Last week, Gabby received a call from her friends Allan and Vicki. They were having their new catamaran delivered from Perth, Allan had fallen ill and they needed crew. Would Kate and Sean be able to help out by crewing from Portland to Bermagui?
It didn't take much pondering and we found ourselves on two trains and then a bus bound for Portland. Portland is in the SW of Victoria and Bermagui on the south coast of NSW. Therefore our route was to include a transit of Bass Strait. Bass Strait is the passage of water that divides Tasmania from mainland Australia. It has the reputation as one of the world's most treacherous waterbodies due to shallow water, currents and weather systems. Indeed, the coastline from Port Fairy to Cape Otway is known as The Shipwreck Coast.
"I have seldom seen a more fearful section of coastline."
- Captain Matthew Flinders
What were we thinking?!
Fortunately due to improved navigation and weather forecasting, a transit of Bass Strait is no longer the crap shoot it once was. That said, there was a very nasty system blowing through and we needed to stay in front of it.
|"Red sky in the morning, ... " (Portland Sunrise)|
We arrived in Portland to discover that Keshi was more an apartment than a sailboat! At 46' long and 26' wide, she was as big as two Popeyes lashed together. And she is fast; we would need to be fast if we were to stay in front of the weather. We met the skipper - Mark, the most delightful chap - full of excellent stories and sailing adventures.
And off we went!
|Keshi - on the wharf and ready to go.|
For a size reference, that power stanchion is as high as Sean's ribs.
|Able-bodied crew, ready for cold and wet weather|
We past Cape Otway at sunset - we had survived the Shipwreck Coast! We rounded Wilsons Promontory, the southern most tip of mainland Australia, at sunset the following day. We weaved through the oil rigs, recalling horror stories of 70kn winds at The Prom and the Tasmanian Ferry pounding into 11m waves. The system was just behind us.
|The Spirit of Tasmania pounding through the waves|
|Keshi's well protected steering station (not dissimilar to a ferry!)|
We rounded Gabo Island and within half an hour, the lighthouse was recording huge seas and 50kn winds. Gabo Island is the eastern gateway to Bass Strait and once around, we headed north and into more protected waters. Phew!
|Looking out 'the back porch' towards Gabo Island lighthouse|
We arrived in Bermagui after a voyage of 541nautical mile taking us 65 hours, 13 minutes - averaging over 8 knots with a maximum speed of an impressive 24.2kn! We enjoyed a few days exploring around Bermagui before flying back to Melbourne. What an adventure!
|Safe in port with Captain Mark|
|Keshi's Owner's cabin|
|Not all champagne and sunsets - Mark and Kate doing some engine maintenance|
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