We pick up our From There to Here story in Esperance, Western Australia. Making landfall in Esperance after the long passage in and across the Great Australian Bight was welcome in many ways. Though the passage across the Bight was challenging, it was also amazing. Now that is was behind us, however, getting back to civilization definitely had its pluses.Read More
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.
We had two objectives heading west to the Walpole Wilderness. One was to see and experience the Treetop Walk. The other, just as important to us, was to visit with friends Maree, Tom and Floyd, a family we'd met when we visited Deal Island in February 2013. They were volunteer caretakers on the island. In a just a few days visiting with them at Deal, we formed a friendship and stayed in touch. They live in Walpole and when we told them we had arrived in Albany, they invited us out for a visit. Maree sent suggestions of several possible stops along the way in addition to the Tree Top Walk and we were excited. Road Trip!!!
We traveled the South Coast Highway and took the scenic route between Albany and Denmark. We stopped at South Coast Wood Works, but they were closed. We'd catch it on the way back, but we appreciated the sculpture of the infamous Ned Kelly, an Irish Australian bushranger. Bushrangers were escaped convicts who had the survival skills to exist in the wild Australian bush. Roughly akin to highwaymen or outlaws, they were sometimes romanticized into Robin Hood types and are the subject of legend and lore in Australia in the same way as characters such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are in the USA.
We stopped in Denmark for morning coffee and a sweet roll. It's a lovely little town with a riverside park and neat little shops and cafes within a block of the main street. We stretched our legs and enjoyed the morning sun then checked out the well-stocked Visitor Info Center for anything we might have missed in Albany.
There are several national parks and reserves in the area and we took little side roads on occasion to explore the coastal areas. William Bay National Park offered Greens Pool, a beautiful, well-protected beach, which despite the cool weather, had lots of visitors.
We also stopped at the Toffee Factory. No toffee making was in progress, but we did get to try the samples. We got a kick out of the little display they had in one paddock of a cyclist who obviously had a run in with a haystack.
We stopped at Peaceful Bay to check it out. It's considered a dicey anchorage and after reconnoitering, we agreed, it was not a place that we'd enjoy anchoring with Nine of Cups, especially with two local fishing boats already moored there.
As we headed closer to Walpole, the forests became thicker and we entered the Valley of Giants and stopped to visit the Tree Top Walk. Rather than return to the highway, we opted to take back roads and approach Walpole from the north. The countryside here is rolling hills and pasture land and farms. Cattle and sheep grazed and except for the eucalypt trees and the occasional kangaroo or emu, it could just as easily have been New Hampshire or Wisconsin, we were driving through.
Maree, Tom and Floyd were waiting for us and gave us a warm welcome. It was drizzling, but who cared? We drank wine, ate, laughed and enjoyed the reunion. They took us to the tiny local yacht club and we had a look at Walpole Inlet. We talked about boats and fishing and Floyd's school and our travels and Tom's work in Romania and Maree's work at the Treetop Walk. There was nary a break in the conversation.
The next morning Maree set me up on their back porch with a cup of tea and my camera. I could see the inlet from the porch and the backyard was teeming with birds. Floyd had his camera and the two of us enjoyed spotting birds and trying to photograph them. In particular, I was looking for a brilliantly blue male superb fairy wren which frequently appeared in the yard. Not today though. I did, however, see a Western rosella
and an Australian ringneck parrot, both very colorful and new ticks on our Australian bird list.
They offered to drive us up to Mount Frankland for a walk in the forest and panoramic views of the surrounding area. A new walkway had just been constructed in the manner of the Treetop Walk and allowed great views with little effort.
Climbing the trail to the top of Mount Frankland required a bit more exertion. The paved path switch-backed and ascended steeply, leading to 300 (David counted 303) stone steps, including two vertical ladders and finally to the bald, granite top of the mount.
Despite the haze, at 422m / 1372', we had quite a view.
On the way back, we stopped at the Thurlby Herb Farm tearooms. There's no way we would have ever found this lovely little place at the end of a dirt road had we not been with our hosts. A little cafe offered coffee and tea and light snacks. An adjoining gift shop offering herbs, handmade soaps and distinctive imported gifts made for interesting exploring. We sat at a table overlooking beautiful flower and herb gardens. While Maree and I explored, David and Tom played a rousing game of Tantrix. The morning was fun and leisurely, but it was time to be heading back to Albany and Nine of Cups.
Maree packed a lunch for us. Tom gave us fresh-caught frozen fish to take home for our dinner. Floyd gave us hugs and we were heading back east along the highway. We stopped at the riverside park in Denmark to enjoy our lunch. Several of the locals dropped by and tugged at our jeans for handouts.
We did manage a quick stop at the South Coast Wood Works Gallery and we're so glad we did. The quality and craftsmanship of some of the pieces was extraordinary … exquisitely intricate and elaborate. This wasn't just wood-turning … it was true artistry.
We sighed in relief as we pulled into the car park back in Emu Point and loaded our stuff into the dinghy. Tired, but happy, we headed home to Cups.
There is probably no kinder or friendlier gesture than to invite someone into your home. Recently, we have had that honor extended to us by Don and Judith and now again by Maree, Tom and Floyd and we feel truly blessed.