Guest Post: Crossing the Coral Sea in a Sailboat

Note: This is a guest post by Linda and Michael. Linda was one of my Mom’s co-workers who retired a few years ago. Linda and and Micahel set off exploring the globe in their 37 foot sailboat and have been all over the Carribean and Pacific. This is an email they wrote after crossing the Coral Sea to Austrailia back in August. I didn’t post it until now becasue I wanted to get permission before posting. I think it’s inspiring that they are traveling all over the world and I want to do something similar, but most likely without the sailboat! I’ve left her email intact, execpt for adding links to terms or places that people may not be familiar with. They are currently parked off the coast of Malaysia and will be continuing their adventure shortly.

August 5, 2009
16 degrees 55 minutes South
145 degrees 47 minutes East
Safe & sound in Cairns, Australia
2901 miles to Singapore

Linda & I, on our sturdy and capable 37 foot sailboat have crossed the Coral Sea in route to Cairns, Australia. If you don’t know where the Coral Sea lies in the scheme of things, you could say it is the westernmost part of the Pacific. Sinbad the Sailor who sailed the 7 seas probably included the Coral sea on his list! But this is a sea and not an ocean. It doesn’t have the giant lingering swells of the Pacific. The waves are confused and closer together which gave our tiny ship & ourselves one heck of a ride. The southeast trade winds can strengthen here quickly and gales & storms can become unleashed with little notice – which they did.

When we left Vanuatu and pointed B’Sheret out to sea, all was well. The winds were light and the seas were small. All that was to change.

The next day out winds were up to 33 knots with 9 foot waves. A wave would strike the side of her hull with a loud “THUMP!” We were like a small rubber duck in a bathtub with little babies splashing around. But this wasn’t fun at all. We reduced sail quickly. Our jerry fuel jugs started to come loose from the rail as the lashings that held them in place slowly worked their way out. A wave buried the side gunnel (side of the boat) and made our life sling deploy. Out it went 300 feet or so with the life ring with it. Good thing we had it tied on well. Even by slowing down it took all our strength to get it back aboard. Then the wiring for our solenoid on the propane tank to our stove broke. Too sick to sit on the back pushpit clipped on of course with a life jacket, I couldn’t deal with it. We had no hot food, soup or hot tea for 3 days. I finally was better and wired it back in. Then one of our inflatable life jackets opened when a giant wave entered the cockpit. It surprised us as it inflated in front of us. At least we know they work. Books that were wedged in tightly on the shelves below were now strewed about the cabin. We stumbled as anything that was loose found its way to the cabin sole (floor) . It was a challenge to live like this for the duration of the crossing. It was a picture seeing Linda bracing herself at the galley trying to dig food out of the fridge and cooking it on the gimbaled stove. Not many women or men could do this great balancing feat.

We shortened sail some more to cope with the rising wind and the huge seas. We had a third reef in the main and what Linda calls a handkerchief of a jib for a headsail. We finally slowed from 7.5 knots to an easy 6 knots of speed. We learned later that Peter & his wife Fiona on Sayonara, 2 days ahead of us on their 35 foot Cheou Lee ketch, suffered a knockdown as a huge wave picked up their boat from a trough and flung it over onto its side. Water poured down below knocking out the GPS, radio, and electronics. The boat quickly righted itself and they were OK. For our 10 day crossing we were battered by wind and rain and sea. Our other friend, Peter on Mr.Percival, commented that we have gained a lot of experience in rough weather.

Today Linda & I are sitting comfortably in our berth at Marlin Marina. It is civilization again with big city life, great food & great people. It was like the crossing never happened, but it did. Looking back at what we just went thru we couldn’t recommend this route to Australia to any sane boat. We are now definitely seasoned sailors but we never want to get thrown into that frying pan again.

Michael & Linda
S/Y B’Sheret

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