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)

Saturday, January 5, 2019

We love Matthew and Trim! The Flinders Appreciation Society

Happy New Year and may 2019 bring much happiness to you all. 

We have had a bit of a break from the blog, so standby for a longer one.  Before we start, just a quick admin note... if you are receiving the blog by email, please be aware that it comes from an email address from the blog site and we do not receive any replies made to it. So please don't send any messages to us at that one, use our personal email addresses; or you can go to the blog website and leave a comment there.

The forecast for Adelaide for the few days after Christmas was for 40 +, so we decided to avoid the heatwave and spend bit more time at Kangaroo Island – it being about 10 degrees cooler there.

After a lovely quiet Christmas Day on anchor at a beach we moved into American River, a very small and sheltered little place inside the river mouth. We then enjoyed a couple of days exploring the tiny town and the tidal shoreline and were surprised at how quiet it was at Kangaroo Island, however we were assured that the bays would fill up with boats by New Year’s Eve for the annual Adelaide yachties cruising ‘race’ and beach party. 

American River, Kangaroo Island

Lovely Pelican sculpture in American River

American River was named after a bunch of early sealers who set up camp there around 1803.  They then proceeded to build a new boat which they named the Independence and now a crew of enthusiastic locals have taken up the challenge of building a replica.  We had an interesting visit to the boat shed where the volunteers meet each Thursday evening to work on the boat, which they optimistically hope to launch in about two years.

The Independence replica - a work in progress.

By Friday 28th Dec the weather had cooled down enough for us to head 70 miles north to Adelaide.  We set off in the morning with very light winds and motored until early afternoon when a moderate sea-breeze came in as forecast and we popped the spinnaker.  We sailed along very nicely for several hours, enjoying the breeze and spotting landmarks along the coast as we got closer to Port Adelaide. 

As usual, we had checked and double checked several forecasts, however we were about to learn that Adelaide’s sea-breeze can put on a good turn of extra power without permission from the forecasters! At about 5:30 pm the “sea-breeze” rapidly doubled in strength and had us pulling the kite down very smartly. 

By this time we were approaching Port Adelaide channel with nasty steep, short waves accompanied the 25-30 knot wind making us roll around quite alarmingly. All this while a cargo ship, pilot boat and two tugs were crowding in on us. It was getting a little uncomfortable and we were relieved to tie up in the very friendly and welcoming Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron.

A very comfortable berth at the R.S.A. Yacht Squadron,  Port Adelaide.
We stayed at the Squadron for a couple of nights feeling very much at home, chatting to local yachties and catching up with Jenni’s cousin Annette and a few Albany sailing mates. Several national championship regattas going on and a visit to the S.A. Maritime Museum kept us entertained. We also picked up our new parts for the Rutland wind generator which is now whizzing around again and seems to be working well.

The lovely old dinghy shed at the Squadron
Magnificent sculpture outside the S.A. Maritime Museum

Largs Bay, Port Adelaide was the scene of several regattas and national championships

A popular local spot for sailors out of Adelaide is Port Vincent, just 30 miles away on the other side of the gulf, an easy beam reach on most days. After seeing in 2019 from the comfort our bed, we decided to go there for a short visit and spent Tuesday and Wednesday in the strangely desolate marina there. It is one of those real estate opportunities which never really took off before the marina started falling apart.  The exciting thing was that having missed the fireworks in Adelaide on NYE, we got to see them on the evening of New Year’s day at Port Vincent – again from the comfort of our cabin.

It was a brisk beam reach over to Port Vincent

We spotted a small and not perfect window of non-contrary winds on Thursday and decided to get out of there and head for Port Lincoln where we knew we could anchor in the lovely national park and do a bit of bush walking. The ‘not perfect’ bit involved a start in hardly any wind from the east and then a change to a strong southerly around midnight which we would not have gone out in were it not for the fact that it was blowing roughly the right way.

So it was that we made a leisurely start motoring out of Port Vincent at about 8am and continued slowly south until 10am when we set the lovely spinnaker until 12.30 when the wind failed and it came down for a lunch break which lasted until 4pm! And so it went on with sails up and down [like the proverbial] and a fickle wind until midnight, when right on time the southerly came in just as we rounded the Althorpe Islands off the southern tip of the Yorke Peninsular.

Spinnaker sunset on our way to Port Lincoln

We had an exciting sail then in the pitch dark of no moon and brilliant stars, in a crazy sea state and with a strong and building southerly wind on our port quarter. Unlit lumps of granite to port and starboard came and went as we sped on northward until just at dawn we caught a glimpse of Thistle Island on the port beam and Dangerous Reef to starboard. Within an hour we were motoring against the strong wind and under grey skies across the harbour to a lovely little anchorage on the west side of Spalding Cove, about 10 miles across the harbour from Port Lincoln. We spent the rest of the day sleeping, reading and resting our weary limbs.

We have both recently read a great book about Matthew Flinders and his dear cat Trim written by sailing writer Rob Mundle. It has been really wonderful sailing along the coast all the way from Brisbane thinking of him and his heroic feats of science, navigation and seamanship in grossly inadequate boats as he charted the coast of Australia.

It would be fair to say the we have both become big Flinders fans indeed and have seen various small tributes to him and Trim along the way. However, we are now in serious Flinders appreciation country down here in Port Lincoln and have just returned from a hike up Stamford Hill to the memorial which was put there in the 1840s as soon as the area was taken over by white people.

Port Lincoln harbour entrance as seen from Stamford Hill.  We are anchored in the bay on the far right.
The 1840s monument to Flinders on top of Stamford Hill - recognising his amazing navigational work
Flinders walked up the hill in order to have a good look around for the usual charting/mapping reasons but also to look for any signs of his 7 crew members who has disappeared in the treacherous Thorny Passage a few days before while out in a small boat searching for water. Parts of the boat were eventually found but the crew had perished as the boat was overwhelmed in the strong tidal race in the passage.

Flinders and his crew did a particularly good job of charting the south coast in the days before his ship the Investigator started to really fall apart. It is interesting to think of all the gratitude that would have come from sailors over the past 200 years or so for his efforts and diligence and we count ourselves amongst them. We are excited about seeing a fabulous looking bronze statue in Port Lincoln depicting the young Matthew working on a chart with the loyal Trim sitting at his feet looking out at something more interesting. (You will have to wait for the next blog for a pic!)

We are looking forward to exploring more of this part of the South Australian coast with its myriads of islands, bays and coves.   From what we have seen so far, it offers fantastic cruising grounds with  lots of places to tuck in to and for us, a familiar south coast weather pattern.

A beautiful sheltered anchorage in a national park with great bush walking trails - idyllic cruising in South Australia.

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