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Friday, December 17, 2010

December 15, 2010 – Overnighter to Pittwater from Pt. MacQuarie

Oh, What a night! I kept thinking of that Four Seasons song last night
as we navigated our way through a minefield of large fishing boats and
container ships and watched a dazzling light show. We left Port
MacQuarie yesterday at 9 AM, thinking that we would have a quick and
easy 24-hour passage to Pittwater, some 170 miles south. Had the
weather forecast been correct we would have done just that, but it is
now 10 AM and we are at least another 7-8 hours from our destination.
The first couple of hours out, we managed to get 20+ knots of wind on
a very close reach. We knew from experience that once we got to the
eastern Australia current we would shoot right down the coast at
between 8 and 11 knots, regardless of the prevailing winds. For
whatever reason that did not happen. The current eluded us and
instead, we got some crazy erratic winding, swirling current that
would literally knock us out of Auto Pilot. We needed the winds to be
as forecasted: 15 -20 knots nor' easterly, tending northerly. Most of
the day, however, the winds were in our face (southwesterly) and the
current against us. By mid-day, we were managing to sail along at a
little over 6 knots, when Frank yelled to me to come help him with the
headsail. The halyard had snapped causing the genoa to drop like a
rock right into the water! Of course it immediately filled with water
and got sucked up under the bow. I scooted forward and for nearly 30
minutes, we heaved and pulled to get the sail out of the water, aboard
the boat. Thank God, the sea swell was less than 2 meters and the
winds were still under 20 knots. Frank quickly rigged a temporary
halyard from the spare we use for the gennaker. He got the sail re-
threaded into the track as I tried to hand crank it up. Geez, this
sail was wet and very heavy and I was having a hell of a time trying
to hoist it. Finally, we changed places so Frank could man the
hoisting efforts and I could guide the sail. When it was about
halfway up of course the wind began to build, trying to rip the sail
out of my grasp. Frank kept trying to turn the boat into the wind to
give us a break but the swirling current would just spin us right back.
Eventually we got the sail back into operation and were ready to sail
away with this fresh new wind. We were riding pretty steadily so we
turned on the watermaker and carried on. After about an hour,
however, the winds continued shifting and we began to heel too far to
Starboard so that the watermaker lost efficiency and began to suck
air. We shut it down to find that the water pump would not shut off
and that all of the water had gone into the Starboard tank, leaving
the port tank dry. It kept grinding away, so Frank turned it off –
this means we cannot use any water because the water pump enables
water to come out of the tanks into the faucets. We changed tack,
hoping that the water would level off back into both tanks. The
promised nor'easterlies did not arrive, but the sou'westerlies
prevailed so rather than beat ourselves to death as we'd done the
other day we just took our time and tacked back and forth making no
more than 6.5 knots.
As we were settling into a nice rest after lunch, Frank announced that
our flag halyard had broken. The Australian courtesy flag was
flapping haphazardly in the wind and hanging on by one end. He tried
to bring it down, but was unsuccessful, so he attempted to tie off one
end at the mast pulpit, raising the courtesy flag to the spreader in
hopes that it will hang in there until we can go up to retrieve it and
the broken halyard.
By 9 PM, both of us were still too wired from the day's events to get
any sleep but Frank urged me to try to go down for a few hours so we
could begin our night watches. This is about when the seas decided to
kick up, so I tossed and turned until around 10:20, announcing to
Frank quite often that I just can't do it. I drank 2 cups of
Sleepytime Tea and about 30 minutes later I finally got fell off to
sleep. I awoke at 11:40 feeling OK, although I'd only gotten an hour
of sleep. I went up to relieve Frank and that is when I saw the
virtual traffic jam of sea vessels. They were all around us and
seemingly coming at us from everywhere. The seas were chock full of
plankton giving us the phosphorescent light show we love so much,
throwing luminous pale green flashes out from Destiny's sides that
looked like glow in the dark wings, and shooting out the stern leaving
a brilliant 20 foot trail of sparkles in our wake. There was a
lightening storm many miles to the west that threw fantastic jagged
streaks across the skies illuminating the entire night like a giant
strobe. And to top it off, we witnessed numerous falling stars. It
was a show that entertained us and kept us awake and in awe as the
long hours passed. It was such a frenzied and busting atmosphere
around us that we both stayed up all night long watching and
maneuvering. I was tired, but Frank was exhausted. Finally just
before dawn, at around 4 AM, Frank went down for some rest.
Now the winds are nearly gone and the seas are relatively flat as we
continue to motor toward Pittwater.


Varon said...

Well, I guess that's the way of the sea. It can be all rough and uncooperative, but when it's finished, it can astound the mind.

Judy and Bill aboard S/V BeBe said...

You and Frank are far more dedicated sailors than us! We would have retrieved the fallen genoa and then continued on with Destiny's staysail rather than feeding/winching the genoa back up in 20 kts wind.

Our hats are off to you!