05:20, we arose to tranquil waters, a 15 knot breeze and the chill air of winter brushing our rosy warm cheeks. After long months of final preparation, that long awaited day had arrived: Cocos, here we come!!!!!
Last minute chores completed, many of our Carnarvon friends visited for a last minute natter: there was no saying how long it would be until our return.
With the assistance and Brian and Hutchi, the mooring lines were released, enabling me to power Gratis out of her pen. Directing her bow westward, we motored into the Fascine as our friends all the while wished us ‘Bon Voyage’: 10:00, we were on our way.
How different to last year: no worry about grounding this time. Half an later, the channel was exited, the course set and twins raised.
Cruising bunks laid with cooling sheets, Enya played softly in the background as we settled in for the long haul: oomy tummies – too long spent upon the shore!!!
Radiant sunlit skies, twins and motor – Bob wanted to clear the Leeuwin Current as rapidly as possible – propelling Gratis along, the chop steadily calmed as the seabed sloped to 24 metres.
Point Quobba and the blowholes farewelled, their fiery crimson cliffs illuminated in the distance by the late afternoon light, our girl powered into the wide expanse of the Indian Ocean. With 1200 nautical miles to go, what could possibly go wrong!
By seventeen hundred, 20nm from the mainland, the first ships appeared on the radar alarm zone: nothing to be concerned about, it just meant that extra vigilance was required.
23:00, deep in slumber, my body received a massive shock as Bob shook me awake.
‘The bridle holding the twins’ poles has dropped. We need to bring them in.’
Surprisingly, I had heard nothing.
Heart pumping rapidly, as it always does when awoken in this sudden way, I groggily pulled on warm clothes and followed Bob into the cool night air.
Much to Bob’s surprise, still attached to the rope bridle – which in turn was connected to a halyard used for hoisting and holding the wisker poles up parallel to the deck – both poles lay upon the deck. (Done in preference to attaching the poles to the mast, this method alleviated the high pressure point created on the forward face of the mast, whilst the elasticity of the ropes simultaneously acted as shock absorbers. This technique also reduced the amount of roll the twins induced upon the boat when sailing dead down wind.)
The halyard block which supported this bridle had managed to rip the stainless steel attachment plate straight off the mast! I don’t know if it was simply work hardened stainless that failed or whether the four 8mm bolts were not enough. In any event, the next attachment point will be a lot stronger!
The port side twin continued to fill with wind, whilst without its support, that on starboard pumped strongly in the gusty conditions.
Pausing, Bob analysed the situation prior to setting about rectifying the problem.
Sheets released, the sails were furled inch by inch: in the circumstances, with the roll loose and flapping in places (the result of uneven tension), it was a long way from perfect but it did the job required without damage to the sail.
Poles finally leashed to the pulpit, the night’s work still wasn’t over.
The smaller spinnaker pole which was lashed to the deck, was released and attached to its connection on the mast. Staysail sheets freed, that on port was attached to the pole. As the smaller sail was winched out, step by step it filled with wind thereby steadying the rolling caused by the two swells operating in counterpoint.
An hour later, the staysail was in place to take us through the remainder of the night. Sleep could now continue.
None of our legs are ever without incident. I have come to the conclusion, it’s the aim of some benign being to ensure we don’t become complacent. Life is far from dull!!!