18 September 2011
After 52hrs we finally reached Port Hedland at 10:30am with the last 50NM during the night and early hours of the morning beating to windward down the channel. The anchorage in a westerly breeze is very lumpy with Bella hobby horsing at the bit. I think it was actually calmer out on the ocean! We had a pleasant enough sail with 10-18 knots either on the beam or to windward. Much of yesterday and the night was motorsailing into variable winds before the breeze picked up sufficiently that we could sail. We had yet another very close encounter with a whale and its calf. This time we were motorsailing when it surfaced at our bow and it dove under the boat as we passed, leaving us once again terrified of what just happened. We saw it slide under the boat and were sure it was almost close enough that we could reach out and touch them – yikes! They must have kissed our keel as they passed underneath. I have a vivid picture of them both in the clear blue water now imprinted on my brain.
Entering Port Hedland we were greeted with more than a dozen cargo ships at anchor, like a block of massive flats that we had to find our way through. Every step of our passage was checked in with the Port Hedland Harbour to ensure we kept the narrow channel clear for any ships. While at anchor the kids were in awe as we watched the busy port bring a number of ships to and fro. Unfortunately the breeze was onshore making the bay uncomfortable and the shore impossible to access with its breaking surf. So the new Yacht Club which we had heard about and the prospect of a restaurant meal and long hot shower was substituted for a brief shower onboard and more mackerel for dinner. Tomorrow we leave early at 3:30am on the easterly wind and head for Depuch Island approx 65NM west before making for Dampier the following day. We reached Port Headland with our latest addition to our convoy Scarlett, the catamaran close behind us, but poor Bruce & Dianne on Illusion were still another 16hrs or more away from arriving in Port Hedland and were having a really rough time in the headwind. At the prospect that we may have to split up our little fleet to make the most of the weather they decided to continue sailing on towards Depuch Island and arrive late at night where we hope to catch up again tomorrow before continuing on to Dampier together. We wish you fair winds and kind seas my friends, and we’ll share a drink when we get there. Its actually probably no lumpier than we are at anchor here!