It is interesting how after nearly 18 years of sailing together on catamarans, we are still learning! There is nothing like a weather pounding, gear problems and silly mistakes to keep you on your toes and feeling humble. Here is an update on our trials and tribulations.
Passage to Broulee
With two reefs in the main, a few rolls in the jib, and an early start, we left Bermagui to sail 40 miles to Broulee, just south of Batemans Bay. We had a gusty Westerly, then WSW and SW, so it was a beam then tail run. It was as if the wind was teasing us, with 30 to 35 knot gusts one moment, pushing us along at 8 and 9 knots boat speed and making us happy to have reefed heavily, then hardly any breeze which meant our boat speed would plummet to 3 or 4 knots. Should we shake one reef off? Tempting but no! Better to be underpowered in the lulls that overpowered by the strong gusts! The fun thing about sailing a catamaran that weighs only 4.5 tons – well may be 5 with all our stuff – is that it accelerates really fast as the wind picks up, making you smile from ear to ear!
The whale count was low: only one, which spooked us a bit as it surfaced just ahead of us, then disappeared, and the next sighting of it was on our sounder: a big mass that appeared underneath the boat then moved on! You wonder how aware they are of your presence – would not want them to decide to surface right under your hulls!
The birdlife was again amazing. When you sail in strong winds, seabirds abound and seem to enjoy the conditions. We feel so lucky when we see endangered species along the way, such as the black-browed albatross, doing huge wingovers, and the Hutton’s Sheerwaters, which we had not seen before. A raft of them just took off right next to us!
We anchored behind Broulee Island 6 hours later. When we say island, it actually is not. There is an isthmus, a spit connecting what was once an island to the mainland. In the 1800s the bay was an active harbour. Tucked in right against the island in only a couple of meters of water, Take It Easy was nicely sheltered from the the SW gale and floating in flat water.
We were going to start again on our way on the Saturday, until we saw the updated forecast: orange all over, too ugly to contemplate.
So we stayed put in the anchorage, opting instead for a couple of walks ashore, one with pussycat, and the other on our own. Bengie was obviously keen to stretch her legs and get her fur ruffled. She got into the dinghy of her own volition!
Drama in the middle of the night
On Saturday evening, we had decided we would stay put at Broulee until the Monday, as the forecast was for continuing gale warnings and 4 to 6 meter swell. But during our second night in the anchorage, the weather did something that was not forecast: the wind died to hardly anything and shifted to the NW and the swell picked up in the bay, pushing us towards the shore break. The sharp rocking woke us up at midnight. We were dangerously close to the shore, with waves breaking on our beam! To free ourselves before getting beached, we had to cut away the anchor rope and let the anchor go (with a float so we could find it the next morning). We motored away like scared rabbits and used one of our spare anchors and chain to re-anchor further out, but not before getting one rudder stuck on the sandbank and its shaft a bit bent! Why do these things happen in the depth of the night, in freezing cold conditions? To keep you on your toes and really test you out!
The moral of the story:
- Always, always anchor in deep enough water to allow the boat to do a full 360, just in case! Forecasts are good, but sometimes odd things happen locally than can catch you out. We normally allow for the full swing, but unfortunately not this time. Won’t do that again!
- Carry at least one spare anchor, chain and rope. We have two aluminium Fortress anchors and a marsh anchor as spares as well as our main Manson Supreme. We were glad we had the spare gear.
- Tie a decent knot to the float that shows where your anchor & chain have been dropped… Yap, you guessed it, the knot slipped and alas despite hours of searching the next day, we did not locate our anchor and chain. Big fat zero for the Captain’s knot tying technique. On the bright side, before we left we were thinking we should either regalvanise the anchor chain or get a new one as ours was getting very rusty. Well now we’ll get a nice shiny new one!
To Batemans Bay Marina!
Bright and early on Monday, we sailed to Batemans Bay. It was very chilly and gloomy, but at least the swell had abated to 1.5m instead of 6m and the wind was much lighter. We saw about six whales along the way too which compensated for the early start!
We are now spending a few days at the Batemans Bay Marina. The guys here are very helpful. We have ordered 50 metres of chain and a new Manson Supreme anchor. And Wade spent some time in the cold water, removing our starboard rudder. We are hoping to get its shaft straightened! Although we lowered it a bit so it would work, we’d rather it be fixed.
It feels like we are making very slow progress and our experiences of the past few days have been rather irritating. It is now over three weeks since we left Melbourne and we are still days from Sydney and weeks from Queensland. But we just have to go with the flow. Although the mishaps are annoying, we are enjoying our sailing, settling into a rhythm and letting the weather and circumstances dictate what we can and can’t do.