I take my shift at 11pm, having slept about an hour and a half out of the previous three. It’s still a revelation to get out into the dark of the cockpit and find the air devoid of chill. There is no wind, or almost none but a barely perceptible breath that makes the telltails dance and the sails twitch. M, cocooned in a blanket on the couch, goes out like a light – and the night is mine.
It’s a new moon and the sky is glittered with stars. We are making exactly zero progress – or maybe about 0.4 knots. This gives me the rare chance to tweak things around a bit – to try and make a difference to the situation. More often than not when I take over at night, M has the boat tuned and trundling along – and as long as we are averaging five knots or so, I leave things be.
Tonight I try various setups with the jib, and the telltails continue to flutter gently and we continue to go nowhere – the barely existent wind is coming straight at us and the only way I could use it would be to do a 180 degree turn and let it propel us back to Hervey Bay. No.
Two and half hours into my three hour watch something changes. By that time I’m so tired and wired I can’t tell if I’ve finally managed to harness the wind, or whether it has just slightly changed angles of its own accord. Regardless, I have gone from zero to five knots just in time for M to take over – huzzah!
Once he gains consciousness and has a bit of a look around at how it’s all going, I get a grin. He’s noticed that I’ve put the sails on the other side.
“You’ve set the sails perfectly. Perfectly. I can’t improve on it.”
My confidence, often a bit tatty, is plumped. I stay up and have a cup of tea. I’m exhausted, but my book is excellent and I am happy. I sleep. I’m Back up at 6am – the wind, M reports, didn’t last. This kind of sucks because we want to get to Lady Musgrave Island when the tide is most benevolent…
I hang in there until about 10am when I turn into a complete zombie and banish myself to bed in order to save everyone the trouble. M starts the motors. I hate motoring – but they give us the speed we need to get to where we want to go.
At about 2pm we get to the channel leading into the anchorage…and start FREAKING OUT. There are SEVENTEEN boats already anchored there. W.T.F?! It’s a kind of floating caravan park. Exactly what we’d been told to expect the further north we travel, but… it seems a long long way from the isolation we enjoyed in Tasmania.
A three knot current is pouring out of the rather narrow channel as we enter, we make incremental progress – and the water is beautiful! The channel sides are sheer and the water is clear fifty feet downj to the sandy sea bed. There are shadows indicating swathes of coral further on ahead. On the lowering tide it’s easier to navigate our way amongst the ‘bommies’ (I am yet to find out why they are called this).
We eventually anchor. Eat lunch. And then M throws us all into Foamy and we head for some likely looking coral. Small DB has been looking very down in the mouth – from the surface there is little inspiration. However. After both Smalls and M have snorkelled for almost an hour, Small DB, shaking like a blue-tinged chiauhua, rhapsodises through chattering teeth all the way back to Bella Luna.
“Mama. Mama. You won’t even believe it. It is so beautiful down there – we saw coral and little blue fish and…and…and a SEA TURTLE. And sea cucumbers. It is a wonderful, colourful PARADISE. I didn’t care how cold I was. Can we go again tomorrow?”
The next day we explore the island at high tide – this is my first real experience of a tropical island. Seriously. The furthest north in Australia that M and I have ever been is Bundaberg. It’s astonishing the difference in water temperature and ambient temperature between this island and Hervey Bay, where we were only two days ago.
The water is the long awaited TWENTY FIVE DEGREES. The sand is white. And while there may be a floating caravan park behind us, the only people we see as we walk across the island… …are a man and his son, the former carrying a wide sand rake. They are camping on the island for two weeks as caretakers during the cruising season – they’re raking the paths so intrepid explorers like ourselves don’t trip over wayward sticks and stones. It is so spectacular on the beach that I prefer to watch and capture it all on camera while the others do some well-earned frollicking in the waves…