May 4, 2012, , American River, Kangaroo Island
Well, it's official. We've fallen in love with American River and in fact all of Kangaroo Island. What a simply stunning and magical place it is - no wonder it rates in the top 5 spots in Australia. Hopefully the photos will give you a taste of what the island has to offer (see South Australia photo album in the photo gallery).
American River is a bit of a mis-nomer, as it isn't a river at all, just a large inlet which culminates in a lagoon that's now an aquatic reserve. Nor is it populated with yanks - although the name stems from a group of American sealers who camped here in the early 1800's. It's a quiet little fishing village with an abundance of birdlife (including black swans and rare glossy black cockatoos), one general store and post office, plus an oyster farm shop. Heaven! It's about mid-way between the two main centres on the Island, Kingscote and Penneshaw, but there's a daily shuttle bus that runs between them (rather pricy though, at $28pp return). We caught the bus to Kingscote where we picked up a hire care for a couple of days so we could see a bit more of the Island. Unfortunately two days was not nearly enough, and we only managed to explore about a quarter of the island, but what we saw was really impressive. Beautiful rolling green hills reminiscent of the English countryside, magnificent views, art galleries, wineries (Dudley Estate wines were very impressive, with a view over Backstairs Passage to die for), craft shops, and (my favourite) a large sea-lion colony on the south coast. They really are the most beautiful animals and we could have spent hours watching them frolic and play had it not been so cold! In fact the only downside at this time of year has been the weather - that cold wind blowing straight off Antarctica has had us firing up the generator most evenings so we can run our little electric heater! And the Icebreaker socks and jumpers are getting plenty of wear!
Luckily no-one has come to kick us off the mooring, so we've been very comfortable here no matter what direction the wind is coming from. Even the tidal flow hasn't been too much of a problem, although it's very weird to experience the effects of wind against tide. Often the boat just sits with no pressure on the mooring line at all, as the counteracting forces hold her motionless despite the fact we can see the swirls and eddies racing past us!
We would love to spend more time here, but we're also keen to get back to Sydney before winter sets in. So tomorrow we're off on another overnight (130NM) run to Robe, our last stop in South Australia. Only Victoria to go before we're back in NSW waters!
|Round Australia 2011||
May 1, 2012, , American River, Kangaroo Island
We had plenty of time on our passage from Port Lincoln to Kangaroo Island to think about what we'd like to do to the weatherman. More precisely, to all of them - those faceless, sadistic people who work for BOM, Predictwind, Seabreeze etc ,etc. I'm starting to think there must be an elaborate (and tiresome) joke they like to play on Illusion, giggling as they lodge their forecasts "Hehehe...let's see how they go with this one!" Either that or we're stuck in some parallel universe that bears no reality to the real world. Before you start to worry that we've been at sea too long and have gone completely Donald Crowhurst, let me explain that once again the forecast was woefully wrong, causing us to be just the teeniest, tiniest bit frustrated during those long, dark hours in Investigator Strait. Bruce was keen on strangulation (the forecasters, not me). I favoured putting them all together in a boat in the Southern Ocean with their own forecasts to see how THEY like it!
Sunday morning was pleasant enough. The (joke) forecast was for light E/NE winds veering more north during the afternoon and evening. With luck that would give us a nice beam reach all the way. Unfortunately the swell was from the SW making it difficult to find a suitable anchorage to stop at on Sunday night, so somewhat reluctantly we made the decision to do an overnight trip to Kangaroo Island, approximately 130NM away.
When we left Port Lincoln the wind was a gentle 10kts from the east. No problems, we were heading south-east down the Eyre Peninsula reaching at about 60 degrees off the wind. It was still early and plenty of time for the NE/N wind to arrive before we had to turn east into Investigator Strait. On the way we were visited by a pod of dolphins, always welcomed as harbingers of good fortune. i tend to rush on deck calling 'hello" while Bruce shakes his head in despair. I'm convinced they can understand and i love their antics.....
From then, the conversation went something like this:
"So.... when was the north-easterly supposed to be in?'
"About an hour ago"
An hour later:
"Are you sure the forecast said nor-easterly'
"yes" (through gritted teeth)
Two hours later:
"Where the F#*@ is the nor-easterly?"
"I have no idea, I'm not the f#@%ing weather forecaster"
So we arrived in Investigator Strait about 10pm and the wind was still blowing from the east. Now we had wind on the nose, plus swell from the opposite direction making for a very nasty, short, choppy sea state. Oh, and the wind was now gusting to 30 kts. We'd already put one reef in the main, and now we furled the genoa until it was just a handkerchief to help steady us. The only analogy that comes to mind is trying to drive a truck through undulating wet cement - slow, tedious and bloody uncomfortable. The wind finally turned NE just as we were about to hit the mid-north coast of Kangaroo Island so we then had to tack backwards to get clear, before heading in the direction we wanted to go. In addition, every 3-4 hours we had to lay off to allow Widget (and dog-handler) to crawl their way onto the back deck for ablution duties. Just love this cruising life!!!
But after the darkness dawn always arrives, a very welcome event at sea. By then we were nearing the north-east cape of Kangaroo Island, and from there it was a relatively easy run down to the entrance to American River, an all-round safe anchorage that hopefully would be adequate for the next few days of strong winds. We checked with VMR American River (ch 21) about the depth of the channel entrance and were assured it was deep enough for us even at low tide (which it was). The shallowest we got was 1M under the keel so we were happy with that. We were advised to pick up a mooring rather than anchor due to the strong tidal rip in the river - up to 5 kts! So we found a suitable mooring across from the jetty and then had a big brunch of eggs, bacon, mushrooms and baked beans. Nothing beats that after a hard day's night!
|Round Australia 2011||
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||