Wednesday 6 August 2014

Mermaid Strait

Pair of giants welcome us to Dampier
It was midday before the wind moderated enough to up anchor from NE Regnard, Dampier was 25 miles away, but with wind on the nose. We motorsailed for the first hour just to keep close hauled, but gave up on that. Sailing 2.5 knots upwind on flat water is quite peaceful. Who cares if it takes ages to get there. It was dark when we entered Mermaid Strait, the main shipping channel to Dampier. When wind and tide conspired to cut our progress to 1 knot, even when motorsailing, moving our ETA to Dampier to 2am, I decided to cut and run to the lee of the nearest island, which was West Intercourse Island 2 miles SE. We dropped anchor in 8m at 11pm after sailing only 20 miles in those 10 hours. Theoretically we were protected from the Easterlies, but waves came in from the NE regardless, so it was a very rocky anchorage. Philip King named it "Intercourse Island" because of a rarely successful communication with the natives here back in 1819. (By "communication" he meant kidnapping a native then showering with kindness & not accidentally killing him. Was able to speak with his tribe and learn where water could be obtained - not that they could get any, a different tribe threw rocks at them when they tried. Thus the West and East Intercourse Islands!)

We left after the earlier 30 knots blasts, around midday again, and battled adverse current and wind for the next 4 hours to do the final 8 miles into Dampier. We motorsailed to keep as close to the wind as possible as we were coming down the middle of the great Rio Tinto mining port of Dampier, with 200,000 ton ore carriers, salt carriers and LNG carriers everywhere and we didnt want to be the slow boat clogging the harbour. Maybe over did the motorsailing a tad, for when we dropped anchor and wanted to reverse on it, the motor had died and wouldn’t restart. 

Hampton harbour, Dampier

The next day I swapped out the spark plug and it started right away, looks like the running at near full throttle for half a day did it no favours. I think we need to go back to the earlier strategy and not be in a hurry to go places. Another boat of the Carnarvon crew was in Dampier, the pirate ship “Hybrid Ark”, at the yacht club bar the skipper recounted how they would sail, like we used to, at 2 knots, sometimes at 1 knot and not be bothered by it. I think we should go back to that, sounds far better than running a noisy motor all day.

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