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The washing machine

Posted by on September 17, 2011


We left Port Arthur on Wednesday morning with a storm force wind warning in place for SE coastal waters, and 45 knot winds blowing off Matsuyker Island with 7m swell running.

The idea was to scurry around the corner before those conditions reached the Tasman Island area, with the front forecast to pass through around midday.

We poked our nose out of the bay in the confused seastate and banged our way about 2nm south into the 3 to 4m south westerly swell, reaching in the building north westerly winds. When we got “far enough” we turned to run with the seas, making for the gap between Cape Pillar and Tasman Island. In hindsight I should have kept heading south for another 30 minutes, I think we turned too soon. I spent much of the approach to the gap trying to get a bit more offing from the Peninsula side of the shore.

We took video footage of the trip, starting from about a mile or so out from the gap. As is often the case, you never get much footage of the really bad bits, because you are too busy holding on!

The footage was originally in .mov format, is about 2 minutes long and is 12Mb in size. Here is a direct link to the file.

The seabed comes up from about 80m to around 10 or so in the gap, so waves start maturing as you approach.


We had been warned to avoid making the passage when the tide was against you, as the waves square up and get nasty. As the waves start getting a bit peaky, the reflections from the peninsula and the island side get bigger too. One bad set had us bow down coming down a wave front when a big wave caught us off the forward port side. As we rolled heavily to starboard we caught another wave reflection coming from the island. There was nothing I could do, the boat was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sure enough, just as we rolled up and over onto our port side, the wave caught us on the starboard side and then we really rolled over. I think that’s when we lost the contents of the drinks locker, and the sugar jar lost it’s lid.

The coastline in this area is amazing, with huge pillars cliffs soaring up from the sea. As you can see from the video, we had nice sunny weather and a rising sun for our trip, and to see the cliffs in the low angled light was fantastic.


We had nice weather for our transit. The place see’s 4m of swell and at least 2 or 3m on a regular basis. Can you imagine the drama in 7 to 10m of sea and the usual 25 to 30kt’s of wind? Its enough to give you the heebie-jeebie’s!

An interesting feature of the rising seabed is that it, of course, drops away on the other side too. This means that no sooner than you transit the gap, the sea state just seem to vanish. As we rounded the cape and headed north, we were in virtually no wind with a benign 1m southerly swell. You could look back and see the washing machine not 50m behind you. Somebody said later “Imagine coming the other way…”. Yuk.

Our destination was Canoe Bay, in Fortescue Bay about 10nm up the coast from Cape Pillar. There was a nice 10 or 15kt westerly we reached against, motor sailing north. As we rounded The Lanterns, we beat in against it in darkening conditions as the front closed in.


I’ll write more about Canoe Bay in my next post…

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