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|30 October 2003||Passage Sixth Day: Para-Anchor Retrieval||Yachties|
|31 October 2003||Passage Seventh Day: Look What's Coming||Yachties|
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This webpage covers the sixth and seventh day of our New Caledonia to Australia passage. The Para-Anchor retrieval process is detailed and the weather is reviewed in anticipation of what's to come. Our actual Passage Report SailMail e-mails are shown in italics.
NewCal to Australia Passage Report#7
Date: 30 October
Position: 24-59S by 157-48E
Speed: 5.5 kts GPS, 7.5kts knotmeter (adverse current)
Distance to Moreton Bay Entrance: 273nm
Last 24 Hours: doesn't count - we stopped
WindSpeed: 15kts (thank goodness it's not more)
Wind Direction: on the beam
Waves: expletive deleted! In addition to having confused seas from the moving frontal system, we have wind-against-current lumpiness, all riding on large variable swells, and I think there's a seamount down there that is further aggravating the situation. You don't want to be here!
Nah, no seamount. I was just frustrated!
We spent a good night on the para-anchor and I was delighted that I deployed it. The seas were simply a mess and the winds increased further to the low-30's (I had set my windspeed alarm for 35knots and it only sounded off a few times). The other boats we have been in contact with had a miserable time, some of them finally opting to heave-to.
Riding to the para-anchor this time was not too comfortable, as the confused seas were such an irregular jumble that the boat was dancing all over the place, in addition to being whapped constantly from different directions. It was uncomfortable, but quite safe.
From the Australian Bureau of Meteorology archives on the Web I download the Australian MSL Analysis that I had received as a weatherfax at 0130 that morning (my received copy is very blurry). It shows a trough line extending way up into Queensland and is a continuation of the cold front associated with that 975HPa low Southwest of New Zealand. We know it's heading in our direction (sigh)! Hey, actually this isn't bad: imagine being just west of New Zealand with that thing approaching! Judging by the close isobar spacing, even at that latitude they'll still have 50-knot winds associated with that front.
When I deployed the para-anchor yesterday evening I attached a retrieval tether(trip line) to the last float and brought it back to the boat. The good news is that instead of taking two hours to retrieve the para-anchor, it took about 15 minutes. The bad news is that I now had another 400ft of retrieval line to stow, in addition to the 300ft of anchor tether, 60ft of bridle, and 100ft of float line. I stowed some on the foredeck and eventually dragged everything back to the cockpit for further sorting and so that we could get sailing. The further bad news is that we had drifted backwards at around two knots due to the ocean current and it took us until 10:00am this morning to return back to where we had stopped at 4pm yesterday.
The para-anchor retrieval process was REALLY simple, thanks to the retrieval/trip line. Although not anticipating needing them, we started the engines just in case. The winds were only around 15 knots. All I did was simply start hauling on the brown retrieval/trip line. Althouth there was some resistance as I tightened it, once it collapsed the para-anchor it was just a matter of hauling everything in hand-over-hand (I was wearing my leather anchoring gloves). I think the only significant resistance was that generated by the captive para-anchor stowage bag. This bag is really convenient as it allows one to quickly stuff the para-anchor away and out of the wind if necessary. Anyway, first came the brown line, then the floats and poly line and single float and more poly line, then the para-anchor, and then the long tether, and finally the bridle. Nothing hard about it, but it helps to be in good shape because once you start you want to get the whole thing over with quickly. Kathy was easily able to keep the boat headed into the wind at idle speed. Incidentally, I disconnected my safety harness when working out there - the conditions were benign enough and I found it very difficult to keep from entangling in the harness tether while working with all that rope. Note that the two taut jibsheets provide a convenient safety handhold, and is another reason that I changed the jibsheet cleating in the cockpit over to the positive-locking rope clutches instead of the clamcleats.
The left photo is a shot looking forward just before we started retrieving the para-anchor. The right photo shows the mess on the foredeck after retrieval. Discussion below. By the way, even though it's highly desirable, this photo makes a great case for not having a very coarse fishnet trampoline, as one would not want to have any of that line fall through and into the water. Even though I'm amazed that this trampoline material doesn't hold water, a more porous trampoline would still be preferable to this one for offshore sailing (and, indeed, the new Seawinds are being shipped with that).
In the above right photograph you get a pretty good picture of the organized mess on the foredeck after retrieving the para-anchor. In the lower center is the bridle. Forward of it on the trampoline is the 300' tether. On the forward part of the port trampoline is the para-anchor which I had not yet stuffed fully into its captive retrieval bag as I wanted to do it neatly. From the apex of the para-anchor is the 30' line leading to the first float (the white one). From that float is a white poly line spliced into the blue poly line leading to the yellow and orange floats which are tied together. From these floats is the long brown nylon retrieval (trip) line which you see in the upper left portion of the photo. Also shown here is the red battery cable attached to the mast, the other end terminated in a copper pipe - it's simply sitting on the deck ready to be thrown into the water between the trampoline and the deck should we have another lightning storm.
Para-anchoring paraphanelia back in the cockpit. Discussion below.
The left photo shows the green bag containing the brown nylon retrieval/trip line, the small red bag containing the three floats, the blue bag the para-anchor, and the large red bag the tether before I finished stuffing it. The para-anchor bridle I left rigged and stowed in the forward anchor locker ready to use again if needed. The center photo shows the tether stuffed in there, but I couldn't close the zipper. The third photo shows the para-anchor and tether bags stowed on the starboard aft seats under the targa bar. Not shown is the rest of that stuff stowed on the portside seats alongside the drogue which always sits there ready to be deployed. As you'll see eventually, it was a mistake to put all this heavy (waterlogged) gear so far aft.
At 0730 I downloaded the Australian MSL Analysis weatherfax. It shows the low whapping the South Island of New Zealand (it dropped a couple of millibars to 973) and the trough line associated with it has moved to the Queensland coast and is heading in our direction (sigh). Happily, the cold front ends way below us ... but we still have vivid memories of that lightning storm, so who knows...?
After we put everything away and settled down, later that morning I downloaded the latest GRIB files (which were generated yesterday):
The left GRIB is valid for around noon today and shows us probably having light headwinds (the arrow pretty accurately reflects our present position); the second is for around noon tomorrow and shows us getting light northeasterlies. The third GRIB is for around noon Friday and shows 15-knot westnorthwesterlies as we approach Australia. Not bad, you'd think...
Today's sailing is simply very uncomfortable. The boat itself is doing wonderfully, the light bows bounding over the waves beautifully. It's these terrible confused seas that are making life miserable. I just talked on the VHF with a cruiser from Holland and he says this is the worst sailing they've ever experienced. Kathy says that she now really appreciates the very simple things in everyday life, and has a few choice things to say about our present situation which I cannot repeat.
Enough - we just want to get back to Australia!
Wow, as I now type this a month after the event I'm surprised at how quickly time mellows out the bad memories. In reviewing the logbook I can see why we were uncomfortable: even though the winds were only in the 15-knot range (thank goodness!), the wind had swung around further and we were sailing closehauled against a two-knot current into those bumpy seas.
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NewCal to Australia Passage Report#8
Date: 31 October 2003
Position: 25deg29.5minS by 156deg35.6minE
Speed: 5kts (knotmeter) 4kts (GPS)
Distance to Moreton Bay Entrance: 201nm
Last 24 Hours: 102 (sigh)
WindSpeed: 15 kts
Wind Direction: tailwind (ENE)
Waves: negligible :-)
What a difference a day makes!
You may have gathered from yesterday's missive that we were somewhat exasperated by the water conditions. Well, late yesterday afternoon we entered a string of frontal clouds (awfully similar to what we had experienced just before the lightning storm). I furled the jib, reduced the mainsail, turned on the engines, and started chewing my fingernails. Indeed, the wind dropped and shifted as we went under a dark cloud bank... and I furtively kept looking around and scanning with the radar waiting for the other shoe to drop. Nothing happened! The winds dropped further, the seas smoothed out, and we simply ended up motoring the entire night! Go figure.
The coastal forecasts for Queensland are for a front moving through, with thunderstorm warnings and NW winds to 30knots. We are hopefully far enough not to be affected tonight, and when the front passes over tomorrow morning all we will have is some wind and nasty seas, as there is no such thing as lightning in the morning (or so I've been led to believe...).
So, we hope y'all have a nice Halloween - we've already had our fair share of scares, thank you.
That morning's GRIB file download from SailMail:
The left GRIB is valid for around midday today and shows us having light northeasterlies (we're a little further west than the arrow shows). That diagonal line merely represents a portion of an isobar. The second GRIB is for around noon tomorrow and is very disconcerting because the lumps in the isobar undoubtedly reflect the trough line - looks like we'll be right in the middle of it, as our position will be a couple of degrees further west from that shown by the arrow. Glad we're not further south, as look at those 35-knot winds to the southeast. The following day's GRIB as we approach the Australian coast shows us having 15-knot winds dead on the nose (sigh).
Can you believe this! At 1:00pm I downloaded this weatherfax Australian prognosis for roughly midday tomorrow which confirms that the cold front will be blasting through us! Once again, good thing we're not further south.
My logbook for the day shows us having a great sail: we flew the spinnaker for a few hours in the morning; by midday we had a windshift and even stopped to take a hot shower, and in midafternoon we stopped again and I emptied all but 10litres of our backup petrol (gasoline) into the main tanks. The wind gradually picked up and by 9:00pm that night we were beam reaching at 6.1 knots (knotmeter) on jib alone in 24 knots of wind. Unfortunately, we continued to have the adverse current of about 1.5 knots (sigh).
That evening the other boats in our group (which were now well ahead of us because we had stopped and para-anchored) were whapped by VERY nasty ThunderLightningStorms as they approached the Australian coast - luckily no one sustained a lightning strike. A few weeks later, the locals on shore were still remembering that night!
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