After sitting on a borrowed mooring in the delightfully sheltered Casuarina Bay at Bunbury for the past fortnight and still getting our teeth blown out by the southerly gales, we are putting all our atheistic faith in the Bureau of Meteorology and trusting their forecast of “light and variable” winds will accompany our trip from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin and on to Albany. First stop today will be at Quindalup, where we’ll check all the things that can only be checked after a few hours at sea. Then, at about 2am we’ll head around the capes. We are scheduled to arrive in Whalers Bay near Albany at nightfall on Monday. There will be a lot of wind and waves between here and there. Yesterday’s waves around Cape Leeuwin… a 7m swell with 2-3 m waves on top!
We welcome Wayne Phillips on board. He’s a local Bunbury-ite with loads of sailing experience; and is a thoroughly delightful companion to boot. The 36 hour stint will be made so much easier with three to share it.
For those who are not used to sailing any of the seven seas, the preparation of the Andante for the next 12 months was an adventure on its own. “Slipping” the boat sounds like a low energy activity, but couldn’t be further from the truth. Slipping, in our case, involved getting our 20 tonne boat onto a rickety timber framework running on railway iron, tieing it off with multiple ropes, then being winched slowly onto dry land. Places where things could go wrong:
a) getting the combination of wind / tide / current /speed spot on to enter the framework with only a few centimetres leeway.
b) tieing the 20 tonne boat in EXACTLY the right place so it doesn’t fall over!
c) having the ropes actually hold the boat on so it doesn’t slide ignominiously and far too fast back into the water (and having the winch mechanism work)
but nothing did. It worked beautifully, with Tony (previous owner) only yelling a few instructions to Col and Wayne. I was designated official photographer (read for that – too girly and useless to have aboard!) which gave me a great view point of all activity. And a wondrous sight it was too, the ponderous manoeuvre to land, especially as the winch cradle sported a couple of square wheels!
Now the work began. A dirty bottomed baby has nothing on a dirty bottomed boat. The accumulated barnacles, sludge and seaweed was blown off with a water compressor first. Then any flaking paint was chipped off, and edges “feathered”, then bare metal is treated with phosphoric acid. That’s just day 1! By then of the first day, Col, Terry and Tony were all covered with grot and totally exhausted. The only access to the boat (and all the tools required) was up a 6m metal ladder and clambering over the railings. Roxy got quite used to being zipped up in my windcheater for the journey up or down.
Day 2 is washing off the acid and priming the metal. As soon as the primer was dry the first coat of foul, poisonous anti-fouling paint was applied. Every inch of the 13.2m boat under the water line needs to be covered with two coats of this obnoxious but indispensable stuff. The bright red or white top coats were applied to the parts above the water line. A shower and bed at 7.30 after this effort.
Day 3 saw the zinc anodes which act as sacrificial lambs to the on-going process of electrolysis of metal in seawater, removed and replaced; and a touch up of any paint jobs. Then back in the water… which was uneventful, much to everyone’s relief.
All the blokes at the slipyard were great. Very ocker, with various shaped and sized bodies crammed into dirty, oily hi-viz shirts,stubbies and blundstone boots – but incredibly helpful. The resident cream coloured dingo had Roxy in total awe, a case of star-struck poodle.
The dingo has its own story. A young bloke who is working on restoring a boat in the yard rescued it as a very young pup, and they’ve been a partnership for years, but the dingo has always wandered the surrounding district reducing the numbers of rabbits and the odd stray cat. It was picked up and impounded by the local animal ranger because it wears no collar or registration tags. The owner was unable to pay the fine to release it and contacted the national parks people. The upshot was that the council animal ranger was severely admonished for restraining an endangered species! The dingo now has the official right to wander wherever it bloody well pleases!
We left Tasmania in good spirits on the good Spirit with Jim McLeod’s car crammed with our belongings, with just enough room for us and Roxy. We spent the first night in Adelaide, then began the journey proper. We needed to make good time to Bunbury so crossed Spencer Gulf in the ferry, and made it to the Nullarbor Road house. Our fears of being whalloped by emus or roos were unfounded, we were disappointed at the lack of wild life… with the exception of many stumpy tailed lizard we scarcely saw a thing. It was a very welcome bed, shower and meal; but not exactly 5 star, and the trucks roared past at irregular intervals. The next morning though was worth it – a dense cold fog with blasting wind surrounded us, creating a wonderfully eery scene. The cliffs were as amazing as promised, falling out of the fog into the crashing sea below. The name Null – arbor rang true, not a tree for mile upon mile, but loads of resilient dry country plants.
12 weary hours of driving later, and we found the first of the west Australian wild flowers blooming on the roadside. Purple, yellows and reds abounded; with many plants creeping along the ground only to reveal fantastic flowers. Banksias, dryandras, hakeas were especially bountiful and beautiful. We stopped about every 100m for Jim to leap out exclaiming superlatives, photograph a plant then delve in his books for the identification. He was a great travelling companion, and kept us entertained, educated and admiring of his botanical knowledge.
We followed this epic with another – from the beautiful coast area of Esperance through the Fitzgerald River National Park and on to Albany. Absolutely fabulous wildflowers made more splendid with Jim’s expertise. The following morning was blowing a gale so we were able to view “The Gap” in truly awesome power. The wind was blowing the already ferocious southern ocean into a gap in granite boulders. It made us a little concerned about coming through similar seas in the Andante.
And then, on to Bunbury through the Stirling Ranges National Park. Perhaps we getting a little jaded, but this didn’t live up to the magic of yesterday. Had we had the value of hindsight… another week traversing this countryside would not have gone amiss… but we thought we had a deadline.
We’ve been restoring our property “Tiabunna” for just over two years from a beautiful, but weed ridden, overgrown and sad place to a rejuvenated wetland and bush sanctuary. We’ve counted 81 species of birds, including 7 of the 12 Tasmanian endemics; with a healthy population of the much maligned Native Hens the property is named after. We have platypus and golden bellied water rats in the lake; potoroos, wallabies, bandicoots, quolls and devils in the bush….
Col has been talking about a boat for a while, and we’ve been searching the internet for something suitable. What we wanted was: steel (because he thinks wood is too leaky, and I hate fibreglass), big-ish (because we love each other, but maybe NOT quite enough to live together in a 20 footer) and a motorsailer ( because he loves big diesel engines, and I don’t… ) because we wanted a wheelhouse and above deck living space.
So we found the Andante 2 on the internet, went to Bunbury and that was it…
Now we have a boat on the other side of Australia, and our adventure begins.
I’ve taken 18 months off work, and we have Donna and Matt looking after Tiabunna.