Iluka's Bass Strait Trip February 2017

Iluka's Bass Strait Trip February 2017

Postby Iluka82 » Wed Apr 05, 2017 11:47 pm

After living in China for the last 18 months I decided I needed to do another Bass Strait trip. My friend Tim, who has been looking after Iluka while I’m away took little convincing, and very kindly did almost all the boat preparation work for the trip. Looking at the cruising guides and charts, we decided we’d like to try to get to the Hunter group on the north coast of Tasmania. We set a departure date of 18th of February with the aim of being away for about 1 week. I flew back to aus on the 15th of February, and helped with the last min boat preparation of servicing the engine and doing the food shopping. As the 18th of Feb came closer it was apparent that the 25-30kt SW winds would not be in our favour to exit the heads on the 19th however we decided to sail to Queenscliff or Blairgowrie and wait for the weather window there. We set off from Williamstown around 11am on the 18th and soon realised that the SW winds meant it would be easier to get to Blairgowrie, it was a slow trip down the bay with variable wind strength from 10-25kt right on the nose the whole way before dropping to nothing at around 7:30pm. We finally made it to Blairgowrie just after dark at about 9:00pm. The forecast was for strong winds for Sunday and Monday, but then fining up Monday night. We spent Sunday and Monday doing some work on the boat and repacking things for the trip and hanging out in Blairgowrie. Looking at the slack water times we had 2 options for our heads exit the 1st at around 10pm Monday night and the 2nd one at around 4:30am Tuesday. By 7pm the wind was still blowing 25KTS so we opted for the 4:30am slot, so we sleep until midnight. By now the wind was down to a comfortable 15kts. We rigged the boat then left Blairgowrie and navigated our way through narrow and in some cases unlit channels towards Queenscliff. With the tide going with us we were traveling above 4kts with very little power from the engine needed. We arrived at Queenscliff at around 2:30am, and slowed the boat down to kill some time, by 3:15 we decided that wind was light enough to make our exit, we radioed Lonsdale VTS to advise our intentions and check any shipping traffic before making our way out through the four fingers west channel. By 4:00am we were clear of the heads, but opted to keep to the west side of the main shipping channel for a few miles to keep us clear of any incoming shipping and out of the main tidal stream. By now the wind had eased to 8-10kts from the west. We were able to set full main and headsail and make 4.5kts. Tim went down for a few hours’ sleep while I stayed on watch. We kept sailing with 3 hour watches throughout the trip. After receiving the morning forecast I was a little worried as there was a gale warning for North Western Tasmanian waters for the following day, we could expect NE winds 20-25kts shifting W to NW at 25-30kts before increasing to 35kts, hmm this is right where we were going! The worry was that the east to west change would come through in the night when we were anchored at Three Hummock Island forcing us to move to Hunter Island. I didn’t really want to be moving to an unknown anchorage in the middle of the night in a gale. After much deliberation we decided to abandon our plans of the Hunter Group and head for the all-weather port of Grassy on King Island. We Changed course around 11:00am and had light W-SW winds for the next few hours. By early afternoon the wind was dropping to below 5kts so the engine was started to keep our average speed about 4kts. We motored until about 7pm when the wind came back in and swung around to the East and kept swinging to the North East. The motor was switched off and we enjoying ideal sailing conditions throughout the night. The sky was mostly clear with no moon, we were able to steer by pointing at stars. Not long after dark Cape Wickham light house came into sight, which also provided a good reference for steering. The wind stayed in during the night and we kept an average speed well above 4kts. We spotted a few lights on land and a number of fishing boats, one which came a little close for comfort. The wind kept freshening throughout the night reaching around 20-25kts by daybreak. Heading SSE with a NE wind we had to be careful not to gybe, even so both Tim and I had accidental gybes, so we reduced mainsail and steered slightly up to reduce the likelihood of an accidental gybe. By sunrise we were about 8NM off grassy having got a bit off course due to having to steer up into the wind to avoid gybing. We travelled a few more miles on this tack before gybing around and making our final run into Grassy. We had a little trouble finding the leads and getting the GPS to agree coming into Grassy and therefore turned back out to sea and re aligned on the leads. Looking back at the GPS plot later it did agree with where we were but it didn’t feel like it at the time. I think the issue was due to strong winds and possible currents meant the nose of the boat was pointed differently to the track of the boat, making it look like we were heading straight for land! Once we had negotiated the harbour entrance we tied up to a mooring, and called the grassy boat club to see if we could borrow a mooring. They were very helpful and gave directions at to which mooring we could use. We then did the usual boat tidy after a passage, ate some food, inflated the dingy and headed to Grassy township, which we thought would be a few min walk from the harbour, it turns out its about 3-4km if you take the short cut. Grassy is a very small town that was built for the scheelite mine. The mine closed in 1990 after the price of sheelite, a component used in tungsten production dropped. Grassy has a few shops and a pub we ate some very good homemade pies and arranged a rental car to be dropped at the Harbour later in the day. Once the car arrive we drove 30km across to Currie. Currie is the main town of King Island and also has an all-weather harbour, however been on the west coast is far more exposed to the prevailing westerly winds. We ate King Island Steaks at the pub for dinner, and washed in down with a few beers before heading back to the boat. Just after sun set we were treated to our very own Grassy harbour penguin parade as the local penguins made their way from the harbour up to their burrows. The next day we headed up to Cape Wickham, about 70km drive from Grassy. At 48m off the ground Cape Wickham lighthouse claims to be the tallest lighthouse in Australia, the lighthouse was constructed in 1861 in response to a number of ship wrecks. From Cape Wickham we made our way back to Currie, via Yellow rocks beach, and Naracoopa. Our final stop was at the King island museum which contained artefacts from some of the hundreds of ships that have been wrecked on King Island. The island has the grim claim of having more ships wrecked on its coast than any other place in Australia. We then headed back to Grassy, and prepared to sail back to Melbourne. We wanted to arrive at Port Philip heads during in incoming tide to make the entrance through the heads easier, this meant being there between 7:30pm and 2:00am the following day. We allowed about 27 hours for the 110NM trip meaning we had to head off at 5:30pm. We dropped the mooring and said goodbye to Grassy then motored out of the harbour and set sail for Melbourne, the weather was overcast with a few showers. With a 20Kt SW wind we were comfortably able to make 5.5Kt in the flat waters sheltered by the island. We sailed under headsail alone as the wind was right from behind and kept this configuration well into the night. The night was very dark as clouds blocked the stars, and there was no moon, we were very glad to have the tiller pilot to do the steering as hand steering in this darkness would have been challanging. We made excellent progress throughout the night averaging 4.8kts. The tip back to Port Phillip Heads was relatively uneventful apart from a close call with a Chinese ship that didn’t seem to be looking out, we were forced to tack to avoid collision, the ship never change course. As we got closer to the heads we realized we were going to be early, and therefore had to slow the boat down. We arrived at the port limit line (about 3NM from the heads) at 7:45PM, Traffic on the outside of the heads was fairly busy, with 2 freight ships, a cruise liner and an oil tanker all there at once, we thought that we would be ok if we approached from the west however we did call the cruise liner to confirm their intentions as they were getting close and we wanted to confirm what direction they were turning. With the tide now flooding in we had a quick transit through the heads at sunset, from there we made our way through the Western channel, this required a lot of concentration as it was now dark, and there is a sea of lights there at night, the trick being able to work out which ones effect you. After clearing the western channel we cooked dinner and enjoyed a celebratory beer. We had 15-20KTS of SE wind, which got us back to Williamstown around 3:30AM. We tied up to the mooring and went straight to sleep, Tiding up the boat could wait for morning.
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Re: Iluka's Bass Strait Trip February 2017

Postby Shaun » Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:20 am

Great story, thanks for posting. Sounded like a good trip.
A friend of mine moved to Currie last year, so fantastic to hear a little bit about the Island from another perspective.
cheers
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Re: Iluka's Bass Strait Trip February 2017

Postby frank » Thu Apr 06, 2017 10:17 am

I enjoyed that. Thanks
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Re: Iluka's Bass Strait Trip February 2017

Postby Miker » Thu Apr 06, 2017 10:37 am

Great story, thank you. Makes you appreciate living and sailing around Pittwater and Sydney.... no need to concern yourself about tides, commercial traffic and various requirements to get in and out of port. Although, we don't have such great places to visit like King Island....
Michael
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Re: Iluka's Bass Strait Trip February 2017

Postby lockie » Thu Apr 06, 2017 5:02 pm

Good on you Nick. Iluka and her intrepid crew have certainly earned some solid bragging rights!

Cheers, Graeme
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Re: Iluka's Bass Strait Trip February 2017

Postby Iluka82 » Thu Apr 06, 2017 5:09 pm

Miker wrote:Great story, thank you. Makes you appreciate living and sailing around Pittwater and Sydney.... no need to concern yourself about tides, commercial traffic and various requirements to get in and out of port. Although, we don't have such great places to visit like King Island....


Yeah this is one of the issue with sailing out of Melbourne. If you want to go beyond the bay its always an adventure. It must be great to sail out of Pittwater with 100's of places to visit close by.

Cheers Nick
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Re: Iluka's Bass Strait Trip February 2017

Postby lockie » Thu Apr 06, 2017 6:12 pm

Iluka82 wrote:Yeah this is one of the issue with sailing out of Melbourne. If you want to go beyond the bay its always an adventure. It must be great to sail out of Pittwater with 100's of places to visit close by.

Cheers Nick


Darned right, and getting down the bay to the Heads is virtually always against a S or SW. In all my trips down there I think I've sailed (ie no motor) all the way only once.
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Re: Iluka's Bass Strait Trip February 2017

Postby Iluka82 » Thu Apr 06, 2017 9:28 pm

lockie wrote:

Darned right, and getting down the bay to the Heads is virtually always against a S or SW. In all my trips down there I think I've sailed (ie no motor) all the way only once.


The trip down the bay was certainly challenging on this trip! When are you writing up your trip report Locki? ;)
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Re: Iluka's Bass Strait Trip February 2017

Postby Notlongjohn » Tue Apr 11, 2017 8:42 pm

Really interesting report on the trip. I visited King Island in feb 2016 for surfing ( by plane) and could relate to bits of what you said about the island. I was amazed at the number of off shore bombies. A minefield of rocks and reefs half a km offshore plus . Would hate it at night. Also I studied the grassy harbour entrance and watched a trawler enter around midday and it didn't seem particularly easy. A bit of twisting and turning dodging reefs but not breaking waves. The wind was up and sea quite choppy. So there you go you have been to where I thought I might like to go! Really interesting stuff.
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Re: Iluka's Bass Strait Trip February 2017

Postby Phillip » Sun Dec 03, 2017 1:07 pm

Just found this on youtube of a trip in 2015

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUExFpXRUoA

From the video I can see that Iluka with double spreaders, original pulpit and pushpit still, is amongst Bakers first Top Hats.

Well done guys in continuing the previous owners voyaging around Bass Strait!
Phillip.
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