April 28, 2012, , Port Lincoln
What an interesting place Port Lincoln has turned out to be! We'd planned to stay for a week, but it's turned into almost two weeks while waiting on delivery of our new VHF aerial. But the wait's been worth it, for not only do we now have our brand new aerial installed and working, but we've also had a chance to explore the area and learn a little about the history of the fishing industry here, as well as meet some exceptionally interesting and helpful people along the way.
The marina is pleasant and very reasonable ($88/week), the only drawback being the distance from town (approx 5 km) and the fact that hire cars are only available from the airport, about 20km away. Luckily for us, Jane (George's wife) was flying in from Brisbane to spend time on "Venture", so we were able to share their hire car for the time we've been here, as well as enjoy their company on many occasions. The four of us went for a drive up the coast to Tumby Bay, where we had the best fish & chips I've had in years, and on the way back stopped in at the Lincoln Estate winery "office", which turned out to be the most magnificent waterfront home of the proprietors, Brian and Deirdre Turvey! It seems everyone in Port Lincoln has some connection to the fishing industry and Brian is no exception, having previously been involved in the tuna fishing business. They even have a distinctive bluefin tuna design on their wine label. We left with a case of their finest Shiraz and some helpful suggestions about local anchorages and fishing spots!
We also had the pleasure of meeting Andy Haldane, of the famous Haldane Bros. Andy's father and uncles built the first tuna clipper in Australia. They built "Tacoma" in Port Fairy and brought her to Port Lincoln in 1951, where they pretty much started the tuna fishing industry in SA. "Tacoma" is a beautiful wooden boat with a long history of tuna and then later, prawn fishing. Andy worked on the boat for 40 years before retiring recently, and was kind enough to give us a guided tour and show us the original photos of life on board a working tuna boat. Standing chest-high in water on a platform off the side of the boat, catching tuna on a pole rod isn't something for the faint-hearted! Even more impressive was the yacht nestled next to "Tacoma" which Andy hand-built. And when I say hand-built, I mean EVERYTHING on the boat is hand-built, including the winches and portholes. The detail and the woodwork inside are simply stunning - what a labour of love, and what a talented craftsman he is (have a look at the south australia album for the photos) He also kindly offered to help us fabricate a temporary repair to our back railing which has cracked where the new davits are welded onto it (it seems the davit problems won't go away). I'm constantly blown away by the helpfulness of people we've met along the way - it's wonderful to be part of the boating fraternity where everyone helps each other, regardless of whether you're a yachtie, a fisherman or a powerboat owner.
The fishing industry is definitely big business here, evidenced by the very large houses and motor launches owned by the 'Tuna Barons'. There are three separate fishing wharves - the rock lobster wharf, the prawn wharf and the tuna wharf, all next door to the recreational marina. It's been fascinating to watch all the activity on the wharves although initially a bit alarming thinking about all those tons of seafood being harvested. Since then I've discovered there are strict quotas - for instance the prawn boats are only allowed to fish 50 nights in a year, the rock lobster fishermen also have a quota, and tuna are now farmed in pens dotted all around the bay, where they're fattened and then shipped off to the Japanese market. So maybe there is some sustainable fishing happening - I sincerely hope so.
Of course we had to sample the quality of the local fare (not the rock lobsters which were waaay too expensive) and I'm happy to report the prawns and the famous Coffin Bay Oysters were exceptional!
George and Jane returned to Brisbane yesterday as they're leaving "Venture" here at the marina for the winter. We were sorry to see them go as they've been great company, but no doubt we'll catch up again somewhere down the track. And tomorrow we're off on another adventure, this time to Kangaroo Island!
|Round Australia 2011||
April 18, 2012, , Great Australian Bight
The Great Australian Bight. It has a well-deserved reputation as one of Australia's most treacherous bodies of water, and we'd read and heard first-hand accounts of difficulties and disasters encountered by other sailors, so we left nothing to chance with our planning. In addition to making sure the boat was well-prepared and all our safety equipment checked and ready, we spent a considerable amount of time watching the weather patterns and checking and re-checking the forecasts for the 5 days we estimated we would need to complete the passage.
We'd timed our journey through the Recherche Archipelago so that we were at our jumping off point on Middle Island when the winds became favourable. We'd planned to catch the back end of the large high that was moving across the Bight, that would give us NW winds initially, and then SW and S winds, all good sailing angles for us. WELL...as we know, and you know, the wind is a contrary mistress and never does what the forecasters predict. We started out with a brisk NNE of 20-25 kts which stayed with us for the first 48 hours. The seas were big and lumpy (the quote of the trip goes to Bruce - "like the gulf on steroids") but we were racing along at 7-8 kts so we couldn't complain. About the third day the swell finally decided which direction it was going, and we had two pleasant days of long, rolling swells from the SW and lighter winds. The sun was shining, the water was a deep deep blue, and we marveled at the albatrosses working the big swells, using the lift to glide effortlessly across the rolling blue hills. We pass the time on these sorts of passages reading, sleeping, listening to music, sometimes just gazing at the hypnotic movement of the water. Thankfully we didn't have to worry about reefs, islands or shipping so it was mostly quite relaxed. There was only one teeny moment when I thought about the 4800 metres of water below us - and then reason took hold and I told myself it was no more dangerous than 10 metres of water and put it out of my head!
By the fourth day the wind had dropped further, so we were motor-sailing. Our track was starting to look like a conga line as we chased the wind for better angles to sail. Our original plan had been to make landfall at Coffin Bay, on the western side of Eyre Peninsula, but as we perused the charts we realized it was a very shallow entrance and a long 16 NM to get all the way down to the anchorage. As our course was now pushing us further south we decided to keep going around the bottom of the peninsula, heading for Cape Catastrophe (don't you just love the reassuring place names around here? Anxious Bay, Doubtful Bay, Coffin Bay, Avoid Point, to name a few!!) and then up to Port Lincoln on the Eastern side of the Peninsula. Unfortunately the wind had now shifted SE and then East, so the last 30 hours were some of the most frustrating we've had. I think at one point we'd covered 15 NM in about 7 hours, tacking, tacking, tacking, and despite having the motor on to assist!!! We'd hoped to get into Port Lincoln by late Monday, but we could see the hours ticking by and realized we'd be at sea another night, so close and yet so far! Meanwhile George in "Venture", who'd been some 30 miles behind us after our first two days, gradually, steadily, caught up and overtook us on Sunday night. He dropped anchor in Memory Cove, just south of Port Lincoln to have a sleep on Monday night, and STILL beat us into Port Lincoln on Tuesday morning!! So five days and 3 hours after leaving Middle Island, we arrived in Port Lincoln, SA having logged 720NM (had we been able to stay on the rhumb line, it would have been 645NM). All in all we were pleased with the passage and our progress - Illusion looked after us beautifully, and our only problem was an intermittent problem with our VHF radio reception and AIS reception (both connect to the same aerial, so we suspect our aerial may need replacing). The Port Lincoln marina is very pleasant, and we were delighted to be able to re-connect with Kerry and Linda from "Sojourn" and had a very enjoyable dinner with the crews of "Sojourn", "Venture" and "Illusion" last night, prior to "Sojourn"s departure today. We plan to stay at least a week before continuing on the eastward journey. It certainly feels good to be here and to have bitten off the Bight!
|Round Australia 2011||
April 12, 2012, , "The Keyhole", Middle Island
More precisely, Middle Island, on the eastern edge of the Recherche Archipelago, our last stopping point before heading out into the Great Australian Bight. We left Victoria Bay Harbour at dawn yesterday with a stiff NE breeze, allowing us to cover the 36NM in good time, averaging 7-8 kts. Illusion just loves that 60-90 degree sailing angle and gallops across the blue paddocks like a thoroughbred, foam flying in her wake.
We were headed for "The Keyhole" on the south side of the island, well-protected from the NE winds and swell. And what an absolutely magical place it was, probably the most spectacular anchorage we've been in since the Kimberley region. It's a semi-circular bay surrounded by steep limestone cliffs, dotted with numerous caves. The water is clear turquoise with a sandy bottom (yes! No need for the admiralty anchor!) and there's even a little sandy beach that Widget was very thankful for. We were amused to see that someone had built a "Shrine to the Thong" on the beach - an elaborate driftwood structure containing a sole thong in its centre. Amazing what boaties will do to entertain themselves!
In the afternoon we made sure Illusion was ready for the Bight crossing, checking everything was well-secured, double-checking shackles and cotter pins on all the fittings, re-stocking our 'grab-bag' (the bag we hope we never need, full of emergency supplies should we need to abandon ship). And then we enjoyed a beautiful lamb roast courtesy of George on "Venture", who will also be heading across the Bight with us tomorrow. After a very pleasant evening we returned to Illusion and sat on deck with a glass of red wine, gazing at the breathtaking night-sky and listening to the chittering of the bats in the limestone caves above us. There were definitely some butterflies in the stomach at the prospect of the big trip across the GAB, but what a perfect send-off "The Keyhole" has given us.
|Round Australia 2011||
April 10, 2012, , Victoria Bay Harbour
At 7am on Sunday morning we dropped our lines off the wharf at Esperance and motored out into the bay, heading out into the Recherche Archipelago (pronounced "Resurge" by the locals). We were a little bleary-eyed, which probably explains why we were a bit slow to notice that one of the big cargo ships anchored in the bay - well... wasn't. Instead, it was steaming straight for us! After a rapid course adjustment we were well and truly alert AND a bit alarmed!
After that morning heart-starter, things settled down and we had a pleasant sail for the first couple of hours in a 10-15 kt nor-easterly breeze. But as always seems to happen, the wind swung to the east and the last two hours we had to tack our way into Lucky Bay, a beautiful bay with purportedly the whitest sand in Australia. There was a heavy swell rolling in from the south, so we explored both sides of the bay before settling on the eastern side. With fingers crossed, we dropped our normal Rocna anchor in a patch of sand amongst the weed and it set beautifully. What a relief! Sadly, the surf was too big to get Widget to the beach, so she had to be content with her back-deck "park", gazingly longingly to shore. We enjoyed sundowners with George aboard "Venture" before heading back to Illusion for an early night, ready for another short-ish hop of 20NM to Victoria Bay Harbour yesterday.
The wind had picked up to 20+ kts by yesterday morning and resolutely stayed on the nose all the way, so our 20NM turned into 30NM by the time we'd tacked backwards and forwards. The scenery is stunning, with myriads of islands offlying the coast, but requires careful navigation due to the many reefs and shoals. So while it's undoubtedly a beautiful part of the country, it's hard to relax and enjoy it fully, knowing there may be treacherous uncharted reefs around. Thankfully, our electronic charts seemed to be very accurate, and it was easy to spot most of the reefs due to white water breaking around them. I marvel at the early navigators, including Matthew Flinders, who charted their way through these waters in the 18th and 19th centuries.
George on board "Venture" had arrived in Victoria Bay Harbour about 3 hours before us (poor Illusion, last again!), and reported that there were plenty of sand patches and a nice beach for Widget. Perfect! We arrived about lunchtime and indeed, it's an idyllic little anchorage, well-protected from all winds except from the SW/NW, and no swell. In the afternoon we all hiked up to the top of Mt Belches, where we were rewarded with the most spectacular views over the Archipelago and the coastline. We'd originally planned to head out to Middle Island today, but the wind is still strong from the NE, so we've decided to have another 'lay day' here, and set off tomorrow morning when the forecast is for lighter and more northerly winds.
|Round Australia 2011||
April 7, 2012, , Esperance, WA
After arriving early Wednesday morning in Esperance, we had a relaxing day doing very little, although we did manage to find our way to the Pier Hotel for a counter lunch! It was a beautiful calm sunny day and we lapped up the holiday atmosphere of the place. Thursday was a bit different.....overcast and rainy with the forecast of a strong SW change coming through in the afternoon. We spent the morning provisioning and doing laundry (and then wheeling it all back to the jetty in a trolley, feeling like the bag-people of Esperance). Despite the lure of going to the movies, we decided to stay on the boat for the afternoon as the wind was picking up and we still weren't 100% confident that our anchors would hold. Within half an hour we were getting gusts of 30 kts and sure enough, before long we were off, dragging our two anchors across the bay towards "Venture". We then had to swap our normal roles as there was no way I could manhandle the admiralty anchor back onto the boat. So I took the helm and Bruce became anchorman, superhumanly heaving on the rode and chain to get the admiralty up, then bringing up the Rocna with the windlass. Round we went to try and set them again - this time just the admiralty with a lot more rode out. Same result. Poor Bruce giving himself a hernia bringing it back up again and taking a nasty chunk out of his hand in the process (something to do with me not understanding his somewhat idiosyncratic hand signals and turning the boat the wrong way. Oops, so sorry skipper!). We decided to call the marina and see if a berth was available and were directed to a suitable pen. However, by now the wind was howling and it was all Bruce could do to keep on course for the marina and not get blown onto the rock wall, let alone try and get into a pen with pile moorings and chains (and a very expensive Riviera in the adjoining pen which we would surely have rammed - as it turned out it belonged to the marina manager, so probably best that we aborted that plan!). So out into the bay we went again, to try once more with both anchors. Still no luck, despite putting out heaps more chain and rode. For the third time that day Bruce pulled up the admiralty by hand, and then noticed that the pin securing the crossbar had sheared off. Maybe that's why it wasn't setting?? We were now very close to running out of options - the southern side of the commercial jetty was free, but we had no idea if there was enough depth there. Too bad - we'd have to try it. I ran around the deck like ricochet rabbit trying to organize fenders and lines, praying we wouldn't do too much more damage to our topsides on the rough wooden pylons and metal bolts. The good news was that we got alongside and were secure. The bad news was that we took another chunk out of the toe-rail and dinged the fiberglass hull. So all in all, a bit of a brutal afternoon! But after that, things improved immeasurably. Bruce has managed to manufacture a new stainless steel pin for the anchor (see, anchorman really IS superman!) and we've been able to relax and enjoy the sights of Esperance. We had dinner at the yacht club on Thursday night, with George and Jess from "Venture", although it was apparently a very quiet night there - I think a lot of people have gone away for Easter. Today we visited the Esperance museum which has an incredible wealth of local history and artefacts, including pieces of the space-station Skylab which broke up over Esperance in the 1970's. Apparently the local shire demanded compensation from NASA - I think they got $400 in the end! I never did get the full story about the clock tower. It seems to have been built in 2005 and is modeled on the Big Ben mechanism, chiming on the ¼ hr and occasionally bursting into a full version of "Rock of Ages". All very bizarre. Thankfully it only operates between 8am -8pm otherwise we would have gone completely mad!
George and Jess came for dinner aboard "Illusion" last night, and we thoroughly enjoyed their company. Sadly, Jess had to fly home to Brisbane today, so it seems that George will be single-handing it across the Bight on "Venture". Both "Venture" and "Illusion" are planning to leave Esperance tomorrow morning for a short hop to Lucky Bay, and then wend our way through the Recherche Archipelago for another couple of days before heading out across the Bight on Wednesday, and then a run of approximately 600 NM until landfall at Coffin Bay, South Australia. Wish us luck!!
|Round Australia 2011||
April 4, 2012, , Glasse Island, Bremer Bay
After carefully studying the weather maps and talking to the locals, we decided that yesterday would give us an ideal 24 hour weather window to run to Esperance, before the swells increased to a forecast 5-6 metres. While we'd been reasonably comfortable on the mooring at Bremer Bay, we didn't like the idea of bouncing around in even bigger swells. Also, the only way we could secure ourselves to the all-chain mooring was to run our heavy-duty snubber line through the chain loop and then back to our cleats, but we were concerned that the line wouldn't hold up to the constant friction for much longer. As it turned out, we were right - when we dropped the mooring we discovered our line was almost worn through!
We left at 8am in a stiff norwesterly breeze and fairly rocketed out of the bay under a reefed main, past the large surf crashing against Glasse Island. Our friends on "Venture" had also decided to make the overnight trip to Esperance and they followed us out of the bay. Being a motor boat, they can maintain a steady 6kts of speed regardless of wind and wave conditions. But in the strong winds and following seas we had the initial advantage, surfing down the 3-4 metre swells at speeds up to 10-11 knots, yahooing as we went! Those of you who know us, know that Bruce and I are not the least competitive. No, no, not one little bit. So you won't be surprised to know that while the conditions lasted there were regular calls from whoever was on watch at the time - "10.7Kts!", "11.2 kts!", "11.5kts!!" (that last one from Bruce, who took the record this trip). We knew that it couldn't last of course, and eventually by the evening the wind had eased and the swell lessened and we were back to motor-sailing at a much more sedate 5-6 kts.
During the day we decided to try a spot of fishing - it had been so long since we'd put a lure out. But it seemd our lure was only attracting the seabirds, who wheeled and dived around it very excitedly. Reluctantly we pulled it in, worried that we would snare one of them, and we're very glad we did as later we heard from "Venture" that that was exactly what had happened to them.
The overnight passage was quite beautiful, with a bright moon guiding our way. When the moon set, the night sky was stunning, with Venus glowing brightly on the North-West horizon and a billion trillion stars creating a dome above us. Our only problem was that we were travelling too fast, and in danger of arriving in Esperance before dawn! So we rolled up the genoa and slowed the boat down, and eventually rounded Cull Island just south of Esperance as the sun was coming up. "Venture" had gradually gained on us during the night, so both boats arrived in Esperance Bay at the same time. We'd hoped to come alongside the jetty near the Yacht Club, but there was a large charter boat occupying half of it, and the other half was under repair. Instead we decided to anchor in the bay and try out the admiralty anchor. Bruce hauled it over the side and we reversed up in an attempt to set it. It seemed to bite, but then we started dragging. So up it came (sounds so easy doesn't it? The reality was Bruce hauled it up by hand over the side-rails with a great deal of effort). Try No 2 - we circled back around "Venture" (who were nicely holding with their marsh anchor) and dropped our normal Rocna anchor with plenty of chain, and then re-depoyed the admiralty as well with plenty of rode. Finally, we seemed to be holding! With the gentle sounds of the clock tower chiming across the water, it was time for breakfast, showers and then a snooze before exploring the delights of Esperance.
|Round Australia 2011||