We are back in Australia!
It certainly isn’t feeling like the tropics with constant heavy rain and strong winds here in Bundaberg.
After I flew home home to visit family and catch up with friends, Neville and his crew sailed The Bossa from Santo, in Vanuatu, to Bundaberg, Australia. Sailing 1,000 miles, five days and thirteen hours later, they arrived at the Port of Bundaberg last Sunday evening in heavy rain and strong winds.
Yes, this is my blog, but Neville is going to tell his story …
The blog mistress has left The Bossa!
The plan was simple … a couple of mates fly in, Amanda flies home … and The Bossa sails home! Sounds easy.
As with many things, the trick is in the timing. First, you pick a date to depart. I chose the 10th October. But weather is GOD. So, the ETD is actually the weather window ‘on or after’ the 10th. My crew, Jim and Greg, flew in to Santo on the 8th, Amanda flew home on the 9th and The Bossa departed Vanuatu on the 10th.
I employed Metbob, the same weather router we used on the Go East Rally – Gold Coast to New Caledonia. To my surprise, Metbob gave me the green light to leave on the 10th but no later. Two of Greg’s bags not arriving was a fly in the ointment but they did turn up late on the 9th. The island speed! While Amanda was worried about Greg’s clothes, cereal, toothbrush and medication in his missing bags, Greg was actually worried about all his fishing gear that he had in the two missing bags!
First light on the 10th saw us depart with Easy Tiger and a few other rally cats close behind. Greg (fisherman extraordinaire) and Jim (cat builder with 20+ years of sailing experience and Mexican cook extraordinaire) were keen. Conditions allowed us to unfurl the screecher and later, hoist the spinnaker, on a fairly boisterous first day and night (when we reefed the mainsail and dropped the kite after a 6-hour run).
We were off to a flyer! Current helped with an average of 7 knots on the first day and it just got better. The second day we saw perfect reaching conditions with averages of 8.1 and 8.4 knots. We were happy.
The seas gradually flattened, so the guitar came out and cooking began … banana muffins and some Mexican. Greg is a great Blues guitarist and Jim and I would like to be, so we entertained each other for hours on end … minimizing a cruiser’s greatest enemy … boredom! Greg was so engrossed in his guitar at one stage, he failed to notice his reel go off. A big Mahi Mahi had taken the lure at 9 knots.
The plan was to stop at Chesterfield Reef (about half way and on the rhumbline) for a rest but with bad weather on the way (which was intensifying) and with everyone feeling well rested (poor Greg never sleeps anyway), on we went … on the “rum line to Bundy”. Our friends on Easy Tiger had already experienced a setback losing their screecher prodder overboard and Skellum and Aqualibrium having left later, all turned for Chesterfield as they felt they were unlikely to beat the bad weather. Little did they know they were going to be sitting out the wind for one week.
The last 24 hours was pretty windy and bumpy with 18 – 24 knots. We all stayed up the last night, flying along with two reefs in the main and adding the motor in the lighter patches to keep our pace up. The southerly bad weather was intensifying and it was heading straight for the Bundaberg coast. We did suffer current against us but then again with us, balancing the books.
The worst part was arriving after dark. We were only one hour short but just couldn’t make it up. Pelting rain had settled in, stinging the eyes with us finally dropping anchor inside the Burnett River entrance at 6.30 pm … oh joy!
It was still a euphoric feeling. We slept soundly after a few beverages.
The next morning, still in pelting rain, we motored up to the Bundaberg Port Marina where we tied up to await Customs/Immigration and Bio Security. All went without a hitch, although we may have pushed the alcohol allowance a tad!
The boys departed and the Bossa flew in. The hideous weather in Bundy still didn’t wipe he smile off my face!
Santo, Vanuatu – Bundaberg, Australia – 1,014.7nautical miles sailed in 5 days and 13 hours (133 hours) at an average of 7.6 knots. Top speed 16.4 knots!
Neville – Nova
Bossa … The guys did an amazing job. It really is a big responsibility having crew on board … entertaining them and feeding them … but above all it’s really about making sure they all return safely. With a 7-10-day trip expected, it’s also a big commitment for our crew. The guys had favourable winds apart from the last 24 hours, so arriving in 5 ½ days was amazing. A browse through the trip’s photos puts a smile on my face!
Lastly, I want to mention our sailing friends who are not doing it so easy. A few rally boats made it back to Bundaberg before the weather turned as they left Vanuatu a few days earlier. But a few of our friends are still out there doing in tough. Three cats, Easy Tiger, Aqualibrium and Skellum, all sheltered at the Chesterfield Reef, which unexpectedly stretched in to six nights. They calculated the distance to travel, divided their speed, and concluded they were not going to beat the southerly front that was coming and safety for their crew was paramount. Is it a coincidence that this day happened to be Friday 13th??!! This meant 15 days out at sea, 3-4 people on each boat, limited food and generator fuel supplies. Sans Souci and Cruising Kitty have just left Santo, Vanuatu, on their way to Chesterfield Reef for rest. All our friends are now out there sailing 24-7 with many miles to go. The winds have eased, the swells the same. We wish them well.
Now for the jobs … sunshine for one day!