First Steps

Our first steps to cruising were taken in our beautiful Ericson 32, Ilkara. We were lucky to find one of the very few Ericsons in Australia. They are such wonderful sea boats!  In lots of ways she taught us how to sail and how to enjoy the cruising life. See out photo album of these first days on Ilkara

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We learned a great deal in those early years when an adventure consisted of a sail to the Faulkner Beacon which marked the entrance to the dredged channel for large shipping in Port Phillip Bay. The beacon was only 5 miles from our base at the Royal Brighton Yacht Club but for us novices it was an undertaking!

We soon branched out and began sailing round the 2000 km² of Port Phillip Bay and soon after we were sailing to Queens cliff. Trips such as this taught us a lot about the fundamentals of cruising - the importance of getting the tides right - the current in “The Cut" can be swift and the consequences of getting it wrong with a small engine underneath you can be quite daunting.

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Of course we also learnt the joy of cruising and the easy arts of socialising with our fellow cruisers. While it is important to learn the complexities of the tidal streams, is equally important to know that when the flag is up the bar is open!

Eventually we decided that we needed a somewhat larger boat to take us on the long-distance cruising we had in mind so we looked to finding a good home for Ilkara.

We couldn't have found a better home for her then with our friend Ian in Tasmania. But 1st there was the adventure of getting her from Melbourne across the 230 miles of Bass Strait and then on down to Hobart. And what an adventure it was!

Bass Strait is essentially a shallow plateau where the seabed rises from over 2000 m to a depth of hundred metres or less. In this notorious waterway the effects of current, wind and shallow seas can turn a flat sea into a washing machine with very little warning.

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Ian and Michael had a pretty rough crossing before arriving at the head of the Tamar River where they stopped to get fuel before heading on to banks straight on the north-east tip of Tasmania where the swift current can create short, sharp nasty seas when confronted with an opposing wind. It was at the entrance to banks straight and after they had refuelled the tank that they discovered they had been given petrol instead of diesel and were now not able to start the engine.

It was very long 24-hour sail back to the Tamar River where the generous efforts of the Tamar Sea rescue crew who met them at dawn at the mouht of the river and towed them back to Beauty Point to have a full and frank discussion with the man at the fuel wharf.

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Ilkara eventually settled in southern Tasmania and we brought a 1990 38 foot Beneteau. The Beneteau was a step up in terms of space and interior design. We had some wonderful times on Alondra and were looking forward to using her to cruise up the east coast of Australia.

But this is where we learnt the difference between plans and general intentions! This is a crucial difference those who enjoy the cruising life. It is almost a truism that plans never come to fruition and the best one can hope for is that general intentions can provide a guide to what might happen tomorrow. In this case we changed our minds completely and decided that we wanted to sail offshore, cross oceans and visit faraway places. 

This was not an enterprise for Alondra and so we purchased New Horizons, a 37 foot Cavalier designed for crossing oceans. For over 12 months we were “fleet owners" before our friends Tony and Helen decided to take on the adventure of sailing once again and still enjoy the delights of Alondra.

© Michael White 2013