After the rain, did I mention the RAIN, that continued to dump on us In Camden River, we took a punt and left. I was dubious about the forecast for the day, but M was pretty spot on. Big rolling swell behind us, light winds. I stayed prone for most of the passage, except during my steering shift. The Smalls are taking on more of the sailing tasks than they used to a few years back, which takes the pressure off a bit.
We wisped along using the spinnaker most of the time. A whale did a big flip about 500m from us out at sea. The second of our journey. By that point the actual sun had actually come out and we were all slothing around in it on the front deck. Miso too.
Made it to Hat Head, where M had been very keen to go. The swell was still big, but he threaded us through the waves and into the creek. I was SO thankful I had gone ashore. It was sublimely beautiful. Big fat silver mullet jumping out of the water and schooling along near the bank. Stingrays… a few people fishing, a little footbridge and that kind of aerated sand that feels as if you’re somehow walking through soapsuds.
We investigated the campground doing sailorish things like shrieking, “Oh my GOD! There’s FRONT LOADING WASHING MACHINES and they are only FIVE DOLLARS.” The second scream was when M reported that the dryers were ONE DOLLAR for THIRTEEN MINUTES. Back in Camden Fucking Haven it was a dollar for FOUR MINUTES with extra fighting bogans for entertainment while you waited.
On to the beach – dudes with their 4WD’s fishing off the beach for mullet (not sure why they didn’t just cast into the creek) and speculating on whether we were doing a drug drop off because three border force cops had been sitting up on the point with binoculars for the past few hours. We were thoughtful – a border force RIB had come up fairly close to us not long before we dropped anchor, but headed away again. Maybe we are drug smugglers? The idea exhausts me.
Miso had a wonderful time racing along the beach like a small black fur blur. I continued to be conscious of Small DB (who had elected to stay aboard) out there on Bella in the swell. We checked in with her on the radio and all was well, but… We motored slowly back down the creek and bided our time, waiting for the gap in the waves when we could shoot through on Foamy.
The swell continued and was generally intolerable. Small DB and I were flat out and sleeping by 7.30pm because it felt impossible to do anything else.
That’s the thing – you have blithe thoughts about all the reading and crocheting and art you’re going to do while aboard, but a lot of the time the only things to do in order to function are; lying flat pondering the stupidity of sailing, lying flat listening to an audiobook or a podcast… or steering. Unless you’re like Small Z and can just watch shows on your iPad as if your reality wasn’t sloshing around messing with your inner ear.
The following morning it was even worse and we couldn’t take Foamy to shore, which was a BIG FAT SHAME because it was so lovely. However, staying at anchor there was insupportable – we left, and it took us about three hours to make 12 nautical miles. Slow going… just before we reached Trial Bay, M landed a Very Big Fish. We still don’t know what it was, but it was big and it was (and continues to be) very tasty.
Last night was a wonderland of sashimi (me – no one else likes it, which is excellent) and then more cooked up fish with rice. When we do get a good fish, my first thought is that I love knowing exactly where my fish has come from, and my immediate feeling after that is one of a kind of exhale, because dinner won’t have to be thought of in an inventive manner for at least a night or two.
It rains. And rains. And rains. And rains. Yes, this beginning is remarkably similar to the chapter ‘In Which Piglet Is Entirely Surrounded By Water’. Except unfortunately, this is written in the first person. That would be me. Or the damp version of me.
“Let’s go north!” they said.
“As quick as we can!” they said.
“No!” said I. “There is too much rain up there.”
– blank stares –
“Let us noodle slowly up southern New South Wales. Let us wander Pittwater, explore Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie, the Nambucca River, Camden Haven… Enjoy the journey rather than focusing on the destination.”
“But muuuu-uum, we want to go to ISLANDS. Proper islands, with white sand…and turtles! And COCONUTS.”
The problem, I have realised belatedly, is that the rest of the crew are jaded seafarers. No longer content with weather being a balmy 20℃ with water temperature to match, or the noodling exploration of the coast of New South Wales. They have turned their flat and calculating eyes north, and can barely be persuaded to examine anything else. Especially if it’s not an island.
Meanwhile, I am Piglet, entirely surrounded by water. And I mean entirely. It is around me, below me, leaking through the hatches on to me and falling from the clouds above me with unrestrained enthusiasm. The washing flapping outside all over the rigging is having the fifth rinse since being hung out with a hopeful heart, and looks sadder with each one. The solar panels exist as mere decorative rectangles and the generator is our lifeline.
I think of Jean, of Belinda, of Melissa – each in their lovely houses. All of them probably think they would love to swap places with me, fanging up the coast on a catamaran. And they probably would, for the first two days. It would be the third day that would break them. The damp. The inability to open the hatches for fresh air because: DELUGE. The crew niggling at each other. Sticky floors…
Their tolerance, I suspect, would be far lower than mine BECAUSE THEY ALL HAVE LOVELY HOUSES. I have a small wet caravan back in the land where, if the temperature cracks 14℃, there is a celebratory feeling in the cold, cold air. More to the point, if I had a lovely house, I would probably be in it. I don’t have anything against Winter, as long as I get to control the extent to which I am exposed to it. Winter is a time of cold clear skies, woodfires (though polluting), soup and mulled wine.
That last sentence? That is what I very much hope I will be experiencing this time next year. Which will naturally coincide with a Winter in the north having minimal rain and consistent southerlies. Don’t care, because I may have somewhere to plug in my slow cooker. And might’ve even found a job.
Cutting the rope from the propeller.
Blasting out of the ether after about 18 dormant months – the longest break since 2002 – am I even going to detail what’s gone undocumented? In brief dot-points:
- mid 2020 bought block of land in Franklin, Tasmania
- spent two and a half years trying to get the documentation together to build a house – still waiting…this time it’s a hydraulic engineer’s report
- during that time M and I split (AMICABLY) and continue to co-parent. He’s on the boat, I’m on the block in my caravan, Smalls are in between both.
- both Smalls began going to school with variable success
- M, the Smalls and I are sick to death of our housing situation and see no end in sight; this has led to us starting to think laterally about our building options and…
- escaping Tasmania for the Winter of 2022 on Bella Luna. It feels like there’s nothing to stay for…
- which isn’t quite true, but another Winter without a house feels untenable.
- in July 2021 (after I became a caravan-dweller) I got the world’s best dog, ‘Uli’. He died on 14 February 2022 when he was hit by a car.
Cue: devastation from all of us. He is buried on the block.
- a month or so later, still devastated, I was driving through NSW and got another dog – ‘Miso’ and it seems it is possible to mourn and delight at the same time.
It is ironic that the first time I see petrol hit $2 a litre it is as I drive my new van toward the ferry terminal. The van, of course, should be electric, or powered by the captured methane of soft hooved cattle. It should not be a 1998 Toyota Townace that I flew from Hobart to Sydney to purchase. This is what comes of having driven two classic cars for the majority of my adult existence. You drive a classic car because you love it and are willing to mingle with esoteric groups of older men who can access a replacement for the part of your car that has just broken.