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Isabella 2, Survival of Bass Strait. (standard:non fiction, 2760 words)
Author: Andre LinnellAdded: May 13 2001Views/Reads: 3711/2761Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
True story about a yatching holiday turned into a survival test in the most dangerous strait of water Known.


She was named after my mates' wife; he owned the 25-foot Top Hat.  A sky
blue hull with a white top and decking.  A masthead sloop with a tiller 
instead of a steering wheel. 

"The last two weeks in March," I said to Dean "Should be a good trip," I
half stated, half asked.  Dean has fished out in Bass Strait for years 
and I was keen to find out the pros and cons of my friends planned 
adventure.  I told Dean, "There's three of us going."  The owner Alan, 
his mate Mike who was a yacht racer, and myself, a surfer who had only 
been on an ocean Liner and a fishing trip in the bay.  "So you're going 
to Tasmania?" he said, "Crossing the paddock can be pretty fruity this 
time of year."  Dean asked, "Have you ever been in big seas?"  Nope, 
never.  He said, "Well I hope you get to see it really turn it on.  
That's another world out there". 

That it was; we sailed out of Westernport Bay on March 26th at 4p.m.  We
took the short cut between the Nobbies and Seal Rock, then set a course 
for Launceston and went at it with two sails up and a slight side to 
following wind.  We were 10 miles out as the sun set and about 300 
dolphins joined us.  36 hours later we were sailing up the Tamar River, 
beautiful scenery on both sides, country scapes and old towns with 
willow trees bent for a drink. 

The water like a rippled mirrored sky, gold from the sunrise, grey from
the cloud, dark green from the grassy banks and tall trees.  The odd 
sploosh could be heard as a fish surfaced for moths and dragonflies.  
We spent a lazy two days sailing up and back with a touch of nightlife 
on the up. 

The following evening we headed toward Cape Barron Island.  We were
about an hour or two out from the Tamar entrance as night was falling.  
We witnessed shafts of white light coming up from the ocean, beaming up 
underneath the clouds turning them a pinkish - red for about 10 
minutes.   It was all a distance away but I knew from a past experience 
that it was the Aurora Australis, The Great Southern Lights or 'The 
Aura of the Earth'.  I explained to the guys how I had driven down a 
hill in between Korumburra and Pound Creek and had actually driven 
through this same phenomenon.  That time it was 1a.m. and 12 lights 
were roaring out of grass paddocks 500 metres apart and about 10 metres 
in diameter, shining up under the clouds and turning them red.  I drove 
in between two of the lights and out the other side then got out of the 
car, looking back to check my vision and my sanity.  Next morning I 
heard about the phenomenon on the radio. 

We anchored between Flinders Island and Cape Barron Island, slept the
night on board and for breakfast dived for green-lipped abalone.  What 
a meal! 

We sailed into Lady Barron on Flinders Island the next night for a meal
in the Hotel.  We held the pool table all night and came back to the 
boat surprisingly unscathed but too drunk to sail anywhere for a day. 
The next day was hot and spent onboard overcoming wicked hangovers. 

That evening at 6p.m. we set sail for home.  The weatherman reported a
high-pressure system in the Bight so we should have experienced an 
Easterly wind tending NE by the following night; a nice broad reach all 
the way home.  Too easy! 

We fished as we left the entrance of Flinders Island and we filled an
esky with pike.  We put ice on them and tied the esky in the forward 
cabin, right up in the bow of the boat.  The boys slept and I was on 
the helm steering all night until 5.30a.m. 

By the time Alan and Mike awoke we had a nice swell hitting the right
side of the boat, Starboard.  The waves were approx. one metre higher 
than the side of the Isabella and she was sliding up and over them with 
ease.  The yacht has 3 tonne of lead in the big fin underneath,'the 
keel', so she self rights if toppled over. 

My turn to sleep, Mike on the helm and Alan trimming sail, etc.  By the
time I went down stairs into the galley, stripped off my wet gear and 
put on dry clothes the swell had increased.  I could hear a slight roar 
as some of the waves broke into whitewater.  The boys were facing the 

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