TUESDAY FEB 11th - Victor to Robe (a loooooooong trip)
Okay, these 5am starts are really becoming just a tad monotonous but in a way I was glad to leave the bay at Victor as soon as possible. All night long the sea swell had roughly rocked and rolled the boat, front to back, side to side and again I was in fear of being dislodged from the bed at any given moment, so I spent most of the night playing peek-a-boo with sleep. There it is... oops, gone again... there it is.... nope, departed again. Rolly, rolly roll. It's okay for Dave, he sleeps on the side where the only thing he can roll into is me, for which he's likely to find an elbow in the ribs, plus he has an uncanny ability to sleep wherever he happens to close his eyes.
I wasn't looking forward to this at all. The sail was going to be anywhere between 24 and 36 hours, depending on the wind, the waves, the direction, the height. The forecast for the 2 days before we left was for some north to north east on Tuesday and Wednesday then swinging to south east. This was good news as it meant winds at a fairly decent pace, so that was great news as it meant we'd be pushed along nicely towards our ultimate destination. Yeah that was the forecast but of course, when push comes to shove, sometimes they trip you up instead and then laugh at you behind your back because you were actually expecting a thrust not a tumble.
The sunrise wasn't particularly spectacular but the waves were being kind and the Tuesday morning forecast was surprisingly close to the actual prediction. Early morning dolphins greeted us with the dawn and swam with us for a while. By 8am the engine was turned off and soon we were under full sail. It was a beautiful morning. In fact it was so lovely, I went back to bed for a couple of hours to catch up on some of the missing beauty/brain/body sleep of which I'd been majorly deprived by the bloody-minded swell during the night.
When I finally felt that I didn't have to prop my eyelids open with toothpicks I got up and found that the weather was glorious and we actually made reasonable time for a while. We were headed out to around 20 miles (nautical) offshore but then, after another couple of hours where we thought we'd probably do okay in the weather stakes, Marvin the Fickle tipped his hat, gave a wink and proceeded to goad us with his windward wit yet again. From about 1.30pm and for the rest of the day it was no wind so engines on... wind comes up a bit, engine off /sails up.... wind is okay but swell is against us so engine on again as well as sails, wind swings to wrong direction so sails down and just engines.... wind is way too strong so reef, reef and reef the main yet again, wind dies, so sails just sit, engines on..., engines off, sail pattern changed between Yankee, Main and Stay... up, down, pull this rope, let this line out.. start the engine, cut the engine.... aaaaarrgggghhh!!! It was ridiculous.
In a weird way though, Cap'n Tweaky was in his element because, well, he could tweak to his heart's content but it was completely tiresome too. Mind you, at one stage when the wind was quite low, Dave did get out his beloved drifter and for a short time it looked beautiful in all its golden glory against the azure blue sky until the wind died completely. Oh well, the birds loved it because when it went up we suddenly found ourselves in the company of several Flesh Footed Shearwaters that I'm fairly sure were looking for a feed of fish. When it was obvious we were fish-less, they decided we weren't worth hanging around for and nicked off. How they spotted us in all that ocean is a mystery but a very pleasant one.
Photo: The Great Golden Drifter.
By evening it was becoming obvious that the engines would be more on than off as a south easterly blew straight in our ear-holes.... not where we needed the wind to come from, and after taking down all but the double reefed main and making sure the engine was running smoothly, we had a late dinner. Dave set up the laptop and we settled into the cockpit where we watched a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory whilst George the auto pilot guided us through the darkling night. It's nice to have those little indulgences in what felt like such odd circumstances.
The seas were still bouncy but by 11pm I finally convinced dear ol' Cap'n Tweaky to cease and desist in the fine-tuning department and to go and lie down on the sea berth (he hadn't rested since 5 that morning) and I took my night watch. Luckily I didn't feel the anxiety I was sure I was going to have at being alone in that vast mass of water. I was 20 miles offshore, the water was 60 metres deep, I felt practically Lilliputian sitting in that boat as it bounced and hammered its way through the waves. I tried not to think of the toothy and slimed horrors that may be lurking just beneath my feet and instead made a cup of tea. That fixes everything! I settled in and, between checking the instruments and taking a good look around every now and then, I read Doctor Sleep by Stephen King on my E-book. Nothing like a good horror story to keep one calm I always say................
WEDNESDAY FEB 12th - To Robe and landed.
As the teensy weensy hours ticked over into the slightly less teensy weensy I noticed a light off the port bow (front left side). Initially I thought my eyes were playing tricks but no. It was the only light I had seen all night and it seemed fairly distant but because it was exceptionally bright and the clears (plastic window thingies in the cockpit) were patterned with salt water that was constantly foaming over the front with each dip of the bow, it was difficult to tell. Since Dave was still in the Land of Nod, I prudently decided not to bother him and to just keep a close eye on that small, gleaming spot. I figured it was a fishing boat but had no idea how big a boat it was, what it was doing, if it was moving and if so, in which direction (it had no discernible red/green lights that would give a clue). I was so intent on trying to make out its intention, I became quite paranoid as to how close we really were. For 2 hours I watched that damnable light sitting in the same position off the bow. Binoculars didn't help as the boat was bouncing too much to hold them steady so I just hoped it would stay exactly where it was while I changed course away from it by a couple of degrees.
I was due to wake Dave at 3am but being Dave, he got up an hour early and I was kind of grateful because I figured he may be able to better judge what the other boat was doing. He was also flummoxed. It didn't seem to be moving, it didn't seem to have the correct running lights, it was just weird. We kept adjusting our course by degrees in order to avoid the vessel but it seemed to always be in the same spot in relation to Venture so we kept a super close watch.
In the surrounding dark, we motored our way closer and closer and before we knew it, there it was, a large fishing trawler that decided at the very minute we were within distance, to speed up and trawl straight across our bow! WTF!!! Were there nets? If so, where were they behind the trawler? Why would they do that at that time? Were they deliberately trying to give us a fright or were they just idiots? Didn't they see us coming? We had our running, steaming and masthead lights on. The only light they had was a gazillion watt spotlight! This is a huge bit of water.... why did they cut us off like that!? I have said it before and I'll reiterate it in large letter... THERE IS SOMETHING SERIOUSLY WRONG WITH FISHER FOLK!!
Once we were well past the half-wits in the trawler and our hearts had slowed to a gallop, Dave suggested it was now my turn to sleep. I didn't argue. It was just after 3am. I would have four hours in which to quell my ire at the fisher-dicks and gain a little sleep-induced composure before my next shift at 7am. I settled down in the sea-berth and woke at 9.30. D'oh! He'd let me sleep and I was both miffed and grateful at the same time. I felt terrible because I was sure Dave must have been exhausted but as it turned out, he seemed quite chipper.
After a cup of tea or three I was ready to take the helm (well sit there and look as though I was doing something, since George was actually doing the helm thing) whilst Dave had another 40 winks. By now we were heading straight into a fairly stiff southerly, straight on the nose of the boat. Spray flew up and spattered the clears with every dip of her prow and it was really slow going as we also battled a current.
However, the day itself was gorgeous despite the ragged water. An immaculate sky hung over us like sheer cerulean silk and every now and then birds would suddenly appear seemingly from nowhere, following our course, drifting, wheeling and diving. Shearwaters, terns, gannets and one single albatross each joined us for a few precious moments as we got closer to Robe.
Photo: Fairy Tern
Photo: Australasian Gannet
Photo: Immature Shy Albatross
By 1.30pm we had finally found our way past the breakwater and into the Robe Marina. It had, for us, been an epic sail that we were both happy to see behind us. We were both exhausted and couldn't wait to have a shower and a lie down.
So... showers are where? Hmmm. We know there are some at the marina somewhere because the girl in the office said there were and they were apparently fairly close to where we were docked. Being the intrepid travellers that we are, we figured that the showers wouldn't be that hard to find so we went in the obvious direction. And after we had obviously walked all the way around the block and managed to find ourselves back at the marina gate we had come from, we intuitively figured that something was amiss. Namely, the showers.
Right, on the phone to the office. Ah... at the yacht club near the marina entrance...right you are... excellent. So off we went again in the same direction we had gone in the first place, looking for the yacht club which, after walking to the parking area, was becoming an elusive exercise. The only obvious ablution areas were the public toilets and unless someone has a warped sense of humour, sense suggested they weren't the showers. It was then we noticed a gate that was closed over a dirt track alongside the canal entrance of the marina. We took our chances and followed it and there it was. The yacht club, or at least a building that we figured must be the right place. It had doors that the key we were given fitted into so that was good enough for us. We were surprised that the shower room was unisex and that there were two cubicles, so we decided that the sensible thing to do is pick a cubicle each and shower at the same time. For me, it was luxurious despite the daggy showers.
So, all squeaky clean, we wandered back to the boat intent on having a lie down to recover from the previous 31 hours of sailing. It was 2.30 so a good time for a nap. I was putting stuff away and Dave went to organise the bed (where we put things to stop them moving about in rough seas) when I heard "Oh no.... disaster!".
Oh bollocks.... what now??
"The bed's wet. The mattress, pillows and quilt too. And the underlay."
Well... shite. I guess I should have known that we couldn't have a full couple of days with nothing happening and it turned out that as we had been pounding through those rough seas, with the briny washing over the front of the boat, the front hatch, which is directly over the bed (mainly on my side), was open about an inch. It had been one of those things that had gone unchecked when we left Victor so early in the morning (I KNEW there was a reason why that was a bad time to be awake) and because we had slept in the sea berth (which is the 'sofa' for those who don't speak 'boat')' we completely missed it happening. I went in and had a look and yep... as though a tiny waterfall had trickled over the top of the bed and made a minuscule lake right where I sleep. So instead of a nap it was a strip down of sheets, pillows etc. Not what I wanted to do at all.
Luckily it was a warm afternoon and evening and despite the fact that the mattress had been quite wet, a going over with a towel and the remaining warmth trapped in the boat was enough to almost dry the mattress out by 11pm. A dry towel over the slightly damp spot that remained was enough to be able to remake the bed with fresh linen and then have me collapse into a semi coma as soon as my head hit the pillow. I reckon Dave was asleep even before me. I'm hoping not to have to make a trip that long for a while.
It looks as though we're going to be here for a little while as we wait for the next good weather window to open so the next couple of blogs are going to be a kind of travelogue of Robe. I hope you'll enjoy it.