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Archive for the 'Coffs Harbour … N.S.W., Australia' Category


The location of this incident was four nmiles south of Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia.

Coffs Harbour is a coastal city located on the north coast of New South Wales about 291 nmiles north of Sydney … 240 nmiles south of Brisbane.

Apart from this incident it was a great sail … until the breeze picked up to 35 knots.  Despite 3 reefs in the main and the jib 50% furled, Tsunami was topping 13.8 knots at times and that was too, too fast! In fact, it is my top speed recorded so far in my sailing experience.

* Tsunami/Deja vu with 4 reefs in the Main ... and small jib! *

 I sense readers thinking; “What does 3 reefs in the main mean?”?  Well, a yacht’s primary `engine’ (source of power) are the sails … and as with a car the bigger the sails/engine the faster the boat will go as the breeze increases in strength. To reduce power one must reduce the area of the sails. The `main’ (meaning mainsail, being the largest sail on the boat) can be reduced in area by folding it up onto the boom, at the base of the mainsail. This action is called reefing. My yacht has 4 reefs and the reefing lines are rigged to allow me to reef the 2nd and 3rd reefs without much fuss. (Q)  “What about the 1st and 4th reefs, you are going to ask?”  (A) “A yacht needs one line per reefing point and Tsunami only has two reefing lines. Therefore, I can only instigate two reefs”. (I did something about this and explain what, later! )

I usually reef-the-main before I leave the mooring for a day’s sailing, as it can be quite difficult at sea. 

* The colourful `Spinnaker' ... seldom used as it requires the `Screecher' to be removed! *

About three miles from Coffs Harbour I radioed Coastal Patrol to advise of my arrival … giving an E.T.A. (Estimated Time of Arrival) of about 20 minutes.

When Tsunami topped 13.8 knots I felt it was time to seriously slow down. But … with a 35 knot wind (gale force), steeply peaking waves and Tsunami travelling at such a fierce rate, my common-sence told me it was unsafe to try to turn around into the wind! To steer across the wind to turn Tsunami towards the harbour seemed an invitation to disaster and possible capsize … the worst possible scenario!

* Tsunami/Dejavu with 4 reefs in the main ... and full jib! *

 My Plan #2 … was to sail close to a small island adjacent to the entrance to the harbour and turn into the lee of it, hoping for calmer waters in which to turn into the wind to drop the Main? 

I was perched on the starboard bench alongside the barbecue, holding on with fingers bleached white from over-stressing.

Tsunami had had enough of this treatment … and took the situation in hand.  She dug her port bow under a wave and buried it … I was looking through the forward windows at neat, deep, Tasman Sea ocean water … only God knows how deep down the bow went.  In a split-second, Tsunami pivoted on this sunken hull and spun the entire yacht around 180˚… heading her back in the direction we had come from.  And I was still clamped to the bench seat, later wondering why I wasn’t catapulted over the side during the pirouette.  It only took a few seconds to appreciate our new position, which was facing into the wind, just right for dropping the mainsail … and this was done without hesitation.  With both engines already fired-up, it was a short drive to Coffs Harbour.


* Schreecher, Jib and full Main ... *

A humorous ending to this extraordinary experience was on entering the harbour, I radioed to finally sign off with Coastal Patrol.  “Congratulation Tsunami that was the most spectacular turn I have ever witnessed”.  The radio operator had been following our approach to Coffs through binoculars, knowing it had the potential to be something special … and seriously thought I had engineered this manoeuvre purposely.  I didn’t spoil his belief with the truth!

 A great ride … and what a remarkable little ship Tsunami proved herself to be … despite the massive stresses incurred by the pirouette, nothing bent or broke … and I developed a great feeling of confidence in the build of the yacht to carry me through anything that may come our way in the future.


What did you learn from this experience Lloyd?  

(1) Take more notice of SWW (Strong Wind Warnings)

(2)  Re-rig the mainsail to be able to take in a 4th reef.  This was done shortly after!

(3)  Reef the mainsail earlier … although I had three reefs in the mainsail … if there’s still too much power one must drop the mainsail all together.  Very, very difficult to do in the situation I found myself!




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Coffs Harbour is a coastal city located on the east coast of New South Wales about 291 nmiles north of Sydney … 240 nmiles south of Brisbane.

Took one of the batteries weighing 158 pounds out of Tsunami for charging and testing; man that is one heavy sucker. I was lucky to have made good friends with a couple sailing another Cat (Bill and Barbara of  `SV Bilbara’) and Bill was happy to help me lift it out.  I paid to have the battery people help me put it back in. Marina berth cost $33.00 per night, but necessary to pay for a berth to be able to get the battery off the yacht.

* Coffs Harbour Marina … quality … 6 out of 10! (Photo compliments of Wikipedia!) *

From Coffs I sailed to Yamba/Illuka and the most perfectly protected harbour you could wish for.  Yamba marks the entrance to the Clarence River up which you can sail 60 miles inland.  I will come back one day when I have more time (I was rushing to met Arianne in Brisbane) and spend a couple of weeks exploring this region.



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