Category: Sailing (Page 1 of 13)

The Sea Adventure: The 1st Day

The Journey

We stayed the night at the home of Hoo-Ray! in South Gippsland and woke bright and shiny to check out the weather forecast. M looked at it dubiously. He was silent during porridge. He was in ‘decision-mode’. The forecast was for about 15 to 20 knot winds, increasing to 25 knots later on. And thus a little bit iffy.

M had provisioned for the trip like Jamie Oliver. He’d taken care of it all, and didn’t want to venture out in weather that would make his newly minted First Mate swim for home. I think he’d had nightmares about me stepping aboard and instantaneously vomiting straight over the side. Gunwale. Whatever.

So it was crunch time. If we were going to launch, we needed to get to the ramp at Newhaven by about 8.30am to get underway. If we left it any later we would be battling the tide, which would be concentrating on sucking us out into the unfriendly waters of Bass Strait.

“Right B,” said M, “I don’t think we’ll go. It will be too rough. We’ll just have to bash our way through. It’d be wet, and in no way a relaxing sail.”

I looked moodily at my porridge. My father wisely stayed silent.

“I don’t care if we have to bash our way. I want to go today. I’m not a princess. I can handle waves.”

M shook his head and cautioned me again.

“B, it won’t be much fun. We can just hang around today and go tomorrow instead.”

I shook my head. No.

And so it was that we turned up, after a forty minute drive, at the Newhaven boat ramp, which is right next to the Newhaven Yacht Squadron, and it’s very sexy yacht basin. I then assumed that we could back Hoo-Ray! down the ramp, into the water, and set off. But no. It was all going on with the rigging and the getting the mast up and the shackling of forestays and finding the jib. It seemed to me to take an interminable time. And the shackles. Who would have invented such a thing? What could be worse than with ice cold hands on rolling waves, trying to put a shackle on a stay or take one off?

A shackle is a bit of metal shaped like a ‘U’ with a pin that screws across, kind of like a screw on earring. Here’s what one looks like. Beyond fiddly. I can barely admit it, but even while M and I were rigging Hoo-Ray!, the boat was bouncing around on the trailer suspension and made me feel a little bit ill. However, I did not tell a soul.

The calm before the storm...

Anyway, finally we got Hoo-Ray! sorted out. She slipped off the trailer (after some vein-popping pushing) and into the water. We tethered her to the jetty and dad and M went to speak to the people at the shop where we were going to leave the van and trailer locked up for the next three days. I was Master of the Boat. I tried sticking my head down below where we were to sleep. Instant quease. I tried a few more times, with the same result. I settled this by staying in the cockpit with my eyes fixed firmly on land.

Once they returned, M then had to spend what seemed an age setting up the mainsail and more rigging stuff. My dad stood on the jetty, holding the boat steady with the patience of a cow. Finally we were ready to actually leave. Go. Sail away. Vamoose! We sailed away from the jetty, waving to my dad, and M took the reef out of the sail, as we didn’t seem to be moving very fast. That only lasted for about ten minutes. Then the wind decided to visit. Big time.

Waving goodbye from Newhaven

Very soon there seemed to be an increasing number of Large Waves, and the wind was getting towards about 30 knots*. M felt that he may have removed the reef in the sail somewhat prematurely. So, as I took the tiller, he wrestled with the mainsail. As I hadn’t yet learnt the art of navigating the boat gently over waves, Hoo-Ray! and M both took a bit of a bashing. We furled the jib (all hail the invention of the furler) and were generally basted in brine. The direction in which we needed to head was directly into the wind… er… malestrom. The waves were very close together and about six feet high. Think of very big, liquid green corrugated tin.

Our aim was to go Rhyll for lunch and then to continue on our adventure by sailing across to French Island, and tucking under Tortoise Head for the night in the deep water that ran along the beach. However, the weather thought otherwise. After about forty minutes of seafaring battle, we fired up the outboard and began motor sailing. About four or five times M had to go to the front of the boat to tie something down or fix something that had snapped. I steered mutinously onward. Drenched and desperate to wee.

Where's the jetty?

Rhyll materialised like some kind of wondrous figment. We aimed for the jetty at which M and my dad had tied up a month before. Bits of it were there, but the rest of it had sunk. It was quite perplexing. Then we aimed Hoo-Ray! at a far more rewarding structure. The public toilets. We pulled up on to the beach (after raising the rudder, the motor and the centreboard) and M and I jumped ashore.

Beaching the boat at Rhyll

“We did it!” M danced at me. “We made it to Rhyll!”

“I’m so glad!” I shouted into the widening gap between us. “I can’t talk anymore, I’m concentrating on bladder control.”

I loped in bladder controlling leaps to the public toilets and weed like the world’s most thirsty camel. It was heaven.

By the time I made it back to M, I was capable of conversation. M, in an indication of what life was going to be like for the next few days, made a sandwichy sensation of buttered bread, pesto, cheese and cherry tomatos. And a cup of Earl Grey tea. We licked our wounds and felt vastly improved.

I decided to stay with Hoo-Ray! while M went to have a look around. We were anchored so near the beach, that the boat was relatively steady. I curled up underneath in my sleeping bag and read a bit, snoozed a bit, and read a bit more until M came back and began ‘doing things’ on deck. Whatever he was doing seemed to involve a lot of walking about, and each time he moved, the boat bobbed in response. As did my stomach. The quease returned.

As it was a Friday, M reported that most of Rhyll’s five or six shops were open, and that he had found a lovely place for a drink… and maybe dinner. The thought of dinner did not excite me, but I had vague feeling that a stubby of Stella Artois might banish my sickness. We secured the valiant Hoo-Ray! and took a walk up the hill. The more I saw of Rhyll the prettier it seemed to get! We decided to be extravagant and eat at the fancy place. My thoughts about the Stella were correct. They had a lovely woodfire. The owner came and chatted to us and we told him we’d just sailed in, feeling slightly smug.

The menu was absolutely amazing, the prices were ridiculous and the food didn’t measure up to either. But it was nice to be out after our battle with the sea. We left at about 8pm to go back to Hoo-Ray! where we put on our slippers and settled in. After we’d lain there for about three hours, M groaned.

“I can’t take it anymore. I haven’t been able to get to sleep. That bit of the broken jetty keeps hitting the pole and keeping me awake.”

And so, if you had been there, you would have seen us at about midnight, motoring with great trepidation, to the other side of the little harbour. I stood on the bow with our Dolphin torch lighting our path and praying, while M steered valiantly through the night air. We found a spot. Checked that the anchor wasn’t dragging. And snuggled down again, this time for the rest of the night.

*What is a knot?
A knot is the seagoing equivalent of a kilometre. It’s how you measure wind and distance on the water. However – one knot is equal to 1.8 kilometres. The odd thing is that as the wind blows stronger the power of the wind gets ridicuously stronger. Quite simply, you square the wind speed to get the power of the wind. Which is why 30 knots blows off your socks and twenty’s nearly plenty.

The Sea Adventure: The 2nd Day

After our midnight adventures it was exciting to wake up in a part of the harbour that we hadn’t seen before (because we arrived in the dark). It was gorgeous. The houses of Rhyll surrounded the little sheltered bay, and there were big green hills a little further around, away from the township. M made cups of tea and his breakfast wonder dish ‘Egg in a Hole’. If you have not experienced Egg in a Hole, you should. It’s particularly good when camping.

How to make ‘Egg in a Hole’
Get a bit of bread. Bite a hole in the middle of it. Eat the bit you bit. Put bread in frypan with some butter, garlic (if you’re that way inclined), and some salt and pepper. Put ‘egg in hole’. Fry both sides. Stick it on a plate. Eat it.

With breakfast done and dusted, I washed up in the bucket. (Not the one reserved for wee.) M chatted to a few passers by on the shore, and then we set off for French Island. I hadn’t realised quite how protected we had been in Rhyll. As soon as we got a fair way from land we where again hit by the Mega Wind. I’d texted my dad to ask him to text me through the latest forecast for Westernport Bay. Naturally 15 to 20 knot forecast we had read online just the day before had disappeared into the ether, only to be replaced by 25 to 30 knot winds – strong wind warning. Perfect. Not.
Again we reefed the mainsail (i.e. didn’t have the entire sail up, just most of it) and after a while decided to again rely on the motor as our destination was exactly where the wind was coming from. We had to tack to get there, which was going to take us a ridiculously long time in such strong winds. Of course M had to do battle with bits and pieces again. Throughout our trip there were only two things he did that drove me crazy. One was telling me to steer for ‘that tree over there’.

“Which tree?”

He would point, as the boat flailed from wave to wave, at what looked to me like a whole plantation of trees in the distance.

“That one!”

“Um. Ok.”

Whereupon I would just try and continue in the direction that we were already going, but would inevitably, in my efforts to ease us through the waves, fall off course until the boat, going sideways into the tumult, would encounter several large waves. The waves would fall on M, who would continue with whatever thing he was trying to fix while managing to point me back in the direction of his ‘tree’.

The other thing that disturbed me (although it shouldn’t, as he replicates his actions on dry land with doors) was his inability to remember to close the hatch. The hatch! The only thing keeping all our food and sleeping bags dry. As I do on solid ground, I would just close it myself every ten minutes or so, but because I kept losing track of the tree, it became imperative to keep the hatch shut. At one point I looked up, saw it open again, closed it, and one second later it was submerged under a big dumping of green water. M and I looked at each other with Tweety-Bird eyes.

It was a tewwible stworm. The bowt wocked and wocked…
The wind was going nuts, although the waves weren’t quite as big as the previous day.

“Don’t worry,” M kept shouting reassuringly, “Once we get close to French Island, it will be all sheltered. It will be much calmer!”

I, salt chafed, squinted toward the shore. It really didn’t look any calmer there. We motor sailed onwards, M and I both singing that Rolf Harris song in tune with the engine…
Sun-a-rise, he come in the morning
Sun-a-rise, he come with the dawning
Spreading all the light all around…

(…at that point we would do didgeridoo noises, which complemented the tone of the motor quite well.)

It took us what seemed like a couple of hours to reach French Island. The wind completely disregarded our wishes and blew even harder. Thankfully the waves got smaller as we got close to land. We nosed our way along the beach. Anchored. Too windy. Pulled up anchor. Moved along a bit. Anchored. Too near the remnants of an old jetty. Pulled up anchor. Moved right into the beach. And anchored again. We had found a ‘good spot’. Windy but ‘offshore’ so no waves at all.

High and dry on French Island

“Once the tide goes out, we’ll be up on the sand you know,” said M, ever knowledgable about the whens and wheres of the tide.

“Will the boat flop on to it’s side?”

“Probably not.”

“Then it doesn’t matter, does it? I mean, as long as the tide is high when we want to get going.”

And with those words I tempted fate. But more on that later. M went for an exploratory wander and I stretched out on the boat in the sun, while trying to stay out of the wind. It got quite hot. We drank a cheerful glass of red wine each (yes – from a glass – we are so styley) and decided to go on a Walk.

Hlafway through a long walk

I wanted to go and coo at the lambs that were sharing a paddock with older sheep and some cows. Of course once I got too near the fence, they all scattered. I was, again, happy that I gave up eating them. Less guilt. Our walk continued. I was looking for treasure. I found two tennis balls – only needed one more for M to be able to juggle. It was only five minutes until I found the necessary third ball, and M obliged me be juggling jubilantly. We found two more tennis balls after that.

The shores of French Island (or the part that we were on) were odd. It seemed as if there might have been a forest right down to the water, because the sand was full of little dead tree trunks. And areas of the sand that looked like rock, were actually some kind of rock-looking squishy bouncy stuff. It was strange. Maybe chicory comes from trees…

[Minor tangent: I just googled and it appears that ‘The island’s mangroves were burned in the 1840s for reduction to barilla, a plant ash rich in soda and potassium which was used in the production of glass and soap. However, heavy rains washed away most of the ash and the endeavour was abandoned.‘ ]

OK. Glad I sorted that out. Here are some pictures from our walk.

French Island Rockpool
French Island eucalypts
Sticks in the sand
French Island: Old chicory kiln

It was quite hot, although still fairly windy, but by the time we made it back to the boat everything had slackened off. I went back to my book, while M went on a solitary jaunt toward Tortoise Head. But not before some tea.

Making tea.

It began to get dark. And this is where I come back to my marvellous idea of mooring the boat high and dry. Because as the dusk set in, so did the MOSQUITOS. Not normal small urban mosquitos, but large, swamplike creatures that had been waiting ten years for flesh. Not hordes, just a small, SAS-like battalion. They were ruthless and determined. I dressed myself so that the only things touching the air were my hands and face. I ran up and down the boat in a kind of perpetual motion. We had no insect repellant. I cursed the lack of Bushman. I stood looking down at a nearby little rock, willing the tide to give me some indication it was coming in. Never had a tide taken so long.

All I had with me that I thought mosquitos woundn’t like was some lavender oil. So I lit our little candle lantern, dabbed oil on the top and huddled over the fumes. I became miraculously mosquito free! We then basted M and the boat in lavender oil, so much so that if anyone had stumbled upon us, we would have been mistaken for feral aromatherapists. And still we waited. It was like watching a kettle boil. M tried to haul us out using the anchor, but the boat would not budge. So we both went for a dusky walk toward Tortoise Head. Keeping a nervous glance up our sleeve for the nearly floating boat.

OK, by now it’s dark. M had taken a compass bearing on the far side of the deepwater channel that began about five metres out. We aimed, when we finally floated free, to anchor in the channel so that we wouldn’t wake up high and dry all over again. FINALLY the tide came in enough for Hoo-Ray! to float. We each grabbed a plastic oar and paddled. Paddled hard. M kept and eye on the GPS and after 100 meters dropped the anchor over the side. The anchor rope played out a long way, which seemed to indicate that we’d been successful.

Further away from the beach it was a trifle more breezy and the mosquitos dissapated quickly. Such relief. M cooked up some pasta and added in the pesto he had made before we set out. With the addition of cherry tomatos, it was the most divine dinner of our sailing adventure, and blew the restaurant meal of the night before out of the water. We drank some red, ate some tim-tams and went to bed, hoping we would still be afloat in the morning.

We were…

Waking Up

The Sea Adventure: The 3rd Day

We awoke in the morning to find ourselves thankfully in the middle of the 30m wide channel. The sky was blue and the wind cold. The wind had been offshore all night, and as the channel ran quite close to shore, it had been a quiet sleep. M ripped out another wonder-breakfast; this time porridge with brown sugar and cups of tea.

I had almost begun to get used to weeing in a bucket, although I would shoo M to the other end of the boat and instruct him to look valiantly out to sea until the bucket and I were done. We motored for about ten minutes to get Hoo-Ray! into the right position to go close around Tortoise Head. We were aiming for Tankerton Jetty on French Island where the ferry from Phillip Island docks. The plan was to then hire bicycles and see a bit of the island, however, I was a bit dubious about this, as riding bicyles into strong wind up hills didn’t sound like the most fun we had ever had.

The scenery along the way was amazing. Lots of wind generators (as French Island has no mains power) and old farmhouse looking buildings. Cliffs. Once we left the shelter of Tortoise Head the ocean swell kicked in, as did a five foot wind swell from another direction. Things got rough and pokey. It was almost a repeat of our previous experiences, and was a little wearing.

We could see all the unregistered cars left in the car park and bashed our way toward land in about 25 knots, only to find the jetty swamped by waves.It became obvious that there was no way were were going to be able to tie up and land. We gave up and turned around to an easier point of sail. We headed for Cowes.

Slapped our way back through the rough water off Tortoise Head and then a fast sail (for little 16′ HooRay!) on a beam reach all the way to Cowes (can you tell that my prose has been edited for sailing cred by M?). The more wind there was, the more I was unable to fathom how anyone could liveaboard for any length of time. I found it impossible to go below for any reason, let alone read maps or contemplate making a cup of tea. The only way I’ll be a cruiser is on a large multihull, thanks for asking.

We neared Cowes, which appeared from the sea to be all pub and pine trees. There was a jetty, but again the wind and the waves were mostly onshore and made landing way too dicey. I was urging M to sail toward the public toilets, but it was impossible. I crossed my legs and hoped pathetically for the best. M took us around to the next cove, and made a kamikaze swing into the beach, where we dropped anchor five metres from the rocks. M gazed valiantly into the distance, while I convened with the bucket, my one true friend.

Then came one of the best bits of our adventure. We followed th’e long shore along toward Rhyll, down wind, right near the beach the whole way. It was gorgeous. I fell asleep in the sun and lost my sunglasses from Lennox Head over the side [sob] – but it was a lovely sail.

My Co-Captain

We neared Rhyll and pulled up on to the beach where we had the time before (it seemed so long ago…yeah, all of 24 hours!) We wandered a little, because as it was Sunday, all of Rhylls five or six shops were now open.

We avoided the cheesy restaurant, chock full of weekenders in faux yachting apparel (unlike our bedraggled salt stained selves) and headed for fish and chips. Well, chips and potato cakes and… pumpkin cakes – which I’d never had before, but welcomed gladly into my life. We went and sat down by the walkway in front of the beach, with the live jazz from the restaurant wafting over from behind us. It was sunny and beautiful. I became ever fonder of Rhyll.

During our noshing, my phone rang. My mother, with the sound of a shopping centre behind her.

Mother: Hi B, where are you? Am I going to see you before I go?

B: In Rhyll on Phillip Island. And no. We had our goodbye lunch last week, remember?

Mother: But I want to see you and M before I go…

B: Well you can’t see us, because We. Are. On. Phillip. Island.

Mother: [changing tack] Well… The other reason I was ringing is because I’m over at Southland [for some reason she’s never just ‘at Southland’ but always ‘over at Southland’] and I’m in the National Geographic shop…

B: [eating chips, eyes closed] Mmmmm.

Mother: I wanted your opinion.

B: [instantly awake. shock and awe] Really?

Mother: Your brother won’t tell me what he wants me to bring him when we see him in London, so…

B: [helpfully] Drugs?

Mother: What?

B: Nothing.

Mother: So, do you think he’d like a five foot blow up kangaroo?

B: To do what with?

Mother: [oblivious] As a joke! To sit in his room! Don’t you think he’d think it would be funny?

B: No. No I don’t. I think you should buy him duty free gin, like I did. He whined that it was only Tanqueray, but he still drank it, and liked it. He didn’t have to Blow. It. Up. How long does it take to blow up a five foot kangaroo, anyway?

Mother: [deflated] Oh. OK. So you don’t think so?

B: [emphatically] I. Don’t. Think. So

Mother: [does The Sigh] Alright then… So. I’m not going to see you before I go?

B: Yeah. If you want to drive out to Phillip Island… I’ll call you when we get home, as long as it’s not too late.

Mother: [mollified] OK then… Have a good time!

B: Bye!

M had devoured the rest of the chips as I talked my mother out of a decision that may have ended in her own matricide and was getting itchy feet. We wandered back toward Hoo-Ray! and realised, belatedly, that the wind had swung around. The boat was no longer in such a good position. M decided to take it around the other side near where we had just been sitting. I could have helped, but I took photos from shore instead.

Moving the Boat

Once Hoo-Ray! was sorted, we went on a walk to the General Store and bought some ice. By the time we got back to the boat with it we were hot. We paddled out and jumped aboard. I arranged some of my favourite white wine (Giesen Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc) in a bucket with the ice, while M talked to a couple of people who were standing on the shoreline.

I’d just settled back with the paper, when M suggest (in a way that indicated he was pining) to go for another sail while the weather was still good. I couldn’t believe it. We had live jazz for free, wine on ice, some snacky things, newspapers and gorgeous weather. M looked like a labrador. I acquiesced, hardly believing that it was possible.

Anyway, so we went for a good sail. M was desperate to beat my speed of five knots that we have measured on the GPS while I’d been steering. I think he got to 6.2 knots. I tried to beat him again, and nearly tipped us overboard in the process… or that’s what it felt like. We weaved all around the boats that were moored, oohing at the pretty ones and making faces at the fuglies. Finally M said we could head back. There was still some sun left, although, by that stage it was cooling down.

We opened the wine, snacked on cheese, read the paper and wondered what the poor people were doing 😉 Saw a beautiful couta boat go by with two people and two dogs aboard…

Looking at the couta boat.

After a good hour, we motored the boat back around to the spot where we had slept before, and despite our cheese filled stomachs, M cooked some excellent tuna pasta, which we ate as the day turned to dusk. I then tried to read my book by candlelight…

Reading in lantern light

…while M played with my camera’s manual settings, trying to take the perfect ‘night’ shot. Which he did.

Rhyll Pier at night
Rhyll in the pink

Red. Oomoo.

This morning, I decided it was time to add another shade to my hair. Now I have achieved neapolitan ice-cream status. Three shades. Although here you can only see the latest one. Then I had lunch with my mother, who gave me a bottle of Light Blue, some chai tea and some earrings. Woo! My fave perfume of the moment! Thank you to Small Brother for passing on my texted perfume request!

Then M and I took Oomoo for a sail. OMG… it was far more windy than we’d thought. We only stayed out for about 45 minutes, tacking backwards and forwards as kite-surfers whizzed by. It was a little hairy, as the mast was bending like a banana. But it survived. I got completely soaked. Oomoo needed a complete hose-out when we made it back…

My Small Boat
My Small Boat

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