April 21, 2009

Gales, Rain and Wine

The next batch of weather has rolled in across the Tasman Sea, bringing heavy winds and rain. Although the ocean wind speeds are finally dropping to 30 knots, the gales have left a legacy of four-metre swells, so we're staying put until either the wind or the swell dies down a bit. Since we're now at the northern end of the Bureau of Meteorology's New South Wales report, we have been peeking at the southern end of the Queensland report. We notice with some jealousy that the Queenslanders have perfect sailing weather; if only we could make it around that last corner!

After so long at anchor and unwilling to risk slamming up against
fishing jetties in the high winds, we were running very low on water.
We couldn't use our water maker because the bay is thick with eroded
mud from upriver, so I spent an afternoon rowing back and forth in 25
knot squalls to the nearest caravan park, repeatedly filling our 20
litre jerry-can and emptying it into our echoing 150 litre forward
tank. Pouring water from a jerry-can into a small hole in a pitching
deck is exciting to say the least, especially when much of the working
space is taken up by our emergency spare anchor (which is set up ready
to be dropped in case the main one drags in the bad weather). Despite
losing several litres here and there as the wind whipped the pouring
stream over the side and into the anchor locker, I got the forward
tank three quarters full before Bronwyn returned to shore with six
bags of provisions and two sacks of clean washing.

Although the dinghy was quite heavily loaded, I reckoned that I'd be
OK because I had the turning tide working for me, but half way back to
the boat a headwind blew up and I found that I couldn't make any
progress at all. The Walker Bay doesn't row very well with weight in
the stern, so Bronwyn suggested that we row side-by-side instead. We
have often done this in the sheltered bays of Pittwater, and after
some hilarious circular routes we have become quite proficient at it.
Usually Bronwyn takes the starboard oar and rows with both hands,
while I sit with one arm around her waist and one on the port oar both
stroking and steering. We hadn't tried it in heavy weather before, but
we quickly found that with all the weight in the centre and both of us
pulling hard we skimmed across the wave tops.

The reason that we so urgently needed water and supplies was that we
were entertaining our Alaskan friends Alisa and Michael with their
young son Elias from the neighbouring yacht Pelagic. We made it back
to Pindimara in the nick of time and were able to quickly clean up and
start cooking before they arrived. After some initial excitement when
Pelagic's tender's new outboard failed in the wind and rain just short
of us, we had a great evening of laksa, wine, cake and conversation.
One advantage of the continuous wind was that the wind generator kept
on pumping out power and we managed to keep the cabin lights and hi-fi
speakers working the whole time.

A night of rain brought the welcome sight of a dinghy full to the
brim, so we nipped out in a gap between squalls and pumped all that
precious sweet water into the aft tank.

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