Pancake Creek in a northerly..

Tips to other sailors. Or just a great spot for a visit.
44c
Posts: 1147
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2006 5:08 am
Location: Hervey Bay, Qld

Pancake Creek in a northerly..

Post by 44c » Sat Dec 12, 2015 8:02 am

When we were sailing south last year, we decided to leave Corio bay (Qld) and sail down to great Keppel island. Forecast was for a 10knot Northerly, increasing to 15-20 later.

We had to wait 'till around 9am for some tide to get out of Corio bay, by which time we had a nice 10-12 knots N/NE blowing.

It's only a short 20 miles down to Keppel, but well before we were there we were getting 15-20 kts N/NE and comfortably sailing at 10+ knots, so we decided we'd continue down to Pancake creek, about another 60 miles.

My only concern with this was the possible drop in boatspeed when we turned further south at Cape Capricorn, might result in us arriving in the dark. But our electronic chart for the area has proven to be accurate, and we had some previous tracks to follow in, if needed.

Around cape Capricorn we overtook a couple of yachts, also heading south. Shortly after that we had a 20-25 knot Northerly blowing, we reefed once, then twice, still comfortably sailing at 10-12, with occasional surfs up to around 15, as the seas were building a bit.

Now my concern wasn't arriving in daylight - we were going to do that easily, but it was for the kind of seas we might encounter at the entry - Pancake creek pretty much faces due north. So we decided on a contingency plan of continuing south to Bundaberg - another 60 odd miles.

Of course then the BOM decided to throw in a complication - a strong wind warning for the Hervey bay area - the northern boundary of which is Bundaberg - for 20-30 knot Southeasterlies. In the morning's forecast the change had been predicted for at least a day later.

OK we thought, if Pancake is too dangerous, we still head for Bundy. If the SE change arrives when we're halfway there, we can turn around and go back to Pancake, as the SE'lies would flatten it out.

Our 2 hour daysail was looing like potentially being closer to 20 hours...

Anyway, we arrived at Pancake, and from a distance it looked pretty rough. But as we got closer you could see that the channel looked alright, but with decent breaking waves on the rocks on one side, and the sandbanks on the other. Some sizeable waves in the channel too, but nothing breaking.

It looked reasonably OK to go in. So we dropped the main, started the engines, and turned off the autopilot.

Getting in turned out to be pretty easy, we surfed in on one wave, for about 100m at around 12 knots, and we were in. I was actually really happy with how light and responsive the steering was while surfing.

After anchoring we were talking about the two yachts we'd overtaken, wondering what they'd do. No way they were going to arrive in daylight, and I didn't like the thought of that entrance in the dark... the two entrance markers are lit, but the channel marker buoys inside aren't.

At around 7:30pm Tania saw lights approaching the entrance. We sort of thought no more of it, 'till a while later when we wondered where they'd gone. There were no new anchor lights nearby. Thought maybe they'd decided to continue South, but through the binoculars I could see lights still out near the entrance. We wondered if maybe something had happened.

So we turned the VHF back on. At this point the weather was looking even worse - the 20+ knot N'ly was still blowing, but there was also a thunderstorm coming from the west. Already starting to rain, and lightning flashes all over, apart from which it was pitch black dark.

After a few minutes on the VHF we heard Marine rescue Gladstone talking to their rescue boat - a yacht had gone on the rocks at the entrance to pancake creek. We listened for a while, and heard the crew of the yacht say they were going to abandon the boat, but the rescue boat was still around 2 hours away. So we offered to help if we could.

I couldn't see any point in taking the big boat out - we'd never get near a boat on the rocks, the dinghy would be much handier.

A disadvantage of this was that out handheld VHF had gotten wet when we'd towed a yacht with the dinghy some time before, and wasn't working. So we only had mobile phones for comms.

And later we discovered that not having a chartplotter available in the dinghy was even worse. It was pitch dark, raining and very hazy. Our best torch couldn't penetrate very far, the light bounced back at us. It was pretty crappy overall.

We tried to navigate our way through the entrance channel, watching all the time for some kind of lights from the crew of the yacht. We got a fair way out, but then we simply couldn't find the unlit channel markers. And suddenly the waves were getting pretty big, not breaking, but with foamy crests on them. We simply couldn't tell if we were in the deeper water of the channel, or had gone into shallower water. Either way it was pretty scary where we were.

And still we saw no sign of lights from the crew abandoning their boat, who we'd assume would make their way in towards the anchorage area, where there are at least some beaches to land at. We were getting pretty worried for their safety, and a bit for our own too.

Reluctantly we decided we really couldn't go on. We had no idea where we were relative to the channel, our torch just wasn't penetrating the mist and rain, and the conditions were getting a bit dangerous for us. So we turned back.

We got back to the boat OK, and called Marine rescue Gladstone to tell them we were OK, we'd been out for about 90 minutes, but hadn't been able to find either the yacht or it's crew. It turned out the crew hadn't abandoned ship, deciding it was safer to wait for the rescue boat, it being so rough where they were. And by this point the rescue boat wasn't far away. We felt helpless - so close to them but really unable to help.

When the rescue boat arrived, it took them over two hours to get the crew off - it was pretty bad out there and they did a fantastic job to get them both off safely. Luckily, the thunderstorm brought relatively light southerly winds with it, which actually improved conditions. We ended up getting to bed around midnight.

Sorry if the story rambled a bit, but it just amazed me how much a nice day for a 2 hour sail had changed.

Finally
Posts: 217
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2009 9:24 am
Location: Cairns

Re: Pancake Creek in a northerly..

Post by Finally » Sat Dec 12, 2015 1:24 pm

Do you know what happened to the crew - were they all OK?

And what happened to the boat - salvaged or left to the elements?

I suppose this would have been one occasion when a radar would have been very helpful to pick up the unlit markers.

David

44c
Posts: 1147
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2006 5:08 am
Location: Hervey Bay, Qld

Re: Pancake Creek in a northerly..

Post by 44c » Sat Dec 12, 2015 2:36 pm

Crew were fine, boat was a write-off. Looked ok (well it was sunk, but looked intact) when we left the next morning, but friends who were in Pancake a couple of days later told us it was already coming apart, rig down, deck separating from hull, stuff from the interior floating everywhere.

Radar might have helped, don't really know the reason they went up on the rocks. Could have simply broached in the following seas, which would have been pretty heavy by the time they got there. Tide was lower too.

44c
Posts: 1147
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2006 5:08 am
Location: Hervey Bay, Qld

Re: Pancake Creek in a northerly..

Post by 44c » Sat Dec 12, 2015 2:39 pm

The following morning:

Image

PRJP78
Posts: 55
Joined: Sun Dec 06, 2015 7:55 am

Re: Pancake Creek in a northerly..

Post by PRJP78 » Mon Dec 14, 2015 2:11 pm

44c wrote:The following morning:

Image
that sucks ;[

44c
Posts: 1147
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2006 5:08 am
Location: Hervey Bay, Qld

Re: Pancake Creek in a northerly..

Post by 44c » Mon Dec 14, 2015 6:22 pm

Finally wrote:I suppose this would have been one occasion when a radar would have been very helpful to pick up the unlit markers.

David
Hi David, looking at some wider shots, I realised they did have radar. No guarantee it was turned on though.

Image

Finally
Posts: 217
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2009 9:24 am
Location: Cairns

Re: Pancake Creek in a northerly..

Post by Finally » Mon Dec 14, 2015 6:47 pm

What a shame - and it looks like a well setup cruising yacht.

David

Jim
Posts: 691
Joined: Fri May 19, 2006 8:25 am
Location: Cairns

Re: Pancake Creek in a northerly..

Post by Jim » Mon Dec 14, 2015 9:10 pm

You know, when having that early morning coffee or tea, just sitting there on your boat looking out at nothing in particular, you just don't have any idea what the day may put in front of you, and how quickly things can go from dodgy to catastrophic.
Those poor buggers.
Jim.

Smooth Cruiser
Posts: 583
Joined: Thu May 11, 2006 1:51 am
Location: Brisbane

Re: Pancake Creek in a northerly..

Post by Smooth Cruiser » Sun Dec 20, 2015 2:57 pm

Scary stuff.

Sounds a lot like a day I had in 2009 coming south with Bushytales - I left Keppel heading for Pancake in a nice 10knot breeze - spinnaker up sitting on the foredeck with the autopiilot on enjoying a beautiful day. Wind started to build from the north all day until by mid afternoon it was 25knots and I was facing the same decision as to whether to keep going to Bundaberg or go into Gladstone harbour (a place I try to avoid unless it's the end of a yacht race), or enter Pancake with a considerable northerly swell and wind wave. I elected to carry on to Round Hill and go in there as I had found the entrance better in a northerly previously and also in that I could listen to the Lady Musgrave day trip boat entering and get a report on the crossing from them. Surfed my way in safely with pretty big seas around the boat and anchored up for the night relieved to rest and have a good night - I was by myself on board. Next thing a Maritimo motor boat trying to come in through the entrance ran up on the rocks and I was out trying to help them off until the coast guard got mobilised, then back to the boat just before a thunderstorm hit and the pontoon that the Musgrave flyer ties up to broke its mooring and spun round hitting the next boat in the line of fore / aft moorings causing it to start to sink. So I was out again in my dinghy trying to get extra lines tied to the pontoon and get it off the boat that it was slowly pushing below the surface. All ended OK with no one hurt and not too much damage to the maritimo or the moored boat but I hit my bed about midnight feeling absolutely drained after what had started out as a nice pleasant days sail.

All character builiding stuff and part of what sailing is about at times! Luckily the good days far outnumber these ones!

44c
Posts: 1147
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2006 5:08 am
Location: Hervey Bay, Qld

Re: Pancake Creek in a northerly..

Post by 44c » Tue Dec 22, 2015 9:39 am

Amazingly similar to our experience SC!

Just goes to show that some lateral thinking might be needed at times. The "traditional" anchorages, that are great in SE weather, might not be viable in northerly winds.

If we're in a similar situation again, I'd also consider Rodd harbour.

Post Reply