Sunday, June 26, 2011

Abrolhos to Steep Point, Shark Bay

The depth sounder kept reminding me that we were in 24.5 m of water and I tried to reconcile that with the fact that we had an anchor down on the bottom and that this was the only thing holding us in the 27 plus knots of north easterly. 24.5 m is, I think, about 80 feet. So, imagine this dear readers, the anchor drops 80 feet to the bottom (nearly 3 times the top diving platform at Beatty park!!!) and then its seriously on its own. We pay out 60 m of chain, snub and wonder what is happening way down in the dark depths of 80 feet. Personally, in true Rob Manning worst case senario fashion, I knew it was the last we would see of beloved delta anchor and what a shame, only used it twice. You don't really sleep when anchored in 80 feet with 25 plus knots so we had an anxious night checking the gps coordinates and listening to gentle beep of the anchor alarm but we hadn't moved a centimeter. Next day, around lunch time we decided to get the hell out of this deep pool and head over to Pigeon Island. I approached the bow to winch up the anchor or what was left of it. Slowly.......slowly the winch turned and the chain began to emerge out of the darkness while the Nillson kept grunting her way around and around. I was desperate to see the 10 m mark on the chain because then I would know we had cleared the bottom and we were on our way up. There it was and there was our shiny new Delta hanging off the end. Clunk into the bow roller and we had our anchor back in one piece. I gave it a pat on its fluke and said to myself, that's why we bought a Delta.
The motor around to Pidgeon was quick and easy with the channel well marked and the wind easing for a change. We drifted down past the fisherman's houses and moorings till we found about 5 m over sand that gave us good protection in everything but due north. Pick in, snubbed nicely and for about the first time in weeks I felt secure and relaxed. Its amazing how moods change when you feel secure and have things under control. There was some weather coming but we would be fine here. We had to shift once when the southerly came in due to an overly friendly mooring and when the anchor came up it brought with it a mixture of sand and crushed shell grit. All we need was a shovel full of cement and we would have permanent holding. Kokomo V, our cruising buddies were making their way from Geraldton after getting some work done on their prop and they picked up a mooring nearby. I had a chook ready for a roast dinner so we asked them over. They arrived with some nice reds and we enjoyed a feast safely tucked up in this snug channel between island and reef. Pigeon Island is jammed packed with kit homes built by fisherman and they look like a dulux colour chart stretched over a flat rock. Most have jetties that stick out into the calm waters between island and reef. It's so weird to see these little communities sprouting on these barren limestone outcrops in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Some of the houses are quite substantial and have verandahs that extend out over the water. We didin't go ashore, it would have felt like you were walking through somebody's backyard. I wonder how they all get on, what the politics are and if they have the same niggles that we all suffer in the great suburban squeeze of city life.

Pidgeon Island

Pidgeon Island
Time to prepare for our run to Steep Point, the entrance to Shark Bay and then on to Carnarvon. We motored around to Turtle Bay and while a beautiful bay for getting ashore and stretching legs, any swell from the east, west or north rolls in and makes life uncomfortable. A lot of people are envious of of our lifestyle and when we say we living on a boat and sailing up the coast their eyes roll and they go all dreamy saying, wow, what a way to go, you're so lucky, I'm soooooo envious! You want the honest truth??.. Envy is not something any of you need to struggle with too often. Our first day in Turtle Bay was a 9-5er. Started with 4 loads of washing all done by hand in a Magic Wash barrel. Then Diana started repairing our mainsail after we had glued and clamped two patches the previous day. Hand sawing heavy sail cloth is not easy and she was at it for 5 hours. A beautiful job though and then we had to repack the main in rolling swells ready for 7 am depart next morning.

Turtle Bay. Wallabi Group
Looks peaeful enough, but turned into a very rolly anchorage.

Frank & Karen join us for sun downers at Turtle Bay.
Kokomo V and The Doctor
 The First NIGHT SAIL.....Turtle bay to Steep point. We don't like night sails. They're Ok if you have a full moon, a warm balmy night and consistent 10-15 knots on the beam with zero swell, lets say flat water to be really mad. What do you think we got from TB to Steep Point? Well, dear readers it wasn't the above. The winds were forecast to be 13-18 SE on a 2.5-3 m swell. The swell was an issue but the wind was perfect. What we actually got was 8-13 NE, right on the nose and the swell for most of the day. We could see the southerly change off to our port in the shape of big black squall lines that dumped their quota of rain at seemingly random spots on the ocean. As we sailed through them you either got the full quota, plus wind or just the tail end as you skirted the edges. This started just on sunset and continued through the night ind into the morning. Just before the sun set I was looking forward from the cockpit when a huge head rose out of the ocean followed by a tail that just as quickly disappeared not more that 20m ahead. Hi whale! Hope you can see us better that we can you. To cut a long story short, it was a shit of a sail. The wind was never consistent and we were pulling in jib, starting motor, letting jib out turning motor off all night, Then it dropped out and the main would flog from one side of the boat to the other with that bone jarring thwakkk that shook the mast and brought on suicidal possibilities. We tried to sail and eventually, as day broke and the Zydorrf cliffs rose eerily from the east we had some consistent SEasterlies and The Doctor was loving it. The seas were a mess and the crew by this stage had had about 30 minutes sleep and envy is not something anyone should be feeling right at this point. We got through Steep Point without too much drama but the potential for hell on high water was clearly obvious. In certain conditions, this entrance would be a nightmare and we were thankful to drop the anchor in Shelter Bay, gather our senses, open a cold beer and begin to look, just for a moment, at what beauty awaited discovery ahead in Shark bay. That was after we had done another repair on the mainsail........ahhhhhhh the envy the envy!!!
Motley taking it easy as we approach Steep Point

Inside Steep Point, Shark Bay

Yachts in company resting at Shelter Bay

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