A whale of a time

A friend joined us for coffee while the new chart plotter I’d purchased as a birthday present was fitted. (Would all birthday presents from here on be boat things?) My brother arrived shortly afterwards, ready to join us for the weekend sail to Rottnest and, just as we were about to depart, another friend, also arrived  for coffee. The later arrival was given a rain check with profuse apologies and left unceremoniously to wave us goodbye as we headed off with grey skies and a 16 knot south westerly breeze that was building.

With two experienced sailors hoisting the sails I felt none of the usual apprehension about sailing beyond marina walls and into the open ocean. Under their tutelage I paid attention to the sails, they pointed out leech was luffing in the main which may have been due to a lack of tension in the gaff halyard. They also pointed out the staysail boom needed to come up so the leech rather than the foot did the work. I was also getting a little weather helm and they pointed out the main was slightly overpowered and could have done with a reef. But in the open ocean the weather helm wasn’t a problem even when the wind increased to 18-20 knots.

In the distance I saw a whale breeching, it’s flukes coming right out of the water. We watched for a while and thought there were three of them. My brother suggested they might be Wright Whales but, when one seemed to follow about 200 metres behind our boat, he thought it might be a Pilot Whale. Thrilled simply to see a whale, it hardly mattered what type they were. We kept our eyes peeled on the pod as they swam northwards and watched a whale watching charter boat heading towards them from the Hillary’s Marina.

We had sailed the southerly on a beam reach so when it came time to turn toward Longreach Bay we had to punch into the wind and a short chop. We dropped the sails as we approached the treacherous Longreach Channel and motored into the white sandy bottomed anchorage. Lunch, beers, rum and a dinghy ride to the beach. A walk into Thompsons Bay, happy hour, pre-prepared dinner in the oven and Neil Young’s Harvest album belting across the water, life was grand.

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