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The Perfect Cruising Ground — A Matter of Perspective

In this month’s edition of Latitude 38 we share Lin Pardey’s perspective about what may or may not be the perfect cruising ground …

A flight of pelicans skim the sun-sparkled water just a dozen feet from where we lie at anchor. A flock of black swans waddle across the exposed mud flats a hundred yards to leeward. No sight or sound of traffic or city life; no moorings, no other boats, nothing but us and the birds.

We’d sailed for hundreds of miles to get to know David’s first grandchild, whose family lives near Melbourne, Australia, and to partake in family holiday madness. Western Port Marina, just a dozen miles from his daughter’s home, proved to be the perfect location, one that let us invite family and a host of David’s cruising friends on board. Being secured alongside in the marina let us head off to lunches and evening entertainments without hesitation. But after three weeks of being tied cheek to jowl with 200 other boats and partaking of an overflowing social life, we’d needed a break and this felt like utter bliss.

David and friends aboard Sahula
David (left) has a chuckle with new friends Gary Donnellan and Shari Essex, who helped Sahula tie up at one of her stops in ‘Taz.’
© 2020 Lin Pardey

It would have been difficult finding this isolated anchorage without the aid of a chartplotter. Called Chicory Cut, it is just that; a deeper cut in a vast area of mud flats that now, at low tide, lay fully exposed — but at high tide would be hidden under 3 feet of water. The nearest visible land is almost a mile away and when David got on his paddleboard to go ashore for a walk soon after we anchored, he found solid ground unreachable unless he was willing to wade for half a mile through knee-deep, gooey-thick mud.

We’d chosen Chicory Cut as it is one of the few places in the huge expanse of Western Port Bay that offers protection from southwesterly winds and is, at the same time, away from swift currents and shipping channels. We knew we could only stay two days. After that we had to return to the marina or look for another cut on the northern side of the bay to have protection from the forecast northerly gales, which would make this anchorage untenable.

Sahula under sail
The 40-ft ‘Sahula’ is a stretched version of Van de Stadt’s 36-ft ‘Seal’ design. The boat was built of steel in Australia in 1991.
© 2020 Lin Pardey

“Sure looking forward to getting up to the Barrier Reef in a few months,” I commented when David set out snacks for sundowners. He nodded in agreement, then added, “And after that, be good to get back to New Zealand to enjoy meandering around the Hauraki Gulf islands. Talk about two almost-perfect cruising grounds! Can’t see much to recommend this area.”

I had spent more than four decades exploring the world under sail before I met David Haigh. He had spent 11 years circumnavigating, and I remember how, on our first meeting, we’d begun the conversation by sharing our favorite cruising grounds. He had listed the islands of southern Turkey; I’d countered with Baja California and the river estuaries of western Ireland. Our highly different lists grew as the evening lengthened. That had been the beginning of a relationship that saw us set sail together from New Zealand 18 months ago.

Read more about Lin Pardey and David Haigh’s Down Under cruising adventures in November’s Latitude 38.


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