Sunday, December 10, 2006

Learning to Sail .... in Australia

Current Location: Gary's Anchorage, Sandy Straits, Australia
Current Position: 25º37.79' S 152º58.38' E
Next Destination: Working our way down the coast to Sydney

After three years of cruising, you would think that we'd have 'it'
down-pat by now. So, it continues to surprise me that just about every
place we go, there is something new to learn -- some new 'thing' to have
to deal with.

In Australia that 'thing' is tides, currents, and sand bars (plus hail
storms, which I'm still hoping we will miss out on). Sure, everywhere
we've been there have been tides, and the currents that come and go with
them, but not like here. Traveling through the Sandy Straits we have been
dealing with 8-12 foot tides - in 2 meter depths! We draw 2m (meaning we
hit bottom at anything under 2 meters) -- so you can imagine just how
important getting high tide right has become! In fact we have found just
over 2.5 meters and that was close to high tide. As for currents, we are
experiencing 2-4 knots. Great when it's going with us, but a bitch when
it's against us (since our average motoring/sailing speed is 5-5.5 knots,
you can imagine that going against 4 knots is not entirely fun - or
speedy). Anchoring especially has become interesting. We have to allow
for extra depth to ensure we aren't sitting on the bottom when the tide
goes out, and when the current pushes the boat one way, while the wind is
trying to push her another, it can turn into a lumpy dance. The same goes
for when we are traveling in wind against tide/current situations - the
chop produced makes for a bumpy ride!

And finally there are the sand bars. Nice shallow sandy bars, perfect for
creating surfing waves (great if you are a surfer, not so great if you are
a sailor). We haven't been over the 'serious' bar yet (Great Wide Bar at
one end of the Sandy Straits), but it is continuously on our minds. We've
heard enough bar crossing horror stories to fill our nightmares for the
next months (boats rolling & pitch polling when they catch a wave wrong
crossing over a bar). Needless to say we are waiting for very settled
weather for our 'first time'!!!

Other then re-learning how to sail (in these new conditions), our time
since leaving Bundaberg has been quite relaxing. We left Bundaberg on
Saturday, December 2nd, and have been moving slowly through the Sandy
Straits, making our way south. It is good for both of us to be out of the
marina and 'city', as we find it easier to relax when not surrounded by so
many things to do! It is easy for us to get caught up in the hustle of
town-life and forgo down time and the simple pleasures of a good book.
Since leaving Chris is back to his book a day reading frenzy! The winds
have been blowing pretty steadily from the South-South East, which of
course is the direction we need to go to get to Brisbane and then Sydney -
so we are just hanging, being patient and waiting for lighter conditions
(or a wind shift). It looks like on possibly Monday or Tuesday we will
have decent enough conditions to cross the bar and head to Brisbane (a
quick overnight trip).

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