At day break we had drifted above the southern entrance of the Easter group of islands, but the laptop battery was dead and the morning looked heavily overcast, not much chance of solar energy for awhile I thought. Susie’s laptop, our backup navigation computer had mysteriously stopped working last week so we had nothing to go by. We didnt have alternative means of charging, the outboard was supposed to fill that role, but its alternator never worked. So what the heck, nothing for it but head back to Geraldton. I was a fool believing we could cruise without paper charts. Boy what a fizzer this was turning out to be. At least we know where Geraldton is.
Did I already mention it’s not easy in a small boat on the… ? I think I did.
Ten minutes on course back towards the mainland the current coming through the solar panels was encouraging. It was still overcast but at 8:30am there was enough glare to make electricity and the laptop's battery was beginning to recover. Booted it up, 11% charged, noted some chart way points for the Easter Group entrance, closed it down to help it recharge and punched the course into the handheld GPS (which aways works). We’re back in action.
We tacked the junk schooner back on course for the Easter Group, good thing Ashiki is an easy boat to tack, really nothing to do but put the tiller over. Just make sure there's enough boat speed if there are waves about so she doesn't stall midway. But on this tack the foresail sheet wrapped itself around the dorade vent funnel and started pulling hard. It popped off, bounced along the deck, over the side and into Davey Jones’s locker.
We were making Sou'west in a good breeze with 9 miles to go. Ashiki went faster, then faster. The sky looked a little dark to the south and the waves started shredding apart at the their peaks and Ashiki went a little faster again, 4 to 5 knots to windward. Then the rain pelted down at 45˚, Ashiki heeled over more and powered along, reefed a panel on each sail, we stayed mostly dry because of the weather cloths surrounding the cockpit. A little stormy. We were used to windy and a little stormy. After couple hours of sailing I rebooted the laptop, 55% charged, excellent, and saw we were approaching the reefed lined entrance. All I could see was breaking waves everywhere and wondered if the pilot book had something to say about this. I went back below to read it, also on the laptop..
It said: “The southern entrance should not be attempted in heavy weather”. My heart sank, I think this qualifies as “heavy weather”. I broke the news to Susie. We’ll have to try the northern entrance, 4 hours back the other way. :( We had just sailed 3 hours “this way”.
Maybe this is why the Batavia crew were at each others throats..
Tacked around and pointed Ashiki back to the North East, whence we came. Then I noticed she’s moving at 2 knots. Odd, a bit slow with this healthy wind… errr.. um.. what wind? Then I noticed the waves were flattening out. The front had blown itself out and the seas were very quickly approaching calm!
Maybe we can enter the south entrance now. I fired up the motor, swung the boat back around and at full tilt headed for the southern entrance buoy, I didn’t know if another front was coming, though it didn’t look so dark southwards anymore but not wanting to waste any time. The little 6hp outboard can push 5 tons of Ashiki at 5 knots if the conditions are right. We’re at the red marker within 10 minutes, then a 90˚ turn to starboard and follow the rhumb line North. A few moments and we were in, gliding over the table top flat, protected waters of the Easter Group.
17 hours to get to one entrance.. Come on, if we did it easy I’d have nothing to write about..
Navigating the long loop around the coral reefs to the moorings was easy, I had moved the laptop to the galley bench where it is within view from the cockpit and because navigation these days is by video game. Your boat is the little red boat on the screen, you drive it around the screen by moving the tiller on your real boat. Just keep your little red boat away from the green bits, they be shoals. (You lose points hitting those.. and your real boat springs a leak..)
I almost hit a shoal. Saw a marker buoy and thought that’s the place to turn and forgot about the “little red boat”. Only sharp eyes on Susie’s part saved the day…
Picked up a mooring in front of a white beach and the job is done. We’re at the Abrolhos Islands. Finally!
Then the sky cleared, the sun came out and it was a glorious day, and we saw a seal waddle around on the beach.
|A seal, had enough of us and headed back over the hill.|
|Settled at Morley Island, Easter Group.|
|On the other side of the coral hillock, the cruel sea.|
|Some dead coral|
|Small fish, keeping tight. Maybe they fool predators |
into thinking they are one big fish?
|Morley Island, Rat Island on the horizon with fishing settlement.|
|Morley Island "landmark"|