Tuesday 29 July 2014

Windward into the storm

See ya Montebello's, still looks a little rough, hmm...
Finally, we made our getaway in 20 knot winds. Too bad it increased to over 30.. I wrote somewhere else, in the “Why bother junk rig” page, that cruisers don’t go to windward. Well..  we are today, for a good 45 miles into 30 knots and clear of the islands, it’s 3m seas too. We are a good 40 miles offshore where the seas are going to be rougher, we just need to get closer to land for the calmer water. Many yachts stop making progress into 35 knots but we didn’t have a lot of choice and I expected to make 2 knots average and mostly bobbing around in a hole going nowhere fast. Having done it, I can report it was both good and bad. The going was not comfortable, I was the one who was sick, because I was below, but at least felt better right after “laughing” into the bucket. Susie did not approve of the rough weather - see the video. The good…  Ashiki blasted up wind all day and for 10 hours without either of us touching the tiller. She ranged 3 to 3.5 knots into winds that did touch 35 knots. I think I touched a sheet twice. She averaged 3.1 knots, 45˚ to 50˚ off the wind, surging up and over the long swells all with the tiller lashed. 

This is far better than I ever expected. The boat can go to windward like a witch, even in a storm.

The storm, the video..

I spent a great deal of it below in the bunk. She may have gone quicker, as only 4 panels were on the foremast (3 reefed), but the ride was bumpy enough. Her light displacement, having the advantage of rising to the top of every wave and keeping us dry, has the disadvantage of transmitting every bump to the crew. But this kind of weather is ok for her, the waves are not short so no pogo effect. (It is the short chop which she doesn’t like.) Late in the day the rain pelted down, Susie climbed inside and set up the pram hood, then I took over while she hit the bunk. It was very satisfying sitting in the relative warmth and dryness of the saloon looking out under the pram hood at the rainy turbulent seas and not a drop coming in. I can see why Blonde Hassler considers the pram hood a necessity for his numerous Atlantic crossings. When we were within 10 miles of the coast the seas flattened out noticeably, even Susie perked up, and sat out in the cockpit saying how much nicer it was. The waves were a mere 1m, winds abating, Ashiki still doing 3-3.5 knots to windward. 

I know Susie never wants to do a sail like this again, but Ashiki proves she can take us anywhere, with minimal input from her crew. I never ventured on deck, it was the perfect sail. Down below there was a lot of slamming going on, the hull was being hammered by the seas but Ashiki continued on with a bone in her mouth (bone - it’s the white water seen under the bows when a boat is sailing well). It was never scary, the hull didn’t sound like it was going to break, no creaks or groans, she sounded solid.

The wind was gradually heading us all day, that is to say it clocked around to be on the nose, from NE to E then ESE forcing Ashiki (she changes course herself, still nothing to do) to sail E to SE then South, and our destination had to change from Steamboat Island in the East, to Sholl Island more SE and finally a more southern Long Is in the Mary Anne Group.

Friday 25 July 2014

Shut in at the Montebello’s

We decided the next day after our dramas was the day to leave, but as a war general once said:

few plans withstand contact with the enemy”. 

In this case the enemy was an Easterly gale which during the last few days, tended to moderate around 2pm. But it continued roaring all today. East being the general direction of our next destination, the mining port of Dampier. Of which we may split into two trips, stopping at Steamboat Island halfway. The pattern of the last two weeks, morning SE’ers, followed by a period of variable winds then Westerly’s in the afternoon seemed to be over. These all day Easterly’s will make life hard if they don’t let up, but we’ll wait a couple more days yet. 200 miles East from here, the coast starts trending NE towards the Kimberley and the Easterly would become a land breeze, with the advice being to hug the coast and the going should be a little easier. But the problem is to get there, over 200 miles of Easting yet. Such is life on the WA coast.

View across the water to Alpha Island, site of the biggest nuclear detonation

We remained at anchor off Trimouille Island and made the most of it. Susie cooked chapatti’s for lunch, followed by a dinner of a Thai style green curry with steamed rice followed by peaches for dessert, and the usual high standard of gastronomy was preserved on Ashiki. Not that there are any manner of ills aboard, apart from not being able to leave, but to remind the reader: 

"Food cures all ills on a small boat."

(OK, I’m overloading on quotes from Tilman.)

The next day, Saturday.. we’re still here.. but moved anchorage, sailed 4 miles back to our first anchorage inside Hermite Is., we tired of Ashiki tacking and veering on the anchor chain at Trimouille, this is a better protected spot.
We go ashore at Hermite to capture some 3G on the hill,
maybe download a weather report, none was found.

On Sunday we made two attempts to leave for the coast, motored out through the heads but turned back both times sighting the conditions outside rougher than we thought. I wouldn’t like to try these conditions, being 40 miles from the mainland the waves would be large. Since we hadn’t done upwind sailing for many months, I wondered how Ashiki would handle it. Would she hobby horse along at 2 knots all day? That is the speed I expect, so it would be a long uncomfortable slog. We’d better wait for calmer weather but near gales have been the norm for 10 days so far. Maybe Monday will be better. This is getting tedious.

Monday is worse, over 30 knots today and the anchor dragged. Retrieving it, to re-anchor, I had to pull the lump of coral out of the SARCA’s hoop. It seems to be holding now on a mostly coral bottom. In the galley I tried my hand at chapaties, came out delicious. Need to make more next time. But in the spot where I hooked a Snapper, the fish seemed to have deserted us.

Monday 21 July 2014

Montebello’s - The Rescue

This a story of high drama, we were involved with an emergency call, then a mayday call to help a fellow cruiser. 

HelipadHow many helicopters does it take 
to change a light globe?

We were on our third hike on Trimouille Island with Kliff from the trawler yacht “Power Ready Spirit II”, to investigate the lighthouse and maybe a pill box identified at the end of Churchill point, after Boar Hill (notice the recent Brit history names here). Half an hour into the hike Kliff complained of a stitch. Before long he was on the ground in agony. After an hour with no let up, I attempted a few 000 calls (emergency number in Australia) on the mobile from atop the nearest hill but couldn’t convey much info before dropping out.

Trimouille light beacon

Kliff was convinced his time on this planet was nearing an end, so the next course of action was to dinghy to Kliffs boat to use his VHF. No replies, even switched to a mayday call. Nothing. I thought Barrow Island, only 18 miles away and home to thousands of workers would respond. I took some torches and food with me back to Trimouille, maybe we can get Kliff into the dinghy and bring him home (his boat). He hadn’t improved, and he thought it was curtains for him, the pain was so bad. We were thinking bursting appendix, which is deadly, but Susiie, with some nursing training, didnt believe this was the case. But we managed to get him the 200m down the hill side to the beach - where he appeared to recover a little. Urinating seemed to do the trick, when he could. He perked up somewhat in the dinghy and on his boat he recovered 80%. We hung around for awhile and he was even able to take us back to Ashiki.

So that was it, we had a curry, reflected on what a hell of a day it was, we don’t really want more days like this, then read a bit and hit the sack. Kliff seemed fine, it was over. 

Paraphrasing "The Hobbit" - adventures are nasty, terrible things, make you late for dinner.

I guess we’ll have the police trying to contact us for the next few days, since I did notice a message come in from them while walking down the hill where there was very intermittent reception. 

Or so we thought. They had action in mind.

Sometime later around 9:30pm we were woken by the words “Ashiki, Ashiki, Ashiki” over the VHF. Sounds like Kliff’s voice. Calling him, he said it wasn’t him, then he said there’s the light of another boat up the coast. Indeed there was a vessel a mile away, with a large spotlight searching around. Shoot, better get back on ch16 to see if they try calling again. 

“Ashiki, Ashiki, Ashiki, High Voltage, High Voltage, do you copy”

I copied them and next thing we heard:
“Was that you who made a distress call earlier?”


How did they know?

I replied in the affirmative and let them know who it was for and that he seems to have recovered. He told us they have a rescue crew, police and paramedic onboard and would like to see the individual at which point Kliff himself cut in and took it from there. He still felt his lower stomach, though the pain was greatly reduced. The boat, moving slowly, as half the waters around here are unsurveyed, drew near and this was becoming a big deal. A large sleek looking 80’ pilot boat, maybe an oil rig transport, with sizeable crew and lit up like a football stadium.

From there all we did was sit in the cockpit and watch, as they manoeuvred themselves around backing stern to stern with Kliff’s boat and he transferred himself over using the dinghy as a stepping stone.

What a turn of events, from such vague information, though at one stage I did spell out “MONTEBELLO” to the operator. But we couldn’t figure out how the rescue boat knew Ashiki, I didn’t use her name on the phone nor the radio (I used Power Ready Spirit). But they somehow sleuthed who we were and where we were. Before leaving, both the pilot boat and Kliff’s boat together, they dinghied over for a chat. The pilot boat and the crew were from Barrow Island, they received the call one hour ago. Happens the policed used our mobile number to search the EPIRB records to find the name, Ashiki, but still wouldn’t have known our exact location. Then the info bounced around Port Hedland (170 miles away), then Karratha (75 miles away) till someone figured Barrow Island has the closest rescue team. The Montebellos aren’t big, about 8 miles top to bottom and our anchor lights are bright, (Bebe LED anchor light top of the mast) good for 3 to 4 miles at least and with no other lights around, we wouldn’t be hard to find once the area was known. We were mighty impressed that such a big, full on professional response was summoned by such a short vague phone call. 

The Barrow Island captain told us it is channel 10 they use. Still miffed they didn’t scan ch16, how would we know about ch10?

Some of High Voltage’s crew transferred with Kliff and what looked like medic monitoring equipment to his boat to pilot it back to Barrow Island. He was to get some tests done there and if serious they may send him to the hospital in Karratha. Both boats are gone now and we are alone in the anchorage.

PS, Kliff passed two kidney stones the next day. He's still alive and kicking.

Thursday 17 July 2014

Montebello’s - Trimouille Island

Anchored off Main Bay, Trimouille Is.

Next bay along.

We motorsailed/sailed the 5 miles to one of the bomb site islands, Trimouille, as the wind wasn’t entirely favourable and anchored 200m off “Main Beach” in 5m. This was the site of the second detonation, and 600m offshore was the first, obliterating the warship HMS Plym. Of course, true to form, we (ok, I, since I’m responsible for the navigating) almost sailed unwittingly over the top of the wreckage. Didn’t hit anything, maybe being near high tide helped, though I’d think the “wreckage” would more resemble a pancake considering.. There are signs all over the island warning of radiation and only short visits, no more than one hour being recommended. I read a story of school children visiting here armed with geiger counters, the amount of radiation at the bomb site was reportedly equivalent to that of an average wristwatch. It is almost 60 years since the blast after all. As expected, the island was littered by debris from the ship, having landed here via the stratosphere. Apparently, the radiation lingers longest in the steel, so it is not recommended to souvenir any pieces, nor any part of the island. Amazing what a threat of radiation does to discourage souvenir hunters, the debris is still there. Some of it a mile away from the bomb site.

Chunks of metal like this everywhere, from HMS Plym.

Next day we set out to find ground zero, I’d seen pictures of an obelisk landmark before, and hiked inland to find the trail Kliff (from Power Ready Spirit II) said to have seen on google earth. Well, no trail to be found, but we did find heaps more bits of HMS Plym and a concrete bunker, with breathing chimneys, periscope tubes and a rear entrance, only 1km from ground zero. Churchill must have wanted some unlucky saps are to be encased in there during the blast..

Susie doing her "get me out of here" grin at ground zero.

We found the ground zero obelisk, took the obligatory pictures, then had lunch on the beach. The hike back was possible down the coast over the rocky shore, where the cliffs had collapsed into rubble, presumable, no definitely, from the first blast on HMS Plym, as cliffs on other islands have their overhangs and no rubble. The wild life, as usual, was plentiful. Stingrays and a shark plus a couple “transitional” types, shark body with stingray type wings on the head. Isn’t evolution amazing? We covered almost 10km that day and earned a good night’s sleep.

Bits of a plane in the middle of the island.
Big end from a ship's diesel?
Collapsed cliffs

Concrete bunker 900m from ground zero, with rear entrance now
full of sand.
Shark lagoon cruising.

Deck structure from HMS Plym. Landed almost 2km
from the blast site.

Monday 14 July 2014

Montebello Islands - Hermite Island

Hermite anchorage
I’ll start this post by announcing I caught a Snapper. Susie made a meal out of it fit for a King. It was cooked in a sweet chilli & garlic sauce and served with mash potato. I couldn’t think of a better start to our visit to the Montebello’s, as Susie puts it, we accepted an offering from the sea. Quite a different environment here compared to the Pilbara coast. Not so much red, lots of sandstone and green spinifex bush. 

The French navigator, Baudin, who spent 4 years surveying the West Aussie coast before 1820, named the group after a one of Napoleon’s victories. Maybe that’s why the Brits were keen to blow them up.

View from the hill

We hiked the first day, exploring a shack (for rangers who weren’t there) and going further afield to investigate the remains of a building on a hill top. We endured a long march over rocky coast and spikey spinifex bush to get there. Shorts and thongs aren’t the best attire.. By its location on the highest hill with sweeping views of the bomb sites to the northern end of the island group, this was the British HQ for the blasts. It was big day on land and left us licking our wounds, I drew blood from those spinifex things.

Brit's HQ, ministry for blowing things up.

Closer to the HQ
Inside the HQ, 60 years of corrosion

HQ's view, the bomb sites on the horizon, 7 or 8 miles away.
Out to sea to the East, Dampier is 70 miles that way.
After 2 nights at the anchorage too much chop was coming through the entrance so we decided to move to another lagoon, at high tide we motored two miles deeper within Hermite Island and dropped anchor in a place called Willy Nilly Lagoon, taking care to anchor on the right side of the border of the sanctuary zone as I’d still like to fish off the boat, legally. The place was protected from all sides, the scenery was stunning, it was perfect.

I caught something very similar to a Garfish, little boney for our taste though.

Next day we found a trail on the island, twin track, I think for ATV’s rather than 4WD’s. It wasn’t a well used trail and was mostly overgrown. So we followed it to the west coast where, on top of a cliff, we ate our usual hiking lunch, cans of beans and corn. This time we wore proper hiking boots and jeans to keep the spinifex at bay, what a difference the right gear makes! We made 3 big hikes while there, finding beautiful lagoons and beaches teeming with wildlife. These beaches wouldn’t be to the beachcombers liking though. Step into the water and creatures from under the sand would suddenly startle and bolt. Usually small stingrays and there is always some creature leaping out of the water. Some places we saw small sharks gliding in the shallows. On one beach in a lagoon, dinghy’ing ashore, we picked a patch of sand between some rocks, then the rocks, as the hull glided onto the sand, about 18 of them lifted and shot away. They were a school of stingrays! So when entering water, it pays to stamp your foot making a splash, it gives any creature in the sand nearby time to scoot, since they are all afraid of us humans, even the sharks.  

New location, Willy Nilly Lagoon.

How many stingrays in this pic?
8 or 9?

West coast cliffs, viewing the Northern Indian Ocean

On remotest islands on remotest contingent, Susie still texting...
Nearby Barrow Island has a 4G tower, but reception is still rare.

After promising to throw back any more Garfish, I caught another Snapper. Those little lures from Onslow must be working.

A plus for the strong currents up here, I don’t need to do the twice daily rearranging of the solar panels on deck. I’d leave them set on the port side, at midday the tide would turn and slowly swing the boat around to follow the sun which was passing it’s zenith. By dawn next day the tide had considerately positioned the boat to catch the morning rays. Nothing to do.

Thursday 10 July 2014

Voyage to the Atom Bomb age

To give you an idea what the Montebello Islands are, they are an archipelago 40 miles off the mainland in the Indian Ocean, known for its beauty, nature reserves, wild life and in 1952 a 25 kilotonne nuclear device was detonated  aboard British ship HMS Plym anchored off the islands. In 1956 there was a 16 kilotonne detonation on Trimouille island and a 98 kilotonne one on Alpha Island also in 1956, the biggest nuclear detonation on Australian soil. These were tests carried out by the British government with permission of the Aussie government (bent over backwards didn’t we?), during a time we had an extraordinarily pro British prime minister. Churchill and Menzies were great mates and the latter was eager to sell Aussie sovereignty off cheaply. One would think the poms had plenty of home grown choices to obliterate. Lords cricket ground for one, they had no use for that…

So, we had the alarm set for 1am at the Great Sandy Island anchorage, but there wasn’t much wind then, so Susie reset the alarm for 3:30am and we went back to sleep. This time there appeared to be a 12 to 15 knot Sou’Easterly, that’s more like it, after a quick muesli and coffee, we weighed anchor in the darkness at 4:10am and so started the 50 mile sail to the islands. Steering out of the anchorage with Susie still on the bow sorting out the anchor, I heard a pop and a tug on the tiller. The chain of the windvane had somehow engaged itself on the tiller and one of the blocks broke. That’s the windvane out of action for today.  

Ashiki was fast off the anchor, holding a steady 4.5 to 4.8 knots as Susie steered passed the beacon lights of nearby islands and glows on various points of the horizon, both on the mainland and out to sea. It’s a busy place, still in the heart of Australia’s lucrative oil and gas industry (Aus still a net importer of the black stuff, not producing quite enough for itself, but a big exporter of the gas). The breeze freshened and swung to the East and we’re holding 5 knots on a beam reach, keeping plenty of panels up is working well. Needing to bungy the tiller as there’s some weather helm, not wanting to reduce the helm (the tiller is trying to pull your arms out) by freeing the main sheet, it usually means fast sailing and we want to make the most of this breeze incase it disappears.

We’re having to skirt exclusion zones, because the oil companies are liability mad, there is a big perimeter around Barrow Island. Now that’s a name from both Susie’s and my childhoods, always hearing about the big oil discovery at a place called “Barrow Island”. The glow of the place can be seen over the horizon at night, lit up like a city. Couple hours after sunrise the winds lulled a little, Ashiki is holding 3.5 to 4 knots and not healing much, so I took the opportunity to cook a brunch as Susie was manning the tiller, we had been sailing for 4 hours and feeling a little peckish. Bacon and eggs it is.

Varanus Island behind the platforms

By mid morning we are racing 12 miles abeam Barrow island with the wind freshening again and showing no signs of abating. The seas were building too, Ashiki was getting the occasional slap by quartering waves. By lunchtime the next Island coming into view is Varanus Island. This name is known to just about everybody in Perth because a certain explosion that happened there 2 years ago. The gas refinery on the island is connected to Perth via a 1,400km pipeline. The explosion caused gas shortages all over Perth that summer and the resource company were quite tight lipped over the cause. Subsequent investigation showed the cause was simple enough. Where the pipeline left the island and entered the sea water no maintenance was carried out. It rusted through, gas leaked and caused the massive explosion. Yes my friends, the island was run by dunces.

On the way we saw our first dugong in almost its entirety, not just a head disappearing into the drink. It was a little like a dolphin but flubbier with a fleshy tail and without dorsal fin. Also saw a huge sea snake floating by, looking at us then wiggled away.

It was midday, we had been sailing for 8 hours and as per usual, Susie was doing the bulk of the steering, mainly because she loves it, we were holding over 5 knots and flying!  I’m thinking a mid afternoon arrival at Montebello, cool! We made the waypoint taking us to the northern edge of the Varanus prohibited zone (greedy buggers) and turned from a northerly to a north-west course, a broad reach. Ashiki accelerated to 6 - 6.8 knots, hitting 7 at times, with a following sea making the ride that little more exciting. Oil and gas platforms dotting the horizon to the right and the left of us, like the cover of a Dune novel (spice sands!)..  I reefed down 2 panels each sail just to keep her more controllable. The calms never came, the wind was 20 to 25 knots all day, what a difference that makes.

Before long we were within the Montebello archipelago having come in on one of the leads recommended in the pilot and sticking to our rather convoluted track on the plotter, mainly to skirt the unsurveyed areas. Still with sail up, we were gliding to windward at 4.5 to 5 knots over relatively smooth protected water marvelling at the many islands. This place is much more scenic than the Abrolhos, no low lying islands here, more substantial hilly terrain and sandstone cliffs instead. An hour later we had cruised through the heads of a lagoon entrance were dropping anchor in 5.5 metres. It was 3pm, less than 11 hours to sail 52 nautical miles. If sailed at yesterday’s rate (light winds and adverse current), it would be a 17 hour trip, so today’s sail was very nice indeed.

Ashiki (that's the red arrow) zooming between
the platforms. Yes, that's her speed, going a little
slower at that point..

Termite Island, Montebello Islands Group
Termite Island anchorage, the 2 knot current.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Great Sandy Island

Sunset over Great Sandy Is.
Since it was a short distance to our next stop over, Great Sandy Island at 12 miles, we started a little later from Port Weld, at 9am. Using the time to cook up a good breakfast (bacon & eggs) and do a spot of fishing. A juicy looking fish fell off the line just as I was hauling him in…

As usual the sail was brisk in the beginning then the wind started to fade with 5 miles to go. Then the 1-1/2 knot current really slowed us down. 2-1/2 hours to complete the final 5 miles. We anchored in as close as feasible, 100m from the shoal, but as the tide lowered, rocks started to appear, everywhere, only 60m from Ashiki, and we had 30m of anchor chain out and hadn’t swung that way yet, as we surely would in the morning with an Easterly. 30m of anchor rode means a 60m diameter swinging circle, might put us on one of those rocks! I asked Susie to drop the dinner preparations and come help re-anchor the boat. She winched up the anchor and we motored a further 200m out, dropped it in 7m, the SARCA dug in and we were good for the night.

We didn’t do our onshore exploration, it was a long row to get to it, and it didn’t look that interesting, no idea why it was given that name either. It was mostly bush and weed. But the next day we had 50 miles to make Montebello, and if the winds do their normal doldrums at lunch time we wouldn’t make it before sunset, unless we set of at 1am in the morning. If the wind swings to the east at that time and is strong enough, we would be pounded awake anyway. Thus we set the alarm and hit the sack at 6:30pm

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