|soaring the big swell|
Into The Southern Ocean
3rd 4th 5th November 2013
|and more whales|
During the last decades the Southern Ocean was once a busy highway for whaling ships, tea clippers and even round the world racers and non-stop record breakers. It was known that crews struggle to douse sails on wave swept decks, of monster icebergs that towered over huge heaving seas with massive white foaming water curling at the heels of these crazy Southern Ocean surfing boats. This wild and windswept place at the bottom of the world seemed to be no great place for a cruising boat.
"The Southern Ocean owes its richly deserved reputation as the world’s roughest area to one simple accident of geography. It is the only stretch of water which completely circles the globe... Since there are no land barriers to check its progress, (the prevailing) westerly wind blows uninterrupted around the world...and in doing so builds up a very large westerly sea and swell. This is why the region between 40-50º south is called the roaring forties, and between 50-60º south the screaming fifties." - Robin Knox-Johnston - "Beyond Jules Verne"
|sunrise in Bunbury|
Ok, MrJ and I would not be hitting the 40º south till we had reached Tasmania but the sense of adventure; the feeling of danger and the thrill of the ride was still thrown our way. We left Fremantle for an overnight stop at Garden Island; we anchored on the NE side of the island and had to have a couple of goes at getting the anchor to set in the sea grass and then caught good winds out the next morning and sailed for most of the day until the afternoon sea breeze blew straight on the nose. This was when we kicked an engine into play. Our second night out was spent anchored off the small town of Bunbury in WA where with the assistance of the friendly operator on the ACRM (Australian Coastal Radio Monitoring) who had organized for a matey to help with our fuelling supplying, we were able to get fuel and a good night’s sleep before tackling the corner (around Cape Leeuwin) into the Southern Ocean. Banyandah, the other yacht that we had been travelling with had decided to keep going without the stops; they also left Freemantle a day later than us.
|passing another container ship|
For ALANA ROSE the winds were on the nose again and again we were motor sailing to get round Cape Naturalist and on into the first night. Into dark freezing cold conditions with no bloody heater; the wetness and cold were numbing. A few hours later the wind changed to more westerly, sending us off sailing at up to 9 knots. I was on watch when we rounded Cape Leeuwin.
|Cow & Calf Rocks near Point D'Entrecasteaux|
Cape Leeuwin is one of the great capes of the world. It is the most south westerly point of Australia and is where the Indian and Southern oceans meet. In the middle of the night (0200h), with sloppy seas, I took the cape and it’s many off shore, extremely hazardous rocks and tiny islands with a wide birth instead of cutting through which can be done in the right condition during good daylight. Now with the wind behind I had to furl the headsail as it was shadowed by the mainsail and then there was a cargo ship drifting right off the cape to give me some grievance. These big ships drift while waiting to get called into a port somewhere along their route rather than anchor off the port.
It was the furious dependable westerly winds that lured the Tall Ships laden with commercial goods in the great age of sail and they would also draw modern sailors who seek to harness the wind’s power to win races and set speed records. I just need to get round the corner!
By now it was spring time heading into summer back on the mainland terra firma. For me out on the ocean with the sea water and temperature plummeting to what seemed like just this side of freezing, covered from head to toe in layers of clothing and foul-weather gear with just a slit in the headgear for my eyes to peer out from. My eyes stung and continually watered, going out in sympathy with my nose, from the freezing cold. With all this wet and cold came the slipperiness; there was no need for MrJ to remind me about clipping on my harness, the harness became a part of the costume.
The next day the sea and wind continued to build; we had near gale wind speeds which kept AR moving along quite well. Banyandah had sort refuge behind East Point in a calm anchorage and we followed suit.
|ruins of the old light-keeps cottage at Albany|
The following morning we were away at 0300h making good speed with the westerly trade winds playing lightly with the seas. That was not to last! About 15n/m out of Albany we could see that the weather was building in the west; packing a nasty sky of storm clouds that was to chase and catch us. Through our net/wi-fi system I was able to check the BOM weather radar which was showing a fast moving front that caught AR prior to entering King George Sound. It was a complete white out with rain making MrJ abort his entrance for our own safety till the worst of the rain had passed. We dropped both sails then with both engines running we motored into the entrance to Princess Royal against 33knt headwinds doing. It was hard going but we were in!