It took a real leap of faith to cast off yesterday morning and head out through the Potboil (!) Shoal, forsaking the safety of Franklin Sound for what promised to be a rough crossing. The wind had howled all night and I had very little sleep. From the forecasts I knew, however, that we really only had a 36hour window to get across, unless we wanted to stay another 10 days in the hope of a better crossing.
So off we went, trailing our new friends on Carribean Blue (also RMYC members) by about an hour. In the lee of Flinders for the first 6 hours, the seas were not too bad and the wind kept abating until we were broad reaching with full canvas up, making 7 to 8 knots.
Once we got into Bass Strait proper, however, the seas got a lot bigger, I reckon about 3 meters, short and steep, with some braking waves. We also had it right on the beam which was a bit uncomfortable. It was now blowing 20-25 knots out of the west and we were still broad reaching with two reefs in the main and half the #2 genoa rolled away. Wild sailing but at least we were making good time!
Just after sunset the wind abated as forecast, the pressure started rising and it looked like our faith in the forecast would be rewarded. We started steaming as soon as the boat speed fell below 5.5 knots, knowing there would be a nasty nor-easter to punch into later on Thursday.
So we motored all night and all day on Thursday. When the nor-easter came through we decided to call it a day and went into the anchorage at Gabo Island where we had a lovely night. I was shattered and went to sleep after our dinner (bbq snags and potato salad). The crew went exploring ashore in the moonlight, petting penguins and lying alongside the lighthouse, staring up at the sky…
Gabo Island is a great anchorage in good weather and provides good relief from the north through the east to the south. However, the holding is not good, with the bay being mostly a smooth rocky bottom or kelp and thin patches of sand here and there. In a big blow the jetty probably is the safest option. We had about 3.5 meters of water at high tide and the tidal range was only 600 mm. I would think twice about sitting out a storm here though. We reset the anchor four times and found it lying upside down on a rocky bottom when going round by snorkel to check…
On Sunday morning the forecast westerlies hit around 10AM and it was soon gustin 42 knots. We were very grateful to be tied up to barge in the boat harbour at Lady Barron. The owner of the barge was not (happy, that is) but I politely declined to move as we were all safe.
The girls went scouting and we were offered a tour of the island by a lovely local chap (Peter).
Once the wind abated a bit we moved and rafted up to a lovely little timber shark-fisher called ‘Spiritus Sanctus’ that came in at the height of the gale with a leak(!). Richo and Shaky helped us tie up and we were then really snug, tucked in behind the wharf.
While moving the boat I realized that there was very little water coming out the exhaust and later determined that some kelp had blocked the inlet just before the strainer. Better to find this out while in port!
It was a wild three days and I had little sleep, getting increasingly anxious as the days wore on and it felt as it would blow like this forever. Getting out with Peter around the island on Tuesday was just such a relief and we had a great day. Photos will be posted on Facebook.
We arrived St Helens early afternoon on Friday, hoping to get going immediately and make our way to Eddystone Point, where we would spend the night before sailing to Flinders Island on Saturday. Tides are a real issue at St Helens and, even though we only draw 1.8 metres (6 foot) we needed at least half a tide to get out. With high tide around 1pm that meant we would have to wait at least 18 hours to get out if we couldn’t leave.
The weather forecast had changed dramatically, however, and there was 25 knots blowing at Eddystone Point. Not wanting to scare Prue witless on her first passage, I elected to wait and take another look at the weather in the morning. We had a very peaceful night as, of course, the wind died completely just after dark.
Looking at the weather Saturday morning showed that we had about 24 hours to get to Flinders before a pretty severe cold front moved in, so we left the dock to get to the bar by 10AM. We were still a bit early and the Marine Rescue boat had to drag us over the shoals at Pelican Point.
The passage up to Flinders was pretty full on, it was blowing 20 knots plus when we got out there and it varied between 18 and 30 knots all day. It was also forward of the bow so we were close reaching with two reefs and a semi-furled genoa. Spray flying, wet and cold.
We then faced getting into Franklin Sound in the dark with 30 knots blowing over the flood tide. We used the southern channel just north of Vansittart Island with GPS coordinates from the Cruising Tasmania Anchorages guide book by J Brettingham-Moore. This was stressful in itself because the directions of are indeterminate age… I can report that the channel still exists and we never had less than 1 meter below our keel (i.e. the shallowest part was about 2.8 meters at the state of the tide (tide was about 1 meter at the time we crossed). That’s a bit less than the charts promised.
We’re now holed up in Lady Barron, tied up to barge at the boat harbour. It’s been howling outside, we saw up to 42 knots at the height of the blow, and we’re really grateful to be here and not out to sea.