By my calculations, we will hit the reef (Eel Reef, to be exact) in 45 minutes. Just a few moments ago, we were literally between a rock and a hard place. It’s amazing how many of these little phrases come from the nautical world. I’m not entirely sure if that particular one is nautical but it definitely applied to our situation. I am on night watch on the eastern Australia coast and we are sailing with no engines on. We were coming up on Restoration Rock (where Captain Bligh and his remaining crew may have made a pit stop in their small boat after the mutiny experience) on our port side and a large cargo ship was barreling down the shipping channel towards me on the starboard side. In order to miss the rock, I had to go to the right but, to miss the ship, I had to go left. I aimed somewhere in the middle and crossed my fingers. To make things more exciting, there was a strong current pushing us left so, on our chart plotter, it looked like we were sailing right for the cargo ship when we were actually aiming for it but hoping we get pushed out of its way by the current.
Thirty-five minutes until collision. I’m hopeful that no more cargo ships come down the channel right now because that will complicate things. Joe is asleep and Charm can’t hold the course we have plotted because the wind has shifted. I’m steering as far left as I can but we won’t have enough sea room to clear the reef without gybing.
Twenty minutes. Maybe fifteen. It’s hard to divide seven knots into minutes. I think I will gybe without Joe. I’ll just put on the life jacket and take off my slippery socks. And I’ll pee first. That way, if the incredibly loud toilet flush wakes him, he can help me. No luck. He’s still sleeping. OK – socks off, life jacket on, headlamp on. Mom will be so nervous reading this. Here I go.
I’m back. I survived! I moved the running back (which I always forget – it’s like the topping lift – it has no obvious purpose to me until I notice it in the way of something else and then I remember). But this time I remembered! Then I took off the preventer and adjusted the course so we wouldn’t accidentally gybe. I brought in the main and started moving it to the center when, sure enough, Joe popped his head up because all of that makes noise that isn’t my normal watch noise. He decided we should drop the main because we have more reefs ahead of us and we didn’t need the speed. Joe put on his life jacket (see, Mom – we’re being responsible) and we dropped the main. It wasn’t pretty because we were going dead downwind, but we got it down. Now he’s supposed to be sleeping while I finish this but he’s putting away dishes and making coffee.
I just wanted to give you a glimpse into a night watch on the Great Barrier Reef. Every time I look at the chart, I’m grateful for Captain Cook and all those others that charted it. I called the kids out the other day and told them to look out to sea and tell me what they saw. Apart from an island in the distance, they said they saw nothing. “Exactly!” I said. “And yet, look at the chart.” They oohed and aahed as they saw the great blobby green thing on the chart plotter that indicates an underwater reef. Then they went back inside and did whatever they were doing that was more interesting than watching the water go by. Today it was playing with their chemistry sets, reading, and watching Harry Potter 3.
We are on summer vacation until we leave Australia and I am trying to make the most of it by getting caught up with this blog and, hopefully, organizing all my video footage so I can start putting it together. Cobin is light years ahead of me so we will upload some of his videos when we get to Darwin.
By the time you read this, if you have read other things about our time in Australia, you will know I have accomplished one of my goals!
Oz 7 - 4 Oz 7 - 3 Oz 7 - 2