SATURDAY FEB 8th - To Victor Harbor.
A Little Blowy Up The Backstairs Passage.
Most people take the Southern Freeway or the Mount Barker route to Victor on a trip that takes about an hour and a half from Adelaide. We took the super bumpy, extra long way around via Kangaroo Island and it's taken a week. So, here's how that last leg came about...
5am (yes, that's FIVE IN THE MORNING...) wake up call after a very bad night. 'Nuff said!!
It was almost pitch dark when once again the alarm woke me at that abominable hour. It had been a while since this had happened and I truly hoped with all my being that it would be a very long time before I saw the dawn in again. Alas, it was not to be. I'd had a fairly sleepless night anyway, despite the fact that the water had been so calm, we may very well have been floating 10 feet above it but the alarm sounded and my brain just didn't want to know.
No time for tea... it was up, engines on, anchor up and away. Twenty minutes later I had my first cup of liquid life and all became slightly amended with the world. Twenty minutes after that I had my second. The happy-mental-sigh was almost audible.
So, the plan for today was to make our way from Kingscote to Victor Harbor, after delaying the trip to Robe (almost 36 straight hours of sailing from Kingscote) due to unfavourable wind forecasts. After pulling the anchor, we motored in the dark in low winds and low seas for quite a long time, watching the horizon commence its subtle gleam to herald the burgeoning sunrise. In fact, after the glow ball appeared, we motored long enough for me to go back to bed for a kip in order to recharge my ebbing psyche.
Photo: Dawn breaks.
During that time and whilst it was still relatively calm, I decided to have a play on the E-Pad. The last time Dave had used it, he must have been searching about on You Tube because the first thing that showed up on the open tabs was a clip titled "Epic Waves - Walls of Death!" I don't really like waking up to portents of doom so I carefully put the E-Pad down and didn't open it again.
A few hours later (at about 10.30) the wind had picked up slightly so it was time to put up the sails and turned off the engine. This went well for a while until we hit the dreaded Backstairs Passage. I know why they call it that, because it's an ars***le of a place to sail through.
Photo: Rough times up the Backstairs Passage.
The wind howled through at about 25 - 30+ knots, gusting and tipping Venture so that the scuppers were so far in the water that it occasionally dribbled under the covers and into the cockpit, the waves rose and chopped around the boat. Water crashed over the front, splooshing torrents all over the bimini and covering every surface with salty wetness. Even though we got a little damp, I'm so glad we're mostly enclosed in the cockpit. We'd have been soaked. This went on for over 3 hours and, to coin a phrase, it totally sucked. Then, as we are finding is an increasingly common occurrence, the wind suddenly dropped away to nothing, the waves calmed to a slow simmer and we floundered and bobbed about like a gigantic cork. Marvin the Fickle (please refer to earlier blogs if you're confused as to who Marvin is) was back with a vengeance and boy he was starting to get on my wick!
Photo: West Island and the Bluff.
We finally arrived at Granite Island at around 4pm and I was looking forward to just stopping and having a cuppa. We could see a few moorings available but Dave figured it would be better to anchor except for one thing... the anchor simply wouldn't grab. So it was on the phone and ringing the harbour master to find out info about the moorings (whether they'd take a larger boat). Ten minutes later a guy in a tinny, along with two of his mates arrived at the boat and showed Dave the only one they knew about that would take our boat but it was fairly exposed but others MAY be okay. They just didn't know. So Dave got into the our dinghy and perused all of the available moorings to find a good strong one. We chose one with good solid heavy chain and moored for the evening. All seemed well..... for now.
SUNDAY FEB 9th - Still in Victor
What can I say.... we went into town, Dave caught up with his mate Clive, I shopped for supplies and tripled my money on the pokies while Dave and Clive smoked, guzzled beer and gas-bagged outside. It was a very pleasant day. During the evening though, the wind picked up from the east and the boat started to rock, and rock, and ROCK to the point where it was pretty uncomfortable. It was okay though, we were on a very secure mooring.... or were we?
MONDAY FEB 10th - Yep... still in Victor.
Dave rose at 5.30 just to check on things as the waves and wind were pretty brawny and there was a bit of rattling and thumping going on.. There was no need for me to rise at that time, so I drifted back to sleep with not a lot of prompting only to be woken just before 8am by the anchor chain rapidly dropping. Uh oh! I jumped out of bed to the sound of the engine being started. My foggy brain was in a state of total confusion but I had an inkling that something was amiss. And I was right.
I poked my head up and Dave yelled that the mooring had broken and we had drifted into very shallow water (just 8cm below the keel). The panic button kicked in in a surprisingly calm fashion and I took over the motoring while Dave raised the anchor. The depth alarm pierced through the fog in my head (unfortunately it takes a while for my eyes to adjust in the mornings). I maneuvered us into a better position and into deeper water where the alarm finally ceased it's abominable screaming and then we went in search of the guaranteed mooring. With Dave on the front of the boat showing me the way, it was fairly easy to follow his directions but I was buggered if I could spot the actual mooring anywhere (fuzzy eyes still). Eventually it appeared in my line of vision and it turned out we were a lot closer than I thought, and Dave missed picking it up.
All this time the boat was rising and dropping like a yo-yo being used by a small child with clumsy little fists. We were all over the place. We had also attracted an audience of dolphins who seemed to find everything highly amusing. So, we missed the mooring and I, being somewhat still not quite with it, put the boat in reverse and floored it in order to back us up and have another go at the buoy. Dave started calling "forward" and I slowed down a bit. "FORWARD!" he yelled again. I was still in reverse and at that moment, for some reason I turned around and saw that the back end of Venture was quite literally within touching distance of another moored boat. SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!!! I slammed it into forward and if the boat could have planed, she may very well have done it then. I absolutely believe that I was only a second or so from absolute disaster. I did not, however, do my usual thing of letting out a blood curdling squall and flying into a dead set panic but kept my wits about me and, after finally seeing the buoy clearly, steered us into a perfect position and at perfect speed to pick it up. One thing finally went right.
After Venture was secure in her new mooring, Dave showed me the broken rope and chain that had still been attached to the safety line on the boat. It was unbelievable and very scary. Take a look at the photos. Corroded and broken chain links, completely worn shackle pin that was barely thicker than a match stick. We were so lucky it didn't go in the middle of the night when it had been so rough. Venture would have been smashed into the causeway.
Photo: Dangerous mooring
When hearts had stopped hammering and certain orifices had stopped clenching I went below and made a nice soothing cuppa. Ten minutes later, as I was checking my email, I heard a small crash and an anguished moan from the cockpit. Oh no, what now??? I extricated myself from behind the table and took the four steps to the cockpit. "I spilled my coffee" he moaned. It seemed almost more disastrous than breaking the first mooring. A fresh cup of coffee later and all was made right in the bay.
Luckily that was it for the day. NO more bad happenings, no more breakage, slippage, spillage, snappage or near miss collisions. It's not at all fun when this stuff happens but it sure is blog ammo. :)
Tomorrow morning we leave for Robe.
A little about Victor Harbor:
Beautiful Victor Harbor (not Harbour as it should be, due to a spelling error) is about 80km south of Adelaide and is the largest population on the Fleurieu Peninsula. It has been a very popular tourist destination for as long as I can remember, with many markets, festivals, art shows (with one of the largest art prizes in Australia) and schoolies week being just a small portion of what happens in the town. It is also an exceptionally popular town with retirees.
During the months of June to September, whale spotting is a popular attraction. Southern Right whales come to the nearby waters to calve and to mate. The Australian Whale Centre, located near the foreshore and causeway, provides hands on interactive activities and presentations as well as information on whale watching tips.
One of the most popular areas at Victor is Granite Island. Clydesdales pull a tram to the island along the tram/pedestrian causeway and this remains one of the few horse drawn trams still operating in Australia. On weekends there are also camel rides on the beach adjacent to the causeway.
Photo: The Clydesdale tram to Granite Island
The Cockle Train Heritage Railway, operated by SteamRanger runs steam locomotives and other antique train services between Victor Harbor and Goolwa railway stations. This route includes the oldest rail route in Australia, between Port Elliot and Goolwa.
Greenhills Adventure Park offers activities including water-slides, archery, mini golf, canoes, rock wall climbing, and go-karting and loads of play equipment. A great day out.
Photos: Some views of Victor Harbor
Whale Tail Fountain
Clydesdale Tram stop
Even the toilets are painted with murals.
The Discovery Centre