Sunday 7th June was our great escape day: a thrill, tinged with apprehension after so many months stuck in limbo. If you need the downs to appreciate the highs, we really are ready for huge highs!
This is us leaving Cunninghame Quay after a busy Saturday spent finishing off the installation of the signal booster, re-provisioning the boat, topping up the water tanks and all those chores prior to departure.
We left at first light. Boy it was cccoold!
We both looked at the Entrance with its line of rough water: “Yikes, do you like what you see?” “Not much!” Oh what a bumpy exit out of the Lakes: lumpy seas, Anui rocked her way out… Quick puke overboard but then all was good. The sea smoothed out, the day warmed up for a brief period, we were rugged up, thankful we were underway and ready to reignite our drive to go places.
It did not take long for the dolphins and albatrosses to join us, and we have spotted our first whales for the season. The dolphins in particular are behaving as if they have been missing some company with no one out there to play with. They come in great numbers repeatedly, staying with us for ages too. They are speed demons, converging from all directions towards Anui and obviously having fun!
It is such a pleasure to be surrounded by wildlife. Nature is uplifting. The sea is beautiful and brings such energy to us. We missed that very much.
First stop: The Skerries
When you tell people you are going to anchor at the Skerries, they look at you strangely. “The Scaries, this does not sound very safe?” But the Skerries are not scary. It is just the Scottish name for small rocky islets! They are a handy stop 75nm from Lakes Entrance when you want to avoid an overnighter to Eden. They comprise three rocky islands, 100m offshore of the mouth of the Wingan River. These give a little bit of shelter from swell and wind in a light southwest and are the site of a large fur seal colony. An estimated 14,000 seals call the islets their home, and don’t you know it when you arrive: lots of barking, bellowing, a few even come close to investigate… and the smell!
From here on, going further east towards Mallacoota and Gabo Island, this part of the Victorian coast is where you notice the devastation from the summer fires: the vegetation, most likely tea trees as well as eucalypts, is burnt right to the beach.
Second stop: Bittangabee
Monday’s sail was gorgeous: nice breeze, sunshine, no need for the engines. And the big milestone: we officially turned the corner and started heading north, now in NSW! Bittangabee Bay was our goal, a shorter 45nm passage. Once more the dolphins were in a party mood: dozens taking turn at the bows!
Bittangabee is another little frequented anchorage: a bit tricky to get in because of low rock shelves that force you to S your way in carefully and there is not a lot of safe swinging space, but once settled it is a real treasure. We used to get into the side inlet at high tide but the deep channel has silted up and it is now too shallow to enter in anything other than a dinghy. However the main bay is scenic, protected and it is so much nicer than joining the crowds in Eden.
Bittangabee is Wade’s special spot: some of you will know of the Shag Island Club membership where every member is the commodore of an anchorage they choose somewhere along the Australian coast. Well Wade is the commodore of Bittangabee Bay!
With a couple of days of northerly breeze forecast, we stayed there for three nights, went for walks, although the tracks have been affected by the fires and were hard to follow. We saw areas which burnt so hot that six months later there is no regrowth. But then other parts are regenerating and bright green shoots are sprouting from the carbonised trunks.
And the highlight of our wanders… look what we came across:
It is so astonishing they were spared by the fires. Being ground dwelling birds they were very much at risk so we feel very privileged. We saw and heard half a dozen lyrebirds. They are normally shy birds, difficult to approach, but these were just too busy foraging in the leaf litter to worry about us. We were amazingly close and able to get many unobstructed shots. We watched in awe at the striking beauty of the males with their huge tail and listened to a couple mimicking other birds, notably the bell bird and whip bird, right in front of us.
So as you can see, we are enjoying ourselves. Early mornings are very chilly at 50C, but the colours of the sunrise, with mist rising over the water are worth getting out of a warm nest for.
The temperature drops quickly in the afternoons and we lose daylight early, just before 5pm, but the sunsets are pink and mauve.
Third stop: Bermagui
With the return of the southerlies, we left our sanctuary at Bittangabee and motor-sailed to Bermagui in very light conditions. It was just as well we had the engines on as the whales were active. Two adults in particular breached right next to our port bow and one just about landed on the deck! I was too shocked to think of taking a photo of them trying to climb on board, but these are the culprits, by then behind us!
Contrary to our usual habit when we come to Bermagui, we did not go inside the fishing harbour to raft up at the fishing co-op jetty to Volution, a long line fishing vessel who accommodates us! We have always found it a bit tight in there with Take It Easy… and it would be even more so with Anui. Instead we opted to anchor at Horseshoe Bay, just next to the harbour entrance… a first for us. We like trying new spots and this was quite reasonable for a night. We took the opportunity to dinghy in for some fuel and treats! The cloud cover was interesting as we got back to the boat.
It might be cold, but we feel good. There is such a huge difference between living onboard tied up to a jetty and sailing to secluded anchorages, anchoring on your own, exploring, and feeling free. Now that’s cruising!
Next stop: we sail to Broulee as we post this and will be there for a few days catching up with friends.