Up at 6.20am, in the dinghy and over at the market before I’ve even rubbed my eyes. We spend $100 as easily as breathing – there’s so much good stuff. Basil, apples, garlic, beans, cherry tomatoes, lemons, passionfruit, blueberries, avocados, beef jerky… the $100 is down to nothing and we use the Card of Evil to buy sausages, bacon and some pork mince – all to live at the bottom of the freezer.
I have no idea if we will pull in somewhere before we get to Lady Musgrave, but as far as provisions go, we won’t need to. Stashing everything away, taking down the table in the main cabin, sweeping, breakfasting – all take longer than projected (no surprises there) and we leave at 9.30am instead of two hours earlier – but the sun is up and the mouth of the Clarence River is unrufflled.
I prepare for passages longer than a daysail with the dread of grey skies and sloshing seas, just to be ready for the worst. Today is the opposite. Today is as if I ordered it in from the catalogue of ‘Good Sailing Conditions’. The sky is blue, the sun is warm, there’s minimal swell and a little bit of breeze. In the first three hours we see about seven whales, some of the throwing themselves skyward and crashing down again.
One of them is about 100 metres away from us, between the boat and the shore, and it is very Loch Ness Monster. A thick shining sinewy blackness appearing out of the water – no head to be seen, just the end of the body followed balletically by a tail straight out of a story book. Air is expelled as smoking spume.
I start contributing whales to the Whales NSW app, but then second-guess myself, as a sightseeing boat heads in our direction from shore at great speed. I know the whale could upend that boat (and ours) with a flick of it’s tail, but I still feel it should be left alone to make it’s way north up the coast. Fair enough if you’re in a boat travelling in the same direction, but to fang out to it… I watch them and it looks wrong.
The whale doesn’t surface, and the power boat motors around in ever-increasing circles waiting for it. There is nothing. I am perversely glad. About three nautical miles behind us are another two whales, wildly energetic – I can see them throwing up huge spouts of water almost on the horizon. The boat continues to hang around for them and then, they too disappear. I imagine the people in the boat, it’s not very big, bobbing around getting queasier.
Back out at sea on the roll of the water, conditions are so benign that I hard boil eggs, cook brown rice, make a cup of tea, festoon the boat with all the clean washing that Belinda did for me yesterday while I sold my soul (and my firstborn) to the supermarket. And naturally – as soon as I typed that previous sentence, the wind increased and we’re now rocketing along quite quickly, and immediately there is a little bit of quease – the Smalls quieten down, M reefs the main, I see more whales behind us arcing upward – my app tells me this is called ‘spy-hopping’ – it looks like a tail-stand.
It’s now 3.30pm and I can feel the end of the day snaking its cold air as the sun drops lower. We’re near Ballina, there’s not a lot of wind, and it makes sense to pull into the Richmond River – something we’ve never done before. It must be hilarious for our friends in Yamba to think we’ve sailed all day and only made it to Ballina – they could drive there in about 90 minutes.
This is when you visualise a postcard with a sunset and a retro-caravan with annoying curly lettering; “It’s all about the journey…” We wouldn’t have seen any whales if we driven, or sat in the sun, or dried the washing while we travelled…