The next section was always going to be the hardest – down to Perth – this time of the year southerly winds in the afternoon up to 25kn are common, while easterly to northerly are dominate during the night to midday. There are not enough ports for day hops to suit a 5kn vessel so at some stage I know I will hit a 25kn period along with the southerly swell. Oh well, just have wait & see.
Looking at BOM’s Meteye, late on 3rd of September looked like a good time to leave so I could get to Coral Bay (87nm) & wait for the next cycle of easterly breezes. So at 1800hr I set off in mirror conditions with whales around me and rounded N.W. Cape 2hr later where a slight NW breeze started – perfect when travelling south. Off Tantabiddi (20nm) about 2230hr the winds switched to SW 10kn & then freshened to 20kn and by midnight gusting 25-30kn – oh well so much for Meteye. Ophelia handled the conditions OK with furled genoa to the mast base & two reefs in the main & motor. The wind ceased during next day & approaching Coral Bay (87nm) at 1600hr, Meteye was showing favourable southerly winds so I kept going to Denham (290nm), being the next stop. However off Cape Cuvier (184nm) at 0500hr day two the winds shifted to SE & being a headland was rough. We handled the conditions and eventually ended up at Denham on anchor in weed at 0900hr 6th September – 63hr for 290nm which I was happy motor/sailing 4.6kn average into the wind. This is the first time I have had to sail into the wind for so long. The autopilot handled the 20kn & sail configuration.
From the time I left Darwin to Denham, I had sunny days all day, every day, however later that day rain came in & with it a sudden violent storm from the NW not predicted by BOM. When the wind got to 20kn, Ophelia was dragging anchor in the weed so I managed to pick up the anchor (manual winch) & slowly make my way out to the largest mooring buoy I could find. It was very rough with wind up to 30kn when I pocked my head to check conditions. Little did I know Urchin & five other yachts were anchored at Shelter Bay 20nm to the east – Urchin landed on the beach with no damage & headed back to Denham for checking next day. Another 50′ cat. hit rocks but was still afloat & set off for Perth next morning. Another 40′ mono Honey Bee tried to bring up the anchor but the motor kept tripping. They faired OK as is & sailed on down the coast next morning. Two other yachts faired OK & left early next morning. I have no photos of Denham due to the weather. The first storm went from 1630hr for 4hr then a 1hr calm period followed by another 4hr front from the south. I wanted to visit Monkey Mia, but there was no time due to more consistent stronger southerly winds.
I left Denham next day being 7th September 0700hr heading past Shelter Bay & Steep Point, being the most westerly part of mainland Australia. A not very nice rain front was approaching from the NW & my thoughts turned to last night, however it moved south & out to sea so I never received any rain or wind – perhaps the weather gods remembered my acts previously releasing the two large fish.
A few sea miles south of Steep Pt. is the Zuytdorp Cliffs – 150km long they range from 50m to 250m above sea level & are spectacular with waves crashing into them forming many caves & water spouts. The cliffs are named after a trading ship called Zuytdorp which was wrecked against the cliffs in 1712. I sailed/motored 2-5nm off the cliffs in 20m to 40m of water. I was amazed at the fountains of water & took many photos with the telephoto, many were too blurred to keep.
I had a good passage with no rough weather, but the autopilot ‘ecompass’ stopped working about 2230hr due to a shorting fault. I could still use the autopilot but could not track along the route I had made on the chart plotter. I arrived at Geraldton 0350hr 9th September in berth L41 as it was spare. Luckily the marina staff accepted me & I stayed put for 3 weeks. The whole marina area is very swelly & requires the vessel to be tied up tightly to stop movement. I met up with Urchin, Time & Honey Bee & met Catherine & Peter who were on their way back to Adelaide after completing an eight year world circumnavigation on their 45′ catamaran ‘The Southern Cross’. They arrived back in Adelaide November 2017. Honey Bee was returning after their 2014 Indonesian & Malyasian jaunt to somewhere – their Hobart house is still rented out. As at beginning of January they were in Portland, VIC. I met Time in Exmouth & he was returning to Albany from his very quick mostly solo circumnavigation of Australia.
I spent the next ten days in Geraldton working, fixing the NMEA network for the navigation instruments, raw water engine leak & making a box to protect the chart plotter. I also visited the Geraldton Museum which has some fantastic displays of various ship wrecks in the 1700’s & the Australian HMAS Sydney (II). I also visited the Sydney Memorial over looking the ocean. I learn’t that the dome has 645 seagulls which is the number of men lost at sea on Sydney. She sank on 19-11-1941, but was not found until 16-03-2008 112nm west of Steep Pt in 2480m of water. After paying $35/day, on Tuesday 19th September, I left Geraldton for the short 8-10hr sail to Port Denison (or Dongara) but 1hr out, the NMEA network went out again so I returned to Geraldton.
I paid a specialist $187 to fix the problem – don’t know what he did that was any different to what I did, but it worked. So after more working & waiting for a weather window I left for the second time 0530hr Saturday 30th September to Denison arriving at 1600hr & tied to a fixed jetty for $52/ night – first one for a couple of years. I went past many cray pot buoys in 40-70m water depth – a danger to those with exposed rudders & props. I left next morning hoping to arrive Fremantle 26hr later, but 70nm out & going past Jurien Bay, I noticed the motor was vibrating so made an emergency call in Jurien Bay marina. I paid an expert $390 to realign the motor. Four of six 10mm bolts had sheared at the universal joint probably due to motor shifting slightly in the rough conditions of the WA coast. I was very lucky. The WA Department of Transport (DOT) have a condition where they allow 3 days grace of payment due to emergencies so I only had to pay for one day at $52/night.
On Wednesday 4th October looking at Meteye there was a 20-25kn front coming through early next day & all gone by 1100hr Thursday. So that was my leave time. Next day there was no front so I thought it did not develop, although Meteye was still showing it disappearing same time. So I left at 1100hr & got hit by it 4hr later. I had to do 110 deg. tacks at 4.5kn with furled genoa & motor for 1nm to make any headway for 8hr. Ophelia handled it very well with not much water in the cockpit. The autopilot worked as well, which was a godsend. 33hr for 120nm – slow at 3.6nm/hr – but I made it safely to Freemantle Sailing Club Friday 6th October 2030hr just before another southerly front came through. I tied up to the collector jetty & was moved elsewhere in the morning. Three days was free. I met up with Honey Bee, Time & The Southern Cross as well. On the hardstand I noticed a fast looking yacht used by Gaetano Mura in his record attempt to circumnavigate the world – his yacht impacted with an unidentified floating object on the night of December 9th, just after passing Cape of Good Hope. His attempt ended.
My final destination for the year – Mandurah – an 8hr motor/sail south in light 5-10kn S breeze (head on) – where I house sat for Mike & Tessa of Sunny Girl fame, sailing in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. I left Freemantle at 0200hr & arrived Mandurah 1000hr same day – Monday 9th October, 2017. I was given a berth after tying to the 200m long collector jetty & had a good size scotch once tied up. So after 2271nm, 9 weeks, using the motor 476hr from Darwin to Mandurah I flew to Melbourne on 11th December to spend two months with my family. Considering it took me 10 months for each of the previous two years to get to Whitsunday & Darwin, this was a very quick trip – due to late leaving Darwin.
Oh, and stress is supposed to bring on shingles – my stomach came out in blisters 2 days before leaving Mandurah to fly home. At time of writing, although the blisters have cleared I am in a lot of ‘dagger stabbing’ pain. Hope it clears up soon.
These are links to a couple of videos in the area. Mr & Mrs Wagtail are in the backyard of the place I am house sitting. The fantastic music is by a local artist Glen Ridgwell. As soon as I heard the Manna Crab song I knew what I wanted to produce. :-
- All in a Days Sail – https://youtu.be/MCRUx6uIXkI
- Mandurah Tinnie Trip – https://youtu.be/Nf6_waAWoPE
- Mr & Mr Wagtail – https://youtu.be/OMwgwD4Uly4