Sometimes you get caught even when you think you have planned your passage well. The forecast for Wednesday 16 August was for 15-20 knot westerlies close to the shores, strengthening in the middle of the morning to 25-30, and a lot more offshore. The plan was therefore to hug the coast closely. We got out of Bittangabee with two reefs in the main and a few rolls in the genoa… just as well! Within an hour, we were having a wild run to our destination: Bermagui.
The bit about hugging the coast to get protection from the land worked well as planned, except for when we had deep, broad bays to cross, in particular Twofold Bay at Eden, and Merimbula. We would take a beating with 40+ knot gusts and short, sharp chop. At the height of the gusts Wade saw 46 knots of true wind, I saw 43 and photographed 40.1! We both wish we were not out there, but there was no going back.
It is really hard to steer when it is blowing that hard and you are getting sprayed everytime the bows dip. We learnt a few lessons.
For a start, we should have left Bittangabee much earlier before the wind picked up, 6am instead of 8am! Maybe the crossing of Twofold Bay at Eden would not have been as tough!
Things got exciting in the middle of the bay, particularly when we decided it was time to swap the already furled genoa for the staysail, a much smaller sail. When we let it out, the upwind sheet (rope) from the genoa which was not done up tightly, wrapped itself around the staysail drum and jammed it. I steered while Wade was on deck unravelling the mess. We both had a tough job: me steering an unbalanced boat in 40+ knots and Wade, hanging on to dear life and playing with macrame while getting thoroughly drenched by the green water over the bows. But we survived and got things back under cotrol. We won’t forget to tighten all sheets ever again – lesson number two!
It is also really unnverving to have the Ampair wind generator whizzing around at high speed just behind you. At some stage when I was steering I was thinking: “hope that thing holds, if one of the blades goes, I will have it impaled at the back of my head! I guess I won’t feel a thing and will die doing something I love. Well actually I am not loving this bit, so please Mr Ampair, keep it together!”
And if you are wondering why the hell we were out there in these conditions, good question! it is because we omitted to take note that, as the Bureau of Meteorology says, “winds can be 40% stronger than the averages given here”. So the BOM’s forecast of 30 knots x 40% = 42 knots! Guess what we were getting? We will try not to ignore that little warning again – lesson number three!
Once we were close to the shore, the water was at least flat and the wind more manageable. We arrived at Bermagui and were tied up to Volition, a long liner fishing boat, by 4pm. The harbour is full with the fishing fleet sheltering from the blow. The boat we are tied to is here for maintenance for at least a week, so we are all good. They were mighty impressed we were “out there” in this weather. We felt a bit foolish and just a little frazzled. Check out the size of the fenders they put out for us!
I still haven’t changed my mind about coming into Bermagui, especially on a windy day. It is tight, daunting and not for the faint-hearted. The good things are that the fishermen were as usual very helpful, we were able to do another round of laundry and be wallies at the showers of the Fishing Coop. And the seafood was rather nice.
Friday, today, we are heading for Broulee Island, just south of Bateman’s Bay, some 40 miles away. Hopefully this will be a less exciting ride. Beyond that the next stop is Ulladulla, but all weather dependent!