Saturday, September 14, 2013
Shark Bay, Monkey Mia, Quoin Bluff to Cape Ransonnet
Before getting ready to leave Carnarvon I did another water and rubbish run then got everything ready to leave around 1000 hours, I figured there would be about the same water levels as when we entered and I was willing to get to the shallow part where we had no water under us on the way in as it is a rising tide so if we did touch bottom it would only be for a few minutes.
I watched the depth gauge as soon as we had 2.1 metres at the anchorage I said lets go, we let go the mooring and slowly edged our way into the cannel, when we got to the shallowest point near where the dredge was working I was not disappointed, we had the same as when we entered, no water under us, we must have just stirred the silt as we slid by that point.
(Leaving Carnarvon leads ahead as we motor down Fascine Channel)
With no wind we had to motor although I had sails up for a little help here or there or just show at times. We headed for Herald Bight for an overnight anchorage, we were entertained all the way with whales playing, either breaching out of the water or flapping their fins. Plus all the other life of turtles, birds and dolphins.
(Whales at play, this collage of some of the different sightings we had)
(Not much of a photo I know, but this whale surfaced and dived right alongside the starboard hull, all I could do was grab the camera and click, the dark section under water is the head and the start of the back is the part out of the water)
(Birds in flight)
We dropped the anchor at 1730 hours just in time for sundowners.
(Sunset at Herald Bight)
The anchorage were we stopped was good, but like most places on the west coast you cannot get very close to shore for wind protection we had to anchor nearly one nautical mile of the beach because it shoals so far out. So in windy conditions you will get some fetch causing the wind waves although not uncomfortable but can be noisy on the hull.
No rush this morning we had breakfast and listened to Macca on the radio before weighing anchor and heading to Monkey Mia about a 19NM sail or should I say sail, motor sail motor in that order. We caught the tide down there which provides an extra two knots speed. When we had travelled a couple of miles we met 'Banyandah' coming back the other way, we had a chat to them and said we may catch up with them tomorrow or the next day. We arrived at Monkey Mia around lunchtime as a storm squall decided to join us. I said to Nancy we could go ashore for lunch. What wife says no to that?
(Chart showing where we anchored, waypoint as on chart. it is possible to sneak around the corner a little further for greater wind protection it is deeper than the chart indicates)
(Stormy skies today)
(These cormorants fly out in groups around 0800 hours each day and then spread themselves sometimes in pairs and fish all day, then after the sun goes down and during that twilight they join up again in their groups and fly to land to roost for the night)
(Pair of Pied Cormorants)
We lowered the dinghy and conditions were a little choppy, when we got inshore the waves were crashing on the shoreline so we used the jetty to get off and the guided the dinghy ashore with the painter (head rope), dragging the dinghy ashore backwards that stopped the dinghy from being swamped.
(Ashore near the jetty and boat ramp)
We had just about finished our lunch when some rain came in so we headed back to the dinghy did the reverse method of getting the dinghy to the jetty, got the dinghy bow into the water near the jetty, Nancy took the head rope I took the stern and we pulled the dinghy passed the breakers and then got aboard and headed back to the boat.
Had a quiet night aboard we intend to leave early in the morning to head to Denham where 'Banyandah' have anchored, it is about 50NMS so we need the day to get there and there is no wind.
We left Monkey Mia when there was just a glow of morning in the sky, conditions were calm not a breath of air, another iron sail day.
(The morning glow as the sun starts to rise)
(Heading north of Monkey Mia)
Again with flat seas we are entertained with nature, dolphins, turtles and birds and later whales. You have to love this life. As we rounded Cape Peron North I checked the weather and realised that Denham is open to the predicted winds, also it is the same distance to go there as to go to Quoin Bluff where we intend to go the next day. So I made that executive decision and headed for Quoin Bluff and we have the required protection from the predicted winds. I contacted Glen by phone and he will see us over here tomorrow.
(Australasian Gannet, I'm out of here)
(Pied Cormorant fishing)
(Whales at play)
(Whale that had breached re-entering the water)
We did another 50NMS today and as soon as we anchored and got settled I grabbed a coldie, I reckon I earned it.
(Sunrise at Quoin Bluff)
We were nice and relaxed taking things easy at the Quoin Bluff anchorage then mid morning Glen rang and said that he had gone to Cape Ransonnet south end of Dirk Hartog Island and was thinking about leaving tomorrow. We had a discussion about the conditions and the weather, I was thinking the waves are too great to leave but said I would check again and if we weren't happy about it we would not be going. Each skipper has to look at the situation and call what is the safest move.
I then did some research on the net re-weather/wave heights and directions. There is one unknown quantity and that is what the effect of the waves on the cliffs as we know they rebound, so my theory is that the smaller the swell the smaller the rebound. There are the Zuydorp Cliffs that face south west and the swell and waves from that direction especially hit the cliff face and rebound back to sea, it is not like a beach where the waves just break and roll onto the beach, here they hit a wall and bounce back.
Nancy and I discussed the issue and we decided we would head down to where they are and keep checking the weather at least by going down to where 'Banyandah' was anchored we are closer to the exit at Steep Point.
So we sailed and motor sailed down the 15NMS through the channel to Cape Ransonnet and steered up the channel to the bay nearby. The channel or Blind Strait has markers, on the chart it shows leads, they are not there and also some of the lateral markers that are shown on the chart are missing. However, the electronic charts show the correct path to travel.
When we first set out we had to motor and I unfurled the headsail as there was a little wind from behind, as we got to Blind Strait the wind changed direction to NW and I had 26 knots at times so it was a good ride through the strait.
We got to the anchorage and there is a lot of weed growing on the seabed so after trying to drop the anchor in a clear spot with 26 knots of wind blowing was fun, it took three goes before we could get hold of the bottom, Nancy had to clean the anchor the first two tries.
(Chart showing anchorages and the track that we took out of South Passage, basically the track follows the deeper water between the rock near the point and the sandbar in the centre of the passage)
Glen and Nigel came over for sundowners and to discuss the weather. Glen asked what I thought and I said the jury is still out and probably will be until the weather reports in the morning. He agreed with me, we will revisit it in the morning. One advantage we have is that the BOM update the wind charts between 0400 and 0500 hours EST so due to our time difference we get them nice and early WST.
They dropped Louise off this morning she was going through to Geraldton but times getting along and with the weather we are not sure when we will all get there.
We have 25 to 30 knot winds out there at this present time and I believe the seas have a swell of around 5.6 metres outside our safe anchorage so we are staying put. This anchorage is good for all SW to N winds, holding is good when you find a clear patch as the seagrass is quite thick in places. The entrance via the southern end is quite narrow and there are some rocks to the southern point of the land where care needs to be taken making sure the tide flow does not push you in that direction.
Up early to check the weather the boys on 'Banyandah' are itching to get away today, but I think if we go it will be later in the day, I think it will be very late in the day after checking the weather charts.
I check a few internet weather websites, the BOM is one of the good ones in looking at wind charts and wave charts as they update twice a day, usually around 0500 hours and 1700 hours (EST). Metvuw is another good site. Other sites like Buoy weather, Grib files and Seabreeze are good but I have not found them that reliable as far as sailing, with the first two are American and their updating times are probably when they are awake and we are asleep but they do give good reference. Seabreeze is not designed for yachting and they state that on their site it is for the surf and board riders, it identifies what is happening on the shore. Some yachties rely on this site alone and that maybe alright if they sail close to the coast only.
After checking the weather sites I think the better times for the 150NM sail will be either late tonight or a little before if things calm down wave heights by the weather man state they will drop to 2 metres at 0200 hours in the morning and stay like that until Friday midday winds SW to W 10 - 15 knots reducing down to 5 - 10 knots, not good for sailing but calmer conditions that the 5.6 metre waves of yesterday and this morning.
Glen and I had a discussion regarding the weather and the window we have this next stretch has wave rebound on the cliffs so the smaller the waves the smaller the rebound. Glen suggested we go at first light in the morning conditions would have calmed down a lot more by that time and we have plenty of time before the wind kicks in on Friday.
So we had sundowners and dinner then an early night.
I was out of bed by 0450 hours so put the kettle on to make a tea for Nancy and I, I took Nancy a cup of tea and said don't rush to get up I am just checking weather and latest wave heights.
After Nancy got up we started preparing to leave and we pulled the anchor at first sign of light 'Banyandah' did the same as soon as we headed into South Passage we felt the NW wind of around 10-15 knots and whilst heading into it we hoisted the mainsail. As we neared the bar crossing I could see the waves breaking. Checking the sketch in the guide book was a little unclear so I followed the chart and watched where the waves were breaking as we got closer it was quite clear the track to take as the water rippled heavily where the shallow bar was and also breaking in other areas but identified a clear path out.
Naturally with the SW swell and wind waves from the NW it was a little lumpy getting out of the passage and it stayed lumpy until we got out to the 100 metre water depths, so for some time it was quite uncomfortable. Steep Point at the head of the passage is Australia's mainland furthest western point and this is where the cliffs really start and the wave rebounding of the cliff and back to sea, combined with wind waves makes it like a washing machine.
Also as we neared the bar just before Steep Point we noticed campers on the flat area of Steep Point, they all came to the edge to watch us go out to sea.
Once we got out to the deeper water the rebounding waves ceased but the seas were still a little lumpy but we sailed well, after a few miles I noticed the winds rising and could see a storm squall to the starboard side near the horizon and thought that would be the cause. As it got closer the winds picked up to 30 knots. We very quickly furled the headsail and started an engine turned into the wind and put a reef in the mainsail, turned back on course unfurled the headsail leaving six turns on so we were well reefed down and we stayed like this most of the voyage.
The storm squalls became a pattern for the day and night, after the first squall and like most squalls we were left without wind for a short time, so it was drop speed start one engine to keep going then as the wind came back shut the engine down.
After things settled down a little and I mean a little, I went and had a sleep and Nancy took over after an hour dozing we swapped places. It is important on these overnight runs more so when it is only one or two nights that you get as much rest as you can when you can because you do not know what the conditions will be later and through the night. When you get rough seas it is not only rough but very noisy with waves slamming the hulls of the boat. On a long voyage where one sails for many days and nights after three days you get used to this and can usually sleep on demand but it takes three days to condition to it.
After lunch I went for another rest this time I lasted two hours this put me in good stead for the night, Nancy stayed up until after dinner. Dinner was also prepared before we even left the anchorage. Nancy uses the Shuttle Chef Thermo cooker, this way the leftovers stay hot in there over night so if it is cold which it was you can have something hot to eat during the night watch.
Nancy went for a sleep after dark and I took the watch through to midnight, I was going to go longer to give her more sleep but by 0020 hours I was feeling very sleepy and safety comes first, so I went down and woke her, she said she had slept for short periods which is what we do until you get conditioned as I said before. I put the kettle on before going out to the cockpit so she could make a hot drink to bring out with her when she takes the watch. This is a habit we have always got into when sailing overnight.
It had been an interesting watch with the squalls but the last one left us without any wind and the sails were just slapping from side to side, the little wind we had was from behind so I decided to leave the headsail up that was being blocked by the mainsail and drop the mainsail. So I went out to the mast dropped the mainsail and motor sailed with the headsail unfurled about two thirds.
We always do a proper handover of the watch, we have usually plotted where we are at that point in time on the paper chart showing the track we have taken and the plotted course we hope to stay on. All other information if there are ships about, where our mates are on 'Banyandah' and any other information such as what weather conditions we have had what sails we have, what engine to start if we need one. Yes my Navy training has stayed with me, but it comes to safety.
I remember reading an article of a couple sailing to Fiji, the husband took the watch at 0400 hours, no hand over, he looked at the electronic charts all appeared to be alright, so he made himself a coffee before venturing into the cockpit to have a look around, the wife already in bed, then suddenly a crash and the yacht is on its side. It had hit a flat top reef and every crashing wave pushed them further onto the reef. They were lucky they put out a call and two other yachts in the area came to their aid and was able to pull the yacht off the reef, fortunately a good solid yacht and suffered little damage. The skipper admitted that he found that he had the electronic chart plotter on the wrong projection and he had not checked his paper charts for more than eleven hours. I can tell you after sailing these waters it is not a good place to make mistakes, they say if you fly over the Fijian waters you would never sail it because of the network of reefs. Complacency has been the cause of many injuries and deaths the sea is not a place to become complacent.
That's the end of today's lecture, let us get back to sailing to the Wallabi Islands.
Nancy took the watch and also suffered the rain squalls, I think she had more rain than I got on my watch, she had an interesting night we were motor sailing at the time because the last storm I had it left us with no wind at all and the wind direction swung around the clock. I know at one stage that I got up and asked her if we had slowed down because we seemed to be rocking more, so much so I had to go down the aft cabin to try and sleep. Nancy said no just going through another squall.
I went back to try and sleep, again I dropped off and woke at the change of movement or noise of the boat, Nancy came and woke me at 0415 hours, she wanted to hang on but we were getting close to the islands with only 10NMS to go.
We did the hand over and Nancy said she would try and get an hour in before we get in to anchor, I backed off on the speed to wait for a little more light, but I must say the electronic charts were spot on and you could come in when it was dark with no problems other than where we ended up you have to pass some moorings so you would need to be alert and have a spot light or strong torch. Personally though I would wait until light in this place, it would be alright in the northern bay but this area daylight would be better.
When we got in we actually picked up a very solid yellow mooring thinking it was one of the public moorings, looking at the website later I don't think it is but I don't think anyone is going to arrive in this weather looking for it so we will stay on it unless someone comes and asks us to move.
(Chart showing the track into the anchorages, after passing the second lateral markers there are quite a few moorings)
Looking at the weather we will be here until Sunday or Monday when the winds die down some. You know a fellow sailor in Broome asked where we were going and I said down the west coast, his reply was, poor bastard, he had done it once and said that was enough. Well I don't regret what we are doing but I think once is enough. The vast expanse of the Indian Ocean and the weather coming from the SW and not many hiding holes to anchor is a constant concern. The weather gurus do well but the seas and winds are not always what is predicted. I always said that sailing this coast is a bigger challenge than crossing the Pacific Ocean and I stand by that statement. We have been very lucky, consider the forecast for the area of Eighty Mile Beach now, there is nowhere to anchor in the weather it is getting and it is not as bad as here. As you may have read in past notes you have to anchor 1.5 to 3.5 nautical miles off the coast up there and all that is behind you is the Indian Ocean. The east coast is a lot easier to sail as it has many sheltered areas when the proverbial hits the fan.
However, in stating this I am also enjoying the challenge and the beauty this coast has to offer, unfortunately like most years of sailing we don't get to stay long enough to see everything we would like to see and that's what usually makes us come back.
Sailing gets to you as I have said before that there was a plaque on the wall of the Pirates Bar in Bonaire, "Many a vow made in a storm is soon forgotten in calm waters". How true is that, well to sailors it is. I remember talking to a skipper of 'Poppins' about to start the Sydney to Hobart yacht race in 2006, I asked about the boat in the race, she was not a big boat, he said well I wasn't going to enter this year but then I checked the flares and they were still in date so I did. So I asked will this be your last year, his reply was, "Well maybe, unless I buy new flares".
So when a sailor says he won't go there again, it may not be totally true.
Anyway we are safely tucked away and having a nice red wine.