Big Day out
25 November 2012 | 12 03.637'S:153 25.052'E, Near Taluga Island -Louisiades PNG - Coral Sea
Monday 26 November
Hey folk, not sure how your weekend has been but it has been rock and roll central here
for the last 24 hours plus. Rain squalls, winds gusting to nearly 30k, ships in the night
(and day), and seas to 3 metres have all put in an appearance. We have seen almost no rain
(true!) since we left Brisbane in September, apart from the occasional spit of light drops.
But this was the real McCoy ┬- 10 solid minutes of heavy rain, pounding the sea flat and
creating a shimmering mist over the undulating surface ┬- beautiful.
Earlier that night a small squall had jolted Tone out of his watch reverie (aka doze), and
had me scrambling out of my cosy dry berth and back on deck as the rising wind vibrated the
sails and rigging.
Not long after we had wiped the rain out of our eyes and settled IM into a new rhythm I
spotted three lights on the horizon, and they appeared to be coming straight for us. Only
hours earlier we had both commented on the lack of shipping we had seen since leaving Torres
Strait. We were starting to wonder if our AIS (automated identification system - recognizes
ships in vicinity and displays on electronic nav systems ) was still working. Time to find
out - we quickly fired up the i-pad and sure enough Azur Fortune was bearing down on us, at
a distance of 3nm and with a CPA (closest point of approach) of 270 metres! When you┬'re
11.4 metres long and a 50m widex300 metre long ship is going to be less than its boat length
away, you want to make dead sure of its course before you decide on evasive action ┬- even
more so at night in 20-25k of wind with a 2.5 metre swell.
Over the years we┬'ve heard stories and read blogs about sailors radio-ing ships frantically
to no avail, but it was still worth a go. A quick call and immediately the ship┬'s master
replied ┬- ┬"ah yes, sailing vessel, I can see you on my radar, I will alter course to go
behind you┬". Confirming his message back to him, we watched in fascination as this huge
coal carrier┬'s lights, now less than a mile away slowly altered direction and we both
started to pull away from each other. Once we were a safe distance away we radioed back to
thank him. ┬"No trouble, safe travels┬", he replied in a distinctly South American Spanish
accent, before disappearing into the night.
Azur Fortune was the first of 9 ships whose paths we crossed over the next 24 hours ┬- at one
stage 5 at once within the same hour ┬- all of them heading into or out of the ┬'short cut┬'
channel we had been too chicken to take┬....still glad we didn┬'t given the sea state, the high
winds and dicing with those big girls in amongst the reefs and tidal rips would have been
fun ┬- NOT! We ended up radio-ing three ships and each time were promptly responded to and twice the
master changed course for us, a much appreciated courtesy, while the third one didn┬'t need
to - we both just checked the passing protocol. I was very impressed and reassured, who
says they┬'re all asleep on these big ships? As if the day wasn┬'t already action packed enough, the highlight came when we filled out our
log ┬- we┬'d finally managed to crack the 100nm in 24 hours, both boat log and course over
ground, a bonus of strong consistent winds, even with the rock and roll action they bring.
Watch out ┬'corner┬', we are coming to get ya! We are now less than 10NM from our corner
waypoint. Hopefully by the time we upload this blog and you are reading it over your
morning coffee (or during lunch, not sure about time zones anymore) we will be ready to
round Taluga Island and head towards Gizo ┬- 300NM away, and ease the sails for the first
downwind sailing since leaving Darwin (fingers crossed!).
Hope your week starts well!
Photo note: AIS on i-pad showing all the ships, we are the blue triangle just nicking out of the way!