At Anchor, Westernport

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sun 22 Jul 2012 10:10
Position: 38 26.85 S 144 13.81 E
At anchor off Cowes, Phillip Island, Westernport
Wind: calm
Weather: mostly sunny, mild
Day's run: 62 Nm

After drifting around the middle of Port Phillip for much of last night a light breeze eventually sprung up at around 1 am. Setting sail we made the entrance to the West Channel at four. The wind was from the south-west which, to make the near southerly course, had us close hauled on the starboard tack. It was touch and go whether we were going have to tack down this relatively narrow channel, but after one short board at the northern entrance, lining ourselves up as far to windward as was safe, the ebbing tide helped us through on the one tack. Once clear of the channel another two tacks brought us to Port Phillip Heads, now the ebb was in full force and our next challenge was to negotiate the notorious “Rip”. My initial plan was to stay on the western side of the entrance but we ended up being pushed into the turmoil of the overfalls and I decided that in the relatively benign conditions, rather than trying to obtain clear water to the west, it was best to push on, keeping Sylph's bow into the waves rather than tack and place her beam on to them. It was a little nerve racking as we plunged and tossed through the eddies and churning water, but after a long fifteen minutes we were through and Sylph settled down to a close reach in the light breeze heading off to the south-east and Cape Schwartz. Down below RC had not fared so well, in the dark I managed to step into something wet, slippery and unpleasant. AB RC had had a bout of seasickness. I thought about revoking his Able Bodied status, but even the best of us get seasick when things are bad enough, and it could have been worse, at least he wasn't sick on the furniture, and he seems to have used his kitty litter heads OK, so all in all he has done pretty well, and once past the Rip he seemed to be back to normal.

Once clear of the Heads, the sun shining bright and cheerful, our presence clear to all around, I caught up on a little sleep in a couple of one hour stretches (AIS alarm on). I woke at 10 to find the wind had died away and that we were drifting closer to Cape Schwartz. A long two meter swell passed under us, then ended its thousand mile roll, piling up on the shore in white cascades of surf, its energy unstoppable, continuing to climb up the steep rocky slopes in a translucent salty mist, its dense mass transformed into a light ethereal glint in the sunshine. I tried the drifter for awhile but the swell and the very light to non-existant air had Sylph rolling and the sail slatting and draping across the rigging achieving nothing, apart from wearing itself out. I resorted to the motor for about an hour to keep us clear of the rocks, then we drifted for another couple of hours but it was clear no wind was going to show and with Westernport only a few hours away I decided to start the engine again and motor to Cowes, a small town on Phillip Island. By the time we closed Cowes the tide was ebbing strongly, the stream slowed us down considerably, and it was not until 5 pm that the anchor chain rattled over the bow roller and the day's very slow sail came to an end.

A light nor' easterly is forecast for the morning so I intend to arise reasonable early and get away as soon as there is a usable wind.

All is well.


Cape Schwartz: