Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 19 Are we having fun yet?

Are we having fun yet
30th January 2011
Island Head Creek
Australian Mainland

It’s funny how things always look better in the light of day. Well perhaps not everything, some things definitely improve under the cover of low light but you know what I mean.

We’re anchored in what is effectively a huge shallow lake. The other side, which is where the wind is coming from, is a couple of mile s away. Directly behind us, no more than 100 metres away is a sand bar then another mile or so of shallow water. To each side, no more than 50 metres away are sandbars, so we are in a little trough cut in the sand. The water is so shallow that despite the wind there isn’t enough water to make decent waves. The bad news is that we have nowhere to go should the wind start to push us back onto the lee shore. Dreamagic is completely alone here, the nearest people are about 20 miles away at Thirsty Sound. The vegetation on the banks is low windswept scrub. (For any Yachties reading this and thinking “I would have anchored on the opposite shore, there is no navigable channel through the bar, and the water in the channel is 30 metres deep.)

Until now, despite the wind we have had sunny days which always make everything look bright, but at night there is just blackness. Visibility is limited to no more than 20 metres and all one can see is the whitecaps of waves rushing past as they break over the sandbars beside us. The wind screams like harridans as it pulls at the rigging, trying to lure Dreamagic against her anchor onto the shore.

I actually love this stuff, the concerns I have now are real and the decisions made have a visible and immediate effect. This is so unlike when I was a “General Manager” and Outcomes, Cash flows, Budgets , and Key Result Areas would keep me awake at night. I am so impressed with the way Rona is handling it all though. She must be feeling nervous. Sailing is all 15 knots, sunny days, off the breeze with a Gin and Tonic isn’t it?  However she is smiling constantly and there is no hint of concern.

06.30 We have just received the first weather forecast for today. TC Anthony is moving toward the coast and should cross tonight. At the moment it is heading for just north of the Whitsundays which is not bad for us, but worrying for the charter fleet. (Obviously our imaginary friend is bigger than theirs). I can imagine what is happening on board those boats now racing for shelter in wild weather with weekend skippers and families as crew though. “I told you we should have gone skiing, but no, you had to play Jessica Watson”.

Our immediate decision is whether to move or stay put. This is not the greatest anchorage as there is no swing room. We are alright in a South to South Easter but if the wind swings we could be on a bank. There is better mooring further up the inlet but the argument against is that we have weathered two tides here in winds to 38 knts without a moments worry, the new anchorage may not hold as well a this one, and the channel is ill defined, especially in this weather. We have 80m metres of chain out (Fortunately I added another 30 to the 50 the boat is equipped with before the Louisiades Rally. It makes the bow heavy for WAGS, but I am bloody glad I have it now!) So the decision is stay.

08.00 Our friendly VMR Thirsty Sound has issued Cyclone Warning #9 which takes the costal communities between St Lawrence and Lucinda off cyclone alert. We don’t understand this as TC Anthony has to go somewhere so if the are off alert, who is on? A call to VMR only got the response “Good Question, hopefully the next bulletin may clarify”. If it’s moved, I hope our imaginary friend has moved it the right way.

It’s interesting to think that up and down the coast people are praying that their God save them from this tempest, presumably to hit someone else instead. Not unlike the recent floods in Brisbane when people thanked God that their home was spared. Aren’t all these weather patterns Acts of God? Certainly that is the opinion of the Insurance companies.

08.30 Wind blowing at a steady 27 knts South. The HF High Seas forecast shows that TC Anthony has moved northward and if my plots are correct will cross the coast near Townsville. It is still a long way off and anything can happen, including my plotting being way off but it is some comfort.

14.00. Low tide and we have about 5 metres under us which is comforting. This tide is lower than previous and the sand bars around us are more clearly defined. The wind is still blowing at about 30 knts but the promised rain has so far stayed away. Between our HF and VHF radios we are getting forecasts very half hour. C Anthony appears to have headed north and will cross the coast tonight between Bowen and Townsville. The Whitsundays look spared ths time which is undoubtedly a relief to the Charterers. It’s still blowing hard though and they’ll certainly have some stories to tell when they get home. We are spending our time playing scrabble, cooking and eating, and watching the weather. So far so good!

17.00 TC Anthony is almost definitely going to be north of us, the current trajectory is just south of Townville. Good news for us, I just feel for the guys up there. Although the forecast here is for horrendous winds at the moment we have about 25 knts and the sea has abated. If it wasn’t so overcast and drizzley it could be quite nice.

I have to mention the VMR here. I am a member of the Volunteer Coast Guard but I never appreciated what a great job they do. We are the only boat logged on with VMR Thirsty Sound, in fact I think we are the only yacht at sea at the moment. VMR Thirsty sound is our only contact with the outside world right now. Every hour he comes on and broadcasts the news which is progressively worse. Every second time we call him and he is always cheerful even though he knows we are concerned as to what may happen. He has been on the radio now since 6.00am and he is still with us. And he is a volunteer! Probably bad radio etiquette but I will try to get his name tomorrow and write to his organisation. Without that voice on the radio we would be alone here with no way of knowing what is happening.

19.00 His name is Alf Nord. On our last sched I did thank him for his help and tried to explain that he may not appreciate what a valuable job he is doing. He seemed genuinely embarrassed, but then I suppose we are on public radio!

In these days when we take instant access to people for granted. When SMS or email needs to be answered immediately it’s difficult to cope when the facility is taken away. Not for us, we know where we are, but for friends trying to contact us.

I remember when I was a teenager. If I met a girl I would write to her. Send it perhaps Monday, she would receive it Tuesday, read it, consider a response and I may get a letter back Friday. (In my case often those replies appeared to be lost in the mail but you know what I mean. The anticipation I felt for the whole week was fantastic. Whether I got an answer or not, the uncertainty was electric. Now, kids send an email and if the response isn’t back within ten minutes the relationship is over. I think they miss something.

Dinner was chicken sate followed by freshly cooked apple crumble. Not bad for a cyclone! We sat in the cockpit looking at day fade over the cloud wreathed hills around us. The day is very grey but it isn’t raining. Loreena McKennett’s ble nd of Celtic and Middle Eastern music seemed majestic enough for the occasion. We went to bed early because if the weather window we want does open tomorrow, we will possibly need to pull an all nighter to get to Yeppoon and civilisation.

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