Saturday, November 9, 2013

Esperance to Middle Island and across The Great Australian Bight

Thursday - 17/10/2013


Leaving Esperance we set off for Lucky Bay anchorage but as we got there the swell was heading straight into there so we continued on to the Duke of Orleans, the amount of islands in this area is incredible and one has to keep a look out for rocks although they all appear to be accounted for on the electronic charts. I noticed on the charts for Lucky Bay my earlier version of Navionics and the American paper charts show an island in the middle of the entrance, the latest Navionics and the Garmin electronic charts and the Australian paper charts do not show an island simply because there is no island there. We arrived at Duke of Orleans Bay just before dark and dropped the anchor in what looked like a hell of a lot of seagrass but we held all night not that there was a lot of wind to test it out.
(Heading to Lucky Bay there are many islands and rugged coastline)
(Passing Lucky Bay after changing mind due to wind and sea direction)

Friday - 18/10/2013.

(Duke of Orleans anchorage)
We spent the day at anchor and went ashore to climb the hill for a look around the bays, when we finally got to the top we were surprised to see a village in the next bay the other side of the hill I think it is Whaton. The views were great from the top.
(Duke of Orleans Bay)
(The village of Wharton, Duke of Orleans Bay)

We then returned on board and did a few chores, Glen and Nigel came over for sundowner's and we all agreed to leave at first light for Middle Island.
(Glen and Nigel teamwork, rowing over for sundowners)

Saturday - 19/10/2013

Up at first light which at the moment is around 0430 hours (WST), prepared to set sail for Middle Island. Getting the anchor up was a long process as the seagrass had entwined itself in the anchor chain at the area that swivels, Nancy had a great time getting that clear. We motored out of the bay with mainsail with one reef. The reason for a reef and I always go out of an anchorage with one reef in is for the simple reason in a protected bay it is uncertain what winds are going to bend around a headland and the other reason is if the swell is side on and there is little wind the swell tends to shake the wind out of the sails on a catamaran, having less sail takes some weight from the top and reduces the sail slap from side to side.

Soon after clearing the bay we had wind and I unfurled the headsail as we proceeded the wind changed from NW to W this put the wind behind us so we did the wing on wing, one sail out to starboard the other sail out to port, this worked well for a short while then the headsail would not hold the wind do to the swell rocking us on the beam, so that was furled and went mainsail alone but still kept good speed.

Our aim was to get to Middle Island before lunch time as the winds predicted were S/SE 20 to 30 knots in the afternoon and evening and for the next couple of days.

When we arrived we anchored behind Goose Island for protection from the strong westerly wind and after anchoring there for some time we dragged anchor even though the anchor originally gripped. We re-anchored and all was well. Mid afternoon we changed anchorage to the beach at Middle Island ready for the southerly and south-easterly winds.

Most of the anchorages along this coastline has an abundance of seaweed/seagrasses, clear sand patches are hard to find, in some places the sand is a fine silica sand that packs down hard and sometimes hard to penetrate and sometimes when the anchor does dig in the sand breaks out in a clump. 

It is interesting to see that we are using a modern age anchor a Rocna and 'Banyandah' is using a Sarca, also a modern age anchor, we have probably dragged a couple of times more than they have but we are a lot heavier and have greater windage. But we are finding that you just have to be patient and find the right spot to put the anchor down, it may take a couple of tries but so be it.

The wind stayed around 20-25knots whilst at Middle Island so we did not socialise and have the usual sundowner's. We had internet coverage for a while but when the bad weather came with clouds and rain we lost the signal, fortunately I had copied the photos of the weather charts off the Metvuw site for the whole week. Having these and the weather reports on HF Radio we could follow what was happening. Glen on 'Banyandah' had a sat phone and his wife Anne in Tasmania would look up the weather and give him the information and he would pass that on to us.

Sunday - 20/10/2013

Still anchored at Middle Island and the weather is cold and windy and sometimes wet. We communicate between boats via the VHF radio, the big topic is weather and there is a short weather window if we leave Monday, winds will still be up on that day and so might the seas be, but it is often a good option to leave on the last day of the bad weather if you're not going to bash into it.

We stayed inside the boat all day because of the cold and lit the oven to warm the boat up. Our decision on if we leave here tomorrow will be made when we get the weather report via Anne on Glen's sat phone.

The weather report came in late afternoon and we had discussions over the radio and decided we would head off at 0600 hours tomorrow.

We are aware that we may travel at different speeds and a different course as we do not point into the wind as well as a monohull and we are a faster boat, so we have set up a HF radio schedule for 0600 hours and 1800 hours if we cannot reach each other on the VHF Radio.

So early to bed we have a few days sail of 4 hours on watch and 4 hours off watch to try and sleep.

Monday - 21/10/2013

Commence crossing the Great Australian Bight.

We set off at 0555 hours (WST), we have decided to stay on WA time until we get to Port Lincoln. Once we were out of the protection of the island we got the rough and tumble seas and 20 to 25 knots wind. I left the anchorage with a second reef in the mainsail and now pleased I did, we unfurled the headsail leaving 5 turns on the furler and we were off. It was not long before we passed 'Banyandah' and I actually wound more headsail in to slow us down. We could have easily being 10 knots plus more but it made it uncomfortable or should I say more uncomfortable, plus putting additional strain on all the rigging. We sailed around the 8 knots with waves breaking over the bows and sometimes spraying over the top of us.
(The start of The Great Australian Bight, 'Banyandah' off the starboard bow)
('Banyandah' high seas)

Glen had set a course to go further south than us as he felt that he would arrive late Friday and Friday has east winds predicted which would allow him to tack northward into Port Lincoln. We did not follow this route for two reasons, the main reason is that we cannot point into the wind as well as Glen in his ketch and secondly I felt we would be there before the east winds would upset us.

We lost sight of 'Banyandah' through the night and by the following morning we could not reach them on VHF radio we had to revert to the HF Radio schedules.

Being the first night out neither of us got any sleep with the bouncing of the boat and the noise of the waves crashing on the hull.

Tuesday - 22/10/2013

We have sailed 153NMS in the first 24 hours, we could have done better but we reefed right down for the night hours to slow the boat down as the moon came and went as the storm squalls went through, I think I had five squalls in the 2000 hours to midnight watch and another three in 0400 to 0800 hours watch and the wind is bitterly cold, I have been wearing a T shirt, long sleeve shirt a track suit top over that, track pants and my off shore wet weather gear on top of those, deck shoes with socks a beanie and a hood that is like a balaclava. We have put one of the side covers down so we hide behind it and stay out of the wind.

The following are notes I put on the iPad when I was on watch, hence the early and late being the different watches things that were going through my mind.

Wednesday - 23.10.13 early
I now remember why it takes 3 days at sea to settle and get sleep on demand, one is so stuffed from lack of sleep by this time you would sleep through a cyclone.
The moon tonight has been cancelled triple amount of clouds and storm cells will take its place.
We are going well averaging over 7 knots per hour. We hope to beat the east winds on Friday, we may have them for the last 40 miles if we can keep up the good rate.
I usually like night sailing, but that is in warmer climates, note to self, next year stay in warmer climates. Thank you Robyn for making our nights warmer, come to think of it days also.
Just had a storm cell, reefed down, (thank God), and screaming along at 10 knots then storm cell goes and we drop to 5 knots.
I have had so many storm cells the last couple of days I think my boats a storm chaser.
I see the moon trying to force the clouds away hope it wins.
Wind just dropped from 28 knots to 13 knots, this is what happens when the storm cell leaves. Winds slowly picking up again.
Come on midnight, let me kick Nancy out of bed to take the watch and I can jump into the warm spot she left.
(One of the many storm cells ahead)

Wednesday - 23.10.13 late
Gab is a different sea. (I have crossed the Great Australian Bight a few times on Naval ships and I have seen it at its worst but I have also seen it when it has been calm which I think is a rare sight.)
Night sailing through squalls. (Sailing through squalls at night can be nerving, in daylight you can see where they are in pitch black during the night you often don't know they are there until they hit)
Phantom lights thinking other ships and stars that play tricks on the eye.(On watch looking for any other shipping that may be in your way, sometimes you look so hard that you think there is a light on the horizon and it may be just a star or the fact that you have just looked at a light in the cockpit or a reflection of the navigation lights and that stays in the mind when you look out)
Fatigue due to lack of sleep on demand. (A lot people think that sailing is always a relaxing life and it can be if you sail with fine winds and day hop, but when you do long voyages it is quite taxing due the lack of sleep and concerns of what is happening to boat).
Things a skipper does and thinks that prevent sleep. (Concern for crew on watch in this case Nancy, the change in motion or noise of the boat will wake you up, such as the boat picks up or loses speed, sail movements and adjustments)
We have had an uncomfortable ride but have made good time, could have made better time but we cruise not race. (We try not to put too much strain on the equipment and increased speed is also more uncomfortable).
Weather reports that can misleading. (Weather reports on the HF radio and what you tend to get the standard forecast for any weather district does not always represent the area that you are in for the simple reason is a weather district is quite a large area so the weather report states the worst case scenario for that district to get a better picture you need to see a website and check the wind charts or down load Grib Files).
Weather from Glen via Anne. (We were fortunate during this trip as Glen would receive weather updates from his wife Anne in Tasmania via sat phone and then he would  pass this on to us on our radio sched.) Thanks Anne and Glen.
Day 2    164NMS (In the second24 hours we completed 164 NMS, we have done better than that before but not in seas like this).

Thursday - 24/10/2013

Fourth day out - 24.10.13 morning watch
I was right third night out, went off watch midnight and had my first couple of hours solid sleep.
Taking watch at 0400 hours I was welcomed by a light rain storm and have three others around me.
We are going well light conditions today well this morning anyway.
One more overnight sail to go we should be anchored outside of Port Lincoln tomorrow afternoon,
 well let's hope so, if we do well in the next 24 hours we should anchor in Spalding Cove outside Port Lincoln late afternoon tomorrow.
We lost some of our plan through the night we are a little north of our rhumb line where we were aiming for a good few miles south for the tack north when east winds hit tomorrow. We did however get better than our 0600hr target by an extra 5 NMS.
Took the watch at 0400 hrs and things looked a little grim with hardly any wind but things have picked up.
Probably go into jet lag when we go into Port Lincoln, we have to change our clocks by 2 hrs 30 mins.
Poor bugger! I can still remember the bloke in Broome saying that to me when I told him we were sailing south and across the GAB. I have no regrets, but I think he was right.
Lets hope for a good day.
1200 hrs
Little concerned could not raise Banyandah on HF radio schedule this morning, Glen had changed the morning schedule to 0700 hrs I wonder if he had forgotten and came on air at 0610 hrs, have to wait until 1810 hrs for next schedule.
Today's weather a little lighter, we are not going to cover the ground I had hoped for we will see what the afternoon brings may have to run two iron sails.
Well the winds dropped, two iron sails and two rags set.
Forecast not too bad E/SE 10-15 for tomorrow, let's hope for a little to the SE.
Just passed a mob of shearwater birds having a gathering on the water about 30 of them as I passed they took flight and then a couple of petrels joined in, I could watch them glide for hours. I've always been a bit of a bird watcher, but not always the feathered variety.
Some people would concerned about 3 to 5 metre swell, they don't bother me, it's the crappy wind waves they put with them that are annoying.

24.10.13 evening. Just taken the watch so the First Mate and my best mate can have a sleep, I might even sleep with her tomorrow night...aahah  sleeping with a shipmate it be.
Wind had just changed and Nancy was trying to sought it out, in the dark no moon at the moment, well all sorted now. Having to motor sail with the wind coming round towards the east, the direction we wish to go.
Had radio schedule with Banyandah, this morning we had a mix up in the times, Glen had other radio stations on standby to relay in case he could not reach us. One thing when we organised the schedule was set times but they did get change a couple of times and that caused the confusion. One thing we did not do was set up a backup plan in case we did fail contact.
Stormy skies ahead as the moon was rising, there was enough space between horizon and cloud to see the large orange coloured moon come up and the incredible part was the waves from the 2.5 to 3 metre swell wash in front of the moon some completely hiding the moon some just half the moon.
We are a little off track making use of the wind, what little wind there is tonight.

When we get into the anchorage tomorrow afternoon, the first noise will be the anchor going down the second will be the fridge door closing after I grab a beer. We run a dry ship at sea and I reckon I we deserve a beer after crossing the GAB.

Friday - 25.10.13 morning. It's now 0430 hrs (WST), yes we have to put our clocks forward tonight to SA summertime.
We are 35 NMS away from our waypoint south of Williams Island which is south of Port Lincoln mainland, from there we head NE for 25NMS to the entrance of the Port. We will anchor in a bay for the night.
Little wind at the moment but have some waves and around 2 metre swell from the south.

(Approaching Williams Island 25NMS to Port Lincoln the GAB now behind us)

As we neared William Island the wind was light but against us we had both engines going to get to the anchorage, Nancy took over and I went for a sleep for an hour. We entered Thorny Passage and passed the islands into Spalding Cove and anchored at the second bay south of Engine Point at 1350 hours which is a good anchorage for the east winds that are predicted. Later we received a phone call from 'Banyandah' they still had some miles to go and said they would anchor in Memory Cove and come in and see us the next morning.
(Nancy smiles we have completed the crossing of the Great Australian Bight)

I think we will all sleep soundly tonight.



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