Oh what a night! – Wednesday 20th February

Position: Rebecca Bay, lungtalanana/Clarke Island, Furneaux group

After snatching a few hours of sleep at bumpy Binalong Bay we woke and prepared for our night-time sail donning waterproof pants, thermal tops, windproof jackets, beanies and safety yokes. The moon was glistening on the calm waters and there was no wind until we got a little way offshore. We unfurled a short headsail to get some wind assistance and balance the boat, then I left Derek in charge for the first two-hour watch and went below to get some sleep.

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I woke at 3am and joined Derek for my watch as the Eddystone Light flashed its warning abeam. We shortened the headsail a bit more as the wind was picking up to 20 knots. Then he refreshed my memory on using the autopilot and navigation chart plotter – I don’t think I inspired him with confidence. I know the basics but get lost in the sub-menus.

“what do you choose to find the route if you accidentally stop following?

“Ah, ‘Go To’?”

“No! It’s Tracks & Routes”

And so it went. Anyway he eventually decided I’d be OK and went below for some well-earned rest. When I arrived on deck the moon was shining golden sparkles on the sea and the stars were bright overhead. I spotted a bright light on the horizon – a ship perhaps? It was a red star rising from the east (maybe Venus – any astronomers out there?), with another smaller star directly above it, which I imagined was the string pulling it upwards.  Over the next two hours I watched them rise 30 degrees into the sky. I managed to follow the correct track on the chart plotter without any issues.

The wind dropped a bit, then as we neared the light marking the end of Swan Island at the south of Banks Strait it began to build again, and the brilliant night sky was slowly darkened by clouds. The swell began to build as well, and with the strengthening west wind meeting the tide flooding in from the south it made sharp lumpy waves.

Derek came up for his second watch around 5.30 am and we shortened the sail a bit more, then I went below with a hand-held radio he could use to call me if things got hairy, and tried to get some sleep. I dozed for a bit, but then the swell got really sharp and nasty, and by 7 I was being bumped around so much it was impossible to sleep, and I was feeling rather queasy. I struggled back into my gear and made it up on deck just in time to quell the sickness. Sharp 2 metre waves were breaking over the bow. Before I had time to pull the hatch shut, one broke over the whole boat and dumped a bucketful of water down the companionway, where it splashed all over the stairs, stove, floor and trickled away into the dry goods compartment under the floor!

We were nearly at our chosen anchorage of Rebecca Bay on the south side of Clarke Island. All that remained was to get the last half a nautical mile and we were in safety behind the granite boulders of Rebecca Rocks out of the swell, and some, though not all, of the wind. We dropped anchor in the lee of some huge rocks and when we were sure we had a good hold, went below for some breakfast and then some rest. The furthest out of these rocks looked to me like a tortoise so I named her Rebecca.

When we awoke we found one of the VDL Circumnavigation fleet had anchored beside us. The clouds blew over, but the wind didn’t abate all day. We sat tight slewing on the anchor chain and rocking in the little bit of swell that wrapped around into the bay. We evaluated our options for tomorrow when the wind is supposed to shift southwesterly in the evening.

lungtalanana/Clarke is a beautiful island, with amazing rock formations, and Rebecca Bay is one of the most intriguing. It is sometimes nicknamed ‘Easter Island’ as some of these resemble the Easter Island standing stones. We had obtained permission to visit from the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania (ALCT) who manage this island as well as Big Dog Island, Badger Island, truwana/Cape Barren Island and Babel Island. Unluckily for us it was far too windy to hazard the short trip ashore in our inflatable dinghy so we were stuck on the boat.

How do you pass the time on a boat when it’s too windy to go ashore? Reading, knitting, writing, watching movies, playing games, eating… oh and mopping up, and tidying the boat. So far not really the holiday we had hoped for.

Note: Thanks to blog follower and fellow sailor Ian, who has identified the tiny bird skipping on the water as a fairy prion. Apparently this is how it feeds, picking food from the surface of the water. A few days later I did see a flying fish though!

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