Bumpy Bass Strait

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sat 25 May 2013 03:20
Position: 38 56.6 S 145 23.9 E
Course: East sou’ east. Speed 6 knots
Wind: West sou’ west F4 moderate breeze
Sea: moderate. Swell: south-west
Weather: mostly sunny, mild.
Day’s run: 90 nm

Right now I am feeling very cranky with myself. Once again I forgot to tighten the forehatch dogs down and consequently the V-berth is now rather wet. It just shows how quickly conditions can change. We enjoyed a very pleasant evening sail in the light air that picked up at about eight o’clock last night, the sails full and shining white in the full moon, and the sound of Sylph’s wake gurgling gently was the only sign we had that we were not snug at anchor. But, as we approached the heads, the wind started to freshen from the west and the tide was in full ebb. This meant we could expect some overfalls and eddies.

At a little after two, with the shallows of the Western Channel behind us, I secured the anchor for sea, tacked a couple of times towards the western side of the entrance to avoid the worst of the overfalls and to remain clear of a ship that was entering harbour. Conditions at the heads were worse than I expected. Even right over the western side of the entrance, as close to the reef which extends from Point Lonsdale as seemed prudent, the waves were steep and frequently breaking, which had Sylph bucking like a young untamed horse, water cascading over her decks, and some of it unbeknownst to me over and under the forehatch, and RC and me hanging on tight. Still, it was clear we were on the better side of the entrance and, while the ride was bumpy, the ebb tide was behind us and within half an hour we were clear of the overfalls and out into the regular bounciness of Bass Strait when a fresh breeze is blowing and a steep south-west swell is running. Fortunately conditions improved significantly once we were sufficiently clear of the overfalls to be able to bear away and put the wind abaft the beam. At three, with the wind freshening, I put a single reef in the mainsail, checked the AIS alarm was on, had a good look around, noting several large ships were converging on us, set the “Watch-Commander” alarm to fifteen minutes, then took the opportunity to get a short rest.

Now, several hours later, we are well clear of Port Phillip Heads, about two thirds of the way to Wilsons Promontory. I am hoping when we round this southern most point of mainland Australia the swell might smooth out a little and the sharp jerky rolling motion Sylph has adopted will also smooth out a little.

I am really annoyed about my wet V-berth. I am going to have to make up a pre-sailing checklist for myself so it does not happen again.

No. 1. Dog down forehatch tightly!

All is well.