Furious Furneaux

They say you have not had a real adventure if you haven’t once wished you weren’t there during your cruise. Well we have had one hell of an adventure!

We had 12 days of westerly gale. At the height of the storm, on Saturday, the wind was howling at up to 60 knots (120 km/h). Imagine this: the shrieking through the rigging, the Ampair wind turbine roaring like a truck revving its engine, Take It Easy tugging at the anchor and its 50m of chain, the entire bay a sea of white angry plumes of spray, looking like a snow blizzard, and willy-willies spinning across the water.

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Like a snow blizzard

When a gust blew my glasses off my face never to be seen again as I was looking out, it was a minor inconvenience. But there was far worse to follow, and spectacular turned to ugly. The Ampair is rated for hurricane force winds. Well, it did not survive. Two blades got ripped out and the third damaged. When this happened, the pole holding the turbine started shaking violently, sending horrible jackhammer thuds through the boat. It took 1.5 hours to secure the unit in the high wind so it would stop whizzing around and shaking the boat to buggery. We were terribly worried it would crack the step on the sugar scoop where its mast attaches. It did not but it cracked the frame where the support struts are affixed and which holds the dinghy davits and the solar cells. We are okay: we bolted some lengths of wood on either side of the frame to stabilise it until we get back and get it properly repaired! All we can say is thank god it happened in daylight.

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Ampair turbine finally secured after losing two blades

During the following days the wind eased to a more manageable 25 to 35 knots but stayed stubbornly in the west or north west, which makes it difficult to go anywhere from here. After 10 days at Jamieson Bay, without any phone, internet or radio contact, we finally made an escape overnight. During the night the wind shifted to the southeast, making Jamieson Bay untanable. So we had little choice but to head out at 1.00 am for a very dodgy sail around the bottom of Clarke Island, back north to Key Island Bay. We retraced our steps from two weeks ago, as we did not fancy taking the shortcut through the Armstrong Channel and its shoals in the dark. The swell was big and the currents around the cape very uncomfortable. We are now recovering for a few hours, and will probably end up on either side of Trousers Point, at the SE end of Flinders Island this afternoon.

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Our next task is to replenish our water (it has not rained for days) and our food supplies which are running low. Our last shop was at Bridport, three weeks ago! We have run out of tea, coffee, cereals, fresh fruit and vegies. We are resorting to tinned or frozen food when not able to catch a feed of squid or fish and our bean sprouter is used frequently to produce crops of alfalfa, lentils and mung beans for some greens! The provisioning pressure is on now because next Monday, our friends Greg and Ann are flying into Flinders Island to join us. With four on board in a celebratory mood, we are sure to pig out. So a trip to Whitemark, the only little township in the Furneaux, is now urgent. Hopefully we can get there in the next day or so.

We can’t wait for our friends to be with us. The challenge will be to work out where to pick them up! They will have a car waiting for them at the aerodrome to deliver them wherever the boat is which could be Whitemark, the Trousers Point anchorage or the port of Lady Barron… we’ll see what weather and tide allow! It will be fun to share these beautiful cruising grounds and do the crossing back to the Gippsland Lakes together. Nearly two weeks of shared adventure with friends who know the drill. They have been on board a few times, but never for that long and never in the middle of Bass Strait. Let’s hope the weather is kinder for us. And remember guys, we will only cross if it is safe to do so, even if it means getting home late.

For now, here is a gallery showing the Jamieson Bay anchorage, where we reckon the wind is made!

44 thoughts on “Furious Furneaux

  1. Great to hear from you again! We were wondering what was up. Sounds like a hair-raising sail around Clark Island in the dark with swell and wind. How will it be without the electricity from AmpAir? Do you have a solar back-up?

    • Yes solar is our main source of power. We will be fine. The wind turbine just topped things up. The overnight sail around Clarke Island was not pleasant but the hair raising part was the 60 knots wind on Saturday and the mishap with the turbine! That was scary.

  2. We are glad to read that you are ok. Those are the conditions we all dread. Take a deep breath and enjoy the time with Greg and Ann.

  3. Enjoyed reading your scarey adventure! A bit like flying under some nice clouds and then the cu nums develop? Here’s hoping for some fair winds for you soon ….

    • Hi Elgar – yes things change really quickly and can turn sour all of a sudden. At the worst of the storm I was thinking now all we need is for the anchor to drag! But the Manson Supreme did its job! Never been in 60 knots wind before. Violent! Would hate to be at sea in that!

  4. And here I was whinging about Westernport being at 18 knots mucking up my fishing day. Glad to hear you are all safe and sound. Take care!

  5. Internet detox, LOL!! Really glad you are all safe there, what a scary ride. Sorry about your turbine coming apart, apparently the company that manufactures them needs to do further testing. Great photos, the sea looks very angry. Be safe!

    • Thanks John- we think a combination of very high winds, insufficient support struts for the turbine mast and a willy willy did the damage. A few lessons learnt which will make a good topic for an article in the yachting mags! All ok now.

  6. Wow! What an experience! Good to hear Take it Easy (and you) weathered it so well (despite the damage to the wind gen). Never, never fun to have an experience like that, at anchor or at sea! Take care of yourselves – you deserve some pampering!!

    • We learnt a few things like parking the windy mill above 40 knots and doing a few things to make that easier! Pampering coming up when our friends join us!

  7. Gosh 60kts is always hair raising especially when you have things breaking! Amazing photos of the spray picking up off the water. So glad to hear your anchor held and that all is well. We have got a ‘weather bomb’ heading our way with strong winds and a low pressure system that is roaring past the bottom of the South Island – possibly the remnants of what you have been experiencing coming our way. Hold on to your hats! Take care and enjoy the sailing with your friends.

    • Hi Viki, it was an intense low so yes, be sure to hole in somewhere safe! Weather bomb is a good way of describing it! BTW we read Rob Mundell’s book about Flinders. Fascinating reading! Thanks for the link.

      • I thought you would enjoy it, especially with where you are sailing at the moment. What an amazing navigator. Hope you get some better weather soon.

  8. Been watching weather down there lately and wondering how you were weathering it. Glad to read all’s well. Don’t you love that anchor!! BTW also reading one of Rob Mundell’s books. ‘Under Full Sail’

    • Hi Janice – yes it has been wild. Let’s hope it settles down for a while! Saw Mundell has a few interesting books. Might have to download this!

  9. What a ride, horrible weather, broken equipment but you are both safe and sound, a good day. Your to do list is getting longer, but at least it can all be fixed. I really hope the weather improves for your time with Greg and Ann. Have a great time with them. Trust the restocking goes well I would hate you to starve particularly when a party should be on the cards. Judy died on Thurs. lost another good friend. Life is horrible at times.

    • Ho Sue – so sorry to hear about Judy. Too many close friends struck my cancer.

      We are ok and safe – broken gear can be fixed. Now sailing to Whitemark for reprovisioning… swift sail north!

  10. Wowsers… glad you guys are safe. Looks like the Manson Supreme is on the top of our shopping list for ground tackle! Must be reassuring though, that in the big picture crew and boat came through safely, and good decisions were made in stressful situations. Next challenge: sit out a tropical cyclone (joking!).

    • Hi guys! A few lessons learnt along the way so our mishap with the wind generator does not get repeated! We might give the tropical cyclone a miss though! The Manson Supreme is fantastic. It has now taken us in through tough environments in SW Tas and here and once in it does not budge! Very reassuring.

  11. Glad you are both ok and the boat too, am so enjoying reading your posts. Hope you manage to get some supplies soon and have a wonderful time once your friends are on board, fingers crossed the weather is kind. xx

    • Thanks Susan. We managed to do all the provisioning and water top up yesterday. Just as well, as it’s raining and blowing today… we seem to go from one bout of strong wind to another. We hope it is clear by Monday, when our friends arrive.

  12. What a ride you have had,. You do learn something new every day that will help you in your future travels. How is the cat recovering ?? still with you I hope, he knows you can get home in a storm. Cheers for the next leg of your adventure.

    • It sure was a wild ride of late Terry! And you are right, you learn something all the time, if only that we can be resourceful and make do! So all is fine. Our cat is good, she was a bit scared when the jackhammer noise started and went hiding on the bed, but the wind noise she is used to it by now. Have you seen on previous posts, we have got her going in the dinghy and she goes for walks on the beach on a leash! Very flexible and adaptable like a good ship’s cat has to be.

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