The BOSS and Mary Anne

Sailing Stories Online

There are times when an anchor must hold or more than sleep will be lost. The North West Coast of Australia with its few good anchorages and fierce, persistent southerly winds produced just such a test for the sailing yacht Banyandah when en route from Dampier to Carnarvon.


The weathermen had promised a fair breeze, so we rose from our comfy beds at the ungodly hour of 2:30 AM to begin a 55 mile hop because those same weathermen had warned that after dark a change would swing the fair breeze southwest with a powerful punch, and so we needed a good anchorage. Searching the chart, of the many islands and reefs found before Northwest Cape only one seemed hopeful, Mary Anne Islet, a tiny pile of sand atop a huge sunken reef. We were desperate to use this rare fair wind as all other winds had been strong and straight in our face, and decided to give it a go hoping the reef would provide a good enough bottom and enough lee for our Manson Boss to hold?.

mary anne reef anchorage

Arriving late in the afternoon not long past low water we were alarmed. Mary Anne was not as expected; turbid water, visibility non-existent, not even a hint of the reef edge and dangerous shallows everywhere. Compounding this, a strong current set around the reef, making setting the anchor against the forecast wind difficult. And even worse, the nature of the bottom was uncertain. Our chain grumbled. And though the anchor held, an hour later we moved out into deeper water to lose the swell that grew alarmingly when hitting the shallows.

At midnight the wind turned southwest and roared past 30 knots, gusting 40. The huge fetch across the then deeply covered reef created a steep short sea that slapped our lady and sent spray over us the rest of the night. Banyandah bounced sideways, caught in the confusion of a nearly four knot current against strong winds.

When the moon lit up the early hours, and a small chartplotter ticking away next to our bed to check our position, we relaxed into uneasy half sleep, still aware of any change, but feeling the Boss was in charge. At dawn next morning, whitewater all round, and still in the same spot, it was impossible to keep the smiles off our faces.

by Cap’n Jack

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