Limeburners cruise oddities, or things I learned on the way to Limeburners. I'd been looking forward to this cruise for some time. I'd been over my chart of the bay, especially the unknown (to me), Corio Bay part. Keyed a few waypoints in to my GPS and decided I’d followed the main channel. The day before I left Andrew MacGregor faxed extracts from his book. I freaked, there were hazards everywhere. Corio Bay was tricky, very tricky. I hoped I'd be able to follow someone who knew the way. I set out one up, from Brighton. Just a nice breeze, well for a while, then it dropped, and dropped. At 1.5 knots I had two choices. Turn around or start the motor, or a third choice, try and launch the unused spinnaker, there's a first time for everything. So, up it went. Terrific; nearly 4 knots. I played the sheets for a while then decided to use the pole. (Fairdinkum sailors use the pole). That's when I found out that spinnakers on poles have a mind of their own. That sail and I were not connecting. Finally I resigned and threw the pole below, so I'm a woosey, but sanity returned and I played the sheets until just outside Corio Bay. It was good to see three H28's approaching from the nor'east, my leaders. I decided learning about spinnakers and following the leaders was not on in the bay. So down it came. I then set a genoa, main, mizzen and fisherman tri-sail, then latched onto the stern of one of the lead boats. All systems were go.
A little while later I was puzzled, my lead boat had disappeared into Port Arlington, and the other two had totally disappeared. Back to my original plan, follow the main channel. Just after that the wind blew up, that dark cloud did mean something, it just took a while to get into action. Now I was in action. Far too much sail up. Problem was all these channel markers. With no-one on the tiller, I had to get sail down in the clear spaces between markers and those floaty things; oh, mussel farms, didn't fancy mussels anyway. Finally got down to no.1 jib and mizzen. Still doing a good 6 knots, but manageable. I needed the speed because it was getting dark and I didn't fancy finishing the trip in dark. (the thought of reading Andrew's faxed charts by torchlight did not excite me). The charts were great. I don't know what i'd have done without them, yes I do, get out of the channel and apply the handbrake, sort it out in daylight. Anyway, I reached Limeburners, dropped all sail and motored in. Lessons learnt, spinnakers are contrary, spinnaker poles are probably good for testing the water depth. Dark clouds do mean something, sooner or later. Chart preparation is important, (It’s surprising how much you remember when you need it), especially in unknown waters. I did succeed, I got there, I just had to work very hard, and H28's are great. The return trip was interesting too. Maybe later.
Things I learned on the way back from Limeburners Bay. It was sunday morning, perhaps a walk to the mangroves. But the weather's a bit of a worry, and I must be at work on Tuesday, so no layovers, about 10 am a strong wind warning was issued. 20 to 30 knot easterly winds forecast. The tide was going out and Yelkie my boat was about to touch bottom. I decided to leave immediately. It was now or very much later. Yelkie was still afloat so off I went. I used the north channel and the trip to Corio Bay entrance was uneventful. The wind was steady and I had the genoa, main and mizzen. My course was pretty well parallel to the shore. I could see I couldn't lay Brighton, unless it swung more to the south. Somewhere near the Werribee river the forecast wind arrived. After a bit of sorting I had up the no.1 jib, double reefed main and mizzen. This was ok for about an hour and a half, then down came the main. The seas were getting up a bit now. Near Point Cook I decided I didn't like the water colour. It was too shallow, the waves were now about two metres, odd ones a little more. So in the trough I was worried how much water was under the keel. A tack to the south was in order. With an extra mile off shore I was much happier. The next tack meant I was travelling along the wave line again, heading for the Yarra entrance, so I decided to overnight at Royals.
This course seemed to upset the GPS. Now and again I was getting funny readings. I came to the conclusion the GPS didn't like the vertical movement caused whenever bigger than average waves came and I approached them at about 60 degrees. This caused a lot of vertical movement. The GPS would go bananas until I could run along the waves again. Then it would stabilise and work normally. Has anybody else had this situation?
About three miles from the main shipping channel I reckoned I could just lay Brighton, so I decided to head for my pen. The wino had swung, just a little more would be enough. The next part of the trips a bit scary. The channel's a worry. Incoming ships are ok. They’re coming out of the dark heading for the lights. It's the outgoing ships that cause danger. Trying to see the lights is almost a waste of time. As they blend into the thousands of Melbourne's lights. I have found the easiest way to spot a ship is to look for a black area amongst lights. This black patch is possibly the hull of a ship, and needs careful investigation. My occasional 360 degree observations showed nothing unusual. I kept concentrating on the Yarra entrance area. By now I was approaching the channel's western boundary, the next 360 degree observation showed a cargo ship approaching from the south. Not a problem as I’d be across the channel ahead of it. To my surprise my next 360 degree observation showed the cargo ship was only half as far away as it was before. Close observation indicated this cargo ship was really flying. Then the truth dawned. The cargo ship was in reality the Seacat ferry, it was not in the channel, it was going like the clappers, and it was going to go straight through me. Time for a quick u-turn. Very bloody close. Another minute or so. And; if I was lucky, I'd be asking myself why I wasn't wearing a life jacket, because I'd be needing one. The skipper was a good sport, he sounded the hooter to say "missed you”, as he went past. He was still really moving, bloody great rooster tails flying up astern. Another u-turn to face the wake, but to my surprise it was yery small.
If a GPS becomes erratic, a stable course may allow it to function properly. The Seacat ferry doesn't use, or doesn't always use the channel. It slows down very near Princes Pier, and totally ignores small craft. The Melbourne Harbour area and Yarra River entrance are not easy to negotiate at night, especially if you are not familiar with them.