February 15, 2014
34°28S 119°22E Dillon Bay
The first 'leg' of our 1000 miles to Adelaide began Thursday and ended thirty minutes later when the anchor splashed into the bay just two miles north of Albany. It pays just to get off the dock and make sure all of the systems work while still near civilization. Also, fingers crossed behind our backs, we told ourselves that we started on Thursday instead of unlucky Friday.
Our strategy is to make day hops along this dramatic but inhospitable coast using every chance the contrary winds give us. Yesterday, Friday, was to be short but our planned anchorage, Bald Island, was marginal so we continued to Dillon Bay and arrived after dark- a mistake. Time and again we dropped our CQR plow anchor and backed down with the engine which each time dragged through the sand and weed. We gave up, set the anchor alarms and went to bed. The forecast was for light winds and we were fine but did not sleep soundly.
Most of the bays along this coast are sand and weed. The turquoise sandy patches, which our anchor likes, are easy spotted in daylight. In the future we must be securely dug in before sundown.
The summer weather is dominated by a large high pressure cell that drives winds along the coast counter-clockwise, from east to west. We have plenty of time and will sit and wait for the strong headwinds to blow out but, with few favorable winds, will have to make use of the motor on lighter days like today.
February 16, 2014
32°22S 119°32E Doubtful Bay
"I don't like the sound of the engine," said Jeannie in the pre-dawn darkness just after the anchor was up for a long 85 miles day to Investigator Island. I grabbed a flashlight and, in the engine room, found a pool of red fluid under the transmission. An 'O' ring had popped off and the engine was spinning but not the prop. Jeannie rolled out a headsail while I poured in our spare transmission fluid which was enough to get the prop spinning but not enough to show on the dip stick. We changed course and sailed west to the town of Bremer Bay where we dropped the anchor, launched the dingy and hiked into town.
By eight we had cornered the town's supply of transmission fluid, three liters. Our hope for a Sunday breakfast on shore melted at the gas station, also the town's only diner, when the woman at the cash register informed us she was also the cook but too busy to making scramble eggs.By ten the dip stick was wet to ‘full’ and the wind blowing a steady westerly fifteen knots, the best wind in a two weeks in this land of easterlies, promising a rare down-wind sail.
"No way," said Jeannie, "We will get in after dark." It killed me to waste a good wind but she was right and so we are in Doubtful Bay, just ten miles away and will try again tomorrow.
February 21, 2014
33°59S 122°06E Cape Le Grand
We have just left Esperance, the last town heading east for six hundred miles. When we arrived three days ago, Alan, from the yacht club, helped us tie up to the jetty that we shared with a small tourist ferry and fishing boat. As the newcomer we were allocated the windward side and had to run two long lines to the rocks on the opposite breakwater to counter the winds that blew us against the pilings. It was never comfortable. We cut our stay short, left before the wind came up this morning and are now comfortably anchored at Cape Le Grand in front of a white sand beach and rocky scrub covered hills. We have it all to ourselves. Soon the dingy will go into the water and we will head in to the beach to get some exercise and explore our new universe.
In Esperance, we put our bikes together and rode west as far as Fourth Beach. Had our legs been better we could have continued to Twilight and Eleven Mile Beaches and so on, a series of sun baked granite cliffs with white sandy beach at the bottom with clear turquoise water, all the way back to Albany. The big news was Wednesday’s visit of the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship that unloaded several thousand tourists. It used to be that these boats were filled with old people but now they look better clothed and overfed versions of us.
Esperance is the last town on the west side of the Nullarbor Plain on land and the Great Australian Bight at sea. Traveling across it on land can be done along the coast road, 4WD only and self-provisioned with food, water and fuel or north to Kalgoorlie and the Eyre Highway which has an occasional motel, gas station and the Nullarbor Links 18 hole par 72 golf course that stretches just over 1000 miles to the next town. You can stop your truck at each hole, rent clubs, hit the ball and drive on to the next hole.
Nullarbor sounds aboriginal but is obviously Latin-‘no trees’. ‘Nullaqua’ is also appropriate.
Before crossing the Bight lie the 100 plus islands of the Recherche Archipelago which we will explore for the next 7-10 days. The Bight has a nasty reputation and we are not taking it lightly. The prevailing winds are against us so we will gamble on a weather window and hope that the four day forecast holds.
February 23, 2014
33°57S 122°34E Victory Harbour
We are slowly making our way east, anchoring in a new bay every night. So far we have visited O'Brien's Beach, Lucky Bay and are now in Victory Harbour where we chatted with a man fishing on the beach.
“How is fishing?” Asked I. “Just killing time, mate,” responded the whiskered fellow in a leather wide brimmed bush hat from landlocked Kalgoorlie, 300 miles north. He was surprised to meet two Chicagoan’s who did not look like gangsters. We were cautioned against swimming. “Two years ago, a Great White got a surfer on this very beach.” We did not swim off the boat that night.
All are lovely spots in National Parks that are empty except for the occasional hiking camper or foraging emu. There are no totally protected harbors so the weather forecast tells us which bay will be safe.
Meanwhile, we are relaxing, hiking the scrub coast, and getting the ever-present maintenance projects done to ready Onora for the next test.
[ Click here for Part II ]