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"After Midnight's" eventful delivery from Hobart

posted Jan 19, 2017, 2:10 PM by Rick Early

In many the ways After Midnight’s delivery from Hobart to Jervis Bay was more eventful than the race.  She set out from Hobart on 2/1/17 with a crew of 7 (This included JBCYC sailors Mark Tobin and Rick Early). Wind conditions were near perfect with a 20 – 25knot southerly, later increasing to 25 – 30knots.

Sitting on 15 knots plus, with the boat making excellent time, several people at the helm complained of a knocking noise in the steering.  About 100kms up the Tassie coast with Rick at the helm “After Midnight” started to round up.  When the helm was put down to correct this, the earlier knocking noise turned into a loud thud.  It was soon realised that something in the steering had broken and the boat could only turn in one direction. This meant the sails had to be pulled down and the emergency tiller deployed.

Getting the sails down in 25 to 30knots with half the steering not working lead to a big involuntary gybe that damaged the wheel and nearly collected a few heads. Once the boat was under control the damage was inspected;  a shackle had pulled through a worn section of the quadrant that required another hole to be drilled – but we didn’t have drill.  This resulted in a 4 hour sail into Triabunna (to gat a drill) with Rick and Mark taking turns on the emergency tiller – not something you would do for fun in 25 – 30knots.

Arriving in Triabunna we followed a channel the local harbour master assured us would be deep enough.  50m from the marina we ran aground.  The only option was to raft up to a yacht just outside the marina.  We then rang the harbour master again to try and get a drill.  His wife answered and said he’d gone to bed (8.30pm)!!  To console ourselves we thought a meal and a beer at the pub would go down well.  We rang the pub only to find out it closed 5 minutes earlier.  We asked the publican if he had a drill?  Answer: Yes, but the battery is flat.  By this stage the owner of the yacht we were rafted to turned up.  Fortunately he was very friendly and helpful, and had a fully charged drill with a complete set of drill bits.  We were able to complete the repair and were ready to sail again.

During the steering repair it was noticed that the rubber boot that had split before the race had developed another leak.  Although we were able to repair it again it was decided to err on the side of caution and head back to Hobart to have it fixed properly before heading into Bass Straight.  Once the repair was complete we set off from Hobart again, however we had lost our window of good weather and one crew member, who had to get back to work.

A moderate to strong NE was forecast for most of the trip.  Up the Tassie coast and half way into Bass Straight the wind was a good strength and we were making reasonable time.  However, there was a forecast for rough seas with 2 -2.5m standing waves in the second half of the straight.  The forecast was correct and lead to a rough night of sailing.  By the time we reached land the next day the wind and seas had eased a bit but we started to encounter a strong southward current (up to 4 knots); this meant tacking close to the Victorian coastline to stay out of the current.  It also meant staying close to that other icon of bad weather, Gabo Island.  True to its reputation Gabo Island had 35 – 40 knots NE when all surrounding areas had 15 -20.  This resulted in another rough night of sailing to get from Gabo Island to Green Cape. 

A 35knot northerly was forecast for the next day so we made our way to Eden to sit it out.  The northerly came and went and was followed by a light to moderate southerly.  Once again we set off.  Unfortunately, the southerly didn’t have enough power to push us against the current so it was a case of motor sailing and hugging the shore (to stay out of the current).  But our woes weren’t over yet.

Although the wind was generally light we experienced a freak gust, which blew out the bottom section of the mainsail.  This meant we could only use the main with a reef, which slowed us a little.

After 30 hours of motor sailing we finally arrived back in Jervis Bay. What was hoped to be a four day trip turned into eight. Much to our delight Karen (Holdsworth) and Collette (Early) had some hot home cooked food waiting for us on arrival.

One of the bonuses of returning to Hobart was seeing the magnificent scenery around Tasman Island three times. See photos below.