There are times when an anchor must hold or more than sleep will be lost. The West Australian Coast, with its few good anchorages and fierce, persistent southerly winds produced just such a testing time for the sailing yacht Banyandah when en route from Dampier to Carnarvon.
The weathermen had promised a fair breeze, so Jack and Jude had risen from their comfy beds at the ungodly hour of 2:30 AM to use it for a 55 mile hop. Those same weathermen had said a cold front would follow this fair wind later that night, swinging it southwest with a powerful punch. What we needed was a good anchorage. Searching the chart, only one of the many islands and reefs found before Northwest Cape seemed hopeful. Mary Anne Islet, a tiny pile of sand atop a huge sunken reef. Would we find good bottom? Would the reef provide enough lee for our Manson Boss to hold? Desperate to use this rare fair wind, especially as all other winds had been strong and straight in our face, we decided to give it a go.
Arriving late in the afternoon not long past low water we were alarmed. Mary Anne was not as expected; murky water, visibility non-existent, not even a hint of the reef edge gleaned and dangerous shallows everywhere. Compounding all, the strong current around the reef made setting the anchor against the forecast wind difficult. More so as the nature of the bottom was uncertain. Our chain grumbled. And even though the anchor held, an hour later we moved out into deeper water to lose the swell that grew alarmingly upon hitting the shallows.
At midnight the wind turned southwest and roared past 30 knots, gusting 40. The huge fetch across the deeply covered reef created a steep short sea that slapped us sending spray over us the rest of the night. Banyandah bouncing sideways in the confusion of forces as the current ran at nearly four knots.
Middle of the night, the moon now up, a GPS ticking away next to our bed so we could check our position, we relaxed into half sleep still aware of any change, but feeling now the Boss was in charge. At dawn next morning, whitewater all round but still in the same spot, it was impossible to keep the smiles off our faces.