Some days are memorable and the last few days stand out as highlights! What made it so was a relaxed pace, the abundance of wildlife and turning the corner into New South Wales!
We managed to finally leave the Gippsland Lakes on Sunday 13 August before dawn and motor-sailed in light winds. We got gentle enough conditions to stay overnight at the Skerries, a group of small rocky islets just off Wingan Inlet. You get some protection from the islets, and although it is never totally calm in there, this little known spot can allow you to break the long journey to Eden and avoid an overnight sail. But if there is swell or strong wind, it is untenable.
We have never explored ashore there, just anchored overnight and kept going. Yet, there is a small inlet behind a sandbank that would be interesting to investigate with the kayaks. The entrance is very shallow with waves crashing, so we would be sure to get wet and would not even consider bringing the dinghy through. That little adventure will be for a warmer day though.
The only scary thing about the Skerries is the Australian Fur Seal colony. It can be a bit on the nose when you are sitting downwind of them and they are a noisy lot: a mix of cattle bellowing and dogs barking. A small huddle came to visit us while we were still at anchor having breakfast. They were a bit nervous the night we arrived, but were a little braver in the morning. I had to hide to get the photo so as not to spook them. Aren’t they funny looking with their little ears and inquisitive faces!
And then there were the humpback whales. It is migration season. We saw quite a few at a distance. We would notice the blow or the splashes from them breaching and tail slapping, too far to photograph but exciting nevertheless. But one surfaced so close to us that we were thrilled and scared at the same time. It was nearly as big as the boat and at 40 tons, 10 times the weight! No zoom required for that photo!
We saw most of the whales around Mallacoota and Gabo Island, but there were some milling around at the entrance to Bitangabee Bay also. Sometimes in our excitement we would be mistaken. “There’s one… Oops, no, that’s a rock!” as the waves were breaking over some reef!
The birdlife was great also: gannets, terns, albatrosses, even white-bellied sea eagles. They were busy fishing and were spectacular when diving for their feed! We were lucky enough to see a beautiful Yellow-nosed Albatross, a rare thing since it is endangered. The last time we had seen one was four years ago! They are the smallest of albatrosses but distinctive with their glossy black bill edged with yellow.And of course another highlight was that we crossed into New South Wales and started heading north! Unfortunately once past Cape Howe we met headwinds, which made for a bouncy trip motoring on both engines from then on. Still, the day was magic. And to top it off, we made the decision to stop at our favourite anchorage: Bitangabee Bay. We were a bit over the rock and rolling and did not think we would reach Eden before sunset. So we entered the little inlet just as the sun was getting low. It made it awkward to see the bottom and the edge of the reefs, but we have been there often enough to know the way in. It is so quiet in the cove: hardly any movement and none of the barking we had at the Skerries!
We had a quiet day on Tuesday – and a bit of internet detox since there is no service inside the cove. We went for a walk ashore, then the rain set in. It was a good excuse for a laze around and a good day not to be sailing.
Wednesday, as we post this, we are bypassing Eden and heading for the fishing port of Bermagui.It is a bit blowy from the West but we are confident we will make it. We will be there till probably Friday.
As well as the wildlife photos, let us show you around this last stretch of coast. We went from cape to cape, lighthouse to lighthouse. So we are including here a few panoramic images of those rugged shores.