Wednesday 23rd December (24th December in Cairns)

14:30 – Forecast – East 18/15 then 15/12 then some E/ESE later 5/12.  Forecast is fine, only problem is it didn’t materialize overnight.  It got calm last night and hasn’t changed much and I can’t for the life of me work out the wind as it seems to be coming from high north.  I have a series of issues, we’ve changed to a new plan, I now have 90nm to get to the reef entrance on a heading of 270°.   When I put this in the GPS I was 2.5nm below course.  I drifted another 2nm SW last night because there was little or no wind and the current pulled in that direction and the drift was very low.  It will be a miracle if I reach 45 never mind 50 today.  All I can do is try my best, it’s a depressing way to start though.  Add to that, three large birds roosting on the boat and all I can see is poop.  Oh and it’s raining.

19:00 GMT – As disasters go that was pretty all encompassing, poor speed, poor direction and not much sign of improvement.  By the time I got out the wind had picked up and it was north, quite high, could have been 18 but definitely in the 15/18 range.  It was raining hard and did so for an hour and a half (I had to dig some rain pants out as it was quite cold).  I thought the storm may be affecting the wind but after it eased the wind stayed put.  I was struggling to hold 270° and slowly giving up ground to the south.  The wind eased to wards the end but I still couldn’t get the boat to point better than 300° and that was giving me 260° or so true.   I suspect this indicates there is a lot of south in the current.  So I lost another 3/4 of a mile in XTE but worse, I only made 7nm in 4 hours which is well off schedule.   I’m at 22nm now with 8 rowing hours left before 04:00, 2 knots would give me 38, 2.5 would give me 42.  Neither good enough, I may have to find more hours but I turned in at 10:15 last night and my alarm goes off at 14:25, not a lot of wiggle room.  I need the wind to go back to forecast and come from the east but if I had to bet I’d say it’s trying to go NW, hope I’m wrong.

23:00 GMT – I must really be on the naughty list this year, monsoonal troughs, cyclones and now a local low pressure area, that’s what’s messing up the weather.  I should have nice strong east wind to push me across the south running current that runs all down this side of the reef, instead I have a NNE wind pushing me with the current.  No chance of holding 270°, can’t use para anchor because of the current and I’m making just over a knot and have 78nm to go to the reef passage.  Oh and it’s rained all morning and it’s freezing.  I’ve got 4 1/2 hours left of today’s rowing and only 27nm on the board.  If there was a day to be fed up this is the day.  The problem is this started last night and doesn’t look like changing for a while to me, not a lot to do but grind on and face the consequences.

04:00 GMT – So I had my break half an hour early and took the full break which is unusual but something had to give.  Rowing 1 knot is no fun, be assured.  Went back out and we weren’t pulling south quite so hard, the NNE wind had eased a little.  I got going and it poured rain, but we had a virtually windless first hour and  for the first time I was getting XTE back. I was moving along at about two knots so a big improvement, as soon as this happens I start calculating how far I can get and how bad the damage is.  2nd hour a very light east wind appears, this helps speed things up a bit.  Third hour we get a little SE (that could have been the low pressure moving away) and then back to east but a little stronger, no more than 10 knots but enough to add a little more speed.  I’ve always said that the big wind isn’t always good and today’s a great example of light wind, clean swell and no current resistance, I ended up doing 21/22 minute miles.  I’ve ended up with just under 39nm, now that’s short of target but only 6nm.   I’m pretty sure I can make that up, a little in this next session and the rest at the end of day tomorrow.  I’ve outlined the arrival plan below.  Not sure how my bodies holding up but any more days like today and I’m sure my head will explode.  It stopped raining about 20 minutes ago but it’s been pouring down nearly all day, I had to get a thermal top out it was so cold, never expected that.

08:00 GMT – So my 04:15 to 07:30 session was a romp, wind still moderate, mainly from the east, swell nice and organised and not to big. I was 3 knoting most of the way, the miles came in mostly around 21 minutes. Added 9.5nm so it’s the best start I’ve had. It was tempting to carry on but it’s good drifting conditions as well and we are on a good course with some speed.

The last 8 hours saved my skin, thank goodness the conditions came good. I’ll outline the plan below and explain how today’s delay will / won’t affect things.

In other news:

– Arrival plan.
I’m heading for a way through the reef called Trinity Pass, it’s currently 55nm away. I’m trying to get there by 06:00 tomorrow, actually I only need to be within 15nm. If I get 10nm from my drift and 10 from each of my life 4 hour sessions until 04:00 I’ll be spot on, I’ve then got 3 or 4 hours spare in case I need them.

The idea then is to rest as normal, get up as normal and start rowing at 3am, as normal. Go through the pass which is 18nm, that should be about 8 hours rowing. Once through the pass, I have to make the last 20nm to the marina.   This is a tough row into a current and due south, not sure how that will pan out.  So it’s a long days row and I’ll arrive at the marina evening of 26th local time.

The only big concern is the south running current on the outside of the reef, apparently as you get closer the current gets stronger.  Nothing to do but take a run at it, we’ll know tomorrow for sure.

So even though I was short mileage today I don’t think it will affect things, it would be nice to be 7/8 miles closer in case something goes wrong tomorrow but we are where we are.

– Cairns is 75nm away, I have 91 in total to row, the extra is due to navigating the reef.

– The weather has completely changed again, now this local low pressure is messing things up, Cyclone Stan will still have an influence and who knows what else will affect the next two days.

I know this is early for UK followers but it’s Christmas 75nm away in about 7 hours. Merry Christmas everyone, enjoy the family time and be grateful for whatever Santa leaves.

Only two days left, still not there and it’s not going to be easy but it’s close, the fat lady is stage left and ready to do a belter!



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