Leg 7 – Exmouth to Perth: After a rocky ride from Exmouth to Perth’s Rottnest Island, Riviera owner Andrew Luxton celebrated completing leg seven of his epic voyage around Australia. A journey that began on Boxing Day 2013, when Andrew set off from his home port in Martha Cove, Melbourne. Since then, he has travelled some 7633 nautical miles and spent 154 days on board his 51 Enclosed Flybridge, Prime Mover.
Andrew and his wife, Jayne, have experienced some of Australia’s natural wonders including the isolated and picturesque Refuge Cove in Victoria, the stunning Whitsundays in tropical north Queensland and the remote and rugged Kimberleys in Western Australia.
“It has been an amazing journey to date since leaving Melbourne and cruising around Tasmania before heading up the east coast in March. Jayne and I have shared the journey in my 50th year of life with family and friends and have experienced so many wonderful adventures in some of Australia’s most spectacular destinations that I cannot name one place as a stand out of the trip,” Andrew said.
As with each leg of Andrew’s journey, the crew, consisting of Mark Slocombe and Ashley Souter, met a few days before departure to help prepare the boat for the voyage and this includes maintenance, fueling the boat and stocking up on food supplies. Prior to this journey, Andrew serviced Prime Mover’s engines which had over 1500 hours on the main units, and over 3000 hours on the generator.
With Prime Mover ready for the next leg of her journey around Australia, Andrew set the alarm for 3.30am and they departed out of the breakwater at Exmouth at 4am on October 24, bound for Maulds Landing, some 110 nautical miles away.
“We had to head north first to round North West Cape before turning south and punching into it for the next 95 nautical miles. With a swell of 1-1.5 metres, Prime Mover sat on a steady 10 knots and after a quick look in at Norwegian Bay, where there is an old whaling station on the beach, we elected to push on to Maulds Landing due to the strong wind,” Andrew said.
“The old whale station at Norwegian Bay was opened in 1912 and closed in 1957 due to the pressure to reduce the kills on humpback whales. In its first year of operation 2000 whales were killed and between 1925 and 1928 they took 3500 whales.
“We arrived at Maulds Landing at about 4pm and picked up a lone public mooring which gave us shelter from behind the reef. Coral Bay is just south of here so it would have been nice to spend a couple of days exploring the area, but with increasing wind and swell we decided to continue on to Shark Bay the following day.”
After an overnight anchorage at Maulds Landing, it was another early morning departure for the 121 nautical mile trek to their next stop, Bernier Island, followed by stopovers at Turtle Bay, Shelter Bay, Abrolhos Islands, Morley Island, Geraldton and Jurien Bay before reaching their final destination at Rottnest Island on December 2.
The crew experienced choppy conditions on their run to Turtle Bay but they were rewarded with some sightings of whales, dolphins and manta rays at the northern end of Dirk Hartog Island on their way to Shelter Bay, a short 52 nautical miles from Turtle Bay.
“The wild life was everywhere but we couldn’t catch anything on the troll lines. As we continued further south to Shelter Bay, the wind picked up again to 20-30 knots to make sure Prime Mover got a good salt water wash before a well-earned rest for the next 24 hours.
“We anchored as close to the shore as possible so we could have a good night’s sleep.”
After a couple of days fishing and exploring Shelter Bay, the crew continued on to Abrolhos Islands and East Wallabi Island, some 148 nautical miles from Shelter Bay and in rough conditions.
“We departed Shelter Bay at 2am and rounded the most westerly point of Australia, Steep Point, and headed south at 8 knots for the Abrolhos Islands. After a slow 19 hour journey, we arrived into Turtle Bay at 9pm. The wind was 20-30 knots, seas 2-3 metres and every 7th wave was very sharp sided with no back, so we took it slow keeping our speed to 6-7 knots for the 19 hour journey.
“The seas were not big like Tasmania, but it looked like a washing machine – no structure at all to the swell. We picked up a public mooring at Turtle Bay and enjoyed a beer to celebrate.”
Andrew and his crew spent the next day exploring The Abrolhos Islands (also known as The Houtman Abrolhos), which is a chain of 122 islands (including the Wallabi group, Easter group and Pelsaert group) named after Dutch explorer Frederick de Houtman, the Captain-General of the Dordrecht in 1619. This group of islands is home to large breeding colonies of seabirds.
“We headed ashore to a very pretty island with great sea colours and a lot of bird life. We walked the eastern end of the island and checked a shore structure and eagle nests and in the afternoon we enjoyed a snorkel and a few beers on the back deck.”
The next day we departed East Wallabi Island for Pigeon Island, which is covered in housing for the local fishermen who work the area in the cray season. We then moved around the corner to Beacon Island, which is where many of the survivors of the Batavia wreck (the Dutch ship that was shipwrecked on her maiden voyage in 1629) were murdered by mutineers and buried on the island. We travelled further south to the Easter group and Rat Island for an overnight anchorage before continuing down to Pelsaert Island the next day.
“As Prime Mover navigated its way down through the coral on our way to Pelsaert Island, we were amazed at the stunning water and dolphins escorting us into the anchorage. We moved out of 17 metres of water into two metres to pick up a public mooring.
“After lunch we headed ashore to explore the small island and came across a sea lion sunbacking on the sand. The sea lion couldn’t care less that we were taking photos of him, all he was interested in doing was sleeping and thinking about the fish he had eaten during the day, it reminded me of Sophie, our dog at home. With the wind picking up we decided to head back to the boat for our last night in the Abrolhos Islands before the 44 nautical mile trip to Geraldton.
“We had a nice smooth run into Geraldton and spotted a group of whales on the way. We experienced mixed weather again with the wind rarely below 20 knots – it is definitely not the cruising season for this part of the coast and unfortunately this limited our options for fishing and touring around in Mini Mover II.”
Prime Mover spent the next month in Geraldton before continuing 200 nautical miles south to Fremantle to complete leg 7.
Departing Geraldton on December 1, Andrew and his new crew consisting of his long time friend Paul Ridgeway and Paul’s friend from Perth, Allen Wolfenden, headed out of the marina and across to the fisherman’s wharf at 5am to load fuel in a bid to be underway by 6.30am.
“As we dodged about 500 cray pots and with south to south west winds of 10-15 knots and a small swell, we cruised at 10 knots for a gentle ride to the cray fishing port of Jurien Bay, 110 nautical miles south.
“After an overnight anchorage in Jurien Bay, it was another early start as we headed around the reefs and continued on our way south to Rottnest Island. With south to south east winds up to 20 knots we cruised along at 10 knots again arriving late in the day to Rocky Bay on the north side of Rottnest Island.
“Since there is no room to anchor in Rocky Bay we had to try to work out the buoy system but fortunately, Dave, from another boat helped out by jumping into his tender and showing us a 20 metre mooring which we quickly picked up. The only other place where I have seen so many moorings in one place is Sydney Harbour. Rottnest Island must be out of control over the summer period.
“The next day we got up at 4.30am and headed out to the edge of the shelf about 10 nautical miles west to have a troll before the wind picked up, but being early in the season we didn’t expect to catch much. We headed back into Rocky Bay with beautiful sunshine and very light winds – I can see why Perth boaters love this anchorage.”
After exploring Rottnest Island for a couple of days, it was time to make the 19 nautical mile journey to Fremantle. Departing on December 4, Andrew and his crew were on a race against the tide to make a safe passing under the bridge on the Swan River.
“Prime Mover is 7.4 metres high and the bridge on the Swan River is 7.1 metres at high tide. With low tide being at 4.30am, we departed Rottnest early and arrived at the bridge at 5.30am. We dropped the game poles and VHF aerial to reduce Prime Mover’s height and luckily we cleared the bridge with 300mm to spare.
“Garry from R Marine Perth found us a pen at Aquarama Marina and he has arranged for their service department to complete routine maintenance. Prime Mover will remain in Fremantle until February 2015, when we will resume our journey and explore the south west before embarking on our final challenge, the journey across the Great Australian Bight.”
The journey from the southwest to the southeast seaboard will take Andrew and his crew across the Great Australian Bight, which is otherwise known as a marine desert and renowned for its treacherous conditions. As Andrew enters his 51st year of life, he looks forward to the challenge of crossing the Bite and the gratification of completing one of life’s most amazing adventures – to circumnavigate Australia in his Riviera 51 Enclosed Flybridge, a total distance of some 9000 nautical miles. Living the Riviera dream. 1720 words
Start Date: 26th December 2013
Leg 1 Melbourne – Hobart
Leg 2 Hobart – Melbourne
Leg 3 Melbourne – Cairns
Leg 4 Cairns – Darwin
Leg 5 Darwin to Western Kimberley’s – Darwin
Leg 6 Darwin – Exmouth
Leg 7 Exmouth – Perth
Total days on Prime Mover: 154 days
Total nautical miles travelled: 7633nm