Life's full of swings and roundabouts, and a boat trip highlights the contrasts with a vengeance.
Everything was swinging along nicely until we left the comfort of Yaringa Marina on a full tide, and we zoomed down a grey WesternPort Bay, content in the knowledge that a new six foot ocean swell and 15 knot Southerly breeze were easy enough to deal with. Wrong. Very, very wrong.
I had failed to plan for the effect of wind and swell against tide, and by the time we passed Cowes, boat speed was up to over 9 knots and we were in for a wild and scary ride that I never want again.
We were on the roundabout, spinning out of control.
With the roaring tide pushing us along, it wasn't long before we were ploughing into six foot breaking waves, a strong head wind, and sheer terror for the next two hours. We were committed. If we'd tried to turn around in the stream, we would've been broadside onto the waves and been smacked down and probably swamped. So, charge on it was, there was no escape, motor screaming and puffs of black smoke coming out, bilge pump wailing, doing everything I could to just hold the ship on course and more-or-less upright. But we made it, and as soon as we'd cleared Phillip Island and went onto a beam reach, it was just like we'd had a very bad dream.
A couple of hours later, and we were outside Phillip Island's San Remo, swinging at anchor in Cleland's Bight on a lovely sunny day with families playing cricket on the beach.
Very hard to imagine what we'd been through on the other side of the island.
There's no photos to show of our wild ride, holding onto the boat for dear life took priority over reaching for a camera.
So, after a fairly rolly night's sleep at anchor, it was off to Wilson's Prom, on a beautiful sunny day with light winds.
Back on the swings!
Two Geelong boats had been anchored at Clelands' as well, and had slipped out ahead of us, so we had two sails on the horizon to follow.
We cruised into Refuge Cove, escorted by a family of dolphins. What a welcome to paradise!
"Patternmaker" and "Ruffian"were already at anchor and we spent the next few days hanging out with them and enjoying this magical little cove, accessible only by boat or a long hike through the bush. Only a few campers, one of whom, coincidentally, was a friend from Torquay.
Paradise is a fragile thing though, and gradually the weather changed and we had a couple of rough nights. One, with 30 knot winds blowing in , had me sitting in the cockpit on anchor watch half the night.
Eventually, a big group of yachts from Geelong arrived on their "Ten Island Tour" to Tasmania, unfortunately in fairly average weather.
It was great to see so many familiar faces and boats, but our time in paradise was up. We bade farewell to them, and set off earlier than necessary to tackle our first overnight sail, heading across the fearsome Bass Strait for Lake's Entrance and its notorious bar crossing.
It was grey and rainy for the trip, motorsailing in light winds, but fear had crept in along with the clouds, and our minds were our worst enemies. To make it worse, we listened on the VHF radio to the communications between the rescuers of a dismasted yacht somewhere ahead of us in the dark, with search aircraft, ships, Police rescue boats and Coast Guard all swinging into action.
We kept the speed up, faster than planned, and arrived off Lakes Entrance just after midnight. Way too early, and just in time for the wind to pick up. And up. And the swell, which was now TWO swells, coming at us from both sides, the West and the East.
We couldn't possibly attempt a bar crossing in the dark, and resigned ourselves to standing off the coast, out at sea, until daylight. We kept the motor running and the hours passed slowly as we motored in and out amongst an increasingly disturbed sea. We were on another roundabout.
Things started deteriorating seriously when the engine started losing power (she'd been running non-stop for 22 hours at that point) and blowing clouds of black smoke. Uh-Oh. By dawn, with a screaming westerly blowing, dreadful visibility and a 2-3 metre swell, my choices were limited. Well, beyond limited. I wasn't running that bar with the engine misbehaving.
So, it was onto Channel 16 and a call to the local Coast Guard for some help once they'd opened their doors in the morning. Within half an hour of the call, the sight of their bright yellow rescue boat and massive twin 300 horse motors was welcome indeed. They threw us towlines and we were zoomed through in no time at all. A professional act!
An interesting sideline to the towlines story.....
Mary had previously been reluctant to go up on the foredeck of the boat at sea, even when it was calm and there were happy dolphins playing on the bow. Too dangerous!
But with a six foot swell, the wind and a nasty chop, I simply had to stay at the wheel to keep lined up with the Coast Guard boat riding alongside.
So, it was up to her to scamper up and out to the end of the bucking bowsprit to lead through and secure the towlines. There was no choice, it had to be done. It was a Proud Mary who came back into the safety of the cockpit with all lines secured, and the Coast Guard guys even congratulated her once we were tucked up inside Lakes Entrance.
Oh, and the Coast Guard. Brilliant!
If you have a boat, it's worth joining as an Associate Member for $50. Or even chuck 'em a donation, it's money well spent. Here's a link to their national site www.coastguard.com.au and you should be able to figure it out from there.