Wednesday 5 February 2014

Dark and stormy night

Fremantle has its downside. It’s a bottomless pit which hoovers the cash from you wallet. Too many great places to eat is the real problem. We had our week doing laundry, watering the boat, splicing a new anchor rode and even getting invited out on a motor boat for a quick trip out to Carnac Island (David Attenborough featured the place in one of his doco's, it is full of snakes…). Did I mention the people you meet while cruising around on a boat? We met lots of them, its always interesting. We bought a shiny new fisherman’s anchor (admiralty anchor) and 40m of 10mm chain to attach to 40m of 16mm rope, finally we may have solved our anchoring woes.
Anchors L-R, Super SARCA, Fishermans and a Plough

Time to leave and we were heading south. The rule here on the WA coast in summer is head south where its less windy. North, forget it, the winds are over the top. First stop was that same weedy anchorage 5nm south. Ashiki nodded towards it in a light easterly breeze, she barely made 2 1/2 knots in the zephyr.  Halfway the wind died altogether, since the depth sounder said only 4m deep we dropped anchor and made lunch. No hurry around here.

An hour later a wind sprang from the south east and we continued on, pulled into the deserted anchorage under sail and dropped our new 20kg fisherman's in 2.4m of water. I even dove on it to see how it set. There it was in the weed with one fluke defiantly pointing skyward. The next day was Susie’s birthday so we dinghied the bikes ashore and found a cafe to celebrate, had a ride around afterwards and checked out the new marina at Coogee. 
Woodman Point sunset

That night the winds picked up, looking on the Met Bureau’s website, winds were rising above 20kts. Then around 10pm "Ding, Ding, Ding.." goes the anchor alarm.  Wouldn’t you know it? Ashiki was dragging the fisherman's. 

At this point I was wondering, what were we doing here? We could be in a house on dry land like normal people, that doesn't try to drag itself onto some rocky coast on a dark and stormy night (it's all sandy beach around here but that's beside the point). There would be no stress from hearing some anchor alarm clanging away. But no, we like to suffer...  

So we were out on deck in the inky black moonless night, Susie held the motor while I hauled the anchor up and proceeded to pick up a mooring. No go, Ashiki would blow past the mooring too quickly to pick up. We dropped anchor again, maybe the fishermans will find better purchase this time, she dragged at the next 25kt gust. Off to attempt the mooring again, but then we lost the moorings altogether, our torches couldn't pick one up. I had the other anchor handy on the foredeck, a 14kg Super SARCA which I thought was underweight for weed, and dropped it over the side. Ashiki held under both anchors. With the anchor alarm set we turned in and the problem seemed over.

Derelict power station

Ashiki continued to hold into the next day, until around midday when the gusts increased to 30kts, she slowly began to drag again… This was the last straw.  But at least this time she was gradually making her way to one of the mooring balls. I looked at it, only 15m away and decided to swim a line out to it, rather than risk weighing anchor and try to motor onto it in this wind. Grabbing a spare 100m reel of 12mm rope from the lazerette, pulled out about 30m of it, gave the reel to Susie and dove in with the free end. Was onto the mooring ball in a flash, tied my end to the pendant with my best bowline, while Susie cleated the other end to the ship. It was then a matter of patiently hauling the excess line till the mooring pendant was cleated and secure on the foredeck. Ashiki was now moored.

The new fishermans anchor failed us. A big disappointment. Since then we have learnt that it is likely too small for Ashiki at 20kg. Also many of the south coast cruisers (where all the anchorages are weedy) modify theirs. We were told to sharpen the flukes, which we will do (when I get my hands on an angle grinder, ours was stolen).

As a charter captain told us in Fremantle, this (windy coast) is a great place to learn to handle a boat. Can't argue with that..

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