A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

What we done on our holiday #3

Thanks for the comments of encouragement - its good to know somebody does read it. Also forgive some of the strange skies in the pix. My camera has developed a black triangular blob near its top RH corner, so I am using MS Paint to rid of it and sometimes the end result is less than perfect.

Also I said in the last posting that the Bay was quite small and I wouldn't put any tracks on, but I have decided to put up a map with our most common track, to give you an idea of scale. The two magenta lines between Omakiwi Cove (OKC) and  Doves Bay,  and OKC and Opua, are about 10NM each.

Anyway, in the last episode we had just anchored in Omakiwi Cove, with the remnants of Cyclone June bearing down upon us. The first day was forecast for winds 35-45 knots from the E, for which OKC was well protected, with a change the following day to SW 50, gusting 65, to which it is not. Sure enough, by 11am the winds were honking through the trees at us and all the boats in the bay were swinging violently around on their anchors. We were anchored in 2 metres (7ft) of water at low tide and had 20 metres (66ft) of all chain rode out which made for the chain to be at a low angle away from the boat. As usual we had deployed a "snubber" line, which is a piece of rope that attaches to the anchor chain by means of a metal hook, and to the boat by means of a spliced loop around a cleat. The snubber is there to provide a shock absorber between the anchor and the boat and to take the strain off the windlass. It is good practice to have a piece of plastic hose slipped over the rope to prevent it chaffing against the boat. Now.... this is where Mr Silverton was REALLY remiss in designing the anchoring system on the 453. The bowsprit on the boat, through which the anchor and chain descend, is very thick and has sharp edges to the fibreglass. In shallow water, the angle of the rode is such that when the boat pulls up on the anchor after a strong wind gust, the snubber rubs against the sharp inside edge of the bowsprit, and the loose chain can get caught between the snubber and the fibreglass. The result in our case was, that after several hours of this, the plastic hose on the snubber had worn right through and the chain had gouged holes in the side of the bowsprit leaving sharp fibreglass edges that would soon sever the rope of the snubber itself. If it couldn't cope with 35-45 knots then it would certainly not withstand the 50-65 forecast for the next day, so an alternative had to be found. I got one of my spare braid docking lines and made a bowline loop for the end that wasn't already looped. In the middle I tied a "Burnham Bowline", which is an excellent knot for tying down loads and is often referred to as the "Trucker's knot". It is designed to provide a loop in the middle of a line, and will readily untie when you have finished with it, no matter how much load is applied to it during use. I then attached the hook to this knot using the original snubber rope, which was spliced to the hook. Unfortunately, I didn't have any plastic hose to put over the dock line, but hoped that it would be OK as a temporary fix anyway. The two ends of this "bridle" were looped over the dock mooring cleats either side of the bow and I dropped the hook over the front of the bowsprit, using a line with a dog-leash type clip attached to pull the hook back inside the bowsprit so I could attach it to the anchor chain. Once deployed it was clear of deficiencies of the single snubber and provided  the extra benefit of having 2 securing positions on the boat..

About this time the wind dropped and I sensed it was the "calm before the storm", and probably signalled the wind change. The next bay round, Waipiro Bay, is considered to be the best in the area for shelter from W winds so we decided to reposition there, as did most of the other boats in OKC. Waipiro Bay is quite popular and there are a lot of local moorings, so it was also important to get a good anchorage before the stuff hit the fan and the bay became too crowded. The wind did pick up again, but remained from the E. However, we decided to stay where we were for the above reasons and because it would be a good test of the new snubber bridle. By the time we went to bed that night I was confident that the anchor was holding well and the snubber was doing its job. At 3.00am the following morning I awoke with an uneasy feeling. The wind was howling and the boat was swinging, so I got up to check that everything was OK. The anchor was still holding and the snubber was fine, but there has been a slight change in wind direction that now had us swinging to within about 2 metres of an empty mooring buoy which, under the upcoming circumstances, I did not want wrapped around my shafts or rudders. So I sat up for 2 hours and watched us swing towards and away from the buoy, never getting closer than the 2 metres and at  5am I returned to bed. By 7am the wind had dropped and was beginning to turn, but I noticed we were hanging differently to the other boats around us. Also, when  I went topside, I could not see the buoy that I had watched for 2 hours earlier. Uh oh! its gotta be under the boat! A sudden gust of wind swung the boat to one side producing a scraping and bubbling noise, and suddenly the buoy bobbed to the surface right alongside covered in antifoul and looking a little worse for wear, but now clear of us!!! Time to go. We went a little further down the bay and re-anchored in slightly deeper water and well clear of any moorings. There was a little bit of chaffing on one side of the bridle where it had been rubbing against a protruding screw head, so I split a piece of the old snubber's hose and put it over the chafe and cable-tied it on and used the old snubber rope from the hook back to the docking cleat on that side as an extra safety precaution.
Calm before the storm
A couple of hours later, the wind arrived/ It was quite weird - the sun was shining, it was warm...but man,was it blowing!! I have been out in many gusty storms, but this one was particularly strange. Normally you will get an elevated wind gust that hits the boat, pulling it hard up on the anchor, but almost immediately drops back to the constant speed of the wind and the boat "relaxes" back on the anchor rode. These gusts were different - you could hear them coming as a roar across the bay, they would hit the boat and pull it up on the anchor, but then remain at gust speed for 3 or 4 minutes. This puts enormous forces on the anchor (and snubber), and both the boat in front of us and the one behind us succumbed and began to drag their anchors after one particularly harsh gust (a yachtie I met later told me that he was recording gusts in excess of 100 knots that day in Waipiro Bay). Fortunately both managed to relocate without incident and Loopy Kiwi (bless her little cottonsocks) remained perefctly fixed to the seabed for the duration.
Pictures never really give a good idea of wave height, but you can see from the above that we were in a well sheltered bay, yet those waves were reaching over a metre in height at times. (excuse the black blobs - I promise I'll get a new camera soon!). By 3.00pm the wind had "eased" back to 25 gusting 30 and by evening it had dropped to a gentle breeze. A much better night's sleep was had by all.

The next day was a lot calmer so we went across to Urupukapuka Bay (after a bit of a struggle to get the anchor up) where I reviewed the performance of the temporary snubber bridle. The side that had chaffed was quite bad, so I decided to retire it and made up a new temporary one from a conventional 3 strand dock line that I had aboard. This type of rope is much less susceptible to chaffing than braid and is easily spliced, and was actually a thicker line than the old one. Later that day there was a wind change and, amazingly, we dragged our anchor. When we pulled it up, we found it was covered in long seagrass and found out later that Urupuk Bay is notorious for dragging because of it. I didn't feel too bad later when I heard that a 40' sailing catamaran dragged his 35kg (77lb) anchor in the same bay - and that as the only time we dragged in the entire holiday.

After Urupuk, we spent a night in TeUenga Bay, the next one round from Waipiro, then cruised the 10NM or so to Opua marina to pick up Charlie and Pauline again for a couple of days. They live in Kerikeri on the West side of the bay and seldom get to see the East side, which is generally considered to be the prettier and more sheltered side. While we picked them up, we made a booking at the Opua marina for a couple of days out, so we could reprovision and recharge, as well as make up a permanent snubber for future adventures with the wind. We spent a couple of nice days at OKC before returning to Opua marina, and on the way there we ran into a pod of dolphins off Tapeka Point, just N of Russell.

Next episode.....more wind, more guests and further North we go

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