravely piloted the boat in and docked her in a brand-new marina berth among the fishing fleet. There was only one other tiny yacht here.

Robe's beautiful turquoise bay and narrow little harbour entry by the breakwater wall.

Robe Marina - we are a rare yacht here.

Rather like Port Fairy, Robe is a little old town full of beautifully preserved early buildings. Each one has a little plaque on it with a few words about its history.  The town is a growing summer holiday haven on South Australia’s Limestone Coast and lots of new little shops and cafes have sprung up on the main street since Jenni was last there about 5 years ago.  Fortunately,  the local coffee roasting business is still there doing a thriving trade and after a bit of a trek out to their premises, we are now well stocked up on good coffee. 

Lovely old Custom's House.  Fortunately saved from the madness of development demolition.
Robe even boasts a tiny local cinema and we had a big night out there to see Bohemian Rhapsody. A fabulous trip down rock-n-roll memory lane! 

The normal population of 1500 in Robe swells to about 10,000 over Christmas so it was time to get out of there and find a quiet spot for our festive season. 



The old obelisk at Robe, marking the way home for local fishing boats


Now a lot more navigation lights show the way around the ragged rocks.



Saturday lunchtime we set sail for Kangaroo Island and we had the most magnificent clear moonlit sail through the night, again accompanied by lots of friendly dolphins who seemed to take time out from their evening feeding to zoom over for a play with us.

Moon-rise brightening our way to Kangaroo Island 

Dawn saw us motoring into Antechamber Bay on Kangaroo Is - the first suitable place to anchor up for a few hours sleep. It was a bit rolly and exposed there so after lunch we headed around to the northern side of the island near American River where we are in a large, flat bay with no-one around us enjoying the first warm weather in a few weeks, and the first swim in the ocean since we were in Eden. 

As seems typical for South Australia and Adelaide, a heat wave is on its way here so more swimming to come.  We will enjoy a quiet Christmas on the boat here and then head up to Adelaide on Boxing Day for a few days to catch up with cousin Annette and possibly some other Albany sailors who are in Adelaide at this time.

Wishing everyone a very happy and safe Christmas.  Hope it's as relaxing as ours will be! 

Merry Christmas from a Southern Ocean Santa!

New boots and all - very cosy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Up a creek and in a ditch!


Our window of favourable winds came on Wednesday last week and we motored out of our snug little Refuge Cove as the sun was coming up into a calm sea, heading for Western Port.
Leaving Refuge Cove at dawn

It had been a very wild few days in there, Wilson’s Prom were reporting gusts of 60kts a few miles away and we were getting dollops of it where we were. The cove is like a bowl and the westerly wind swirls around and blows down from the steep hills at high speed. We were mostly safe however, our lovely new over-size anchor holding well in the sand and a second anchor out to stop us from doing circles. 

I can’t remember why but there was a good reason for us to move the second anchor rope from the stern to the bow on the windiest day. We then went below to pull the stove out and clean and service its gimbals. 

Mayhem below - and above as it turned out!
We were engrossed with that for a couple of hours and had become accustomed to the gusty conditions when Jenni pointed out that we were getting very close to the rocks. It turned out that we had done a couple of complete turns around the main anchor and on the last turn the chain had hooked under the shank and pulled the anchor out of the sand. We were hanging on by the second anchor only and it was time to take some action. We started the motor and managed to retrieve both anchors before motoring round the cove, being blown over at a good upwind sailing angle by some of the fierce gusts and looking for a patch of sand to put the anchor back in.

It all ended well and we put both hooks out again in a new spot.

Gorgeous Refuge Bay after the big blow.
By Tuesday the wind had moderated and we went for a wonderful bush walk through the soft forests of the southern most tip of mainland Australia. At the top of the hill separating Refuge Cove from Sealers Cove we found enough phone signal to post the last blog entry.

Stunning view of Sealers Cove from the popular Wilson's Prom walk trails

Beautiful lush vegetation on Wilson's Prom

Our Wednesday sail was fabulous. We had to motor for a few hours until the breeze filled in, rounding the Wilson’s Prom light and the islands off the point before we could set sail. By the afternoon a full sea breeze had come in and was pushing us along at our usual 8-10kts plus the odd squirt of 12+ down the waves. 

Wilson's Prom lighthouse - the southern most point of our journey.
Several pods of fun-loving dolphins with babies joined us along the way, surfing and playing in our bow wave, rolling over to eye-ball us and squeaking excitedly. Wonderful!

Just a couple of the dozens of friendly dolphins who played with us.
We decided to skip the anchorage we had planned to use in the eastern entrance to Western Port and continue the last few miles to the western entrance while the going was so good. After rounding the ragged rocks and entering the western channel, we made our way to a lovely quiet mooring at Cowes on the north side of Phillip Island.

The following morning we caught the tide up channel to Hastings marina where we stayed for 3 nights doing provisioning, a sail repair, fender cover make-over and replacing the steering cables.  All this activity whilst a very hot and wild 38 degree north easterly was blowing, a bizarre weather change after the cold south westerly gales at Wilson’s Prom just a few days earlier.

Low tide at Hastings. Big tides are a thing here - a bit like their namesakes in the UK.
Fenders sporting their new PJs - thanks to Hastings op-shop!
The marina was fine but a bit impersonal and we were next to the busy yard and boat lifter so after a bit of deliberation the decision was made to head a bit further upstream to Yaringa Boat Harbour which had caught our eye earlier as a cute looking little place. There is no shopping or public transport here but having done all of that in Hastings it seemed like a good place to spend a couple of days doing some engine maintenance that Chris had wanted to do since we left the Gold Coast.

Up a creek and in a ditch to get to Yaringa.
Yaringa harbour as you can see from the Google Earth image is a ditch cut in from the deeper water. Just as Upstart entered the channel we decided to start the motor and furl the jib. For the third time since we had been using the boat the starter motor would not work. Like the other occasions it did work after a few minutes of waiting but not before we had taken the precaution of lowering the anchor and were sitting safely in mid channel.

We have been here in Yaringa for three nights now, enjoying the charming low-key friendly atmosphere, and the lovely tidal wetlands, bush and abundant bird-life around us.

Feeling right at home in this little marina.
We have given the Nanni [motor] a wonderful holiday with new oil, hoses, anode, a fully cleaned and serviced heat exchanger and a threatening examination of the starting system, which all looks perfect of course. The drawers and cupboards all have new non-slip, the deck clutches have new labels, we have washed off the dirt from the wind at the last port of call and we are generally feeling ready to continue.
Bring out the tools - its time for Nanni to have some TLC.
At this stage Saturday is looking good for a voyage to Apollo Bay.  We are planning to leave here on Friday and go back to Cowes for a night before setting off again into Bass Straight.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Cruising Bass Strait

We are currently hiding from some fierce gales in the appropriately named Refuge Cove on Wilson’s Promontory, the southern most tip of Victoria and mainland Australia. It is a gorgeous east facing cove surrounded by high wooded hills with a beach at each end.  Outside of here we have a couple of strong cold fronts passing over a few days. It is a very good place to be. We had reports of 50 knot winds at Wilson's Prom yesterday. All is well for us in this sheltered cove.

Hiding in Refuge Cove
We crossed the bay at Eden again last Monday morning after celebrating Jen’s birthday with a fine dinner in the restored 1800’s hotel at Boydtown. Our last day in Eden then quickly disappeared in the usual preparations to leave early the next day. We made our last trek up the hill in Eden to the shops to do a bit of provisioning including some fuel, and got it all back on board with the help of local sailors Brian and Deb who we met through the ‘Women Who Sail’ Facebook page.

This next leg of the voyage was a significant one in that we would be rounding the corner and starting to head west at last.  We would also be well and truly in the infamous Bass Strait by the time we arrived at our destination of Corner Inlet at the base of Wilson’s Prom which was 230 miles away, our longest passage to date.

We needed to arrive before 6pm on Wednesday to avoid the strong ebb tide, so in order to give ourselves plenty of time we set off at 4am on Tuesday. We knew it would be calm and we would be motoring for the first few hours before a nice 15kt easterly set in for the night and that was how it turned out. Our timing was planned on a conservative average speed of 6 kts and as usual we made good speed and with an average of 7 kts, arrived a bit early and entered the channel at 12.30pm. This was good as it meant we had time to do the last few hours cruising through the shallow channel to Port Welshpool where Roz was hoping to catch the bus the following morning.
Bass Strait Sunset
It was a glorious trip from beginning to end. Bass Strait was benign and kind to us and we gently sailed through the oil platforms in the dark,  seeing 12 at one time all brightly lit up against the clear  night sky. We saw a late whale, lots of dolphins some of which came to play, a shark, shooting stars and the majestic Bullers Albatross in abundance. Everyone on board felt energised and there was no hint of the dreaded mal de mer. The motion of the boat was easy, speed was good and we all loved it.
We said a sad farewell to Roz on Thursday morning in Port Welshpool.  Thanks to Uncle Colin’s mate Robin for the lift to the bus, and thanks to Roz for a month of very good company and lots of laughs.
Farewell Roz
Port Welshpool Wharf
After a day of rest on the Fishing Boat Wharf in Port Welshpool [160 people, 1 part time shop and 1 part time pub] we left for Refuge Cove yesterday on a sunny gentle day knowing that gales were not far away and we would be more secure there than anywhere else in this stretch of water.
Approaching Refuge Cove - the calm before the storm
Here at latitude 39 degrees south there is a distinct chill in the air, even when the sun is shining and we are rediscovering our thermal clothing.  Whilst it’s good preparation for Albany, we do hope to feel some warmer weather again before we get home!
Rugged up for cooler latitudes
As usual we are now watching the weather forecasts and looking for a little window free of strong westerly winds so we can continue our journey. Next stop will be Western Port although we would love to head to King Island (tempted by the famous cheeses!), however the weather isn't looking like it will send us that way.
Refuge Cove Colours

Closing in on the Kimberley

It feels like we have shot up the west coast really quickly this year. We are currently in Broome for a few days catching up with people and...