The Great Australian Bight

We left the beautiful Arid Bay, Scarlett was still sleeping. We plan our passages to leave in the early hours before the wind gets up! In most cases this happens.

Above: Anchored at Arid Bay

The many islands and bays of the archepeligo of the Recherche are well worth exploring! 

After yesterdays’ large seas, we decided to stay well offshore and it has paid off! The swells are large 3-4m with the occasional one higher. The nose comes up and over the swells, but when the nose dips down the swell, the height of the swell in front is at least a metre above the height of the bow rail. It is definitely a ‘sit down’ day! Breakfast was ½ an apple and ½ a banana each.

Yesterday we stayed only a few miles offshore and the swells were short and sharp, but today they are further apart and more even. Winds are still NE 20-25knts with gusts to 33.

It is a 30nm trip today, to the last safe anchorage before we cross the bight, it will be 24/7 from there!

We put everything on the floor this morning as it was going to land there anyway! At 8am we had 17nm to go!

We found Daw Island, in the Eastern Group to be a very protected anchorage, with the 30-35knt E – NE winds blowing. In the neck of the bay there was a little beach, home to several seals and sea lions, all basking on the rocks and sand.

The winds and swell had eased throughout the following day and by 3pm they were 15-20 knts. I had spent the morning cooking a few meals for the trip, and had just started to cook some Gingerbread Cookies when Alan called ‘up anchor, let’s go!’

We left and the seas to the east of Daw Island were steep and short as they came up over the shallows. We continued on once clear they flatten out UNTIL the afternoon turned into night and the winds increased and the seas continued to rise. We took a few greenies over the bow and on one of my visits to the ladies, I noticed a wet floor in the forward stateroom and bathroom, on further inspection I found that the water was coming through both the forward hatches. These being well above my head, Alan had to try and adjust them to prevent more from coming in! Before leaving Mandurah we had fitted new canvas hatch covers and they were not fitting the same as the old ones and were coming between the seal allowing for water ingress. We have a policy of not going on deck in seas or darkness and we had both!! So I made the call at 8.18pm to return to Daw Island to solve the problem as there was an awful lot of night and nautical miles to go!

Getting back through the shallows to the east of Daw Island was hair raising to say the least. Similar to crossing the worst bar, that lasted for 10nm. We rode the waves using the throttle to stay on top of the waves. By midnight we were safely anchored in the same position we had left 9 hrs and 50nm before. Scarlett was now anchored in the bay, having arrived there at 6pm from Keyhole Bay, Middle Island.

Above: Scarlett anchored at Daw Island

7th Wednesday

We slept past our scheduled phone call to Dad for our weather update, eventually I rang and he gave us the sad news that the high in the bight has remained stationary and the high winds were going to continue over Wednesday and Thursday. The first probable day of departure would be Friday. I crawled back into bed and we slept for a few hours more.

The rest of the day we cleaned up the aftermath from yesterday, washed carpet, towels and the rest of the washing, cleaned up where the salt had touched and enjoyed a well earned drink. I also had a baking day and finished off the Gingerbread that I had started, then baked some of Mary’s’ Lemon Cookies, Chocky Rock Biscuits and Double Chocolate biscuits, these would all be useful for the passage!

8th Thursday

Another cleanup day, the rest of the windows had an application of Rainex, highly recommended. Next we embarked on another one of those 5min jobs that manage to last a few hours!! Alan decided to put the second anchor back in the anchor locker; we may as well clean the locker out before that! So the anchor locker was completely emptied, scrubbed, de seaweeded, mud and shell removed, and given a pressure wash before returning all chain, rope, 6 Jerry Cans, a reel of Occy Cord and 2 extension handles back into their positions. Alan can actually get in there with room to spare, it’s that large!

We finished our day with a Roast Lamb dinner and fruit salad. I served up four plates, which will enable us to just heat up our plates the following night!

9th Friday

Dad reported that conditions were going to be much better for the crossing today.

SSE 10-15knts Seas 1 m Swell 1.5 -2.5m

Saturday SSE 10-15 Seas 1m Swell 2-3m

Sunday Variable winds 5-10knts tending SE/SW 8-13 knts in the pm.

Monday (SA) Partly Cloudy 15-25 klm SSE.

Our arranged departure time with Scarlett was 7am, normally we would have been gone at 4am but we had a leisurely morning, watched ‘Sunrise’ (via VAST Satellite) with our cup of tea in bed and then got up and had a breakfast of mushrooms and eggs. Quite civilized!

Above: Scarlett in between the swells

I set the waypoint in at St Francis Island 15nm west of Cedunna, 467nm.

2 hours east and the seas are much calmer and the swells had flattened out. 456nm to go! Scarlett 1.3nm west of us!

11am Scarlett 3.9nm west of us! Morning tea

1.30pm Scarlett were now 6nm behind us, I called them to see if all was good?? Sailing boats get a burst of wind and eccelerate but when the wind dies, they stop and have to turn the ‘iron sail’ on!!

Just after 7pm I called again on the radio and they reported to be 4nm west of us at 7.8knts.

Their AIS was not transmitting when they were greater than 4nm away from us.

The galley is ideal to prepare food whilst at sea, the curved timber stack provides a resting place to prop yourself against the movement of the boat, and still enable you to reach the bench, sink etc. A Toasted tomato and cheese sandwich Alan requested for dinner.

Tonight the moon was shining brightly, looking north out of the port pilothouse windows I could see the shearwaters still flying effortlessly across the top of the water in the moonlight, just managing to fly above the water with their wingtips so close to the water’s surface, yet not flapping their wings.

Above: The Southern Ocean at sunrise.

The 10th and the 11th went by with calm conditions continuing. Although great for us, Scarlett was struggling to maintain a constant speed. Slow and steady wins the race or the story of the Tortoise and the Hare comes to mind. Early hours of this morning we passed the 129* longitude and we are officially into SA, and with some pressure from Alan I succumbed and changed all the instruments to OTC + 10.30. I had a chat with Craig, as we had scheds at 7am and 7pm. Originally I said we wouldn’t change time until we had arrived, but he also had discussions with his crew and they changed also!

The stand out event for our entire crossing would be witnessing the lunar eclipse, It was still in progress when I got out of bed, several hours later. Alan had tried to take photos but the boat was moving a little too much! Awesome event!

The moonlight illuminated our way across the Bight and made the night passage much more enjoyable when it’s not sheer blackness!

Have a read of Scarlett’s blog from the trip!…/Entries/2011/12/9_Day_217_-215_-_Out_to_Daw_Island_-_Eastern_Group_2.html

Above: Mother and baby dolphins joined us for a play in the middle of the Bight!

We arrived at St Francis Island on the 12th at 11am after 3days and 1hour at sea in perfect weather. Scarlett arrived 1.5 hrs later to tie alongside and enjoy celebratory drinks on board Opal Lady. Kerry baked some Sun dried Tomato and Olive scones, very yummy!

The party concluded at 5pm and then Alan and I hit the sack for some well earned sleep.

Above: Alan prepared to welcome Scarlett after the crossing, at St Francis Island.

1 thought on “The Great Australian Bight”

  1. The SCARLETT crew

    It was such a great crossing, and was made both safer and more pleasant in the company of Opal Lady! I think the two of us were some of the luckiest to be able to see the eclipse without cloud – in a pristine clear southern ocean sky!

    Thanks for being part of our memories of this special part of the world!

    Kind Regards

    Craig, Kerry, Stephen, Lachlan (and Jo and, of course Rhett!)

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