What were my final words, that last blog post? “We’re almost finished the gulf crossing between Wilson’s Prom and Eden now and should be arriving there tomorrow night,” I’d written optimistically. Well, two days later and still we hadn’t finished that crossing.
Things took a turn for the worse on Day 9 when we rounded the corner of Victoria and pointed North. All of a sudden we were sailing North into a strong northerly wind, punching straight into the swell and, perhaps worst of all, straight into the East Australian Current which fights against us at up to 4knots. That’s a lot of current to fight when you’re in a yacht that averages 5 knots!
The icing on the cake was discovering we had an oil leak and were now out of oil to top the engine up – we’d be without a motor until we reached Eden. Being without a motor at sea is a scary thought. At that point, you’re literally at the mercy of your sails and the wind, and the winds weren’t in our favour.
That night was our roughest yet as we approached Cape Green, a patch of water notorious amongst sailors for its unfavourable weather, current and swell. Nicola later discovered it was that same area that claimed the lives of six sailors in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart race, as well as a dozen shipwrecks that littered the aptly named Disaster Bay.
As night closed in and my watch began, I was apprehensive to say the least. Actually, if I’m honest, I was just plain scared for a while there. Up on deck alone in the dark, with howling winds and an incredible lean that really tested the new stainless rigging, it’s up to the watcher to think quickly and mitigate any issues that arise.
The lean was significant with water occasionally lashing the side of the boat, running like a waterfall over the toe rails that line Kuna’s decks. Standing in the U-shaped cockpit between the benches I was actually now standing with my feet on the starboard side of the vertical edge that connects the seat to the cockpit, not upright at all.
Within about an hour the adrenaline and worry subsided though as my trust in Kuna’s ability to handle the conditions grew. I settled into the nook of the cockpit bench, so far keeled over that I could reach out and touch the ocean with my hand. I was once again thankful for the harness that tethered me safely to Kuna’s decks.
The days that followed were a tedious blur averaging 2.5kn against the elements, tacking in and out, barely gaining ground. Tacking is a sailing term where, because you can’t sail directly into the wind, you have to sail across the wind one way, then put your sails out the other side of the yacht, turn, and sail back across it the other way in a zig-zag formation. It’s kind of like when you can’t swim directly against a current, so you swim across it instead. At one point, in the middle of the night of Day 10, our tack back towards land was almost directly in line with the route we had just taken – 8 hours of sailing would see us gain on our destination by only a few nautical miles when normally we would cover that in half an hour! The silver lining, though, was that for the first time I felt like the steps involved in tacking were coming effortlessly for me – Jason and I developed a rhythm and I could do it without much thought, where before it seemed like a complex mess!
By Day 11, almost three days later, we had rounded the corner and a sense of accomplishment swept over us. With a nice 20kn south-easterly breeze we were feeling good and decided to skip Eden and head for Ulladulla.
As night closed in though so too did some ominous looking storm clouds. The crew had not long retired for the night when I woke them. Bright streaks of lightning stretched from sky to ocean directly ahead and, as I checked the radar, it seemed as though we were surrounded by storms. There was no time to be heroes out here so we quickly decided to pull in the mainsail and reef the genoa, meaning we would have more control of Kuna in a strong wind – a much safer option.
With the boat swaying violently back and forth in the swell Jason and I climbed up on deck to pull down the mainsail as Nicola held us into the wind and lightning lit up the ocean around us. Rain pattered against our wet weather gear and the sails flapped in the wind with giant walloping sounds. That moment was one of the best highs of the trip for me so far – such a rush.
On Day 12, still enjoying steady South-easterlies and a large following swell generated by the surrounding storms we were averaging a cool 7kts and once again made the decision to skip Uladulla and head past Sydney for Newcastle. We finally stopped at sunset, 400nm miles later without an engine and 8 days since last feeling firm ground in Apollo Bay. A tumultuous leg of the journey from Adelaide to Brisbane, but one full of great lessons. Now it was time for me to learn all about oil leaks, but not before a long hot shower!
Nicola wrote a poem that represents life on the lean well after our days spent on an angle, she’s also blogging about our journey and is a far better writer than I so head over and check it out here!
Life on the lean is far from clean.
While the views are pristine
The conditions are undoubtedly mean.
Cooking becomes a sport
And showering you want to thwart.
Forget trying to sleep
And cleaning, well, that’s all just a bit steep.
Life on the lean
Can feel far from a dream.
But it’s part of life on the water,
Something I’ve come to love, despite it sometimes causing torture.
So hold on for your life
And enjoy the sea.
We’re a long way from land
But there’s no place I’d rather be.