Refuge Cove, Wilsons Prom. VIC


Tuesday 7 November 2017


The wind comes in sustained gusts, vibrating the rigging and rattling whatever it can find on deck to rattle; shackles, clips, hand rails and halyards.  All comforting sounds as we soak in the blissful stillness of this most aptly-named piece of Victorian coastline – Refuge Cove.  Not in an easterly wind to be sure, but today, and from mid-afternoon yesterday, it has been blowing from the south west, and at those time, this is most certainly the place to be.

Like most things, it could have been worse, but still, 25-35 knots, with building seas over a long fetch are things we try to avoid – particularly when they are coming from where we actually want to go.  

Thanks to the wonderful weather forecasting from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) – and I mean that most sincerely – and the ability to receive their regular updates via my iPhone, (even miles offshore) we were able to track a more southerly course from Gabo Island, (at the southern tip of the NSW coast and the entrance to Bass Strait)  in order to have just enough sea-room to aim north towards Wilson’s Promontory as the worse of the change arrived.  Certainly not what you’d call a “great-circle” route, but in the end a prudent move because with nowhere to hide the last thing we wanted to do was tack our way to the day’s finishing line. 

When I say finishing line, more correctly – and to continue with the racing theme, this being Melbourne Cup Day an’ all – we are actually well down the home straight, just a few short furlongs (what’s a furlong anyway?) from the tape.  If all goes to plan, mid-morning tomorrow we will reach the entrance to Westernport Bay, just as the tide turns so as to take the “flood” all the way up to Westernport Marina, Hastings; ETA around 1:00-2:00pm tomorrow afternoon.

So tonight will actually be Chimere’s last night at sea.  Tomorrow her six month mission, which saw us depart Westernport on the night of Monday 15 May, will come to an end. 

As comfortable as it is here in Refuge Cove, in a few hours’ time, when the wind outside the bay has hopefully abated somewhat, we plan to sail the short distance down the east coast of the Prom, around the bottom (that’ll be the lumpy part) then up the west side, gaining shelter from the rocky, off-lying islands to Great Glennie Island.  Here we’ll drop the anchor till around 10:00 o’clock tonight, at which time we’ll set a final course for the Westernport entrance. 

According to BOM, the southwesterly will remain dominant, but of lesser strength, making for a gentle romp to the finish.  Maybe that’s a bit aspirational, but in the end most sailors are optimists?!  

Chimere’s crew – the “gang of four”, comprising Edith & Bruce – parents of Cathy West (MSM’s “Miss Capability 2013”, who returned again this year as a volunteer nurse on Mission 4) Ray Clark and myself.  Each of us with such different backgrounds, yet each working together with enthusiasm to do what has needed to be done. 

At times maybe “enthusiasm” is slightly over-stating things, there have definitely been the quieter, more reflective moments – 3am watch-changes to name just one – but with Edith and Bruce mostly commanding the galley our stomachs and morale have been nurtured, to be sure!

When some of Chimere’s bits have broken, stopped working, or needed adjusting – Ray’s thoughtful analysis has been invaluable.  Closely followed, it must be said, by Bruce’s musing about possible solutions, or feasible “work-arounds”.  My familiarity with Chimere’s ways and moods, built up over the past 11 years, is obviously of assistance as I generally contribute to the deliberations with words like … “well the last time this happened we …”

Take yesterday for example.  After 10 minutes of flawless operation, the generator suddenly stopped.  Not even a splutter, just ground to a halt, leaving a red light glowing on the panel – strange.  At almost exactly the same time we turned on the pump to lift fuel to the “day-tank” from the storage tanks below deck.  At least we’ll top up the tank while we consider the generator problem.   And after a couple of minutes the pump just stopped, nothing – even stranger.

Knowing that bad things generally come in threes, I was immediately wary of what was to come … but maybe past experience has just been a stream of amazing coincidences.

Then there was the bilge pump “incident” two days ago. (Oh, maybe that gives me my “three bad things”)  I think everyone knows that bilge pumps are supposed to pump water OUT of a boat.  Not that water should ever really flow into a boat in the first place, but given the number of holes (all with taps on them mind) through the hull it’s probably surprising the sea doesn’t find a way in more often.  Anyway, we were sailing along, sunny sky, smiles all round, when the bilge alarm sounds.  (gee I’m glad I had that installed all those years ago) Naturally, I lift the floor panel, revealing water a foot deep (about 30 cm for you young-folk) where it shouldn’t be, the bilge pump surrounded by bubbles doing its best to keep up. 

Closer inspection revealed that instead of ONLY pumping water out, this particular bilge pump was allowing water to  flow back IN – but only when we were on a starboard tack and the port outlet was under water; something amiss with the one-way valve, or outlet-hose presumably.

The problem was quickly fixed using our portable submersible pump (housed in a box on deck –  oh that beautiful pump) plus a wooden plug (kept handy for such a situation as this) which was jammed into the hose once it was cut off the bilge pump itself.

Rather than simply share these “other joys” of life at sea and of owning a boat, my point in mentioning the generator, fuel and bilge pumps is to say that Ray and Bruce were good men to have around – reaching for the tool kit, lifting floor panels and probing with the multi-meter like their life depended on it; perhaps a bad analogy there.

Whilst the bilge pump is just a temporary fix, the fuel pump and generator were quickly repaired, by adding more coolant (I’m ashamed to admit) in the case of the generator and re-attaching a loose wire and replacing a connector in the case of the fuel pump.  All done with plenty of time to watch a late-night movie – Tanna – at the on-board MSM-DVD saloon-class cinema.

After arriving here yesterday around 4:00pm, having lunch (admittedly a late lunch), and launching the dinghy we were excited by the sight of a breaching whale, way out to sea beyond the entrance.  This naturally drew us out of the bay in the dinghy rather than towards the beach as initially planned.  Not too far out to sea, but far enough to see a repeated display of maybe three whales bashing their tales down onto the water lifting spray in all directions.  Every now and then a whale would still breach, up into the air, its white belly glistening in the late afternoon sun, landing with an almighty splash.  It was truly an awesome display, but eventually we needed to return to the beach.

Breakfast is now in full swing, the sun is out, it’s still amazingly calm, and pretty soon we will go ashore for a climb up a nearby hill where internet and phone reception can be found.  After all, it must be simply, positively, hours since I was able to check my texts, emails and look up the latest weather forecast.

Then it’ll be time to up-anchor (after lifting the dinghy back on deck of course) and head around the other side of the Prom in readiness for our last-night-at-sea and the finishing line for Chimere’s involvement in MSM Vanuatu Mission 2017

Smooth seas, fair breeze and one more sleep and Chimere is home

Rob Latimer

PS  Just checked the weather forecast … still blowing 20-30kts at the Prom lighthouse, (Southeast Cape) and gusted up to 51 kts last night I see from the observations.  It’s still expected to calm down later today and in the day ahead.