Hello from the Tasman Sea!
What a ride it has been, mainly rough and windy so far. I departed Coff’s at 0700 on day one with a stiff Northerly breeze and it took all my concentration to get safely out of the marina, then a hard left hand turn with the next challenge to get out the harbor entrance between two rock breakwaters. With a 2m swell pumping in through the breakwater walls it was an exciting row out, and I worked hard for one hour to make my way far enough out to clear a small island just south of the entrance. I then waved goodbye to the boat with Alistair and Rob Hamill who had come out to film, and turned the Donkey south. The northerly breeze helped push us along nicely and the plan was to find the EAC (East Australian current) which is a strong south setting current. As the day wore on the wind picked up from the north and after lunch was 20 knots. This combined with the current saw us pumping along at 3 knots. All up I rowed for 5 hours through the day before it got too windy. I knew that on Friday night a strong southerly stormy front with lots of rain was coming so had planned to pull into a protected bay called Trial bay 35nm south from Coff’s BUT we moved so fast that 8pm that evening I was pushed past Trial Bay and started looking for options further down the coast. I was only 4nm offshore passing Trial Bay and was nervous being this close to shore as darkness hit in the strong winds.
That night was a bumpy and wild ride. I caught a few 50 minute blocks of sleep but kept a close eye on our position, proximity to shore and vessel traffic. The wind turned to NW in the night – and increased to 25 knots so we were really flying along without even rowing. With the change in wind we started moving away from shore, and before I knew it at 0300hrs day two were 20nm offshore. I carefully climbed onto the back deck in the darkness and wind and re-trimmed the rudder to try and run due south as didn’t want to be too far offshore to stay in the current streams.
On Day 2 – the wind started to drop through to lunchtime. The sea flattened out and I rowed for 5 hours until my back was sore. The boat feels heavy and I will take a few days to get into the swing of rowing for long periods. In the afternoon the wind swung lightly to the South and it started to rain. I was too far offshore now to find a safe bay to hide from the storm so no choice but to weather it at sea. I rowed until 1500hrs then started to prepare the boat for the southerly front coming at 1700. I made water for 24 hours, prepared food in the cabin, ate a last hot meal and lashed everything down on deck securely before deploying the para anchor. It was bumpy night with wind hitting 30 knots and a large amount of rain. I slept in a few 30 min blocks and kept a close eye on the shipping traffic. At 0300 I noticed on the AIS a huge 220m long vessel 12nm heading strait for me. 8nm away I managed to raise them on the radio and they had me on their AIS and gave me a 2nm clearance. It scared me and I could not sleep for the remainder of the night. The biggest threat over this next few days is shipping traffic and I will be much happier once I am out of this shipping channel.
Emotionally I have been in a roller coaster. From excitement at leaving to dread and apprehension at what waits before me. A few tears have been shed, and I have not yet experienced the glory of being out here so eagerly waiting for that to come!
Love Captain Axe.