Tasmania's Unpredictable Weather

furneaux_angry sea  

The weather forecast for the last couple of days sounded something like this:

“A front moves over Tasmania today, followed by another and another and then a trough forms before another front moves through. Winds will be variable 5-50 knots from the North, South, East and West. Primary swell from the northeast at 3 meters; secondary swell from the southwest at 1.5 meters.” Three separate sources (who probably all rely on the same primary computer-generated source) disagreed as to what was supposed to happen. It made it kind of hard to decide where to go to anchor and when to head north. Our take on the GRIBs wasn't any better than what the forecasters were spouting. We ended up moving from Chinaman's Bay back to Spring Bay, Triabunna when strong W/SW winds were forecast, but actually strong north/northwest winds prevailed. We waited.

Finally, everyone agreed on 2-3 days of southeasterlies 10-15 kts increasing to 15-25 kts, then decreasing again. Sounded like a forecast we wanted to believe and after delaying another day to let the northerly swells subside, we gave a tot of rum to Neptune and began our trek north, expecting a fine downwind sail. Strong easterlies made for a brisk beam reach, but a stop at world-famous Wineglass Bay seemed inadvisable. We were disappointed, but we continued on.


furneaux_gust 56 knots


We made good time up the coast. The switch to SE 15-25 kts presented itself sooner than we expected, but we were sailing downwind and that was no problem. The 35-40 knot SE winds, however, had us a little more concerned. We clocked a 56 knot gust and thought this was really a bit more than advertised. The trip was … boisterous. We like that word boisterous; it covers all sorts of conditions. It's comparable to exhilarating. This portion of the passage was like a downhill sleigh ride. The northern swells hadn't quite disappeared, but the SE swells built quickly. We'd surf down one wave and then hit a mogul of a northern swell. Below decks was absolute bedlam. Some things we thought were well stowed were flying in all directions, ending in a heap on the saloon sole.


furneaux_wreck below


The wind was ice cold. We were all bundled up in offshore foul weather gear, extra fleeces, socks, watch caps and still the sting of the cold made itself known. Salt water spray and then rain, made the night watch miserable. A grey dawn showed little relief from the swells and wind. It's funny, but describing the seas and even taking pictures, never quite do the sea justice. When it's angry and roiling around you, crashing and careening the boat from all sides, the strength of it seems so amazing. The noise as the wind howls through the rigging is nearly deafening. Yet looking at photos after the fact, it looks like a normal day at sea.


furneaux_angry sea1


David noted a broken sail slide on our reefed main around 10pm and we wrestled down the sail to find that two more sail slides had broken as well. We were relying on the jib alone, but it was doing just fine. Surprisingly, the autopilot was handling the seas and winds quite admirably. Though that didn't improve the bumpy ride, it was certainly better than manning the wheel as the waves broke and crashed around us.

We were heading to Lady Barron Port on Flinders Island in the Furneaux Group of islands on the eastern end of the Bass Strait. Needless to say, it was a long, sleepless night. As we approached the entrance to Lady Barren Port, a narrow, shoal-lined passage, the southeast swells were rolling in. The tides were wrong and the rollers were stacking up. It just wasn't prudent to enter and we reluctantly passed on by.


furneaux_flinders view


Where to now? With continued S/SE winds, we figured we'd take advantage of the winds, turn northwest and head to Deal Island. A couple of dolphins swam past … this was the right decision.

Aeolus, god of the wind, heard us discussing our plans, however. The wind began clocking to the west almost immediately. It was 15 miles back to Lady Barron Port or we needed to find shelter somewhere in the many islands of the Furneaux Group.

Stay tuned.

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