We had a lovely few days snorkelling and hookahing at Coral Bay, just fantastic. What a contrast to our last visit. Nic has put some great videos on her website "nicatsea.weebly.com" In fact one of the reasons I haven't posted for so long is I can't get the computer off Nic. She is continually adding to and refining her website. But it does look great, and I'm happy for her to have taken on the role of official trip biographer. On that basis this will be a short summary blog, because Nic has all the gory details on her site - well worth a visit!!
We had the first of our southerly sails coming from Coral Bay to Denham. The night before we left we saw a yacht come in to Mauds Landing just on dark, it looked familiar but the sun had set and by morning the yacht was gone. Anyway we set sail the next afternoon planning to sail about 2 days non-stop down to Denham. It was a long slow process with South East to Southerly winds meaning we had to tack all the way down. On the way down we heard our new friend Scott on the yacht Angel, calling Carnarvon Sea Rescue on the radio, but he couldn't hear them responding so we did a relay for him and agreed to catch up for a radio sched later that night when he had arrived in Carnarvon. We ended up chatting for quite a while around 11pm when he had eventually arrived. Turns out we were about 10 miles behind him and it had been him that had popped into Mauds landing the other day, but he had also stopped over night at Cape Cuvier. We caught up on all the goss about sailing friends and promised to meet up in Quindalup for a beer in January. He is leaving his boat in Carnarvon so he can continue his explorations next year.
We arrived in Denham the next day about lunchtime, anchoring out of the small channel that leads into the town jetty. The next day we arranged to go into the jetty to refuel and restock the boat, which took most of the day. We had planned to get over to Quoin Bluff again but the weather forecast was a bit yuk so we decided to stay put. The weather did blow up, and that afternoon we started dragging our anchor. I thought OK we will see if we can get over to Quoin Bluff as that should be protected. It wasn't long though before I realised it would take us about 12 hrs motoring at 2-3kns, straight into the howling North Wester and steep short seas that had built up. We turned around to try our luck at the town jetty. No luck, a big trawler was parked up alongside and there was no room. I started making my way back out the channel, our only hope being to find a secure mooring just outside the channel but still deep enough for us and our 1.7m keel. We were in luck and found a mooring managed by ACRM Base (Australian Coastal Radio Monitors), a volunteer group that works out of Denham over winter and down at Capel all year round I think. I rang them on the radio and asked if it was OK to use the mooring, Wendy was more than happy and very helpful. We ended up staying on the mooring for another day and night as the weather blew through and were very appreciative of the security a mooring offers. Accordingly we made a donation to ACRM who do a great job for all the boaties by monitoring the radio and logging them on and off, and have been key to saving a number of lives in recent years.
From Denham we had one day over at Quoin Bluff, catching a nice spanish Mackerel on the way over. From Quoin Bluff we headed back to Gerritsen Cove near Steep Point. On the way we kept pulling in what I thought were undersized Spanish Mack's - by the time we were onto about the 5th one Nic said lets check the fish guide. Sure enough they were School Mackerel, and the size limit was 50cm as opposed to the 90cm limit we had been applying. We could have filled the fridge with all the size fish we had been throwing back!! Oh well.
From Steep Point we headed off early in the morning planning to sail down to Turtle Bay at the Abrohlos to catch up with Nic's aunt Lesley and Carolyn. It was a long bash south and the seas off the Zuytdorp cliffs were again horrible - not my favourite stretch of water!! After 40 odd hours of bashing and tacking our way south we were finally approaching Turtle Bay in the Northern Group of the Abrohlos at about 8.30 at night. I had been running the motor to keep us moving and hoping to get in at a reasonable hour so we would be reasonably fresh to meet Lesley and Carolyn who were flying over in the morning. The motor started losing power every 10 or so minutes, sounding like it was going to stop and then returning to normal. I knew it was a dirty fuel problem because it had happened a few months before we left on the trip and we had had to unblock the fuel lines. I was hoping it would make it into Turtle Bay so I could fix it the next day - but NO, Huey had other ideas. The motor finally conked about 4 miles out from Turtle Bay. I changed the filter and tried to unblock the fuel pipe, connected everything back up and reprimed the motor. It fired and ran, but died about 5 minutes later. OK, contingency plan… I had some spare fuel hose for exactly this scenario. I grabbed one of the jerries of spare diesel, connected the spare fuel hose into the inlet side of all the fuel filters, reprimed the motor and hey presto it ran like a dream. I was so proud of myself. Half an hour later the motor died…the jerry (20litres) had been drained…Bugger, the fuel return…I knew there was a return hose but I didn't think it would return so much to the main fuel tank. The motor normally uses 4litres an hour - I now know the return fuel is actually a key part of cooling the injectors. Anyway I thought no probs, I'll hook up another jerry and feed the return fuel hose into it. I did this and reprimed the motor - but there is no way it was going to start this time. I was beat, I said to Nic there is something here I am not doing right, it obviously needs to be bled in a more thorough way, but by now at 10pm in rocky and rolly seas I'd had enough. We agreed we had to sail into Geraldton to get the fuel problem fixed. Sixteen hrs later … 1pm the next day we arrived at Geraldton with the Sea Rescue guys on hand to tow us into the marina (we'd contacted them via radio earlier in the day to explain our predicament) - great job guys and another donation to a worthwhile cause. Lesley had arranged through a friend of a friend for a diesel mechanic to meet us at the jetty. He jumped on board and explained that when the motor runs completely out of fuel you had to crack the injectors and bleed it properly from there. The little primer pump I had been using wasn't going to fix the problem - oh well, live and learn! A simple fix thankfully, but so frustrating that I had to learn the hard way how to properly bleed the diesel motor. Lesley and Carolyn had done a day tour out to the Islands and they came and met us late in the afternoon. We all went back to their friends' house to watch the Dockers lose to Port Adelaide - bugger. The weather conspired against us and we ended up staying on the boat in Gero with Lesley and Carolyn for the next few days, managing just a day sail instead of being at the Abrolhos - but we had heaps of fun and we will try again another time!! We also met up again with Graham and Ann from Leeuwin Current who we last saw in Exmouth. They were now home after 18months of cruising, and finding it hard to settle back in. We had them down for drinks on the boat on our last night before leaving - a lovely couple who I'm sure we will meet up with again next time we are in Gero.
Nic and I had hoped to sneak across to the Abrohlos again but a weather window was opening up to get down to Rotto. After our trip from Carnarvon we weren't too keen to bash down against southerlies if it could be avoided. I figured if we left on the Friday morning we would get a bit of SE but then it was due to swing through the East and into the North all day Saturday before a big front hit in the early hours of Sunday - this was a chance to make a run and shelter at Rotto when the storm hit. The plan came off and we arrived at Rotto about 11pm on Saturday night. It was quite strange mooring up in Thompson Bay with boats right next door partying hard - it was the RottoFest. The next day the storm struck as predicted and I think some of the late night revellers were regretting their over indulgence as the winds hit 30+ knots and the boats rock and rolled mercilessly! Nic and I, being salty sea dogs by now, slept heavily through most of it.
The rest of the week has been spent relaxing, catching up on a few maintenance jobs, fishing, SUPping and enjoying Rotto. We head back to Freo on Tuesday and return to the real world! It has been a great adventure, and it is now time to start planning the next one!! FATBLUESKY standing by…..