Heading out from Sydney it felt good to be back offshore with a destination and a plan. Australia, up to that point, had been a bit confusing for us. We knew we had to remain south of the cyclone belt, but our Visas and plan basically ran out after Christmas. Having resolved the Visa issue, and now having formulated a plan that held excitement and progression, we were all feeling much better and with the wind in our sails we started on our journey south and round to Adelaide.
Having watched the wind carefully while in Australia, I knew that the grib files were often inaccurate and that most afternoons a strong sea breeze could easily add 15 kts to forecast, wind speed. We had a number of weather systems to progress through, and with cold fronts rolling through the southern ocean every 4 days or so we had to get our timing right if we wanted to have a fair passage.
Approaching Eden, the last port in New South Wales, we decided to pull in and let a southerly change come through. It would only take 24 hours but the wind would strengthen and shift from North through West to South then back up to the North East again. That would then stabilise and weaken for a few days giving us light offshore winds along the East part of Victoria, an exposed 250-mile leg to Wilsons Promontory. This is a notoriously ugly place if you get it wrong, but there is an anchorage that can be used to wait for clement conditions, or until the next front passes, so we had a fallback plan. There was another potential stop aprox mid way: a narrow Bar entrance leading to the Victoria lakes (Creatively called Lakes Entrance!) This would only be passable in very mild swell conditions and at the right time. We planned to have a look on route, and if feasible stop there for the next system to pass.
We left Eden at 6pm the 10th January with winds ENE at 10kts, all looking good. We rounded the corner and made our way into the Bass straight. The forecast was for light wind and by 2am in true Australian fashion it was blowing 30+ kts. No problem, just not forecast, but the sea was not threatening at 3m swells so we pushed on. As fast as it appeared it stopped and by 7am it was back to 15kts then decreased over the day, so by our approach to Lakes Entrance the wind was 5 kts offshore, mild (2m) swell conditions and the top of an incoming tide. Perfect for the Bar, so we made our way into the lake system, found a shallow, pretty anchorage and were all settled and secure by 5.30pm. We could now wait for the next weather system to pass, which looked like it would be a strong one and take a few days.
As the wind backed it became unbearably hot at 37 degrees. The water, at just 18 degrees provided welcome relief and we spent a few days at anchor, shopping and swimming.
It was noticeable that as the water temperature dropped heading out of Eden, the sea life became prolific. More often than not we had dolphins on the bow or around the boat, and there was plenty of bird life. The fishing was supposed to be excellent, but I guess, because of our speed during daylight, we didn't catch anything.
The forecast looked good so we headed back into the Bass straight on 14th Jan, unsure how far we would get but hopeing for Portland, 150 miles west of Melbourne, and 300 miles west of Lakes Entrance. There were a few options for default once past Wilsons Promontory, and with the weather looking mild I was confident we would make good progress before the next system rolled through the straight. We made steady way with light NE winds, which backed quickly to S then SSE then ESE, so well behind and at only 15kts we had good steady sailing.
After 40 hours we were 10 miles NE of King Island and pushing to exit the Bass straight. After downloading the latest weather it looked like we would be 8 hours short of Portland when the wind backed into the W at 25Kts. There was no way we wanted to be there when that happened. It's a dangerous coast with the swell rolling in from the Southern Ocean and hitting the continental plate squeezing into the 50 -80 meter depths available. The wind can also stiffen considerably as its funnelled between the Australian coast and Tasmania. Not the place to be, so we aborted and headed N for 35 miles to Apollo Bay and a pretty, secure harbour just under the lea of Cape Otway. We arrived before lunch, but as the wind freshened so our anchor dragged and we went alongside the harbour wall for security.
Luckily while in Eden, the boys and I had found a 3.5m plank on the beach. I had been keeping my eyes open for one, and while on passage I made a set of fender boards. Figuring that we were now off the popular cruising routes, we were really in fishing harbour territory and most mooring would be alongside piled wharfs, so fender boards would be needed. We pulled the new boards out and secured alongside without worries as the wind blew through the 30 kt range for 3 days.
We had a pleasant time in Apollo and met another cruising boat that had crossed from Perth. Over drinks on Pegasus they recounted their trip: 18 meter waves, dinghy being ripped from the davits, by the swell, mortal relief at arriving in Port Lincoln. Wow, not the sort of place I want to get stuck in. In passing they mentioned they had dragged their anchor in Esperance so the subject turned to their new purchase, a stockless anchor. I had not heard of these before, but rather like a fisherman's or Admiralty, it can penetrate hard sand, weed and rock, making it ideal for the South coast of Australia. I now knew, as I had suspected, I was going to need another anchor, and resolved to look for one in Adelaide..
Whilst alongside, a Cray fishing boat tried to come alongside the dock between us and another fishing boat. I was on the dock talking with the skipper and just couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was clear that he wouldn't make it, and as he aborted and reversed out hard, he clipped our bow scouring the paint and fibreglass. I wasn't very impressed.
Now understanding that all fishermen are "angry" I approached them and asked what they intended to do about it. Well they were pretty quiet, so I told them what their reaction would have been if I had done it to their boat. I left, making the point that it was ridiculous that they hadn't ask me to move, and fully expecting that that was the last I would hear from them. 10 minutes later the skipper came over full of apology carrying 2 huge Cray fish. What a kind gesture. They were enormous, at least 2-3kg each and provided 3 family meals for us without skimping. We had certainly had our fill of exceptional southern crayfish.
We waited in Apollo for the wind to ease and back for the next leg W then NW up into the gulf of St Vincent. This stretch of coast is practically dangerous and I wanted to get it right. It looked like the best plan was to take 12 hours of wind weather early giving us the 48 hours of settled weather from the south, which we needed to get up into the gulf, passed Kangaroo Island (KI) and up to Adelaide.
We set sail on 20th Jan into what turned out to be quite windy weather. It blew a good 25kts on the nose as we beat offshore past Cape Otway, trying to get off the plate and into deeper water. By 1700 the wind had backed from NW to SW and we tacked heading NW along the coast. It was pretty lumpy, those first few hours, and both boys were sick, which sometimes happens if we have been alongside and still, then get into lumpy seas on day 1. The following day the wind died off as expected and we made steady progress along the coast. The wind built up again and at dawn day 2 we had some pretty big winds. We were heading up to Kangaroo Island and the infamous backstairs passage (between KI and the mainland) another dangerous straight due to the tides and shallows.
Unexpectedly the wind built up all morning so by lunchtime it was blowing some 35+ kts, just aft abeam with 4 meter seas. For only the second time since leaving the UK I had to put 4 reefs in the main. For the very first time since leaving the UK I was struck by the strong feeling that this was really the wrong place for small children
We were really humming along, albeit with not many cards left in the deck, and were making good time. As we approached the Backstairs passage so the wind eased and seas flattened. By 2300 we were motoring into Antechamber bay (on KI) looking for a place to pull over for the night All was black and very dark and we felt our way in on instruments, anchoring in 5 meters of water. After messing about a bit we got the anchor to hold and settled down for a well-earned sleep. We had made it through the bass straight and were now, at just 80 miles, a hop and a skip away from Adelaide.
We decided to regroup before heading up to see my Father, so spent the following day in Kingscote on KI. After dinner ashore and a good nights sleep I was up early, slipped lines, and set sail for Adelaide. Being in the gulf we had flat water and a good 15-18 kts on the beam. With full rig we had a fantastic sail up the gulf, arriving at the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron at about 1600 on Sunday 24th January
After stowing the boat, my Father arrived at 1700 and we all had a merry time at the clubhouse. He met JJ and Louis for the first time and both boys gave him a wonderful hug. I was glad to see him much improved since I last saw him in December. He came on board and we all shared a lovely lasagne that Amanda had put together on the way up to Adelaide. The RSAYS is quite a way out from town and we planned to see him and my half brother and sisters over the next few days.
Tuesday 26th was Australia day. We all congregated at the clubhouse with a few others and had a long lazy BBQ. JJ and Louis swam and had great fun playing with their aunties, while Dad and I sat, ate, drank and talked.. We all had a memorable day together.
The general plan had been to stay in Adelaide for a month working on Pegasus and to take her out of the water for antifouling etc. It became apparent early on that there was not the facility to haul Pegasus at the RSAYS. It was a great shame but we were just the wrong shape for their lifting system. I sorted some electrics, replaced engine mounts and found a second hand Admiralty anchor, exactly the right size. I think it had been waiting for us. We did many other small jobs during our 2 weeks there and had a hire car for running around. We spent a few enjoyable afternoons and evenings with Dad and generally just enjoyed each other's company around the boat or at his place in town.
The days were flying past and I was starting to get concerned that we were running out of time (stable summer weather patterns) to get across the Great Australian Bight and round to Perth. We had finished as much work as we could so I felt it was time to push on. We would set sail before dawn on Monday 8th February.
As we couldn't antifoul, I scrubbed Pegasus as my last job. I wanted the boat to be as fast as possible getting across the bight. In addition we took Silver the Optimist, off Pegasus and left her, along with other items, in a chandlery in Adelaide. We had great fun in silver, but, although a great idea, we actually only used her occasionally and she was pretty heavy to lug around. I couldn't see us using her for at least 6 months so she had to go. Pegasus was delighted and felt light and responsive again. A good move. We were ready to go.
Sunday came and I planned that we should all have lunch in the Club which was busy hosting a kids day in aid if charity. We had a lovely table for 9 in a fine setting and all settled down for a great lunch. Oysters, steak, a rather good cheese board and good company made for a memorable day. We retired to the lawn where there was a band and a bouncy castle for the kids. I sat with my father and we mused about life, both conscious that this could well be the last time we saw each other. We said goodbye and both felt sad that we had to part so soon. It had been 6 years since we last saw each other. We both agreed that what we really needed was a couple of weeks together just to let the questions and answers flow.
Its one of the strange and sad things about cruising that there are so many goodbye's.
Although things transpired against us a little, I carry fond memories of our time in Adelaide and feel pleased that we all made the effort to see each other, and for him to meet his grandchildren I hope, while we are still in Australia, we make the opportunity to see each other again.
A still Monday morning, just glowing on the pre dawn, saw us slip lines and glide out of Adelaide on dark glassy seas. We wanted to get south early, as the sea breeze sucks the air up the gulf, giving strong southerly winds from midday onwards. Further south there is less effect. We were keen to sample some of the great cruising in South Australia so headed back to Kangaroo Island and found a beautiful anchorage in Emu bay on the North side of the island. White sand under crystal clear, turquoise water. Fantastic, the only drawbacks being that these waters are the breeding grounds of the great white shark, so absolutely no swimming off the boat or in deep water. The Beach looked safe enough, (watch out for the snakes) so we went ashore, all swam and took a long walk down the beach. It felt great to be back out there.
The cruising in the 2 gulfs is wonderful, and on route to Port Lincoln, our departure point for the bight, we spent 8 nights at anchor in 6 anchorages and 3 islands. We reprovisioned in PL and, while waiting on weather, headed out to the Sir Joseph Banks group to see the islands and spend a few days on the beach.
All through SA the sea life was plentiful and visible, with daily sightings of dolphin, shark, fish, sealion and plenty of birds, although no Albatross. We had last seen them approaching KI in late January. I was hopeing that we would see them again when we returned to the fringe of the southern ocean, on our immanent passage to Western Australia.
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