Perth to Cape Naturaliste and Return

By Peter Kovesi  

A 546 km trip in my 4.6m Welsford Navigator Whimbrel along the Western Australian Coastline over two weeks in March and April 2022.

I had been thinking of this trip for years. Could I get from Perth to Cape Naturaliste in my Welsford Navigator? The first part of getting to Mandurah was easy, and could be done in small steps if needed. However, it was the next leg to Bunbury that was the blocker. A 90km stretch with no bail out options on the way. This was what stopped me every time I thought about the trip.

If you could get to Bunbury the rest of the trip looked very doable. The next leg to Busselton was about 50km. While still a significant distance it was within in the sheltered waters of Geographe Bay. Busselton to Dunsborough was easy, about 25km, and then Cape Naturaliste was roughly 15km beyond that.

Over the years I guess I had been subconsciously doing little things that would contribute to making the trip happen. I improved my boat tent and sleeping aboard arrangements as there were no real options for camping ashore on this trip. Drawing from the experience of my Shark Bay trips I made various safety improvements, and worked on making the boat easier to sail.

In the meantime I scouted locations where I could anchor my boat in shelter and camp on it. I knew the perfect spot at Dunsborough from I trip I did there with Paul Ricketts in 2016. I knew the coast to Mandurah intimately. Last Easter I was in Bunbury and checked out where I might hang out in Casuarina Harbour. I knew all the spots I might go.

However in the back of my mind the Mandurah to Bunbury leg remained the challenge. The biggest distance I had sailed in a day was about 60km. Could I sail 90km?

Over the years I had found that if conditions were perfect I could average about 9 km an hour over an extended distance. If I had a really good forecast and was able to maintain 8 to 9 km per hour then I could do the leg in 10 to 11 hours of sailing. If I managed 7 km per hour I was looking at 13 hours, a very long time to be sailing a dinghy single handed. Not something I really wanted to contemplate but, if necessary, not impossible.

There was no concerted preparation programme. Each of these preparations, distance calculations, etc occurred piecemeal over a few years. The idea of doing the trip would enter my head for a while and then it would go away again. However, in early February the idea of doing the trip came back into my head and, a little to my surprise, I realized I was ready to go. The boat was ready and my mind was ready. I got myself a light that I could hoist up the mast in case I arrived in Bunbury after dark. Let’s go!

I mentioned the idea of doing the trip to a couple of friends. I am not sure if they really believed I would do it. Finally, I even told my wife!

It’s quite a long account, if you are keen you can read on…