July 29, 2009

Sitting out the gales

With the dawn came the promised gale. We wrote off the morning and did some advance passage planning instead. At around lunch time, a few yachts crawled into the bay and dropped anchor, much closer to shore than us. They seemed to be much more scared of the wind than of the shallows. Presumably it was a bit rough out there.

The wind died to a more reasonable 20-25 knots over lunch, but leaving then wouldn't have got us anywhere useful in daylight hours, and we were pretty convinced from our detailed poring over the GRIB files that the night was going to get gnarly. Still, we had bread to bake and schoolwork to do, and a new batch of novels that we'd picked up in Bowen, so Townsville could wait.

The afternoon died in a sky of lowering maroon clouds shot through with fiery red flashes. With sunset came the real winds. They came up over Cape Upstart and slammed down onto the boat at over 30 knots. Pindimara reeled with the punches. Like any keeler she is designed to point into wind, but the sheer force caught her on the bows and lifted her up and over, first to one side and then to the other, whipping her almost broadside on before the anchor chain hauled her back so that the wind could slam into the other side. This continued on relentlessly, time after time, two or three times a minute, for hours on end. The anchor chain stretched out, but looked as if it would hold.

The view from deck was somewhat alarming, but down below it was surprisingly calm, if you ignored the demon howl of the wind in the rigging and the frenzied hum of halyards vibrating like violin strings above.

We thought it prudent to consult the Bureau of Meteorology website, but (in common with many of our Queensland anchorages) the only internet connection that we could get involved standing on deck and balancing the laptop on either the dodger or the targa frame. With the boat thrashing from side to side and the laptop threatening to tear itself out of my hands and fly away, this was not the easiest task, especially when we started to get waves over the bow. I saw enough of the forecast to tell me that conditions would probably improve overnight, and went below.

With nearly 40 metres of chain out, we would usually expect Pindimara to swing through a wide arc and would set the anchor alarm acordiingly. In this strong wind, she was dancing on the end of her stretched-out chain and not swinging at all, so we set the anchor alarm for a much smaller radius. After a couple of trips around the deck attempting to tie down or move all the more obvious bangs and rattles, we went to bed.

The gale continued to rage, but our bodies were quite tired from endlessly rebalancing our bodies and so we fell quickly asleep.

In the middle of the night, the anchor alarm went off. I was instantly awake and ran onto deck, but then started laughing; the wind had gone, and we were still firmly anchored but drifting aimlessly around the chain. We reset the alarm radius and went back to bed.


Nicky Hussey said...

If you're stopping in Townsville, I can recommend some convivial drinking buddies....if you're game ;o)

Skipper said...

funnily enough we met lots! we made piles of friends there, by day 2 we were waving at people we knew in bars all over town :o)