We left off our saga in the spring of 2013 with Nine of Cups in Adelaide, South Australia and the crew in Boston. 2013 was a tough year for us. Marcie’s mom was still recuperating and would henceforth require constant, live-in care. Our daughter, Casey, died suddenly in May and left us with broken hearts and spirits. The year dragged on and on with untold personal obstacles and we relied heavily on each other to get through the bad times. By year end, with plans in place for Bea's care, we decided it was time to return to Cups. David left first and I joined him in January 2014.
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I’d left so abruptly when we first arrived in Adelaide the year before that we’d never had time to explore the city nor any of Southern Australia and we welcomed the opportunity. There were still boat chores to attend to and passages to plan, but the local sights kept us very entertained. Adelaide turned out to be a gem of a city.
Serendipitously, we’d met an Aussie couple from Adelaide while in Fiji in 2011 and we’d stayed in contact with them. We connected with Pauline and Denys once we were settled again on Nine of Cups and voilá… instant, hospitable local hosts! They whisked us away to visit wineries, explore parks, tour the countryside and gardens and brought us home for overnight stays, laundry and BBQs with friends.
But the clock was a’ticking and we needed to begin our passage west while the season permitted. We planned mostly day trips from Adelaide and sailed from scenic anchorage to anchorage ... Kangaroo Island (where we saw nary a roo), West Cape and then to Port Lincoln, where we lingered a few days. Once again, we were hosted by new friends, Jo & Philip.
We were planning our passage across the Great Australian Bight which by all accounts can be a treacherous, difficult trip. It was in Port Lincoln that we happened to meet up with a fisherman who’d worked the Bight for years. It was he who suggested that we “embrace” the Bight, not get across it as quickly as possible. He provided rough drawn charts and waypoints for snuggling in behind protective sand bars and we considered his advice as we maneuvered our way via several overnight anchorages to Streaky Bay, an excellent jumping off point for the Bight crossing.
Streaky Bay to this day elicits fond memories. There were three Aussie cruising boats at anchor in the bay that had just crossed the Bight from west to east and had a tough time of it. We enjoyed their company, explored the little town and had what has come to be one of the most enjoyable, memorable, delicious dinners in Australia and perhaps, ever.
Leaving the calm, protected waters of Streaky Bay filled us with more than a little angst, especially not knowing what lay ahead for us in the Bight. We had plotted a course that would take us well into the Bight with stops every couple of days in off-the-beaten track anchorages. It turned out that the first leg of our passage to St. Francis Island was the worst part of the whole trip. We experienced roll clouds (a previously unknown phenomenon to us), the clew was yanked out of our foresail, the anchorage was iffy and the wind howled relentlessly. We survived and wondered what else we could expect on this passage.
Neptune had already had his fun evidently, because the rest of the passage required much less adrenaline. We hunkered down behind a sand bar in Eucla and walked the three miles into "town", just a roadhouse, but very welcoming.
While at the roadhouse, another fisherman shared his charts and waypoints and persuaded us to stop at the Eyre Bird Observatory.
The highlight, however, was our stay at hard-to-find, out of the way Daw Island where we- mingled with sea lions and sea birds and enjoyed the pristine nature of this tiny, uninhabited island.
We were out of the Bight now and into the Recherche Archipelago. Again, day hops were possible and we made the most of isolated anchorages where early explorers and even pirates had sought refuge centuries before us.
With the Bight behind us, we relaxed a bit and made passage back to civilization and the delightful little town of Esperance, Western Australia. Once again, friends of friends, were there to greet us with a free yacht club mooring, use of a car and lots of camaraderie. We’ll continue our travels through Western Australia in the next installment of From Here to There.
Read Marcie’s article “Taking a Bite Out of the Bight” which was previously published in Ocean Navigator magazine and Australia’s premiere sailing magazine, Cruising Helmsman.