We are on our way to the Great Barrier Reef. In June we hauled ADAGIO at the Domain Slipway for new bottom paint and maintenance, then departed Hobart (after a 15 month stay in Tasmania) on June 30. The winter weather systems, according to locals, had returned to the patterns of days of old, with constant and strong Roaring Forties in Bass Strait and south. We were determined to make our way up the East Coast of Tasmania, sheltered from the westerlies, and be poised to dash across notorious Bass Strait in a good weather window.
Because of high seas south of Tassie, we decided to pass through the shifting sand channels east of the Denison Canal and out the Marion Narrows (continually narrowing) into the Tasman Sea. We timed our passage through the canal at low slack tide. From our overnight anchorage near the small fishing town of Dunalley, we departed on a rising tide early the next morning, and could clearly see the drying sand banks to port and starboard. We followed the written instructions and “mud map” in the most current publication from the Ministry of Safety, with water depths never shallower than 1.8 meters (300mm or 1-ft under our keels). We never touched bottom. We could have touched the northern side of the Marion Narrows with a boat hook as we hugged the shore and passed out into the Tasman Sea.
Light southwesterlies soon increased to the 20’s and we set full main and jib off the Freycinet Peninsula. In the early afternoon of July 1, just south of beautiful Wineglass Bay, one of our greatest boom-furler worries materialized: the mainsail furling line jammed, and we had to bring the gigantic mainsail down on the deck by hand, in 30 knot gusts coming down from the nearby cliffs. With great effort we lashed the sail to the boom on top of the coachroof and proceeded at dusk to Lady Barron Harbour south of Flinders Island. Some thoughts on boom furler issues are in the Techno section.
We planned to be safely anchored before the arrival of a cold front forecast to arrive late in the day on July 2. Georgetown VMR coastal patrol on the mouth of the Tamar River called on channel 16 for any check-ins. I reported our position and destination and inquired about moorings at Lady Barron. He said that Vicky in Lady Barron will come up on ch 16 at 0840 and can arrange a mooring for us.
Just north of beautiful Cape Barren Island in the Furneaux Group, the seas were quite rough in the shallow entry to Franklin Sound, called the “Potboil”. Potboil is a very apt name, as ADAGIO bucked like a stallion in the short and steep wind-against-tide seas. The navigation aids provided visual guides for staying out of the shallows, but we found that the leads indicating the final approach to Lady Barron Harbour would have taken us ashore onto the eastern corner of Little Green Island. We never had the opportunity to question the coast patrol about this.
Twenty-seven hours after departing Dunalley we passed our bridle line through the very beefy 2-inch polypro loop (sized for fishing boats) on the mooring in Adelaide Bay and stayed there for a week as a vigorous westerly air flow with numerous embedded fronts and complex deep low systems passed over us. Heavy rain and winds in the 40’s kept us aboard, where we edited videos, sent and received e-mails and read our books. The windswept islands provide rookeries for hundreds of thousands of shearwaters, gannets and cormorants. The short-tailed shearwaters migrate each winter to Alaskan waters, and return to these islands to breed in the summer. For many years they were harvested for food, feathers and oil.
Our log entry for July 9 reads: “We came off our mooring at about 3 PM, in between squalls. Tied up alongside M/V Furneaux Explorer at the Lady Barron Wharf. Heavy seas and strong winds as a cold front passes over. Furneaux Explorer’s skipper & owner Brian told Steve of a sandy anchorage to the east of Little Green Island where a boat would be secure in southwesterly winds (a rare patch of sand, as most of the bay is heavy weed and unsuitable for plow-type anchors). Winds steady 40 kn then 30 kn, easing to 20 kn for a time.
We had rafted up at the wharf, planning to take on diesel fuel tomorrow AM, but have been invited to join Furneaux Explorer to follow a fishing boat out through a short cut in the morning, bypassing the Potboil, and head towards Eden. The weather might foil these plans.”
The 1600pm surface analysis chart showed a kink in the isobars to the west of us, indicating the wind should back to the south, which we estimated would arrive about 2000pm. That would mean the little shelter we had at the wharf would evaporate, subjecting ADAGIO and Furneaux Explorer to 40kn winds countering the stong tidal flow around the corner of the wharf. We decided to bail out of our raft up before the situation turned ugly.
Even so, at 2100pm as we and the ‘Explorer crew organized to untie ADAGIO, the strong currents and southwesterly seas were beginning to slam us into the side of the 62-ft steel fishing boat. While Steve was steering from the starboard bow, working to maneuver ADAGIO clear of ‘Explorer while we disengaged the four lines securing us to our neighbor, one of those Bad Things happened: ADAGIO’s remote helm station controls the engines and autopilot steering via a joy-stick. Whilst 40kn gusts were blowing ADAGIO into ‘Explorer and both boats were bucking in the short seas, the auto pilot steering failed, leaving the rudders hard over to starboard. Steve couldn’t tell the pilot had failed at this point, only that ADAGIO was not responding to engine and rudder controls as she should. Steve managed to get ADAGIO clear before she was swept down onto ‘Explorer’s bow – but it was a close thing. Damage was limited to a crease in ADAGIO’s starboard topsides where she slammed down on ‘Explorer’s steel rub rail (the wind was blowing so hard at this point that our fenders were being blown horizontally, no longer protecting us from the unfriendly steel.
Steve fought to control ADAGIO so we could move downwind 500 meters to reconnect to our previous mooring. But ADAGIO just would not come up into the wind, she insisted on circling back into a beam-to attitude. This would soon have us blown down into the smaller boats in the mooring field, and unoccupied moorings that could foul her two props.
So Steve scampered back to the inside steering station. There he was able to regain control with manual steering and could monitor the radar and the electronic chart. Dorothy sat in the rain and spray on the foredeck with the spotlight, keeping Steve appraised of hazards by FSR radio. In very poor visibility we made our way to the eastern side of Little Green Island, and were tremendously relieved when we felt the anchor dig firmly into the sand bottom. Shortly after we anchored we saw Furneaux Explorer’s nav lights approaching our sand patch. She had found it too dangerous even in her more sheltered position at the wharf, so soon she was anchored directly upwind of us. We stood anchor watch throughout the night. Entry for the Maintenance Log: install audible and visual alarm on the remote helm station to alert pilot failure!
The next morning of July 10, in fine weather and a rising barometer, we hailed Tony on VHF 16. Tony is Vicki’s husband, another Bass Strait fisherman who was about to depart for Crayfish grounds east of Flinders. Tony agreed to lead us out through the constantly-shifting channels close to Flinders – saving us about 7nm and another trip past the Pot Boil.
In the lee of Flinders Island the seas were mild, and we sailed under our jib and reacher in winds in the 20’s. As we approached Babel Island, the last opportunity to anchor before crossing Bass Strait, we decided to continue, as our weather window had opened. Our pilot failed again with another over-current fault as we were furling the reacher, causing an hourglass which was soon sorted out. We encountered three meter seas in the center of Bass Strait, but the winds blew steadily in the high 20’s from the southwest, and the seas came down as we approached the southeastern corner of the Australian mainland.
At midnight on July 10, Steve made this entry in the log: “Went out for a good look around. The 3 radar targets at 7, 8, 10nm appear to be rain squalls. Stars, Milky Way are dazzling. Seas are definitely down from 1800, maybe 1.5 to 2M, moderate slams every 5 min., not much spray on deck. Wind is also tending down, 17 to 20kn. Furneaux Explorer 1.044nm dead astern.”
At 8:47 AM on July 11, Dorothy entered into the log: “We are now passing the 48 meter tall lighthouse on Gabo Island with sand hills 60 to 100 ft high along the shore between Gabo Island and Cape Howe. Two albatross circling over the waves to port. High cirrus cloud cover. Barometer steady at 1021.”
We had safely reached the Australian mainland. By 11:30 AM we were between Green Cape and Twofold Bay, where we saw a group of seals swimming and floating rafted together. The sky was clear, sun was warm, seas almost calm with smooth 1 m swells from the south, 3-4 knots of wind out of the north. We had no complaints. By 1:30 PM we entered Twofold Bay, and tied up alongside M/V Furneaux Explorer at the Mussel Wharf in Eden. A small pod of dolphins greeted us, and a dozen white pelicans floated around in the harbor. Bellbirds clanged out their songs in the nearby forest. A large white egret strolled along the shore. We dined on large portions of seafood with our new friends Brian, Don and John at the Fisherman‘s Club in Eden. It was great to be there.
Over the next few days we took on diesel fuel, disassembled the mainsail furling drum and re-wound the furling line. Tom Peters and partner Linda had stopped by to see if they could help with anything. Which they surely could do, as we had just discovered our messenger line for the boom furlering line was snagged in an underwing block. Tom went home to fetch his canoe, then Tom and Linda rowed under ADAGIO to help us free the messenger. Then with the help of our new friends we furled the mainsail back into the boom and then served everyone a hearty dinner.
At the Eden Whaling Museum we learned about Old Tom, the leader of the Orca pod that assisted whalers to find and kill whales that passed by Twofold Bay in their migrations to and from Antarctica. Old Tom‘s skeleton is on display at the entrance of the museum, showing the wearing down of the teeth of his left lower jaw bone, because he would grab the harpoon line to assist in slowing down the harpooned whale. Amazing.
At 9:45 AM on July 17 the southwesterly winds had filled in and we departed Eden. The weather remained clear and the winds steady. By 2:30 PM on July 18 we tied up at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Rushcutter’s Bay, a beautiful setting, and right in the middle of Sydney.