Albatross Island, December 1999
The trip started on Boxing Day, and after I got home quite a few people said that obviously I wouldn’t have got to Albatross Island because the weather had been so bad. Admittedly most of the fleets in the two yacht races that left Melbourne were decimated - only one yacht finished the Melbourne to Hobart Race - the West Coaster. And more than half the fleet pulled out of the Melbourne to Devonport race.
Even the Sydney - Hobart race, despite breaking the old record by a day or so, was struck by southerly gales down the east coast of Tasmania, and had many retirements. Sitting on Three Hummock Island for a couple of nights we heard that the Devil Cat, the big fast Bass Strait ferry, had to cancel a trip - a bit of a coincidence because during my last visit out here in September, the Cat cancelled all sailing’s for three days.
However, I have always maintained (at some length) that the forecasts can rarely be relied on - and this was the case this time. Despite a gloomy forecast for the next 4 days, Wednesday 29 December had all the signs of being a good day. The gale force winds of yesterday were dying away to nothing, and the seas were dropping off very quickly as a result.
Paddling out towards Cape Keraudren I mentally went over all the reasons that made me feel this was the perfect day to do so. First of all the visual look at the Cape from the windsock on Three Hummock Island had been very reassuring - there was NOTHING big out there. The next was all the information I’d got from the radio. There were three ocean yacht races going on, and we were constantly getting reports from all three of them. That morning the commentator from Devonport had said there were 3 yachts just 4 miles off Devonport, but they would probably take 3 hours to finish because they were becalmed - becalmed in Bass Strait!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.
The next was the on-air talk from the weather bureau, where he predicted fresh southerlies, but also mentioned that the barometer had risen fairly quickly and that he was surprised it had done so. This obviously indicated a HIGH moving in quickly, as already indicated by yachts becalmed in Bass Strait. If this surprised him, then maybe his forecasts were already out of date. And in fact there was barely enough wind to make it worth while sailing, and before I got to Albatross Island I took the back sail down because it was flopping around so much. The other interesting fact on the radio was that the Devil Cat was going to do three crossings of Bass Strait in about 18 hours, to catch up with the cancelled trip the day before. If they were going to leave Melbourne at 7.00am, go to Devonport, and then back to Melbourne for a 10.00pm start it must mean that Bass Strait was going to be pretty flat.
And so it was. Landing and launching were actually slightly easier than the day last year when Sue and I went out there. I’d left an hour and a half before slack water, so had that time with the current taking me out towards Albatross Island, and meant that I had a full 6 hours to get back round Cape Keraudren without having to fight any current. I was on Albatross Island at 11.30am, left at 12 noon, and used the current to take me back across to Cape Keraudren, and then down Hunter Island towards Shepherds Bay, and then Cave Bay. High tide in Robbins Passage was about 7.00pm - a nice time to finish if I could make it. A bit of a southerly came in as I was on my way south, but nothing to speak of. The sail across to Kangaroo Island in the dying wind and the hot late afternoon sun was bloody marvellous, and I was able to cut in very close to Kangaroo Island due to arriving there right at high tide. About 8.00pm I paddled right up to the gateway where the cars were, and drove back to Triabunna - dropping Bob’s camera off on the way, I had finished the film off on Albatross Island for him.
The last day, from Three Hummock Island out to Albatross Island and
back to Robbins Passage was 73km, and then I had a 5 hour drive home -
maybe there’s life in this decrepit geriatric yet???????
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