It was supposed to be 34 degrees today, and, as I did not feel like roasting alone in the trailer as I worked, I decided to work on Sunday and go sailing instead. M looked at me with distrustful eyes when I told him of my desire to sail. I don’t think he quite realised the wonder that I experienced when we escaped the 38 degree heat by being afloat. Anyway, Friday dawned, and the tides were doing their thing at a civilised hour.
On our way to Boat at about 7.30am, M offered me one last out.
“We don’t have to go sailing you know. I’m not even sure I really feel like going anyway.”
I asked him if he felt short of breath, nauseous or had a dead feeling in his left arm. He answered in the negative. We continued on. The tide was still fairly high.
Noodled down the creek and into the bay. We had decided to go the other way around French Island, but from the outset were racing against the diminishing tide. M insisted on teaching me how to navigate in longitude and latitude using a chart, protractor thing, a pencil and the GPS. I think I managed it after a couple of tries.
There is a crucial bit on the chart where, at low tide, there is just mud for how ever many metres. Think of two pools of Twisties, each with one particular Twisty pointing out of the pool toward each other, with a few centimeteres in between them. That’s what the chart looked like. Those few centimetres were the channels that we had to navigate down, and the gap in between was the low tide mud.
As we began running out of water, I was sent to the front of the boat to be a channel spotter. I wasn’t very good at it – although it’s all relative. I might have been very good at it, had there been any channels to spot. Things grew rather fraught and sentences were short between myself and my Co-Captain. In the end, M was cajoling Boat through mud more by his own will than anything else.
But finally, our Jesus-style water walking ended, and we were stuck. Mud bound. My Co-Captain spent a good five minutes or so being quite pouty.
“Oh,” he declaimed dramatically, “We’re going to be stuck here for the Rest. Of. The. Day. So much for sailing.”
Secretly, I didn’t mind at all. We were provisioned, and I had brought along an unread Pelecanos that I was desperate to begin. I feigned a bit of stiff upper lip. We put up our shade cloth and settled in. There was about 10cm of water at that stage.
And it dropped, and dropped and dropped. Later we realised that on a normal day we would have made it to the other channel without incident, but for whatever reason, we had decided to sail on the day of one of the lowest tides either of us had ever seen. The tide dropped to 0.03 – that’s seriously L.O.W.
But it was all fine. We made tea and coffee, ate some biscuits. I read my book and M entertained himself with boating gadgets. At about 2.15pm I looked down. There was about 5cm of water. I looked at the nearby mudflat, and told M that at the rate the tide appeared to be coming in, the mudflat would be gone by 2.30pm. Wrong. It was gone 10 minutes later. The water was streaming in – we checked the tidebook, and high tide was 2.93m – basically three metres. Bizarre.
We were away sailing before 3pm, and had a lovely journey back to the creek. I steered for a bit of it, and M had the unusual experience of just being able to wander about as we were under way. He liked it so much that he rigged up a shockcord ‘self-steerer’ and kicked back with me for a while.
We sailed all the way back down the creek, and just put the motor on to pull up at the dock. The weather was sublime. And then we ate a Peter Brock Special Pizza (and survived) and drank Coopers Stout. A grand day out.