This thing we’re doing, the day-hopping, we began in order to avoid sleeping whales. I tend to believe that the risk of hitting a sleeping whale is far less than something more mundane, such as being run over by a car. The noise that the boat makes as it sloshes its way through the water would surely tweak the sonar of a slumbering humpback. I gather that they tend to sleep in groups… pods…. flocks… They are not, like humans, involuntary breathers. They have to consciously breathe, even while they sleep. Dr Google tells me that they sleep vertically or horizontally “or sleep while swimming slowly next to another animal.”
Presumably the other animal is awake – if there were whole pods of sleep-swimming humpbacks I’m sure there would be many more whale beachings in very odd locales. Whales allegedly sleep with their brain half awake – which I now realise I have been doing since becoming a parent. In the whale’s case, it enables them to remember to breathe and to be more responsive to potential threats.[I was disappointed to find that the whale-app I had been using was only for the coast of New South Wales. I asked Kieran, when we caught up with him in the Bus Palace of Bronte, whether there was a Queensland equivalent. “Yeah, nah. You’d probably find one for spotting coal seams though. This is Queensland.”]
So our day-hops, I think, are largely unnecessary from a whale-encountering-at-night point of view, but because we saw about ten on our first day out from Yamba, we decided to go with it. We have been anchoring every night since then; Ballina, Byron, Southport, Gold Coast Seaway, Peel Island, Tangalooma and last night, Mooloolaba. Currently aiming at Double Island Point, where I hope we can sneak into a lagoon at high tide and stay for a few days.
We could have fanged up quicker doing overnight sails, but generally they suck. Right now, for the first time in ages, it feels like we are on holiday. This has been aided by the addition of the back-sleigh. The couch. Whatever you want to call it – the extra seat that hangs off the back of the cockpit over Foamy – it wouldn’t be a big deal in your backyard, but here – here it gives us a significant amount of extra room. As I write this Small DB is sprawled upon it, eating a Packham pear in the sun. It’s comfortable and often out of the wind.
Later today I was sitting on it looking back behind us. There was nothing but sea for many minutes, until a massive (I have to say massive because it was pretty much the size of two buses end to end) whale jumped fully out of the water and splashed back down again. The fountain that this created would have swamped the top of our mast. It happened twice more, and then we turned the boat inland around Double Island Point.
A few minutes after changing course there was an expulsion of air. There must have been a whale shadowing our boat for ages, holding its breath. We had changed direction, but it kept going north, spouting gently, the water slipping from the top quarter of its body as it came up to breathe and then disappeared again. It got further away as we drew closer to land.
Ahead we could see glimmers on the water – the sun was creating long shadows, it was late in the day, and it took a bit of time to realise that there were about ten bright yellow double kayaks in the water, all together in a kayak pack.
I had thought that the place we planned to anchor in was pretty much devoid of other humans. WRONG. In additions to the kayakers there are at least 15 4WD vehicles on the beach and about six or seven other boats at anchor. We motored joyfully through the middle of them, skirted a sandbank, and headed into a kind of lagoon that is sightly less than two metres deep, is about 200m wide and half a kilometre long. It’s protected on three sides by sand dunes and behind us is the sand spit that we dodged, buffering us from the sea.
I am eager for a sunny morning tomorrow – the Smalls will be able to explore on paddleboards without being sucked out to sea. I can sit in a kayak and read my book and go nowhere.