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In a previous message on Trailer Sailer Place 'Moreton Bay Trip' I related that I was about to leave for a five day trip around Moreton Bay and that if there was anything worthwhile reporting then I would do so. The trip did not go as well as planned however there were many lessons learned and for that reason I thought I should give an account.

The trip got off to a bad start with a late night departure on Sunday 26 March 06 and the usual tiring drive to Horizon Shores Marina. Rigging, loading and launching took longer than usual but eventually I sailed out late morning on the Monday. I was able to stick to my planned itinerary which was Monday ~ sail to Horseshoe Bay/Peel Island, Tuesday ~ sail to Tangalooma, Wednesday ~ sail to Flinders Reef thence to Bribie Island, Thursday ~ sail to Horseshoe Bay and Friday ~ sail home to Horizon Shores.

Monday ~ Horizon Shores to Horseshoe Bay/Peel Island

Distance: 18nm. Forecast: SE ~ NE winds, 10 ~ 15 kn, 1.2m swell amended to 0.7m. Isolated showers.

Horseshoe Bay is roughly 18nm north of Horizon Shores. I had hoped that it would be the typical SE winds in the morning for the Main Channel transit followed by afternoon NE winds which, because of Banana Banks & Pelican Banks would require some tacking/beating in the second half of that leg on Moreton Bay.

In fact the wind was on the nose all the way to Horseshoe Bay so I motored all the way. There were no 10 ~ 15 winds, no SE winds, practically no swell and no isolated showers. Winds were around 5kn and N. I overnighted at Horseshoe Bay, fell asleep at 1900 hrs and got going around 0800 hrs the next morning.

Tuesday ~ Horseshoe Bay to Tangalooma via Douglas Light and Atkinson Reef

Distance: 24nm. Forecast: SE ~ NE winds amended to SW early morn, 10 ~ 15 kn, 1.2m swell. Logged on with VKQ447 Manly.

Tangalooma is roughly 24 nm north of Horseshoe Bay when transited around the western and northern sides of the island. Again I had hoped for morning SE winds and I could put up with the forecast probable pm NE winds.

Again the winds were on the nose at N at about 5 kn with little swell. Again I motored most of the way, occasionally motor-sailing, arriving at Tangalooma around 1700 hrs, ate and slept. Left around 0700 hrs the next morning.

Wednesday ~ Tangalooma via Flinders Reef to Bribie Island

Distance: 36nm. Forecast: SE ~ NE winds amended to SW early morn, 10 ~ 15 kn, 1.2m swell. Logged on with Marine Rescue Bribie.

Tangalooma to Bribie Island via Flinders Reef is approx 36 nm. Flinders Reef is approx 8nm ocean sailing from Moreton Bay. The exit from Moreton Bay is through any one of several unmarked channels. Again I had hoped for the predicted winds; the SE/SW 10 ~ 15 kn to take me to Flinders Reef followed by the NE 10 ~ 15 kn to take me to Bribie Island.

The winds were on the nose to Flinders Reef at about 5kn so I motored all the way. Ocean swelI was 1 ~ 1.5m. I didn't hang around for long at Flinders Reef and turned around bound for Bulwer Wrecks just inside Moreton Bay. The 1~2kn ground speed under 5kn winds with a later ebb tide meant that I again had to start the engine if I was to get to Bribie by nightfall. The ebb tide revealed much breaking water around the entrances to Moreton Bay ~ North East Channel, Outer Freeman Channel, Inner Freeman Channel and Kianga Channel, none of which are marked. Breaking waves irregularly reared up at unexpected places. There was potential for mishap so after much thought I opted for a potentially risky solution. Enter via Kianga Channel, where there was by far the least breaking water, but just off the surf breaking lee shore. If something went wrong, such as engine failure, I could have problems but unlike the other channels I had some visual shoreline reference to estimate channel position. It worked. Thanks to this and the depth sounder I was able to keep within the safe waters of the channel.

From Bulwer Wrecks I sailed west across the top end of the bay to Gilligans Island. One old chart (of the three for the area) indicated an ebb tide current flow of 2.5kn ~ 3.5 kn south of Skirmish Point where Lt Matthew Flinders had an altercation with some local chaps in 1799. Figuring that the 8hp, 4 stroke Honda, which delivers a maximum hull speed of 7kn, could handle the current I pushed on. When I entered that area the situation was unexpected. A strong tidal flow coupled with a confused sea resulted in waves bashing over the ship's beam into the cockpit. Whilst back in the bay in 5kn winds I had not fitted the companionway storm boards. Whilst I was thinking about that I looked aft to see the dinghy being swamped.

I changed direction by 90° to get out and outrun the seas and noted that somehow the seas were increasing in area. At this point the dinghy was about to be swamped so, having few options left, I decided to tough it out for the sake of the dinghy, turned 180° and ploughed head on back into the confusion. That proved to be the right decision in the short term but I did not know where I was in relation to Gilligans Island. I knew it was mighty close and due to different drying details between the three charts did not know whether dry land was always exposed or not.

Suddenly I saw breaking water, concluded it was Gilligans Island, quickly checked the chart whilst hanging on to the bucking pushpit and saw a stick which seemed to be right in the middle of the island. Locals often place a stick or post on reefs/bars which are not otherwise identified by the maritime authorities. But the chart indicated a port beacon roughly behind it. What was it, a stick or the beacon? I lashed the tiller, switched my harness tether point and ducked below to radio the local volunteer organisation (VO). (VOs, my abbreviation, consist of VMRs, Coastguard and boating organisations). I told them I was in a confused sea near Skirmish Point. When asked if there was a local stick on Gilligans Island they would only tell me to examine my chart. Of course local sticks are not recorded on charts.

I finally got through that mess, radioed the VO asking them to take me off their log, told them I was running low on fuel and asked them if there were any servo's on the Pumicestone Passage beachfront. They advised that there were none. Motored up and down the long beachfront, found a suitable anchorage, anchored, bailed out the dinghy and motored ashore to the ablution block. A gentleman on the beach greeted me, 'Hello AWOL'. He was the VO radio operator/duty officer who would not give me the advice I had sought at Gilligan's Island. He apologised for his lack of advice giving the usual public liability litigation explanation. He told me that I had just sailed through what the locals call the 'Washing Machine'. Unlike me, locals motor south of Gilligans Island. I gained the impression that no one goes through the 'Washing Machine'.

He was a pleasant chap and I felt sorry for this volunteer who was bound by the current bureaucratic policies designed to protect VOs at the expence of mariners. He had followed me up and down the beachfront until I anchored to explain the problem. He then drove me several km into the town centre so that I could fill up fuel containers. A decent bloke.

Skipped dinner and fell into the bunk for about ten hours.

Thursday ~ Bribie Island to Peel Island/Horseshoe Bay via St Helena Island

Distance: 30nm. Forecast: E ~ NE winds, 10 ~ 15 kn, 0.7m swell. Logged on with VKQ447 Manly.

Thursday morning I collected a sack of sea weed off the beach for my wife's orchid cultivation and left it in the dinghy. It was quite heavy, a significant point later on. A cup of coffee, bowl of Weeties and I was underway.

Bribie Island to a way-point between Mud Island and St Helena Island is a distance of 17nm. Horseshoe Bay is a further 13nm. Winds were non-existent so I motored all the way. I do not rely on the GPS but use it as an adjunct to manual coastal navigation. I calculated an ETA to a point between Mud Is and St Helena Is as 1320 hrs. I was pleased that the GPS agreed with that arrival time through most of the journey. Finally I arrived at 1320 hrs. I was quite satisfied with myself. It would have been a different matter if I was sailing. Motoring in a straightline at a constant speed is hardly a navigation challenge.

One particular hazard between Bribie Island and St Helena Island is shipping. There are several shipping lanes and as ships enter, exit or move around Moreton Bay it can be difficult to tell which lane they are in. It is also difficult to determine from the scattered lateral marks where the lanes are actually located. Add to that the fact that these ships approach quickly and silently and have no room to manoeuvre then the situation is potentially dangerous. On the Thursday six ships approached me from behind whilst in the vicinity of the lanes. The same applies to the various ferries which criss-cross the bay.

The remainder of the trip from St Helena Island to Horseshoe Bay was uneventful; one short burst of sailing then back to motoring. I arrived at Horseshoe Bay, the wind sprung up from the east so I decided to anchor under of the lee of the Bluff. 'Beacon to Beacon' warns of rocks and a bino recon seemed to indicate rocks right up to the beach. I decided to check it out in the dinghy. The dark areas were not rocks ~ rather it was more seaweed. A second bag was filled with the expectation of future leave passes being issued and I retired after a decent meal.

Prior to hitting the bunk I asked the local VO for the repeater channel for VMR Jacobs Well, the VO for my next leg. They advised channels 88 and 91. This sounded odd. Channel 88 sounded wrong and there is no channel 91 on VHF. Following a hunch I tried channel 82 and immediately got VMR Jacobs Well "5x5". They advised that 88 and 91 are 27 meg channels so I politely relayed this info to the local VO with the request that they update their records. They un-enthusiastically accepted my request.

Friday ~ Peel Island to Horizon Shores

Distance: 18nm. Forecast: NE ~ NW winds, 10 ~ 15 kn, increasing to 15 ~ 20 kn. Late SW change with rain and storms. Logged on with VMR Jacobs Well, logged off with the local VO.

With two heavy sacks of sodden seaweed loaded in the dinghy I weighed anchor and got under way. So much for the northerly winds but there was a SW breeze so a sail was possible and desirable as fuel would get lower than I liked. It did entail a change in plan from a sail across the bay to Potts Point thence down the Main Channel to a sail down the east side of the bay past Blakesley's Anchorage to Canaipa Passage. This change to plan was fortunate.

Late morning the wind started to increase. Good! Dark clouds rolled in but no line squalls. No particular signs of unusual turbulence. This was the expected 15 ~ 20 kn prediction, wasn't it? Forecasts being wrong every day to date and zero sailing having being done I was pleased that at last the gurus had got it right. I furled the genoa in preparation to hoist the jib. Decided not to reef the main for the time being when a bolt of lightning struck close to AWOL. I felt a flash / burn sensation on the left side of my face and an interior awareness that grief was at hand. I immediately thought of the metal mast and related issues but drove those thoughts out of my mind. Rain started so I ducked down below, grabbed a wet weather jacket and had just got it on when all hell broke loose.

We were hit by a sudden and violent storm out of the blue. Based on a previous and relatively recent experience where AWOL was capsized six times in a violent electrical storm, I figured that the winds were around 50 ~ 60 kn. The seas immediately rose up and then the wind started cutting off the tops of the waves. I was appalled to see the sideways driving rain change its aspect to almost horizontal. My glasses became opaque and useless so I threw them aside and immediately suffered about a 30% loss of visibility. Not that it mattered, everything was out of control and if I thought I could give any worthwhile input I was deluding myself.

The mainsail was causing major problems. AWOL was slewing side to side totally out of control and at any moment would capsize. I can't recall whether I replaced the storm boards after donning the jacket. I was secured by harness and would not unclip for love or money. At one stage, (I think whilst trying to attach the topping lift), I was thrown across the cockpit and was prevented from going overboard by the tether. Remarkably, I had a fleeting and perverse thought at that moment about the merits of life jackets versus harnesses. (Probably a sign of some sort of dogged phobia). I recalled that my lifejackets were located in a forrard locker and, that under those conditions, could not be reached. I recall grimly smiling or grimacing (or something like that) not caring about the lifejackets and being so grateful that I was wearing a harness. The sea state was horrendous and I knew that a life jacket would not prevent drowning. Foam pumped AWOL would not sink. AWOL was my life jacket as long as I could stay on board.

Fortunately I routinely lash the fuel tank to the motor lifting handle outside the engine well on the cockpit floor. If I had not then the tank would have ripped itself free and would have gone overboard. I started the motor and thankfully it started on the first pull. I gave it full throttle, turned the ships rudder and sickenly realised that motor and rudder were unable to get the bow into the wind. Unclamped the motor lock, turned the motor into the wind together with the tiller and she gradually came up into the wind.

It took much effort to keep her there and I realised the main had to come down. But that meant lashing the tiller, not a really good idea. Then came the problem. Whilst all controls come back to the cockpit, AWOL is equipped with ancient jam cleats which require two hands to release the halyard which means no hanging on. An impossibility! I tried my best and the main fell about 30%. The thought of going up on deck, to pull the main down some more, could not be entertained and would have competed with the worst experiences I have had in life and they are considerable.

The dinghy. That had to be a problem and I about turned myself to take on board more bad news. There it was, happy as Larry (not cyclone Larry) weighed down by two heavy sacks of seaweed and as solid, or rather as stable, as the Rock of Gibraltar. It presented no immediate threat to the situation. Thanks to large flotation seats which I had rebolted and re-sealed just before the trip I knew that, whilst it might be swamped, it would not sink to the bottom. Perhaps it was helping to keep the yacht into the wind.

The main started to rip itself apart which gave me another adrenalin surge and another temptation to unclip and get myself up on deck to solve things. Had I the second tether on hand I might have given it a go but it was stowed below. The genoa was beginning to unravel as well. Let it go. Keep the bow into the wind!

Next I realised that the shore was mighty close. I was being blown ashore! Head out to sea! But that meant coming beam onto the wind. The partially deployed main would threaten me with loss of control and possible capsize. That was the only option. So the saga continued.

Around midday the storm subsided somewhat and mother nature handed control back over to me. I was freezing, exhausted and I was surprised to find that whilst I was pretty cool (both mentally and physically), my hands were shaking uncontrollably. My immediate thought was to go below, crack a decent bottle of wine and settle down. Whilst I usually don't take on board the opinions of today's variously 'correct' gurus who would condemn such action, I recalled some military experts in survival training who, whilst having no problems with booze per se, counselled against it in survival situations. Reluctantly I acquiesced.

Unable to connect the topping lift I had collapsed the boom onto the deck. I lashed it to the deck. The genoa had partially unravelled and was flapping around. The main was obviously torn apart. The dinghy was half full and was low in the water. I checked over my body for any injuries, noted that the leg of my shorts was ripped and dangling below the knee, looked in the mirror and noted that I did not look very happy. All in all we looked like a derelict team as we entered the shelter of Canaipa Passage where several yachts were anchored in safety. No one on deck, no encouraging wave. Presumably all crews were below decks sensibly drinking gin or its equivalent. So I dropped the pick, dried myself, pulled on a track suit and then hit the sack for three hours.

The motor back to Horizon Shores is not worth reporting. The adventure was over.

Lessons Learned

Weather: Weather predictions for the five days were not worth two bob. Wind strength was continually wrong, wind direction was wrong, storm prediction was absent although I appreciate that BOM cannot predict localized storms which this may have been.
Conclusion: Consider the forecast but realize it is not infallible. In future I'll be less inclined to accept forecasts unquestionably.

Fuel Consumption: This is not simply an arithmetical calculation. Obviously an appreciation of the weather has a close relationship with this calculation.
Conclusion: In future I'll consider worst case consumption rates, refuelling points and the practical problem of collection.

VMR Advice. Whilst VO operators might have the best intentions they are bound by VO policy due to litigation concerns. The local knowledge issues regarding Gilligan Island and the 'Washing Machine' in particular, indicate policy gone wrong. 'The VO Repeater Station info indicates that volunteers may not understand elementary communications concepts. (I transmitted on VHF, asked for VHF info and got an irrelevant/incorrect 27 meg answer on VHF).
Whilst the Friday storm may not have been forecast or foreseeable I would have thought that VO duty staff would have had the initiative to report the storm as it passed through their areas. It is probable that once again policy prevents them from making their own weather comments. However, I would have thought that they could issue a Securite warning in that event.
Conclusion: This trip confirmed similar observations I've made over time. In their zeal to avoid litigation I fear that they might be increasing the threat to mariners' safety, whose welfare, after all, is their raison d'ętre. In future I will err on the side of my judgement rather than VO's unless commonsense indicates otherwise. In the final analysis its 'Captains Call'.

The Crew: The unpredictable vagaries of a trip of this type in a small, tender yacht demand a switched on and competent crew. In a single handed situation, such as this, the problem is magnified.
Conclusion: In some ways I think commanding crew is easier than commanding oneself. On a solo trip you must especially know yourself and know your own limitations. No place for self pride, no place for false confidence, no place for ignorance, no one else to blame. In the same way that you know every intimate detail of your vessel you must know yourself. Self criticism is necessary.

The Vessel: I have always been aware that the RL24, despite its healthy 24' length, has certain limitations. It is lighter than most and has a flat hull. However, I hold the view that this vessel can handle the adverse conditions encountered in partially smooth areas such as those of Moreton Bay. This opinion has been confirmed by various yachtsmen and RL 24 sailors as well as by my practical experience in pretty crook conditions.
Conclusion: It gets back to recognizing limitations. AWOL was rigged for racing. When I bought this yacht I did not realize that some conversion was required from crewed racing to single-handed cruising mode. I thought various changes were 'could haves' or 'should haves' rather than 'must haves'. For example, clam cleats prevented me from dropping the main at the height of the storm. Clam cleats will be replaced with quick release jammers. Just as I have installed a downhaul on the jib, I will rig a downhaul on the main.

Safety: There were a few safety issues. The storm boards proper place is in the companionway not under the bunk. I fitted them after the 'Washing Machine'. Potentially too late! The second tether would have allowed me more mobility without unclipping but it was below decks. My glasses became unusable but I had a diving mask below which might have solved the problem.
Conclusion: These mistakes will not be repeated.


When I finally arrived at Horizon Shores pretty worn out and not looking forward to the usual drama of retrieval, de-rigging, etc a sailor emerged to grab the boat and tie it off. His thoughtfulness was greatly appreciated. It was Bruce (Brubarb54 of Trailer Sailer Place). We had a lengthy one sided discussion and Bruce listened patiently until a violent storm hit us and forced us to retire to our cabins.

I must admit that BOM got that one right and that VOs accurately passed on the warning.

Yes, a good trip despite the lack of wind and the tempest. Will I do it again? Well next month AWOL and I are going fishing in the Broadwater for four days. We need some leisure time together. After that we are off to Mooloolaba.

Best Wishes

Terry7-Apr-2006    Edit    Delete 
Sounds like you have had a huge trip. I have been planning a similar trip for some time. Should you be planning another trip let me know. I need a little motivation to get the old boat back into the water.I have a rl28, the extra 4 foot makes a huge difference to the handling- though challenging to launch and retrieve. I find storage of the boat rigged makes trips easier. I store the boat at a storage place up the logan river it is cheap and convient except for the run down the river.
Brendan14-Apr-2006    Edit    Delete 
Dear Brendan,
I'm leaving today for Horizon Shores and a fishing/cruising trip around the canals. I should be home next Monday and I'll get in touch with you then.

My next proposed long distance trip will be an extension of the recent Moreton Bay trip. Horizon Shores, Peel Island, Tangalooma, Mooloolaba, Bribie Island, Peel Island, Horizon Shores. It should take me 5 or 6 days.

You are welcome to accompany me in your RL28. I'll be sailing single handed; it is probably too long and unpredictable a trip for family.

I'll probably slot the trip into the diary for around June or July.

Best wishes,

Terry17-Apr-2006    Edit    Delete 
It would seem from your more hair-raising moments that there is a case for a tiller pilot for single-handed sailors. That way the boat can be kept head to wind while sails are being raised, lowered or reefed, always a tricky exercise without help. Now that they can be purchased for under $600, I think they are a viable safety option.
Headsail furlers can be a liability when the breeze gets up and they start to unwind when you least want the extra sail; I'm wondering if spectra or dyneema furling line might be the solution to the problem of finding something that is small enough to fit on the drum but doesn't stretch.
I'm starting to have dreams of a similar trip (but definitely without the dramas) but that rotten thing called work keeps getting in the way.
One day...........
Mike23-Apr-2006    Edit    Delete 

Thanks for the suggestions Mike.

I have an Autohelm 1000 which I have not got round to installing. A friend who has the necessary expertise is going to install it for me in the next few days.

There is no stretch in my furler line. I find that I get a tight furl when I keep wind pressure on the genoa and a loose furl when I simply pull it in without any pressure. I think the latter was probably the problem. Bad technique rather than gear.

Best wishes,
Terry26-Apr-2006    Edit    Delete 

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