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Tassie weather

Posted by on November 10, 2013

So it’s a beautiful day today; gentle 5kt NW wind, blue sky dappled with cloud.

Yesterday there was snow on the mountain, it barely got into double digit temperatures and there was a brisk 15-20kt SW wind.

…talk about unsettled weather.

A few weekends ago I took a couple of days off work and we headed off down to Duck Pond for a break, a period away from it all.

We set off into a 20kt SW wind forecast to swing west and weaken. An hour into the 4 hour sail it strengthened to 30kts, still sou’westerly. Over the next hour it became 35, then 40. After another hour of singlehanded against the squall fronts, the sea had built and it was a steady 40 gusting 50 and we hadn’t made 10 nautical miles.

It had stopped being a nice get away for the weekend. The boat was a mess down below, things fallen out of lockers, broken on the cabin sole. The boys, still in pyjamas, took one look at the amount of water smashing into me at the helm and shut up the hatch. The dear wife was now hopelessly seasick on top of a rum induced hangover. Time for plan B.

Putting the helm hard over, I dumped the mizzen sheet to get the boat around on a run back to shelter. I couldn’t re-sheet the mizzen in the gale, so I dropped the halyard and wrestled it on a lurching boat in the slightly less howling wind to get it furled. Going from 2kts to windward to 7kts downwind meant that we lost a lot of ground quickly and were in danger of running out of water to float in too.

I got our home into the lee of a headland and considered my options. Docking in the tight marina was going to be tough in these conditions. Ralph’s Bay was horribly shallow and a very lumpy reach from here. Around then the Peppermint Bay tour catamaran came past. Close to us and even closer to shore. I watched them hug the windward coastline, keeping within two or three boat lengths of the cliffs all the way down and thought maybe that could work.

I have tried sailing close to cliffs in strong conditions before, and it’s not pretty. This time, to avoid being knocked about by the turbulence off the cliffs, I dropped all sail and motored very close to shore. How close? I kept our sounder at 5 meters or under all the way down the western shoreline of the Derwent. It was a bit too intense, I’m not sure I’d do it again, but we made 4 or 5kts and the seas were pretty flat.

Of course, once we rounded Piersons Point, we came out of the shelter and slammed back into the sou’wester again, but by that stage it had backed more to the south and “weakened” to a mere 30-35kts, and good old ERIK doesn’t mind that at all.

All up, it took us 7 and a half hours to do the 18 nautical mile trip. Once there we had a fine time… Oh, other boats dragged anchor, other dinghies got flipped (drowned outboards) in the gale force conditions and it was blowing so strong (in the Duck Pond!) that there were clouds of spray blowing through the anchorage… But we had a fine time!

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