We arrived home safely yesterday.
Here is some footage of both our layover at Middelton Reef and later at anchor
inside the lagoon at Lord Howe Island.
Being on a timetable is never the best for departure planning. We had flights booked for outgoing and incoming crew changes on the Wednesday so "had" to depart Sat am into a 25+kt SEer with Lord Howe 370NM due SE. We managed to souther just a little in messy moderate seas with generally one reef in the main hard on (amazingly to windward in a catamaran). Saw 35 kts for a few hours with the second reef in making 7-8.5 kts just south of east. Relentless and tiring. 4 of 5 sick early day one but short lived fortunately. Wind moderated to 20 kts day 2 but always SE. Middleton Reef thus became the goal achieved at dawn. 22 hrs to cover the 320NM hard on the wind. As the first half of the footage shows it was an amazing remote
destination. Being surrounded by 8 visible wrecks on the reef makes one very glad to have GPS
unlike the those poor victims. The 5hr respite was well received and we all felt recharged for the night sail due south on the opposite tack to Lord Howe. We still had 18-25 kts but with a more difficult sea state and a 1.5 to 2 kts adverse current altogether making this a slow and very uncomfortable 18 hr sail gaining Lord Howe some 127NM south. Definitely the most forgettable part of the voyage. I do confess some motor
sailing when the current was at its worst and the seas steep and nasty. With Mt Gower being 890m Lord Howe became visible some 55NM out and in the angry conditions and with a tired crew, it seemed like we would never arrive. But arrive we did mid morning of the fourth day. 570NM sailed for the 370NM rum
line journey. 74hs including the brief 5 hr layover at Middleton.
And what an amazing destination. Lots of snorkelling, swimming, paddle boarding, walking, eating and drinking in the calm of the lagoon. Partial crew change as planned the day after arrival. We sailed south the 27NM to Ball's Pyramid (world's tallest oceanic stack) which has to be seen to be believed, like a real life fabled Mt Doom or a sand drip castle. Just amazing! Check out videos of it on YouTube.
On our final day we climbed Mt Gower, a 9 hour 880m "bush walk" on steroids. As a bunch or late 50 year olds ( apart from my 23yr old son), we were proud to have made it returning in one piece. For anyone considering this in their itinerary, take note that you do need some basic fitness as well as having little fear of exposure to steep terrain. Well worth the significant effort nevertheles.
The journey home was accompanied by our old friend, the SEer. Dead down wind is no wind angle for a cat. So it was gybing down wind with the big ASI in kind seas. Such a contrast to the rugged outbound journey. After 30 hours under ASI the wind fell to 6-9kts and we had only 1-3kts apparent. So the iron sail was selected for the remaining voyage. Not my preferred mode of travel, but a means to an end, so to speak. The only notable event was encountering a 4kt current about a 2/3 back which I assume was the great Australian current. It covered an about 50NM stretch. Inconvenient for us but a headache for some when the weather and sea state might create difficulties.
61 hours home covering 440NM although motoring for the last half on the rum
line. It was a great trip. My first blue water sail. Having over 5000m below gives you a new perspective. Outbound was at times an ordeal. Home bound luxurious and comfortable. Destination to dream about for years to come. Don't forget to check out the video!