Ashore for R & R in Portland for Thursday Feb 21, 2013 and Friday Feb 22, 2013 (Written Feb 22, 2013)
We anchored safely and soundly in Portland Harbour on Wednesday night at 740pm, February 20, 2013, after a bumpy ride all day with constant 30 knot south-easterlies and even up to 40 knots, as we came towards the harbour entrance. Waves crashing over the harbour break-water were a tad disconcerting and the dredger bucking and weaving in the wind-chop alarming, but Curt brought us in well and with a couple of wobbles while crossing the near-surfable break at the entrance, the relief in the wheelhouse was palpable. The un-wind debrief includes red wine and a jamming session with Pete, Sacha and Peta doing fantastic work on the guitars. Live music, unreal until almost midnight! “Oh, it’s time for my watch!” I exclaimed when I looked at the time we were retiring!
On the morrow, Thursday February 21, 2013 after a much-needed sleep-in, Dale made potato omelettes for all the crew at 1030 am which was an absolutely delicious brunch. At 1230 we were assigned a berth on the fishermen’s wharf and we began the process of weighing anchoring and moving over to the jetty. After about an hour sorting out the lines (fortunately some very necessary anti-chaffing hose was kindly provided) and checking the power box we were settled at the end of the Trawler Wharf, in the full down-wind stream of the raw timber logs and wood-chips being loaded… It is interesting to see full-scale primary production in a working port, the loading of raw plantation-grown timber logs, wood-chips and the 20 or so commercial fishing vessels all side by side. An intriguing Japanese ship goes to sea for squid, lighting the night to attract their catch. Their vessels’ illumination so bright – that each night the deck crew wear full-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and sun-block for protection. Beautiful glass lanterns purposefully decorate the fore-deck and amidships area hanging from lines 5m off the deck.
We are of great interest to the locals and being at the end of the jetty cars naturally drive down the wharf, stopping at the end to look at our fine ship. We are delighted by the interest!
By two pm-ish, once we are settled, four crew members wander into town to gather a few things and see the sights. Pete escorts Peta, Sacha and I from shop to shop. After a while, one stops for coffee and others move on amoeba-like, as we each stop variously in different places. Spreading the love around town I am happy to get gifts for Micah and Tas, as well as sending mail and getting a few necessaires. We enjoyed the bookshop (signing the visitors book), the jewellery shop and a dress-shop, all on the waterfront road and had a nice stroll around with very friendly store staff. Little did I know I had confused them all and apparently all the men at one point or another were thought to be my “husband”, excepting of course Curt, my hermit husband neatly tucked away from the crowds on board Whale Song! I was glad the boys had tidied up for the town trip!
In the extremely windy conditions I struggle with my cotton string bags full of nice odds and sods and am very happy to step back onto the boat. Curt and I decide to stay on board for the evening and enjoy a quiet night relaxing. Meanwhile, Dale, Sam, Sacha, Carrie and Peta ham-it-up having a few rowdy ones at “Macs” – a town pub with old-fashioned decor and good, no great, food which everyone enjoys! When they return their hair tells us that the wind hasn’t died down yet. Thank heaven for a safe mooring or anchorage on a windy night!
Friday February 22, 2013. During the rain and wind overnight the power on the jetty goes out twice causing emergency lighting to come on (from 12V batteries on the fly-bridge) and very loud alarms, just in case you didn’t realise what was going on with the very bright lights! By the second time, Curt decides to start our own generator to maintain a continuous power source to all the equipment. At around 9 am I take a very pleasant walk down the wharf and along the fore-front beach into the town of Portland, home to a population of 11,000. In search of a plug for our galley sink the lady in the camping store is amused when I buy 4 different ones, aiming to get at least one that fits! I have an American sink with a South African “waste” plumbing piece, so what is the chance of getting a perfect match? At $3.95 @ piece, I think I’ll choose a couple…..
At the grocery store I purchase food for a bbq lunch to take to Pete and Sooze’s and when speaking to Curt replying to the very normal question, “Where are you?” I struggle to answer but asking the check-out chic and seeing IGA on her shirt, Curt now knows where I am. But at this stage he doesn’t know where that is… and we are navigators! Just give us a sea-way and we are ok!
With a Holden Commodore rental car and the open road ahead (Curt has to curb the inner hoon!) we follow Pete towards Warrnambool. Half an hour down the road surrounded by farms we pass through a small country community near a state forest. It is a haven of trees amongst the farm properties.
Driving in, we take in the surroundings, this is Pete and Sooze’s place with tall native open bush and their small hamlet of buildings. The main house a one-story mud-brick, ochre-toned, wooden natural window framed rectangular abode and bordered with flowering Banskias and Grevillias is decked with more than ten solar panels. Nearby are several cute, brightly painted guest rooms, for visiting family and colleagues, with pretty coloured wooden cottage window frames. It is a quiet haven and a lovely retreat. We settle back around the table under the shade and in the warmth of the northerly winds the bbq is fired up and cool drinks are passed around. A strange light comes over and upon my comment of the hue from the bush fires to the NE, Pete says that this coloured sky makes them nervous. The equivalent awareness level for us at sea would be rolling cloud patterns indicating the approach of an unexpected front. On the land or at sea, we are all at natures’ mercy.
A lovely afternoon is had by all and we really appreciated Pete and Soozes’ generosity to have our whole gang visit their home. On the exit road, Peta spots a koala nestled in a tall eucalypt blending in well with the grey tones of the tree bark. Koalas are not found in WA, so this was a treat for the Sand-Groupers to see one in the wild.
Meanwhile back at the ship, Carrie was minding the fort and continued working on the acoustic data. Valuably, she was able to determine that some of the sounds we had collected already were very likely to be sei whale calls!
CWR looks forward to ongoing collaborations with Pete and research partner, Margie, at Blue Whale Study based out of Portland in Victoria.
Thanks for a lovely time in Portland, until next time! Bye!