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The original plan was for the Return Raid fleet to leave Hobart from Watermans Dock on Monday afternoon, however, the current forecast is for strong westerly winds from midday Sunday, easing late on Monday afternoon. We will have a better idea of how the weather system is moving at 11 am on Monday. If the winds are unlikely to ease in time for a safe crossing during daylight we will look at alternatives including the possibility of busing people to a camp site for Monday night.
As always we will be watching the weather and will make a decision accordingly. Some people on the Raid have limited email access at the moment – if you are speaking to someone doing the Return Raid please check with them whether they’ve received this email and if not, let them know about the bag drop at 11 am and the possibility of a bus shuffle if the strong winds don’t ease in time.
The camp support staff had the best view of the Simpson’s Point camp, motoring in and out over the ridge: it was spectacular. In the morning after a 7.30 breakfast the now established routine of washing up and packing up the vehicles was easily accomplished with the assistance of everybody in camp. The analogy of ants moving a grasshopper was mentioned. Ros headed out to replenish stores, chef and cooking assistants went off to preprepare meals for the day, the support group went looking for fuel and gas, whilst the setup group found their way to the new camp with a truckload of luggage, camp equipment, mobile toilets and water supplies. The tea, coffee and office marquee was set up first, followed by the kitchen marquee. After the arrival of the sailing and rowing contingent we collectively erected the main marquee. Sitting in camp at Quarantine Bay in the shade under the cyprus trees after the afternoon’s work was done we watched the fleet come in with the sun on their sails: it was brilliant.
Seastar had been tucked away in Egg and Bacon Bay for the night, a millpond in south westerly weather, very close to Randall’s, most importantly within walking distance for dinner. In the morning we motored around for breakfast in 20 minutes. Got away before the rest of the fleet, giving us a brief feeling of superiority before we were passed by the Bay Raiders and the Core Sounds. It was a day of fair winds blowing us along at about five knots, despite leaving two reefs in. We passed Huon Island and then Arch Rock, covered in nesting gulls and resting cormorants, turned the corner at Gordon into the D’entrecasteaux Channel proper and headed directly for Simpson’s Point. We coasted down the far side of the point to our destination, a tiny, sheltered, tree lined cove. It was at the foot of spectacular paddocks of long yellow grass with a lone wallaby bounding off through it. Little mushroom tents were being set up along the ridge lines, or wherever a piece of level ground could be found. The marquees were erected and all of a sudden there was a tent village. The red wine supplies had been replenished, so we could all relax. The sun was out and views were wonderful, as was the meal served up to the multitudes that evening.
As with the day before, a bit of everything. A nice breeze out of harbour, then nothing at all around the corner and wallowing around. A stiff wind came down the river, induced us to put in a couple of reefs, and then lots of tacking backwards and forwards to get past the fish farms. After that a straight run into Randall’s Bay. Got the tent up in the Thomas’s beautiful sheep paddock, and then it bucketed with rain. Drama: we had run out of red wine, but to balance that we had a warming curry for dinner.
The most dramatic day was when the fleet was hit by a squall off Southport. The Montagu Whaler capsized in the middle of reefing drills off Southport Jetty - the main sheet jammed at an inopportune moment. People were taken off by driving the inflatable just over the gunwhales to make it easy for them to get in, leaving only the skipper aboard. The anchor had been deployed, but was tangled in other lines, and took some time to retrieve. Eventually ‘the Monty’ was slowly towed into harbour, still full of water. In the meantime Imagine had been caught on a surf beach, and another rescue boat, Flat Calm, had got into difficulties trying to assist them. It needed needed to be towed clear of the breaking waves.
A very quiet seaward passage out of Southport. Dolphins and albatross along the way. The wind came up, straight out of Dover harbour. Swiftsure decided she did NOT want to go home, and we engaged in a series of tacks backwards and forwards across the entrance, very slowly making our way in. The destination was in sight but the wind was dropping and in the end we reluctantly accepted a tow into the beach. Esperance Yacht Club were great hosts, the providers of a very welcome shower, and the venue for wine and song that evening. Thanks to Matt and Gill for organising. We are learning about Swiftsure as we go.
(Allecat is a 20 foot Core Sound open sail boat)
We arrived in Franklin from Lennox Head in northern NSW after a 3 day drive to go straight to the LBT dinner. Caught up with a lot of people we had met before, helped around the shed and generally just settled in. Judy and I came along with Alex, our 24 year old daughter who did the TN 13.
The trip to Cockle Creek was fun in the rickety old bus made better by the Scallop pies on the way. The road has not improved I can report. Cockle Creek was funny as we all arrived and descended on the most southerly national park in Australia only to find a few people in the spot we had planned to camp. One bloke was fine but the other was less than happy and started to harangue the ranger. But all was good. You could see his point, he had driven miles for some serenity as they say in The Castle movie.
On the first day on the water the wind was a bit strong but we entertained ourselves trying out our new smaller storm jib sailing around in the bay and walking down to the point. Checked out the ruins of the pilot station and then prepared the boat for the trip to Southport, which turned out to be a challenge.
The next day the trip started out quiet and calm, about 12 knots from the southwest and the fleet was just choofing along to use a nautical term.
However down at the corner before the entrance to the Southport lagoon the whole fleet was becalmed. A glassy calm descended on the sea. Spooky. So we eventually started to row as our main competition, Hop the Wag, sailed by: Martin and Deb had drawn level. We rowed for about 25 minutes out to the wind line we could see. Feeling pretty smug we headed up channel in the lead with the full main up. It then went quiet again and before things started to happen. A gentle breeze came out of the west and we pressed on. This gentle breeze soon became a much different beast. Down to the 2nd reef and all crew on the rail. We were flying and our prey were down to leeward. Victory was in our grasp.
We soon got up to the gap between the island to the south east of the harbour (Southport Island?) and we could see some skiffs ahead and a reef lurking. We decided to go to windward of the reef and we also commented that there could be some gusts around the trees/headland. How little did we know. Michael Tooth in Thowra came through the gap shortly after us and his wind indicator read 35 knots in the gusts. Chaos. We were so busy with the rig that we had overlooked the reef. Judy to her credit made mention of the large amount of kelp and good haul out spots for seals which were just in front and slightly to leeward. Panic stations were declared, we let the jib go to give the bow a chance to point up in the gusts and we snuck to windward of the reef. This is where the sailing really finished for us, and capsize prevention began.
The captain declared an emergency and called all hands to shorten sail further so we put the “Jesus Reef” in ie the fourth reef in the main and wound up ⅔ of the jib and all said a prayer.
From here we tacked up into the bay for about 40 minutes until we all decided we were not having fun so started the motor, headed up to the lee of some cliffs and served large tots of Morris Liqueur Muscat and some chocolate to all hands. At this point Martin and Deb in Hop the Wag calmly sailed past us to victory having not resorted to their engine. Shame was heavy on our shoulders. We then motored up to the anchorage feeling better only to hear that some of the fleet had been swamped.
Luckily for us Jetty House had some rooms available. So we decided to stimulate the local economy and not camp. We agreed we were to make an economy later in the year to cover the extravagance. We then helped bail out Monty and felt a real pang of sympathy for the other people who had been in the water. It could have been us.
To be continued.
Rob, Judy and Alex Blackburn.