We’ve been in Coffs Harbour for over ten days, anchored out on the south side of the jetty because we’re too cheap to pay $380 a week at the marina. We literally can’t leave – despite having plane tickets to fly out of Sydney on September 14th. Why? The wind. It insists on blowing from the south – and we need to go south. If we were hardcore, no doubt we would tack down the coast and have a rotten four days or so, but it’s too tricky.
We have the added complification of Small DB’s birthday in three days and the fact that she is complaining volubly about NOT wanting a birthday at sea. Which is fair enough. This is always the kind of shit that happens when we have a deadline in front of us. Here are the three rules of Bella Luna:
1) Don’t fall off.
2) Don’t sail to deadline.
3) Avoid motoring whenever possible.
What happens when you have a deadline, is that your decision making skills come under pressure. You might begin to skew your interpretation of the forecast to fit where you need to be and when. Think of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart race. The conditions were appalling, but the race ALWAYS BEGINS ON THE SAME DAY – people have taken time off work, skipped Christmas stuff, planned for months – all these factors make it incredibly difficult to look at the forecast and elect not to go.
We could have left at 2am yesterday morning and got as far as South West Rocks – where we then would have had to stay in an ocean anchorage for a day until the right wind appeared. If it didn’t appear? Not a great place to be stuck. After much agonising over windy.com I decided that putting pressure on ourselves was just stupid. If we make the flights – that’s great, but we’re not going to sail in dodgy conditions to do it.
Four nights ago we were in one of our top three ever storms – it was epic. Sixty knot winds, sluicing rain and masses and masses of hail. M and I had the Smalls in the cabin that has the escape hatch, because the boat felt like she was hovercrafting – which can lead to a flip. It was impossible to get outside and put anything over the solar panels, and I was fairly sure they’d be toast. The hail was SO LOUD. I was reminded of what I’ve read several times in articles about heavy weather – you need ear protection, because the SOUND of the weather can just be overwhelming, leading to distraction and dodgy decision-making because things sound far worse than they are.
In this case, we ended up with about three inches of pea-sized hail all over the boat. The solar panels were unscathed. M went out and immediately made a snowman in the cockpit and brought it in to show us – belatedly realising that it was impossibly phallic when Small DB shrieked. “It’s an ICE PENIS!”
During the whole thing, which probably lasted no longer than 20 crazed minutes, I was very calm. As soon as everything settled I got an instant stress headache – which I medicated with cauliflower soup and a large glass of red wine. If we had been in Melbourne and seen on the weather radar that Bella Luna was alone at anchor in those conditions, I’m not sure what we could have done – but it would have been super stressful.
Living aboard is in some ways like having a tiny baby – you need to learn to surrender to the situation that you find yourself in. Whether that is waking every few hours to feed the baby and coming to terms with the fact that for this part of your life, merely cleaning your teeth is a victory; or staying at anchor in a rolly sea (as we are now) and steeling oneself to wait for the weather to come good, however long it takes, and try to remain reasonably sanguine.