Magazine Article (Print) – Cruising Helmsman

Published in: CRUISING HELMSMAN, JUNE, 2018

Title: When Opportunity Knocks: Diary of a Blue Water Virgin Part II


Chesterfield, or not?

Iridescent blue patches sparkle across the waves and schools of flying fish burst from the water, their gossamer wings opaque as they glide just above the sea. Floating across the tops of the waves for hundreds of meters they disappearing with tiny splashes.  

Seabirds wheel and plunge headfirst into the water as they chase baitfish, or maybe flying fish, tells us that we are closing in on Chesterfield Reef. A small dark bird wings its way past the stern, dipping its breast into the water periodically.  It doubles back several times to check out the boat for a potential resting spot, but changes its mind and flies on. 

The forecast, 25-30 knot winds and 4m swells in coastal offshore waters around Bundaberg within the next three days, has sat heavy on my mind overnight.  An easting wind has forced us to push our course further south into the reach to maintain speed and our current heading will miss the lead waypoints into Chesterfield. If we are going to Chesterfield, we want to arrive before dark. 

Right now, we are on track to arrive around 2pm, but we haven’t yet decided if we will stop and wait, or try to outrun the weather.

A broken restrainer

The morning schedule call with Gulf Harbour radio completed, Paul brews coffee while Nik catches up on some sleep.  It’s quiet onboard, conditions are nice, a steady 15 knots with 1.5m swell.  

The calm is shattered by a loud noise, like something under high tension letting go suddenly. Springing out to the aft deck, Paul and I begin searching for the source of the noise. We find it quickly. The boom restraint block has given way on one side, it’s barely hanging on. 

We turn further into the reach, disconnecting the restrainer and centering the boom.

Taking the broken block below, Paul reappears a few moments later with a replacement block. I watch on in amazement as he quickly removes the old block and replaces it with the new one. 

Less than 20 minutes later we are operational again, resetting our course.  

Decision time

Our arrival time at Chesterfield creeps towards late afternoon as fluctuating wind makes it hard to maintain a constant speed.  We really do not want to negotiate the entry through the reef, and the several miles through the lagoon to the south-eastern anchorage in the dark.

Mid-afternoon an email arrives. Easy Tiger, a catamaran who left Vanuatu a few hours ahead of us has snapped their prodder. Without their large MPS in the easing winds they can’t maintain the needed boat speed to beat the weather system. They advise they are diverting to Chesterfield to wait it out.  

Bossanova, another large catamaran, and Class 7 a smaller monohull, also a few hours ahead of us decide to keep pushing.  Bossanova has calculated they’ll need to maintain 8 knots minimum for the next three days to beat the developing system. They have full sails and motors assisting.

We look over the weather data again, and redo our calculations. 

Read the rest of this article in Cruising Helmsman

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