Cruising Eildon Lake in late Autumn
I am the local scout leader. It is a role that means I can help young kids learn skills they would never learn on an iPad and can be great fun at the same time. By one of those happy coincidences, we have 6 leaders in our troop and 4 of us are sailors.
So when it comes to having fun ourselves, without the scouts, we chose to go sailing of course.
Lake Eildon is about 2 hours away from us in central Victoria, Australia.
The lake level goes up and down, and there is a bit of a drought in Victoria at the moment so the level is down to 30%. But there is enough water to sail on, and the exposed banks are good for camping on. Mid May is getting a bit cold up there, with overnight temperatures around freezing, so that means we won’t be disturbed by too many tourists and we have an excuse for a big campfire. Very scout leader like.
11 cub and scout leaders turned up at Eildon Pub on the agreed Friday night. The cook had conniptions when he realised 11 hungry sailors had just turned up and his usual 3 or 4 diners had just quadrupled in number for the evening. We camped near the shore under a cloudless sky and woke to a frost. A fire was soon started and a hot egg and bacon breakfast delayed our arrival at the ramp to a civilised hour.
My Chebacco 25 and Leo’s 26′ Seaway 787 were launched in a light Northerly breeze and hardly a ripple on the water. Coats stayed on as the clouds got darker and the breeze freshened to maybe 8 or 10 knots. But at least we picked up a little speed on the beat to our intended campsite. Scout Leader Chewy, our self appointed camp cook, was very keen to get a fire going but personally I didn’t see the need to rush. The lightly forested hills to the West hid all sorts of interesting houses, from holiday shacks to mountaintop mansions with windows on every side. But the densely timber covered mountains to the East showed no sign of human habitation. That is where we were headed.
Where there are two sail boats there is a race. Beating in the cool breeze kept me concentrating on keeping up with the Seaway. The Chebacco wouldn’t point as well as this 1/4 ton racer. Initially this did concern me, the skipper. (I suspect I need to rake the mast back a bit to improve the helm balance.) But soon my crew convinced me the reason for the trip had more to do with fun and comradeship than speed. The rum was brought out and I handed the tiller to Scout Leader Suzanna who quickly learned the basics of sail boat handling.
The Chebacco 25 is well suited to this role of cruising comradarie. We had a 12′ cockpit with spaces for 6 adults.
After a couple of hours in light conditions it was clear we were being left behind. The iron topsail (a 15hp Johnson) soon solved that. The Chebacco makes 6 knots easily with half throttle, but full throttle gives you hardly any more speed, she won’t plane, at least not with that many on board.
We found a secluded bay with flat ground to pitch our tents on and light our fire. The gangplank was a handy idea – no wet feet.
We ate well, we figure we make good examples for our scouts – we came prepared with a BBQ rack and a small chainsaw for an ample fire.
Some of us slept aboard, others preferred to set up their swags (Australian for 1 person canvas tent/beds)
After another hearty breakfast we cleaned up, including some litter we found from a previous, less conscientious camper, and sailed back to the ramp. This day I was much happier, the Chebacco runs well and we kept up with and passed the Seaway.
It wasn’t my most serious sailing trip – but serious fun, with a group of guys and girls who are serious about teaching kids about the magical experiences you can have outdoors.