Day 1 – We’re Off Again! (Written on June 01, 2013)
After a one and a half month stay in Fremantle including several activities with Defence and a two week haul-out at Austal Ships in Henderson for sand-blasting and anti-fouling – Whale Song and her fearless crew are on the high seas again!
Our dry dock went well and Austal Ships, led by John Rothwell and Andrew Bellamy, are a very professional and organised bunch which translated into one of our shortest haulouts ever! International Paints, who have been partners with the Centre for 18 years, organised the paint schedule for our freshly blasted bare steel hull as well as some special biocide free paints for our propellers that, if successful, may become part of the navys’ paint schedule.
Thanks to everyone for your help during the dry docking, a huge effort and now we can get focussed on what this little ship is all about!
The waters’ movement beneath our hull is beautiful as we enter our “marathon-mode” travelling style which entails being ever-alert, but equally conservative of energy.
Finishing the last tidying and sorting of equipment this morning, with relief at 1120am we dropped our jetty lines, stowed our power “umbilical cord” and slowly slipped astern out of our pen with Captain Curt at the helm.
On the rocks at the end of the southern groin Micah and Tasmin stood quietly waving as we passed nearby! Miraculously and without a moment to spare, Sasha-belle arrived in a spectacular flourish of frantic bike-riding and squeals, quickly jumping onto the rocks to join M and T! Skipper was excited and confused to see and hear them from the rocks! With hoots and hollars and our returning ships horn-tooting, we were ceremoniously farewelled by my Micah, Tas and Sasha-belle!
Rounding those rocks and heading out towards the northern groin of the Fishing Boat Harbour we could see a huge red and white Canadian flag, a long blue scarf and a white sarong waving from bodies perched atop the rock wall! The voices attached to the swirling fabric were recognisable as the EMDC (Embarrassing Mum Departure Committee), also known as Sams’ mum and family! And thus with great aplomb, we were farewelled with much yahooing, wahooing and waving from both rock walls – even attracting the obliging waving attention of a nearby hotel visitor, all caught up in our departure frivolity! It was waves all around from all sides of the channel and even from strangers!
On board for this journey to the east coast we have The Usual Suspects Five (Curt, Dale, Resty, Sam and myself) and also Inday our Research Associate to assist with visual observations. Just outside the harbour as we travel south in the Cockburn Sound Channel , the light green water is bright, winter-clear and oh-so-enticing! Turning to starboard to exit Challenger Passage heading west between Garden Island and Carnac Island, we pass Sams’ dad whom is out for a spot of fishing in his 35 ft sailing boat Thelma! The Wrights’ have really pulled out all the stops today! Kate, Owen and Grandma on the rocks and now Guy way out here!
At 1210 from the wheelhouse Curt says quietly “We have D-O-L-P…” spelling out the first part of the word. Immediately Skipper goes mad, leaping off the sofa seat and barking like crazy! How can dogs spell? Three bottlenose dolphins, two adults and a juvenile pass by our stern but resist the urge to bow-ride. Skipper is devastated and desperately looks from the bow fairleads hoping they will swim nearby.
Just after 1230pm I take my watch in the wheelhouse. At the 32m contour line we have three 1-2m waves. Riding the first the cabins creak and our bathroom door secured itself shut. The boat seems to settle into the seas’ movement which intriguingly only takes a short time to occur. The sea is dark blue and the pale blue sky full of “Simpsons” clouds as we make our way to the 50m line to catch the 2.4 knot Leeuwin Current “conveyor belt” around to Bass Strait. With a full belly of lunch bought by Dale and Liz from Boatshed, we relished the baguette, two gorgeous French cheeses, ham with fresh salad and garlic dressing and nicely finished the meal with delicious pain au chocolat!
In 47m of water we see a huge blob on the echosounder. Such a large object must have been a whale that swam about 25-30m beneath us! The tools of our trade for tracking whales allow us to hear but not see and even see but not see… I am losing my day job by the minute!
A heavy band of cloud shrouds the space just above the horizon. Towards 530pm the sun sinks lower and lower until bursting free of the cloud “God-rays” make a dramatic first-day-out sunset. Spinach and ricotta pie, (made by Tasmin yesterday) with garlic green beans and honey/cashew carrots (prepared by me) is our evening meal and with dessert, also made earlier by Tasmin, rhubarb and berry crumble – well, life couldn’t get any better!
From 50 nm south of Fremantle,