Babel Is (Flinders) to Victoria

A very special place 

When we awoke the next day and saw the surf crashing onto the beach we decided to find a more sheltered anchorage. Everything was great when we lifted the anchor at Sellars Beach. We felt refreshed after a good sleep and we were very proud of ourselves with the ease that we crossed Banks Strait. “That was easy, what is all the fuss about?” were thoughts that passed through our minds that morning as we headed off around the northern coast of Flinders Island to plan to anchor at Killicrankie for a window to cross Bass Strait.

As we rounded Babel Island and headed northwest the wind increased and the wave height grew along with the infamous Bass Strait swell. It was a long way up the northern coast of the island to Sisters Passage and the further we went the weather became rougher. As it was getting dark we sailed through rain squalls and we decided that we would head for the nearest anchorage – Palana on the north westerly tip of Flinders. We were steering from inside because of the weather but occasionally I would pop my head out to see what I could see – usually it was not much in the rain and dusk.

At the entrance to Sisters Passage the engine made a horrible noise and stopped.. this was a very scary moment as the wind was pushing us toward the beach and Beagle Reef. The water depth was about 29 metres but we had to drop the anchor to stop our drift toward shore. I kept a lookout and an eye on the GPS to see how far and fast we were moving, but fortunately, the anchor seemed to have slowed us down – and was more or less holding us in the same position while Greg went below the floor to see what the matter was. A bolt had broken which held the alternator to the engine and without that the alternator was loose. This was not good but with such important resources as coathanger wire Greg was able to fix the problem temporarily and we were soon on our way again.

We then headed through Sister's Passage  in the dark and rain and wind where the seas were becoming very steep as the tide was travelling with us and the wind and swell were travelling in the opposite direction. We were very glad of all of our instruments and, especially the radar which showed us where the rocks were. The computer showed us where we were in relation to the map so we could cross reference where we were and determine the accuracy of them both. It was comforting how closely they agreed with each other. The wind and rain causing very poor visibility, as well as the intersting currents caused by very deep water in places and very shallow water in others made navigating through this area very challenging and we were glad when we finally reached Palana. at about 9:30pm. The anchorage in the book looked like it was just off a surf beach, which we didn't like very much, especially as the depth was getting very shallow quite a long way from the beach so we motored as close to the rocky headland as we could and anchored there for the night. We would decide what to do in the morning after a good sleep. We did have a very good night's rest that night.




 

(View of Sisters Passage from "Palana Base")

Palana, at the very top of Flinders Is, was a very welcome anchorage, although not very sheltered. Here we waited for a window to cross Bass Strait. We waited 3 days.There was a family of white breasted sea eagles nesting on a rocky outcrop above the boat ramp. We looked for them daily and were amazed by their duck-like call. We watched them as they soared so effortlessly on the thermal currents around the point looking for food.

At about lunchtime on the first day we heard a radio message from “Palana base” a  very friendly local who lived on a huge house on the hill. I was really glad that I had decided to have a wash and wash my hair that morning. It was doing things my hair doesn't usually do all by itself. 

What a sensational house he had!!!! And the view – magic!  (See photo above) Pete was a great person who flew his light aircraft to the airstrip near his house at weekends from Melbourne. He invited us for coffee and the use of his internet facilities. He took a photo of us which we immediately sent in an e-mail to family.

 How wonderful is technology!. He had difficulty with mobile phone reception but the modem he had worked perfectly. We were very proud of ourselves after we had climbed to his eyrie on the hill. It was a steep walk for 2 tired and unfit sailors.

 (Palana)

 

We had a few conversations with Pete during the few days we were there and we arranged to meet in Melbourne when we arrived . Unfortunately we did not manage to meet.

We were saddened to hear that Pete was the victim of a light plane crash on Flinders Island about 4 months after we left. . . 

We departed Palana at 20:00 after 3 days waiting for the swell to ease. We were going to wait till about midnight but we wondered “What is the point of waiting?”. I

t was very rolly just past the Palana headland and we realised how shelterd we had been. After we hoisted the sails the motion improved and we could sail a good course toward Wilson's Promontory. We did our first night passage. The sea was perfect for us. We had about 15 knots of wind at about 40 degrees off the bow. We had all sail up. Lupari behaved perfectly and it was wonderful, although hard work to keep her on course. We had passed Deal Island and were heading for the Hogan Group of islands when daylight came – but we were still a long way from Wilson’s Promontory. The crossing was good although we were beating into the wind for most of the time. During the day we continued to sail, but at about 3pm we decided to turn the motor on to make sure we got to our destination before dark. All we knew about Victoria was that there was an anchor marked on the map so that was where we were headed – Waterloo Bay. We wanted to get there in daylight – at that time of year it meant that we must be there before 17:00.It was just a month before the shortest day.

We had crossed Bass Strait with no dramas. Time to celebrate! Bed!!!!

(Waterloo Bay as we arrived)

The anchor went down in a delightful little anchorage in Waterloo Bay just before dark. So calm and peaceful. The water was beautiful and clear and ours were the only footprints on the beach. The next morning we climbed to the top of the ridge and looked out over Bass Strait. Wilsons Promontory Light

It looked beautiful– there was a slight north easterly blowing so we decided to take advantage of that and set sail to Melbourne. So after we climbed down from the ridge and returned to the boat we weighed anchor and headed toward Melbourne. It was early afternoon by then. There are interesting currents and tidal features around this area that we tried to avoid without success. They slowed our progress down quite considerably – they were going in the wrong direction.