Iluka’s Bass Strait trip

Iluka’s Bass Strait trip

Postby Iluka82 » Fri May 22, 2015 9:01 pm

Well after 3 months i finally got around to writing up my trip.

When I purchased a Tophat two and a half years ago I had in the back of my mind that I wanted to take it outside Port Phillip heads and into Bass Strait. In march 2015 I sailed Iluka with a friend of mine from Melbourne to Deal island then onto Flinders island before returning to Melbourne over a two week trip.

On the 28th of February after weeks of maintenance and preparations on Iluka Tim and I set off from Williamstown, and headed for Queenscliff. The day was very warm with temperatures into the 30s however the wind was very light and we ended up motor sailing all the way to Queenscliff. After looking at the forecast we decided to stay a Queenscliff marina as there was a severe thunderstorm forecast. We finished doing the final preparations on the boat such as setting up jack stays. Securing the primary anchor to the bow roller and securing the inflatable dingy (deflated) to the front of the boat. Derek and Kylie, some friends of ours then came down to see the boat as they were staying in Queenscliff for the weekend. We then headed to the Pub for dinner and shelter as the thunderstorm came through, we were glad to be securely moored at the marina as when the storm came through there were wind gusts in excess of 45kts. We walked back from the pub in the rain and settled down to get some sleep.

The plan was to wake up early and transit through Port Philip heads at the 5:05am slackwater. The alarm went off at 3:40am and with the wind still blowing at a consistent 25kts at south channel island and the rain still coming down we happily went back to bed, delaying our departure to the next slack water at around 10:45am. The weather improved during the morning and by 9:00am we decided it had calmed down enough to leave, it was still blowing around 20kts, we rigged the boat, donned our wet weather gear, did the final checks and headed out of Queensclif marina. We radioed Lonsdale VTS to advise them of our intentions to exit the heads via the 4 fingers west channel, they advised that there was no traffic, which was one less thing to worry about. The wind was directly from the south west which meant we had to motor without sails into the wind, there was also a large southerly swell that made progress under motor uncomfortable. After passing Point Lonsdale light house we headed out to the southwest for about 3.5miles to ensure we were well clear of the effects of the rip before tacking across the shipping lane and heading towards cape shank. We were finally able to unfurl some head sail and kill the diesel. Wow what a feeling to be finally sailing in bass strait! The wind was still blowing around 20kts with occasional gusts up to 25Kts. We decided that we would sail under just headsail for a while and see how it went. I went down for a few hours rest while Tim stayed watch. The wind slowly died down and we put up some main sail, this made a big difference to the way the boat handled and we wished we had done this earlier. We were now powering along above 5kts. We passed Cape Shank at around 6:00pm and got a great view of the sun on the cliffs. Our next point was Cape Liptrap some 55miles away. The sun slowly set and we settled into night sailing, the wind had dropped to 10-15kts however the sea state was still very confused with a lot of whitecaps. During the night the wind continued to drop to the point we were moving at less than 3kts. The iron head sail was stated around 3:30am to make sure we kept an average speed of around 4kts. As the sun rose we were passing cape Liptrap, we sailed on during the day and passed Wilsons Promontory light house in the early afternoon, although Wilsons Promontory was covered in a haze there was some spectacular scenery. The wind was variable during the afternoon and we were able to sail on and off without using the engine, by early evening we were clear of the shipping lanes. I was resting in the cabin when I heard a call for Iluka over the radio it was Graeme (Lockie) off Shakti (formally Felissity), he was heading back to Melbourne from Flinders Island after a few weeks cursing around there. We finally arrived at Deal Island around 1:30am. We dropped the anchor in Garden cove, and when straight to sleep.

Garden cove was a beautiful anchorage well protected from south to south westerly winds and as there was a strong south westerly front forecast to come through we were not that keen to go into Murray passage. The next day we made the most of beautifully weather and went ashore and walked up the hill to the caretaker’s cottage, we met the caretakers who had been out on the island for 6 weeks. We climbed up the hill to the light house and were able to go up the light house where we were greeted with spectacular views of the surrounding islands. We were able to get phone reception and check the weather forecast. The forecast was sobering, a severe front was forecast to hit on the Wednesday afternoon the low would then intensify on the Thursday and Friday we could expect westerly winds above 40kts. So it looked like Deal island would be our home for the next few days. On the Wednesday morning the wind had already stated to pick up, our idyllic anchorage become very rocky. After walking to winter cover we decided, although not written up in the guide book it was a much better westerly anchorage than Garden cove so we motored the boat around there in 25-30kts of breeze. Another boat joined us and advised they had been trying to anchor at Erith island in Murry pass but had dragged anchor twice so decided to move.

Well the forecast was right the wind increase and kept increasing over the next days. The wind speed recorded on nearby Hogan island was consistently 50kts and gusting above 75kts! Although our anchorage was sheltered we still got hit by huge bullets as the wind raced down the valleys. We managed to go ashore every day apart from one and were able to explore the various coves and cliffs on the island. Deal Island is ideal to visit on foot as most places can be walked to within 2 hours. The museum near the caretaker’s cottage offers an interesting history of the island.

After spending 4 nights at winter cove the wind finally dropped off and on Sunday 8th March we were able to sail the 31NM to Killiecrankie, on the North West cost of Flinders Island. The sail across was great we managed to average 5kts+. Once in Killiecrankie we were able to hire a mooring for $20 a night so we didn’t need to worry about dragging anchor. On shore we went to the pub/restaurant/general store for a much earned drink or 2. We arranged to hire a car for the next day so we could see the places around the island that we had originally panned to sail to. The Owner of the pub went out of his way to help us out and took us to pick up the hire car. The day exploring the island was well worth it, we found the Flinders island locals very friendly. It would have been good to spend more time sailing around the island, as there are numerous idyllic anchorages around the island. After looking at the weather forecast we decided that we had better make the most of good weather forecast for Tuesday and start heading back towards Melbourne. We set off from Killiecrankie and headed towards Cape Liptrap (about 110NM) The first 8 hours of sailing were great before the wind dropped out and we had to motor sail. After a few hours of motoring the engine started to make a funny noise. I pulled off the engine cover to find that the alternator bracket had cracked and the alternator was only hanging on by a single bolt. I shut down the engine and disconnected the alternator belt. This meant we had to save power as we only had the 80w solar panel to charge the batteries, so from here on it was hand steering without the auto pilot. This was ok during the day, but was difficult at night as there was little on the horizon to steer towards. We sailed / motored on and off though out the night and arrived at Walkervile (near cape Liptrap) at about 8:30am, 26 hours of sailing from Killicrankie. After making sure we were securely anchored we went below for a few hours sleep. We then put our minds to work on how to fix the alternator bracket and with some epoxy putty, a coke can, a hose clamp borrowed off the next G antenna and some spectra cord we managed to fix the bracket (and it held tight all the way back to Melbourne) it was then time to go ashore and explore Walkervile. Walkervile has an interesting history as its limestone cliffs were mined and processed in kilns built into the cliffs into a cement like product that was then shipped to Melbourne for building. The mine and kilns operated until the 1920’s

That night we looked at our options for sailing the next day, we could either head to Western port bay then back through port Philip head the next day or we could try to make the heads in a single sail, we opted for the 2nd option and decided that we should leave Walkervile at about 9am to make Port Philip heads at the 7am slack water the next day. We got a good night sleep with the anchorage being very well protected. We headed off on time the next day. The forecast was for 15-25kts from the west turning south west. We were getting every bit or 25kts gusting well above 30, this was the roughest conditions we had sailed in so far for the trip, we had to tack back and forward to get around Cape Liptrap and it took some nerve to tack the boat between the waves. We cleared the cape around 11:30 we were then able to stay hard on a port tack and gradually ease as the wind headed more south. Although this was the roughest conditions we had sailed in on the trip it was also the best sailing and we easily covered the miles. We arrived back at Port Philip heads at about 6am the following morning and after advising Lonsdale VTS of our intention to enter the heads we sailed in on the 4 fingers west channel with the incoming tide assisting, I was a little hesitant about sailing through the heads in the dark, however the lights made it very easy to see the leads.

We had made it! We cracked open breakfast beer in celebration and set a course through the west channel then onto Williams town in Champaign sailing conditions (9-12kts from the south east with flat water) we had a very easy 30 mile sail back to Williamstown and arrive in at about 3pm. All in all we covered about 450nm over the 2 week, it was a great trip and I’m very glad I was finally able to get the Tophat out of the bay.

Cheers
Nick
Iluka82
 
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Re: Iluka’s Bass Strait trip

Postby Troppo » Sat May 23, 2015 8:45 am

Fantastic trip, Nick!

Certainly windy. And that was some pretty good fixing to get that alternator bracket working.

cheers

troppo
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Re: Iluka’s Bass Strait trip

Postby lockie » Sat May 23, 2015 11:15 am

Great stuff Nick and a very enjoyable read.

Well done fixing the alternator bracket Just goes to show that no matter how well sorted the boat is things will go wrong, and one's various mechanical, electrical and nautical skills all that stands between a great tale to tell versus ending up on the TV news!

As you correctly observed (and my crew Steve will attest), I did quite a bit of cursing during Shakti's trip to Flinders, but to be fair I also squeezed in a bit of cruising.

Cheers, Graeme
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Re: Iluka’s Bass Strait trip

Postby Iluka82 » Sat May 23, 2015 4:56 pm

Sorry Graeme, I didn't mean to accuse you of swearing! But to be fair cruising and cursing do seen to go hand in hand, especially when talking about the weather.
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Re: Iluka’s Bass Strait trip

Postby lockie » Sat May 23, 2015 5:59 pm

Yes and I bet your alternator repair was fuelled by profanities.
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Re: Iluka’s Bass Strait trip

Postby woodsy » Sun May 24, 2015 6:11 pm

Alternators generate swearing?
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