An Escort to Waldegrave Island

sir isaac to waldegrave  

Up before dawn after a restless night. The anchorage was fine, but the anchor alarm woke us twice as the wind shifted E to S to E again. The wind howled most of the night 25 knots. It just didn't make for good sleeping.




A bright sun popped up over the hazy mainland hills as gannets and sooties worked hard for their breakfast.


sooty shearwaters


The forecast for 20-30 knot winds S/SE was delayed due to miscommunication between the wind gods and the Aussie Bureau of Meteorology. We were expecting a brisk downwind sail, instead we moped along in 3-5 knot winds until frustration got the better of us and we turned on the engine.

The dolphins were back … a huge pod of them … 20 – 30, maybe more. The word must have gotten out that we really enjoy their company because they came in from all directions for some high energy play. They left after about an hour, but within a few minutes more showed up. We had an escort all the way to Waldegrave Island and then it was evidently time to go home because they all disappeared.

dolphins from everywhere


The wind picked up by late morning and increased and increased until we had our “brisk” downwind sail. The Southern Ocean swell built until we had 10'+ (3m+) following waves. We were flying along at 7+ knots with just the jib. A quick 65 miles and we ducked behind a fish farm on the north side of Waldegrave Island where the water was calm, but the wind still howled at 30+ knots. Enough for today. We need to recoup and regroup and head out early tomorrow.


fish farm marker

Dolphin Ballet

dolphin ballete  

Finally … some easterly winds to take us further west in the Bass Strait. Our next port of call is King Island, known as KI to the locals. We planned an overnight passage to cover the ~160 nm. The forecast called for light easterlies to start, increasing to 15 kts towards afternoon. Hmm...we'd fallen for this type of forecast recently and it didn't work out as planned. There's always a quandary. If we leave early enough to make it by nightfall the next day, the winds will not have picked up enough to sail all the way. If we waited until later in the day, we'd arrive at night...not a prudent prospect for making our first foray into the reef-lined entrance to Grassy Harbour. King Island is the best known graveyard for ships in all of Australia. Hmm...let's contemplate that fact. If we waited until the following day, there was a chance we'd miss our window altogether. We left around 0900 and hoped for the best.


sunset sailors delight


The day was spent holding on. We motored for awhile and then the easterlies finally arrived and so did the swell. The sunset was a fire-in-the-sky blaze that bode well for the rest of the passage (Red sky at night...sailor's delight). Though rolly to the point that neither of us could sleep a wink, it turned out to be a good passage.


nike swoosh moon


The night was clear and crisp. Millions of Milky Way stars danced in the ink black sky. A yellow half moon played tricks in the brilliant, now a shady silhouette. I tried to take photos, but the best I managed on a rolly boat at night was a Nike swoosh!

The night was spent alternately trying in vain to sleep on our off-watches scrunched into the lee cloths on the settee or holding on in the cockpit while watching out for the fast-moving Bass Strait ferry and well-lit oil rigs. Despite the roll, the weather was mild and being topside was quite pleasant.




Day broke and a thick gray wall of clouds stretched from sky to sea in the east and slowly receded like a heavy coverlet slipping off a bed. Shafts of sunlight cut through the thick blanket and were reminiscent of Hollywood movie aliens trying to beam people up from their boats. A pale blue, cloud-studded sky tinged with peaches and pinks appeared and promised a fine day ahead and so it was.


more dolphins


We spotted a pod of dolphins in the distance and they migrated toward us. Dolphins are always good luck for sailors, so we were glad when they stopped by. You don't even have to see them; you hear them first … a distinctive breath sound that we've come to recognize. Three or four of them greeted us by the cockpit, then swam by. Another three or four joined them and started swimming in the bow wake. Then more dolphins appeared … and more. We'd never seen quite so many all at one time, diving, surfing down waves, swimming under the boat, beside us, in front of us, behind us.


dolphin blowing


I was beside myself. I started photographing, but they were everywhere, all jumping and frolicking and apparently intent on giving us a good show. I hung over the bow and over the rails, clicking away into the clear blue water, then finally gave up with the camera and just enjoyed their presence. For over an hour, they swam with us.




After 13 years at sea, this is one of the many pleasures that always excite. Not to mention all that good luck.


Days and Ways to Celebrate
A daily list of mostly obscure holidays and fun ways to celebrate them.
Peppermint Patty Day
Have a refreshing York's peppermint patty.
White T-shirt Day
Honoring men and women who participated in a sitdown strike at General Motors in 1937. These autoworkers helped the United Auto Workers (UAW) union to become the sole bargaining agent for General Motors autoworkers. The strike ended on this day in 1937. Wear a white t-shirt, but do not get peppermint patty all over it.