FROM 2015 & 2016 Logs


If there’s anything we should learn from the sea, it’s big slabs of humility. One can apply lots of skill and experience to crossing an ocean – or a harbour – and get there but it’s not ‘conquering the ocean’ as has sometimes been written. Preparation, yes, skill, yes and luck. With a capital L That’s what has just happened to us. Sydney had what the newspapers called the storm of the century a few days ago. Megan and I took Berrimilla down the harbour to Quarantine Bay which is sheltered, just to get the feel of it and to see whether the seasick pills work. As I’ve already posted, we sat on the public mooring all night, with consistent 35 knots and a doubled up mooring line keeping 3 hour watches to make sure nothing changed. In the morning, I thought it would be sensible to go back to Berrimilla’s mooring in Rushcutters Bay because the wind was rising and there seemed no point in staying. We set the storm jib and poked our noses out from Cannae point and immediately I realised it was not a good thing to do – Berri was laid sideways and drenched in horizontal spray. Too late really to turn back and I thought we might just make it around Middle Head and up the harbour under motor if we could get the sail down. Long story, but no go – plan B was to run up Middle Harbour to the public mooring next to the Spit Bridge which we did, with big following waves over the shallow bits. Picked up the mooring, and all was fine except that the stern is about 30ft from the rocks on a lee shore. Then the wind shifted and we had big waves coming up the long reach past the Yacht Club and the boat started to pitch severely and hit the buoy and the line was chafing. I thought we were not safe, so we waited for a tiny lull and set off back again. About 40 knots, right on the nose. Big waves – in Middle Harbour yet! A lot of people on the jetty at Middle Harbout YC with at least one boat sunk in its berth and another on the rocks across the harbour. Crashing horizontal spray, with the engine working hard to make progress. Around the bend towards Middle Head and real ocean waves, rolling and breaking but we were able to head off slightly. Huge, dirty rollers smothering Castle Rock and blasting right to the top of Middle Head. Me massively catastrophising – is there a plan B?. Party gear mostly useless with a Niagara down my neck at every crash. Megan holding on and being stoical. Berri barely making way and both of us soaked. 45 knots true more or less consistently. Very wide around Middle Head with the engine at full power and we turned in towards the Harbour at the middle ground mark. Desperately slow up the harbour but eventually back at RANSA and safe on the mooring. Probably a silly thing to have done, but I saw no real alternative. John Witchard’s engine didn’t miss a beat, despite being rolled and pitched all over the place. We were very lucky. And the seasick pills worked. We learned later that people had been surfing at the Opera House. In the attached screen print of the AIS track, I think the reporting points are at 6 minute intervals…

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