Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Dont Trust the Weather Man!

The Captain and I, in consultation with the second mate, decided to break up our sadness, by travelling from Moreton Bay to Hervey Bay (destination Urangan which is behind the Northern Tip of Fraser Island - approximately 180 miles away). 

We checked the forecast (about 20 times) - definitely says 10-15 knots Thursday, Friday the same but building to 15-20 knots in the evening.  Calculations on distance - should arrive between 3-5pm (Friday afternoon) if we go via Break Sea Spit - passing the very dodgy Wide Bay Bar at the Southern end of the Sandy Straights around 5am (Friday morning), which is the only other option to get to this area.
Okay all looks good - blast off Thursday morning at 10:00 am in calm conditions - a little bit of motoring ahead.  Finally, sailing along having a lovely day with heaps of whales, massive pods of dolphins and bird life everywhere.  Arrive at Wide Bay Bar around 5am Friday Morning after a dark and cold night at sea - still looking good though and on schedule.

Wind still settled in at 12-15 knots but seas beginning to get a little messy.  All okay though but we do start to drop a little speed due to the seas as there was no corresponding increase in wind strength.  Next weather report changes - building to 20-25 knots and now a 'strong wind warning' is issued, forecasting 25-30 knots by evening and tomorrow but its now to late to turn around and enter through the Wide bay Bar.  Okay batten down the hatches for the last few hours maybe?

Then the wind starts to build early afternoon - seas start to build (luckily they are from behind - we tend not to notice them as much), we are well behind on our scheduled arrival and the wind is already 20 knots.  Okay this is not cocktail hour but we are still fine with this...down to two reefs in the main and a partly furled headsail - which has already broken its feeder arm. 

Pod travelling well, crew a bit tired (after a long night at sea - will Fraser island ever end?) but okay.  Not looking forward to the area known as Break Sea Spit as it is long, disheartening and night is falling and it has a bit of a 'reputation'.  Shouldn't we be there by now?

So we finally get to the mark indicating the end of the Break Sea Spit (the sea is like a bubbling cauldren)literally as the sun sets, as murphys law states, the wind comes hammering through - the seas build even more (this area is known for this type of thing as the tide of Hervey Bay meets the very deep water off the Break Sea Spit (where the continental shelf comes very close to land) - which according to the Captain has all kind of big ooogglies living there....was this meant to make me feel better or just that he was trying to pretend he was fishing instead of battling the wind?) - and wouldn't you know it as we are gybing to round the mark the engine dies!

Holy Moly - I am steering in 30-35 knot consistent gusts, pitch black darkness whilst the Captain is troubshooting - the Captain is dipping tanks (we feared we ran out of fuel for some reason), then changing a fuel filter (because that looked like the possible reason - which involves priming stuff with diesel) whilst the 'Pod is getting hammered. 

Holding on to the wheel I could barely keep my feet so imagine the Captain being beaten up downstairs in the bilge, elbow deep in diesel and filters? - there was stuff everywhere!

So I start singing to myself - "show me the way to go home, I am tired and I want to go to bed"....(pick that movie theme?)

We sail beating through these conditions (having to head upwind now) right through the night (hand steering all of the way) and still can't get the engine working (we now think there is a fuel line blockage).  We change sail combinations to balance monouverability with speed, with pushing the boat too hard, with sheer exhaustion. 

Then the furler chucks it in under extreme pressure, detatching completely from the headstay, we are unable to maintain halyard tension and drive the boat up wind efficiently, the headsail car then decides to break free, sheering its retention pin - we are both absoulutely stuffed, having not even eaten since mid afternoon yesterday, but have no option but to battle on to find the lee of Fraser Island and hide from the wind - whilst Charlotte, of course just snuggles in (until this morning when she decided she needed to go to the toilet - what must people think? I am desperately trying to balance, hold on with one hand, whilst I am holding on to her life jacket whilst she is gamely trying to squat on the back deck! - eventually she decides to go with the captain holding her on the back deck as we proceed upwind in 26 - 28 knots, they both end up with piddle all over them! - thank goodness for the Mustos).

Finally the sun rises - the local Hervey Bay VMR comes back on deck.  We giggle with delirium when the first weather report of the morning says no strong wind warning for Hervey Bay but 25 knots late morning and the VMR radio operator says dryily but those conditions have already arrived actually.  We run our sched and say - VMR "....hey if we sail up to the leads for the channel can you come and get us? (there is no way in these conditions we could sail up the channel (without an engine) as it is very shallow and narrow in some spots and the seas are wild at this point.  VMR reply, how will we know which boat is yours, we reply....."we are the 'other' boat out here..."

VMR bless their hearts come and tow us in the last few KM's - so what happens?  The wind which had been blowing a consistent 25 knots the last 6 hours in the Bay ramps up to 30-33 knots whilst we are under tow......so we all get hammered!  Even one of the volunteers of 7 years got a bit green. 

I was steering the "Pod" in their wake under tow but at times couldn't see the tow boat 50 meteres in front due to the waves crashing over us.

But as all of lifes great adventures do, everything is fine now that we have arrived in port and the Captain has spent 2 hours clearing lines in the calm of a marina - as I type this it is still blowing a steady 25 knots but I am now eating chocolate and drinking tea saying 'who would be crazy enough to be out there in these conditions'

Hope your day is sunny with just a little bit of breeze...


PS I would like to confirm for my good friend Mrs D - yes we did wear our life jackets and harnesses, yes we did have our personal epirbs on but no I can't supply a rescue plan - got to leave something in the lap of the gods you know!


  1. Oh my Lordy! Nic!!!! I'm not sure I can read anymore of this .... hope all the broken bits get fixed - take care!!

  2. Good grief. I feel slightly sick reading this as I know the feeling though thank goodness, not quite this extreme. I'm starting to realise - "that's sailing". Sit tight and enjoy the chocolate.