Cruising Victoria’s Western Port

Antony Baxter enjoys one of Australia’s most popular ports – Western Port in Victoria.
Do not be fooled by the name, it actually lies on the southeast coast of Australia, east of Melbourne and not really west of anywhere.
There are some sailors who say bad things about Western Port: it’s tidal (yep), it’s shallow (yes, in places), there is a lot of mud (true, but a lot of water too!). In fact, it is all of these things and that in part is what makes it both challenging and interesting to the cruising sailor.
The bay is dominated by two large islands, French Island in the north and, to the south, Phillip Island which lies right across the middle of what would be the mouth, thus making a bay with two entrances. The western entrance is the preferred one, and although it hosts the main shipping channel it is easy for small boats to negotiate. The eastern entrance requires a passage through “the Narrows,” a volatile little alley where the tidal streams reach five and six knots under the bridge that connects Phillip Island to the eastern shore at San Remo. If you can clear the 12m air draft under the bridge you can certainly use this entrance — there is plenty of depth and enough room between the bridge pylons — but best to do it at slack water.
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