There and back again

Monday 25 February 2019

The Pigsties, Recherche Bay

The day’s adventure began still, warm and calm, enabling us to briefly enter the Rocky Boat Harbour before returning to Recherche Bay where we sheltered for two days.

It was a blissfully calm night at Mickey’s Bay, with phosphorescence in the water and red sparks occasionally visible amongst the trees ashore.  The phosphorescence occurs when it’s dark and the conditions are just right, the sparks were from what remained of the fire on Mickey’s Point a week ago. 

A still anchorage is always a blessing

After spying smoke rising from the tree canopy as we entered the bay last night, we were initially very concerned – should be call Triple-O? But then we saw a vehicle driving amongst the trees and figured it must have been continuing mopping up operations. 

With sails up, we were soon away, down to the southern end of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, past Recherche Bay on the starboard side and out into the open ocean. 

Taking advantage of the mirror-calm conditions our path took as close-by the many headlands and bays that make up the south west coastline, all the while speculating as to how each location might serve as a anchorage-retreat at times of fierce weather … very poorly if from the wrong direction!

Heading south out of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and into the Southern Ocean
Very calm rounding Whale Head
It could not get any calmer – very unusual for this part of the world
Isabel has a go at the helm

Location names included … Mouldy Hole, Whale Head, South East Cape, South Cape, Shoemaker Bay, Surprise Bay and the very-true-to-label Rocky Boat Harbour … just behind Chicken Island and Hen Island.  

This region is known for its extreme weather, but today was something most unusual – still, calm, sunny and even warm.  All the reasons why we were here and not sheltering back around at Recherche Bay waiting for a suitable “weather window”.  This WAS the weather window, and we were grabbing the opportunity to scramble through.

But we knew a change was on the way, sometime later in the day, and made a point of getting away around 6:30am so as to have as much time as possible to both explore and make alternative plans – if necessary.

Our planned anchorage for the night was to be Louisa Bay.  Described as a relatively snug anchorage, behind Louisa Island, with only mutton birds and penguins for company.  To get there we would, however, first need to sail past Deadmans Bay and Lousy Bay, which sit in the vicinity of the Maatsuyker Group and De Witt Island.

But for now, a lunch stop was on our agenda and by 1:00pm we were starting to explore the Rocky Boat Harbour – or at least the bay in which the Rocky Boat Harbour was located. 

The weather had remained calm and it was hard to think of a more beautiful, more absolutely perfect day, on which to attempt the narrow entrance between the rocky outcrops and past the kelp-beds, in order to locate the sandy bottom in 5 metres of water, within the “harbour”.

So it was that we entered, and anchored in, Rocky Boat Harbour.  It was here that John, Isabel, Jacqui and I also donned flippers and snorkels in order to splash around in the still, green … and surprisingly warm … waters.  John found a suitable sized abalone … which he and Isabel prepared as an entrée for dinner.  (very delicious it was too – after much tenderising with the stilson wrench)

Ray stayed on “shark watch”while the rest of us went for a swim
The still green-ness of the Rocky Boat Harbour
The rocks and stones of the small harbour passed as a “beach” … an English beach.
After an hour of bliss, the ripples on the water showed evidence of the change to come
True to label Rocky Boat Harbour … it was rocky, we had a boat and it was a sort of a harbour
After a swim and some lunch it was time to go ashore

After a swim and some lunch, plus a quick zoom ashore (less than 100 metres off the back deck) it became apparent that the weather was about to change.  In fact it was changing before our eyes, with the south-west change beginning to blow harder accompanied by ripples on the water that would soon become whitecaps.

“I think it’s time to leave” … was the consensus view, with our return to Chimere soon followed by the starting of the motor, the hoisting of the dinghy onto the davits and a lifting of the side ladder.  The 20 metres of anchor chain were retrieved in quick-time and with John, Ray, Isabel and Jacqui on the boat giving directions, we quickly retraced our inward path and were motoring out of the bay.

It was less than 20 minutes after we first detected the wind change and already the seas had built, with spray covering the deck as we beat into the elements.  In the lee of Hen Island we hoisted a double reefed main, and soon after a small jib with our intention being to push up the coast and the night’s destination.

The chart plotter shows our track into and out of the Rocky Boat Harbour

In weighing up our options and desire for comfort, both at sea and also at anchor, it soon became apparent that a return to the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and the enclosed protection of Recherche Bay, would be the most prudent thing. 

The change of direction – back from where we’d come – brought instant bliss – from pounding into the wind and seas doing no more than 5 knots one minute, to a calm, stable 7-8 knots the next.  Just from steering away from the wind and setting a new course back from where we’d come.

The chart plotter shows our track out of the
D’Entrecasteaux Channel, in and out of several bays along the southwest coast, then back again to Recherche Bay for the night

Three house later, after enjoying two afternoon teas, and a romping ride before the increasing swell, we were dropping anchor in the tranquil, forested surrounds of the strangely named “The Pigsties” … in Recherche Bay.  The contrast could not have been more stark. We look forward to discovering how this little corner of the large bay got it’s name.

It was a brisk return, with the wind up our tails
Jacqui models on the foredeck as we race along before the sea and wind under heavily reefed sails
Rounding South East Cape things began to settle down

After a welcome-beer on arrival, I enjoyed a power nap, Ray did some fishing, John prepared the abalone and Isabel and Jacqui whipped up another amazing dinner involving noodles, chicken, a magic sauce and some other green bits, oh and some celery … that was delicious.

After the initial stillness, the wind arrived after less than an hour , along with a very light misty drizzle … mizzle perhaps?  The sea remains flat but the sound of the wind in the rigging is unmistakable, along with the whirr of the wind generator out back.

With the wind expected to remain from a south westerly direction over the next two days, our revised plan is to relax here tomorrow, and even explore the “French Gardens” ashore … planted in 1792 by early explorers.  I should mention that when I say French Gardens, it’s archaeological relics and low walled structure we’re talking about here … nothing to do with manicured lawns and trimmed hedges in front of an elegant palace.

For now, it’s time to sleep and “recharge the batteries”

Smooth seas, fair breeze and there and back again

Rob Latimer


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