Magazine Article (Print) – Cruising Helmsman

Published in: CRUISING HELMSMAN, JUNE, 2018

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

A PERSONAL TALE OF PUTTING DREAMS TO THE TEST ON A FIRST OCEAN PASSAGE CONTINUES

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  www.zinio.com/cruising-helmsman-m8640

Magazine Article (Print) – Cruising Helmsman

Published in: CRUISING HELMSMAN, MAY, 2018

 

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

A PERSONAL TALE OF PUTTING DREAMS TO THE TEST ON A FIRST OCEAN PASSAGE

A completely impulsive decision

The last few days have been a blur. Sitting on the tarmac in Sydney I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Yesterday, later than planned due to weather, I sailed back into Mooloolaba after three months cruising the Queensland coast with my partner and fourteen year old son, on our own boat, Another Angel.  

Shortly, I’ll be in the air, on my way to Surunda Bay, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu. I’m joining skipper Paul Dow, to undertake my first blue water crossing, crewing on his boat Skellum from Vanuatu to Bundaberg via Huon and Chesterfield Reefs.  

A completely impulsive decision led me to this moment. Now as the plane begins it’s taxi, a small knot of doubt sits like a hot coal in my stomach. 

Blue water virgin

The sum total of my sailing experience before my partner and I bought our first boat in December last year, was learning to sail as a teenager, living with my family on a 48ft catamaran for 4 years, 30 years ago, and a few weeks in coastal waters on my father’s catamaran in 2016, when we were seriously considering this lifestyle. 

My partner Steve has never sailed before, so I skipper our boat and he crews, and we learn together. Our dream is to sail around the world, but I’ve never been offshore.

When a post recently appeared, in a Facebook sailing forum (WWSA) asking for crew to help bring Skellum, a 46ft aluminium catamaran, home to Bundaberg from Vanuatu, it felt like opportunity knocking and I impulsively decided to say “Yes!”.  

Putting my dreams to the test, I needed to get out there. I wanted to see if I could really cut it on the open ocean. Now I’m hoping I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.

My first challenge

Landing in Luganville on sunset, it feels like a long way from home. The skipper’s brother Nik will arrive in a few days to complete our crew, but I have come early to help Paul provision and get to know the boat before the crossing.

Collecting my backpack, I head outside looking for “Greg” the driver, that Paul organised to collect me and bring me to the beach at Surunda Bay.

Thirty minutes later it’s dark. The airport is emptying and there’s no sign of Greg. The airport is set to close with no planes due until tomorrow.  A little voice in my head is wondering what I’m doing here, but I ignore it and jump into a local taxi. I say a small prayer that the right place on the beach at Surandu Bay won’t be too hard to find on my own.  

My driver Opat is entertaining on the fifteen minute drive out to Surunda, but he has no clue about where the boats normally anchor.  We try a few dusty driveways in the dark without success. Finally we find one that takes us to the edge of the sand. I cross my fingers that I am in the right place and Paul is still waiting for me.

Read the rest of this article in Cruising Helmsman  www.zinio.com/cruising-helmsman-m8640