Great Keppel Island
If yesterday was beautiful, today is superb. Most of it. All day Duyfken sails before the wind over a sparkling blue sea with her yards braced nearly square. Her sails stretch out over the water on each side to catch every gust of the northerly wind, the canvas gleaming in the sun. All day we cruise along like this making easy miles. From time to time the braces need tending or the sheets and tacks need adjusting to keep Duyfken bowling along in perfect trim. Even the fish are jumping. Pity they don't jump on the lure. By late afternoon Great Keppel Island, our destination, is close ahead. We should reach the anchorage just after dark. A dream run. Then the fun starts. Just on nightfall layers of low cloud start scudding in from the south east. Huge thunder-heads of cumulo-nimbus build up over the land and start edging their way out over the water towards us. Lightning arcs to earth over Yepoon and the thunder gets louder and louder. The wind shifts ahead and freshens as we begin shortening sail. The spritsail is the first to come in, followed by the topsails. I look aloft to see Cian and Adam struggling to control the flogging fore-topsail in the rising wind. They are two dark blobs clinging to the yard silhouetted against the black sky. Then, for an instant, they are lit up clearly. In the darkness that follows, as the thunder cracks and rumbles all around, an image stays in my vision of their faces, with their straining expressions and streaming wet hair imprinted in every detail. In a matter of seconds we are all drenched. The wind has turned cold and it is hard to imagine that an hour ago we were toasting ourselves in the last of the afternoon sun. The wind is up to 30 knots and Duyfken is stalled in the water. I am trying to sail her up into the bay on the north side of Great Keppel Island, but she is sagging sideways under just the two courses. We are drifting towards the rocky islets near North Keppel Island, only a mile under our lee. I can barely keep my eyes open in the driving rain, but there is nothing to see. I have lost sight of everything including the lighthouses warning of the dangers. Even in the flashes of lightning which light up the sea around us like daylight, I can't see the islands or the beacons less than a mile off. I check the radar, but it can't see through the rain either. The screen is blank. I go back on deck and call for the engines to be started and the courses to be doused. The deck becomes a sea of snaking ropes and flogging canvas. The crew scurry from line to line, shouting to be heard over the wind. Rupert starts the engines. Before putting them in gear I take my torch and make a circuit of the ship checking for lines hanging over the side. A rope around the propellers now could cost us the ship. If the rain does not let up we will have to put to sea, clear of the dangers, and heave to for the night. Not a very inviting prospect. Thankfully it begins to clear. Cian calls out that he can see the lighthouse from the fo'c'sle. I bring the revs to full to get in before the next squall hits us. Half an hour later we are at anchor, but the fun continues. The anchor is not holding. Gary prepares the second anchor while the spare hands heave up the port cable. Soon we are riding securely to both anchors, the two stout rope cables straining out ahead like a pair of strong arms. We might get some sleep tonight after all.