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Sunday, January 10, 2010

First voyage of decade turns out a fizzler!

Entering Eden - southerly storm clouds brewing
Our sail from Port Stephens to Eden was nothing short of fantastic. A glorious fair breeze, with heaps of current assisting us down the coast. Screamed past Sydney, glowing like a far away fire. Saw Sydney Cove high rises in the early dawn and then made fast miles for the next day and night. Even caught fish whenever we put the lure in the water. Beautiful passage from start to finish. We just got in as the predicted southerly change struck. And although it did blow strongly from the south pole, we hunkered down across from Eden town in Boytstown, just off the historical homestead that is now a hotel.
The fishing was good

Simply grand. Our bay filled up as the wind increased. One lone sailor beat his way in, dropped sail then his anchor, and then went below, and we didn’t see him for the next two days. Meanwhile it got bright and sunny. So Jude and I took several long walks, one to investigate the ruins of the church built in the 1870s.

We left Eden on the spur of the moment when a northerly wind arrived earlier than expected. Thinking Flinders Island awaited a mere 120 miles ahead, I spurred Jude into finishing her repair of our big red headsail, and then in increasing wind, we struggled to get it back on the furler and ready for work. Meanwhile the lone sailor in our bay got underway, and we thought we’d have company going down the coast. But instead of heading out, Carrion sail up to us, and a scraggy bearded fellow hailed us.

Jude on one of our walks

Sailors are super social, so when we mentioned a fresh brew of coffee, the ol' salt dropped all sail and we roped his engine-less craft up behind Banyandah for a short natter. Seems David had just come from Tasmania after being in the apple isle for a couple of years, and was one port away from home, that being Bateman’s Bay. He’d had a horror ride up.  Taken five days from Hobart, battling headwinds most of the way. Which had taken him far to the west before having to battle the wind east.

After coffee and heaps of exchanging information, “Don’t forget Lake’s Entrance,” were his parting words as we hauled aboard our dinghy and got ready to sail.

“Don’t think so,” I yelled back. “We’re going straight through with this wind.”

Well, the run down the coast only got better and better. The current god was still by our side, so we kept getting extra lifts, as first Green Cape then Gabo Island whizzed passed. Came the dark, we were entering the straits and still had heaps of wind up our backside. In fact, so much we rolled side to side, robbing Jude and I of any chance to sleep. Small sacrifice if we made our destination, the top end of Flinders Island.

And then the devil stepped in. Taking big breaths, our enemy swallowed the wind. So that by 3 am we were dead in the water. And still rolling about. Ugh!!

At dawn it only got worse. Hot, windless, big ships buzzing back and forth like angry march flies, our chance of making Flinders without at least another night out evaporating in the heat. So, throwing up my hands, I started the donk, and, you guessed it, headed for Lakes Entrance….

Coming in at Lakes Entrance
David would have been chuckling if he could have seen us wallowing along towards the empty heat haze above the Gippsland Lakes.

It took most of the day just to reach there, arriving at nearly the bottom of the tide. David and others had informed us of the recent dredging of this notoriously bad entry, so I thought an hour before the turn would be OK, and directed Jude to drive straight in. Wow, suddenly we were battling an outpouring river with some heavy-duty overfalls throwing Banyandah about. Jude furiously worked the helm to keep us ever so slowly making headway, and from her worried look, she didn’t like the thought of an engine failure. Me? I was jumping about snapping photos, waving to the crowd gathered to watch us come in, and occasionally told Jude what a great job she was doing.

Lakes Entrance is a full on tourist town fronting a narrow offshoot of water next to that scary entrance, and being New Year's, was overflowing with pleasure craft and fishing boats. We found a big barge alongside a jetty and thought, “why not,” so tied up alongside, thinking we’d have to move at first light.
Alongside after New Years
But we didn’t. Middle of town, easy walk everywhere. And out of sight, and out of earshot, so we stayed a full three days. No objections. Had a grand time. Finished our book submission to publishers, and mailed them off with fingers crossed.

And now we are on holiday, like the rest of the folk in the lakes. It’s been either windless or headwinds, so we’ve taking Miss B into the inner sanctum of the rich and not so rich. Sand beaches, calm waters, forests on one side, sandy scrub the other, it’s all a bit shallow for us, but we’ve managed to get a day’s run up into the first lake. Aah, but tonight, the fair wind is suppose to come back. So, with the coming dusk, it’s try number two to cross Bass Straits.

Big hugs from both of us. Ciao till next time.

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