Coffin Bay (SA)

Monday 20-22 January

With the effects of the flu still very much in evidence and the winds holding steady at 15-20 knot South Easterlies, we had no problems putting off a launch until later in the week. We pottered around getting things ready, catching up on washing and watching tennis on the TV.

On advice from John Hookings, a member who lives nearby, we headed into Port Lincoln to the “Boat Supplies” shop and bought a new anchor. We are carrying both a Bruce, a Delta and a Danforth but John told us that with the amount of heavy weed, combined with the shallow sands, a stockless Marsh anchor is needed for peace of mind. I researched the internet and found a 10kg model was suggested for our length. The weight didn’t worry me but the dimensions of the anchor sure did and we both wondered where on deck we could store such a monster. When the salesman at the shop suggested that the 8kg model would suit us, we jumped at it, saving $40 odd in the process. Later, watching the anchor bite in weedy shale strewn bottom in 20 knots plus, we were very thankful for John’s advice.

We also spent a very pleasurable couple of hours with John and his wife Helen picking up much needed local advice and swapping yarns. Our contacts along the way are going to be invaluable.

On our return to Coffin Bay, we located a metal fabricator who could do some aluminium welding. After our blowout on the trip over, we had a broken mudguard mounting and we had also developed a crack up near the bow cradle. Paul Malone at Rediweld was very helpful and agreed to do the work, store our car and trailer and also fit a aluminium mesh walkway the length of the trailer, something I’ve always wanted.

Wednesday nights is fish and chip night at the Coffin Bay Yacht Club so we went down for a couple of ales, a serve of flathead and chips and a serve of calamari. We were told that that casual use of the yacht club jetty would be fine and that they are really only concerned about people leaving boats unattended overnight.


Thursday 23 January

We launched the boat at the excellent Coffin Bay facility then motored down through the moorings to the Yacht Club jetty. From there, I walked back the kilometre or so to the ramp, picked up the car and dropped it off at Rediweld. From there, it was an easy walk back to the boat and we were off, finally at sea in SA.

In glassy conditions, we motored out through the marked channel, the occasional spit of rain showing on the surface. After the exertions of rigging and launching, lunch was a welcome break and we sat in the lee of Rabbit Island for an hour or so and took a breath. Then it was off on the engine again into Mount Dutton Bay. By now, the rain had increased, promising a steady drizzle so we decided to use a small inlet inside Misery Point to anchor up and even spend the night.

A session of fishing produced enough Australian Herring (Tommy Ruffs) for a good dinner and more to put down some roll mops. The much anticipated King George Whiting and squid failed to put in an appearance so they remain for another time.

 The rain continued throughout the day, evening and most of the night but the anchorage, tucked in 1-2 metres of water near an oyster farm, was very calm and peaceful.

Friday 24 January

The rain stopped just before dawn and the sunrise showed an overcast sky with very glassy seas. The tide was falling, and there was a lot of interesting shoreline being exposed so we set up the porta-bote to give us a chance to explore a bit.

The porta-bote is a new one. We sold our older 12’ model and bought a second-hand (but almost new) 10’ model. This makes it a little easier to handle on the deck. It came with a near new Mercury 3.3hp outboard that seems to push it along much the same as the 5hp we had on the 12’ boat, planning with one aboard and clipping along at 6 knots or so with two up.

Once inshore, we found an intertidal zone full of life, with a wonderful array of starfish, feather stars, soft corals and sea urchins. Much to our delight, there were also masses of very large black mussels and a good number of large oysters. We had wondered about the presence of wild oysters because the original Coffin Bay oysters were largely made extinct due to over fishing. The locally farmed oyster is the Pacific Oyster. A concerted effort was made back in 2012 to reduce the numbers of wild oysters and more than 200,000 were removed from the area. Thankfully, they didn’t get them all.

Throughout the morning, the Southerly breeze freshened, eventually swinging SE and showing signs of making our anchorage less comfortable. We decided to head north to the Mount Dutton township at the end of Mount Dutton Bay, where the chart suggested a good spot to spend the night.

We ran before a now very fresh breeze on a half jib in a nasty short chop. We soon found that the porta-bote does not tow as well as the larger model and we soon became concerned as it surfed down the waves. Luckily, we were both watching it the time it raced down one wave and just kept going, taking water over the bow and threatening to fill up. We hauled quickly on the tow rope, shortening it up and securing it high on the pushpit. That overcame the immediate danger and we just had to put up with the water sloshing around inside.

We were both very glad when we finally covered the 3 miles to Mount Dutton and sought the protection of a small inlet to the East.   The water was not nearly as deep as the chart suggested and we had to find a spot to anchor using the motor alone, with keel and rudder up. With the wind howling around us, we settled in for the night and enjoyed a most delicious meal of chilli mussels and delicious crusty bread rolls that Christine had managed to bake on board.

Saturday 25 January

At first light, we checked the water depth, not wanting to spend most of the day in the one spot. We had just enough water to exit and motor over past the hamlet and into West Mount Dutton Bay. By hugging the Northern side, we found excellent depths  and rounded the first point to take shelter from the strengthening SE breeze. Anchor down and it was back to bed to escape the cold. I can’t believe it is Summer.

By 9:30, the temperature had become more reasonable and we shifted North, finding more shelter behind the low cliffs and hills. A likely looking sand patch beckoned and I spent a wonderful hour or so fishing from the porta-bote, catching 8 nice King George Whiting, a huge flounder and a few Australian Herring. More seafood on the menu!

Sunday 26 January (Australia Day)

We donned our green and gold shirts and ran up the flag to show our patriotic spirit is not completely dead. The wind had gone to the NE but seemed to be only 10 knots, with occasional gusts to 15knots. Our overnight anchorage was very sheltered.

After breakfast, we headed out of Mount Dutton Bay West to sail south out of Mount Dutton Bay. As we motored out of our bay, we realised just how protected we were and how awful the conditions were in Mount Dutton Bay. The wind was NE at 15-20 knots and the tidal flow produced a horrible short chop. We motored over to seek the lee of the East coast and made a total hash of raising the main in front of a couple of dinghy fishermen. We did most things wrong.

We finally got things sorted and sailed at a steady 5 to 6 knots south towards Misery Point. As always, when we are sailing well, the breeze eased until we completed the last mile or so with the engine ticking over. Once out of Mount Dutton Bay, we dropped the anchor for half an hour to use the Internet and have a much needed coffee.

Then it was on (under motor and jib) to “The Brothers”, a couple of small islands at the head of Port Douglas, to try for some snook with a troll line and spinner. We waved to a couple of boats celebrating Australia Day with a 10am beer (not my scene) and then pushed on in balmy seas to “The Tapeweed”, where research had suggested that we might mange to catch some sand crabs. This is a species that we aren’t familiar with in WA. Unfortunately, we still aren’t familiar with it because our drop nets produced nothing.

With the breeze now freshening from the NW, we decided to run back to spend a night in Yangie Bay, a shallow but very protected inlet. We cruised back in comfort on main and jib giving a steady 4.5 knots, stopping along the way off a lovely sand beach for a quick swim. Finding the way into Yangie was not too difficult, with only one spot causing some grief. The tide was still less than 1 metre so we didn’t venture all the way in, but anchored in a spot with good water and all round protection.

Monday 27 January

One rising, I found the tide still making so I suggested moving back out of the inlet past the rocky shallow section that had caused some concern on entry. Sighting a course direct into the rising sun was close to impossible so we just followed the previous day’s track on the GPS and anchored again just inside the entrance to have breakfast.

With a moderate easterly blowing, we set all sail to head north to Longnose Point. Unfortunately, we had only gone a mile when the wind moved to the north and dropped to 5 kn so it was back to the trusty engine. At least the batteries got a got charging. We steered in along the East coast of Port Douglas to check out Black Springs, a popular camping and fishing spot. It did indeed look good, with a couple of camps in evidence enjoying the Australia Day long weekend.

One very large high speed cruiser seemed to alter course towards us, waving cheerfully on the way past only 50 metres away. We returned the greetings with single digits, pointing angrily to the wake that was about to hit us. I had to rapidly disconnect the autopilot and round up into the monstrous wake. Unfortunately, this is an all too common event. For some reason, people with large expensive boats seem to think that others want to see them and often come as close as they can.

A trailer sailer (I’m sure it was a Ross 780) accompanied us through the channel around the oyster leases and on towards the small settlement at Little Douglas. It eventually raised sail and headed out into Coffin Bay proper towards the wilds of the Southern Ocean.

We anchored for a while off Little Douglas and watched a couple of 4WDs work their way out of bogs before again setting all sail and returning the way we’d come. This time, we managed nearly 4 miles before the wind died away yet again and the sails went away to be replaced by the Mercury.

Our destination was our first night anchorage inside Misery Point to restock on mussels and oysters. After a wonderful lunch of whiting fillets in sourdough wraps, I took the dinghy to collect some shellfish. The tide was high so I took a mask and snorkel. I collected 30 mussels, a dozen oysters and four scallops. The scallops needed some snorkelling and where not as easy to find as I would have liked. The rest were easy. On my return, I found Christine had baked some more of her wonderful crusty bread rolls in anticipation of another feed of chilli mussels.

The forecast suggest a brief period of strong northerly winds tomorrow so we abandoned plans to anchor off Fishermans Beach and motored through town to the entrance to the shallow and protected Kellidie Bay. We anchored over clean sand in 2-3 metres of water and enjoyed a wonderful cooling swim then waited for the burning sun to set. In this crazy land of daylight saving, that takes forever.

I cleaned up the mussels for dinner, the process enticing a school of King George Whiting around the boat but they all proved below legal size. Still, we have enough fish left from the last catch.

Tuesday 28 January

The forecast strong winds arrived with a vengeance during the night so our decision to move into Kellidie Bay was vindicated. The 8kg Marsh anchor did its job and we didn’t move. The wind was hot, even at 3am and we had to sleep with the hatch open. We slept late and settled down to await the weather change, due around noon. The winds followed the Willyweather prediction, strengthening even more to well over 25 knots and going steadily around through north to east. Finally, by 11am, they settled in the SE and dropped off to less than 10 knots.

We motored over to the town and tied up to the yacht club jetty, giving us a chance to visit the store, replenish the red wine and have a pie and iced-coffee at the Beachcomber Café. It was very hot on shore so we retrieved some cushions from the boat and settled down under the trees on the grassy area near the yacht club. It was very relaxing there and the temperature dropped remarkably as the breeze went more to the south and increased steadily.

Eventually, we made the decision to stay in the protection of the town area for the night and pull out the next day. The wind was fresh as we anchored amongst the moorings, picking an area free of boats. By the late afternoon, it was back to over 20 knots, gusting alarmingly at times. Once again, the Marsh anchor proved a winner.

Coffin Bay has proven to be a wonderful cruising location, with marvellous scenery, amazing marine life diversity and abundant seafood for the taking. Certainly, the wind patterns mean that one needs time and planning, but there are sufficient good anchorages to accommodate most scenarios.

Thanks to those who have left notes on the Internet to guide others like us and to John Hookings in Port Lincoln for all his valuable advice.


Bosun Bob’s Big Lap


Rediweld (Paul Malone) for marine aluminium work.



Nights on the water = 6

Distance Travelled = 51.6 nautical miles

Fuel used (Sandpiper) =                15 litres

Fuel Used (Tender) = 3 litres


Yangie Bay

Spectacular Sandhills on West coast of Port Douglas

Great mountain backdrops at every anchorage

Motoring down the channel to Little Douglas and Farm Beach

Mount Dutton Township