Vanuatu to Mackay, Part 2

David & Valerie Allen
Tue 24 Aug 2010 04:24
21:06.65 S   149:13.52 E

Monday, August 16, 2010

This is FAI TIRA just before the wind died and she was linked to BLUE MAGIC for the next 350 nm!

BLUE MAGIC to the rescue!

The tow went without a hitch (pardon the pun).  Nature cooperated fully by turning the seas to glass.  Mind you, if there had been a good wind, FAI TIRA could have sailed and the town would not have been necessary.  BLUE MAGIC proved she was not just a beautiful boat but a true work horse as well.  Mark and Chrissie did a fabulous job of towing the much heavier FAI TIRA.   In fact, they could travel faster towing another boat than we could go without really ramping up our engine!  Meanwhile, Pete and John worked feverishly on the engine and Jeremy valiantly struggled to keep hand steering to reduce the stress on BLUE MAGIC.

Meanwhile, ANGEL was feeling a bit redundant, other than keeping an eye out for ships.  Then, suddenly a new role presented itself.  Personally, I am a radiophobe.  I do not like speaking in public, even with the anonymity provided by a microphone.  I also did not know how to make an ALL SHIPS call on the radio.  However, when we saw AIS blips of huge freighters about to pass within feet of our convoy, I learned very quickly.  Several calls later, I realized there is a certain satisfaction in calling enormous ships and telling them to divert from your path because of decreased manoeuvrability- and they actuallu changed course!!!!

Move over , please!

Thank you!

The Tow

The morning of Sunday, August 15, we received a call from BLUE MAGIC asking us to please rush out and find their buoy and all their remaining warps (lines for the uninitiated).  We rushed over praying the buoy was not blue.  Fortunately, it was a big white ball.  How did it get loose?  Chrissie had prepared a nice chicken lunch for the men on the boat 85 feet behind them and included a few steaks for their dinner.  These were placed in a plastic bag and attached to the float.  The plan was to let the buoy out gradually until it could be recovered by FAI TIRA.  Alas, the boats did not reduce speed and the lines were not secured to BLUE MAGIC.  Accordingly the line was ripped out of Mark's hands and the entire apparatus disappeared behind FAI TIRA.

I realized, as I spotted the buoy about 1.5 km behind the boats, that I had never actually driven a boat in a Man Overboard exercise- especially with two boatloads of people watching.  Oh well, there is a first time for everything.  Fortunately, the pickup was a great success.  We picked up "BOB" (the buoy was bobbing around) and all his warps without entangling the lines in the propeller. The food parcel had disappeared- no doubt a gourmet feast for the sharks.

 Unfortunately, the handover was not nearly so successful.  (We do not have photos of this as we were otherwise engaged at the time,and the ones we downloaded from FAI TIRA I couldn't adapt to my Photo Elements programme.  You can see them by going to <>).

We sailed up slowly very close to the two boats and Dave threw the line to Mark.  Miss!  Once again and the pass was completed.  Unfortunately, Mark took time to secure the line to the lifelines (once bitten and all that) and we drifted across his bows trying to get the buoy to him.  The line went under his bow and along the other side of BLUE MAGIC.  Chrissie picked up BOB at the stern, but not before his warps got entangled in the prop.  Mark dove under the boat (a brave move since hors d'oeuvres had just been served to the fauna in the area).  His prop cutter had done its job and the line was free.  Apparently it was a line that was too long before and perhaps now will fit- I hope.

By the time all this action was completed, BIONIC had arrived to form the final member of our convoy.  Like FAI TIRA, she also has an AIS transmitter.  This meant we had TWO blips which would show up on freighter receivers and made identification of our little group much easier when I contacted freighters.

We finally reached Hydrographers Passage.  There was only one ship ahead of us and she moved out of our way to facilitate our entrance.  Again, we were very fortunate in our weather.  The current in this passage can be as high as 6.5 knots against one.  We encountered only 2 knots of current and absolutely no other boats in the 120 mile passage!   (Actually one is not allowed to tow a boat through the passage, but we didn't know it at the time.)  When the tide turned, we actually got a boost and were able to travel at 6+ knots.    We had decided to travel with our running lights PLUS our sailing tricolour lights and the view behind us at night was very like moving Christmas trees.  The wind picked up a bit as we approached Mackay and we were able to put out some sail for the home stretch.

Tony was ready in the harbour with a launch to take on the tow to the Quarantine dock and the rest of us circled about, awaiting our turn to dock.

BLUE MAGIC and BIONIC circling about in the Outer Harbour.

At last we were safe at the Quarantine Dock and the Health Inspector didn't take much away!  (Beware trying to take popcorn or mayonnaise with eggs into Australia!)

Safe on the Quarantine Dock

The hero of the day!