Friday 28 February 2014

Voyage to the Cut

We’ve sailed Ashiki this route before, last time the favourable wind died then the notorious sea breeze blasted in, on the nose. If the seas are too steep and right on the bow, Ashiki pitches and loses speed. She is a little bow heavy, having a great mast right on it… It was slow progress that day. This time we didnt need to complete the whole journey, it was only a day sail. For as long as the SE’er lets us. If it does, we get to have a beer at Port Bouvard, 10Nm away, at the far end of what is known as the Dawesville Cut. A channel excavated 20 years ago to enable a large inland inlet to flush itself to sea more easily. It had become infested with fertiliser induced algae and stank to high heavens. Wholly a man made problem, but the Cut really did work. The algae is gone and people aren’t holding their noses anymore. Then the population boom started and the traffic.. and the marinas..

Bridge over the Cut

But the Cut is good, someone built a marina at one end of it, and the place achieved brief national fame 2 years ago when during a 65 knot winter storm, one of the floating finger jetties with 40 boats broke free and floated off! It carried them onto the breakwater rocks. Several sank. A handful of the liveaboard people caught up in that little disaster are still there, sporting new boats :-D

Great storm of 2012

I think it was that very same gust which tore our fence down, 15km away in Mandurah revealing an under construction Ashiki to the world..

Fence gone, Ashiki making a break for it!

Back to the voyage. Firstly, we had to weigh anchor and leave where we were. Easy enough, the tide and wind would take us directly up the straits to where we want to go. Pull the pick, the elements do the rest, no need to turn the motor on. Nothing to it. 

We promptly ran aground. 

Ok, the boat hunted around while the anchor was winched up and ended up pointing towards the shallows by the time she was free. I had some foresail up too, which pushed her that direction. It was a case of heeling her over and rev’ing the outboard like mad to get her off..  With me letting go a few unprintables.. those fine folks in the those fine houses lining the shore needed a wake up call anyway..

It’s a fine sail in a SE’er, beam reach the whole way, Ashiki revelled in it. Pick a line between the heads and if you can time it with the wind shift, a fast 6knot cruise up the flat protected waters of the Cut itself, under the bridge and onto the marina restaurant. Well the public dock infront of the bar/restaurant was full, so we headed on out to the Peel inlet to anchor instead and had lunch from the ship’s stores. Most the inlet is too shallow for keel boats, but the area immediately at the end of the Cut is deep enough.

Anchored in the inlet, glimpse of the
Cut bridge through the porthole

After a swim, feed and a snooze I was still keen to head into the marina, if only to top up fuel. Which we did, replacing 17L of fuel we had used in the previous 2 months. At the dock some people, as usual, were interested in the boat. This person had seen Ashiki while she was behind our fence still under construction (the fence wasn’t tall enough to completely hide her), he used to drive passed her everyday and noticed she was now gone, so he was very pleased to see her in the water. Another bloke at the dock was on a Mac26. A famous (or notorious) runabout looking hull with a sailing rig on top. It was only 26’ but hanging off the transom was a massive 90hp outboard! We had a good chat, happens he is the state agent/saleman for that brand of boat. Typically he asked how the junk rig goes to windward…

Canals off the Cut

Finished chatting, we thought about anchoring in the Cut for the night, but decided the Mandurah channel would be more comfortable so we motored out of the marina, raised both sails and glided down the Cut with swirls bubbling from Ashiki's stern, fetching along at 6 knots again. We saw the Mac26 guy, he gybed around and tried to race us. No match, so we slowed down by dropping the main, to let him catch up. I planned to do this anyway, for the 8Nm downwind run in 20 knots back to Mandurah, no need for full sail. He did catch up on the flat water and we headed out through the heads together into the ocean swells. Beam reaching we matched speed, around 5.5 to 5.8 knots, he with full sail up, us with a reefed foresail and no main at all. lol. Ashiki will not be shown up. (He could have fired up that outboard, that boat motors at 20 knots.. )

We waved goodbye and bore off downwind along the Western Australian coast toward Mandurah. The foresail alone caused Ashiki to roll too voilently in the swells, so we tried a configuration I read about for junk rig schooners. Raise the main, sheet it out to drive the boat, sheet in the foresail to steady her. It worked, Ashiki stopped the death rolls. We spent the next 1-1/2 hours surfing the swells ranging from 5.5 to 6.7 knots. Always something new to learn. The versatility of the Chinese junk rig is endless.

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