Cleared Backstairs Passage

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Wed 28 Feb 2024 02:07
Noon Position: 36 24.8 S 138 49.6 E
Course: SE Speed: 6 knots
Wind: NW, F4 - moderate breeze
Sea: moderate Swell: SW, 1m
Weather: sunny, mild
Day's Run: 95 nm

It was still calm when we weighed anchor at 1530 yesterday afternoon, but I thought it would be less stressful to clear the confines of the Port Noarlunga anchorage and negotiate the narrow passage out through the reef in benign conditions rather than when the wind was picking up. And I was also keen to get moving.
Once the anchor was weighed and secured, it took less than ten minutes to motor into deep water beyond the reef, but from there we had to motor for close to three hours before a very light breeze could be seen to be lifting the Australian flag on Sylph's backstay, barely enough to feel on one's cheek, but a palpable breeze nonetheless. By this stage I was thoroughly fed up with the noise of the engine so decided to give the code zero a go. Despite the sea still being mirror smooth with only a few patches of ripples here and there hinting at the breeze, there was enough to fill the big light-weight red sail, and we ghosted along over the still, flat waters of St Vincent Gulf at a very peaceful two knots. Sylph glided along, silent and steady, one would never have known we were actually sailing without looking over the side to see small dark jelly fish and strands of weed gliding past.
We continued thus until 2110 when the wind began to freshen and our speed climbed to six knots. As it was now well after sunset I thought it would be wise to hand the large red sail and set the jib. Once done, I was pleased to see that in the freshening E'ly breeze we had lost very little speed with the significantly reduced sail area.
We came abeam of Cape Jervis at around 2300 and, as is often the case, we lost the wind and it took us another two hours to work our way past its shadow and the now lumpy sea caused by the tidal race that runs in its vicinity. (In hindsight we should probably have remained further off the coast here.)
Entering Backstairs Passage conditions were no less lumpy. We were feeling the scend of the open ocean as well as the effects of the now strongly flooding tide - I had not timed our transit of Backstairs Passage very well. And just to keep me on my toes, the wind was becoming unstable with hot gust of air blowing from the NNE for several minutes followed by cooler light puffs from the ENE, then back to warm gusts, presumably presaging the low pressure system that was forecast to pass to the south of us.
We eventually cleared Backstairs Passage at 0400, our speed gradually increasing back up to six knots as we escaped the stream of the foul tide. The wind also gradually backed and freshened. First we poled the jib out to port and ran wing on wing with the wind in the north, then at 0950, as the wind backed further into the NW, we gybed and are now running with the wind fine off our starboard quarter, one reef in the main and the jib poled to starboard.
The sun is shining and we are making good speed.
All is well.