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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Snug Christmas

Four sailing days broken with a lovely few days at Snug Cove

We're fresh off the slipway and it is ever so lovely to have a smooth bottom that slips through the sea like a wet baby on a plastic changing sheet. The slightest breeze gets Banyandah going at hull speed, and with the increased summer hours, we have made some pretty impressive daylight runs.

Banyandah departs Adelaide
Thirty odd beacons mark the torturous route out
After being tied in a pen for half a year, three days before Christmas the weather gods gave us the window we'd been wanting. For too many weeks, unseasonal wintry gales had held us back, long after our ship had been ready for her voyage to Western Australia. Before us, the Great Southern Ocean, where the seas run powerful and fast, and where battling those forces is foolhardy. So, instead, we continued our enjoyment of friends at the Garden Island Yacht Club. Then miraculously our Christmas wish was granted. The season changed. Easterlies arrived, bringing clear skies and balmy weather.

Departing at first light
When managing a seagoing vessel leaving the Garden Island Yacht Club, not only must the weather be watched, so must the tide to negotiate the thirty odd pairs of beacons leading to open sea. For Banyandah, that meant a predawn start at the top of the year's highest tide, and risking becoming long term residents with one little mistake.

Creeping carefully into SNUG COVE
We made two fast sails to reach Kangaroo Island, the last crossing the boisterous Investigator Straits open to the Great Southern Ocean, to arrive two nights before Christmas. We saw no other boats - just empty sea. Guess everyone must have been out Christmas shopping. At the far NW end of Kangaroo Island, hidden away behind steep cliffs is a magical cove that once was a yachtsman's mecca. Aqua clear water runs up a pure white sandy beach surrounded by strange sandstone cliffs perforated by spooky caves. Behind, grassy slopes lead to green stumpy forests. Carefully feeling our way into through its narrow rocky opening, we were delighted to find the huge mooring Steve Kennedy had offered to us. "Trust me, it'll hold a destroyer," he'd told us the night we'd put on our film show at the Royal South Australia Yacht Squadron to promote Two's a Crew, our new book.  From the size of the mooring rope and huge stud link chain, we knew Steve hadn't been exaggerating.

HMS Investigator 
first ship to complete a voyage around Australia
Commanded by Matthew Flinders, she carried a crew of 78 plus a team of six scientists, their servants and Trim the cat. Built in 1795 to carry coal on the English coast, she was purchased by the Admiralty and refitted because she was well suited to exploration being able to carry a large cargo with a shallow draft allowing her to sail close to shore.

Kangaroo Island discovered in 1802
Captain Matthew Flinders discovered Kangaroo Island at daylight Sunday the 21st March 1802 when the Investigator was mid-channel between an unknown southern land and Cape Spencer with nothing seen to the eastward. It then blew a fresh gale at south-west. With much sea running they stretched south under close-reefed top-sails to get under the lee of this unknown southern land that was rather high and cliffy.

At six in the evening, they came to anchor in 9 fathoms, sandy bottom, within a mile of the shore. Neither smokes nor other marks of inhabitants had been perceived although they had passed along 70 miles of its coast. It was then too late to go on shore; but every glass in the ship was pointed there, to see what could be discovered. Several black lumps, like rocks, were thought to have been seen in motion by some of the young gentlemen, which caused the force of their imaginations to be much admired.

Flinders original map showing Kangaroo Island

Next morning, Monday the 22nd, on going toward the shore, a number of dark-brown kangaroos were seen feeding upon a grass-plat by the side of the woods. The party's landing gave them no disturbance. Flinders had with him a double-barreled gun, fitted with a bayonet, and his companions had muskets. It would be difficult to guess how many kangaroos were seen; but Flinders killed ten, and the rest of the party made the number to thirty-one. Taken on board in the course of the day; the least of them weighed 69 pounds, and the largest 125 pounds.

After this butchery, Flinders scrambled with difficulty through the brushwood and over fallen trees to reach the higher land with his surveying instruments. There was little doubt that this extensive piece of land was separated from the continent for the extraordinary tameness of the kangaroos and the presence of seals upon the shore concurred with the absence of all traces of men to show that it was not inhabited.

Snug Cove faces north but winter swell attack
Snug Cove
Once a sheep station, but now owned by a friend of Steve's, we quickly settled in, finding the fishing just under the boat to be nothing short of fantastic. Plainly visible a few feet under our keel, on a white bottom sauntered several variety of scrumptious edible fish. It taking next to no time to land our first fresh fish meal.  Next day, the owner arrived in his motor launch, bringing his grandchildren, two daughters and their husbands. Our solitude broken, we rowed ashore to join the festivities, and found a place you dream of. Acres of natural land hidden from the maddening crowd with huge vistas across Investigator Straits, the best fishing and balmiest climate, and yet with a capital city just an hour's flight away or a day's leisurely drive .
Grassy hinterland with fresh water creek in valley

The biggest flathead ever landed by Jack

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