Completing the Circle

Sailing across the central section of the Australian Bight in summer almost always involves a lot of beating into the fresh to strong easterlies blowing along the northern side of the semi-permanent high to the south. This is not a pleasant experience. We were fortunate to have a couple of days of reaching, but quite enough beating to make the passage to Port Lincoln one we were glad to put behind us.

Port Lincoln is a major fishing centre, the 'Tuna Capital of Australia'. Tuna here are not so much caught or farmed, as 'ranched'. They are caught in nets out in the Bight and brought carefully back, towed in the nets very slowly, to be deposited in pens and fattened up, thus significantly increasing their original value.

We made several new friends in Port Lincoln, among them Peter and Ann. In return for an after-dinner talk at the local Rotary branch of which he is President, we were given a tour of their farm and had the opportunity to watch the shearing of their merino sheep.


From Port Lincoln we moved through the Islands of the Gulfs of St. Vincent and Spencer to Port Adelaide. We had received conflicting recommendations as to the best Club to visit. In the event, we flipped a coin and ended up at the Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia. This proved an inspired choice. From the moment we motored into its marina we were welcomed with over-whelming hospitality. Unlike many similar large and affluent clubs which we have visited, here officers and members went out of their way to introduce themselves and offer help. The club was conveniently near the train to Adelaide, giving us the opportunity to spend vast sums on a new camera for Vicky and flights to England for a June visit to Tom's Mum, Erika. We rounded off our stay by giving another after-dinner talk and slide show to a large and apparently appreciative audience.




One of the CYCSA members, Bill Lunn, kindly gave us a day-long tour of the surrounding countryside, including picturesque Handhorf, a 19th Century German settlement, as well as the famous Barossa Valley wine region, where the difference between irrigated and drought-stricken land was all too obvious.



Though we are not normally fans of crab, the local Spencer Gulf blue crabs did a good deal to convert us. On the other hand the 41C (105F) heat was not popular, either with us or with 'Sunstone', so we headed south, initially to American River on Kangaroo Island and then through the originally named Backstairs Passage, once again beating our way toward Victoria.



After the heat of Adelaide, Port Fairy's cooler climate and the greenery surrounding its narrow harbour were a delight. The visit also gave us an opportunity to catch up with cruising friends Jack and Heather Williams, who we had last seen in the Vavau Group of Tonga, back in 1999. Though they are now land-bound, they seemed to know every sailor in Port Fairy and were a mine of local information. Jack's remarkable collection of working model planes, all of which he builds himself, is now his continuing passion.



We had originally intended to travel to Ballarat to visit Vicky's cousin, Jill Hurley and husband, John, from Melbourne. However, a careful study of a land map, as opposed to sea-chart, had revealed that a trip from Port Fairy made more sense. In addition, it gave an opportunity to visit geological sights, not something Vicky is easily persuaded to miss, even when one of the Twelve Apostles and half of London Bridge have collapsed into the sea.

It was delightful catching up with Jill and John after six years and our visit to Ballarat also gave us the opportunity to buy a new computer, having found out in Adelaide that a very necessary new screen for our current one would cost the same amount.



Having decided that we would give Melbourne, Geelong and Port Philip a miss this time round, our next stop was Grassy Harbour, King Island. Unfortunately, Grassy, the only reasonable stop for a deep-draft yacht, is on the opposite side of the island from the both the only town, Currie, and the primary point of interest, the famous King Island Dairy cheese factory. In this case, getting there was very much half the fun, with wallabies sharing the road as we hiked along between hitched lifts. One of these was on a tanker, which collects water from a local spring to take water to the cheese factory and the Island's abattoirs. King Island cheese is deservedly famous and we managed an extensive tasting, followed by equally extensive purchases, partly with a view to satisfying our friend, Jeanette's, taste for cheese when we arrived at Port Davey, our next stop.



We had visited Port Davey during our Tasmanian cruise in 2001. Though we had gone on to Melbourne thereafter, we had then begun our long trek eastwards. About 50,000 miles and six years later, on 4 March 2007, we were making our return and thus as we approached Breaksea Island at early breakfast time, with the sun rising and a full moon setting (behind the clouds), we crossed our westward track and completed a circumnavigation. When we left England nearly ten years and over 80,000 miles before, we had no intention of circling the world. However, these things happen - even in the best-regulated households!


Jeanette and Jim on their beautiful Tripp cutter, 'Dancer', were some of our earliest cruising friends, first met at Christmas 1997 in Man o' War Bay, Tobago. It was most appropriate that they should be in Port Davey to help us celebrate - particularly since we could help them reduce their considerable supplies of local crayfish and home-brewed beer.


Oldies, but goodies - the boats that is! 'Sunstone' and 'Dancer' are of similar age and style, though 'Dancer' is much larger, at 55' and built of aluminium. Both have stood the test of time and miles.





Climbs of both Mt. Beattie and the more challenging Mt. Misery gave us wonderful views of the stunning scenery of Bathurst Harbour and Port Davey in perfect late summer weather.





Heading back to the East Coast of Tasmania gave us the opportunity to view (and photograph for the record) Southwest Cape, the one of the five great southern capes which we had previously rounded in darkness.

In conditions unusually calm for this stormy area in the Roaring Forties we could also enjoy the stark scenery of the wild south coast, which is part of the Southwest National Park and World Heritage Area.




10 March saw us back in Coalbins Bay in Recherche (locally pronounced 'research') at the southern end of Vicky's Channel, where we could visit yet another of her hero's ports of call.