Saturday, May 7, 2011

Burnett Hds to South Percy Island

Spinnaker sailing all day

Friday 22nd  April.
 Had another wonderful spinnaker run all day from Burnett Hds to just past the Bustard Hd lighthouse. Anyone who has the opportunity to go to the Town of 1770 should allow time to take the Pink Duck trip to Bustard Head lighthouse you won't be disappointed. It is one of those highlights you never forget and I clearly remember the view from the lighthouse and was able to enjoy the reverse this time looking up instead of down. I ran between the inner and outer rocks the lighthouse protects shipping from without harm or worry before dropping sail and entering Pancake Ck and anchoring for the night. I experienced a little anchor dragging on the ebb tide in the middle of the night but the AIS ancohor alarm alerted me and I was able to reset the anchor without any concern.

Headland at Town of 1770
AIS display showing relative position of cargo ships off Gladstone Harbour

Next day I was intending to make for Great Kepple Is but the wind wasn't as strong and I pulled in to an anchorage at Hummocky Is north of Cape Capricorn rather than risk a nighttime approach to an unlit anchorage at Great Kepple. The run to Hummocky was under spinnaker all day again skirting the cargo ship anchorage off Gladstone Harbour. There were 12 cargo vessels at anchor outside the harbour and at least two at any one time under pilot command going either in or out of the harbour. A good place to avoid. The anchorage is a big area and took about 2 hours to sail through. All worry about these floating giants is alleviated by the AIS as it provides information on each ship such as name,size, speed, course, destination, type of cargo and radio call sign in the event that I need to contact them or take avoiding action.

Anchorage at Hummocky Island

Sunday, day of rest and an ET day. An ET day is egg turn day. Apparently if I turn my eggs over every 2 days  they will stay fresh for weeks. I'll let you know. I sailed through the Kepple Islands and on to a beautiful anchorage at Pearl Bay in the Shoalwater Bay military training area. The word about the beauty and security of this anchorage must be spreading as there were already 4 other boats there compared with my last stop there when it was completely devoid of anything manmade. I spent the night there close to the beach and after paying my ANZAC Day respects at 5:00am and again at 10:00am  I raised sail and moved on up to Island Head Ck thinking there might be a two up game going on there. Nothing doing, only 3 other boats in such a huge anchorage normally very popular, at least 4 boats, because of its midway location along the Shoalwater Bay coast and security from wind and waves from all directions. I stayed two nights here taking advantage of the huge range in tide to put Truansea up on the sand  as the tide went out to change the gear oil in the outboard motor legs and give the hulls a bit of a wash down. The wind and swell had increased significantly on the trip up from Hummocky Is so I was  happy enough to stay out of it for a day.
Truansea on the sand with the entrance to Island Head Creek  in the background.  Big tides here.
Wednesday 6:00am Truansea lurched out of Island Head Creek on the start of the run out tide head on into a 2.5m - 3m south easterly swell and 25knots of strong wind from the same direction. Immediately we were clear of the rocky entrance we swung northwards on a compass heading of 330 degrees. Following is a bit more detailed description of the trip and the following two days enroute to Brampton Is via South Percy Is.

With the jib fully unfurled and the mainsail and motors stowed we settled in to riding the wind and waves. I had noticed when on top of the swells the form of another catamaran a little to the south of us, about a half mile, as we settled on to our course and before to long he was crossing our stern headed in the direction of Cape Townsend. We exchanged waves as he crossed our stern the helmsman sitting as he was exposed to the elements in his foul weather gear at the rear of the starboard hull clinging to the tiller as he surfed down each swell. Poor bugger toughing it out as I sat  in the relative comfort of Truansea's saloon. The cat looked to be slightly shorter than Truansea and of the racing fraternity with little accommodation or comfort. Brave fellow given the prevailing conditions. I had 48 nautical miles to go to reach North West Bay on South Percy Is and if I could maintain an average of 7 knots would arrive by 1400hrs. Shouldn't be a problem as already we were doing 8 knots. The swell was rising as we moved further from the land with gusts to 30 knots. We passed Steep Is to port, the halfway mark, with Cheviot Is and High Peak Is visible to the east approx 8 miles distant. There was only one other danger to look out for, a small rock rising 6m above the surface from a depth of 46m. A constant 28 - 33 knots now and swell 3m -4m plus an interesting one occassionally that fits into the weather bureau's reminder that swells maybe 40% larger than those predicted!  That's what occurs when the swell train and the sea get their acts together and rise up sharply behind us to see if I'm paying attention. I can assure you I was. Sometimes these little surprises have crests that curl over and send white water rushing up the stern and between the hulls which accelerates us to 12 or 13 knots before they eventually pass under an on their way. Changing direction downwind and sail setting in these conditions involves a little manoeuvre called gybing. Easy enough done with only the jib employed, turn the wheel and crack on the new sheet. In these conditions that might cause some damage so it is best done by furling the jib and then unfurling it again when the new course has been established. Since all Truansea's deck and cabin surface area is directly exposed to the wind and assisting the momentum forward motion at 5.5 knots is maintained. Look mum no sails and still 5.5 knots.

I had South Percy Is in sight from about 20 miles out and the gap between Hoskin Islet and South Percy becomes clearer as we near and make our way through it into the relative calm of North West Bay. The anchor is released in 2.5m of water approx 300 meters off the middle of the beach at the head of the bay and half tide rocks are clearly visible. The tide is predicted to rise 2.5m by sunset so I let out 30m of anchor chain and ensure the anchor is well set. It blew 30- 34 knots during the night and a beam swell of around a metre rolled in at 90degrees to the wind direction. I set 3 alarms. The anchor watch alarm with a 50m drift radius and watches set for every hour. I don't sleep well in those conditions and am usually awake before the alarms having a good look around checking bearings and the AIS graph which spot marks the screen every couple of minutes with Truansea's location relevant to the anchor setting position. Fantastic technology and sure reduces any concern about drifting off the anchor. It doesn't prevent drifting but gives early warning so that remedial action can be taken to prevent a possible unpleasant and unplanned event ruining the day (or night).

Considering leaving this anchorage the next morning,Thursday, for Brampton Is I'm ready at 5:30am to raise the anchor and get Truansea under way. I don the foul weather gear and go onto the fore deck to raise the anchor but the clutch on the electric anchor winch keeps slipping due to the strain placed on the anchor chain by the wind trying to drive Truansea away. I have developed a little rule that if the anchor winch alone will not pull the anchor to the boat then I stay put until conditions ease. Conditions were still the same at 6:00am and I abandoned plans to depart. During the day it blew and it rained and the swell rolled in whilst I read and listened to Mackay AM radio. Beggars can't be choosers. Ironically the broadcaster himself situated about 160km to the north west of me read a weather forecast for his area and the general direction I was headed which predicted a fine day following early showers. Ha! not here matey. It did settle somewhat about 1:00pm which enabled me to do some washing. There is no VHF or broadband or next G or any other letter of the alphabet at the Percy's. I'd advised the rear admiral in advance that I would be out of range for a few days and not to be concerned if she had no news of my whereabouts.

Fair winds

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