Subject: [harryproa] Harry's first venture
Date: 1/9/2007, 6:36 AM

Hi All,
We tried to take Bain's Harry over the Bellinger bar today for her first sail. The weather and tides have been conspiring against us since she was launched a few weeks ago. They used to build 100ft schooners up the Bellinger River but a hundred years of logging has silted the river to the point where outboard powered tinnies are careful not to hit the bottom. This makes the entrance to the ocean dangerous in anything but very calm seas and a full incoming tide. The outgoing river water drops it's suspended sand when it hits the ocean creating a sand bar which causes surf to form.
We checked the bar before venturing out and decided it wasn't perfect but OK. Wrong! We were hit by a couple of pretty big waves but it looked like we could punch through. Then the big one came. It just reared up and up as it came at us, the sort of wave that puts a grin on a surfer's face but a look of dismay on a yachties'. Hard to estimate it's size but I was looking level at it's face while standing on deck. It broke just before we got to it so I hit the deck gripping the trampoline while water washed over the top of me. The boat was washed backwards a fair way then spun around with the windward hull towards the shore. Bain powered on and we concurred to go back. It took a while to turn around being sideways to the waves but she came around and we headed back in, all soaked.
We really shouldn't have attempted it once we saw how big the waves were from the boat. They looked a lot smaller from the shore. Pilots are drilled never to be afraid to turn back if there is any doubt. Sailors should follow the same discipline.
Twin engines are worth having for manoeuvrability. When crossing the Macleay River bar coming in on 'Rare Bird' the helmsman accidentally got the boat side on to the surf. I was able to spin her around with one engine full ahead and one full astern. The Harry took much longer to steer her way out of it with one engine, luckily we had some sea room. 
All fun and games and nobody was particularly scared but potentially we could have lost the boat, especially if the motor had failed. We later realised the lashing holding the jib to the boom had wash along the boom, this is two meters above the deck. At least we know the boat is very strong.
Mark Stephens

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