A Night at Williams Island

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Thu 9 Feb 2023 05:07
Noon Position: 35 00.5 S 135 45.6 E
Course: W Speed: 4 knots
Wind: ENE, F3
Sea: slight Swell: SW 1 m, S 1 m
Weather: sunny, warm
Day's run: 58 nm

Eventually, at around 1500 yesterday, a breeze of sorts did fill in though, much to my frustration, nothing like the 15 to 20 knots that the Bureau had forecast. Nonetheless it was sufficient to be able to set sail and shut the BRM down, leaving me to fiddle around with various sail combinations to keep Sylph moving in the light airs and to prevent the sails flogging too much in the unsettled swell and sea.
Eventually, at 1900, we were approaching South Neptune Island where I was hoping to anchor for the night. The chart of the island is only small scale so we handed sail and motored into its barely discernable bay to investigate. And I did not like what I saw. While a rocky reef provided some shelter on its eastern side, the bay was too small for Sylph to swing comfortably at anchor, and the shore line was solid rock so if anything did go wrong during the night it would be potentially catastrophic. I came to the conclusion that there was no way I would get a peaceful night's sleep in such a potentially treacherous place, so I turned Sylph around, cleared the bay, reset sail and shut down the engine.
Our next potential refuge was Williams Island, twenty miles to the north. We were not going to get there before dark but the chart of this more substantial bay in its northern end was of a reasonable scale and by the time we would arrive a full moon would have risen. And so it turned out. We arrived off the island's NE corner at 2230 and the moon had risen sufficiently to provide sufficient light to illuminate the shoreline. Once more I handed sail, started the engine, and cautiously motored into another rocky bay. This one, however, had a sandy beach at its head and as the arms of the bay gradually narrowed, I watched the echo sounder closely. At ten meters depth I figured it was shallow enough to anchor but not too close to the beach. We let go 40 meters of chain, set the anchor, secured Sylph for the night, then retired below.
Winds remained light overnight and the sea reasonably smooth, so I was able to enjoy some quality sleep. At 0655 I arose to download a weather fax from the HF radio, then had a very quick dip over the side, quick because the sea temperature was a bracing 14 degrees but also because this area is renowned for its Great Whites. While no doubt it was extremely unlikely that any would be in such shallow water, I nonetheless erred on the side of caution.
I listened to the 0800 South Australian waters forecast while having breakfast. It predicted ten to fifteen knot E'ly winds so, as soon as I had finished my cereal, we started weighing anchor. This proved to be more of a challenge than I was expecting because as I was cranking in the chain the winch handle broke. I had had this handle made out of stainless steel several years ago when the original galvanised one had rusted out. The idea was to make it out of one piece of flat bar but because the company that made it didn't have any steel of quite the right dimensions, they welded a couple of bits of together and it was at this weld that the winch handle has failed. Bother!
Not to worry. This was not the first time I have had anchor winch problems and it was a simple matter to break out the handy billy and weigh by deck tackle. At 0850 we had the anchor secured and were motoring out of the bay. Once clear of the immediate navigational hazards we bore away to the west, set sail, and shut down the engine.
And again winds have been lighter and flukier than forecast. Every now and then they seem to settle down into a steady breeze but an hour or so later they fade out and leave us all but drifting. At 1400 we rounded Cape Carnot and on its western side the wind has abandoned us. We motor.
The plan is to try and make Avoid Bay, twenty miles away, before sunset and there hopefully to find a secure anchorage for the night.
Oli has taken to spending lots of time sleeping on the second shelf of the tall boy.
All is well.