An Unscheduled Swim (or diving with the cormorants)

We woke to a grey and overcast start to the new year. Planning on an early start for our trip to Wineglass Bay, our plans hit a hitch at the first opportunity when the anchor, so nicely set the night before, refused to come up the final 5 or so metres. We had hit a snag! Jiggling up and down did not good, so there was nothing for it but an unscheduled swim. The chosen diver – me! I stripped off all my wet-weather gear and put on bathers. Equipped with mask and a torch I plunged into the not-so-pristine waters of Spring Bay (notorious for the introduction of the North Pacific Sea Star, amongst other things, with the ballast water from Japanese freighters in its past heyday as a wood-chip mill). Here I began my impression of a cormorant.

With the first dive, pulling myself down the anchor chain, I could see we had collected a huge chain, no doubt the anchor to a mooring, with links about 15cm long, and it was firmly wedged in our anchor flukes. After reporting the situation to Derek, he lowered the anchor a little and I dived again to wiggle it but couldn’t budge the chain. I realised the best approach would be to pass a rope under the chain, tie it firmly to the boat to relieve the pressure on the anchor, then lower the anchor to free it. Down I went again with a rope, which I passed under the offending chain, all good – only on the way up I ran out of rope! It was too short. I had to let go and return to the surface. Derek pulled that rope back in and went in search of a longer rope while I waited at the bow and got my breath back!

Down I went again with the longer rope and this time I looped it around and was able to bring the end back to the surface where I passed it to Derek and he made it fast to the cleat. With fingers crossed he dropped the anchor down, then pulled it up again – but alas, no luck, it was still stuck fast. So down I went again, to find that the rope had jammed in the anchor as well. I tried to pull it free but it was jammed tight at the point where the anchor swivels on the chain, as well as around a fluke. Back at the surface I suggested Derek drop the anchor a bit to see if this helped, but when I dived down this time it was a good few metres further than before. The water got murky and I was worried about going down that far – I bailed! Derek pulled the anchor up and tried again, but it was still stuck. So I went down for another look – I really was feeling like a cormorant by now, but without the fishy treat! This time I could see that the rope was partly freed, but looped around the anchor. At the surface again I got Derek to give me some slack on the rope and with another dive I moved it to the other side of the anchor getting it clear. He then tightened the rope again, dropped the anchor a bit and with a final dive I managed to pull the anchor free! Hooray! Now we were just held by the rope. I swam back to the ladder while Derek pulled in the rope. We were all free with no damage – just me a little cold and with ears full of water!

As we motored out of Triabunna I warmed up with lots of clothes and a cup of tea. We motor-sailed north for a few hours then dropped anchor in a clear sandy spot (I watched it land to be sure!) at Crocketts Bay on the north end of Schouten Island for a slap-up lunch. Though my friend Rachel is doing a stint as volunteer ranger on Schouten Island I wasn’t about to go for a swim to say hello, sorry Rachel! The water looked much more inviting and the sun came out – but even so… As we ate a beautiful schooner anchored next to us and dropped of ten passengers who headed off into the bush for the walk up Bear Hill. Sadly for them as we left the anchorage the sun went behind the low cloud had drifted in from the east and covered the tops of the hills. We hope the clouds parted for them to enjoy the stunning view from up there.

At Wineglass Bay we found another four boats at anchor in the corner. Once again we dropped the pick onto a sandy patch in amongst them; not as far in as we would have liked to be as the easterly swell was wrapping around the corner making the anchorage a little lumpy. But who can complain when you can stop here at one of the world’s best beaches? We enjoyed the view for the evening, once again attempting a BBQ on board. This time however, we had run out of those handy coconut-fibre bricks and tried the charcoal, which didn’t burn nearly as well. The vegies didn’t roast at all, so it was steak, corn and reheated spuds and a bumpy night’s sleep.

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