Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Wirrina to Robe 
1/3 - 2/3 2016

(Blog readers please note - by left clicking on  photos you will see them full size and a photo gallery below.)

Land travellers with car, campervan or caravan, face few restrictions as to when they can travel, save perhaps concerns about encountering kangaroos on outback roads at night. At sea the wind rules the waves and rules when we can travel and where we can go. In the early hours of Tuesday 1/3/16 the wind finally released its sou-easterly grip, swung to the north – east and then disappeared. 

We are on our way!
We slid out of Wirrina in calm, set a stabilising reefed mainsail, called the wonderful Carol Miell at American River Volunteer Marine Radio (VMR), to signal our departure for Robe, and made for Backstairs Passage, the oft storm-tossed waterway separating the Fleurieu Peninsula from Kangaroo Island. The tide was about to ebb and as it did it would lift us out of St Vincent’s Gulf, past Cape Jervis, then on past Cape Willoughby and The Pages islets for the open sea.

On approach to Cape Jervis
We were away. No turning back now. Any wind that had been there overnight had wafted and in its place the sea took on an oily visage with clouds gathering in the west as weather slipped away far to the south. As we made our way to the SE, Kangaroo Island reduced in stature, to become by mid-afternoon as thin an outline as a slice of shaved ham on a butcher’s tray. Still the lofty uplands of the Fleurieu defied extinction, until the curve of the earth swallowed them and all that was familiar to us, and they disappeared from view. We were alone and yet not alone, for Carol was only a click of a radio button away, our chart plotter via its AIS ship identification feature (more of this later) showed a bulk carrier behind us and making for Geelong, whilst not far away a cruising yacht Urchin had departed before us from Kangaroo Island, and grasping the same window of weather were making for Cape Jaffa. We were glad of the comfortable conditions to reacquaint ourselves with routines at sea.

Gliding across an oily sea in the afternoon light.

Early March is still Cray fishing season in SA waters and although many fishers may have reached their catch quotas, there would still be plenty of pots off the SE coast to threaten our progress. Awful memories of being snared by a pot rope at sea with night closing (see calista10.blogspot.com – Port Fairy to Kangaroo Island) saw us push on well out to sea toward the edge of the continental shelf and the abyss beyond. Cookie’s veggie combos in white sauce are a popular favourite on board, and we supped royally on these ere nightfall before donning our safety harnesses and tethers for the darkness to come.  Later, the loom of Adelaide and Victor Harbor lights far over the horizon, gave the only hint of what we were leaving behind.

Sunset and night navigation

The setting of the sun on board marked the time to illuminate our navigation lights; a LED port and starboard set at the bow, a tri-colour light atop the mast, and a white “running light” on our stern. When motoring, a front-facing white light half way up our mast completes our night-time livery. Those not used to being at sea at night might be surprised that very large ships such as container ships or bulk carriers carry a similar set of lights at night, and the notion that “the bigger the ship, the more lights that they carry” does not apply. A big ship approaching at night will only show a port and starboard light, with a white light between.  If a red and green light with a white light in the middle is spotted then….get out of the way!
A flick of the navigation light switch below, for us, however showed trouble. The navigation lights did not illuminate and the circuit breaker tripped. No nav lights. Our nav lights never fail! How could this happen, and this, our first night at sea. Swapping the circuit breaker from another part of the system did not help either. Nor did Cookie’s noble attempt to dismantle the rear running light where we had undertaken some restoration before leaving. No, the new LED globe was not at fault. Why would it be? But where did the fault lay? Somewhere in the system a short was occurring, but out here at sea was not a good place to go troubleshooting, especially up toward the bow. There was nothing to do but set our mast-head anchor light for extra visibility and ready ourselves with torch and radio should any vessels come nearby. This was a frustrating start, offset considerably by some delectable banana cake and brownies supplied to us by Charmaine Hird and daughter Sarah Mack prior to our departure. Yum. They supplied welcome warmth within as we slipped into our watches of two hours apiece as our ship forged on to the SE and into the night.

Sunrise on approach to Robe.
With first light, and still in relative calm, we altered course to port, put one of us on “pot watch” ahead and made for Robe. The devil wind was scheduled to resume its malevolent work later in the day and we were keen to get in before it arrived. Closer in to Robe as the limestone coast took shape and the lighthouse at Robe confirmed the accuracy of our chart plotter, there were pots aplenty on the limestone shoals and our course became a slalom as we closed on the harbour breakwater. 

Dodging craypots on our way to the Marina entrance.

As we dropped our main, tell-tale fluffy clouds scudded up over the town heralding the return of the Sou-Easter and condemning us to life for the time being in this most delightful of places. Lake Butler, the town anchorage is favoured by natural beauty, is secure from all points of the compass, and with all the requirements of civilised life readily at hand, was a fine port to make landfall after our first leg at sea.
We minded not if the devil wind blew for a day or two…or even more.
Dawn light in our berth at "The Karatta Moorings" Robe Marina precinct.


  1. Great to be reading your travel diary again. SeXtant crew have been busy with Endeavour in port, night watch / talking boats / and discussing the Aboriginal reconciliation aspects of the 250 anniversary of Cook's New Zealand and east coast of Oz voyage. 2020 in Autumn it will be re-enacted by the Endeavour replica with hopefully a more positive encounter with the indigenous peoples; Maori, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples. Bon voyage. J&W

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Great reading! Hope to see more as the journey progresses. Frank said the entrance to Batemans Bay has been dredged so you should be able to get in there now. Safe travels! Veronica

  3. Ditto from previous page, lovely pictures

  4. Last Patrol today which reminded me to start checking your blog, with Murray's help. Great reading. Trust you got your lights fixed?
    I can only read as far as Robe - is there more?
    All the best Tim and Janice