Cruise: Kangaroo Island in a day

As regular readers would know, Kangaroo Island, or "KI" as we South Australians call it, is a one of my favourite places. I feel very fortunate to have such an interesting and beautiful destination only 20 nautical miles away and I've made several dozen sailing trips there. Yet I've never considered a day trip; till now.

The 40-mile round trip is not an excessive amount of sailing for one day. Long-distance cruisers  would think nothing of it, providing of course one can maintain a decent boat speed. It is undoubtedly the capricious Backstairs Passage, the stretch of water that separates the Island from the mainland that turns people off. With the right conditions though, it is loads of fun. We had those conditions yesterday.

First let me describe the perfect conditions first though. Penneshaw on the Island lies 20 nautical miles SW of Wirrina Cove on the mainland. Rapid Head is the only land mass that prevents a straight shot between the two points. The perfect wind is a moderate breeze from the SE, say 15 knots, permitting a beam reach in each direction. (On a weather map, there is likely to be a high pressure located well east of KI). The perfect swell is less than 1m (likely from the W or SW). The perfect time coincides with an ebb time in the outbound direction and a flood tide for the return, shown below:

Yesterday we had everything except for the southeasterly wind in the morning. With crew Nick and Byron, we departed Wirrina Cove at 08:37. Light, variable winds meant it took us almost 4 hours and 25 nautical miles to get to Penneshaw, averaging 6.2 knots. We motor sailed to keep our speed up, arriving at charming little Christmas Cove at 12:40 (top photo).

It's a brisk 5 minute walk to the iconic Penneshaw Hotel which I heartily recommend.
"The Penny" hotel.
Our perfectly-timed lunch break gave the tides time to turn. Low tide was at 11:30, so the flood tide was in full swing by the time we departed at 13:47. Even better, the forecast SE wind had finally kicked in, averaging 20 knots. We unfurled the gennaker and screamed across a flat Backstairs Passage, wind and tide aligned, averaging over 8 knots in the Passage and frequently exceeding 10 knots.
Powered-up gennaker in 20 knots wind. Note the spray!

We slowed down once in the lee of the Fleurieu Penisula, but nevertheless took advantage of the gully winds as we passed coastal valleys by keeping close to shore. By 16:40 we were back at Wirrina Cove.  We'd shaved over an hour off on the return, sailing 22 nautical miles in 2 hours 53 minutes, averaging 7.6 knots. Overall, we had sailed 47 nautical miles, spent ~7 hours at sea and one hour on Kangaroo Island.

Everyone agreed this was an awesome day trip and something we plan to repeat regularly.



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  2. "Kangaroo Island" is a breathtaking marvel of nature, a sanctuary where pristine landscapes and diverse wildlife converge in perfect harmony. Home to a myriad of unique species, including its eponymous kangaroos, as well as koalas, echidnas, and countless bird species, Kangaroo Island!is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Beyond its ecological wonders, the island boasts a rich cultural heritage, with Indigenous traditions woven into its very fabric. Whether exploring its stunning beaches, embarking on wildlife encounters, or simply soaking in the serenity of its unspoiled landscapes, Kangaroo Island offers an unforgettable experience that leaves visitors spellbound and inspired by the natural world.


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