Wednesday 3 September 2014

Amphinome blues

Sunset at the Spit anchorage

This was to be a big day, 60 miles upwind to the next anchorage was a big ask. We weighed anchor at 4:45am and flew at 5.8 knots behind the spit for the first hour. Can’t say the same about the rest of the passage. When the tide went against us, the wind swung on the nose and waves picked up and progress ceased to exist. This became an overnight’er, 35 hours and Ashiki sailed 90 miles, zig zagging against wind and tide, 30 miles more than the planned route.  The wind did moderate and unlike the rest of the coast, the waves didn’t moderate with it. I thought that must be against the rules, downright unfair at least. These shoals fetched up large waves at us with very little wind to give us drive. It was miserable. Out to sea to clear the Amphinome shoals, waves did die down eventually and as we weren’t making much progress we hove to. Then I decided to drop sails which wasnt a great idea because we started drifting backwards with the ebb. The only remedy for that was either anchor in 12m or motor, we chose the latter for an hour at which time the tide turned and we could drift forwards. In a calmer conditions we took the opportunity to have dinner. The wind did pick up again and we were soon racing to the anchorage through the night, not our favourite time as we were both getting sleepy. Sailing the great arc around the shoals left us almost 20 miles offshore where the waves weren’t small, but Ashiki ploughed on at 4 knots through the moonless gloom and despite being in the tropics, the temperature was down to 13C. Freezing compared to the daytime temperature.

We did two hour shifts at the helm, during Susie’s stint she heard a low murmuring coo noise behind her, turning around she saw a large bird perched on the solar panel an arm’s length away, Susie let out a high peached squeal, and the bird took flight.

At dawn I decided to take the shortest route to the coast where we could anchor, it was a hard uncomfortable night and thought we could do with a safe anchorage, for dinner and sleep. By 3pm we were dropping anchor in 8m off Mt Blaze, a mile offshore, not very protected but the winds were light and it wasn’t rolly.  The plan was to sleep till 10pm then take off, as the winds lately have been good overnight.

Mt Blaze marked the end of the dusty central Pilbara, the water was no longer grey, here it was a beautiful tourquoise, such a contrast.

Tranquility off Mt Blaze

On the shore was one of those campervan sites. I wonder if we’ll get ourselves reported here too, but I think Customs have our number by now.. A little further up the coast we could see the beginnings of a long stretch of white beach, the western edge of the the spectacle known as “80 Mile Beach”. This we would be following to make the Kimberley town of Broome.

Mt Blaze camping ground

The alarm went off at 10pm and there was no wind, so we slept through to dawn. Then there seemed to be light, but enough wind to sail so we weighed anchor and Ashiki made 1 mile in one hour. We couldn’t follow the coast from here, as before us was a 10 mile wide uncharted area to detour around and didnt want to be drifting out there, its far nicer sleeping secure at anchor, so we decided to drop anchor again, opposite aforementioned campervan town. Several hours later, at 11am, a South Easterly did fill in and we started off again. We sailed out to sea 10 miles offshore with a plan to sail as far as the winds hold. But by morning we were having second thoughts and headed for the coast again at around 4am and spent the morning anchored opposite Wallal Downs homestead. 53 miles sailed in 17 hours, all to windward… of course.

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