Scawfell to Curlew Island, 7/09/2008

The south-easterlies are persisting, making life rather tedious. We tacked into it all day today, making up our destination as we went along! In the end the breeze swung around to the east as the day wore (literally) on and I made for the shelter of Curlew Island. I was pleased with this. We nearly ended up at Middle Percy, not a bad spot, but I’ve been there and I was keen to see something different.

Snacking as we approach Curlew Island

As it happened, Curlew Island has turned out to be a great choice. The anchorage is better protected in a south-easter than Middle Percy would be and it has a stunning long white beach, flanked by imposing peaks on both ends.

Mackay to Scawfell Island, 06/09/2008

Yvonne and Anna arrived late on 5 September and we went off to town to do a bit more provisioning.

We couldn’t get everything though, so this morning I did another trip into Mackay. My greatest need was for another ice box to carry extra ice as we could be out off port for up to 7 days. I also needed some swimwear – left at home!

I was up early and fitted the liferaft to the foredeck (an ill-advised decision, I later realized).

I returned around 11AM with my purchases. Yvonne and Anna had filled the diesel tanks and jerry cans and we set off before noon, fully stocked with food, drink, water, diesel and ice.

Anna on the helm soon after leaving Mackay

I was initially going to head south-east, but a lot of factors mitigated against this:

  • we only had half a day left and both girls were looking a bit green as soon as we got out the marina;
  • the wind was blowing from the south-east, so it would be hard work; and
  • we only had half a day of sunlight left and an overnight sail on the first day with two sea-sick crew seemed a bit cruel…

So, we made for Scawfell Island, an anchorage I knew from our previous stay there would be protected in a south-easterly breeze. Everyone was relieved once the pick was set and we were just in time to enjoy happy hour with some whales blowing in the distance.

Happy hour at Scawfell Island

Airlie Beach to Mackay 05/09/2008

I arrived in Airlie Beach yesterday, flying into Proserpine and renting a car – it was cheaper than a taxi and I had to provision the boat.

Despite my regular nightmares about Sunny Spells sitting on the mooring unattended, she was just fine! Les Reumer ran me out to her in his dinghy and the engine started on the first try. I motored into the berth at Abel Point Marina where Les took my lines.

My berth was just a couple down from Les’s. After my shopping expedition that evening I took a bottle of his favourite rum over and we shared drinks and laughs for a couple of hours before I went back to stow all the food and stuff.

I left early this morning to make best use of the tide (it floods south in this area so I left the marina about an hour before low tide. By the time I hit the Whitsunday Passage I had almost 2 knots from behind. Just as well, because there was absolutely no wind! It was a full day of motoring, but I was able to sort lots of little things out AND have a hot shower on deck as the solar shower had been baked to a very toasty temperature.

I use a boom brake AND a tradional boom-end preventer.

A preventer’s principal role is to keep the boom (and mainsail) from flogging when running in moderate conditions, especially when the main is set by the lee. Under these conditions, the rolling of the boat can make the boom swing back far enough to backwind the main and start off an accidental gybe.

A preventer is great and I use mine (read details of Sunny Spells’ preventer in this post) most of the time when going downwind (“gentlemen don’t sail to windward”, so that’s a lot!), but you really don’t want it to be the only thing restraining the boom when the poo hits the proverbial…

Regardless of how you set it up, during a planned gybe the preventer has to be let off and re-set on the lee side. SO, this is NOT a part of the running rigging that you can (or should) rely on when the going gets rough or you need to do things quickly. This was graphically illustrated to me recently when crewing on a fifty footer in the Sydney – Gold Coast race: with wind gusting to 45 knots we had to gybe, and opted for a “granny gybe” (tacking the bow through the wind) to reduce the strain on the rig. The crew responsible for the preventer was a bit slow throwing it off, resulting in a pad-eye ripped off the bow and a broken preventer line which proceeded to wrap itself around the prop… Thank gawd we didn’t attempt a gybe!

Also, if you really get the boat out of shape and the main is backwinded, you need to release the preventer pretty smartly, and if you can’t, it needs to be fail-safe – i.e the line should break at a lowish force rather than a high one (this is where the boom brake comes in). Imagine the 2 tonnes of force in a 1/2in preventer being released instantaneously when it breaks! A recent post on CruisersForum suggested using a velcro strop to attach the preventer to the boom – this sounds very sensible as it would allow the preventer to release in an emergency without breaking anything.

Boom Brake

Before I left Sydney for Hamilton Island in May, I rigged a boom brake (details in an earlier post here) to control the boom during gybing especially when sailing short-janded. The boom on a sail boat can be lethal:

Preventer using a figure 8 rescue descender

The boom brake was initially a bit of an obstacle on the side decks, but I got used to it pretty quickly. I initially thought I might unshackle it from the toe-rails when it’s not in use, but never got to the point where I felt it necessary (we were running most of the time though).

I run my jacklines OVER the boombrake lines, which also keeps the tether hooks off the deck, at least over that area. However, having an intermediate “catch point” in your jacklines (by running them uner the boom brake) is not such a bad thing – if you get washed along the deck by a “green one” you’ll get stopped midway rather than dangling over the transom! It’s just the clipping and unclipping (on a dark and stormy night…) that becomes an issue.