The morning after our stormy arrival in Coral Bay was gloriously warm and windless so we declared a day off....or a day when you don’t sail but repair things that have broken in the previous passage. For us it amounted to a problem with a tight steering wheel that needed some effort to get it to turn. Ahhhhh perfect breeding ground for yours truly and his W C S (worst case scenario) affliction. Ummm let me think??? Rudder bearing seizing ...have to sail back to Carnarvon, get it lifted, replace said bearing, while we at it how about an anti foul to replace the paint scrapped off as we ploughed our way up the Fascine....should I ring the hard stand guy, organise a lift, crane....not much change out of 2 grand..........ahhhh boats!!!!!!
Then Diana rang Brian. Brian McRae did most of the refit on The Doc and he is our “Go to Man”, a man who knows boats and a man who has intimate knowledge of the The Doc.
“No, I don’t think you’ll find its the rudder bearing” was the first thing I heard on speaker phone and I must say I had my doubts as well!!!
“I think it sounds like a problem in the pedestal, probably the bushes that hold the shaft getting a bit sticky, see if you can spray some CRC (Innox a far better product) into them and work the wheel till they free up. We did that with the help of Frank from Kokomo V who suggested the exact same remedy and eventually had the wheel moving much more freely. Cheers Brian and stand by your phone.
The next day was declared a day off as well and we did nothing more than loll about reading or just staring into the lolly green waters of Coral Bay......ahhh this cruising life....can’t beat it. Yardie Creek anchorage is about 50 miles away and again, it’s just a sandy patch on the other side of Ningaloo reef which you get to through a gap in said reef. The weather was behaving and we had a cranking sail from Maud’s for about 35 miles, full main and jib, beam reach and The Doc touching 10 knots. (OK it was once and we were surfing down a swell) The next day Diana and I packed a picnic lunch, topped up the fuel in the dinghy and motored our way to Yardie Creek Gorge. You have to drag your dinghy over a sand bar to get into the gorge and gee this would have been easier if we could have taken the outboard off, a pity we left the key to the padlock back on The Doc. Still we got it over and then launched it into the calm waters of the gorge.
|Yardie Creek tranquility|
|The bar across Yardie Creek|
You are forbidden to use any motor in the gorge so we rowed and it was like a scene from a Jane Austen novel. There I was, stretched out in the bow, feet dangling in the cool waters of the gorge as Diana gently pulled the oars while marvelling at the wild life on display. We tied up to a rock under the overhang of a rock face and enjoyed some cheese and chutney. There were no other boats and the silence was deep and serene. We both had flash backs to the Kimberleys as this is what you get on a daily basis up there. Something special happens when you remove people from these places and you allow yourself to simply sit and listen and watch, it’s like being transported out of one world and into another. It was fleeting though as just around the corner came Mum and daughter on kayaks screeching with laughter. School bloody holidays.....don’t these people ever do any work???
|Pass the pims Charles|
Next morning we awoke to a grey, leaden sky and the signs of a nasty bit of weather brewing on the horizon. We had a couple of moorings organised at the next anchorage, Tantabiddi, and it was a short trip so the ominous sky didn’t seem so threatening. We made our way into the anchorage and picked up the twin lines of a big, solid, recently surveyed mooring and sat back with just a hint of complacency, thinking, “ OK you bastards, give us your worst, we’re ready.”
|Approaching storm at Tantabiddi|
Well, did we get it! It started blowing about midday, around 20 knots then quickly built to 20-30 by early afternoon. Wind direction was North East which meant we had swell protection but a lot of fetch (fetch is wind waves that build up over a stretch of water and can bury your bow and worse). By 4 o’clock it was steadily into the 30-40 knot scale and from 4 onwards it rarely dropped below 35-45. At about 5.30, Diana and I were sitting under the dodger watching the bow dip and plunge into the fetch and saying out loud, OK, had enough of this now, time to ease.....(.it doesn’t work), when we heard an almighty bang and one of the lines was lying in the water. Our starboard cleat had snapped clean off the deck on a 40 plus gust. I grabbed the boat hook to retrieve the line while Diana went below and found a mooring line. We reattached the loose mooring line to the anchor winch and made our way back to the dodger.
|Kokomo V along side us tugging at her mooring|
Shit, was this ever going to stop and were we going to have to sit this through all night. Diana started the motor and left it in low revs just to give the mooring some respite and it was a good move. Then she had another great idea. The previous night we had rung our youngest daughter who was babysitting Alexandra, our granddaughter. She wouldn’t go to sleep so Diana sang her a lullaby on the phone she used to use on the girls when they were the same age. It didn’t work. Why not try it on the wind......”Hush a bye don’t, you cry....go to sleep little baby..........It didn’t work either.” The most unnerving thing is not the motion but the noise. At 40 plus knots it’s an angry relentless scream that rises in intensity and then seems to find and even higher pitch of venom. We were at least on a mooring and not out in a raging ocean but we sat there thinking what it must be like to get caught in a bad storm at sea and to have to sit it out for days. I suddenly had an even better idea. Let’s sell the boat and use the money to do all the great train journeys across the world, maybe throw in some canal trips in England and France. Well, just on dark it started to ease. We were watching the wind speed slowly settle around 35 knots with nothing above 38, then a sudden drop to 30, then a bit later something in the high 20s and then a bit later still our first sign of it going under 20 knots. We breathed out in a collective sigh of relief. The screaming had stopped and we were through the worst, we might even get some sleep tonight.