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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June 18, 2012 – Margaret Bay to Escape River (69 NM) - Great Day and Another Fine Mess!

Lovely and serene by day, Margaret turned into nighttime hell last night. It began around suppertime, as the rising tide rushed in and started the roll. Winds continued to build so that roll VS wind equaled sleep deprivation. We were nearly thrown out of the bed. Good grief what a lousy night. Wind howling, halyards slamming against the mast and swell throwing us from side to side, we barely slept a wink before the 5:30 alarm shattered my nightmares and roused a petulant crew. We both groped around sleepily while getting coffee started and warming up the engine. We were hauling the anchor up by 6:00 and away at 6:07 immediately surfing the 25 knots of whistling wind.

The sailing today was pretty darn good. We only had to fiddle with the genoa and staysail a few times, otherwise we enjoyed between 25-28 knots True (wind) pushing us. The chop gave us a bit of contention and a countercurrent of between 1 – 1.5 kts pushed us at us a good bit of the way but in spite of that we sailed along at between 7 – nearly 10 knots most of the day. Skies are gray but the temp is warming rapidly as we journey north, so a bit of cloud cover is good for managing the heat.

Smooth sailing turned into a veritable Bull Bide coming into the bay! Actually it isn't a bay but it looks like a big bay outside the Escape River, as the coast swings inward a bit. Big seas. Big winds. We were fine but as we looked around at a few of the other smaller yachts in the little flotilla, masts were not only swaying but also pumping up and down, their freeboards disappearing in the 2 meter chop. Turning Destiny to furl in the mainsail looked like a terrible option in these conditions. Frank instructed me to bring it in slowly while he controlled the outhaul. I chose to crank it rather than use the electric wench – why I can't say but it is darn good thing I did. Sometimes instincts and/or angels keep us from big trouble.  At first the cranking was slow but steady and when the sail was about ¾ of the way furled, difficult became unmanageable. I thought this was due to the pressure from the wind and although I was watching the sail one side was obscured from my view. On that particular side, unbeknownst to us both, a spare halyard had loosened and was being cranked into the mast along with the mainsail. I finally told Frank I just couldn't move it anymore. He switched places with me and gave it all he had until a nerve-wracking screech sounded. I yelled, "STOP! SOMETHING IS WRONG!" He stopped; we peered up toward the top and saw that the halyard looked strange. For the love of Neptune, the halyard's gotten sucked into the mast! Meanwhile the wind began gusting over 30 knots. Oh Lord, we have to let some sail out and pray it will actually come out. Frank cranked the outhaul with the wench and suddenly it all gave way at once; the halyard popped loose and the main billowed out. Quickly we turned into the wind tossing around like a rubber duck in a washing machine, and cranking as quickly as possible got that sucker furled in. Coming back around, with Frank now back behind the helm, we looked up and saw something black and crescent shaped sticking to the middle panel of the front Strataglass (windshield). I went out, scooped it off and handed it to Frank. We both scratched our heads wondering what this hard piece of plastic was and where in the world it came from. We put is aside for later and continued on into the river entrance.

We sure didn't expect the Escape River to be as beautiful as it turned out to be. Rivers are generally sort of brown with brown-ish beaches. Aren't they? And because we have heard horror stories about the crocs in here eating dinghies and living in abundance, that sort of added to the "brown" expectation. There is nothing brown about it. It is turquoise blue with white sand beaches and is full of pearl farms. Our friends on Scallywag and Avant Garde were here. We chatted on the radio shortly then got to the business of checking things out on deck to make sure Destiny was A-OK after that little fiasco. We found a few more pieces of black plastic up by the mast and started looking around to see what had shattered, feeling around everything that was black. We discovered that the triple line turning block that sits on the midships deck had a busted pulley. It was the one our outhaul line passes through. My first thought was Thank God we were hand-cranking and not using the power wench or who knows what could have… and Frank's was Wonder what THAT's going to cost to replace!  Frank is so clever – he removed the block, turned it around so that the broken pulley sat with a line we seldom use, thus we had a sound one in place for the main outhaul.

At the end of the day, it was a fantastic sail. We traveled 69 nautical miles in 9 hours. Holy moly!  What is even more cool is that as of mid-day today, we hit the 2000-mile mark since leaving Sydney. This is a big country indeed.  Tomorrow, we go over the top. 

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