Australia: Part 2

Cruising in Australia.

Having crossed the Bass Strait in fair weather Port Philip was entered under optimal conditions. Inside we headed for the port of Geelong. We stayed at The Royal Geelong Yacht Club situated in the city centre for 5 weeks enjoying the good company of our friends among the Geelong participants from the Tasmania circumnavigation. Geelong was the nice base from where visits were made to beautiful Melbourne and to the spectacular Great Ocean Road. During the early colonisation of Australia most ships came south of Africa entering the Bass Strait and hundreds of ships and crews came to grief and were wrecked on the rocky south coast of Victoria due to a combination of bad weather, tide current, and lack of good position observations.

Port Philip covers a large area and contains the large ports of Melbourne and Geelong. The entrance called The Rip is relatively shallow and narrow, so when vessels enter or depart the tide current, wind and waves has to be taken very seriously. At our departure we came at the recommended time and asked the traffic control for permission to pass, which was granted provided we did not go in the way of the two large commercial vessels, which would enter at the same time, and he added: “It is very rough out in there”. He was right; we motored against 40 knots of wind and 5 – 6 m very steep and short waves. It was quite frightening, because it was breaking waves and they were so short, that it would have been suicidal not to keep a steady course. It was unthinkable to attempt to turn back. Through we came but not without a few breakers covering half of the boat. In the misery we got seasick partly inflicted by the long farewell party the night before and lack of sleep; however it was encouraging to see how well the boat saved itself under these conditions. The passage through the Bass Strait was made in rough and confused sea with 5 – 6 m waves in 35 – 40 knots of westerly wind only with a 50% reefed jib.

The passage north along the east Australian coast went uneventful, and stops were made due to lack of wind at Toragy Point, Ulladulla harbour, and four different anchorages in Jervis Bay while waiting for the right wind direction to proceed to Sydney and Pittwater. Friends showed us some very interesting ancient aboriginal rock art between Pittwater and Sydney.

On we went aiming for New Castle, however due to the very strong south easterly wind the pilot book recommended sailors not to cross the bar at New Castle but rather to continue to Port Stephens, which we did and from there to Coffs Harbour for provisioning. Later, east of Moreton Island we spotted three whales which were heading north. Thousands of whales swim north from Antarctica in June, and unfortunately there have already been a couple of accidents where boats have collided with whales or hit by their tails. People have been injured as well due to these incidents.

After anchoring in Moreton Bay in the night, Brisbane was reached the following day, where mooring was made at the Botanic Gardens next to the city centre. Upstream the river towards the mooring Dana Felicia was just able to pass under the Story Bridge at low tide. It was fascinating to be so close to a big city centre. Brisbane is a very interesting place with beautiful parks and buildings, and the trip up the river in itself is spectacular.

With the approaching southern winter, we longed for lower latitudes, and continued the journey to the entrance of Burnet River downstream Bundaberg, later anchored at Bustarg Bay, and docked at Gladstone Marina for a couple of days. From here we continued and anchored in strong wind at Scawfell Island in Refuge Bay where we spotted many big sea turtles. Next stops were Hamilton Island, Airlie Beach, Townsville, Magnetic Island, Great Palm Island, and Orpheus Island. On the last stretch to Cairns we caught our first fish in Australia, a beautiful 7 kg kingfish. In Cairns we anchored up-river and made agreements at the shipyard for Dana Felicia to go on the hard in August. On the way back to Magnetic Island where Dana Felicia is going to be docked for 4 weeks we anchored at Dunk Island where the hurricane Iasi a few months ago destroyed the whole resort. It was a sad sight to see so many torn apart buildings. The whole resort will be bulldozed before a new resort can be build. The last trip back to Magnetic Island was made through the beautiful Hinchinbrook Channel. Between Great Palm Island and Magnetic Island we saw a humpback whale mother with her calf jump half out of the water and fall down again on the back. The mother did it a dozen times and the calf followed the stunt each time. It was a spectacular performance.

Coral Sea passage from Australia to Papua New Guinea

The passage of 483 Nm from Cairns to the small island of Samarai, where we checked in, took 2½ days, and began with pleasant sailing inside the Great Barrier Reef. However outside the waves became gradually bigger from 2,5 m to 4 m at the worst. Combined with a south easterly wind mainly about 25 – 30 knots, but over longer periods increasing up to 40 knots and head current, the passage became a bit bumpy, but fortunately with much reefed sails on a close reach we could keep up to the approach-waypoint in Papua New Guinea without tacking. Total motoring was 3 hours.

Map Location