A Game of Russian Roulette

Not only do we have to contend with gale force winds and huge swell for days on end, but now we also have to dodge 83 shipping containers drifting along the Central Coast of New South Wales.

containership

Photo from ABC News video
Containers overboard

Photo from on board ship’s cameras

With so many containers at sea after having tumbled from the Liberian ship Yang Ming in extreme weather, the greatest risk is to smaller fishing boats and sailing vessels like Take It Easy.

So we rang the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and found that their computer models show the containers drifting NW from Newscastle to Port Stephens, pushed along by the southerlies. They are exactly along the path we want to sail when the wind calms down a bit!

Nobody can say what will happen with any certainty. Some of these containers will sink, some will float just under the surface, some will float with some of the bulk above water, some will wash ashore. You hit one of these and you sink to the bottom!

Floating

And this is one you can see!

“The longer you leave it, the less chance you will come across them”, said the Maritime Services person. It is like a game of Russian roulette.

This takes sailing  – the science of not hitting things – to another level. So what to do? Well we hope to be sailing to Swansea – south of Newcastle – on Monday or Tuesday as wind and swell become more manageable. We will call the hotline again before leaving Pittwater, to confirm it is a safe thing to do. At least up to Swansea we should be in clear waters, we can shelter with access to shore facilities to replenish supplies, and if we have to wait for a few days, we can amuse ourselves in Lake Macquarie.

Off Sydney -5862

Do you think we are jinxed with the weather and getting north? Do you think if we say this out loud, it jinxes the jinx and all will be good?  Nah, me neither.

35 thoughts on “A Game of Russian Roulette

  1. Let’s hope the rough condition takes its toll and sinks most of them. If only the winds were onshore to beach them. I love how the authorities say it’s the shipping companies responsibility to recover the containers- but who would go out in the current conditions and retrieve them??

  2. One relatively safe way past the hidden containers would be to put to sea. WELL offshore of the danger zone, and jump across the whole area. Even if it involved an overnighter? Go and play with the big ships.
    Check the BOM’s sea temperature site to see if there are any eddies in tge RAC swirling away from the coast. Check the date of the info.

    • Hi Paul & Sjany – thank you for your suggestion. The trouble is the ship lost its load 30 miles out, so we’d have to go a huge distance offshore to be safe. Food for thought though.

  3. The weather sure seems to be keeping you in port lately. Those containers never should have got off the deck! I bet some heads will roll on this… Be safe out there!

    • Yes, that’s why we thought we’d go there. But the seas are still big, and the wind still blowing at over 30 knots… so waiting a couple more days for the conditions to quieten. Then it’s the big watch from the cabin roof!

  4. Wow! That is very dangerous Chris! The only thing to do if you continue your trip, go slower and keep an eye to what’s ahead. Only at daytime! The containers will be traveling the current but they also will spread apart. May G-d keep your vessel safe at all times! 🙂

  5. Did you ask AMSA about savage rights? – you wont want what has already washed up but there may be bonuses elsewhere. We feel for you. I was on shift on an overnighter from Pittwater to Port Stephens in April 2015 (four days after the East Coast low where Pittwater was declared a ‘Disaster Zone’) weaving our way between the anchored ships off Newcastle, when the lass at the VTS announced on chancel 16 at around 0200 that incoming ships to the harbour need to be aware of debris washing down the river – ‘rubbish, large trees, …CAR BODIES’!! It was about that time that I thought that travelling overnight after a large storm may not be such a good idea. Stay safe.

    • No don’t think we need sanitary products, not wet ones at least! The trouble with containers is that they don’t sink for ages. So it will be a very nervous trip up, and most definitely in daylight.

    • Yes, but we still have to negotiate our way through the mess! We are hoping that some containers will wash up on the coast so the computer models are validated!

  6. Wondered where you were. Glad to hear you are still safely in Broken Bay. Sea state here still very rough but the wind (inshore at least) has now dropped, although the Hastings bar looks pretty dangerous..
    I would agree you need a calm sea and daylight and a good lookout around the containers.

    • Hi Meredith – yes it is still too rough for us to leave. It might take a while before we get to Port Macquarie! Now looking at heading for Swansea on Tuesday. Beyond that, who knows!

  7. Enjoy the break before you can head off. At least today’s weather is a little better with blue sky and not as much wind. Have even done the washing!!!! Take care heading north, it is a bit scary, eh.

  8. And I thought dodging fishing nets / buoys was a pain!!!! I heard the report and immediately wondered where you were. Take care. Am thinking of you.

  9. Wowsers. Our thoughts went to you guys straight away when we heard the news. What a worry. If it’s any consolation: I can vouch for the collision protection and floatation built into Peter Snell designed cats. Your day-sail only approach sounds like a good policy right now. Go safe guys.

    • Hiya Pete and Deb – we have just sailed in to Swansea. The only dodging needed on this leg was for the whales – no containers. We think we will be here till Friday or Saturday given the change of wind direction and rain! Gives us a chance to re-provision and do copious amounts of laundry! Mind you it also means floating containers might start drifting south with breeze and current! Oh joy!

  10. I agree with you Chris wholeheartedly about the “1 step forward 2 steps back” I was only thinking about that through the night ( overnighter Lakes to Eden) us southerners have such an uphill battle to break the back of Vic and NSW just to say we are in Qld ! Would love to have Chi in some safe haven up north just so we don’t have to do soooo many of those hard yards. Any way we are tucked up in East Boyd looks like until Saturday. Had a hell of a sail last night, fizzing but pretty happy to be in a beautiful anchorage. Oh by the way met an Old salt who says he is in need of a Chris hug any ideas. Dicky from Lakes. Lovely man. Signing off. J&J on Chi ⚓️

    • Hello catamaran sailors! You are over the worst of it now, with day sails all the way up if you choose to do it that way. Sometimes we think putting in a few day & night sails while the weather is with us is a strategy to think about to really make progress, but right now, with containers floating about between Sydney and Port Macquarie, it is not an option! So we wait…

      And you met Dicky! He has a good heart. We used to be on the same jetty in Paynesville. Was he at Flagstaff?

      • Yes he was, along side another couple George and ( I think Maureen ) speaks very highly of you. Have to give YOU a hug when I see you.
        Woke up in East Boyd with pouring rain and an Easterly bump. Just checking weather now, but looks like we might be here till Saturday at the latest. John’s sister lives in Tuross and she would hate us if we didn’t call in to Moruya. Well done getting to Port Stevens unscathed. Lovely part of the world. Signing off. J&J on Chi ⚓️

      • Not yet another Port Stephens… got to Swansea on Monday and stayed there yesterday. On our way to Port Stephens today. It is a tense leg!

        Moruya is lovely but if you moor alongside the jetty, lock up when you leave Chi for shopping or sightseeing. Hope you get a break to get away from Eden.

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