A southerly buster!
Thursday 10th December 2015
Having monitored the swinging patterns of the boats in the Rozelle anchorage during Tuesday evening, we went to bed having decided we would move the next morning to another bay which might have more room. So after breakfast yesterday we had the anchor snubber off and were just about to lift the anchor when a dinghy came alongside and Ross of ‘One White Tree’, who had sailed across the Pacific at the same time as us, stopped for a chat. After catching up on news, he told us that he had been in this or the anchorage just around the corner for over a year, and that it was very easy to get into the city from here. By the time he left we had decided to stay and give it a try, so put the snubber back on, lowered the dinghy and set off to explore Sydney.
We arrived back at the boat in the evening as the sky had darkened to an angry red, with distant rumbles of thunder. The chap fishing at the dinghy dock assured me I wouldn’t get wet as there was no rain in it. Wrong! It began, with huge, heavy drops as we were lifting the dinghy onto the davits, and by the time we got into the cockpit we were already soaked. Lightening lit up the sky every few minutes and the storm was now so close that claps of thunder burst directly overhead and could be felt as much as heard.
As the rain became torrential, the wind picked up and soon the boats in the anchorage were sailing around their anchors. In such close quarters, we stayed in the cockpit to keep an eye on things. Just as well, because the boat in front of us was now backing towards our bow, and had nobody on board. When it came to within a metre we decided to let out some chain to back away from it, and I went forward to do so. I took the snubber off and let out about 3 metres, just enough to clear the boat ahead, but hopefully not enough to put us back on the boat behind. Just as I leaned over the pulpit to put the snubber back on, a huge gust of wind heeled the boat and I decided it best to sit down and hang on till it eased.
But it didn’t ease. It got progressively stronger and I hung on tighter as the boat heeled over even further. Steve had been making his way forward to give a hand, as the chain, without the snubber, was now letting itself out, but he was knocked off his feet and slid down the deck, fortunately coming to a halt at the toe rail which was by now only inches away from being submersed. To add to the fun, huge hailstones were now pelting down with such ferocity that they stung wherever they hit. We reckoned the wind probably hit 50 knots. This was definitely NOT what I signed up for!
After what seemed like an age, but was probably no more than a minute or two, the hail stopped and the wind eased so that the boat was able to straighten up, and we had a look around to see where the other boats were. The boat ahead was clear of us, but the catamaran that had been behind our port quarter was now coming straight towards our starboard quarter. On the premise that boats do not drag into the wind, we assumed he was motoring clear, and sure enough he shortly picked up his anchor and set off out of the anchorage. This left us lots of room behind, so we left out the chain that had slipped and put the snubber back on, hoping it was all over and we could go to bed.
Not so. The wind picked up again and as boats took up on their chains, we became uncomfortably close to another boat. We re-anchored, but realised that we would have to mount an anchor watch if we wanted any sleep. Eventually we realised we would be up all night trying to dodge neighbouring boats, and in the end, around 0100, we took the anchor up again and dropped it outside the anchorage. The water Police could do what they liked with us in the morning, but at least we would get some sleep!