Race to The Rip

Friday 11 February 2011

After getting away from Eden last Wednesday (9/2) around 10:00am we made good progress into Bass Strait, with the wind from behind (this time) making a world of difference.  The seas were calm, the wind steady and life aboard was very much on an even keel; literally.

Sail overnight was shortened and although we made good time when the wind was strong, things lightened off in the wee hours of the morning reducing
our average speed to approximately 5.5 knots.  It was then a case of cranking things up a bit to ensure we averaged around 6.5 knots for the next
27 hours to ensure the Port Phillip Heads were reached at the right time.

Unfortunately winds remained variable and at times blew from the south, north, east and western quarters.  This kept us busy throughout Thursday
night as we adjusted sails every few hours.  Sometimes rolling them up, sometimes reefing them down and at other times hoisting almost everything.

In the end we missed Slack Water at The Rip by about four hours, but with wind from the south and the tide still running in, we figured conditions
would be manageable; which they were.

The sail up the bay was then a fast affair, with the city lights making a wonderful welcome as we finally tied up at the Anchorage Marina,
Williamstown around 11:00pm.

After a quick tidy up, sleep came easily.  It was time to relax.  Our goal of delivering Chimere to Melbourne had finally been achieved.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and time to relax.

Rob Latimer

One more sleep at Eden

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Today was a day of catching up on much needed tasks aboard as we remained tied up against the Eden visitor’s wharf.  The list of jobs was slowly ticked off as the day wore on.

Our new best friends, Colin and Hellen came through with the repaired sails and to say we were grateful when they returned this morning with the main and jib duly patched was a real understatement.  In particular, thank you Helen for your late night sewing and hand stitching.

In addition, we arranged for a diesel tanker to come alongside to top up the tanks, Bruce and Bill worked wonders fitting two new bilge pumps and there was even some time to walk up to the shops for some basic groceries.

James cooked up Chicken Korma for dinner, which was much appreciated and quite a departure from the “Iron Can Chef” preparations of the past few days.  That said, when it’s cold, windy and the high seas are making things uncomfortable, there’s nothing quite so satisfying as a can of heated SPC spaghetti on toast, washed down with a can of Sprite lemonade.

The weather, which caused us to return to Eden, also brought another couple of yachts back here for shelter and we briefly compared stories.

Speaking of the weather, the forecast for the next few days is looking good … very good … so the plan is to get away from here in the morning and make tracks to Port Phillip Heads.  We intend to reach The Rip at “slack water” on Friday afternoon, around 2:40pm.  It sounds a fairly precise time, but it coincides with the changing of the tide and is usually the quietest time to enter.  We’ll keep you posted.

With a big day ahead it’s now time to go to sleep.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and one more sleep in Eden

Rob Latimer

Eden Stopover

Monday 7 February 2011

Our voyage south to Melbourne started well.  We left Sydney Harbour under sunny skies before a northerly wind. The southerly current was also heading our way with our speed topping 9 and 10 knots for much of the first day.

As we approached Eden, near the Victorian border, we were aware of an approaching SW change accompanied by strong winds, rain and rising seas.  Our choice was to either stop at Eden and sit it out, or make it as far south as possible and then use the wind change to speed us along in a westerly direction, maybe stopping to rest at Refuge Cove at Wilson’s Prom.

In the end we pressed on, observing the lights of Eden off our starboard beam on our way south all the while keeping a good eye out for ships and other vessels.

By Sunday morning, as we worked our way past Gabo Island and south into Bass Strait things began to take a turn for the worst.  Despite our best intentions, our speed had dropped off and we hadn’t made it as far south as planned.  This left us facing an ever-deteriorating situation as we punched on.  As predicted, the wind did indeed get stronger and with it came the rising seas.  Not such a problem when it’s going your way, but this weather was very much on the nose.

We reefed the sails, lashed and stowed everything down, but still it was an uncomfortable ride with horizontal rain and constant sea spray causing us to re-assess our plans; particularly given we faced the prospect of another two days of it.

Then around 9:30 on Sunday morning we made the decision to turn around and head back to Eden; retracing around 90 miles already travelled.

Now running with the wind and seas, the motion of the boat was instantly restored to a calm, steady state.  Speed was pretty good too, but it was still 2:15am on Monday morning before we finally got bed after dropping anchor in the still waters of Twofold Bay, Eden.

The correctness of our decision to return to Eden was reinforced when, in the course of re-setting the sails for the run back up the coast, (with the wind at times gusting 40-50 knots) we discovered that about a metre of stitching in the mainsail – high up near the top of the mast – had come apart and was close to ripping.  In addition, the eyelet in the corner of the jib was held by just the barest of threads and a few flaps away from breaking free of the sheets.   So with the mainsail and jib out of action, it was left to the small staysail to do the work back to Eden, which it did famously.  (The winds were so strong I’m sure a t-towel would have been enough to move us along nicely.)

After a good sleep we awoke this morning to magic sunshine in a snug, still harbour behind the Eden woodchip-mill.  Our big task for the day was to find someone to repair the sails.  This we finally did, (the result of many, many phone calls), and after moving across to the main Eden wharf we were met by local folk Colin and his wife Helena, who own an industrial sewing machine and as the sails were loaded onto the back of their ute they promised to do the best they could and return then tomorrow.

Right now, we are still tied up at the public wharf here in Eden and hope to re-start our journey to Melbourne sometime in the afternoon tomorrow.  The weather forecast is looking good and so if all goes to plan we should arrive in Williamstown on Saturday.

Stay tuned for further details; you’re most welcome to join us aboard for a cuppa when we arrive.

Smooth seas, fair breeze and  resting in Eden.

Chimere Heads South

Wed 2 Feb 2011

“Hi Andrew, I think we are ready. We’ll head off in the morning” said Rob over the phone at the end of the day. Rob and his tireless crew, James, Bill and Bruce with help from Laughlin had moved mountains to get the boat ready in 3 days. Skipper Bob Brenac also came down to the boat to lend a hand and he serviced the winches and got the autopilot going.

The weather was hot. Very hot and very humid. The temperature hovered between 35 and 42C. Laughlin, who said he feels the heat, spent much of the time underwater cleaning the hull and propeller. Personally I didn’t think they would get it all done in time. I had been pre-occupied for some time with family matters; namely the birth of our eldest daughter’s first child and our second daughter’s wedding which was held at home so was of limited help to Rob and his crew. With the help of our friend Dustin, we did get the engine serviced, the bilge cleaned out and a new anchor winch motor organized prior to the sailing crew arriving.

Chimere has been based in Sydney for some time and it has been a good departure point for heading off to Vanuatu. However, with a lot of work to be done on the boat and the prospect of a lay year in 2011, Rob was keen to move the boat to Melbourne so it was closer to the MSM support team. It would also mean that many of the team would be able to sail on Chimere. All going well we hope to see Chimere back in Sydney in 2012, prior to heading off to Vanuatu again.

So with that phone call, Nila and I hopped into the car and drove from the Central Coast to Middle Harbour where Chimere is moored. Chimere was moved to the work dock on Monday and she remained there till departure on Thursday morning. This was a fantastic help and sped up the preparations no end. We squeezed everyone into one car and set off to find a restaurant for a farewell dinner. After a large Thai banquet we dropped the crew back to the boat and took Laughlin and the borrow car back to the Central Coast.
Thur 3 Feb 2011
Around Midday on Thursday Rob rang to say that they had left Middle Harbour, passed through the Spit Bridge and sailed up the harbor for sightseeing before circling under the famous harbor bridge and heading out to sea. The wind on departure was NE with a southerly coming in later to make for an unsettled night.

Fri 4 Feb 2011
By 1pm on Friday they were bowling along at over 9kts (Chimere’s top speed – see photos) with a NW re-established. They were well S of Jervis Bay running a little ahead of schedule. They hope to reach Eden early tomorrow morning for a break and to re-assess the forecast for the Victorian leg of the trip.
Rob rang again at 4pm and at that point they were tossing up whether carry on and not stop at Eden. They had made very good progress and would arrive at Eden during the night and with a fair wind it was tempting to keep sailing. They were going to make their decision just before dusk. After Eden, the next rest point would be Wilson’s Prom/Port Welshpool.
During the afternoon a squall had passed over them with violent winds and torrential rain. It didn’t last long leaving them wondering if this was the start of something bigger or an apparition. After a while the Northerly set in again and once more Chimere was making good time at about 7.5kt.
Andrew Latimer
Smooth seas, fair breeze and bye bye Sydney