We watched and waited for better weather but what we see coming down the pike is even worse that what we have at Lizard Island and it will continue for another week. While it’s a comfortable anchorage we reluctantly made the decision to bite the bullet and make the two day journey around the bend to the Flinders Island group where the worst of the weather will be behind us, a calmer anchorage awaits and we’ll be well-positioned for the next push northward when the seas lie down a bit.
It was an early start for Escape Velocity and we raised only a little more than half the mainsail even though conditions were mild at the start. We’ve learned to think ahead and before long the predicted strong trade winds filled the sails and we took off. The wind angle and strength should have made for a perfect sail but the confused seastate caused the autopilot conniptions and after futzing with the sails and course we gave up and added a motor at low rpms just to keep us on track.
During the day when we jibed the sails on a course change the boom was less controlled than normal. As it slammed over the trap door at the gooseneck that guards where the sail feeds into the mast track flopped open. We made note of it but we were busy with trimming the sails and getting our course adjusted and promptly forgot about it. Later when we were furling the mainsail a sudden gust from the side caused the bottom of the sail to billow out through the gap where the trap door should have been closed. None of this is a problem except that the billowing happened right at a sail batten and as we winched in on the mandrel the batten got twisted. Crunch. The plastic bit that secures the end of the batten gave up the ghost. A very minor problem but it had to be taken care of before we raise the mainsail again.
We were relieved to drop the hook at Ninian Bay, not the worst anchorage we’ve been in but probably in the top five. It’s a shallow open roadstead and the east wind sent a short, steep swell at Escape Velocity all night long. We got up before dawn, found the replacement batten ends and went up on deck in still gusty winds to make the repair. That involved pulling a few meters of sail off the mandrel to the deck where we had to stand on it to keep it from blowing overboard and us with it. Jack unscrewed the crumbled bit and lined up the new one.
There ensued some strong language as he discovered the bolt holes didn’t line up, and we both puzzled over this unexpected problem until we realized these are the replacement batten ends for our old rig which had a different kind of track. By this time we really needed to get moving if we wanted to get to our next anchorage at a reasonable hour, and besides, hanging onto the boom and keeping the sail onboard in the wind was not much fun. We decided to pull the unsecured batten out for the day, rewrapped the sail onto the mandrel and got underway.
Once out of Ninian Bay we had a gorgeous sail, not fast but very comfortable under sunny skies until we rounded Cape Melville when suddenly — and given that this has been the pattern we shouldn’t have been surprised — the wind piped up and the seas seemed to come from all directions. Once again the autopilot couldn’t keep us on course and Jack handsteered for a couple of hours until we entered the protected channel to our anchorage.
There were already four other boats at anchor but plenty of room and we secured EV, tidied up and set to work on replacing the batten end with the proper one for our rig. It’s a much easier task when you’re not working in strong wind and rolly seas.
When we finally stood back and looked around we discovered a gorgeous calm anchorage in clear water between two beautiful mountainous islands. We hadn’t expected this and even though we still have many miles to go by our checkout deadline at Thursday Island we think we’ll hang out here for a few days.