The Great Australian Bight


Having fully recovered from both our long passage to Australia and the Christmas celebrations, we began our next long trek south and east. Fortunately this time the journey was well punctuated with pleasant stops. The first being at Quindalup, a pretty, but very crowded anchorage near Cape Naturaliste.


Western Australia is full of S&S34 owners, among whom are Russell and Deb, who we met at Quindalup. In an unfair trade, they kindly drove us around the area, while picking our brains for cruising tips. We visited the pretty Margaret River wine country, a eucalyptus forest and reconnoitered the last of our five great southern capes, Leeuwin, from the land side.


As so often in the past, we managed to find a very pleasant weather window for the rounding of Cape Leeuwin itself, thus ticking off yet another minor accomplishment in our cruising inventory of 'been there, done thats'. Unfortunately, despite the benign weather, the reefs that surround the Cape kept us well offshore, frustrating Vicky's photographic instincts.

Our first stop on the South Coast was Albany, where we found a quiet berth at the Princess Royal Sailing Club. From there it was an energetic bike to the town across the 'Sydney Harper Bridge' (ho-ho), to see the 'Amity', a reconstruction of the original colonists' ship, and to the excellent whaling museum at the former whaling station at Frenchman Bay.

Also on Vicky's agenda was yet another un-missable opportunity to visit a site, in this case a national park and headland, associated with her name-sake hero, Bruni d'Entrecasteaux.

The 500 kilometre round trip also took in a tree top walk and an under-tree walk through the tingle trees in the 'Valley of the Giants'.

The whole area was full of reminders of Bruni, as he obligingly named salient spots for his ships (repeatedly) and various of his officers.




One of the ships was 'Esperance', the name now of our next stop. Despite the daily traffic of huge bulk carriers destined for China loaded with chunks of Australia, the harbour and town were surprisingly pleasant and the Yacht Club very welcoming. So much so, that we gave a slide show and talk at short notice to a lively, interested audience, after the Club's racing on a Saturday evening.


Having practiced our biking in Albany, we set off on a more ambitious tour at Esperance, where we managed a 40 km circuit taking in the beautiful coastline overlooking many of the Recherche (another of Bruni's ships) Archipelago islands offshore. We also got a closer look at the huge wind turbines which dot the south coast, contributing somewhat to Australia's slowly increasing commitment to alternative energy sources. We had already seen the three-master 'Leeuwin' in both Fremantle and Albany and she obligingly turned up in Esperance as well.


A brief stop at Two Peoples' Bay was followed by a day at Waychinicup. The huge boulders around the entrance here were daunting enough to make us swallow hard, but in fact there was no bar, so it was easier than some rivers, while inside was a protected and pretty anchorage.



Our final sight of the 'Leeuwin' with her trainee crew was at Lucky Bay before our stop at Middle Island, which despite its name is toward the eastern end of the Recherche Archipelago.



Our visit to Middle Island was the scenic highlight of our cruise of the southwestern coast. We hiked to the top of Flinders Peak, which gave us a panoramic view not only of the island with its pink lake, but also of the whole area, with Cape Arid to the North and the Archipelago stretched out on all sides. Sadly our hike took us through areas of the island which had been turned into a charcoal waste by a recent bush fire. The up-side was that this made finding our way a good deal easier than it might have been through the more impenetrable bush that survived the fire.

Middle Island was our point of departure for the thrash across the central section of the Bight. The coast is pretty inhospitable and has anchorages only thought suitable by some of the Aussie cruisers we met, who seem to consider any open, exposed, rolly roadstead to be a nice spot for a kip.