Reports on any trips that may assist others
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Location: Gosford


Post by Hangtime » Sat Apr 02, 2011 4:31 am

Im sitting on my boat in Coffs Harbour this morning scratching my head in disbelief at what happened last night!
I was sailing north along the NSW coast yesterday in a 10-15 knot southerly, I wanted to put out my new spinnaker but the forecast was for the southerly to pick up to 30 knots and i didnt want to get caught out with too much sail, so i stuck with safety and had my blade jib out with no main.
Speed was slow- 5 to 6 knots but as i said i wanted to be safe , Ive been caught out so many times overcanvassed and it sucks!
at around 8am i went past Camden Haven aka Laurieton and 4 sailing boats around 40ft were leaving and heading north.
Happy to be sailing in company i slowed down a little and the faster of the 4 boats caught up and we sailed within a mile of each other for the rest of the day.
Still with only a small blade jib out it was annoying not to be able to outrun this boat (I get a bit cocky having a fast catamaran), He only had a a headsail out too and i couldnt come up with an excuse as to why i couldnt outrun him.
Approaching Smokey Cape in the late afternoon the wind picked up and i was surfing along at ten knots, My new sailing buddy threw in the towel and went into the safety of Trial Bay South West Rocks.
I thought of Going in also but decided that Coffs Harbour would be reached at 8pm with these conditions and this is the course i took.
5 miles east of Nambucca Heads i noticed storm clouds gathering , They were overdeveloping stratocumulous clouds with huge thunder heads, it was still daylight and it was looking ugly.
A huge cloud to my left started to grumble,low at first then louder and louder then lightning and a massive rain dumping down changing the wind direction from southerly to westerly. I changed course and headed out to sea.
I watched as within twenty minutes the cloud dumped its fury on Nambucca Heads and faded.
I regreted not going into Trial Bay!
Daylight was fading.
Around this time a large cloud had developed to seaward approximately 2 miles away this cloud was shaped like a "doughnut" about 4 miles wide with the underside moving out and up growing larger and larger. With a mighty thunderclap it dumped rain thru the center of the "doughnut" and then the lightning began!
Now its hard to relay thru these words excactly the scene unfolding in front of me, The fear and subsequent control for calm thoughts, The helplessnes in front of so much power and the thoughts of Survival Yes i was now in a position of survival.
I turned back to the coast.
Looking back at the fury now directly behind me i witnessed massive lightning strikes exploding on the ocean coming from the centre of the cloud like a spaceship firing death rays to decimate any life underneath it, it was incredible and if i was uder it i have no hesitation in saying i would be dead right now!
I thought of all the stories ive heard of lightning strikes on boats with the outcome being of fried electrics, all electrics including engine CDI's, Stators, Gps plotters, Autohelm, lights, Laptops, Solar panels, etc. It creates a field of energy that fry's wires.
The thought of no engines, No GPS and no visibility due to intense rain was a pretty worrying thought, Captain Cook could have done it back in the day but i cant.
I regreted not buying that $45 microwave from Kmart a couple of days ago, A microwave is said to be a good place to put emergency electronics in a lightning storm, The lining that stops microwaves dissapearing from the unit is supposed to also stop lightning energy from getting in.
Heading back towards the coast to try and outrun the cloud i was stunned to see another Alien spaceship cloud develope between me and the coast. This one was the same size as the one behind me and it developed so fast.
Massive undescribable lightning was pouring thru the centre with rain, No living thing could have survived under this cloud.
With a Crazy cloud 2 miles to the east and one 2 miles to the west i headed south.
You guessed it! one appeared to the south. Not wanting to head north as that was the direction the clouds were going, I now had no choice.
I turned North.
It felt like a scene from War of the Worlds with one of those evil death ray spewing 3 legged alien monsters to my side and now behind me.
If you think im overdramatising this i apologise but this was the Maddest situation ive ever been in!
I turned on both motors and left the headsail up and tried to outrun it all but the whole lot travelled parralell with me all the way to Coffs Harbour 15 nautical miles away.
1 mile from Coffs the water seperator in the fuel line filled from excessive water and shut down both engines!
I had serviced this filter 2 days ago.
I had to round Korffs Islet in blinding rain and enter the mouth of Coffs Harbour with a 2 meter swell and a 2 meter sea and 25 knots of wind from the southwest, Under headsail only, No motors and with blinding rain and fogged up Glasses!
I done it! Yes i done it and it was The most satisfying moment of my life. Im sure Captain Cook would have been proud of me!
Where's that bottle of rum?
The storms by now had spent their energy and now dumped enormous rain on me but it didnt matter as i was safely at anchor inside the protection of Coffs breakwall cooking the yellowfin tuna i had caught on the lure earlier in the day and sipping on a rum and coke.
To my sailing companion from yesterday, I dont know who you are but if you ever read this mate you made a good decision to go into Trial

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Post by 44c » Sun Apr 03, 2011 1:12 am

Lightning is scary shit. Just the other day we encountered a similar scene to yours, the big doughnut shaped cloud that seems to vertically descend on to you. Lightning hitting all over the place, and you feel sure you're going to be hit - you HAVE to get hit! We didn't though.

Still seems incredible - the tallest structure for miles, made of metal, yet our mast didn't attract a hit.

(I took some pics, when we have better reception I'll upload some)

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Post by rexd666 » Sun Apr 03, 2011 2:28 am

Interested to see if your masts are grounded or not? I think it is SSB radios that need a grounding plate to the antenna, but I wonder if not being grounded makes it less likely to be struck.

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Post by 44c » Mon Apr 04, 2011 3:12 am

Don't know, and to be honest I doubt if anyone could definatively say whether grounding your mast would make a strike more likely. Lightning is so unpredictable.

I thought about grounding mine - and still might, in an attempt to reduce the damage a strike could do. Even that's hard to know though, because strikes are so variable in intensity. Maybe being grounded would attract a bigger hit??

And when the boat is drenched with salty water is it still ungrounded? Dunno that either...

I think all we really can do is put electronic gear in the oven, and hope we don't get hit....

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Re: Lightning

Post by Jim » Sat Apr 09, 2011 8:05 am

It seems to have a mind of it's own. I remember reading a blog by Jessica Watson during her trip and she was in the middle of a violent electrical storm with lightning strikes all around her, and her mast sticking right up there in the middle of all of it, and not one hit. She was kacking herself being the only thing on the ocean at that time.
So there doesn't seem to be any logic to it all, a bit like one of our politicion's decision making process.

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