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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.