Having left Bittangabee at dawn on Tuesday, the hardest part of the voyage was ahead of us: a 124nm (about 20 hours) passage back to the Gippsland Lakes in lumpy seas and light variable breeze, not to mention the end of our cruise.
We could not help ourselves though; we had to have a sticky beak on the way at Zitt Bay, behind Black Head, a cove not marked on any cruising guide, but which looked like a potential anchorage in SW conditions. Situated between Green Cape and Cape Howe at the bottom of NSW, it has a lovely big crescent shaped beach and a small inlet, but the swell was rolling in with waves feathering despite the absence of wind. So it may be a possibility for another time when we are heading north and typically sail with a southerly breeze.
For the last leg of our voyage, the ocean was a bit rolly, but the breeze incredibly light and the sky very overcast. So we ended up motor-sailing all the way… the calm before the storm due later this week! It was boring Bass Strait, rather than boisterous Bass Strait. The hours were punctuated by capes and lighthouses: Green Cape, Cape Howe marking the border between NSW and Victoria, Gabo Island, Rame Head, Point Hicks, Cape Conran… and a few birds came to visit.
On Wednesday at 2.00am, we arrived in front of the Entrance in calm conditions and the rising tide rushed us in through the bar into the Gippsland Lakes, straight to Flagstaff Jetty for a well-earned sleep. Despite the perfect conditions, coming in at night is always tense, particularly this time, when a green marker at the edge of the breakwater was not lit, and we were blinded by the bright blue triangles showing us the safe passage through the bar! It felt like we might have “blue light fixation” and ram into the groin!
In the morning, Sengo, a bit cat we met at Bermagui came in. We enjoyed a bacon and eggs breakfast together to celebrate Trish and Andrew’s first ever Lakes Entrance bar crossing, and the end of our cruise! We then sailed to our home port of Paynesville, 21/2 hours upstream. It is so weird to find ourselves in protected waters after nearly two months at sea.
Today, Thursday, and tomorrow, work starts: clean the inside of the boat in fresh water, rinse all our dishes, pots and pans in fresh water, take stock of our provisions, pile up the laundry for multiple loads, including the quilts and salty lounge covers… and the big ones: drop the rudders and bring them to our shipwright for repairs and line up the maintenance jobs. And of course it did not take long for the locals to realise Take It Easy is back! We had a few visitors to welcome us home.
After eight weeks at sea and 1035 nautical miles (about 2000kms), we have a long list of repairs, maintenance and investigations for improvements, to keep us busy over the next 2 or 3 weeks while we are rudderless. That is how it goes with every big trip: you can’t have paradise without purgatory. Once Take It Easy is ship shape again, we will sail her down to Port Albert, for weekend escapes with friends to Wilson’s Promontory till the weather gets cold.
Our posts will now return to their normal twice weekly schedule until the next sailing adventure at Easter: One Four Challenge every Monday, Thursday posts alternating between a boating topic and the Bird Photography feature. We hope you have enjoyed following our cruise. Many thanks to those who commented and liked our posts – your interest is appreciated. Over the next few weeks we will compile the full journal of our voyage and let you know when it is available to download from our website. We are also hoping to publish a couple of articles in the yachting magazines Cruising Helmsman and Australian Multihull World. We will give you a preview when they come out.
We have a few photos to share with you of our last days at sea. As usual, click on the first image to display the gallery in full screen slide show.