TUESDAY FEB 25th - Heading to Port Fairy with 1 night stopover in Portland in between.
Even the sparrows weren't farting when I got up. It was still a couple of hours until dawn even began to creep, let alone spring up over the horizon and I had slept poorly. It was 4am (yes, it's true.... there actually IS a time in the am that starts with a 4, and I think I can say in all honesty, it'll never be a favourite time with me...EVER!) and not a single drop of tea had touched my delicate lips before we dropped the mooring and wove our way between the dormant fishing boats, with me standing at the bow with a torch, picking out the position of empty mooring buoys before we ran them over. For some reason, Dave thinks I can actually get my eyes to focus at that time of day even though I'm sure I've explained to him more than once that my eyes actually wake up only after a couple of cups of tea. Thank goodness most of the buoys were coloured and that they showed up in the torchlight as beautiful multi faceted blurs reflecting off of my pre-dawn retinas. It was also almost cold enough to figuratively freeze my bazongas off. What a way to start the day. The brightest part of this whole dark start was being accompanied out by Flobby, the local friendly dolphin. He stayed with us for a very long time before turning back to the safe haven of the breakwater.
Not all of the fishing boats were inactive though. Several had already headed out before we set off, and others were preparing to. Outside the breakwater, as we puttered along at less than breakneck speed, several bright spotlights materialised behind us, the boat's skippers focussing them on Venture and then passing us by with a hearty wave as they hastened towards the horizon and their morning's work.
One fishing boat in particular looked most beautiful as it passed by a couple of hundred feet away. It was well lit, with huge spotlights front and back, and all around it, dipping and swooping in and out of the light's beams, looking like bright, silvery flakes in a giant snow-globe, were hundreds of seagulls. The odd part was, the only noise to be heard was the low chug of the boat's engine. The gulls made not a single sound. It seemed almost surreal as it was the only vessel where this was occurring. As we watched it out to sea, the gulls never let up on their dance and seemed intent on guiding it to its destination.
As the sun peeped above the wakening horizon my brain finally rebelled and I went back to bed to try and catch up on some sleep. A couple of hours later I rose to the fact that we had very little wind to fill the sails, and so another day of stinky diesel was in store, or at least seven hours worth until the breeze decided to play with us in the afternoon. Birds of many types seemed to be our constant companions as we followed the coast to Portland. Apart from the avian entourage, not a lot else happened on that day. We arrived in Portland at 5.30pm, tired and weary. Tomorrow we head off again for Port Fairy, a much shorter trip.
WEDNESDAY FEB 26th - Port Fairy
Ahhhhh, 8am and the pleasure of not having to be up before the the sun was palpable. A couple of cups of the nectar that is tea, and all is right with the world. By nine o'clock we were on our way again on the short (well 6-7 hours-ish) leg to Port Fairy.
Weatherwise, the trip itself was relatively unremarkable with a few engine on-engine off moments as the wind picked up and dropped away but it was made much more entertaining with the attendant dolphins that came and went for the entire journey. It really is something I never tire of. The swell however, was huge.... around 3-4 metres. Along the way we saw many wind farms that disappeared from view as the waters rose and fell and one boat that was passing the other way could have been mistaken for a sinking ship at times. It took a few hours for the swell to die down but at least the crests were spaced well apart, making it more like a kiddie-coaster than a mad-mouse.
Photo : Not Sinking... waving!
Photo: More dolphin friends.
Another most wonderful and eerie few minutes happened when we passed by Lady Julia Percy Island which is approximately 12 nautical miles (or around 22km) from Port Fairy.
Okay... here comes a lesson
Lady Julia Percy Island is Australia's only submarine volcano developed from a basaltic lava shield and related flows. Formed around seven million years ago by violent underwater eruptions related to the final separation of Australia from Antarctica, it is much older than other volcanoes in the region. Wreathed by cliffs, with a flat treeless top, the island is 2 km long and 1 km wide at the south-western end, with a plateau surface averaging 30 to 40 metres above sea level.
It is one of four large fur seal breeding colonies in Victoria and is the largest colony in Australia with an estimated 23,000 seals. There are also many bird species on the island including little penguin, diving petrel, peregrine falcon, short tailed shearwater, white fronted chats, fairy prion, Australian pipits and the sooty oyster catcher. Some rare plants also survive in the caves. The waters around the island are also important hunting grounds for the Great White Shark. **
Photos: Lady Julia Percy Island.
The almost vertical cliffs around the island extend deep into the water, so we were able to cruise quite close Though far enough away to avoid any hidden objects). Since we were under sail at the time, we silently and slowly drifted along the western edge, close enough to hear the eerily haunting barks and bleats of the seals as they echoed through the caves along the water's edge. Initially I thought I was imaging things and so had to ask Dave if he heard it too. Luckily he did so I knew that most of my mental faculties were still intact. At times the cries sounded like sheep up on the plateau, at other times like a bellow or the dirge of old sailors long dead. At all times the calls rebounded off of the cliff face, distorting into wails and cries. It really was spooky but fascinating at the same time especially since, despite hearing all those seals, we saw none until we looked at the photos and spotted tiny seals in the rocks (actually the seals were normal sized.... the rocks and indeed the entire island were FAR larger than they looked from the boat). It was a creepy place.
After that little sojourn into spookiness, we set our course for George the auto pilot and had him take us the remaining couple of hours to Port Fairy.
Photo: Rough waters into Port Fairy
Dave called ahead too the Harbour Master only to be informed that a place for us may be quite difficult as there was a fishing competition being held that coming weekend, and so we'd have to tie up near the boat ramp. I was initially none too happy about this. The thought of being docked in such a public arena,with loud, stinky boats coming and going constantly didn't fill me with happiness but there was little we could do about it. We had to take what we could get.
Photos: Into the Moyne River. What a pleasant surprise. :)
When we touched our way through the narrow inlet to the Moyne River we were pleasantly surprised at the immediate beauty of the place. Unlike seaside towns with a cove or bay or breakwater with moorings, Port Fairy's 'marina' was the river itself, a lovely safe haven for the yachts and fishing boats that tied up along its well maintained board-walks and landings on the western bank and the small 'marina' on the eastern side.
We pulled up where we thought we were supposed to be, on the boat ramp pontoon, tied off and relaxed for a few minutes only to have a 'knock' on the hatch and an introduction to a lovely man named Bill who, within 5 minutes of meeting us, offered to drive us into Warrnambool if we needed anything. His hospitality was very welcome.
After Bill left, we strolled across the footbridge and sauntered the board-walks along the river until we came across a fish and chip shop that had outdoor dining. It was all very pleasant and civilised and even the seagulls were on their best behaviour. Not a single one hassled us or the other people there munching on their chips. In a way, it was totally weird. Where was the 'Mine! Mine!'. All I could figure was, they were exceptionally well fed gulls.
After a while, and with a belly full of the deep fried goodness that is chips, we wandered back to the boat, only to find a note telling us that we were in the wrong place and, if we didn't want to end up with half the keel in the mud, we'd better move. Ah crap. Here we go again.
After a quick call to the number provided, we untied yet again and moved a little further upstream into a deeper and actually far more pleasant tie-up. It was a public dock with no security and normally anything longer than a fifteen minute mooring isn't allowed, but apparently with the fishing competition, room was limited. We didn't care. It was nice and when the harbour master met us there with a key to the toilets and showers I realised it was the better spot anyway.
Photo: In the right spot at last.
We'd made it to yet another point on our way around Australia and will explore tomorrow. :)