After three weeks at CYCSA it was time to move on. I decided to head south down Gulf of St. Vincent to American River, then north west to Kingscote, both on Kangaroo Is. before heading NW across Investigator Strait back to Port Lincoln to make my assault up west side of Spencer Gulf to Port Augusta. After that I would make my way down east side of Spencer Gulf back to Adelaide by end of June to catch the plane to Melbourne on 02-08-2019. I had 3.5 months to travel 820nm working week by week as I go. I thoroughly enjoyed my time, however by mid June the air temperature was very cold at night – a beanie & fingerless gloves with warm pj’s was the norm.
During my time at North Haven, some days I would leave the hot marina & anchor in 5m water depth in Largs Bay for the day working & catching blue swimmer crabs with the crab pot. I would always retain 2 to 3 good size male crabs – threw many small ones back. One day I was going for dinner at a friends house & caught 20 in no time.
North Haven to American River was 87nm which I motor sailed in 19hr, after leaving North Haven 0815hr on 16-03-2019, passing another wind farm & crossing the notorious Backstairs Passage (between mainland Australia & Kangaroo Is.) where the current can run at 2.5kt. Wind against tide I am told can be very rough. My crossing around midnight was good during the flood slack high tide. Flood tide runs north west & ebb runs south east through the passage. Ships use the passage between Melbourne & Adelaide. I anchored off the beach west of the river for a week & then organised a mooring in the very fast flowing river opposite the main wharf. I had to lift the dinghy onto the yacht each night due to wind against tide conditions. I did sit out a few strong southerlies in the two weeks on the mooring. Interestingly a replica of the old sailing schooner Independence is being built by local labour. The frames were in place & awaiting the arrival of the planks from Canada I believe. The next stage was the keel which is a solid piece of timber full lenth of the vessel – a rather large piece. I bought 4 planks for $40 to help the process. The progress can be tracked at https://www.facebook.com/rebuildindependence.The original 45-foot top sail schooner was built at American River, between April and August 1803 by the crew of the visiting American sealing brig “Union”. The Independence set sail from Sydney in June 1805 bound for the Antipodes Islands south of New Zealand and was lost on the return journey, never to be seen again. (As for communication an article I read said there were other sailing vessels around the islands who did return). I caught my largest blue swimmer crab measuring 600mm across the outstretched nippers.
After 10 days I moved into the Christmas Cove marina at Penneshaw on 26-03-2018 for nine nights to fill up with fresh water (desalinated) which tasted great. Also to load up with food for the next month. Penneshaw is not the main town, although the ferries berth here, so does not have much in the way of shops – no laundromat. It does have a pub, restaurant, cafe, post office, supermarket & a very green footy/cricket field – all the basics. I even caught a Blue Gropper, which I returned to the water. I returned to Christmas Cove later in the year on my way to Launceston.
Next move was to Kingscote on 06-04-2019 for three days, the main town on K.I. where one can anchor on each side of the disused ferry wharf, depending on wind direction from north to west to south – the wharf sits approx. east-west. The welcome sign is OK, but you wonder when you look at the old shed. When it gets too rocky, one can go into Bay Of Shoals amongst the moorings with wind against tide as well, but current no where near as strong as American River. The anchorage is about 5km from town. I never walked the distance as I was too busy working for the fours days I was there. Bay of Shoals sits behind a long tidal bank called The Spit giving it good wave/swell shelter from all winds.
So I left Kingscote 0300hr 13-04-2019 for the 120nm motor sail across Investigator Strait to the wonderful town of Port Lincoln, arriving 0430hr next day – 26.5hrs travel. I had a lure out the back but lost all my 100m of braid & $25 lure about half way across. I never saw the culprit. After crossing the Bight I anchored not far from a rather large mooring buoy. A heavy 50′ launch tied to it while I was there, so I tied to it this time & tried to contact the owner. He did turn up after three days & was happy for me to tie to the stern of his launch.
It was only for one day because I set sail for Whyalla 1915hr on 17-04-2019 for the 140nm sail through the night in a northerly direction up Spencer Gulf. The aim was to get to Whyalla before the next southerly change on 19-04 & hopefully not get any northerlies. I passed Sir Joseph Banks Group of islands at midnight & did not stop. This group while very low lying is supposed to be sheltered from swell & a great spot for fishing. I arrived at Whyalla midnight 18-04 into the allocated berth for $60/week – cheapest ever, but it does come with free coal dust with northerlies. The easterlies breezes were 15-25kts when I started but dissipated to 0kts by midday so had to motor for 12hrs. The berths lie north/south. If the bow is pointing north to minimise the dust in the cabin, one gets the southerlies over the stern & into the cabin. Can’t win. I stayed here for nine days, enjoying the Whyalla Festival & plenty of walking, before moving 30nm to Port Pirie (up a long river system) on 27-04-2019. An 85 y.o. dude who owned a yacht in the marina came across with me & caught the bus back to Whyalla. He was a very interesting person who had sailed all over the Gulf in his younger days. There used to be a yacht club, but is now closed due to no one being interested. Most yachts in the harbour are derelect with seagulls taking over. A couple of weeks after I left, the council was to start upgrading the berth – It seems from their FB page it did happen. The town is a fascinating place with the industry close by. I saw a rather large barge being loaded with coal at one of the wharves & then towed out to a waiting ship perhaps 2nm out & unloaded – double handling – which shows how much the product is worth. It is too shallow for the ships to tie to the wharf. They sit in a drowned valley 25m deep. Hummock Hill sits above the town with 360 deg. views. There were four anti-aircraft guns during WW2 to protect BHP’s infrastructure. There are also tame dolphins in the marina which certain locals feed.
I was looking forward to staying in Port Pirie – when one looks on maps & Google Earth it is difficult to see that there is a river here that can take ships with 5-6m draft. From Wikipedia – Port Pirie is one of the world’s largest primary lead smelting facilities, starting in the 1880s and the third largest silver producer that has been in continuous operation since 1889. Port Pirie is strategically linked to the Hobart smelter through flows of by-products such as paragoethite and leach products. The most striking feature is the recently added 205m high stack which outputs the vapours higher & further afield – https://www.flickr.com/photos/82134796@N03/11831389274. There are also many grain silos, but sadly ships do not call to load grain – trains & trucks are used now. I did see the local play ground & streets being hosed down twice a week – in response to the lead problem from the smelter. The houses within the town are very old & most have been renovated to keep original styling. The local fish & chip place was very nice offering cooked meals as well. On my return to PP end of May I did show some of my videos to the yacht club members and also PP Rotary Club. I was also interviewed by the local ABC Radio. I hired a bicycle for three weeks. There is a sand bank at the entrance to Port Pirie which is about 1m above low water – the Royal Port Pirie YC holds a cricket match every March (except 2020) – a great time is had by all – https://royalportpirieyachtclub.org.au/cockle-spit-cricket-match/
After two weeks here I set off for Port Augusta, 60nm north, and the extent of travel for yachts due to a low bridge for the main east-west highway Perth to Adelaide. I had intended to take a week but the great anchoring places I was informed about were open to the south & so was not inviting for me. I stayed one night in a sheltered bay & then went straight to PA on the flood tide arriving 1900hr. The last 20nm was rather winding with many port lights not working. Ophelia went off course at one stage & onto a sand reef, while I was organising a cuppa, due to EV1 autopilot giving up. It took me an hour to back off with the flood tide & anchor out the back to winch onto. After many phone calls to Raymarine over the next two weeks & methods to fix the problem, it was eventually suggested to reverse the polarity of the power leaving the computer to the chart plotter – that worked – no idea why. I had southerly light breezes so could use the spinnaker for a couple of hours. I even had dolphins for a time. Berthing was also at a floating pontoon free of charge, but one gets all the bow waves from passing speeding boats whose drivers were oblivious to the damage they were causing. I parked on the inside of the pontoon.The waves would pass under the pontoon, hit Ophelia’s keel, & rebound on the wall under the heritage wharf back onto Ophelia’s keel. The wave action has cracked the concrete pontoon in many places. I did not go many places here, although I had a bike, as I was very busy work wise. A few aboriginal children came down to the pontoon one day so I took them out on Ophelia & they took turns to helm to their delight. I also meet a lovely couple from Sydney driving around the area who took me to the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden which was full of flowering plants. We all took many photos. I also met another interesting piano playing gentleman in his 70’s by name of Doug Wallace who circumnavigated Australia solo in 1992-1993 taking 18 months. He wrote a book of his journey aboard his 36′ ferrocement yacht called Mistery- fantastic reading. There is a very large solid wharf from the early 1900’s. Sailing vessels would call into PA from Adelaide to pick up grain. The story goes – at one stage the vessels filled the river and one could walk from one side to the other – they were waiting 3 months for the southerlies to cease. The yacht club is active with 4-5 yachts racing up/down the tidal channel. The whole of the Spencer Gulf and all it’s ports are steeped in history with the grain removal to Adelaide & overseas – perhaps the most famous was told in the book The Last Grain Race. A 1956 book by Eric Newby, a travel writer, about his time spent on the four-masted steel barque Moshulu during the vessel’s last voyage in the Australian grain trade – fabulous reading.
I left PA twelve days later at 2100hr on 24-05-2019 to catch the ebb tide arriving at Port Pirie again to give my talks. I left PP two weeks later heading to Port Broughton arriving at 1700hr just after a low tide. Another hour & I would have had a very fast tide to contend with. I had no idea how fast the tide runs. If one missed the pontoon the shallows are about 50m past the pontoon to run aground. Syd on his 40′ yacht arrived from PP two hours before & had no problem. Another small yacht with Kaz aboard arrived after dark & after hitting a buoy, hit the end of the wharf side on & sat for 2hr pinned to the wharf until the fast flowing flood tide stopped at 2130hr. One safety rail post snapped off in the accident. Kaz left for Wallaroo next day. The narrow channel is 4.5nm long with 3-4m depth at half tide – 1m variation.This is another interesting place, not only to get into, but the history of the grain ships. The larger ships had to stay in the Gulf while smaller sailing vessels carried the grain in large bags out to them. How they managed the current I don’t know. More information at https://veryphotographic.com.au/port-broughton
I tried to leave PB on the flooding tide 15-06-2019 0400hr but ran aground twice 100m from the wharf so returned & waited for daylight & higher tide, eventually leaving at 1000hr on the high tide. It was 35nm to the next stop Wallaroo, arriving 1915hr, which took me 9hr instead of 6hr – can’t remember why so long now. I stayed 6 nights & paid $40/day – rather expensive compared to my frugal living the previous 3 months. Wallaroo seemed a nice place with a recent real estate being completed overlooking the marina and south westerly gales. There were some still for sale – very nice living except for the gales. It would get quite rough in the marina under those conditions. There are trawlers tied to the floating pontoon inside the entrance – don’t know if they stay there when the gales are on. It is a great marina for model yacht races & a lot cheaper than owning a yacht.
After six days I left Wallaroo, midnight Friday 21-06-2019, for the 215nm journey to Royal South Australia Yacht Squadron (RSAYS) at Outer Harbour, Adelaide’s port . There are places to stop but I was running out of time & there were a few southerlies starting to arrive making it unwise to stop on the south coast of Yorke Peninsula. While the days were warm & sunny, the nights got cold. The winds were forecast to be light from the east & north, exactly the direction I was heading. So after 51.5hr sailing & motoring I arrived at RSAYS 0330hr Monday 24-06-2019. The journey was un-eventful & could use Fleming when there was wind & the EV1 autopilot when no wind. I decided to keep to west side of Gulf St. Vincent out of the way of shipping but just when I wanted to cross to Outer Harbour a slow moving ship came up the gulf so had to wait to cross behind it. Being a major shipping channel there were lots of lights around & was difficult to see the extent of the rock wall south side of the channel entering Outer Harbour. It was icy cold at the helm with no bimini for shelter – luckily wind was not blowing too much. I had eight days to work & book Ophelia into the hardstand upon my return on 20-09-2019. By this time Ophelia had mammoth amounts of barnacle growth on her hull so had her taken out for a wash down ready for the three month spell while I flew to Melbourne to continue my working/holiday. The best place was Adelaide Markets which I could take a train from Outer Harbour to the city for $5 per trip – the ticket lasted 2hr. In the marina are two former Royal Brighton yachts – Audacious & Gusto (being re-organised is the best word).