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PostPosted: May 30th, '10, 15:04 
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Williamstown to Cowes Phillip Island In a Trailer Sailer

Life's been busy this year but I took the time out over January to work on my belief that properly prepared and with a suitable weather window that a trailer sailer can venture safely into Bass Strait.
I realise this will create a howl of criticisms from some, and to some degree I have stopped visiting this forum because of this, but I believe that calm rational consideration of risks and benefits is always the way to approach any adventure. I know this sort of thing is not for everyone and I respect that, but I also hope that people respect that for some testing the boundaries gives life meaning.
In preparation I have searched long and hard for accounts of trailer sailers in Bass Strait. On finding 2 separate accounts of a Norwalk Island Sharpie 23 and a group of Sunbird 25's crossing the strait some of my own observations were reinforced. Smaller boats handle swells differently to larger heavier boats. Whilst heavier boats dig in during heavy conditions smaller boats tend to ride over large swells. This has its pluses and minuses but the point I make is they handle differently. If you doubt this read the account of the Sharpie 23 sailing from Victoria to Hobart that can be found on the web if you look.

I allowed myself a week to sail from Williamstown in Melbourne to Cowes on Phillip Island via Queenscliff and Port Phillip Heads. I had done plenty of preliminary reading and research on tides, navigational dangers, weather forecasts etc. I had also equipped the Southern Cross 23 appropriately including: VHF radio, satellite phone, HF receiver, furling headsail, epirb(and all standard safety gear), harness and several anchor points, strengthened rudder, auto pilot, computer with navigation software and nmea to autopilot, 2 GPS's, Wind, Depth, Speed , a properly reinforced motor bracket and new 15hp motor and a properly engineered over centre stainless lock down arm to lock the swing keel down for any angle of boat. In addition a built in genset and solar panels for power. I had a very experienced blue water sailor check the boat over and his view was it was more than adequate for daylight sailing between anchorages in the strait with careful consideration to the weather.

After putting in at Williamstown late on a Friday I settled in for a pleasant evening on Hobson's bay. I was hoping to beat the cold front in the Bight and sail to Queenscliff the next day but the weather forecast in the morning put that on hold with NW and later SW winds of 35 knots expected. I spent a breezy day in Williamstown looking at boats and maritime history, always an enjoyable distraction. Another night and the forecast predicted 30 knots dropping to 20 by the afternoon.

Wet weather gear on and a 30 knot WSW wind, I set sail towards Avalon hoping for some moderation in wind to cross over to Portarlington. It was hard going with plenty of spray and heel around 30 degrees for most of the trip with the occasional window in the water. The wind hadn't moderated much by the time I got to Avalon around lunchtime and was shifting more SW. I turned for the Bellarine Peninsular in the distance with the wind seeming determined to stay on the nose the whole way. With the seas well over 2 metres it was slow going. At 4pm I still had 4nm to go so I decided to head for a headland to the east of Portarlington for a short break. If you ever sail the area watch out for the fish farm buoys that infest the area, quite an obstacle course.

I got my internet connection going whilst having a quick bite to eat to look at the weather maps. The current system was expected to move on quickly followed by 2 days of good weather before a really strong front would come through. The wind had strengthened again and had turned nearly due south. I decided that being at Queenscliff would be the preferred option to use the weather to get out the heads the next day. The last 10 nm was straight into a 30 knot wind so I set a course on the laptop, set up the autopilot, locked everything down, rugged up and got the motor going. Having installed a Perspex window in the swash board I could keep an eye on the navigation on the laptop and just enjoy the very wet and bumpy ride around to Queenscliff Harbour. The seas pounded the boat which groaned a bit but took it all in her stride. I was glad for the 15 hp motor which maintained a good 5 to 6 knots despite the heavy conditions. It was nearly 7pm by the time I had settled into the sanctuary of Queenscliff boat harbour after tying of to one of the 2 public moorings.

After dinner I checked the weather forecast which suggested 5 to 10 knots for the morning increasing to 20 knots in the afternoon and locally 25 knots. With slack water flood at 9.30am I planned to be crossing the rip at around 9 am through the main channel to the east to take advantage of the end of the ebb. Morning came and with light winds so I locked down the boat, set the navigation, consulted the charts for the visual navigation leads and motored out the heads. The water was glassy but an eerily large swell 2 to 3 metres was coming off the rip bank. Once well round Point Nepean I hoisted the main, unfurled the genoa and set sail for Cape Schanck. The wind was SSE at 5 to 10 knots and progress was slow at 2 to 4 knots headway. The swell was SW around 2 to 3 metres on the beam, obviously being pushed up from the southern ocean by the very strong system well west and south of the bight.

Still 5nm west of Cape Schanck a few white caps started forming and progress increased to 5 knots which was quite welcome. The wind had an annoying tendency to shift more SE every so often taking my already close haul even closer and more towards the Cape. I finally rounded the Cape with less than 1nm to spare and had to dodge a few cray pot buoys. The white caps continued to increase all the way to West Head and the hang glider hovering over the cliffs indicated a wind approaching 25 knots ahead. The swell that was now following to a degree made skippering the boat somewhat more intense. The log was indicating speeds between 5 and 9 knots as the boat accelerated down the swells.

Setting course for the fairway buoy on the main shipping channel to the west of Phillip Island it became clear that there was a reasonable ebb tide flowing out of Western Port. I hadn't considered this as most advice I was given was that tidal flows in the western entrance were not a significant consideration. Even though the log was indicating 5 + knots the GPS indicated 4 knots or less of headway. As the depth decreased the current began steepening the swells which at times I would estimate were at least half the height of my 9 metre mast... around 5 metres from trough to peak. Needless to say I was concentrating hard as the boat surfed on some swells up to 12 knots at one point. To confuse things further a small SE swell from the beam picked up slowly.

It was an intense hour or so but never at any stage did I feel at risk or that the boat was out of its depth. It rode the swells confidently with little water over the stern. Even with the occasional surf across the swell the boat remained stable, slipping and turning sideways until straight on the swell again. The eddies swirling around the fairway buoy confirmed the strength of the ebbing tide as I sailed down the shipping channel into Western Port Bay.

I was somewhat surprised how far the swells rolled into the western entrance. Middle bank had thundering surf breaking on it which appeared intimidatingly close. I remember reading that in large seas swells could break as far out as the number two buoy. With this in mind I kept well within the channel and its deeper water. A little later I passed an oil tanker heading out for Bass Strait. I had to catch my breath when its bow wave hit a large swell behind me and caused its top to crumble.

Eventually the swells decreased as I rounded the northern shore of Phillip Island. Having left the shipping channel I encountered some small standing waves in around 6 metres of water on one of the points which were crossed with little effort. With calming seas and a lighter wind I sailed into Cowes where I moored at one of the public moorings around 8 hours after leaving Queenscliff. I was tired but well satisfied that my trailer sailer had handled the conditions exactly as I had expected. This is not to say that all boats don't have their limits, it would be foolhardy to suggest otherwise. The trick is to use good judgement to match conditions to the boat, chosen course and the preparedness of the skipper.

I cracked out a beer, looked out over the sparkling waters of Western Port as the sun set and thought life is good. I love this planet and the amazing experiences it offers to those who look for them.


Attachments:
File comment: Mornington Peninsular again behind a large swell
mPeninsularBehindSwell.jpg
mPeninsularBehindSwell.jpg [ 62.62 KiB | Viewed 5971 times ]
File comment: Morninton Peninsular from Bass Strait
morningtonPeninsular.jpg
morningtonPeninsular.jpg [ 55.13 KiB | Viewed 5971 times ]
File comment: Approaching Cape Schanck
capeSchanck1.jpg
capeSchanck1.jpg [ 58.73 KiB | Viewed 5971 times ]
File comment: Queenscliff Harbour
queenscliffHarbour1.jpg
queenscliffHarbour1.jpg [ 60.43 KiB | Viewed 5971 times ]

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Last edited by mdedman on Jul 15th, '10, 21:54, edited 5 times in total.
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PostPosted: May 30th, '10, 15:41 
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Thanks for a good article. As with any undertaking you have to research the subject well, know your equipment & your own limits, consider the risks & then act in a calculated deliberate way.

Well Done!

Regards

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PostPosted: May 30th, '10, 17:19 
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Well done - a great Sunday arvo read.

Also welcome back to TSP. I think you have shown that research and an awareness of what your boat can handle make great companions.

What next - Westernport to Tidal River?

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PostPosted: May 30th, '10, 18:43 
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Cleeland bight(eastern western port entrance) to tidal river, tidal river to refuge cove and refuge cove to Deal Islands are the next logical steps all with extreme care and planning. Ihave talked enough to those with vast experience in these areas to have reasonable confidence that all are possible with due care, respect for the reputation of the area and thorough planning and a realistic approach.

I read something the other day that struck a chord with me. Some can afford a 60' yacht to venture out on the ocean, others work years as melon farmers dreaming of the big yacht and the adventure eventually growing too old by the time they can afford it. Then others take what they can afford, use it wisely and live life before life passes them by.

I suppose I belong the the last group unless I win tattslotto tomorrow! Even then I might still belong to the last group! :)

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Last edited by mdedman on May 31st, '10, 09:05, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: May 30th, '10, 19:42 
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I'm one of those people that goes out of my way to advise people to steer clear of Bass Straight in trailer yachts.

I still appreciate those that do venture out and enjoy reading the account of the trip even more.

Good work and glad all went well.

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Last edited by INMA on May 31st, '10, 17:27, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: May 31st, '10, 11:37 
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Great trip,
nicely done,
beaut article,
more pics ?
thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience

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PostPosted: May 31st, '10, 12:32 
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Nice article,
the swells out in the Western entrance can get very big, and the tide really does push through there. You don't think it would be as bad as it is.
Is your boat the Southern Cross 23 "Halcyon"??

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PostPosted: May 31st, '10, 13:35 
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Quote:
I was somewhat surprised how far the swells rolled into the western entrance. Middle bank had thundering surf breaking on it which appeared intimidatingly close. I remember reading that in large seas swells could break as far out as the number two buoy. With this in mind I kept well within the channel and its deeper water.


Yep, in my youth we had some monster surfing sessions on the reefs around that area. OK, so the good surfers had monster sessions - I just seemed to get monster trashings...:oops:

And because it's all swell from a galaxy far, far away (there ain't nuttin' until Antarctica!) it can come in on otherwise very gentle breeze days!


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PostPosted: May 31st, '10, 18:01 
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Yep, the boat is Halycon and yes I have installed a oversized plough anchor since that trip with double the needed chain with a custom bracket to hold it on the bow. Until that trip the 5kg danforth and 7m of chain had never let me down even in similar conditions to the blow that came through 2 days later.

For those who are confused, the boat was anchored at Rhyll when the blow came through and dragged the danforth whilst I visited a sister at woolami. Some very kind souls rescued the boat and moored it to a mooring.

I hope the slab of beer left as a thankyou at the boatramp boat & tackle shop got to the people who helped. It was indeed very much appreciated.

In hindsight I should have attached my stern anchor in tandem to make sure it didn't drag but the sister was waiting on shore with a crying baby at the time. Hindsights a wonderful thing??

Thankyou again if you were involved in the retrieval.

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PostPosted: May 31st, '10, 19:01 
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mdedman wrote:
I hope the slab of beer left as a thankyou at the boatramp boat & tackle shop got to the people who helped. It was indeed very much appreciated.

:shock: :shock: I can guarantee you that it didn't :evil: I was the guy who jumped aboard, there were 2 other Rhyll YC members with me on the Rescue boat, and neither of them have reported receiving the slab.

mdedman wrote:
Thankyou again if you were involved in the retrieval.

No Problem, I would hope any yachty would do the same if they saw a boat adrift :D

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PostPosted: May 31st, '10, 19:13 
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It was dropped off at the tackle shop with the request to pass it on to those who got the boat back, they assured me they knew who to pass it on to.

Next time I'm up that way(might be a while with work at the moment) I'll let you know and I'll arrange a replacement and take it to the yacht club instead.

Thanks again and yes I would have done the same.

cheers :)

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PostPosted: Jun 3rd, '10, 14:11 
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Hi Mark,
Just noticed this and finished reading it. Need to consult a map to get an appreciation of distanced etc. Good preparation and systems and a real gutsy effort imo. Thanks for taking the time to write it up.
Agree with your philosophy in maximising the use of a great asset and doing the things you want to do before time catches up.

Remembering a nice chance meeting on the road to Cooktown:
http://picasaweb.google.com.au/bowerbob ... 8588225890
-Bob

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PostPosted: Jun 4th, '10, 21:14 
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Thanks Bob,

You would know better than most about making the most of your TS, they are remarkably versitile and robust boats when used with care.
And as I've said before you have been an inspiration to many of us so thankyou again for that.

Thinking of our chance meeting up near Cooktown makes me long for another adventure up north again, might manage 2 weeks in the Whitsundays in spring if I'm lucky tide me over on that score :) .

Cheers
Mark

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PostPosted: Oct 22nd, '11, 22:37 
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Fantastic report
I am hoping to do the same trip but in reverse from Hastings to Port Philip bay
I have a Binks 25 that I have sailed for nearly 4years now. As all of my sailing is in Westernport I have now gotten used to the water conditions.
Would love to talk to you further about your trip
My main dream is to make a cruise from Westernport to Hobart via the prom and then island hop.


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PostPosted: Oct 28th, '11, 21:29 
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Always glad to talk sailing, email if you like. I'm currently planning a 12 month trip sailing through some of the areas you mention and many others. I'll be posting to tsp once well under way. The tassie trip is definitley doable with patience, sufficent time and a good working knowledge of sea conditions under different tide, swell and wind combinations.

Cheers
Mark

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PostPosted: Nov 3rd, '11, 00:56 
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Hi Mark,
I have many charts and cruising guides you are welcome to borrow or I might be able to copy sections to reduce weight.
In 12 months are you combining trailing and sailing?
Email is best bobbower@hotmail.com
-Bob

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PostPosted: Nov 4th, '11, 17:14 
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G'day Bob,

I'm planning to leave the trailer back in Victoria and see how far I can get heading up the east coast first. Thanks for the offer on the charts, I have most paper charts from Cooktown around to Broome and electronic charts for all of the Australian Coast. Might be able to say G'day on the way up the coast. I have created a website to post pics, videos and diary entries on at www.halcyon2012.net. It is officially still under construction but I have already made some good contacts through the site.

Cheers
Mark :D

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PostPosted: Nov 14th, '11, 12:21 
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Goodo Mark.
You would be most welcome to say G'day on your way north.
Will answer any queries by email/Skype.
-Bob

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