Sailing the Rainbow Coast
It seems we haven't been in Albany very long at all, but of course, we have … nine days, in fact. Weather and seasons, however, do not wait for sailors and it's time to get a move-on. The final provisioning is done. Laundry is all caught up (as if). Fuel and propane are all topped off and we returned the car to Don and Judith and said our goodbyes. We're all ready to go. I used the rest of the fish Tom gave us for a passage chowder. We're off! Well not quite … the weather forecast changed overnight from S/SE to SW winds and we delayed our departure a day. Patience, patience, patience.
Finally, in the pale early dawn, with another passage soup waiting on the stove and an updated weather forecast, we slipped the courtesy mooring lines (thank you, Australia Dept of Transport) and glided out of Oyster Harbour, through the narrow channel past Emu Point and back into King George Sound. It was that time of day when everything is church-quiet and nothing but the birds and the early morning fishermen are awake. It always looks so different when we're leaving a port than when we're first arriving. We sailed past a large ship at anchor in the bay and hoisted the mainsail.
With a forecast of S/SE winds we were planning on a good sail. Imagine our surprise when we rounded Bald Head, headed back into the Southern Ocean and NW winds greeted us. We figured it must be some sort of cape effect or a joke on Neptune's part. In fact, it was a joke and soon the wind backed and we had light SW winds pretty much on the nose. We had five, count 'em, FIVE weather reports calling for S/SE winds for the next two days. Ah, well, you get what you get on the sea. We decided we'd motor-sail for awhile. We were all bundled up. I could see my breath. The weather was drizzly, cold and raw …. one of those days when you just can't seem to warm up.
As we passed Sharp Point, we had the loveliest of goodbyes. Don and Judith hailed us on the VHF. They were standing on the point waving a large white blanket, bidding us adieu. God love them … we could barely see being a couple miles offshore and poor visibility, but we knew they were there and every once in awhile we thought we caught a glimpse of the blanket.
We were heading west along the Rainbow Coast, so named because, according to the Albany tourist info, “the angle of the sun in relation to this southern coast of Western Australia is less than 42 degrees above the horizon (particularly as we head into winter).The sun shines out of the north onto the rain that comes off the Southern Ocean... and because of the angle of the sun... you get rainbows throughout the day!” Well, we had the rain and for a moment, we had sun and there was indeed a rainbow, but it was short-lived.
The sun teased us all day, hiding behind big, dark clouds, then suddenly piercing through a tiny patch of blue for a minute or two. The SW swell exacerbated by the wind was up. Long period, 4m/15' swells mixed and short, jerky waves made for queasy stomachs. Though, I must admit, neither of us fed the fish. Perhaps after all these years, we're getting sea legs after all?
With a small change in course and the wind just a bit more southerly, the jib was out and we were sailing, close-hauled and making very slow, but steady, progress. The days are short now and by 6:30 pm, the running lights were on and the long, dark, cold night enveloped us like a shroud. As if to atone for a gray day, the night bloomed into cold magnificence. The clouds lifted and there wasn't room in the sky for even one more star. A bright, waning moon illuminated our path. Biolumes twinkled in our wake and the whole night sparkled.
Early morning clouds took over the sky again … gray, overcast, rain and drizzle and then came the sun and a rainbow appeared.
Rain clouds were all around us. We could see the dark showers, but nary a drop fell on Cups. It was going to be a good day.
Later today … we'll head around one of the world's five great southern capes and enter the Indian Ocean. Stay tuned.
And lest we forget …
It was especially hard to leave Albany. We met so many people and enjoyed their generous hospitality. A big, big thank you to Don and Judith for hot showers, dinners, markets and the loan of their Honda among other things. Thanks to Maree, Tom and Floyd … we so enjoyed meeting up with you again. Your hospitality was over the top. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the boat to say hi, offered help, invitations, information and friendly words.