Thursday, 4 July 2013

Cruising Catch-Up #3 - Percy Islands to Digby Island and then Mackay


Fantastic "swimming hole" on South Percy.

"Swimming Hole" - South Percy.

Monday, July 1, 2013 – The first words from the Captain at 0630 this morning were, “we’ve got to move, I can’t stand this f**king rolling a minute longer!  Where can we go?”   Actually there isn’t much choice here in the Percy Isles to get away from the swell.  We are 60 nautical miles from the nearest harbour – Mackay – and the wind is howling.  It’s been blowing 20 to 25 knots all night and the sea is really angry.  There is a small island – still in this group – just north of us with a bay that could offer some respite from the southerly swell we’re suffering.  It’s about 4 nautical miles away, due north.  We can clearly see it from where we are now. 

“We’re moving!  Now.”  The first task was getting the anchor up.  With me driving and the Captain out on the foredeck – flying up and down with the front of the yacht - giving me instructions through our new “marriage saver headphones”. 

I’d like to thank John and Ruth Allen, friends from the RPAYC, for telling us about the “marriage savers”.  These things sure beat the hell out of shouting and getting frustrated with each other.   I can be at the wheel, even in screaming wind, and the Captain at the anchor and we can hear each other so it’s easy for him to tell me, “turn to port, take it out of gear, now put in gear just a bit forward….”  So much easier.  We do manage to yell about some things however.  Like this morning when I asked, while watching him bouncing up and down with the boat, if he was clipped on.  That simple statement resulted in a tirade of unintelligible words through the headphones.  So I took the answer as a NO.

Anyway, we got the anchor up and started across to the other island.  Once out into the middle of the bay separating the islands the wind was mean, unpleasant, cold and not a lot of fun.  It took an hour to get across and turn the corner to North East Island and then another wee while to find a clear spot away from the intermittent fringing reef to anchor.  Finally, bliss happened.  We were still in swell and wind but it was much more tolerable.  Heaven in fact.  As we settle in and I settled my jangled 8:30am (0830) nerves with a welcome cup of tea made by a very happy Captain we heard another 3 yachts over the radio discussing where to move.  They were all complaining about the swell and a sleepless night.   It wasn’t too long before we could see other masts coming around the corner headed for our bay.

We spent the day – still rolling – but relaxing.  The Captain went ashore to explore and I finished my book.  I saw my first large sea turtle of the trip.  He stuck his head up not far from the boat’s stern, had a look around and then dived out of sight.  That clearly says tropics to me!

Dinner was a low carb affair….grilled salmon (from the freezer), green beans and a salad.  Fishing hasn’t deliver any fresh fish to the fridge yet…but it soon will (I hope).   The evening was topped off with a return showing of ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’.  I’ve seen it 4 times now and the Captain twice but we enjoy it more and more with every viewing! 


Tuesday, 2 July 2013 – There wasn’t much sleep last night.  The wind roared like a malevolent beast all night.  It would tease with a break – maybe as much as a minute, not more – and then you could hear the gust coming.  A low groan at first like it was building speed from a distance and then it would hit with an almighty roar and scream through the rigging.  Miss Southern Belle would first pull at her anchor and then pitch wildly from side to side.  Every gust seem to get worse.  The Captain was up through the night checking the Anchor Position Monitor on the AIS and looking out into the darkness at the other boats and their Captains doing much the same things.
North East Island - Percy Isles.  The first guy at the refuge island!  9 more boats moved into the bay after we changed outlook.  Good respite from the screaming wind...but not perfect.
The morning wasn’t too different but it did seem like the wind had either died down a little or we were getting used to it.  The early morning weather report over the HF radio didn’t offer much respite with the same forecast for the next few days.  The good thing was we stopped thinking about the weather and just got on with what needed to be done.  Breakfast, followed by passage planning – we’re leaving here tomorrow with even the slightest break in the weather – and then I tidied up the living/cooking/sleeping area while the Captain took to the topside of the boat with the polish cloth.  Before we knew it was past lunch time and the wind really had abated.

Then, late afternoon after a post lunch nap, the wind was gone.   Amazing.  We went ashore and sat on a pebbly beach and looked out over our little bay.  Since we decided to move in here early yesterday morning, when the wind had started its attack, 9 other boats thought this might be a good place to ride it out as well.  The bay has a good sized population of boats at the moment.   Normally people are out and about in their dingys waving and sometimes inviting other boaties over for a sundowner drink.  But in the last 24 hours it’s been way too rough.  Everyone has been hunkered down like us enduring the rocking and holding the boat’s anchor in place with their thoughts.  It was good to pass our neighbours and say hi on the way back from the beach everyone was outside checking on sheets and things probably getting ready to move.

In the morning we’re headed to Digby Island on our way to Mackay.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013 – Up early for the sail to Digby Island…. Distance 25 nautical miles, Time for the journey should be about 5-6 hours.  As usual we were up at 0600 to throw down a cup of tea and toast and get everything tidy in the boat for the journey.  All good until we went to raise the anchor…something was wrong with the wheel, it is very hard to turn.   Not to worry, “keep going, let’s get the anchor up”, I was told.

Once out to sea the captain did a good check, unscrewed the bolt on the front and then went down into the bowels of the “engine room” (really just a crawl space under the cockpit).  He couldn’t see anything that could be hindering the wheel in anyway.   Concerned at the 6 hour trip ahead of us I suggested we go back to the bay we just left.  But he said no.  Unfortunately it got worse.  Once the autopilot was switched on the wheel started to make squeaking and grinding sounds.  Long story but the outcome was a good spray in every nook with WD40.  It seemed to help a bit (a little bit).   I’ve come to the clear realization that on boats there’s always something!

The sail over from North East Island to Digby was pretty good.  We had 12 to 16 knots on the beam so Southern Belle loved it.  I made the mistake of going below to look through all our papers for something on the wheel pedestal and unfortunately made myself sea sick.  After all the rolling and bucking from the last 2 days at anchor I can’t believe the waves under way made me feel bad.   The Captain put out his fishing line but the more I looked at it from my prone position in the cockpit the more I just couldn’t stand the thought of him actually catching something at that particular time.  I finally asked him – for just this time please – to reel in the line.  You can imagine his reaction – just try for a minute – but, he didn’t even argue and brought it in.  Good Man, Thank You!
Once we arrived at Digby the captain took the bits of the wheel apart that he could and soaked them all in WD40.  It worked.  Perfect wheel.  And I wanted to turn back. Silly me... that's why I'm not the captain!
Anyway...Digby Island was just as bouncy as the Percys.  We spent the night and then got up early this morning for the sail to Mackay.
Thursday, 4 July 2013 - Up at 0500 (5 am!) after a sleepless night checking the anchor watch with the wind blowing through the limited bay in Digby.  We left our anchor spot at 0600 for Mackay.  Southern Belle and the Captain (and me if I may say) had a GREAT sail.  Some 50 nautical miles sailed at an average of 6.5 nautical miles per hour and only the head sail out.  Perfect tropical trade wind sailing.
So here we are.  For me - finally we're sitting flat, no more rolling!  We'll be in Mackay until Tuesday.
Fantastic adventure so far!

1 comment:

  1. AWESOME!!! So good to hear your thoughts and see your pictures. You must save the best of these pictures - which I suspect is what you are posting here - and put them in a photobook! I had an Amazon Groupon-thing for photobooks that was expiring on the 2nd and I did a bunch of my Shineys that were new (and sold!) for the coffee table. I gave Megan the other coupon-thing and she made another book of their European Vacation. I love these books!!!

    Keep posting as much as you can! I and others who don't comment are vicariously enjoying your adventure!