Chimere 1 – Storm 0

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Preservation Island & Key Island Bay

The Furneaux Group comprises around 50 separate islands, including Preservation Island at the southern end

The morning dawned at our anchorage on the south east side of Preservation Island so calm you could have played billiards on the saloon table

Lazy bodies emerge late at around 8:00am and set about greeting the day with the usual routines.  Rosie went for a swim, the rest of us volunteered to remain aboard on shark-watch and more of the serenity was soaked in

A plan was hatched to go ashore to explore the circle of rocks on the hill, built in 1797 by the crew of the ill-fated Sydney Cove, to contain the fire they would light when a rescue vessel finally came … talk about living in hope!

But first there were some house keeping tasks to perform.  Chief amongst these was the cleaning, sanding and oiling of the wooden toe-rail.  For the last year or so the wood has look decidedly grey, aged and shabby.  The task before us all now was to restore it to the honey-teak splendour of its birth … or at least a light-brown of middle age.

Once completed, and after stopping for numerous cups of tea, coffee, water, and of course lunch and afternoon tea, I ran Rosie, Alistair and Bill ashore in the dinghy to explore away.           

The rock formations on Preservation Island are amazing
More panoramas on Preservation Island
Your Uber-dinghy sir … and yes, this is Bass Strait, NOT tropical North Queensland
From around the point Chimere looks beached-as (bro)

I returned aboard to catch up with writing the previous day’s Ships Log and searching for an internet connection on my iPhone.  This involved climbing part way up the rigging to get “one bar” and occasionally two.  Eventually I hit on the brainwave of attaching the phone to a spare halyard, turning on the Hotspot Setting and hoisting away.  The extra height must have worked because I could happily tap on the laptop down on the deck as if I was at home in the study 

Around 5:30pm the call came over the VHF radio from shore for an “Uber-dinghy”; somewhere around the point and up the coast.    All together again aboard Rosie began preparing dinner, while Alistair, Bill and I prepared for departure in the morning by hoisting the dinghy aboard and lashing down anything that might move

Chimere’s gang of 4
Alistair in search of the illusive 2-bars !
Your Captain

We were expecting a wind change, which would necessitate a change of anchorage, but truly nothing prepared us for what nature had in store.  First it got dark to the northeast, then the wind began to build, followed by flashes of lightening on the horizon accompanied a short time later by claps of thunder.

By now we’d retrieved the anchor and were motoring out and around the sand banks (which we’d negotiated on the way in) towards  the southern coast of Cape Barren Island where two potential anchorages lay; aptly named Thunder and Lightening Bay and Key Island Bay. 

Already the sea was building with the wind now howling through the rigging as we set a small portion of the jib to lighten the load on the motor and speed our arrival before dark.

With light fading, we chose to shelter in the closer and smaller, Key Island Bay on account of it hot only providing shelter from the current north east wind, but also from the westerly, that was expected as a follow-up at similar strength before dawn. 

Light almost gone and it was largely an instrument approach to our chosen anchorage, with no shortage of exposed rocks each side for us to avoid. 

On approach to the beach at the top of the bay, which was clearly reflected in our search light, Alistair steered a steady course as the depth reduced as expected … 14m, 12m, 8m … then the call from Bill at the bow “ROCKS PORT SIDE” … “VEER TO STARBOARD !!”.  No arguments there, we complied, as the depth kept reducing … 4m, 3.2m, 2.8m … TOO shallow … more to starboard … 5m, 6m … ok, straight ahead, cut the revs …

Meanwhile, the wind kept howling, with gusts vibrating the rigging to the extreme, as the lightening flashes increased with almost instantaneous thunder.  Surprisingly there was very little rain.

Back in the cockpit, our position on the chart plotter in the middle of the bay around 150m off the beach, the depth at around 4m and the general vibe that this was about as good as it was going to get, meant it was time to drop anchor. 

The howling wind soon took hold of the boat, quickly blowing us backwards as the engine was slipped into neutral and the anchor deployed.  Chain raced out through the bow-roller with my yellow paint markers appearing … 10m of chain, 20 m of chain … time to cleat it off and see if she’ll dig in and round-up on the chain.  

It’s at this point you hope and pray that the anchor found a patch of sand, and not weed, in which to land … for all the obvious reasons.  The thought of a dragging anchor and having to manoeuvre again in this confined bay did not appeal.  Rather than being named Key Island Bay, I think it should more accurately be named Key Hole Bay.

To our great relief, the anchor dug in, with more chain deployed … to be sure, to be sure.  Three “snubbers” were attached to the chain to absorb the force of the wind before Bill and I retreated to the cockpit to set the Anchor Drift Alarm.

Between a rock (lots of them) and a hard place, but mercifully some shelter from the storm which bore down from the north east … plus some shelter that would be needed when the wind veered to the west early next morning

To further reduce the stress on the ground tackle, the engine was kept in gear, driving forward, going nowhere, but still doing its job.   

“Anyone for dinner?” … Funny, we’d all lost interest in calmly sitting around the table, eating Rosie’s lovingly prepared chicken and noodle specialty while knocking back a bottle Aldi Red.

What we did feel however, was a collective sense of overwhelming relief at keeping Chimere and all hands, safe and sound, while all around us raged.  The lingering apprehension about the possible impact of a lightening strike was harder to dispel, however, knowing that our mast was probably screaming to the heavens at this very moment “hit me” … “hit me” … “hit me”

By now it was around 9:00pm, with Alistair and I settling in for the first “anchor watch” of the night and Bill and Rosie retiring to their bunks to gain strength and reserves for their watch from around 1:00am.

As Bill summed it up … “we went from tropical to decidedly Scottish in the space of a few minutes”

Smooth seas, fair breeze and Team Chimere 1,  Furneaux Storm 0

Rob Latimer


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