Blog of Jack and Jude
explorers, photographers, authors
April 2014 March 2014 >>
Front loaded washing machine
Since leaving Esperance we’ve suffered through one cold front after another. They’ve turned the dangerous ground of the Recherche, with its thousand abrupt rocks and islands, into conditions like a toy boat in a washing machine. That half our troubles. The other being rain, cold yucky rain! Brr!. Instead of enjoying kayaking and walks around these granite monoliths we’ve been hiding, or running from one hideout to the next. The wind has been swinging round and round as each front approaches and passes, forcing our barometer up and down like a yo-yo, it’s a wonder it’s not worn out.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia –
Recherche Archipelago is a group of 105 islands, and over 1200 “obstacles to shipping”, off the South coast of Western Australia. The islands stretch 230 km (140 mi) from East to West and to 50 km (31 mi) off-shore. The western group is near Esperance and the eastern group at Israelite Bay.
We’ve been considering running out to sea and making a run for South Australia with the wind mostly favorable over the next five days – but we’re hanging onto the hope that we’ll get a couple of worthwhile days at Middle Island and at Daw, the last island in the Recherche, and then take the next bout of west winds. It’s a gamble. Who knows when the next lot of good wind will come through, and there’s no telling if it’ll be kind, or embedded with deeper cold fronts that produce gale force winds. A crystal ball would come in handy right now.
Footnote: Anchor down at Middle Island –
After dodging great eruptions of white water produced by the large swell hitting rocks normally just awash, and breaking on anything less than ten metres deep, we sailed around the north end of Goose Island and found a little bit of heaven. Miraculously the big swell evened out to a mild ripple and the rock massif that dominates Middle Island and is named after Mathew Flinders blocks the worst of the chilly south wind. Straight away we spotted a few Australian Sea Lions along with the rest of the wonderful seabirds that call this isolated place their home.
Supposedly the wind will ease and shift overnight to the northwest. That might make it a little warmer and make tomorrow a grand day for a paddle about. Mind you, that NW wind heralds yet another front scheduled to arrive on Thursday bringing rain and stronger south winds yet again. Oh well, best get some rest. Last night’s uneasy sleep and our fifty mile day has tuckered us out. Ciao.
What a difference a week makes
Last week’s nasty six-metre swell is now just a distant memory, our two days of calm inside Bremer Bay’s tiny fishing boat harbour has erased the aches and pains they’d created. What’s even better, those easy conditions allowed Jack to operate on Sir Aries. Not that he found anything fatally wrong, but the procedure did unlock something because Sir Aries steered Banyandah straight and true for the thirty-six hours she sailed in light conditions to Esperance. Those light winds faded at night and so we drifted in windless conditions till daybreak when a feisty northerly arrived and dashed our hopes of stopping once again at Investigator Island. With the wind shouting ‘keep going’ we did just that as Investigator is not a safe place when the wind’s in the north.
Before leaving Bremer we took a long walk to stretch our bodies and stumbled upon an art exhibition. While admiring the display we spoke with several of the locals and learned that their estuaries had been closed to fishing due to an algae bloom. It seems the authorities blame this on the dry conditions, but our experience is slightly different. Judging by the quantity of new homes and those under construction, Bremer Bay appears to have doubled in population since our last visit in 2011, and then later while walking the foreshore of Wellstead Estuary we came upon a familiar in-ground pump station, and this prompted us to wonder how the aquatic birds survive when their water is poisoned.
During our sea journey we were kept company by scores of Flesh-footed Shearwaters whose pretty feet do not extend past their slightly rounded tails, and by several species of Albatross, including a few gigantic Wandering Albatross with wingspans stretching over two metres, and by Black-browed Albatross looking glamorous with what looks like dark lines of mascara running back from their eyes. Albatross are friendly, curious birds and as they glided close past our ship, if we waved or called they’d swing round for another pass and look us straight in the eyes.
In a dark moonless night we threaded a safe route through the off lying rocks and islands before Esperance then found a calm haven in four metres over sand and ribbon weed just off the Yacht Club’s beach. It is always exciting to wake in a new place and a glorious clear blue sky with a sun that warmed but didn’t burn set us walking the streets. Our first stop, a doctor’s office, Jack had a suspect skin eruption examined on his arm. Fortunately it came up an innocent keratosis and was burned off. Can’t let things like that get away in our profession. Meanwhile Jude located an op-shop where she found a Scottish knit merino wool jumper in mint condition for only $4, perfect for the chilly days ahead. And when Jack arrived he scored a CD of Queen’s Best Hits for only a buck. The chance to buy a few fresh vegies then topped our list, following that we ordered a Chinese lunch which we enjoyed outside in the glorious conditions. After all that, a lovely hot shower at the club had us sally home feeling pretty darn good.
Next day we mailed our grandson’s birthday gift, a few books and some shells collected along the way, plus we sent off a few of our books and DVDs. Oh! Were you thinking of ordering some of these? Sorry. That’ll have to wait until South Australia because in front of us now is the Recherche Archipelago that Matthew Flinders declared “an extensive mass of dangers,” then the Great Australian Bight with nary a post box in sight.
Coming at us over the next few days are a series of fronts that will swing the wind every which way and bring rain. Great dollops of real rain according to the bureau, not the misty stuff we’ve experience since coming across the top, but 15 mm in one hit. We haven’t time to wait for it to pass. Alas, the clock is ticking, and so on this menacing ANZAC morning we’re away once again.
Jack came across a newsworthy note from Jamie Mitchell who upon completing a circumnavigation aboard Endless Possibilities, a 25’ Top Hat, gave this advice to anyone dreaming of such a voyage.
Take it one step at a time. If you have a boat you are thinking of going in then take it sailing. Sail it every chance you have. The more you go sailing the more you make your boat comfortable for sailing. The more you stay in the marina, the more you make your boat comfortable for staying in a marina.
These wise words reminds us that in our time upon the sea we have met many who have dreamt of sailing the seas and failed. Tragic. A waste of time and money. Six years ago during our visit to Albany we met a pair of mature-aged dreamers. Recently retired, they dreamt of sailing the world and sold their house, bought an unfinished vessel, paid someone to help complete it, then moved on board.
Three years later we’re back in Albany and met them again still living in the marina but thinking about sailing across the Bight to Tasmania, so we gave them the same advice as Jamie. We encouraged them to sail, sail, sail, in all conditions, day and night, until they could safely walk the deck in complete darkness and shorten sail while the wind howled and whitewater gushed over their lee rail.
Upon our arrival in Albany this time, the bloke, now well into his seventies, came down and quizzed us as to when we’d be crossing the Bight, and then he asked if they could tag along. Jack silently baulked at his request and quizzed him on how much sailing practice had they really done. Had they sailed overnight to Esperance? “No.” Had they day sailed to Bremer Bay? “No.”
They were then living in a rented house with their vessel tied up in the new marina, so Jack suggested they find an experienced skipper to go with them, and that’s what they decided to do, although the lady eventually opted out. Her man found the journey and its three-hour watches totally exhausting. After 45 days of ‘terror-fic’ experiences their vessel is now in Tasmania, where no doubt it will stay.
The Abbott government has just spent 12 billion dollars on new warplanes from the USA at a time when they say our budget is in dire straits. We’re wondering who gave them a mandate to do this. That money would provide many more hospitals, medical facilities, and improve our education facilities. Their statement that these warplanes will be cutting edge for thirty or forty years is bunkum. The makers already have the next model on the drawing board. Besides, who are we protecting ourselves from? Australia is an indeed a big mostly empty bit of real estate, but it’s an island requiring landing devices to invade.
Society is moving further away from life with time to smell the roses as we pass from birth to death. It’s work, work, work from four or five till infirmity with the Abbott government hell bent on raising the retirement age to seventy years, forcing Australians to work till there’s little, if any, time left to enjoy the last years of life. Makes us wonder if the western world has gone completely mad? Chasing more possessions, as if our closets and spare rooms aren’t already chockablock with seldom-used stuff. Instead we should be encouraging the reduction of population growth, reduce our pollution, increase time for the arts, family life, and quiet times for meditation and thought.
Back into the Wild
One week ago we sailed back into the wild, leaving behind the best protection from the Southern Ocean. With great reluctance we gave up the safety, calm water, and easy access to shore, and all our good friends. Maybe we were mad, but the call of the wild tempted us once again.
Australia’s south coast has many moods, cycling from the peaceful serenity of high summer when winds are more akin to the tropics, through to winter’s high impact, fast moving storms that bring colder variable winds and much bigger seas. The locals reckon autumn is far the nicest season with its mild weather. But few of them live afloat. On the sea, autumn witnesses the first impact of Southern Ocean storms that come from the south and west, pushing powerful swells which cause boaties a real dilemma because the summer easterlies linger on into autumn.
There are few, if any, all weather anchorages between Albany and South Australia’s Streaky Bay. That’s a run of nearly a thousand nautical miles. In fact there’s a real shortage of places to hide from the powerful southwest swell when easterly winds blow in your face.
Now that we are back in the Southern Ocean, and it is autumn, our vessel has been in constant motion and we are finding the bouncing about rather tiring. Already when anchoring we question, do we protect ourselves from the wind or the swell. After three months off, it’s been a hard first week back at work.
During the summer the strong, steady east winds make passages in that direction very difficult. Twice before we’ve sailed east in summer when making a beeline for Tasmania from Albany. To avoid the easterly wind flow, we first sailed south, far away from the land in order to reach the westerly airflow that lies on the southern side of the high-pressure system. But this time we want to explore more fully the sparsely inhabited coastline and islands which has meant waiting for the summer winds to simmer down, and that means putting up with and managing the changeable winds and powerful seas that start in autumn.
Leaving Albany we had a grand first day sail, the wind from astern taking us to Two Peoples Bay before abruptly changing to the east during our first night at anchor. Two Peoples Bay is partly sheltered from the Southern Ocean by the granite massif of Mt. Gardner, and even before the wind changed we could feel the ocean surge shuffling Banyandah around on her anchor. Long before European settlement, ships carrying whalers, sealers, and explorers visited this coast and the chance meeting of French and American Mariners resulted in the naming of the bay as Baie des Deux Peuples in honour of the two new republics.
Spots of rain and sloppy conditions prevailed the next day then the next a glorious sunny windless day let us explore the Nature Reserve. The salmon run at this time of year and we encountered several families enjoying the sport, lined up along the beach with rods and reel, their caught fish stuck heads down in the sand. Chatting with them we learned that this specie of fish is, “Not the best!”
The next bout of favourable wind arrived on Jude’s Birthday, our fourth day out of Albany, and we sailed forty nautical miles to an open anchorage behind Cape Riche. A few years back we spent Christmas Day behind this headland in full view of bare farmland that this time looked oddly romantic in the menacing light from an approaching storm. It passed overnight and the next day we paddled about in the Green Machine, surf still pounding on all the beaches. A salmon took the lure we trailed behind and now we can concur that this strong tasting fish which turns mushy when cooked is best left to swim free.
After a couple of nights at Cape Riche a fresh blast of west wind took us another thirty miles where we faced our first real dilemma. The wind would turn east overnight but the anchorages against east winds around Bremer Bay would all be exposed to the nasty four to six metre SW swell running at the time, something best not messed with. So we hid inside Dillon Bay in a nick close to cliffs with minimum swell but exposed to the east, thinking we’d get out if it became untenable. Thankfully the wind lifted off the land overnight and not until first light did the easterly begin to threaten Banyandah, her bum now close to the rocky shore. That’s when we motored across Dillon Bay to Little Boat Harbour – a nice name for what is a cosy summer anchorage. Presently we’re sheltering from the east wind but bobbing about on the wash from impressive seas breaking heavily on rocks jutting from the small headland just a stone’s throw away.
Up to now the voyage has been only so-so. For one thing we’re still out of step with working our vessel. After so many miles you’d think we could run our ship blindfolded one arm behind our backs. Truth is, after nearly four months off-duty, it takes time for our routines to find their rhythm in harnessing powerful forces, especially on a deck that’s pitching every which way. Guess our grey matter is in a bit of a muddle. When afternoon comes, Jack in particular yearns for a poppy nap.
Maybe our windvane is feeling the same malady. Sir Aries has been sticking full over on one tack. He’s been oiled and tinkered with, cajoled and screamed at, but the dang thing still insists on sticking. Trouble is it has back-winded the mainsail a few times and that’s really dangerous if the wind has any real strength. So, until we get our third mate to steer a straight course, overnight passages are to be avoided.
With that problem in mind, we contacted our good mate Darren at Emu Point Slipway, who contacted a fisherman he knows in Bremer Bay to ask if a mooring could be organised in Bremer Bay’s tiny fishing boat harbour for our use over Easter. Yippee! Success! We’ve got a nice calm patch to disassemble Sir Aries and search for the trouble with less risk of losing bits. What’s also fantastic is we’re really going to enjoy the few days of peace.
Surprise Birthday / Bon Voyage Party
We’ll be leaving Albany today after a fifteen week stay, arriving on Christmas Day. Fortunately the weather gods will provided an easy fair wind to do the short hop to Two People’s Bay, twenty three miles along the coast. Once there we’ll find a lovely scenic bay surrounded by park lands popping out with gigantic smooth granite boulders. All surrounded by aquamarine water.
Yesterday, after work, Darren fired up the six cylinder Gardener on board the lovely timber vessel Sebastiana, in order to bring the wives across to Johnson’s Cove. Where they rafted alongside Banyandah after hailing the other boats in the anchorage to come over for a Bon Voyage party. The wind systems are now favorable and our fine vessel is ready for many weeks of exploring Australia’s south coast. As Jude will be sailing on her birthday next Tuesday, instead of Bon Voyage,we sang Happy Birthday and then drank her gifts of red wine, wishing her long life and good cheer.
Getting ready to sail
Friday was a pearler, so we put the last coat of Hemplin Enamel on our decks. It dried beautifully. The following morning, Saturday, early, Darren of Emu Point Slipway came down to lift us out, so Jude and I could touch up Banyandah’s bottom in one last big job before setting off across the Bight.
In the seven years we’ve been visiting Emu Point Slipway, Linda and Darren have developed a very comprehensive and helpful boat lifting and repairs operation. Their business has grown with the addition of Andrew, a professional boat painter and detailer, and John, a journeyman shipwright, who with Darren, combine nearly five decades of ship building in all materials. Both served their time building timber sailing ships, and both have built many a ship in alloy and glassfibre. Darren and Linda are currently rebuilding their forty foot Baudin, built with Jarrah in which they dream of renewing their sailing lives.
It’s just such a friendly environment here surrounded by considerable beauty. Some is nicely developed, like at Emu Point where meals and treats can be enjoyed with mountains, luminous blue water and sand all round. We really love our walks along the seafront to Emu Point and the great kayaking on the landlocked waters surrounded mostly by native vegetation but dominated by Mount Martin Botanical Park which is crisscrossed with lonely tracks interspersed by magnificent views.
Fifteen months ago we applied 20 litres of Altex 5 which performed very well, keeping us clean for the 7000 miles to Albany then retarding Oyster Harbour shell growth. But during our six weeks away our boot topping suffered greatly from rapid shell growth. Being enamel it’s only good against oil and slime that we remove with an occasional scrub, but fine shell had built a fortress along it and blotted out our propeller too. Now we’re good to go again. The failing anodes have been renewed. Our previously choked speedo impeller spins again.
Last night, after an arduous day cleaning and preparing Banyandah for her new bottom paint, a hard day for our bodies, we partied at Darren and Linda’s with Bjorn and Romina. Over pizza and red wine we showed our nearly completed Coral Sea Video. It’s a beauty, especially in capturing the wildlife in action, the courting and raising a family in an environment little touched by man. In addition to stopping at Cato, Wreck and Kenn Reefs, we sailed a thousand mile to search for the Duroc, a French frigate wrecked on Mellish Reef in 1856, stranding 75 lives including the captain’s wife and young daughter.
The opening footage brought a good laugh when showing the mass of supplies awaiting storage and the many sailing scenes were loudly applauded. We’re not sure of a release date. It needs more editing and our imminent departure for the wild southern coastline of Australia opens an unsure future. Probably be fairly busy when not sailing.
Jude’s knee took a hit yesterday up on an upturned milk crate washing, scraping and sanding the boot topping. The side to side motion angered her loose left joint. Nothing that a few glasses of wine and a night out with friends didn’t fix. Life’s good for me except for my left ring finger that has decided not to work again. Wouldn’t be such a big thing except it stops the pinky and others from gripping strongly. Something of a handicap for a guy who works with ropes. I stopped taking fish oil a few months back and my finger seems worse, so I’m reversing course, taking them again.
Maybe next Saturday will be a good day to sail. It’s blowing easterly now, not a good wind for going east. Saturday brings a front that settles in the south. We’ll take that as far as we can, hopefully to Investigator Isles or Cape LeGrande.
This week is last chores and bidding arrivederci to our many Albany friends – hate to leave but it’ll be good to be exploring again.