Saturday 2 August 2014

Mary Anne Group - route to Dampier

After the 15 hour windward storm sail (at least 10 hours of it rough), we chose Long Island to anchor, it’s not in the pilot book as an anchorage, but we are using the time honoured strategy that when tired on a sail boat, find any island and anchor in the lee of it, if shallow enough and if surveyed we’d know the depth. 

Coming closer to land, lights started appearing on the horizon, one looked like a huge anchored structure. Susie and I disagreed as to whether this thing was moving or not. Making for our chosen anchorage, the structure loomed closer, too dark to see what it was. Then, from 1 mile away, he flashed a spotlight on us. Maybe someone is curious on that thing so we continued, overtaking it. Then it was 1/2 a mile away he again flashed a spotlight on us but this time more prolonged, then it occurred to me he was moving, at 2 knots! (with Susie giving me the “I told you so..”) It was a tug towing a huge 100m barge and he was crossing our path. We gybed around to head in a parallel opposite direction course waiting for him to cut across, where he appeared to speed up, thoughtful of him.

15 minutes later we were dropping anchor in 10m a mile off Long Island (there were 1/2 mile of shoals surrounding it). We had dinner followed by a peaceful sleep. (This is the “real” Long Island, not Serreriur Island which sometimes gets called Long Is.)

In the morning the tug was still around, 2 miles to the west of us, it’s job appears to be, to motor in circles at 2 knots day and night.

This tug pilot's job was to sail in circles day and night
towing a.. ah.... I have no idea what.
Next day was very easy, steady breeze on flat water, this time aiming for anchorage at Cape Preston, where there happens to be an Iron Ore loading port run by “Junior miner” Fortescue Metals Group. The founder of that company is quite a public figure here in W.A., where he is known as “Twiggy” Forrest. Also we were messaged by another cruiser that there was no trouble anchoring opposite where the causeway meets the mainland. After a short 25 miles we were dropping the hook, then a security boat raced over and kicked us out.. this being a port control area.  They weren’t rude about it, and a few minutes later radio’d to say ch15 is the port’s channel and suggested asking for permission, which I did. Permission denied.. Twiggy isn’t very hospitable. Anyway, the port was idle, no rocks being loaded today, business not so hot, eh Twiggy?

Goodbye Cape Preston..

Where to go now? Fortunately we had a couple hours of sunlight left. I didn’t like the look of the bays south, the shoals would mean anchoring the what appeared to be the middle of the sea. Looked on the charts again and identified an island 10 miles to the east, in the direction of our destination, called North East Regnard Island. We’ll anchor in the lee of that.

..hello NE Regnard.

Susie texted Dave, who was somewhere up the coast, other side of Flying Foam Passage I think, to ask how he managed to stay at Cape Preston. He replied “Maybe they like the cut of my jib”…..


The wind died close to sunset and we reluctantly motored the final 7 miles. We anchored in 5m off the SW of NE Regnard in the dark, with the SE (near) gale in the morning we weren’t very protected, Ashiki pulling wildly on her rode. The anchor had dragged about 40m that morning, across the sand/coral bottom, I went forward to do something about this. To release more rode* I first needed to winch in some to untie the nylon snubber**, which I couldn’t do as Ashiki was pulling too hard on it in the 30 knot wind. I should have used the motor to ease the tension but stupidly thought otherwise. I carried our my hair-brained plan of simply releasing the snubber from the cleat and let it go overboard, thinking it will remain attached to the chain with its triple half hitch knots. On releasing the winch brake, the chain started running out at a furious pace, coming to the rope portion of the rode, to which the winch brake had no effect, as it is a chain only gypsy and does not grip rope, so I was standing there on a heaving foredeck watching the anchor rode rush out of the locker at speed, the boat flying backwards and no way to stop it. 

This was not good.

The bitter end of the rode was tied to the stem knee (huge block of wood behind the bow), and we had 70m of total length, I shuddered to think what would happen if the shock on the bitter end causes it to break. At least I had the plough anchor untied and ready to be deployed. Trying to stop it with my hand only burned it, then quick thinking I grabbed the winch lever, a metre long piece of steel flat bar, and wedged the rope against one of the gypsy teeth and that held, held the whole boat in fact, then pulled some of the rode out of the chain hauser pipe and wrapped it around the cleat. Disaster averted. Now we had 50m of rode out instead of the planned 25 or 30.  This rope/chain combination isn’t so good, 30m of chain isn’t enough in the tidal northwest, I’m going to be more careful in future, and use the motor more in anchoring activities.

The snubber, 9m of quality nylon rope was lost, it untied itself from the chain. Silly me. Use a piece of silver rope now, not as stretchy but works. We have plenty of it on board of various lengths, used mostly for dock lines. Like buckets, you can never have too much rope on a boat.

* Rode: Name for the line attached to an anchor, could be chain, rope or steel cable or a combination there of. Ashiki’s main rode is 30m chain attached to 40m of rope. The secondary rode (like a spare) is 10m of chain and 80m of rope.

** Snubber: When anchoring with chain, the chain has no stretch and will jerk the boat too violently in a blow, so the solution is to tie a length of nylon rope to the last bit of chain and the other end to a cleat then release more chain to let the snubber take the tension, nylon rope is stretchy stuff and provides the shock absorption for anchoring.


  1. Hi,
    I am enjoying your Blog and the narrative style.
    Below is url of a site that effectively shows the wind patterns you describe. You are certainly going "uphill".,-20.94,1823


    1. Thanks for the feedback Rob. That is an incredible site BTW, typhoon east of the Philippines etc, amazing.