Lincoln National Park

Tuesday 18 February

We launched today in Port Lincoln. It was our most relaxed and longest boat preparation ever. We raised the mast and launched. Then we walked Sandpiper to a spare pontoon and tied up. Christine stayed with the boat while I drove across town to John Hookings’ house to store the car and trailer. We John hard at work catching crooks, I caught a taxi back to the launching ramp. Then we set up the Porta Bote on the pontoon, launched it and set it up to tow behind. This was followed by a very relaxed completion of the rigging process. We motored over to anchor  off a strip of white beach just near the entrance to the marina, under the shadows of a row of fancy looking foreshore houses. We had a coffee and discussed the option of just hanging out here for the day and doing nothing.

This idea was short lived, as a series of large fishing vessels travelled in or out of the marina along the nearby channel. Each one pushed some serious water with its blunt bow and we were rocked violently by the resulting wakes. We decided to sail over to Spaulding Cove to find some more peaceful waters.

With a moderate SW breeze blowing, we at first motor sailed then sailed on a comfortable reach to passed Bickers Islands and around Surfleet Point. We anchored up in the delightful Surfleet Cove for lunch and a spot of fishing, catching three Australian Herring. With the fishing slow, we motored South to the camp site at the bottom end of Spaulding Cove but found the close inshore water very shallow so we sailed back to Surfleet Cove under a headsail and anchored just off the campsite. We found that the shallows extend further offshore the further North one goes.

After a shore excursion to check out the camping area, I went off in the dinghy to fish over the nearby shallow sands, catching 6 King George Whiting and a small salmon. Things were looking up. Later, as I clean the whiting and threw the heads overboard, I saw two huge blue swimmer crabs under the boat. This made us determined to retrieve the crab nets from deep down under the stern the next day and try crabbing from the dinghy.

Low scudding clouds provided a few showers during the evening, but as the sun went down, so the wind dropped, to make a very peaceful nightfall.

Wednesday 19 February

During the night, the wind blew hard from the SW then abated by sunrise. The intermittent showers of the night seemed set to continue, with dark clouds and rain squalls visible all around. A strong wind warning for Spencers Gulf told us it was a day to stay put, trying for crabs and doing a bit more fishing.

We had a late lazy breakfast, read the news on the Internet and watched the water go down with the tide. We were anchored just into the weed line but by low tide, the sand banks had almost come out to meet us. At one point, we decided to go ashore to use the camp ablutions. We got into the dinghy, travelled about 25 metres, and got out in ankle deep water.

The crabbing proved unsuccessful, except for two small strange looking crabs. We knew the big blues are there but perhaps they don’t like the low tide of the lateness of the hour. We decided to try again nearer dusk and the high tide.

We went ashore and took a 5 kilometre walk along a section of the “Investigator Trail” to the Spaulding Cove campsite and back, through some very beautiful woodlands. Sometimes, the track climbed a rocky headland and we got some wonderful views of Spaulding Cove. The variety of birdlife was quite stunning. On our return, we felt a lot more justified in tucking into a big lunch of fried herring and whiting.

An afternoon fish produced another 4 whiting for dinner but the nets still were crabless. Actually, they were blue swimmer crabless, because we did catch quite a number of strange looking crabs that we had trouble identifying on the Internet. Eventually, I decided that they were Mottled Shore Crabs. Some male specimens were probably of an edible size but we let them all go.

As the sun set, the wind started to drop, a good sign of things to come. We had an amazing meal of battered King George Whiting fillets and coleslaw.

Thursday 20 February

We again slept late. This is becoming a habit. The wind had dropped to a moderate Southerly, gusting on occasions. The tide was on the way out and the sandbanks beginning to show. I cleaned the baits out of the crab nets from the night before, and as expected, several big blue swimmer crabs turned up to feed on the scraps. We can see them but we can’t catch them. I thought briefly about going in with a mask, snorkel and gloves but it was too early and cold for me. I chickened out.

Later in the morning, I went off a little distance trolling for snook. Not far from the anchored yacht, I hooked a big one and as I bought him alongside, a large squid followed. I left the snook swimming on the lure and tossed another line with a squid jig in, hoping for a good double. Of course, I ended up losing the snook and the squid didn’t oblige so Mr Greedy got nothing. More trolling produced three more snook and a bit of drifting raised one small squid, which took his revenge by squirting ink down the front of my best fishing jumper. The life of a fisherman is a hard one.

A charter boat shifted anchor several times only a few hundred metres away. The two passengers didn’t seem to be catching much though. I guess they had sought refuge from the ugly seas outside the sanctuary of our little cove. Every time we remark that the wind seems to be easing, it returns again. At least the rain seems to have finished.

The wind continued unabated and staying in the SW. We had a rare afternoon nap, although most of it was lying in the bunk reading. Eventually, I was driven to head off to drift for another couple of squid, without success, although I did catch and release my largest snook to date, probably around 60cms. As the sun sat low, I put the generator on, the days of no motor and overcast skies starting to take its toll on the state of our battery bank.  That night, we discussed various ways of catching the large crabs that would come in to feed on any fish scraps. It was almost like Coyote planning how to catch Roadrunner. In our case, we lacked an ACME Crab Catcher.

Friday 21 February

We had more rain during the night, enough to make me get up and zip up a couple of open windows in the pop-top. The morning revealed very overcast conditions and a horrible cold wind. Where is Summer?

With the tide dropping, we only had a few feet of water under us so I got the idea of dropping the keel to hit bottom, effectively stopping us from swinging on the anchor. This allowed us to put out a couple of drop nets with snook carcasses as bait. This finally produced a lovely big blue swimmer crab, but with the wind starting to finally swing SE it was time to leave Surfleet Cove, so we put our one capture in a bucket to enjoy later. Surfleet Cove is one of the most pleasant places we have ever used as a weather hole, it having a good variety of seafood available, some beautiful scenic woodlands and interesting walk trails. The presence of clean toilets in the camp area is an added bonus.

Beautiful Surfleet Cove with Cape Colbert in the far distance.

We motor sailed back the 5nm to Port Lincoln and anchored in front of town, opposite the statue of Makybe Diva. The weekend sees the arrival of some 60 yachts in the Adelaide to Port Lincoln race and there are lots of interesting activities planned for the foreshore over the weekend. Once at anchor, we cooked up the Roadrunner and savoured every mouthful. It is a shame there was only one.

After rocking a little at anchor, we moved a little closer towards the Yacht Club to flatter conditions. The only real issue is the regular circuit of the Harbour Cruise boat, which makes a wake that rocks everything at anchor. Later in the day, it cost me a glass of wine. We went ashore for a bit of a stroll along the town front and stopped at one of the pubs for a beer and watch the rain pass by in comfort. Otherwise, the day passed with reading and relaxing.

As evening fell, a couple of large cruisers sailed in and anchored nearby, one flying a US flag. It is really beautiful to see large sail boats coming into an anchorage under sail and being well handled onto the anchor.

Saturday 22 February

The first boats finished the Adelaide –Port Lincoln race somewhere around 2:30am. What a shame we missed the finish. From 7am onwards (a much more civilized time), we watched the steady procession of boats come through. As they rounded the long grain loader, they dropped their spinnakers and glided through to the finish line, about 250m away from where we were anchored. We were also able to see the progress of those yet to finish on the Yellowbrick tracking system on the Internet and identify boats as they crossed and signed off on the VHF radio. It was like watching a big 3D television. Not gripping excitement, but certainly interesting. You have to admire the people who have spent the night sailing the 150nm through some potentially nasty seas. On this occasion, they had almost ideal conditions, a steady consistent 15 to 20 knots from the South.

The grain loader dominates the approach to town

The worrying thing about the morning was the sight of several large showers to the North. We are seriously sick of rain. It has rained every day for the last four. I think that’s enough for this time of year. It would be also nice if the temperature was to break the 25 degree mark.

Throughout the day, the yachts arrived. Gary, the radio operator at VMR Tumby Bay must have been getting quite sleep deprived, having nursed his charges throughout the night and morning. He provides an amazing service on Channel 81, the repeater covering most areas on the lower Eyre Peninsula. He always seems to be available and sounds unflappable.

We made a couple of shore excursions, one to buy a few little bits  and another to walk around the wharf area. A large ship is in unloading some form of bulk cargo into numerous trucks that arrive in a continual stream. I guessed it was bulk fertilizer. I can’t think of what else would be imported rather than exported through here. A couple more cruisers joined the anchorage, which has gone from quiet to quite cozy. I tried a bit of fishing and caught the largest squid to date, a meal all on its own.

Playing Pelican Whisperer again

Later, Richard came paddling by on a board and we chatted, making arrangements to leave Sandpiper with him in Lincoln while we go home for 8 weeks to see the grandies.

Sunday 23 February

Our first rainless morning this trip, although still not exactly warm. We slept even later, having no good reason to get up. Ashore, a small army of workers were getting ready for the events of the day, preparing the Yacht Club for the presentations and another group organising a farm and sea produce market near the town jetty.

We went ashore to the market but it was rather a disappointment. We’d hoped to find some good produce for sale but it was mostly coffee, cakes and things on skewers. Never-the-less, it attracted a good crowd and served as a focus for the many yachties in town.

All day, we watched the small rubber ducks ferry people to and from the anchored boats around us. It became a game of “How many elephants can you fit in a duck?”

We have decided to end our trip for a while and head home for a stretch. This is a week or so earlier than planned and we are postponing the Whyalla to Port Augusta leg and missing out on some more wonderful places around here. The main reason is that we are a bit homesick. Also, the weather forecast for the next week is for more rain and low temperatures, although the winds look to be almost perfect for cruising.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in and around this wonderful city, made all the more enjoyable by the friendly nature of the people we have met. On our return, time constraints will stop us launching again and we’ll push on to new adventures. Port Lincoln has set a benchmark that we will measure other places against.