Last Friday morning, we crossed into Victorian waters! We are in our home state. We have taken the foot off the pedal and have enjoyed a few restorative days at Wilson’s Promontory, knowing we will make it to Melbourne without problem and also keeping away from a heightened risk of infection for as long as possible.
Bittangabee to Wilson’s Promontory
We left Bittangabee at dawn, motoring for a few hours in light conditions, and making water underway to replenish our tanks.
After a really gentle breeze to start with, we had brisk conditions most of the way during our 240nm passage. It took us 32 hours to reach Picnic Bay, on the western side of Wilson’s Promontory. We shared the night watches with Murray, Wade’s brother. Murray is an old hand at this, having done passages with us on each of our cruising cats. But it is no secret Anui is his favourite. It sure is the fastest and toughest!
As you can tell from the chart, we initially followed the coast, sailing past familiar landmarks: Green Cape, Cape Howe marking the border between NSW and Victoria, Gabo Island and its red lighthouse.
From Gabo, we chose to head way offshore, in a SW direction, practically in a straight line to the bottom of the Prom, instead of following the curve of the coast. It was shorter, kept us clear of the oil rigs and the shipping lanes and away from fishing trawlers. But being some 50nm away from the coast at the furthest point, it was also quite rowdy in the strong easterly wind. During the afternoon and into the night we had 30+ knots consistently on our stern and choppy seas, but our beautiful Anui just kept going strongly!
As the hours passed, the wind built from nothing to a bit much, and back to more sedate conditions. All sails except the main got an airing: Bluey the spinnaker, the screecher, the jib, back to Bluey, off with Bluey, on with the screecher, off with the screecher, jib on, jib off, and on and on it went! All these sail changes were worth the effort to keep things under control yet maximise our speed.
Apart from the frequent changes of sail, the only entertainment was the wildlife, but that was particularly good!
First it was the albatrosses flying. The windier it got, the more we saw. These are southern waters’ creatures and we really missed them during our two-and-a-bit years in the tropics. They are stunning seabirds, with a wingspan of over two meters, and watching them soaring, banking, weaving between the waves, without a single beat of their huge wings is breathtaking. It was like a welcome home. We saw mainly the Shy Albatross, but also the smaller Indian Yellow-head. We wished Waz could have seen them during his passage with us… such an amazing sight. And even more numerous, much smaller but no less skilled in flight, were the black petrels and shearwaters.
Then we got treated to the most spectacular display by a huge pod of big dolphins which came charging towards Anui. They captivated us with the highest, most vigorous jumps and spins right out of the water. We had never seen anything like it. They were obviously enjoying the big waves, the wind, the speed of our boat. It was as if they were competing for the best acrobatic show and biggest air. We of course encouraged them with screams of delight.
By 8pm it was time to start our two hour watches. Our course south of the oil rigs and just outside the shipping lanes meant it was clear of traffic. It was just a matter of keeping an eye on the sail and the auto pilot in the strong wind and choppy seas. By dawn the breeze had dropped to nothing and our pace was painfully slow, the Prom being so near, yet so far! But eventually we got there.
We reached our anchorage at Picnic Bay on the western side of the Prom by noon on Saturday the 22nd, having completed the longest passage since leaving Queensland and we are glad to say, the last of the overnighters! The next two or three hops are much shorter day sails.
Rest and play at the Prom
With 10 days to go before our medical appointments start, we decided we would enjoy a few days’ rest at The Prom, as we affectionately call it. It was also a precaution to stay away from the risk of Omicron infection in town.
It was time for a rest, lovely walks on the beach, body surfs in the waves, bread making and baking on board, superb views all around us… what cruising life is normally about. It has been especially nice to slow down, enjoy beautiful scenery and feel comfortable and relaxed – something that has been missing from our life over the last few months. Even Bengie enjoyed the deck in the sunshine!
The water is crystal clear but there is only one way to describe its temperature: bracing at 17oC degrees! We could not resist going for a few snorkels. It was ccccold! We have definitely become soft after two years in the tropics and found the sea temperature a bit shocking. But it was fascinating seeing different types of kelp and cray weed swaying in the current, especially the thick ribbons of the bull kelp. The colour of the water is different down south too, more green than blue. We spotted a few abalones and after checking on the fisheries website, we realised holders of a senior’s card don’t need a fishing license in Victoria, one of the few advantages of getting decrepit! So we went back and got ourselves a feed! We cut the abs in thin slivers and lightly fry them in a series of different herbs: garlic and parsley, ginger and lime, chilli and lemongrass…. with a side salad and a glass of wine. Yum! Might have to get some more!
With a day of right wind direction we even sailed to nearby Skull Rock and back to our anchorage at Picnic Bay. Murray was at the wheel and got a few sailing pointers, we took some photos, said hello to the seals and had a fun day. Here is a slide show of our little excursion.
To Phillip Island
On Wednesday 26th we left Wilson’s Promontory and had a boisterous passage to Phillip Island. It was a varied sail, with super strong wind when we were heavily reefed and withstood 52 knot gusts on our stern, zooming along at 13 and 14 knots speed, but then a light breeze followed, just enough to keep the screecher inflated! It was another morning of frequent sail changes. You can see the wave cloud which hung around the coast, creating unstable conditions.
We could not stop for a couple of days at Phillip Island without the boys having a body surf at Woolamai. Here is a slide show of their exploits. Wade is the one with one foot in the air as a rudder, Murray is the long haired one!
In voluntary lockdown
We are now on a public mooring at Cleeland Bight, waiting for our next weather window. With our eminent arrival into Melbourne, we are really uneasy about the spread of COVID, feeling quite vulnerable with Chris’s auto immune conditions. It would just be terrible to have come all this way, catch the virus and have to cancel the much needed and difficult to get specialists’ appointments.
So we have made the antisocial but necessary decision to put ourselves in voluntary lockdown until our last specialist’s appointment on the 8th of February. We feel bad about not allowing our Melbourne friends on board until after that date but have to do what is right for us. Thank you for understanding.