Backstairs Passage, its like jumping onto a sailing version of an express train.
At 5 Kts boat speed I jumped on to the Backstairs Passage express and suddenly I was traveling at 9.7 Kts over the ground.
It had been full moon these last couple of nights and that means this notorious stretch of water that flows between the mainland and Kangaroo Island was flowing at a phenomenal rate. Its charted flow is normally +2.7 kts…. what a quick trip that was.
Once out at sea the fun didn’t stop as I was still feeling the effect some 9 Nm further out past the last point of land…. Cape Willoughby.
The first day out from land went fairly uneventfully with light but good following winds and small seas. A quick glance at the AIS and I see a large freighter “Clipper Mayflower” bearing down down on me on a collision course. Now he at this stage was over the horizon and so invisible to the naked eye, but not to the AIS that had picked him up, plotted his course and alerted me to the danger.
As I was as close hauled to the wind and couldn’t change course to avoid him I called the monster up on my VHF radio. The Radio Operator was surprised I was even there as they couldn’t see me on radar and hadn’t got a visual. Now this is a little scary as though I couldn’t see him, the extra elevation of a freighter’s bridge meant that he could have seen me from that distance. He hadn’t. So I told him my
position, speed and course and that he would be running me down within the hour and could he please take avoiding action. He did. Feeling immensely pleased with myself I sailed on.
In the middle of the night the wind had died so I gave the iron headsail a run. This kept my average speed up as well as charged the batteries. By 0700 the next day the wind had picked up though there was some threatening and ominous clouds shaping up for a fight on the horizon. Bugger. It didn’t take long before the “Round One” bell to sound and the first of many rain squalls to hit me that day came out fighting. From a 15-20 kt SSE breeze jumping to a 32 kt buster they came all day. So, its shorten sail. Shake out reefs, shorten sail etc etc. … working much to hard to be enjoying myself I’m thinking.
Had the most breathtaking close up of two Albatross (Albatrae?) fishing today. I was just gazing out to sea when suddenly these two appeared and flew right up to my boat. I was so stunned and awestruck I didn’t think of my camera. When I did they were gone. Its rare to see a single Albatross these days, but to see two at once is just about a once in a lifetime event. I did get the consolation prize of two pacific gulls who were also fishing about a half an hour later. This time I had the camera ready and blazed away.
With the strong winds come big swell and I didn’t have to wait too long to get them either. Not that they are much of a worry if they are not the breaking kind, but if you are side on to them they can get a little annoying rolling you around like that. Fortunately I was able to point a little way away and travel somewhat with them so diminishing their effect.
For the rest of the second day’s afternoon I was able to swing away and make it a more enjoyable sail as Portland finally hove into sight… .Land Ho! I shouted, like the sailors of old who had seen only sea, sometimes for a very long time… its good to see land again. That night I was treated to a light show of stars that came out in all their living glory contrasted by the somewhat ugly lights of man from on shore, some distance away but still clearly visible.
What is it with these crazy bastards in freighters?
Crossing freighter alley out from Portland I was dodging 3 at once.. one coming from Melbourne, one coming from Adelaide and one going into Portland itself. I’m getting grey hairs on my grey hair from these guys.
Still I love the fact that I can see them a long time before they appear on the horizon… it just seems they are always heading for me!!
Tooled around for the rest of the night as I got within striking distance of Port Fairy, before dawn I was under motor and making my way toward the snug and safe little harbour. Called up the Port Master Max and he wasn’t too sure where he could fit me in … didn’t sound promising but too late now as I made my way upriver to the delightful hamlet of Port Fairy.
What a sweet little place this is! Found the place indicated by Max as a possible and started to line it up. A passing couple offered to take my ropes and in no time Freespirit had come to rest in yet another safe and beautiful little harbour.
PS.. go revisit the Bay of Shoals post… a guy by the name of Ingo Schroeder took some images of my stay in Emu Bay and they are just stunning. Here is the link you lazy bugger….