Friday, 23 May 2014

Geraldton (Sea Rescue)

Hi everyone,
Zen Again is now alongside the service jetty at the Batavia Coast Marina.  We logged 506nm through the water and 547nm over the ground for a passage lasting 4 days and 13 hours.  We used the engine for 53 hours - about 50% of the passage - due to frustratingly light winds.  So much for the windy west coast!

The last two hours of the passage may not count.  We spent them entangled in a fish farm before being kindly extricated by Geraldton Sea Rescue.  Before that story, first the track and speed profile for the passage...

Zen Again Track - the zig zags show we sailed when we could!!!
Speed Profile
So, the story begins on Thursday morning when I had decided to divert to Port Gregory since there was a strong wind warning for the Geraldton area.  However this was cancelled by midday so I reverted to the original plan to go to Geraldton and wait out the fronts and bad weather here.  As mentioned last night I would be arriving at night.

The weather for most of Thursday was light E, then N then NW winds.  They only got above 10 knots  during rain showers, one of which was a beauty and gave the boat a good rinse.  On approaching Geraldton the choice was to heave-to outside and face much stronger winds in the morning, or enter the harbour.  I decided on the latter.

Gratuitous silly grin in the rainstorm
All went very well until a few hundred metres short of the anchorage.  I slowed down and with the boat on autopilot I went forward to unlock the anchor and prepare the snubber.  Just as I finished I saw a red buoy passing by about 3 metres away.  I raced it back to the cockpit and managed to get the engine out of gear just in time.  However the buoy was part of the mooring for an UNLIT fish farm and the mooring line from buoy to farm was between our keel and our rudder.  Sticky situation.

The fish beds lie where our track SSE abruptly halted
Gradually we slid along the mooring line from the buoy end to the fish farm end.  Fenders out and on the mobile phone to Geraldton Sea Rescue.  They were superbly efficient.  It was 2200 and their rescue boat was in the water within about 30 minutes and arrived about 15 minutes later.  In that time I'd discovered all sorts of things about fish farms I never really wanted to know.  Primary amongst the lessons was that this one was entirely plastic - there is a god!  So the hull wasn't being "eaten" as we banged into the structure while stern-to in a 0.5m to 1.0m sea.  Twasn't pleasant.  I kept the engine going (in neutral) and revved it occasionally to ensure the waves weren't forcing water back up the exhaust into the engine.  We took a couple of small greenies over the transom which wasn't fun.

The two guys on the rescue boat did an excellent job, communicating throughout on VHF.  We tried several strategies to extricate Zen Again.  Eventually one worked (precisely how is a mystery to all of us) and we were suddenly floating free.  From there they led me carefully across to the marina where we're now secured.  The guys were quite angry that the fish farm was not lit.  There are buoys around it which carry lights but only one was lit and it was extremely dim.

We did sustain a little damage - the PVC tube holding our boat hooks and dinghy paddles was broken off our quarter and the gas bottle knocked partly out of its s/s holder.  The guys went out again and found the paddles!  We also lost two fenders which were ripped off the boat as it repeatedly hit the fish farm.  I'm not sure how badly the topsides paint was damaged but as far as we could see it isn't very bad which is a minor miracle if true.

So it was an exciting end to the passage.  At the end of the day we made it to Geraldton intact and I've now increased my single-handed sailing miles by a factor of five.

Zen Again at Batavia Coast Marina
Now it's time to sleep!

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