Private Penguin Parade

Monday 11 March 2019

Grassy Harbour, King Island

The short hop to King Island marked the start of our Bass Strait crossing. Our eyes were now set on our return to Western Port Marina while the weather remained favourable

“Up at six, away by six-thirty”, was the mantra for today and in the darkness of the pre-dawn we went through the well-rehearsed routine … alarm, dressed, kettle, engine, coffee, course, anchor, sails, chart plotter, steering (Doh!!… should have turned OFF the anchor-drift alarm!!) … and away … oh, plus toast with peanut butter and honey.

We managed to fluke the tidal flow north out of the Hope Channel, Hunter Island on our left and Three Hummock Island on our right, with our speed topping 8-9 knots at times.

Pretty soon we were laying a course for King Island, or more specifically, the east coast harbour of Grassy.  To our port lay the small rocky island called Albatross Island, where we suspected many of the graceful birds of the same name we’d been watching, had originated.

John gets into the toast, looking back to Three Hummock Island on our 40 mile hop to King Island as the sun appears for another day
Cold morning sky in Bass Strait … not what you expect for summer
Our rather sad and belated attempt at catching crayfish, crabs, lobster, dumb-fish … anything!?

The wind was still pretty strong, with the advancing swell coming in on our port side, and not on the bow, which was a blessing    

Around lunch time, however, the wind moved more to the west-northwest, causing us to put in a few tacks in order to lay a course for the entrance to the harbour.  With communications restored I called Duncan from the King Island Boat Club, who turned out to be busy on his farm, so he put me onto Russell, a local fisherman and boat club member, who he thought could fix us up for a mooring.

This indeed turned out to be the case and he remembered my previous visit here four years ago, when the mooring I’d been allocated by someone else had actually dragged.   Certainly NOT what you expect from a mooring !

Albatross Island … a lot easier to photograph than the birds themselves, which effortlessly soar around us with barely a sign of effort
Ho hum, another sunrise photograph … as we sit snug in our enclosed cockpit
The entrance to Grassy Harbour requires a bit of concentration as we thread our way past rocks, headlands and breakwaters, making sure to remain on the correct transits
Breaking sea to the starboard side as we enter the harbour

So, after a brief stay on a short anchor in the crowded confines of the harbour, Russell soon had us on a big fishing boat mooring – the same one he arranged for us in 2015 AFTER the earlier one we’d been given had failed.

As it turned out Russell was a very helpful guy.  As was his wife Marie, who kindly drove us the 30 kilometres across the island to Currie the next day so we could pick up a hire car.  (a saving of $100 in a car “drop off” fee!)

After a brief stint on our own anchor, local fisherman Russell arranges a suitable mooring for Chimere
It was a big mooring, capable of holding a boat larger than ours

One rather frustrating thing that occurred on the way up from Hunter Island, was the “Max Deviation” message we received on the Auto Helm.  This had occurred before and resulted in us having to hand steer the boat for extended periods.  Thankfully, each time it DID finally correct itself … and YES, I did turn it OFF, then ON again … several times.  But this time it seemed a more permanent situation that would have to wait for another day.  For now, no amount of button pressing and re-setting would put it right – we’d just have to hand steer the old-fashioned way.

From “working” to “not working” … we certainly came to rely on our autohelm, but we still remembered how to hand steer?!
Whilst the sign pointed to the Penguin Colony down the road, we actually saw more right in front of the Boat Club near the boat ramp
Chimere is just visible in the background … and the little fellows were SO cute
After some initial apprehension and pushing from those coming up the rear it must be said, pretty soon there was nothing stopping the little guys
Coming home to the kids after a long day out at sea
“Hey look guys, there’s a sign with a picture of us on it, maybe we should be crossing down there?!”

After all of the anchoring and mooring activities it was getting late and time for dinner.  Then once the sun had gone down, we made it ashore for the unofficial penguin parade.  This consisted of sitting at the top of the boat ramp, 50 metres off our boat’s stern, and watching the little creatures emerge from the water only to cross the carpark and road to their tunnel-homes in the grassy hill behind.  They were so cute, and you’ve got to respect their stamina, commitment and focus, going out each day for fish, only to bring them back again each night for their babies.

The south west wind was starting to really howl, rain was threatening and it was a great relief to make it back to the warmth of Chimere for an evening hot drink and a secure bunk.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and a Private Penguin Parade

Rob Latimer

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