Wednesday 2 July 2014

Grounded in Port Weld

Squint or miss this island, one of the Mary Anne Group.

Today was one of those days my friends. Let me start this post with a couple sayings “A keel boat sailor isn’t a true sailor unless he has run his boat aground” and “There are two types of sailors, those who have run their boat aground and those who tell porkies.” (Or they never left the dock). Something to that effect, since I am typing this on yet another remote island with nought a spec of internet to check on it.

We are on our way to another fabled cruising ground, the Montebello Islands. To make it into a series of day trips our first stop was a place called Port Weld. There’s no port facilities, not even a settlement, just a protected stretch of water so odd it’s called a “Port”. A 30 mile hop from Onlsow through a shoal and island crowded route. As usual, the winds started with promise in the morning and were gone by midday. We motored some and ghosted some. Eventually we were going well, at least judging by the wake and water noise Ashiki was making a good 4.5 knots. But the GPS said 2.5 knots which indicated we must be fighting a 2 knot current against us. This is the far north after all and we expected currents like this.

Approaching Port Weld when the current finally turned, I decided to cut between some islands, slightly off the intended course and besides, the short cut was marked with depths so not uncharted. Susie pointed out some disturbance on the surface up ahead and I dismissed it as jumping fish, which we’d seen everywhere. At 5.5 knots we hit something and Ashiki slid to a gradual stop, twisted around and started to heel over. Oh no, catastrophe! 

The sails seemed to turn her into the wind and run her harder aground, so I dropped them both. Releasing the halyards they came down immediately. No going forward tugging on mast tracks, the junk rig is extremely functional. The previous “groundings” we had weren’t real groundings. More like minor scuffs with the sea bottom, easy to escape from by heeling the hull to one side and motoring off. This time Ashiki was stuck hard, already heeled over 20˚ and wasn’t responding to power. Fortunately it was low tide and rising, if she wasn’t breaking free now, maybe in an hour she would. Another plus was there was no abrupt crack into something hard, like rock. This was a mud bottom so I wouldn’t expect any damage.

So there we were sitting on a heeled over boat in the middle of the sea, with small chop making her bounce on the bottom. Tried to power her off 20 minutes later to no avail. A full hour after grounding, the tide maybe risen 20cm, we were able to power her around 90˚ and gradually she broke free. The sun was setting as we sailed around the island, the long way this time, and steered into the Port Weld anchorage in the dark using instruments only. Motored the last few hundred metres to the waypoint and dropped anchor in 5m. Backed up on the SARCA anchor and it dug in. It was an easy place to anchor, 1 mile from the shore to starboard and 1/2 mile from the island to port. Time enough to eat and go to sleep, it was enough excitement for one day.

On reading the pilot guide afterwards it warns of shoals north of the island extending for 1 nautical mile, doh!

Huge barge left at sea, actually it is anchored in a hole
between huge shoals. Most the water in this pic is
shallow over reef. The electronic age really helps
in navigating this nightmare. The captains of the 19th century

explorers of this coast didn't stand on the poop deck, he
was up the mast looking for a path between shoals.

Listing and trapped off Weld Island

No comments:

Post a Comment