Sail your yak? Chat about it here.
Scott wrote:Rumour has it that it was a vocal advocate of kayak safety who we will call safety boy rather than name him. From the rumours going around, he went down to Fish rock against all advice in his AI, and couldn't get back against the current and had to be rescued.
[/quote]kayakone wrote:This experience may be informative to some AI owners...
I set off in light NE winds towards Grassy Island (not Grassy Head....that's to the north). Being light winds I knew the AI would sail markedly upwind of a broad reach, so getting home should not be a problem. This truly is a wildly beautiful part of the NSW coastline. I saw no one. Rounding Grassy to the east, the beatifully sculptured and strangely lightly coloured Fish Rock, a further 2 km south, lured me on. There were a couple of dive boats here so I steered well away under the irrestible call of Black Rocks, a further 1.5 km to the SW, lying only a few hundred metres off the beach. The wind was beginning to build.
The first signs of current were on this SW leg, as a heading for the Rock required several steering and sheet adjustments further north to be able to approach it on its northern side. The wind had increased markedly in a short period of time. Once around Black Rocks I began tacking for just south of Fish Rock, but to my surprise at the end of this leg, was 500 metres south of the aiming point. The reciprocal tack left me worse off, south of Black Rocks.
It was obvious that great attention to fine trimming was required and I concentrated on this intently for the entire third tack, only to pass Fish Rock over a kilometre south. The currents were winning. Was this the first SWR to Hobart? Not too concerned I continued this tack eastwards till Fish Rock was blending into the coastline, in the hope that the current would be less well out to sea. The fourth leg shorewards left me well south of Black Rocks, and it was then that I realized I wasn't sailing home, and that Hat Head well south was probably the only choice.
LESSON # 1 The East Australian current (EAC) can be very strong in this area. It may reach 7 knots at times between Black Rocks and Fish Rock, and an AI is no match for it. Even at SWR breakwater, Loius and Grant warned "don't go past the bins", and if you do (like getting towed by a big fish), you will have a lot of trouble getting back. This is an area for great caution, and 'test' back paddles should be tried regularly to determine the strength of the current, which can vary day to day. The current is generally southwards during summer.
While there was no danger (apart from a surf landing at Hat Head, which may not have been pretty), I did however try Trial Bay VMR, only to silence. I tried several more times over the next hour...to total silence, including trying the dive boats on channel 16. Silence. This was somewhat unnerving, and it was fortunate I wasn't actually in a life threatening situation. I continued tacking with consistent loss of headway when I heard VMR trying to contact me. Communications were not good, but they did say they'd try to contact the dive boats. About 40 minutes later a dive boat approached me from the shore...the seas were so big they'd been looking for me for 20 minutes and hadn't seen a 5 metre mast with a fair bit of sail deployed. A SOT kayaker would never have been found in those seas (unless a PLB with GPS had been activated).
A few anxious moments ensued as they tried to get a perlon tow rope to me. The pitching was unsettling (even on an AI) and it took several attempts to get the float and then attach the free end to the forward aka bar beside the mast. The tow back to Fish Rock was very rough with me having to hold my breath several times as waves crashed right over the boat. I occassionally reassured them I was okay via the clenched fist on top of the head symbol (I am OK, or are you OK?).
Hat Head was the obvious choice if I wanted to be home that night, and was always plan 'B' when the results of multiple tacks failed to produce headway. There was no threat to life, but what was disconcerting for a while was being unable to make radio contact with VMR or the dive boats, who I assume, were not monitoring Channel 16 (as well as their working channel on dual watch). This proved to be correct.
LESSON # 2 VMR communications in big seas are difficult. There is a lot of noise from breaking tops and the roar of the wind. Also no one may hear a call for assistance.
The East Australian Current (EAC) can run at 3 - 7 knots in the vicinity of SWR and Hat Head, so it is not surprising that the AI could not make upwind headway. The wierd waves that the current created between Fish Rock and Black Rocks were an indicator that the current speed was in the high range. As well, the wind from the NE had increased to 25 knots, which decreased the ability of the AI (as I now know) to make it sail upwind. At 25 knots headwind (without an adverse current), I was unlikely to gain much more than 10 degrees into wind on a tack, and after talking today to Mal (Sunstate Hobie), who is an experienced sailor, this can be achieved only on a partly furled sail (about half).
LESSON # 3 The AI cannot win against a strong current.
LESSON # 4 The AI will go only slightly upwind in strong winds, and then only on a partly furled sail.
It is nowhere near a monohull in it's upwind performance.
After the slow tow in the big seas we reached the tiny refuge of Fish Rock. I settled down to a welcome cup of milo offered by dive boat skipper John Craig, owner of Fish Rock Dive Centre, while his customers (two English visitors) went for another dive with the guide. I noted marked current lines just forward of our anchor bouy....it was really ripping past the rock. Once back on board after an "excellent dive" (they saw a big groper), we rigged a cradle for the AI across the walkway and hauled the AI up for a faster trip home. The roar of the twin 140 hp 4 strokes gave us a positive homeward push, but even in the very capable sharkcat, speed was out of the question as the seas and swell were big and the whitecaps numerous.
Many thanks to John Craig from the Fish Rock Dive Centre for a ride home. His generous help certainly saved me a surf landing at Hat Head and a long walk home.
LESSON # 5 Be careful of the current at SWR. Don't go past the bins!
See you all next year!
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