Cruise: Northeastern Kangaroo Island

Preface: Read my Cruising Guide to SA to learn more about Kangaroo Island sailing.

Last weekend I made another 4-day sailing cruise to my favorite sailing destination, Kangaroo Island. In contrast to my last single-handed crossing, this time Arriba was bustling with 6 persons on board. Fortunately, with 3 cabins and a generous saloon, there was ample room for everyone.

There's a saying that the best sailors are those without timetables. Alas, work did impose an end date, but we allowed the wind to dictate our daily destinations. So with a southwesterly blowing as we departed Wirrina Cove and only 5 hours of daylight remaining - not enough time to tack back and forth upwind - we had a choice of sailing west for North Cape, or south into the great Southern Ocean, the next stop Antarctica. Not so much of a choice!

Approaching North Cape, Kangaroo Island.

We dropped anchor in the lee of Marsden Point (map), about 200m from shore, well protected from the southwesterly wind and the westerly swell.

Note: If the wind swings to the S/E/SE, move to Boxing Bay 2 miles to the NW.

I'm an early riser and the following morning while my crew slumbered I caught and cleaned two squids. Later we motor sailed around to Kingscote, the island's capital, where we stopped for lunch and to replenish essential victuals - such as tortilla chips and pancake mix.

Anchored in front of the Ozone Hotel, Kingscote.

Surprisingly, the afternoon produced a light northerly for a couple of hours, although the forecast was for a southeasterly. No anchorages west of North Cape are safe in a northerly, so we decided to sail east to American River. Eventually, the wind swung around as forecast and we tacked our way across Eastern Cove averaging about 6 knots, towing a paravane lure in our wake. Just as we approached the first lateral marker to the American River channel, the paravane popped to the surface. In my experience, this usually means I've snagged some seaweed, but to everyone's excitement we'd actually hooked a fish, a beautiful Snook to be precise.

American River, or "The River" as locals call it, is unquestionably Kangaroo Island's finest all-weather anchorage, and should not be missed by visiting yachties. My preferred spot is 100m north of Picnic Point (35°47.86'S 137°45.84'E), just outside the Aquatic Reserve (map).

Barbecued squid and snook for dinner.
I put out the crab pot while cooking dinner, and snared a large specimen of mud crab.

Crab for second course.

The following morning was dead calm, so perfect for kayaking around the marine reserve and spotting fish and stingrays.
Sunrise, American River.

No one was in any great hurry to leave, but the forecast for the following and final day, was for an easterly wind, and home would lay precisely upwind if we stayed put. Backstairs Passage, the waters separating the western end of Kangaroo Island from the mainland, can be nasty when winds, tides and swells collide, and I wanted those elements working for us, not against us.

So with another light northerly, we motor sailed to Christmas Cove, Penneshaw. My ancient Cruising Gulfs Log (by Neil Thompson, 1984) stated that the entrance was not wide enough for catamarans, but fortunately, that was not the case, the entrance being about 20m wide. Christmas Cove is in fact a delightful little harbor, within easy walking distance to a charming pub, "The Penny", plus cafes.

Arriba at Christmas Cove.

Penneshaw would have been a lovely spot to overnight, but we decided to continue further east.

Cape Coutts, NW of Antechamber Bay

Antechamber Bay, with its wide open bay, is described by Thompson as a "safe, though sometimes uneasy, place to drop hook in for winds NW-S-E". Sure enough, Cape St Albans blocks the wind from those directions, but what he fails to mention is that any west in the swell makes the recommended SE corner of the bay a rather bumpy place to anchor.

Seagrass, Antechamber Bay.

Nevertheless, it's a beautiful bay and I would like to return when it is warmer and calmer.
Beach bonfire, Antechamer Bay.

Next morning, while waiting for tide to stop ebbing, I caught 10 Australian herring, locally known as "Tommy Ruff". Small, but tasty.
Tommy Ruff (Australian herring).

As soon as the tide calmed down, we set sail across Backstairs Passage in 25 knots and 1.5 ~ 2m seas, making it back to Wirrina in under 4 hours.

This trip marks one year since I started this blog. Thanks if you've been following my adventures on Arriba; I look forward to sharing many more.


PS In case you're wondering, there is no minimum length for Tommy Ruff.