Monday, March 18, 2019

Albany Arrival Part 2

For those who receive our blog by email it seems the last one about our arrival in Albany was cut short.  There is a little video showing us scooting through the channel coming into Albany, and that's where the email version of the blog stopped.

If you would like to see the video and the rest of the blog, click on this link to go to the full blog site:

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Albany Arrival

Four months after leaving Brisbane and the Gold Coast, on 20th February 2019 we made a joyous arrival in our home port of Albany. We have had the most amazing experience sailing over 3,200 nautical miles down the east and across the south coasts of Australia.

In the channel to Princess Royal Harbour Albany - nearly home!
Although we have been ‘home’ for a few weeks ago now, and somewhat immersed in the busyness of land life it’s time to share the story and some of the thrills of the last leg from Esperance….

Checking our navigation from Esperance - Albany is that way!

After Diana and Peter said a reluctant farewell, we chilled out for a week in the lovely friendly town of Esperance, as usual waiting for the weather to be right for the next leg.  We enjoyed the down-time and Esperance’s cafes, cinema, quirky museum, scenic walks and fabulously friendly yacht club.  I must mention the wonderfully helpful Mark Quinlivan again – the guy who lent us a car for our time there.  Diana and Peter spent a night in Mark’s Clearwater Motel and we highly recommend it if you are looking for accommodation in Esperance.

Our new crew Lloyd and young Christopher were on standby to get across from Albany and join us for the few days cruising home.  They came  on a Saturday and we again enjoyed watching the afternoon’s yacht racing from our premiere position anchored next to the start line, followed by a terrific dinner at the vibrant yacht club.

We were very taken with the whole Esperance sailing scene and the fantastic cruising in the Recherche Archipelago.  It’s definitely on the list to go back and spend more time there with the added attraction/incentive of the amazing places to see on the way.

Stunning Esperance.  Go there for a holiday!
We set off very early on Sunday morning for the Investigator Islands, between Esperance and Hopetoun.  These are two small rocky islands that are joined by a breaking barrier of low rocks to form a tiny horseshoe shaped bay.  Lloyd had been there in January, so with a bit of local knowledge we crept around the rocky entrance late in the afternoon into the tiny bay and dropped anchor in about 15 metres of crystal clear water.  Immediately we became aware that this little rocky outcrop was absolutely teeming with fish below and wildlife above – seals, sea lions and myriads of birds surrounded us. Unfortunately, due to the swell breaking over the rocky bar, a bit of surge in the bay and no beach to land on, we couldn’t go ashore and had to admire the local residents from the boat.

Young Christopher took to the helm of the big boat like an old professional
Despite being such a fascinating place, it wasn’t the most comfortable anchorage and a wind change in the wee hours of the night saw us up anchor at 4am and head off in the pitch dark to Doubtful Islands, just east of Bremer Bay.  We had a quiet day of light winds, enjoying spectacular views of the Barren Ranges in the Fitzgerald National Park changing shape as we made our way down the coast. We arrived at the beautiful Doubtful islands group mid-afternoon and stopped for a swim and snorkel in the sandy channel between two islands before heading into anchorage at Home Beach.  Here we could go ashore and stretch our legs.

Lloyd and  Christopher exploring Doubtful Islands near Bremer Bay.
The next day we were filled with excitement at the prospect of seeing the famous Orcas (killer whales) in the Bremer Canyon area.  We had been given co-ordinates and tips on where we might see them and set off at dawn for the 25 nautical miles out to the hotspot.  We were not disappointed!  After seeing several ‘blows’ and dorsal fins in the distance, then chatting to one of the tour boats on the radio a large Orca popped up  right next to the boat blasting out a tremendous out-breath!  That one was just teasing us and quickly disappeared. 

We then sailed slowly towards one of the tour boats and by midday found ourselves right in the midst of a pod of about 6 orcas, lifting heads, flapping tails and fins and generally putting on a bit of a show.  Unlike other whales we have seen that are resting for long periods on the surface, the orcas are hunting at great depths and come up for air and a short rest.  The canyons are on the edge of the Continental Shelf where the depth drops rapidly from about 100 metres to several kilometres, creating an intense marine biodiversity hotspot for orcas and other giants of the sea.

We were too excited and didn't have the camera gear to take any decent pictures...

Orcas! Christopher's best shot
But there are  plenty of fantastic photos on the web so we'll borrow one for you:

This is what it felt like we were seeing!
Photo courtesy of
And if you'd like to know more about the Bremer Canyon Hotspot, here are some links to videos:

Thrilled with our up-close experience and with a nice south-easterly breeze filling in, we popped the spinnaker and enjoyed a fast run all the way for the 60 odd nautical miles to Two People’s Bay.  The moon was rising beautifully as we sailed into our familiar bay at about 9pm and dropped anchor for the last time on this big voyage.

Sunset spinnaker run to Two People's Bay
Next morning, we enjoyed a leisurely start knowing we had a mere 25 miles to go. We were delighted that Jenni’s long-time friend and childhood sailing buddy Marie could join us for the final cruise home.  

Welcome aboard Marie!

The conditions were perfect to make a quick sail for the last 25 miles from Two People’s Bay, running across King George Sound in a fresh 20-25 knot easterly and taking a leg out past Breaksea Island.  
Final dash across the Sound.
We came flying through the channel under jib only and to our great surprise were greeted at the Town Marina by a wonderfully warm welcome party.  The champagne flowed!

Scooting into the Attaturk Channel in the fresh sea-breeze.
Thank you so much to everyone who came down to cheer us in, for all your warm wishes and the great photos people took of us coming across the sound and through the channel.  We were thrilled  to have brought our lovely boat home.  We couldn’t be happier!

So what’s next?  Well we took a few days to move off the boat and enjoyed being ‘visiting yachties’ at the marina right in the middle of our home town.  After a few days at the marina, we moved the boat across the harbour to our new pen at Princess Royal Sailing Club and somewhat reluctantly moved back into the house.  Our very grateful thanks to Johnno Clarke for setting up mooring lines ready for us., and to Colin Westerberg and Kelly Walsh who put in the new pylon for our pen.  Upstart is snug and secure in her new home and we have again become familiar with living on-shore.

Snug in our new pen at Princess Royal Sailing Club

This year will see us here in Albany, enjoying local cruising for the remainder of the summer/autumn seasons and then pulling the boat out of the water in winter for maintenance.  Next year.... watch this space! 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Reaching to the Recherche

As promised this comes to you from the lovely town of Esperance, W.A after our Great Australian Bight crossing.  We are relaxing in a cafĂ©, waiting for our mammoth load of washing to go through and generally enjoying the joys of town life.

Lovely summer light playing on the hull.

After waiting out the extreme heat wave in Streaky Bay (47 degrees!), our new crew Peter and Diana moved on board and we filled the boat with food, water and fuel and set sail. We wanted to give Peter and Diana a chance to sail the boat in the protected waters of Streaky Bay before heading out into the rigors of the Southern Ocean so we had a day sail and put a few sails up and down before anchoring at Eba Island, a few miles out in the bay.

Next day we set off for the beautiful St Francis Island which is about 50 miles west of Streaky Bay. The west coast of the Eyre Peninsular is peppered with islands and we were still regretting that we had missed out on a visit to Pearson Island so we were keen to go to St Francis. We anchored in a lovely north facing sandy bay with half a dozen other islands in sight to the north. Crystal clear water and those turquoise colours over white sand that hardly seem real were our world for two nights and days.

St Francis Island anchorage
There was evidence of human occupation including a couple of stone building ruins which were being rapidly reclaimed by the land and sea. Who knows what people were doing there and why they took the trouble to build such houses. The only current residents were sooty shearwaters [Mutton Birds] whose burrows were everywhere, tiger snakes and wallabies.

We took a walk up to the top of the hill where there is a lighthouse and a radio repeater tower. The views were worth the effort of navigating through the scrub looking for stony ground the Shearwaters had not dug up.

Radio tower and heli-pad at St Francis Is

Stunning day to climb to the lighthouse and tower.
When we got back to the beach in the afternoon there was a large pod of about 30 dolphins we had seen earlier still playing in the shallows along the shore. They were also having a Sunday at the beach it seemed, sparring and having fun while watching us by holding their heads above water for quite some time particularly when we were swimming. Wonderful!

Zoom in and you may see some of the 30 or so dolphins that patrolled the shore line and played for us
Evening sky at St Francis Is
We dragged ourselves away eventually for a lovely 6 hour sail to Ceduna. Most people we had spoken to had been disparaging about Ceduna but we found it to be friendly and pleasant in all respects and a good place to top up our supplies including an interesting experience taking on water at the big ship dock through a massive canvas fire hose. We also did a bit of business at the local Aboriginal Art Centre and came away with some lovely sea dragons for the saloon area of our boat.

Gorgeous sea dragons by Ceduna artist Christina Tschuna

We then set off for the local playground favourite of Davenport Creek. A totally sheltered inlet arm hidden behind the massive sand dunes. We motored in through unmarked shallows and massive rafts of ropy weed until we were forced to stop by the mass of weed on the prop. Peter was keen to jump in to clear it so we dropped anchor while he went for a swim to do the business.

Up a creek.

End-for-ending the anchor chain at Davenport Creek
 Jobs done, now it's time to play....

Dinghy sailing fun at Davenport Creek in Wanda, our all round handy little tender.
Diana gets Wanda scooting along.

Trekking the dunes Lawrence of Arabia style.

And a quick descent to the other side!
Davenport Creek from the top - Upstart sheltering in the corner.

 Back to the boat before the mozzies arrive.

We enjoyed another three nights there meeting up with dark clouds of very vigorous mosquitoes in the evenings. We could see why the few locals who turned up during the day left well before dusk!
Eventually it was time to get on with it and leave for the Bight crossing. As often happens we started off motoring for an hour or two waiting for the breeze to fill in but this time we were in a thick fog. By lunchtime we had the main down and were pushing along nicely with just the jib doing our normal 7 knots.

Chris relaxing in his home-base at the helm

Cruising along before it got a bit rough

Diana busy with her sewing skills.
Although the wind was favourable as forecast and stayed constant at 20-25kts on the beam, the sea became really confused during the first evening and we suffered about 30 hours of being tossed around like some crazy cork in the most horrible sea state. Short steep waves were crashing into the side of the boat, throwing massive great buckets of water straight into the cockpit.  Mostly the crew dodged these but the odd one hit the target, testing our wet weather gear and good humour.

Still smiling!

Mr Flottmann took the opportunity to have a good long spell in bed and fast during this period and the rest of us didn’t feel like eating much either. The second dawn at sea saw a great improvement in conditions as the wind moved more behind us, the waves settled down and everyone was feeling well and hungry again. The rest of the 3 and a half day sail was easy and fast and after 540 nautical miles from Ceduna we made it in to Middle Island well before dark on the fourth day.

Diana and Peter relaxing somewhere in the Bight - happy the seas have settled
Once again we found ourselves in a north facing, white sand bay surrounded by islands and ragged rocks. Stunningly beautiful. We visited the spectacular pink lake and spent hours wandering along the beach looking at all the things animal, mineral and vegetable in abundance there. We found highly polished areas of granite which looked wet until we touched them and found them dry and glossy, massive areas of quartz type rock, whale bones and minute finely detailed shells, sea eagles and those tiny birds that run along the sand at high speed like cartoon creatures [plovers].

Some of the treasures at Middle Island....

Our next stop was a natural tiny harbour facing south called Victor Harbour where we snuck in behind Lorraine Island with the keel up to anchor in a space just big enough for us to swing at anchor. We had intended to stay there for a couple of nights but the captain was up at 3am woken by a change of conditions as the swell increased. The crew were roused and we were out of there by 7am before the surf closed off our escape route.

The new day brought us another lovely gentle sail through the most dramatic seascape you can imagine. The Recherche Archipelago is over 100 miles long and Matthew Flinders described it as the most rock strewn dangerous area of sea he had ever seen. Of course we now have the benefit of satellite navigation and all the charts that have been developed from Flinders' original, amazing work.  Facing this area with none of these must have been hair-raising to say the least for Flinders and his crew.

Flinders Peak at Middle Island
After the parched and denuded landscape of much of South Australia, it was so wonderful to see the deep green of the healthy native bush on the islands and hilly shores of Cape Arid and Cape Le Grande national parks.

Threading our way through the Recherche Archipelago to Esperance
As we sailed the last few miles into Esperance we were welcomed by a pod of dolphins who stayed with us for more than half an hour amusing us with their antics at the bow.

As it was a Saturday the Esperance Bay Yacht Club racing fleets were out and we enjoyed a celebration bottle of bubbles as we watched the fleets finish their races. We were then treated to the most wonderful welcome by the members of the EBYC as each of the bigger boats came past us at anchor to offer us welcome before dinner at the clubhouse. 

A blast from the past - Pelicans racing in Esperance Bay.

The friendliness, kindness and hospitality of club members has been amazing.  A massive thanks to Mark Quinlivan from Clearwater Motel who has leant us a vehicle for our time here. If you need accommodation in Esperance, please have a look at Mark’s place, its perfect and he is such a great host.

We said a fond farewell to Diana and Peter last night who are reluctantly returning to their everyday lives. We will now spend the next week or so here in Esperance, enjoying it all and waiting for the next high to settle in for our final cruise home.

Bye, bye Diana and Peter - thanks for sharing the Bight with us!
One of Diana's beautiful nature studies in the dunes at Davenport Creek

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Waiting to take the Bight

First of all, here are the promised photos of the wonderful sculpture of Matthew Flinders and Trim in Port Lincoln. We know you have been waiting for them!

Matthew Flinders - an extraordinarily talented man.

Trim - an extraordinary seafaring cat

We are writing today from the lovely  but very hot and dry Streaky Bay. S.A. on a 40+ degree day -with cyclones and deep low pressure systems to the north and south of us across the whole country, and way to the south. [Crazy weather patterns and we are expecting 45 degrees tomorrow!]

We are waiting for the weather to settle a bit so that we can set out across the Great Australian Bight and hoping for one of those persistent high-pressure systems that park south of the Bight and provide easterly winds all along the coast.

Murphy's haystacks near Streaky Bay S.A.
A bit of sightseeing in the parched country side whilst we wait...

The day before we left the Port Lincoln area we had a lovely little sail in the sheltered waters of the bay from our town anchorage back to the National Park to the south and anchored in Spalding Bay for the night ready for a pre-dawn departure towards Coffin Bay.

Anchored right in town at Port Lincoln. Which style of cruising do we prefer?! Hmmm!

Big shopping expedition as we leave the last big town for a while.

Fire her up!
One of the quirky collections at the extensive Maritime Museum at Port Lincoln.
As we left in the dark a nice south easterly wind was blowing for us which enabled us to thread our way through the notorious Thorny Passage at the south eastern end of the Eyre Peninsular, without tacking and with a good strong tide flowing with us. This was the stretch of water where a small boat and 8 crew were lost from Flinders ship Investigator and so all of the islands in the passage are named for the sailors who drowned. Fortunately it was not so rough for us to start with and we shot out of there doing 9 knots over the ground until we hit the swell out in the ocean where the sea got very rough and confused indeed. We had planned to sail around Williams Island which is off Cape Catastrophe and West Cape at the southern tip of the peninsular but given the crazy sea state we turned right and took the inside passage where things were a lot more comfortable
The only place available for having a rest on this passage was quite close to our destination and a fair way off our track. It also had the ominous name of Avoid Bay [the names around here are dire!]. So, as we were making really good time in a nice south easterly breeze we decided to keep going for Point Sir Isaacs which is at the entrance to the huge Coffin Bay. We arrived there at 5.30pm covering the 92 miles in about 12 hours. We spent a comfortable night there all alone and feeling like we were in the middle of nowhere.

Eagle's Nest - a prime piece of real estate in the Coffin Bay channel.  

We had made arrangements with the Coffin Bay Sailing Club to use a mooring or their jetty for a few days and so we set off the next morning motoring in no wind to cover the 22 miles through the shoals, sand banks and oyster farms to the little one shop town. A really fine sunny, gentle day of moving through the rugged parched scenery of South Australia.

Coffin Bay town and sailing club were a real treat. We arrived on a Friday which was the day the club had a little evening market on the grassy banks of the inlet, some music and a simple dinner for anyone. Turned out the place was heaving with hundreds of diners and drinkers going for it all evening. All run by volunteers from the little town of 160 people.

Moored right out the front of the Coffin Bay Yacht Club - pens a wee bit small for us.
Middle of the action - our mooring was right on the start line for Sunday's race.
 We enjoyed 3 nights there and on the morning we left took the boat in to the Fishing Boat wharf to get some water where we met a few locals and got some great advice for anchorages from the fisherman whose mooring we had been using.  We also bought a hot water tank from Shane who runs the slipway. Standard payment for all these things was a carton of beer. We left later in the morning to return to our little spot at Point Sir Isaacs and prepare to go to sea again the following morning.

Washing day in Coffin Bay.

We were excited to be heading out to the uninhabited Pearson Island on our way north. We had heard that it is very pretty and has colonies of rare Wallabies and Seals. We had pruned our planned stay back from two nights to one because of a forecast north east wind and then had to abandon the whole trip because the temperature warning light was on for the motor. It turned out to just be a faulty sender but at the time we didn’t know and thought it best to head north to a lonely spot called Waldergrave Island which is connected to the mainland by a reef. We had a good night there until the wind swung north east well before predicted and we had another early morning start as the anchorage was exposed to the new wind.

South Australian sunset colours  - so vivid.

Our next leg was interesting, we were heading for Sceale Bay which is only about 30 miles south of Streaky Bay and the wind from over the land got stronger and hotter as we went along, at times like standing in front of a big hair dryer. We had some very strong gusts and were going along with just the jib up. Then it all stopped before coming in at a similar gusty strength from the complete opposite direction a few minutes later. This was Anxious Bay at its best.

We turned the corner into Sceale Bay at lunchtime in our usual fashion with a roaring gale blowing and a steep 2.5 metre swell crashing on the rocks straggling out off the point for a mile or two. We found a good spot in the corner of the bay with good protection and nice deep sand for our anchor.
We also saw lots of curious clear jelly blobs on the beach which turned out to be sea-snail egg sacs.

Sceales Bay - there's a sheltered anchorage in the south east corner.

By this time our Bight crossing crew had arrived in Streaky Bay. Diana and Peter were in the caravan park and although only 30ks by road we had to wait for three days for conditions to be right for our sail north. In the end Diana came with us and we had a great trip with following wind and seas.  It took us six hours to cover the 37 miles to the safe mooring in Streaky Bay, which belongs to a very friendly commercial operator originally from Peaceful Bay just up the road from us in Albany!

Welcome aboard Diana!
Straight on the helm for the day's sail to Streaky Bay

With every bit of awning and shade cloth we could find covering the boat today, we are trying to stay cool in this heatwave. At the moment there is absolutely no wind at all, but we are expecting hot and gusty northerlies later today and tomorrow, then no doubt the ‘pirouettes’ of wind from every direction as the cool change comes through on Friday.  

With no clear indication of when a suitable 3 or 4 day high might settle in the Bight, we plan to move up the coast a little further for a change of scenery later this week while we wait for that elusive high to take us over the Bight to the Recherche Archipelago, about 100 nautical miles east of Esperance.

The Bight crossing will take us around 4 days in good conditions, during which we will be pretty well out of range and ‘off the air’. We should have radio contact from time-to-time with the local sea rescue groups as we sail across.

Next update from Esperance!

Now, just to see if you've read this far..... 

Do you know what this is?
And this?
(You'll have to go back to the Jervis Bay blog for the answer to this one)

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