As the approaching dusk began to fall the strong winds and steep swells began to make themselves known. I was fighting the helm as the mainsail was proving to be too much sail up to get a good balance and hold her steady on course.
With the wind starting to scream in the rigging I hove to and took in 2 reefs in the mainsail, grabbed some hot food and prepared to run the gauntlet in the falling darkness. Numerous navigational hazards lie in this treacherous piece of water. The only place where the greatest early explorer and superstar navigator of his time Matthew Flinders lost a ship and all hands in 1802. He named many of the bays and islands surround Port Lincoln in honour of the men lost on that ship that day at Cape Catastrophe.
Nightfall and with the wind picking up to 25 knots in the gusts I was ploughing through gaps between rocky islands. Lights from Williams, Thistle and Wedge Islands were in my lee whilst further offshore to windward lie the Neptune Islands. The lights, strong winds and rough seas making the seascape somewhat surreal.
It seemed to take a very long time before we drew level with the Thistle Island light and I could finally turn to run alongside that island toward the mouth of Boston Harbour and within that, Port Lincoln.
Fishing boats and large fish farms were dotted everywhere around and constant vigilance had to be kept in the pre dawn darkness to avoid ploughing into these about the harbour’s broad entrance. As dawn struggled to make itself present with relief I started our final approach to the harbour mouth and sanctuary. A small pod of dolphins showed up then to play in our bow wave. The abundant phosphorescence in the water streaming off their sleek bodies in long glowing arcs like jet trails in the dark water as they played about Freespirit.
At last we idled into the marina entrance as Wendy prepared our fenders and ropes. Being allocated what looked to be a very comfortable floating dock simplified our lines and preparations somewhat. Docking slow and easy a couple of the local lads showed up and took some lines as we made Freespirit fast to the land once more.
Stepping off her for a chat with these locals I discovered my ‘rubber legs’ and almost fell over. This is a common phenomenon amongst sailors who spend time at sea. The constant motion and acclimatizing to it is the gaining of ‘sea legs’. The reverse unfortunately is also true of once again regaining the land.
A nice long hot shower is a reward unto itself after a decent passage and I reveled in it. A local fisherman befriended us and offered to drive us around to look at the place. We accepted and were treated to a tour of the town by one who was proud of where he had lived all his life.
Port Lincoln is a large fairly modern town with most facilities you would expect. It is steeped in the legacy of Matthew Flinders and reference to him, his ship and crew can be found everywhere on street names and signage.
Wendy departed this morning back to Victoria and from there to her home in England. Our shared experiences are now in the memory banks, the written word and pictures of us both in what was a very memorable trip through the Southern Ocean across the Great Australian Bight.
Next up….. Victoria and Tasmania.