Mendana – Journal #2

This is a very late update – perhaps better late than never.

I penned our last message while heading east, en route to Investigator Island just after leaving Two Peoples bay. With the forecast predicting southerly winds, all the other anchorages between Two Peoples and Esperance were not tenable, so an overnight sail to Investigator was our safest option. What should by now have been routine turned into a minor drama. That evening our rebuilt Yanmar diesel staggered to an unannounced halt. After changing fuel filters, blowing air back through lines into the fuel tank, pouring an additional 30 litres into the tank from cans, and of course bleeding the system, it all came good. You would think I’d have learnt by now, that over the years a nice sludge of assorted detritus accumulates in a fuel tank, and with only thirty litres slopping around in the bottom, a nice swell with a short steep sea on top, will mix that muck evenly into your fuel. These things always seem to happen just after I’ve come off watch and climbed into a warm sleeping bag. Perhaps it would have been reasonable to expect the on-watch crew to deal with such an emergency, but then again perhaps not. I have learnt (from Anki and Dieter aboard ‘Anki II’) that all tasks aboard a cruising yacht can be classified under two basic headings, ‘blue jobs’ and ‘pink jobs’ and this was very definitely a blue job.

The anchorage at Investigator is a deep (14m) north facing bay inside the upturned horseshoe formed by the junction of two granite islets. There is no beach at all, and landing to walk ashore on the steep shelving rock ledges would be hazardous in anything but the smoothest conditions. The setting is quite dramatic with a small colony of sealions, and the rocky summit of the western islet guarded by a sea-eagle.

That evening at Investigator was made memorable by our friend Doug’s outboard motor. He’d gone over in his dinghy to chat to the crew of a fishing boat that came in and anchored nearby just before dark. On leaving to return to Cartref, Doug’s normally reliable Mercury picked that moment to completely cease to function despite heroic efforts to coax it into life. As we watched helpless (we hadn’t blown up our duck) Doug managed to row back against the wind in the dark (breaking an oar in the process). You won’t be surprised to hear that the incident prompted the purchase of a shiny new 3hp Yamaha in Esperance. We left Investigator before sunrise the following morning, hoping to arrive in Esperance before the strong winds forecast for that evening. Unfortunately the predicted southerlies turned out to be south-easterlies, and when our attempts to motor into the weather only managed 3.5 kts, Lorraine and I decided to turn back to Investigator, rather than battle on and arrive in a strange port in the dark in a blow.

This time we dropped the pick in the lee of the eastern side of the little bay, and settled back thinking ‘this isn’t too bad,’ at the time it was blowing 28-30kts. At around 14:30 we were hit by a very sudden and sustained 45kts, not from the east as expected, but the south, and swinging back on our anchor rode left us only 20m from the rocks to our north. With Lorraine motoring hard into the wind I managed to lay out another anchor, and despite later gusts over 50kts we even slept, though with one eye on a handheld GPS hanging from the hatch handle above our ‘V’ berth. Doug and Mary had a bumpy trip into Esperance and fortunately escaped the worst of the weather. They kept in touch by HF and relayed all the weather information they could muster. It was a bit stressful trapped in the little bay bouncing up and down as the sea swept over the shallow bar that forms the southern edge of the horseshoe – always hoping that the next gust isn’t just that little bit stronger than the last. The holding turned out to be excellent and the only damage was to our nerves.

Deciding when to make a run for Esperance was difficult, as the wind was predicted to back around to the north and abate, before becoming much stronger. Any northerly blows straight into the anchorage, so we had to leave as soon as it sprung up. As it turned out, we timed it just right and left at sunset the following evening. A gentle north-westerly brought us into Esperance just after breakfast the next morning none the worse for wear.

The week we spent in Esperance was mostly taken up doing the final little jobs prior to ‘The Bight’. Esperance Bay Yacht club were very friendly, and both Cartref and Mendana were given free pens for our entire stay. We didn’t spend much time moving east to Middle Island, one night at ‘O’Brian’s bay near Cape Le Grand, two nights in Lucky Bay (were I discovered that the photograph of Lucky Bay I contributed for the second edition of FSC’s ‘West Australian Cruising’ isn’t actually of Lucky Bay at all, but of one of the other equally attractive bays nearby) and four nights at Duke of Orleans bay which is a top spot. We moved on from ‘The Duke’ to Middle Island which deserved more than the two nights we spent there, but the crews of both boats were feeling the need to get the dreaded bight over and done with.

As it turned out, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. In truth we were extremely fortunate. We only used 32 litres of fuel from Middle Island to Port Lincoln, and only had to tack north twice. Olin Stephens (the designer of the S&S 34) deserves a medal as Mendana managed to lay our rhumb-line almost all the time. The wind was always from the east, mainly north-east, so swell wasn’t really an issue. The only uncomfortable period during the whole six days was a 36 hour spell of 18-25kts that whipped up a steep choppy little sea. It was on my night watch during that bouncy patch that Lorraine ripped the lid of the toilet seat and gave herself a black-eye. She’d climbed out of the sea berth to go to the toilet, half asleep and not really aware of the violence of the motion; she was thrown from port side to starboard and into the head. I heard a squeak then a moan. It wasn’t a bad black-eye, I think the toilet came of worse.

After crossing the bight we headed straight for Port Lincoln, and spent a few days in the Lincoln Cove Marina catching up with Paul & Tracy from ‘Cockatoo II’ and Chris and Lilly from ‘Azure’, who had all arrived from Pearson Island just the day before. The Lincoln Cove Marina and surrounding canal development is very new and a little sterile, and the whole effect coloured our initial impression of Port Lincoln. We moved from there to spend one night tied up at the town jetty, which was much more pleasant, though being Friday night we were a little concerned that we’d be beset by the local youth, but on awaking the only damage was some soggy potato chips on the foredeck. As I write this we are anchored next to Cartref close to the Port Lincoln town jetty. We’ve just returned from nearly two weeks cruising in the area immediately around Port Lincoln. One special advantage of the anchorage by the town jetty is it’s proximity to Coles as we have a special arrangement with the manager. He allows us to borrow their shopping trolleys and push them through town out to the jetty loaded to the gunwales, making stops at the bottle-shop and laundry on the way. We plan to spend a few more days here to re-provision etc, before slowly moving on to Adelaide.

Please keep in touch; it can be lonely out here.

All the very best, Peter & Lorraine

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