by Jack Binder
Jack and Jude Binder are circumnavigating Australia on their yacht Banyandah, and they are currently sailing along the southern coastline of Australia, getting nearer to their crossing of the Great Australian Bight. Here they take us with them for part of their adventurous way, heading for Streaky Bay in South Australia:
I am writing from Williams Island just south of Thorny Passage where Matthew Flinders, the first sailor to circumnavigate Australia and chart its coastline, lost eight men in 1802.
It's blowing 30 knots and Jude and I are hunkered down for a rocky rolly night, then we'll be off at dawn for hopefully a fast passage west. We have three days of a cold, strong south wind in which to reach Streaky Bay before the winds are forecast to shift into our face making Australia a dry, cliff lined lee shore.
Day one has gone well. We took a lunch stop in Memory Cove on the Lincoln Peninsula where Flinders' men are thought to have perished. It's a treacherous stretch of water. Rocky shore, fast currents and turbulence with whirlpools. But Banyandah came through Thorny Passage without a hitch.
Around noon when the rain clouds blew away, the waters turned an aquamarine you could gaze into for hours. We even caught a fish, making it a perfect day, except that we dragged anchor at Williams, forcing us to change to our Admiralty.
Here there was plenty of weed on the bottom, plenty of bold rock along the shoreline, and plenty of white spume cast to the heavens by the southern sea. We left the GPS running all night so we could check if we dragged again with the blasts off the cliffs.
Banyandah ran over sixty miles from Williams Island with white caps chasing her today, then she raced up the blunt end of Coffin Bay dodging breaking rocky outcrops.
We dragged two lures and had landed two stinky barracuda that were chucked back in and feel a tad disappointed considering the remoteness. Mind, at these speeds only a fast tuna could catch our lures. So when one hit as we flew along in the lee of Coffins, wind blasts driving our decks into the sea and sending up sheets of spray, I was right onto him. Hard yakka hauling in our dinner, when suddenly off to our right a pair of red balls whizzed past. Crap! Lobster pots! Looking up, more were coming. A minefield of ‘em.
'Turn a bit right,' I yelled to Jude who was steering the last miles through the wind blasts. As she did, more red floats whizzed past. One passed close to our trolling line and immediately came an almighty jerk nearly taking my arms out their sockets. Then snap! Only our braid remained. Lure, wire trace, and 50 metres of 100 kg mono-filament were gone with our fish.
Anchored tonight in a sandy cove called Sir Issacs with that same wind screaming through our rigging. Buggered, we left the GPS running a second night so we could check the rocks behind weren't getting closer.
Another big day coming with tomorrow's sun. Flinders Island awaits some sixty miles further to the northwest. Not sure what we'll find there. The pilot warns of a rock bottom and obstructions. But we can be sure it'll be blowing madly like this again tomorrow. If we can't find a secure anchorage there, we'll keep sailing overnight for Streaky Bay, where we plan a few days for a much deserved break.
Isn't the internet a wonderful tool. While sheltering at Sir Issacs, which is just a shark bite out a sandy coast, we perused the net and found a beaut anchorage just north of Elliston.
Easy winds from astern in the morning gave us hours of fun sailing which got faster and faster as the hours after lunch ticked past. By four we were hanging on tightly as Banyandah charged down the wave fronts, her rigging singing to the melody of crashing white water.
Over winter new hardware had been ordered to rig a heavy weather sail plan and this we set up. With our roller furler in tight and our smaller staysail, that's the second sail back, set out on a pole we ran fast and easy in the near gale conditions. Meanwhile 'Brutus,' our much loved windvane, hummed a cheerful tune keeping us tracking straight down the wave fronts.
Sailors are technicians today, getting their boats setup just right, which allows us to enjoy the ride while marveling at Nature's power and strength of our ship. At the same time today's navigation is just so simple compared to yesteryear. Scan the digital chart displayed on our GPS until a safe waypoint is discerned, then press a single button to lay a course line and display the mileage and ETA. But boy! It's easy to make mistakes. Prudence requires a close examination of that course line, especially here where rocks jut up from great depths and big southern ocean swells would soon dash a ship into small pieces.
Our turning point proved a disaster awaiting the unwary. It was just a flat pancake rock that looked on the digital chart just like a tall island. If we hadn't carefully kept our eyes on where the strong wind was driving us, it would have taken only minutes to have been surfing a powerful wave towards certain destruction.
But we survived, and ran behind Waldergrave's lee into a heavenly anchorage. Greeted again by seals and sculptured cliffs of yellow orange limestone, the pure white sand bottom shining up through aquamarine gave our admiralty a good grip. Then once again Jude and I kicked back elated and exhausted at the same moment.
In such a wide bay with nothing but open sea astern, we shut down the GPS and as the sun dipped, closed our eyes to sleep like the dead till the following daybreak.
Such a lovely spot behind Waldergrave Island that we dawdled instead of setting sail in early light. Had coffee in bed, listen to the ABC news then had a treat by eating brekkie on a level table. The wind was just finding its strength as our mainsail rose to meet it. And in fine practised form, Banyandah was set up and running towards the small bay called Sceale lying 54 miles ahead that reportedly has 40 permanent residents. Founded in 1888, a jetty once graced its shoreline. Built in 1910 to export wheat, it was knocked down in '72 for lack of maintenance. Today, only a few extra holiday houses mark what is a stronghold of unaltered Nature.
Coming away from Waldergrave, the pink easy light graced us with a breeze that softly filled our reduced sail plan and this created a relaxed mood while the pale limestone cliffs slipped astern. Far ahead white breakers highlighted rocks off Cape Radstock. Everything was so perfect we could have sat for hours enjoying it, but such an easy motion after a sound sleep started us on our work lists. I first rigged our life-ring with a new line to its emergency light. This and another line connect the life-ring to an automatic light and to a danbuoy that floats upright with an orange flag at the end of its tall stalk. Successfully completing that bit of maintenance, I then fashioned a new lure to replace the silver pilchard lost to those pesky lobster pots, this being made from the silver foil of an empty wine cask.
Our morning was slow, but who was in a hurry. We knew, true to form, the afternoon would roar and so we savored the slow miles ticking past, amused by the pods of dolphins that leaped out the swells to race towards us. Poor fellows, Banyandah was too slow for their fun and they soon tired of waiting for her to run.
Bandanyah - cheeky upside down dolphin
As our home on the water started moving at greater pace, Jude hard boiled some of Anna’s fresh eggs, turning them into sandwiches for our lunch
Down here, with a desert not far away, the mighty sun heats the land sucking cooler air off the sea producing the powerful afternoon and evening sea breezes that often reach gale force. So, by 3PM our peace was shattered and again our log began recording 7’s and 8’s as distant pale cliffs whizzed past. A perfect speed to fool a fat muscly tuna fish with the silver lining of an old wine cask, and with a bang our bungee cord stretched to its limit. Hauling the brute alongside, Jude gaffed him then we both heaved, bringing a perfect size wiggling tuna fish on board.
Clearing the rocks off Cape Blanche, we hardened up our sails, taking bullets off the clifftops that drove Banyandah onto her beam-ends and wet us. Suddenly, the true ferocity of the wind could be gauged and tired by our long days, these last miles to an anchorage frazzled my patience. 'This too shall end,' kept rolling round my head as I strode forward to bring down our staysail that soon began flogging like a tormented demon. Taking a slap in the face with the metal ringlet in its clew angered me more, and when my red knitted beanie blew over the side, I let fly, cursing Zeus and all his cohorts.
Bandanyah - filleting dinner
Thankfully our newly altered Admiralty took an instant bite in a small sand patch off the township of Sceale Bay and jerked our bows round. Which released me to the more pleasurable duty of cracking a couple of cold beers. Hooray! Only a short little hop separates us from our destination, one more day, a short one at that, and the weather forecast to ease.
Four on the trot, windy days, had sapped our energy and it was a good thing this last morning dawned with just a kind gentle breeze. A drop or two of rain helped ease our pain. Day sailing is so much harder than crossing oceans. I know, sounds weird, but getting underway each day, settling into the rhythm and then closing down the boat and worrying about the anchorage sort of drains away your energies little by little. Whereas, when crossing a sea, you setup the boat then settle back for the ride, day and night. Sleeping underway might take a day or so to get the rhythm, but then you can go forever, not wanting the journey to end.
Banyandah fortunately seemed to know her way round Speed Point and the rocks a mile or two off that cape because Jude and I were really pooped, sitting quietly watching the parched land slipping past. True to form, around noon the breeze did pick up, by which time we were ready for a bit of excitement. Rounding Cape Bauer we were startled to see fields of wheat, but then the breeze on our beam got us going real fast. Close inshore the water's kinda skinny, weed and sand patches whiz past as we hold our breath, but the chart shows a steady bottom, so we stuck to our course and let the adrenaline pump.
Soon the yellow sand spit leading to Point Gibson and the entrance into Streaky Bay came into sight. Radio Towers popped up, followed by wheat silos and then buildings. Our destination was in sight.
Sceale Bay, only 40 permanent residents
First discovered by the Dutchman Peter Nutys in 1627, that's a hundred and fifty years before Captain Cook. Flinders came next aboard the Investigator in 1802. He named it Streaky Bay because of the streaks in the water caused by the reflection of sand and seaweed. It lay empty until John Eyre established a camp there in 1839 and used the waterhole on his expedition to Point Bell and Albany Western Australia.
Today, Streaky is a sleepy hideaway for just a thousand people. In the summer, Grey Nomads probably outnumber the residents. At its peak there's a couple of cray boats, two or three shark fisherman on this magnificent wide expanse of completely protected water fringed by wheat fields that extent north to the desert.
We arrived, taking the number of local craft to two, and took up residence off the town's jetty to the cheers of several tourists and a local. Our journey complete, 235 nautical miles in five hard days of sailing. We used 10 litres of diesel to get us south into the wind stream, the rest came from Mother Nature.
Next, the Great Southern Ocean. A 550 ocean crossing to WA. But first, a few meals out, a few cold ones at the local pub, and a few nights of peaceful sleep. Till then, Long life and good health from Jack and Jude.
You can buy a copy of Jack and Jud'e excellent account of their previous wanderings around the coast of Australia by www.jackandjude.com!clicking_here.