Windy Cape Otway

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Wed 30 Jun 2021 02:52
Noon Position: 38 32.8 S   142 40.4 E
Course: WNW  Speed 6 knots
Wind: N, F4   Sea: slight   Swell: S 1 meter
Weather: sunny, cool
Days run: 111 nm
Winds remained light and variable for much of yesterday afternoon. We sailed when we could and motored for the rest. However, come sunset, the fitful breeze at last resolved itself into a steady N’ly of about 12 knots, allowing us to run wing-on-wing before it until 0130 when we were approaching Cape Otway and had to alter course to the west. I had expected the apparent wind to increase as we brought the wind forward of the beam, and it was forecast to increase to about 18 knots. But once past Cape Otway the wind increased way beyond a fresh breeze to something more akin to a fresh gale. The wind howled and despite only being a few miles off the coast the seas mounted up, crashing over the deck sending spray flying high into the clear star-filled night sky. By 0430 we were down to a tripled reef main and a scrap of jib struggling to maintain ground to windward. I studied the wind charts from various sources to see if I had missed something but no, we should have been enjoying a relatively comfortable close reach, not heaved to under storm canvas.
I suspect that there is a wind funnelling effect just to the west of Cape Otway. The coastline is not particularly mountainous, but it has struck me in my travels how even relatively minor differences in the terrain’s topography can cause quite dramatic local effects in the wind patterns when close to the coast.  I wondered whether the near gale force winds were likely to continue or whether it was simply a local anomaly. I considered bearing away and seeking shelter in Grassy Harbour at King Island, but Sylph was managing the conditions quite satisfactorily so I decided to press on and see what happened. I shoved Oli over and climbed into the nice warm dry bunk.
And now indeed the wind has eased significantly, back to within the forecast range of 15 to 18 knots. We have shaken out the third and second reef and unrolled most of the jib, allowing Sylph to surge ahead, close reaching at 6½ knots in the relatively smooth waters just a few miles off the coast.
My plan is to now make for Portland. There is a small marina there with a couple of berths kept available for itinerant yachts. It seems a good place to hole up while we wait for some fresh westerlies to pass by. The last time I stopped in Portland was 1998. There was no marina back then and we had to anchor. Portland is not my favourite spot as it is quite industrial; however, now that I can get a marina berth I think it will be a good place to store ship and get some jobs done, not least of which is an overdue oil change for the BRM.
Then, as mentioned yesterday, I think I will continue on to Robe. I like Robe. Unlike Portland, it is a pretty town. Once a major wheat port back in the days of sail, it has an interesting history and lots of charming stone buildings, including an old pub with an open wood fire; perfect for an old sailor to warm his bones by on a cold winter’s night.
All is well.