We were fortunate to have four volunteers to assist with our delivery of Wine-Dark Sea for the 380 nautical mile trip back to Sydney. Trent was flying at lunchtime so would arrive at the Gold Coast with Pete and I, and Dick, Doug and Ryan were to arrive around 7 pm.
Pete, Trent and I caught a very helpful Uber cab from the Gold Coast Airport to Southport for a very reasonable $50. This also included a flying stop at Coles, Mermaid Beach so we could pick up fresh provisions. Arriving at The Marina, we were delighted to see Paul and Clare who had stopped here on Pilgrim on their return to Sydney from Maggie. They were kind enough to help us with our departure preparations, so we would be able to have dinner together before we headed off.
We had intended to leave around 8pm, but it was still blowing about 15-20 knots from the south east. Over dinner at Ribs and Rumps, we therefore decided to delay our start until 4am, when we would have enough tide and hopefully the southerly would have dropped. As it turned out, we probably would have been better to stick with the original plan, but we did make it back to Sydney by Monday.
As we left the Gold Coast seaway at 4am, there was a bit of a southerly swell running, but not much wind, so we motored for most of the day, reaching the northern part of the Solitary Islands as it got dark. At this stage we had been making about 6-8 knots for most of the day and we needed to be faster. The weather did what it was supposed to, the breeze went north and began to pick up and overnight we generally had speeds of 10-12 knots, and eventually were able to kill the engine and just sail.
Throughout Sunday, the wind built until we were seeing regular 20-25 knots, and this gave us great speeds, bringing our ETA forward to around 2am. As evening approached, we started to see speeds close to the boat speed record of 15.6 knots. First to break it was Doug, with an astonishing 17.8 knots. Then Pete got in excess of 18 knots. The wind was around 25 knots and we still had 2 reefs in the main and the headsail poled out.
I started my watch at 6pm, and was fighting to stay on my feet and steer as the wind speed started to flick towards 30 knots. Once we were seeing regular 30’s I called for the main to be dropped, which was a challenge in itself. It’s ok running downwind in 4 m swells and 30 knots, but try heading upwind into it! We got a soaking, but got the main away. As we bore away to get back on course, it was difficult to get the hang of keeping the boat under the headsail only, and with the waves. I felt a big wave start to pick up our stern, watched in horror as I thought our bow would bury and pitch pole us, but incredibly the boat picked up the wave and started to surf. I watched the speed hit, 15, 16, 17, and 18 knots. At this point I was desperately trying to ensure she stayed dead down wind and trying to stay on my feet, so stopped watching the speed, but felt and heard the keel and rig start to hum. We were pelted with flying water from the huge bow wave as Pete stuck his head up and Doug and Ryan on deck yelled”20!”. The new record was again mine.
The moment was just too exciting for me, and having had very little sleep the previous night and during the day, I requested to be relieved on the helm, and Pete obliged. From this point we had started to head closer in to shore, and we watched the windspeed steadily head back towards the 20-25 knot range, which felt gentle, but still maintained a great average speed. Fortunately, I fell asleep and the boys were kind enough to let me sleep for a few straight hours, waking me as we arrived in the harbour at about 4am.
Wine-Dark Sea was home, and we could all get to work, albeit a little late and a little tired! Pete and I are very grateful to Doug, Trent, Ryan and Richard for giving us their weekend to help us get Wine-Dark Sea back to her home port, and very grateful to their families for allowing them to be part of the trip! Thanks guys.