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|1 November 2003||Passage Eigth Day - Pooped||Yachties|
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NewCal to Australia Passage Report#9
Where do I begin?
Yesterday, after our lovely spinnaker run, we stopped to take a shower and then proceeded to make tracks in the increasingly-lumpy seas. The night was miserable, as we spent the time dodging squalls - pitch-black, and you have no idea what the wind will do in the squalls which I tracked on radar and tried to avoid as best I could. Thankfully, they came very late at night and contained no lightning. Indeed, the squalls started off benignly, with 15-18knot winds, but as the night progressed they became nasty and by 0400 (NewCal Time) we had to heave-to as we now had steady-state winds in the high-20's and low-30's (that's knots).
Halloween Night lived up to its name and made us somewhat nervous - we knew it was too early for the front to hit us, but having those squalls come through was a little unsettling because there was no way of telling what the windstrengths would be.
This is what the ever-fluctuating rain squalls looked like. Nothing serious. That's two miles between rings.
I finally got tired of dodging the squalls with their stronger (high 30's) gusty winds and we simply hove-to until they passed. It was 0300 Australia time and still dark, but we only hove-to for maybe a half-hour. The boat does wonderfully: with a backwinded jib and minimal mainsail area it just sits there slowly forereaching, not seeming to mind the strong gusts and lumpy seas.
What I had failed to notice is that my course was inadvertently driving us towards the Moreton Seamount (and a few others right around it) which, from past experience, we DO NOT WANT TO BE NEAR as these underwater mountains generate terribly confused seas (as though we didn't have enough already). This required us to head either dead west or dead south. Following the passage of the squalls the wind came in hard from the unusual direction of north, so we bore off into the black night and I elected to simply run under bare poles (no sails) in the now very large seas (I had no idea how large until daybreak: GULP!).
[Insert chartlet showing Moreton Seamount]
We were running south with a north wind now in the mid-30's. As always, the autopilot kept the boat nice and steady on course. It felt like a very safe way to travel and what was strange is that we weren't being picked up to go surfing down the swells ... hmmm, that should have told me something, but it was ok as that was simply one less thing to worry about... or so I thought...
We were running under bare poles at 5-6knots, when at 0620 this morning we were POOPED! What this means is that we were too slow and one of those humongous swells had a breaking wave that caught up to us and slammed over the back of the boat. We had the fabric back door down. Our yellow SeaCycle and BBQ and the para-anchoring and drogue paraphanelia I had stored on the aft seats all broke the force of the wave so that, despite whapping our fabric door, the wave did not break through and all we had was a huge pool of water in the cockpit. The huge scuppers in the aft end quickly emptied the water and we were none-the-worse-for wear, but I'm going to have to remember to rinse the inside of the BBQ when we get in. The boat didn't even blink and simply kept on running downwind under bare poles and autopilot.
Pooping Discussion (nothing to do with babies)
Hey, cool! We got pooped! Always wondered what would happen. It's a testimony to the strength of those targa bar attachments that the whole thing didn't simply tear off with the attached SeaCycle, drogue, para-anchor, ALL their lines, liferaft, and BBQ .... hmmm, all my safety gear (except for the emergency grab-bag) all together - not smart, Joe.
What happened? Well, the fact that the boat was not taking off and surfing down the swells in these conditions gave a clue. Remember, first of all I had brought a lot of the heavy gear aft in each of the hulls. Then, I had put the para-anchor and all its soaked lines out of the way on the aft bench, alongside the drogue and its bridle and tether. So, we had a couple of hundred additional pounds holding down the aft end of the boat. Now, I had no sail up and the winds were slowly easing (the last logbook entry showed 28 knots) - all this probably contributed to the boat's reluctance to go surfing and, what's worse, kept the boat from being nimble enough to run away from a breaking wave. (Sigh)
The actual event had a lot of noise associated with it. The fabric aft cover was down and zipped down and it sure did bulge inwards from the wave. We saw lots of water hit the side windows over the steering wheels, but with only slight leakage at the corners. Surprisingly little water came pouring in under that cover, I suspect because the boat momentarily got a little tail-heavy. The cockpit emptied very rapidly, thanks, as I said, to those large scuppers. I was out in the cockpit instantly (as fast as one can pull up a long zipper), the cockpit was still draining, but the only thing amiss was that the plastic boxes containing the mainsheet and each of the two preventers had been swept into the middle of the cockpit, as was the blue bucket which normally sits under the port helm. Nothing broke, none of the stuff was swept off the targa bar (go figure), and the boat was happily trundling along under autopilot as though nothing had happened. We were undoubtedly whapped by the foamy surface part of a breaking wave and not green water.
We definitely needed a little more speed. We were approaching the end of the seamount so we could again turn southwest towards Moreton Bay, but the winds were in the high-20's/low-30's and I thought this would be a good time to try out my heavy-weather jib on its separate forestay. The normal Seawind jib would have been just fine because we were running; however, after the turn we would have the wind on the beam and I thought that the full jib might be too much sail and I don't like sailing with it partially furled. The jib is actually from my Shark catamaran and has been my heavy-weather workhorse on the trimaran and fits the Seawind sheeting angle perfectly. Kathy hauled up the new forestay with the spinnaker halyard and the operation was performed just as planned (I'll describe it on the website). The seastate conditions would have made a great backdrop for a movie - simply huge swells and lots of confused waves and white foam all over the place, with the bow of KatieKat (with me on it) alternating being waaaay up high to way down low surrounded by mountains. Who needs a roller coaster? Throughout all this, the bows were never even close to submerging, as I keep the pointy end of the boat very light. Anyway, all went well, the jib drew nicely and gave us a little more speed, but as we turned to head towards Brisbane, the winds came down to the low-20's and the jib didn't have enough area to drive the boat. So it was go out there again, take down the jib and its custom forestay and all line, and reconnect everything for the normal jib.
I had put together the "Gale Jib" configuration with its separate forestay when we were in Hobart last year and getting ready to return through Bass Strait. Notable that we hadn't used the thing until now, although I should have set it when we were beating in that heavy weather approaching New Caledonia. Click here for the Gale Jib Description.
These photos were taken well after the strong winds had passed and just before I decided to take this jib down and unfurl our working sail. Note that I've secured the furled jib with ball-bungies because I'm using the normal jibsheet and its all-rope quick-disconnect. See Knots.
Attempts to take photos of waves usually fail, especially with the time delays of my digital camera.
After reattaching the working jib, we unfurled it and put up the mainsail with its third reef and headed for Moreton Bay. The seas were still so awful that after about fifteen minutes of this madness I said WHOA! and we stopped the boat and simply hove-to for about three hours, during which time I caught up on much needed sleep and the wind and waves thankfully abated somewhat. The boat just gently sat there like a raft, angled about 45degrees to the wind - a wonderful ability to simply stop and take a rest.
A monohull was close by and when I radio'd them that we'd stopped they said they had just done the same thing - the seas were so confused that there was no point in beating up both the boats and ourselves; we were both content to stop for a few hours as we knew the seas would settle down with the decreasing steady winds.
When I say the seas are awful, it just means that they are very confused and not necessarily large. After fronts pass through there's simply a residual mess that needs to sort itself out and settle down and try to become aligned with the new wind direction. The additional discomfort was also caused by the disturbances resulting from the nearby seamounts.
While hove-to I had a wonderful three-hour sleep, the seas very noticeably diminished, but the wind swung around to the southwest (where we wanted to go) as predicted by both yesterday's and today's GRIB (sigh). Yes, the shifting wind was adding to the confused seas, but it was dropping and thus minimally stirring things up. By 2:00pm we were off sailing again.
Date: 1 November 2003
Distance to Moreton Bay Entrance: 100nm
Last 24 Hours:
Wind Direction: SW
Waves: residually lumpy on large swells, but not breaking
Right now we are in full-race mode, exactly 100nm from the Moreton Bay entrance marker, in a race against the weather: by midday tomorrow a new cold front is supposed to be moving through with gale warnings already being forecast, and we DO NOT want to be caught out in it. The wind has shifted to the southwest following today's front (which is where we want to go) and I have the boat all tricked out and hauling - not comfy, but moving very fast for the conditions. We should make it...
To a multihuller, six or seven knots doesn't sound like much; nevertheless, it's pretty good considering we were very closehauled and the residual seas were still quite lumpy. The winds were dropping...
Try to visualize this: I'm typing on one of the two computers in the main saloon (this one for SailMail and the other for weatherfaxes, with the third computer downstairs also for weatherfaxes during passages) while the boat is charging away at 6-7 knots very very closehauled with waves occasionally breaking over the forward windows but the aft cover is rolled up and open and everything in the main saloon is nice and dry as we bounce along...
Sheesh, I'm getting carried away... I've been focusing on the mechanics of sailing this passage. When I do the website writeup I will try to present some of our emotional perspectives as well and maybe even get Kathy to write down her side of the story.
Next report I hope will be from inside Moreton Bay BEFORE that front hits.
Joe + Kathy (who I'm sure will kiss the ground when we step ashore) :-)
Emotions ... what emotions? Kathy says she's a private person and is not about to share her feelings with anyone, and I jabber enough so by now you know where my head is at (so we average out). Hey, the boat is just a tiny toy on a big ocean and all this sailing is simply a fun puzzle that needs solving. Just keep lightning away from me!
Before I forget, between New Zealand and Australia Kathy lost 15 pounds and I lost 10 pounds. Kathy didn't need to lose any weight, and I wish it was me that lost the 15 pounds. During passages, although neither one of us was seasick, we simply weren't hungry but did eat healthy and nutritious food (but not much of it). Kathy allowed as maybe we should change the name of KatieKat to "Joe's Fat Farm". :-)
That morning's final GRIB file download from SailMail:
The left GRIB is valid for around midday today and shows us having northwesterlies becoming light southwesterlies. The second GRIB is for around noon tomorrow and shows light southwesterlies and little inkling of a weather change. The following day's GRIB gives us strong southerlies, but by then we should be tied up to the dock.
I had neglected to download the Australian weatherfax prognoses for tomorrow, but the other boat had and he said that it showed the front moving through at midday tomorrow, which is why we were trying to sail fast and get into Scarborough (our port of entry in Moreton Bay) before it hit us. I subsequently started listening to the local Queensland marine weather forecasts (they're on SSB in a wonderfully-clear synthesized voice with a British accent) and indeed the change was to take place midday tomorrow.
Not done yet...CONTINUED... Click here for final Passage chapter
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