Polite Neighbours...


d'Albora's Action Project: AUS 360 Blog Update

Presented by Pivotel

Afternoon all,

Last night was another ripper of a sunset with the sky lit up with pinks and oranges. I was sailing in a NW breeze of 7 knots so I was able to move well and maintain a speed above 5 knots. I was also able to almost make a direct course for most of the night. I think because I had such a good sleep the night before I was feeling quite restless so I didn't even attempt to get some sleep until after midnight. Once I finally made it to my bunk I ended up spending the next hour or so just tossing and turning and not actually getting any sleep. I also needed to put in 2 tacks at the winds shifted and to sail be clear away from a reef that I was likely to get too close too on my current heading.

By 2 am I figured that I was going to be in for another night of no sleep as much as I kept trying and by 3 am I noticed a bleep on the radar that indicated a ship a little over 4.5 nm away from me. I have Guard Zone Alarms set on my B and G 4G Radar and normally I have these set to 4 nm range. What these alarms do is if any beeps or smudges appear on the radar screen within that range then it will set the alarm off. As the vessel was just outside that range my alarm had yet to go off but I was still uncomfortable with how close they were given that they were an unknown vessel and it was the middle of the night.

I used the radar to acquire the vessel as a target on the screen and while I was waiting for it to do the math and work out the bleeps speed, heading and closest point of approach I went on deck to confirm if they were on a collision course with me or not. Going Old School I used a hand bearing compass and took their bearing. I also noted that they were a vessel over 50 meters given the lights that they were displaying and I could see their port aspec.

Once I realised that they were over 50 meters I assumed that they were likely one of the Australian Border Force vessels patrolling the area as they never appear any AIS information and you can only see them on the radar. From my target that I acquired on the radar, I could tell that they were the overtaking vessel and that they should pass within 2nm of me and they were travelling at 13 knots. I decided just to be safe given the darkness of the night that I would radio them to confirm that they have me on the radar and to notify them that I am a small sailing craft crewed by one.

For me it always pays to be sure that they have seen you and there have been many times over the course of my sailing that I have hailed a container ship who is the give way vessel and who is on a collision course with me and received no reply, whether it was because they were asleep in the wheelhouse or didn't want to acknowledge the fact that they were the give way vessel and there for taking no alterations to their course. So now I always radio just to be sure.

So I hailed the unknown vessel in Lat and Long position and you can imagine my surprise when it was returned by vessel Australian Warcraft. The female radio operator was very polite and happy to confirm that they have me in their sights and I left them to it. I did end up staying on deck until they had completed the overtake and moved clear ahead but I was quite happy to do so as it's not every day at sea you get to have a radio chat with a Warcraft.

Finally, as the sunrise was blooming I went below again to try for some more sleep and managed a few short hours. When I made it back on deck this morning there was nothing but blue ocean and blue skies all around me. I am now sailing out of the Timor Sea and into the Indian Ocean. The winds remained all day changing between the SW to the NW so I have been tacking to make the best course to the SW when the winds allow. Right now I have a great amount of wind and am gently sailing in 10 knots of wind making 7 knots boat speed. The only problem with the winds blowing in from directly where I need to travel is that I end up sailing twice the distance to get to the same destination and given that I am on a world record I would really rather the more direct course of downwind sailing. Oh well, we work with what we have.

Thanks to the following Sponsors for all their continued support: d’Albora Marinas, Pivotel  B&G, Australian Geographic, Zhik , Park Fuels, Karver, 3M, White Bay 6 Marine Park, and Great Circle Life Raft