A Big Trip In A little boat

A Big Trip In A little boat – Lady Dorothy – Mordialloc to Gippsland Lakes – Paynesville.

The Plan – Patrick Rehm and Peter Banham hatched a plan a year ago to relocate the Beneteau 29, Lady Dorothy from Mordialloc Motor Yacht Club to Burrabogie Island Paynesville. There are two ways to do this. Truck delivery or delivery under sail.

Well, the choice was obvious to us. Let’s sail her there. This would require a good deal of work to bring the boat up to an acceptable ocean worthiness state by incorporating the Yachting Australia Category 5 safety standards.

Covid arrived and progress slowed. Once released from Covid restrictions we were able to accelerate the work on the boat and chose a few months that would likely have the weather window we needed. March, April, May of 2021.

We liaised with Marcus Allnut of Allnut Marine and arranged to slip the boat. I had not seen the boat out of the water and was impressed with what I saw. Very similar in functional design, to the Farr 750 Moondancer I already sail. Once the coating of sea life clinging to the hull and prop were removed a solid hull in excellent condition was revealed. A clean up, anti-fouling and polish had the old girl back in the water looking brighter and kicking up her heels with an extra 1.5 knots quickly reached either under sail or her newly serviced 30 year old 17hp diesel motor. We had also arranged some repairs and or changes to some of the electrics, sails, (thanks as always to the much-respected Peter Green Sails), storm boards (Beautifully finished 15mm acrylic boards supplied by South East Plastics to replace the rotting plywood) and various things from the category 5 list. Safety wise we had every possible device aboard. GPS (x2), Chart plotter (x2) PLB’s, EPIRB, man overboard alarms, V sheet, horn, Jack stays, tethers, Coast Guard tracking systems, MMYC tracker, paper chart, and band aides. A 4-man life raft was then added to the list and hired from a local business West Offshore Products. Harry Lillas was a great help to us, and we look forward to his forthcoming presentation on Sea Safety. Finally, a satellite phone was hired from Clayton Simmons of Blue Sky Navigation, adding a measure of redundancy to communications should all else be failing. The likelihood of us perishing at sea, unnoticed, looked exceedingly unlikely.

Time to go. The Crew – Now we needed to enlist two more crew members as we had decided that a crew of four, working in pairs on three-hour watches would suit the dynamics of this cruise / delivery. Mario Barbieri was an instant choice with his recent experiences of similar delivery trips. Mario is also a hardy sailor and familiar with electronic navigation. Carsten Hoffman, a long-time friend of Patrick and experienced yachtsman was Patrick’s choice. Whilst Carsten was not familiar with Bass Straight sailing, he has spent many hours crewing for Patrick in much more exotic locations on larger yachts. Carsten’s occupation as a Coastal Engineer added an extra veneer of expertise in tides, currents, waves, and ocean dynamics. A great mix. At this point it is prudent to offer our thanks for permission to sail from our supportive wives. These girls would be able to follow us via modern technology on WhatsApp. (There is no escape. !!!)

Time to go – the weather window – Weather windows opened and closed on us for a number of weeks. The trip was expected to take 3.5 days. (60 hours) nonstop. Stopping at Refuge Cove, however, was a great temptation as only Mario has had the pleasure before. Refuge Cove would remain on our minds as a possibility.

The tricky issues with this voyage are 1/ Exiting Port Phillip Heads, 2/ Crossing the Lakes Entrance Bar and, the BIG one, 3/ having acceptable weather and being on time to cross the Lakes Entrance Bar. If you get it wrong at Lakes Entrance, there is really no where to go. And that possibility can play on your mind as a retreat to Refuge Cove is 24 hours away.

The Window Opens. – Friday April 17 and a large, slow moving, high pressure system is building up over South Australia. Just what we need. We all meet for a final shakedown on Lady Dorothy. Tuesday April 20 the weather patterns look OK although the winds look a little stronger than ideal. Wednesday April 21 forecast conditions look good at the Lakes Entrance end and the predicted SW wind direction will be perfect. Maybe a little boisterous early on. Let’s depart Friday April 23.

Bon Voyage – Friday April 23- Mordialloc to Queenscliff Cruising Yacht Club – 30 nautical Miles. Wind 20 knots SW. Depart 1015Hrs. Barometer 1019. Arrive QCYC 1600Hrs.

As happens with sailing the wind sometimes comes from where you want to go to?? And so it was. With a stiff SW wind, we hauled up sails and settled in for a long day tacking into the wind. This was a good shake down exercise for the Lady Dorothy and she handled the day at sea on Port Phillip admirably. This beat across Port Phillip eventuated in being the wettest part of our voyage. Three large waves came aboard, at different times, catching three out of the four crew with only partial wet weathers on. (Mario stayed dry). There was scrambling about trying to dry out clothes at QCYC. And we were not even out of the heads. We were pleased to enter the West Channel where we fired up the old ‘Sole’ diesel and followed few yachts into the wind, down the West channel, into the cut and arrived at QCYC at 1600hrs. It turned out Ocean Racing Club Victoria were racing in the morning. Some socializing was had with some of us discovering the pleasing Beveridge of Dark and Stormy. (Rum and Ginger. The Bar ran out.)

Saturday April 24- Queenscliff Cruising Yacht Club to Wilsons Promontory – 106 nautical Miles. Wind 15 -20 knots SW. Depart 0830Hrs. Barometer 1023. Arrive Wilsons Pro. 0500Hrs.

Day dawned and following a pleasant breakfast at this fabulous club we departed at 0830 to round Shortland Bluff and prepare for our exit through the Rip at about 0930.

The ORCV yachts are all around us so we felt in good company as we picked the Four Fingers West Channel and made our way into Bass Strait at 0945. Sails up, engine running wind 18 knots on the nose. This was spectacular stuff as Mother Nature chose today to send in massive swells creating spectacular surf on the Lonsdale Rocks. 2NM out we changed our heading to 130 deg, extinguished the engine and began to enjoy a broad reach that would accompany us for much of the voyage. At this stage the swells were large enough to see the ORCV fleet appearing on swell tops and then slowly disappearing entirely before re appearing again.

On top of the swell was a very confused sea that really tested the helmsman and rendered the tiller pilot dormant. The log described the seas at this stage as rough; as it did for the Bay crossing yesterday. At this point we began our 3 hour watches which we maintained day and night on the Bass Straight portion of the voyage. It’s at this time you start to get in rhythm with the boat and appreciate fact that you are actually out there sailing away night and day. The ORCV fleet soon retreated to the Bay and the AIS had only us and a ship or two out there for the night. The voyage was now under way with Cape Shank our first check point. 1245Hrs and 17NM.

Somewhere south of the Nobbies / Philip Island we were hit by several squalls producing an everchanging seascape. The sun that had accompanied us thus far turned into heavy rain with reduced visibility, our usual 20kn W temporarily increased to gusts of 32kn SW, with our boat speed creeping up to 8.5kn surfing down the waves. Do we need to mention that the more senior part of the crew was asleep down below while others were braving the weather?

Our plan was to plot our way on a paper chart as well as rely on the electronic instruments. San Remo 1715Hrs. +23NM, Cape Patterson 2015Hrs +16NM, Cape Liptrap 0015Hrs +17NM, Glennie and Answer group of Islands 0400Hrs + 24NM. It was at this stage that our main Navigator Patrick snuck us in close to the west side of Wilsons Prom. This gave us some protection from the again rough seas and reduced the nautical miles considerably.

This was a great piece of navigation which, due to change of watch Mario and I enjoyed as the seas went smooth, the lighthouse winked at us under a near full moon. How good is this? The horizon started to brighten as the sun was waking up and we passed the Wilsons Prom. Lighthouse at 0500Hrs.

Halfway – Sunday April – 136 NM total – Seas rough- wind 15-25. The Wilsons Prom. Lighthouse was approximately our halfway mark to Lakes Entrance. Joyously ahead of schedule by 3 or 4 hours we all decided that Refuge Cove should become part of the trip. But it is a long way to Refuge Cove from the lighthouse and it wasn’t until 0915 that we dropped anchor to enjoy this blissful place. The sun shone, we dried some wet weather gear, ate some good food, made snacks for the next part of the trip, and mixed some conversations with some other Yachties and Boaties anchored nearby. An offer to take us all to shore for a wander was courteously declined as, by and by, it was 1215hours and time to depart.

Sunday April 25- Refuge Cove (Wilsons Promontory) – Lakes Entrance 119 nautical Miles. Wind 10-18 knots SW. Depart Hrs. Barometer 1025. Arrive Lakes Entrance 0740. Cross Lakes Entrance Bar 0940Hrs.

We left Refuge Cove under motor as no wind was available; initially. Patrick and Carston were on watch and we looked back at Refuge Cove as it slowly disappeared in a veil of rain. The rain was coming down vertically, so wind did not seem to be an issue with this storm. For the moment. The next moment 30 knots was seen on the instruments and we are hurtling past corner inlet at a healthy 7 knots with very little sail up at all. We pushed along as the wind slowly reduced to 10 – 15 knots with a sea now described as moderate. We are now in the protection of Wilsons Prom. with the wind now behind us, calmer seas and not much sail.

The voyage continues, Seal Island 1425Hrs, +13NM, shoal inlet 1735Hrs +17NM, Golden Beach, 0220Hrs 30NM, Loch Sport 0510Hrs +17NM, Ocean Grange 0710 +10NM, Lakes Entrance 0908Hrs +14NM, Lakes Entrance Bar 0940 +3NM, Paynesville 0230 +10NM

During this long run along the 90 Mile Beach, we experienced some of the most impressive sights that you might hope to see on a voyage such as this. The Wilsons Prom area is spectacular, the rainstorm followed by a full moon, the seas now calm, the flicker of the oil rigs kept us relatively close to shore, red lights at night to protect our night vision, we Moon-danced down the moon trail as it lit the way in the run to Lakes Entrance. As a grand finale a pod of dolphins happy to play at our now slow 4 knots stayed with us for 20 minutes as the dawn broke and our arrival at Lakes Entrance was imminent.

We radioed into the dredge Tommy Norton and got clearance to cross the bar. This was still a bumpy ride considering the now reasonably calm conditions.

Our crew at home was watching us crossing Lakes Entrance bar on the Gippsland Ports live webcam. We made it!!!

With sails stowed we motored our way to the Metung Pub and congratulated ourselves on a great voyage. Suddenly we are all on deck at the same time and the boat seem busy with people scurrying around. Whilst on our watch system it seemed there were only two people on board. Now in the Lakes the population on the boat seems to have doubled. Lady Dorothy is now ‘Back Home’ as much of her 30 years was spent as a charter vessel on the Gippsland Lakes. The little yacht has done well without a single issue over the voyage. She handled the various conditions well and is an extremely comfortable boat on which to sail and cruise.

Many thanks to the crew for the work they put into the boat and the pleasant company they were along the way. we could not have picked better. A special mention to Patrick Rehm, skipper for the voyage, for the considerable time put into making sure we had safe and memorable voyage.

Postscript: We departed the Metung Pub heading for Paynesville when we spotted a familiar craft. A Nolex 30 by the name of Silver Cloud. Silver Cloud seems always to be close by and it was a thrill to see the smiling faces of Mark and Jenny Holter. (Former Commodore and Secretary at MMYC) They escorted us all the way back to Paynesville and made us feel we had just circumnavigated the world. Thanks Folks.

Summary: Sailing Yacht Lady Dorothy. Destination Mordialloc to Paynesville. Distance 255NM, ambient temps. 7 to 19deg C, wind direction SW, wind speed range 8-31knots, barometer range 1019 to 1026.

You may be interested in the specifications:

Model Beneteau First 29

Version Keel and centreboard

Hull type Monohull

Category Cruiser-racer sailboat

Sailboat builder Bénéteau

Sailboat designer Groupe Finot

Sailboat range First

Country France


GRP (glass reinforced polyester):
- Hull: Single skin fibreglass polyester
- Deck: Sandwich fibreglass polyester

Number of hulls built 520

First built hull 1983

Last built hull 1989

Appendages Centreboard Pivoting centreboard in the keel

Helm Single tiller

Rudder Dual spade rudder

Unsinkable No

Overall length 9 m

Hull length 8.7 m

Waterline length 7.5 m

Beam (width) 3.02 m

Draft 2 m

Draft when appendages up 0.72 m

Light displacement (MLC) 3000 kg

Ballast weight 1000 kg

Ballast type Cast iron exterior ballast with steel centreboard

First 29's rig and sails

Upwind sail area 501 ft²/46.5 m²

Downwind sail area 893 ft²/83 m²

Mainsail area 183 ft²/17 m²

Genoa area 318 ft²/29.5 m²

Solent area 251 ft²/23.3 m²

Jib area 167 ft²/15.5 m²

Storm Jib area 46 ft²/4.3 m²

Symmetric spinnaker area 710 ft²/66 m²

Ballast ratio 33 %

Critical hull speed 6.65 knots

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