We did it. Departed Pt Lincoln at 0945 Thursday 1st March and arrived in Esperance 1645 Wednesday 7th, total of 6 and a half days, 780 nautical miles at an average of 120 miles a day averaging 5 knots. At times we managed 9 knots but had 2 days of no wind, which brought our average down. The furthest we were from Australia was 180 miles offshore. Due to the conditions and wind direction most of the trip was done with just the headsail.
Like any passage this demanding, we had situations we had to deal with. First up was the depth sounder failing on us. As we were now in water 3km deep it wasn’t an immediate concern. When the wind dropped out on the third day I traced the problem to the power feed from the connector behind the helm. We now had depth readings for our first night anchorage at middle island, some 70 miles east of Esperance.
The next issue was the first reefing point. We could not get the foot of the sail and the reefing outhaul tight enough on the mainsail. Part of the problem was the luff point which went through a triangular ring. After considering all options we pulled the reef line back and fed it straight to the winch enabling us to tighten the reef outhaul. We then used the cunningham to pull the luff reef point down.
On the 5th day the cable linking the 2 rudders frayed at both ends and broke. We initially thought we had lost our steering abilities, but the auto pilot seemed to be managing. The look on the crews faces at 1am in the morning, with me holding 2 pieces of broken wire in my hands and pronouncing, “I think we may have a steering problem” will be a memory that all of us will look back on with laughter. We jury rigged a fix with some braided line that fitted through the sheaves, and all was good again.
The auto pilot was now starting to sound like a caged bear, and appeared to be getting worse. We decided to look at it at anchorage at middle island and perhaps bleed the lines.
The starboard engine battery isolate switch then decided to play up and we had to jumper it every time we needed that engine for hot showeres etc
After crossing the continental shelf twice, where the depth goes from 3km to 100 metres, we arrived at middle island at 1am wednesday the 7th and attempted to anchor. The wind was from the north blowing quite strong, and it was impossible to anchor in the conditions, let alone having a sleepless night worrying if the anchor would drag onto a lee shore. So the decision was made to continue onto Esperance.
At this moment in time the starboard motor stopped and could not be restarted. On investigation found fuel spraying from the top of the lift pump. So it was now down to one engine and sails. We nursed the boat into Esperance using the sails and little use of the port engine. When we came to tie up at the taylor street jetty with a strong SE wind with one motor it was a struggle, but we managed eventually, with the help of the harbour master.
Once tied up by 1730 we did the next most important part of the trip……….we opened up a bottle of champagne, had a group hug, and congratulated each other on our team work and a job well done.
The problem with the auto pilot became apparent when I arranged a hydrive rep to help bleed the system. It was then that we discovered that when the steering had been serviced in Sydney they had used automatic transmission fluid, instead of the correct hydraulic fluid. Automatic transmission fluid is not compatable, and destroys the seals in the hydraulic pump. With a somewhat calm voice I contacted them and they appologised profusely and arranged to despatch a new $1000.00 replacement. As of Sunday it has still not arrived. ggggrrrr.
I managed to get a new lift pump sent from Perth and installed it. Also had the local hydraulic services to make up two new fuel hoses that go from each lift pump to the injector pump, as these were starting to get brittle. Completed other maitenance tasks including replacing the starboard battery isolate switch.
Now sitting in Esperance waiting for the hydraulic pump to arrive, and the weather does not look good for a depature by Wednesday 15th March….ggggrrrr