Saturday, 15 December 2012

Segment 56: Coffs Harbour to Forster / Tuncurry

Segment 56: Coffs Harbour to Forster / Tuncurry
Wednesday,  5 Dec. 2012,    124 NM.

Capts Barry and Ray were up at 5.30 am , and after an OJ, we were away at 6.00 am.

As we wanted to make 124 NM,  we wanted an early start to make the river mouth crossing at about high tide , which was 1.45 pm and 1.52m.

As we departed the outer harbour, Capt Barry logged on with Marine Rescue Coffs Harbour and we started a tracking sheet, and specified arrival at Forster about 1400 hours.

BOM was predicting winds from the south at 10 to 15 kts building to 15 to 25 kts from the SW as we approached Forster/Tuncurry,  and seas of 1m , building to 1.5 to 2 m closer to Forster, and Buoyweather was saying 1.8m seas at 11 secs becoming 2.2m at 11 secs closer to Forster, with winds  15 to 18 kts from the S.

Capt Barry set the throttles at 1850 rpm , av about 16 kts at 160 L/HR and LAST WORD gave a pretty comfortable ride.

Soon after leaving Coffs Capt Barry cooked breakfast , and at 0830 hrs LAST WORD passed Smokey Cape lighthouse, making good time.

spectacular cloud formation. It looked like a cloud waterfall

During the passage Capt Barry did one of his usual lazz and engine room inspections and noticed a broken Jubilee clip lying on the engine room floor. Further inspection revealed this was from the 50mm rubber raw sea water elbows on the starboard engine. Capt Barry raided  his supply of spares and  replaced the broken clamp on the spot, as a leak from  that part  could cause a lot of water to enter the boat .

During the passage , Capt Barry did some paperwork and made social calls, whilst Capt Ray took overseas calls and , and actioned his new instructions.

Capt Barry then booked a pile mooring at the Wallis Lake Fish Co-op, and the conversation went something like this....

Capt Barry..."hello , is this the Wallis Lake Fish Co-op, and if so ,  I would like to book one of the pile moorings,  if one is available,  for a 65 foot pilothouse,  arriving  this afternoon , about 2.00pm, for  two nights".
Fish Co-op worker..." hello mate... yeah this is the Co-op, and yeah you can have a pile mooring. I assume you know there is no power or water"
Capt Barry....excellent..., Yes I am aware there is no power and water. Can you tell me which pile mooring is available for me to take?
Fish Co-op can have any one... mate.
Capt Barry...."excellent.... I would like to reserve the one nearest the fish co-op, as I know there is plenty of water there and have used it before..."
Fish Co-op worker...."you cannot have that one. mate.. someone is there for at least another week, you can have any other one you want."
Capt Barry..." oh...ok.... then I would like to reserve the next one along"
Fish Co=op worker...." No mate , you can't have that one either, as it also has a boat on it for the next few days..."
Capt Barry...." are you sure you have some left , as I recall there are only  about 6 pile  moorings , and I thought there were some permanents moored there...?
Fish Co-op worker.... yeah mate , just take which ever one you want..."

At this stage Capt Barry thought there was not a whole lot to be gained from continuing  the conversation about the pile moorings , and he  would just see what was there when LAST WORD  arrived,  and anchor in the channel if all else failed, ie there were in fact no pile moorings available.

The swell built to about 2 to 3 m,  as predicted , but was fairly gentle due to the distance between peaks.  However, the wind picked up ( also as predicted ) and some sea water entered the engine room through the air intakes (both the passive grills and the blower intakes in the engine room on the port side). Whilst this is not a big problem , and more a cosmetic issue than anything else, as the sea water from the air blower from the engine room ceiling does scatter and make a bit of a spray, which Capt Barry cleans up on arrival at the destination, it would , no doubt shorten the life of the blowers,  due to their  passing of salt water, but such is life and it does not happen often, only when there is a 25 + kt wind across the passage of the boat, and when LAST WORD is at speed,  throwing up water that the wind can whip into the blowers and air grill.

The seas turned progressively bigger, and we passed a couple of other boats, including a small tinny with two fellows fishing about 5 NM offshore.

a small fishing boat a long way off shore and in deteriorating weather and building seas

another passing boat

the seas built as we approached Forster / Tuncurry

About 1 hour out from Forster/Tuncurry the wind turned SW and picked up to blow between 30 and 35 kts.

the wind started to pick up

the wind picked up,  you can see the outline of the surf ski inside the large tender (under the cover )

This caused the sea to become very angry and confused and to white cap and foam between the swells , and threw up spray  which was then whipped back at the starboard side of LAST WORD, but LAST WORD still gave a really comfortable and balanced ride, with the stabilizers working their little hearts out.

About 20 mins out from Forster, both Capts Barry and Ray were sitting in  the pilothouse helm chairs , chatting and keeping an eye out  ,when suddenly.....right in front of LAST WORD , and only about 30 m distant, appeared a row of four white foam ball shaped  crab pot markers.

They were strung out right across LAST WORD'S course.

Well....Capt Barry shouted ..."SH.T"....and lunged  forward and ran his right hand up the right hand side of the autopilot control knob , turning it as far as he could anticlockwise, and at the same time with his left hand brought the throttles back to neutral, in case LAST WORD  did not swerve enough to miss the crab pot markers.

Capt Ray also saw the floats, and both Capts Barry and Ray leaned forward , and could do nothing more than hold their breath and wait and  watch ,  as LAST WORD swerved 90 degrees to  port, in 2+ m seas , going from 16+ kts to something much less.

It seemed that the  crab pot floats must pass underneath LAST WORD, then at the last minute, they  slid, seemingly under,  the starboard side of the hull.


There was some short discussion about whether  we missed them or may have collected them on the starboard stabilizer or prop, and after waiting several seconds , we decided we could not hear any noises under the hull, and Capt Barry had a quick look out the back of LAST WORD, but could not see the floats, either in the distance behind LAST WORD'S wake or more importantly hanging out the back or side of the hull.

As the seas were quite rough , and the wind howling 30 + kts, Capt Barry decided NOT to send down CaptRay for a look under LAST WORD, AND  Capt Barry selected forward gear and slowly  increased the revs, and thank heavens...... LAST WORD had not collected the floats.

Capt Ray was grateful LAST WORD had missed the floats, as out there , in the swell and confused sea with 30 + winds , was not the place to have to go under the boat to cut away a rope around a prop or stabilizer.

Well , after that lucky escape, Capts Ray and Barry kept an even more vigilant watch, and YES , we saw two more sets of crab pot floats, pass within 50 m of LAST WORD,  before entering the river mouth at Forster.

As LAST WORD approached the river mouth right on time , 1.20 pm , there was thick smoke in the sky from at least one fire close by. Just outside the bar crossing , Capt Barry signed off with Marine Rescue Forster/Tuncurry, and as Capt Ray , who had never visited this port, he was allocated the job of steering  LAST WORD across the bar and around to the right to the pile moorings, just past the Wallis Lakes Fish Co-op and slip way, and just before the bridge that joins Forster to Tuncurry (which has a 6 m clearance , and a fast tidal current between tides).

Mooring against the two narrow pile moorings was a challenge,  as LAST WORD was pushing sideways, directly  into a  blow off wind of 20 to 25 kts, but we eventually managed it (thank heavens to having a BIG bow and stern thruster ),  and after getting on two ropes , Capt Barry left Capt Ray in charge with the remote, and jumped ashore to add some additional ropes. It took about 15 minutes to turn and thrust sideways and tie off against the wind and in the swiftly running tide.

LAST WORD moored alongside the pile moorings. Notice the thick smoke in the air from the three fires burning locally , fanned by the strong westerly wind (blowing LAST WORD off the pile moorings

After mooring, Capt Barry retired to the engine room to clean up the 5  litres of sea water that had entered through the vents and blowers, then wash down LAST WORD, as it looked like we may be staying a day or two due to the predicted seas and winds.

After the wash down and clean up, Capt Ray paid the $25 mooring fee at the Fish Co-op, then  Capts Barry and Ray enjoyed a cold beer and a wine, and watched as people fished and hunted for octopus at the pile moorings and as  many fire engines sirened their way paste, at haste , to fight the three fires that were burning locally.

Capt Ray enjoying a well earned refreshment after the passage and clean up.

an octopus caught on a gaff about 2 m from LAST WORD

Capt Barry checked the depth under LAST WORD, on the pile mooring ( to check his earlier notes - on the way north - that there was sufficient depth at low tide ), and was relieved to confirm that there was about 400 mm safety margin at a zero tide.

you can see the bottom as LAST WORD is not far from the wall and rocks

That evening , after a shower and change into fresh clothes, Capts Barry and Ray watched the news ( with a glass of Chardy ) ,

 then Capt Barry took Capt Ray out on a date , and bought him a Thai meal at the restaurant approx. 40 m distant from the pile mooring.
The food was good, and Capt Ray returned with a doggy bag for the following nights meal.

TRIP :  8.2 hrs,    plus 20 mins to tie up in the wind, fuel 1250L,  av for 124 NM being approx. 15.1 kts and 152 L/hr.

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