It has been a fortnight of "firsts" - first night sail, longest passage (to date), biggest seas, new speed record (8.2kts with no current assistance!), first scuba dive from our own boat, first crayfish caught from our own boat, first flathead caught from our own boat ;o) ... and on it goes. Boat and crew performed admirably, and even Kitty did well - well, when the boat wasn't moving... It was a very successful shakedown, and just what we needed to put us through our paces.
When we last left you we were enjoying the protected anchorage at American River. On 17 November we left AR for an easy sail around to Kingscote where we moored just north of it's three jetties. Being in a town for the first time since leaving Adelaide was a great opportunity to stock up on fresh fruit and veg, top up the outboard fuel, and do our laundry. On the second night the wind swung round to the South as a thunderstorm passed over the island and we had a very rolly night keeping an anchor watch and a close eye on the wind instruments which recorded nearly 30kts - the most we've had at anchor (so far!). Anchor didnt budge, although we were pretty tired by the morning.
After the storm we decided to high-tail it out of the the big smoke to Emu Bay on the North Coast, but the conditions were so good we pushed on to Western River Cove (46nm, sailing 6-7kts most of the way - up to 8.2!) The big westerly swell unfortunately made WRC pretty rolly, so the next morning we decided to motor the 7nm through 2m seas to Snug Cove where we expected to have more protection. Snug Cove was a great improvement, but we decided to set a kedge anchor to keep our bow pointed into the swell until conditions settled in a day or two.
The next 5 days we spent soaking up the rugged beauty, isolation and unbelievable wildlife of this pristine place. We snorkelled, went for walks, read, did crosswords, listened to music, baked bread, fished, teased Kitty, and met the locals which included a resident ocean gull who really ruled the roost, hawks, Blue Groper fish and kangaroos. The water at Snug Cove (infact, all over KI) was crystal clear and alive with life. The sand was very fine and white, which gave the water that almost unreal turquoise hue that you'd expect in a tropical paradise.
Wednesday 23 November was our 9 year wedding anniversary. Michael caught four freshwater marron in the creek that runs into the cove - they aren't native, so must have been escapees from the local aquaculture pens?? Regardless, they were so delicious! We cracked open a bottle of French champagne that Imogen gave us as a farewell gift, and felt pretty darned blessed. We wonder where we will be for our 10 year anniversary. Michael, ever the realist, thinks Darwin. I, being much more ambitious think Thailand, or maybe the Phillipines! As usually happens with us, the answer will probably be somewhere in between the two.
Fishing near the entrance to Snug Cove
Local gull scoping us out. He visited us every day.
Views from above Snug Cove
Bass Voyager snuggled in Snug Cove
Finally the weather looked perfect to cross over to Althorpe Island. AI is a favourite diving spot for us from our days with the Flinders Uni Dive Club and we were really keen to revisit fond memories. Althorpe's has a very protected bay with dramatic cliffs standing over the anchorage. It has this eerie atmosphere with three marked graves a testiment to the unforgiving South Australian coastline. We did an amazing dive in the bay, our first in quite a while, and it was perfect - no surge, no current, clear water, big Blue Gropers, an aquarium of fish, and a sealion which Michael missed because he had his head in a small cave snaring a beautiful crayfish!
On Saturday we decided the time was right to make our first overnight passage, back to the mainland. We left around 5pm for the 70 nautical mile voyage and slammed straight into well over 2 metre seas leaving Althorpe Island. We forged ahead though, banking on our interpretation of the weather charts and forecast that pointed to things improving, and thankfully by the time night fell the seas moderated. We took 2 hour shifts, alternating napping and watching the helm and radar. I had packed a bag with soup and coffee in thermos', chocolate, lollies, apples and rice crackers, and it was a life saver! This "snack-pack" will no doubt become a regular part of our overnight passages. We made great time, and by the time we arrived at Wirrina we were motoring in glassy seas with no wind. We arrived about an hour before dawn, so slowed right down to ensure we had some light to enter the marina.
So here we are! Back at Wirrina with a short list of jobs to do before we head off again. The plan is to be here until early next week, catch up with family, reprovision with fresh food (and more beer!) and then head over to Penneshaw or American River to wait for the right weather to strike out East.
Thanks for enduring such a long post!!!