After month’s of frantic activity organising house, boat, jobs, money schools etc. we finally cast off on New year’s Eve. It was just getting dark and the public fireworks had started in Corio Bay. Motored down to Portarlington in calm conditions and anchored off the jetty. Then up at 3am to motor and then sail down to Queenscliff and The Rip.
Picked the tides perfectly and exited Port Phillip Bay in perfect conditions. However, we knew there was wind coming as there was a strong wind warning for the Central Coast, so we had two reefs in the main and full jib. Perfect sailing down the coast in about 15 knot Westerly gradually increasing to 20.
Then just before we passed Cape Schank we were hit by about 35 knots which caused a few problems getting the jib furled and the main down. The wind gradually eased and settled around 25 knots from behind. Not too comfortable but we were making good speed and were pretty settled thinking this will be OK.
As we passed Phillip Island and sailed towards Cape Liptrap the wind continued to increase till we had a consistent 40 knots plus and big breaking seas.Very scary!! Surfing down waves and as the afternoon wore on taking a number of waves over the transom and into the cockpit. By early evening we were about 30 miles from Rodondo Island at the southern end of Wilson’s Promotory. The wind finally eased but we still had over 25 knots and big seas.
Eventually we rounded the Prom and anchored in Refuge Cove at about 2.30 in the morning. The anchor bit well.
Refuge is a great place and provides excellent shelter, however, in strong winds, bullets rip down from the hills, the boat lurches and pulls at its chain for a minute or so and then its calm again. A bit disconcerting but heaps better than being at sea!
There were quite a few other boats holed up waiting for the weather to change – most trying to go back to Westernport or Port Phillip. Linda, Craig and kids from Hastings on a Bavaria 46. Rob, Murray and crew on INSX, Raz on a big motor cat, and a very wary group of blokes on Rush that had had to abandon their Hobart race due to one of the crew breaking his leg.
Over the next few days a number of other boats came in including too huge motor yachts, Two Angels and Ophelia, who despite their size were also not so keen to battle the big winds and seas. One night Darren and crew on Out to Lunch, a 40 foot cat, arrived. They were heading for Lakes Entrance as soon as the wind dropped enough.
We ended up staying at Refuge for about 5 nights waiting for the strong winds to abate. Great place, fantastic walks ashore, checked out all the boat names we knew that had been left just near the camp ground on Boat Beach. Found Clouseau, my Dad’s old boat from our sail up to Sydney in 1988 for the Bicentenary. Also a heap of other boat names we knew from Geelong. Couldn’t get any mobile reception on my Optus phone but received weather updates from Steve in Torquay via the Sat phone.