Sometimes it’s hard to be an organized creature. We were having way to much fun to think about anything serious. Our days were spent sailing in the sun and swimming on the reef. Weeks went by, which quickly turned into months and before we knew it, a year was about to fly past. Time to think about visa options! Then I realized… I had no options. Oops!
With only two weeks left until I would be in the country illegally, every chopper, cop and even stewardess made me nervous. What do we do? In one day I panic-quit my job, booked flights to the other side of the world and frantically tried to squish all my earthly belongings into a bag.
Right… What about the boat? We can’t just leave her here, making her face the punches of wet season winds all by herself…
“We can make it Brisbane!” Sam said. “My dad will look after her.”
Don’t forget to breath… And sleep… Tomorrow we’ll set sail.
When the sun was about to set, Sam started pulling up the anchor. I had a pit in my stomach, thinking about leaving the place that had been so good to us over the past year. What was going to happen now? I didn’t have much time to think about this, because the next two weeks proved to be a lot more eventful than we signed up for.
It started off with silence, not even a breeze! Since we’ve never been a fan of using the engine for long periods of time (it’s hot, fumy and smelly) and the wind was supposed to start picking up the next day, we decided to tuck into a bay of Scawfell Island and hide from the heat. Since we weren’t the only ones with this plan and dodging boats under sail when there’s no wind is not all that easy (read nigh impossible) Sam went downstairs to start the engine.
Instead of a roaring tractor, which is the engines usual voice, we where surprised by the saddest sound of failure, a slight pulling noise that was a far cry from the fumy beast that normally pushed us through the water. After hours of slaving away, elbow deep in grease, oil and goo, Sam threw in the towel.
The next morning, the wind which was promised still hadn’t come and with no engine to fall back onto to speed up the journey, we decided that moving slowly was better than not moving at all. We hoisted our sail and away we went. Slowly…
The water was so flat, I could see my reflection staring back at me from the ocean. The heat was radiating off my burned shoulders as I tried to escape it by sitting under a tarp we spun across the cockpit.
After two days of this, I needed to cool off! I looked over the side, into the deep blue, my reflection calling for me. As I was about to make the plunge, a shadow started approaching me from the deep until my reflection got shattered by a creature emerging to the surface.
Great! I guess I won’t get a chance to cool off after all. Desperately I pored buckets of salt water over my head as the shark teasingly kept circling around the boat. I prayed for the wind some more, but no one seemed to listen.
When Huey (he controls the weather) finally decided to answer my prayer, the backstabbing bastard he is, he answered it with terror and misery. The wind picked up from 0 to 30 knots in a matter of hours and it kept increasing. At first, we managed to keep the wind blowing straight from behind as we surfed on the huge waves that were created by the sudden change in weather, until the dreaded moment came, we had to change direction.
Being as careful as we could when steering our vessel in a new direction, a sudden gust yanked on our mainsail just as we were making our move and tore it straight in half. We drifted off into the nearest bay for protection, while we assessed the damage.
Tucked away in our safe haven on Great Keppel Island, we finally had some good news. Or rather, news that could have been a LOT worse. The wind had ripped our sail in half close to the bottom. It was not ideal, but we could tie the bottom off to the mast and continue our journey with a much smaller sail, but a sail nonetheless.
A good night rest and a well deserved bucket of chips from the only shop on the island, we continue our mad venture south. The wind was still howling like a dog with a bad temper, but we had a plane to catch. So we set sail to our next point of rest, Bundaberg River. Guestimated sailing time: 4 days.
As the wind settled down a little bit, we were finally able to relax and enjoy the ride for a little while. We weren’t making ideal speeds, with our sail about half the size of what it should be, but we were drifting along nicely. Night watches for once, were calm, but not boring as we were sailing amongst the greeting lights of cargo ships off the coast of Gladstone. Just as I was feeling confident we would make it, Huey came out to play with some Roaring Forties.
Panic tack! Into the nearest bay! We raced off to find shelter in Pancake Creek to wait for the storm to settle. The next day, the wind seemed to have calmed itself. We didn’t have the best view of what was going on further out at sea, but since our departure date was fast approaching, we decided to go for it. We pulled up the anchor, hoisted sails and started heading towards open water again.
As we tacked over, out of the bay, we started to get the feeling maybe this wasn’t such a good idea…
Even though the wind had settled slightly, the waves were HUGE! As our bow buried itself into a oncoming wave, I held on for dear life. Water blurred my vision. As I wiped the residue of the last wave off my face, the next one was about to devour the front of our boat.
“We have to go back!” I yelled at Sam, trying to out-scream the howls of the ocean and wind. “This is to dangerous.”
“We’ll never make it back in the bay.” Sam yelled back. “The entrance is to narrow and the wind direction is all wrong.”
We went for it anyway. After tacking between a cliff face and a sandbank for what seemed forever, we went with a new approach. We anchored in a spot the waves weren’t impossible to face and tied our dinghy off to the side of the boat. I jumped in, trying not to get kicked out of it again as the waves were making the dinghy buck like a wild pony, while I started the outboard engine.
Sam pulled up the anchor. I gave full throttle trying to push our boat forward with a mere 6HP while Sam steered us back into safety.
Facing the fact we were never going to make it back to Brisbane in time, we decided to come up with a brand new master plan.
We were going to sail to Bundaberg, which we could do in less than two days once the wind finally settles, leave the boat there for now and Sam’s mother would come pick us up in her car and take us back the rest of the way. Than in a few weeks, Sam’s brother would come and pick up the boat and sail it back to Brisbane, where it would be waited for our return as soon as I managed to get a new visa.
After a few days of checking the weather and the waves, we were finally able to start the last leg of our journey. When we finally made it to Bundaberg, I was so glad to be on land again, gratefully hugging Sam’s mum as she would drive us to a shower and a bed that doesn’t move like a roller coaster or leak water on my face.
That night, as we laid in our steady bed, sadness overcame me. Even though the boat makes me cry sometimes (OK… a lot!), brings us into dangerous situations I don’t want to be in and sailing can be the most boring and uncomfortable thing at times, I can’t wait to get back to it. Back to her. Back to the sea. Back home.