EAST DIAMOND ISLET
Passage making is a constant struggle to come to terms with our complete lack of ability in completing the simplest of tasks as if we were stroke victims in rehab. Even going to the toilet presents new challenges. You drop your strides whist swaying wildly as if you we're returning from a bucks show where every member of your family forced you to drink two for every one that some 6ft 200 lb Russian friend consumes. Your jocks barely reach your ankles and you've already head butted the wall three times. Even the innocuous act such as wiping become a feat only mastered by the greatest of contortionists.
However, from time to time, the clouds part allowing the sun to sparkle on the water. The wind and the waves start playing the game and the constant swaying is occasionally interspersed with moments of elation as two of our friends from the deep decide to pay us a playful visit, twisting to look at us as if to say, "Hi, I'm Mike the dolphin. I don't think we've met before? Welcome to the neighbourhood." Shortly after your encounter, whist coming down from your high, you realise you had completely forgotten all the passage making annoyances. Wow, that was amazing. You never tire from those unique moments.
As we near the edge of the outer reef, (That's the Great Barrier Reef) and the edge of the continental shelf, the waves grow but lengthen, smoothing the passage as the depth increases from 56 metres to over 1000 metres. We are still making 7 knots, 7 hours into our trip. I'm just a little concerned that Denise may get hit with a bout of seasickness. She's incredibly resilient and takes all the correct precautions to avoid the dreaded sickness of the sea. But you never know. Being both our first trip to East Diamond Islet and our first overnight passage hundreds of miles off the coast, the mood is one of excitement and trepidation. Time will tell as to what the night has in store.
The wind builds over night from a healthy 24 knots to freshening 30+ knots. Denise is on first watch, 9 pm to midnight while I grab some 'shut eye'. Woken by my alarm, 10 minutes before shift change, I wonder up from our berth and check in with Denise while putting the kettle on. She's done well, but informs me that along with the 32 knot winds, our chart plotter has failed. Our first ocean crossing and night passage and we are flying blind! "Why didn't you wake me?" I asked. "Well, I knew we were heading in the right direction, there's nothing to hit and I figured I had 3 hours to work out how to use our backup hand held GPS." she calmly remarked. I couldn't be more proud!
My 3 hours shift flew by, listening to a play list Denise had put together for me. Interspersed with 15 minute look outs, our horizon is as clear as it is dark. There is seldom any boat traffic out here as there are no shipping routes anywhere near here. Even yachties don't seem to venture to East Diamond Islet very often. We are alone and I'm loving it.
Denise steps up and clips in for her 3 am to 6 am shift. Wearing a harness with a built in auto inflating PFD, personal EPIRB attached whilst being connected to the life lines we had installed via a dual clip tether. Not the most comfortable items but reassuring to know when you awake your partner is not lost 24 NM away at night in the Coral Sea.
I relieved a tired, slightly nauseous Denise at 6 am, armed with my coffee. She promptly collapses on the outdoor seats and dozes on and off for a few hours. The wind is still strong, but otherwise the weather is kind to us. The morning quickly turns to afternoon, still 30 knots plus. Our excitement grows as we can see the islet on our horizon. Remarkably, our chart plotter stats working again, making the approach so much easier than reading the screen on our back up GPS, no larger then a matchbox.
Tired, but excited we make it. Now, we just need to find a suitable anchorage in the calm of the lee of the islet. The challenge being finding a suitable spot among the bommies, heavily dotting the waters. Finally after 30 minutes we secure the hook, and take in the most breath taking water clarity I have ever seen. 70 m+ Vis. "Coming in?" I ask, not waiting to hear the answer.
Diary from Trip to East Diamond Islet
Saturday 30th May to 6th June 2015
East Diamond Islet is a tiny, bird covered sand cay, 220 nm NE from the Whitsunday islands in the Coral Sea.
Somehow, in the lead up to a big trip, the romance of sailing has the uncanny ability to ignore memories of heaving seas, diesel fumes, and an never ending series of small and annoying injuries caused by attempting to carry out normal daily tasks aboard a bucking horse. Denise I discuss this whilst bracing ourselves at the helm. Overcast and raining intermittently, we endure as we agree that cruising is about the wonderful destinations. Calm, clear waters with postcard scenery...not passage making.