Thursday 13 March 2014

Geographe Bay Part II

Sunset on the voyage to Quindalup
The SE suddenly came alive at 10 o’clock, 12 knots became 25. It slammed Ashiki and she heeled and slammed into the waves. I was in the cockpit at the time, so I leaned forward and released the foresail’s halyard. The sail at that point should drop, but the fresh breeze was pinning the yard to the mast and it wasn't moving. I could have just rounded the boat up into the wind which would have taken pressure off the yard, but fortunately, a downhaul had been rigged a couple weeks earlier (in response to a posting on the JunkRig forum.. there you go..). A tug on that and the yard started coming down. I reduced two panels and three on the main, without changing course which had the required calming effect on Ashiki - relatively, it was still a lively sea. Susie popped her head from below and asked “Did you just reef?” 
“oh, ok” and went back below.

Ah yes, 2000 years of evolution of the junk rig, means we have an easy time of it!
The only glitch we had was because of modernity! The yard is light weight large diameter aluminium tubing. An ancient Chinese yard would be heavy timber and gravity would have no problem pulling it down. Maybe I should bolt a hardwood 4x2 inside it…

According to the GPS Ashiki was ploughing along at 4.8 to 5.4 knots. There was a steep 1m swell coming on the port bow and the green glow of the navigation light to starboard and red to port were illuminating the blanket of white water parting with each plunge of the bow. “Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh…” We were making such good time, still on the wind. Both of us sitting in the cockpit we spotted the Cape Naturaliste light house. One of the great Capes of the Australian continent. Counted the seconds between bursts of light, 2 flashes then 10 seconds pause.. including the argument about how many seconds.. “no no, that was 8 seconds..”, “no it wasnt… let me count this again..”. It was off the starboard bow, a position which I had always associated with open ocean, nothing till South Africa. But here there was a headland forming in that direction, though we could only see the lights, the western lip of Geographe Bay. Ashiki is starting to go places now! 

Our ETA at this rate would be around 3AM so we decided we’ll need to heave to for several hours, so as to arrive after sunrise, remembering the rule..

At 13Nm to go at midnight, we released the sheets, let the sails weathercock to the wind, and lashed the tiller to leeward, Ashiki settled with her bow pointing 45˚off the wind and her drift at around 0.9 knots 90˚ to the wind. She would run aground in about 13 hours, we planned to sleep 3 or 4 hours so its fine. I set the anchor watch with a 1Nm radius, so it should start alarming after an hour to wake us up to check outside. 

After first hour I grew tired of the clanging of the aluminium battens against the mast. So reduced all sail and sheeted them in. This just made Ashiki drift a little faster, at 1.2 knots. In hindsight maybe I shouldn’t have sheeted them in, maybe the drift would have been less. But she was quieter, apart from the occasional crash of a wave hitting the port bow. We experimented with sleeping in various places around the boat. Susie felt claustrophobic in the pilot berth and was actually quite comfortable in the double berth in the forepeak. Both of us couldn't sleep there, Ashiki was tossing and I’d land on her (Susie). Her back was giving trouble sailing in the bumpy SE’er and was relieved when we heaved to. I was fine in the pilot berth at the stern.

Smooth sailing in the daytime

We slept 4 hours in the dark middle of Geographe Bay in a raging minor gale, bashed by the waves, checking position every hour when the alarm went off. It worked fine, the junk rig heaves to without a hitch, she kept a constant angle to the wind and kept a slow steady pace towards the SW, which was approximately our destination. The only complaint was we both felt a little nauseous from the constant pitching.

By 4am we woke from our last hour long slumber (I never really slumbered - one hour intervals dont suit me too well), Ashiki had moved 4Nm, making 9Nm from our destination. The SE’er was still blasting away. I climbed into the cockpit still dark, released the tiller, raised 4 panels of the foresail (of 7 panels total) to which Ashiki responded with  3 or 4 knots southward, raised another 3 panels on the main which pushed her passed 5.5 knots, slicing and dicing the pre dawn chop. It was going to be a fast final 9Nm I thought. I appreciated that while still sleepy, grumpy and with a little sea sickness, no going out on deck was required. All sail can be set from the cockpit. Did I mention she has a good rig?

Soon in the pre dawn light the hinterland, low mountains of the cape and light house were visible to starboard, the mainland and the loom of Busselton was visible to port and at the hour mark the familiar cluster of tiny sticks in the distance, denoting a mooring field of yachts, rose over the horizon dead ahead. Quindalup.

We're here!

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