Cruising to the Gippsland Lakes and joining a Rally
Stage I - The Planning
We heard from our H28 representative at Paynesville, Gippsland Lakes, that the locals were planning a classic boat rally. Rod Fuller, an H28 Association Committee member, had a ‘brain wave’ and suggested to the Committee that we should get some boats together, cruise in company to the Gippsland Lakes and participate in this Rally. That’s how it all started. The planning began during 2015. To measure the interest an outline cruise plan was prepared and publicised on the H28 Association website. A presentation was also made to the HBYC Cruising group. Antares and Kashmir showed interest as well as some H28s from Geelong.
Stage 2 – The Cruise to the Gippsland Lakes
Antares set off on the Monday 22 February 2016 making most of a favourable northerly. By Wednesday the items on the Shamrock cruise preparation list were all but completed. As the last items were stowed onboard, Shamrock gently rocked in her pen at HBYC sitting lower in the water under the weight of all the provisions and the inflatable dinghy. The skipper Rod Fuller and crew Brian and Terry made their farewells to partners and friends. Mooring lines were cast off and we were bound for Portarlington, our first port of call. Kashmir decided to follow the day after and meet us in Queenscliff. There we joined 3 other H28s from Geelong, however, their plan was to only go to Westernport Bay and Deal Island. Kashmir departed Queenscliff early Friday morning while Shamrock followed later in the daylight coinciding with the afternoon slack water time at the Rip. Antares had a great sail and was waiting for us in San Remo, Phillip Island.
Our original plan was to make Cleeland Bight, Phillip Island our first stop however the wind freshened and we continued on a course to the Glennies, Wilsons Promontory and Refuge Cove. During the evening the wind waxed and waned so the ‘iron headsail’ was called into action to sustain our speed at 4 kts. Kashmir in the meantime was making good progress on their course to Deal Island. Shamrock arrived at Refuge Cove soon after midday on Saturday. After setting anchor skipper and crew relished this sheltered spot consuming some good meals, wine and catching up on sleep.
A close watch on the next few days weather forecast drove our decision to depart the next morning. As we were preparing for departure the very experienced lone sailor arrived at the Cove. Bob Laughlan was having some problems and decided not to continue to the Lakes. So Shamrock set sail for Lakes Entrance and enjoyed a long spell on a beam reach; passing Clffy Island and a few oil and gas production platforms well off to the south of our rhumbline. The wind died in the evening as we finished dinner and settled in for a night of the inevitable Bass Strait seas pitching, rolling and yawing the boat. Well before dawn we sighted the Lakes Entrance channel lights. This is when the local experience of crew member Terry was invaluable. He acted as our pilot, picking up the leads at the entrance then guiding us in before sunrise. Once there we tied up at the Flagstaff jetty, had breakfast and caught up on some sleep. Kashmir arrived soon after.
After lunch the gentle easterly was too tempting to ignore. We eased off our mooring lines and set off down the Reeves channel. Carefully we followed the channel markers to avoid running aground and on to Bancroft Bay. There we found an ideal place to berth right in front of the Metung Hotel. A perfect spot for a night’s stay.
The wind gods were still looking favourably on us the next day as a light easterly carried us further west into Lake King along the northern side of Raymond Island. We entered McMillan Strait and made our way to Terry’s idyllic canal frontage home in Paynesville. We moored at his neighbour’s jetty.
We had made good time on the passage arriving in Paynesville on Tuesday 1st March, seven days after leaving HBYC.
Plenty of time to rest and cleanup Shamrock so that she was presentable for the inaugural Paynesville Classic.
Meanwhile Kashmir had found a suitable berth on the Raymond Island side of McMillan Strait. Skipper and crew headed for Bairnsdale as they needed to catch a bus and train back to Melbourne.
Stage 3 – The Paynesville Classic Boat Rally
The Rally began Friday afternoon when we took up our allocated berths at the Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club marina. Friday night was the welcome drinks and briefing on the program for the next two days.
Our partners from Adelaide and Melbourne, as well as Dean Langford and his son Peter, drove down to Paynesville to join us for the weekend.
By Saturday morning there were over 140 boats, comprising classic yachts, motor cruisers of all types and sizes including a WWII PT boat; several dinghies, power boats, ski boats and even model yachts which made up the land based display.
The most unusual water craft was a wrought iron Paynesville “Shed” mounted on a pontoon and broadcasting music and commentary. All on water participants had an entrant number to display on the port side of the boat. This number was the intended order in which we would motor/ sail down McMillan Strait for the morning sail past. All boats mingled in the Newlands Arm ready for the sail past but getting all under way and in number order was as always a tall order for over 100 boats. Eventually someone ….maybe boat No.1, headed for the Strait and we all shuffled into some order proceeding into and down the Strait. The Commentator used the number displayed on each boat to rattle off some relevant particulars on each craft as they passed by the yacht club marina and Paynesville jetty.
After the sail past it was back to our allocated berth to put our craft on display and answer the questions of some interested spectators.
In the evening the H28s gathered at the Asian restaurant at the Paynesville Cruiser Club. After dinner some found their way to the Yacht Club to put in an appearance at the maritime dance. We then adjourned to Terry and Pauline’s place to join the crowd and enjoy their hospitality On Sunday a race was planned. The breeze was very light and flukey as many tried their best to position their craft in MacMillan Strait north of the Raymond Island Ferry. Eventually the ferry positioned itself midstream and the race starter let off a flair to indicate the start. The fleet drifted down the Strait and out into Lake Victoria, making their way round a mark then back to the Strait to the finish line. Terry’s H28 Thetis was well placed to take out a position in the results. After the race Shamrock dropped Dean and son Peter off at the Paynesville jetty, then made her way round to Terry’s place on the canal.
H28 Row at the Rally
The Paynesville "Shed"
At the Rally Start
Classics at the Rally
H28 Shamrock under jib and mizzen
Stage 4 – The Cruise back to Port Phillip Bay
We spent a day re provisioning the boat and evening relaxing in the balmy conditions at Paynesville. My crew for the return trip were Terry and Michael. Michael knew the boat well having sailed with us many times including our trip to Hobart in 2009. Terry and his wife Pauline were expecting overseas visitors mid March. So we did not hang around Paynesville much longer. The next day we bid our farewells, cast off and set sail for Lakes Entrance. The lack of breeze however meant it was motoring or motor sailing all morning stopping at Nungerner. There we picked up a public mooring and had lunch.
Our hunger having been satisfied, we resumed our passage along the Reeves Channel and round the corner into Lakes Entrance. The public floating marina provided a good berth within easy walking distance to the shops, public toilets and cold but refreshing showers. A check of the weather forecast indicated unfavourable conditions at the Lakes Entrance bar the next morning. So it was decided to have a lay day and wait until the following morning. The prospect of cold beer and local fish and chips for dinner helped this decision.
Slack water at the Entrance bar coincided with sunrise the next morning and conditions were calm enough for our passage out into Bass Strait. We set our course for Cliffy Island following the reciprocal of our sail to the Lakes. We settled in for an anticipated 20 hour passage to Refuge Cove.
As expected the breeze increased then subsided shifting in direction and requiring us to motor sail at times. During darkness very early next morning we were barely making progress passing Cliffy Island so once again it was rely on the “iron headsail” to get us to Refuge Cove shortly after sunrise. After setting anchor it was time for breakfast and a few hours sleep.
Our next target anchorage was Cleelands Bight, Phillip Island. Calculating distance and estimated passage time meant an early departure from Refuge if we were to make Cleelands Bight before sunset. The forecast had been for easterlies so one possibility was to sail round to Oberon Bay on the west side of Wilsons Promontory, anchor there for the night and cut 4-5 hours off the next days passage. It was a great idea but after we made our way out of Refuge Cove, we found moderate south westerlies were blowing so we discarded that idea and returned to Refuge Cove for the night.
Next morning meant another early start at 2:00am and some motor sailing so as to reach Cleelands Bight in daylight. There we found one of the Parks Victoria moorings that provided us a secure spot for the night.
Consulting the Victorian Tide tables revealed that the 2 choices for slack water at The Rip the following day, were 1:30pm and 7:30pm. We opted for the earlier time which again required a 2:00am departure from the Bight. Unfortunately a complete lack of wind required us to motor our way through sloppy Bass Strait seas all the way to Port Phillip Heads. Once there our course aligned with the Four Fingers West Channel passing many dive and fishing boats. Past Shortland Bluff we motored into The Cut to arrive at the beautiful Queenscliff harbour and berthed alongside the QCYC jetty.
QCYC facilities were a welcome site after a tiring trip. All appreciated a hot shower, the bar and opportunity to cook a hearty meal in the extensive kitchen and lounge at the yacht club.
While we would have liked to linger at Queenscliff for a day or two, the forecast indicated a favourable easterly the next day then a strong easterly the day after. So we set off for Williamstown the next day arriving at HBYC late afternoon back where we had commenced the cruise 3 weeks earlier.