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Twas a dark and story night

Posted by on April 15, 2012

The weather we were worried about last blogpost came in with a bang for yachties all over the SE corner of Oz.

The barometric chart had forecast a double whammy. A low pressure cell passing over the state followed by a low pressure front bringing a sou’westerly change… But boy, did it pack a wallop.

Given that it was the Easter weekend there were lots of boats out and about with their crews enjoying the last long weekend before winter. The Three Peaks Race was also being held, with about a dozen entrants.

Here at the marina it was pretty mild, sheltered as we are. We recorded a 28kt SSW gust, but for the most part it didn’t get above 20kts as the squalls rolled through. Plenty of rain made going above decks a wet and brief affair.

The first news of trouble came when the rescue helicopter landed at the domain. I learned that a double-ender had got into trouble up near Flinders and one of the three crew was air-lifted to the Royal.


ROUGH GOING: Rescuers race to help three sailors on the stricken yacht Sandshoe. Picture: RICHARD BUGG/ROTOLIFT

SANDSHOE was on her way to Sydney with three blokes when they got into strife in 4 to 5 meter seas with the wind gusting to 60kts. The gossip mill at the marina was saying she’d been knocked down and one of the blokes aboard was badly injured and concussed. The crew was rescued by the VAN DIEMEN and the yacht abandoned 60nm east of Flinders Island. It’s probably 3/4th’s of the way to NZ by now.

The VHF and Coast Radio Hobart had been pretty busy too…

When the sou’westerly change came in, it was more southerly than westerly. Boats down the Channel reported 15kt nor’westerlies during the evening with 25 to 35 knot southerlies hitting about midnight, swinging westerly during the early morning.

Yachts dragged anchor down at Southport, in Mickeys and the Quarries, with a few going aground.

Two boats (a fishing boat and a yacht) where anchored in the lee of Sloping Island. They were taking shelter from the nor’westerly conditions, but it was no place to be in a sou’wester, as you can see on the map below:


When the southerly came in, the boats dragged their anchor and began to drift down on the lee shore of the headland you can see on the right, above.

The poor chap on the yacht was on deck trying to reset his anchor when he was washed overboard. His wife called in the mayday, but tragically, in the dawn light, they found his body in the surf, ashore.

I really feel for the family of the man, a particularly his wife. Imagine calling in a mayday on a stormy night because your spouse has been washed overboard? Bloody tragic. The family have asked to keep the poor chaps name and the yacht name private.

Meanwhile, the Three Peaks Boats were getting hammered. HAPHAZARD, a veteran competitor in the race, ran aground off Lady Barron.


I spoke to the skipper of APPOLONIUS (naked, in the shower block: what a Kings Pier moment) on his race. He spoke of gusty 70kt winds on the approach Lady Barron. As you can see in the satellite image below. The approach from the east is laced with sandbars:


The fellow related how they had just strapped the runners of the crew down below decks in their berths. The sailing couldn’t hear each other yelling, over the noise of the wind and thunder. Lightning was striking the sea around them when a bigger wave than most lifted them up high. It broke underneath them and threw the boat over on it beam ends and knocked it flat.

He told me of the disaster it was down below; everything strewn everywhere. They had no time to clean up properly, they where running out of water.

Up on deck they had to comprise their course to keep the boat safe from the weather with the course required to keep them from running aground. They hit a sand bar once and thought they were doomed, but a wave lifted them up and dropped them in the deep water channel again!

I asked him if he would do the race again, and the poor fella visibly shook and shuddered. Eventually he said “the body needs time to assimilate these experiences…”

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