The extra day in Robe had been a bonus. Not only had we, hopefully, sorted out the muddy water problem but we also had a chance to rest up, do some sightseeing and get some laundry done. It was time to head off for Portland. We would finally be out of South Australia and in Victoria. It would be another 2 nights at sea and the currents and winds were still against us. We were having to motor sail most of the time and even so, were only making about 5 miles an hour. Margaret was still feeding the fish and we now had schools of fish following us hoping to be fed. All we could do was keep her warm and comfortable in the cockpit. We came into Portland at about 7pm to a wonderful sunset.
We had called ahead and made arrangements for a marina berth for the evening. The lady we spoke to confirmed that there were showers available and we were looking forward to lovely hot showers after 2 nights at sea. The only shower we could find was an outdoor shower at the public changerooms. Peter and Geoffrey threw caution to the wind and used the shower but Margaret decided against it and used the shower on the boat.
The following morning it was an early start for Apollo Bay. The trip would see us entering Bass Strait, something not to be taken lightly. Bass Strait has a reputation for being a dangerous place to be when the conditions are not favourable. For the most part the trip was more of the same, the wind and sea coming directly at us making the going slow and difficult.
As we turned the corner to enter Bass Strait heading for Apollo Bay things got really exciting. There were large waves coming directly at us and Geoffrey took the wheel to navigate us through this difficult period. It looked like we were over fairly shallow reefs with deep water ahead. The sea was rushing at us and as it reached the shallow reefs it had nowhere to go but up, causing the big waves. We took a couple of fairly large waves over the bow and, even with a good dodger, the water came rushing into the cockpit. Fortunately these big waves only lasted for about an hour and we were in Apollo Bay.
The weather turned and we were stuck in Apollo Bay for 6 days which turned out to be a good thing. The trip from Adelaide to Apollo Bay had been a tough one and we needed some time to rest. The problem with the muddy water in the cupboard in the saloon hadn’t gone away and it was time for a new theory. The theory this time was that the water was leaking out the main water tank where the filler pipe joined the main water tank. The theory was that the when the boat was heeling, the water was pushing up the filler pipe and leaking out where the pipe joined the tank. As we only ever had muddy water on one side of the boat, this seemed a possibility. Finding parts in Apollo Bay proved impossible, there was a hardware store but they did not have the size pipe we required. Fortunately we met Hue and Hannah who were on a French built aluminium boat on their way to Queensland and Hue happened to have the right size pipe. We replaced the pipe and sealed everything around it with Sikaflex. It turned out to be the correct theory and the problem disappeared.
We still hadn’t found out why the auto-pilot wasn’t working properly and this seemed to be a good time to find out why. We traced all the wiring from the auto-pilot in the cockpit and discovered that the compass for the auto-pilot was right next to a fire extinguisher. It looked like the previous owner had installed a new fire extinguisher to make the boat compliant with safety standards for the sale and didn’t really care where he installed the new fire extinguisher. We moved the fire extinguisher and that solved the problem, for the rest of the trip we had the luxury of a working auto-pilot which made things much easier.
Geoffrey took the opportunity to do some fishing and treated us to flathead fillets for dinner one evening.
No visit to Apollo Bay would be complete without a visit to the Apollo Bay Bakery for their famous scallop pies. They are indeed lovely and we visited the bakery a few times.
We had two choices for the next leg of the trip. We could either do the leg in two stages, first head north to Melbourne and then back south to Refuge Cove at Wilsons Promontory, or we could go directly across Bass Strait for Refuge Cove. The major disadvantage to going directly across was if the weather changed, we would have nowhere to hide for the 3 days it would take us to do the trip. Margaret had up to this point been really sea-sick and Peter was convinced she would want to go to Melbourne and get a train back to Sydney. She didn’t and hung in there even though the sea-sickness didn’t get better.
After the 6 day layover it was time to tackle Bass Strait but first we would have to get out of the breakwater which still had some pretty big waves coming through. We were almost out of the breakwater when we got a big wave which caught us mostly on the beam and besides rolling us a bit, flooded the deck and cockpit.