(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.