Jervis bay

I was up on deck last night, just before climbing into bed, checking the mooring as you do, listening to the sound of the waves nearby crashing onto the beach, looking up and seeing the star-lit sky.

It still takes my breath away. I guess it always will.

I stood there for the longest time, taking it all in, breathing in the rich saltiness of the cool night air and marvelling at the beauty around me.

Less than twenty four hours earlier it was quite a different scene. We had been watching a cold front come across the continent. Watching as it progressed much faster than anticipated, knowing that we would want to be in a different bay when it came so as to not be pounded by the strong southerly wind it would bring. Earlier it was expected early Friday, then late Thursday and then earlier on Thursday but as Peter was checking the weather while I cooked dinner the system had updated again suggesting the front would cross us as early as 4 am Thursday and this was 6 pm Wednesday. The time to move had come.

We didn’t want to move too soon though because before the front we faced an angry Northerly wind that would make moving hard! The irony of weather!

So as soon as I could I got dinner cleaned up and Peter got the dinghy and kayaks stowed and everything sorted on deck and we were on our way. Sunset was fast approaching and we would more than likely have to pick up a mooring in the dark, but we had no option and there was always the anchor. We motored across fairly easily in choppy seas from Callala Bay to Vincentia where there is protection in a southerly, in about an hour and watched as the sun set so quickly. Well it was better than trying to get everyone up at 4 am and beating our way across once the southerly had come.

And so in the dark we had to try and locate the mooring buoys. No luck. No sign of anything in the inky and turbulent darkness. We put on the spreader lights. We used a spot light but with the movement in the waves it was not possible at all. So we decided to try the anchor. Down it went but no grip. Up it came. We tried again but still no go and then I spotted a buoy. It didn’t seem to have all the right hardware – no float or rope but it was near us and a mooring buoy of some kind and the anchor wasn’t holding so it was our next best shot.

I pulled out the new boat hook we had recently bought – a Happy Captain extendable. We’d only used it once before but it was long and light and has a great hook so I knew if I was to be able to reach over and get the hook through the mooring buoy’s ‘eye’ this would do it. We struggled against the northerly wind and waves to come close and it took quite some effort, but we got there and I reached over and after several tries succeeded in hooking it – but alas it was really only half a buoy and incredibly hard to pick up  - and our prepared rope not even close to long enough. Peter came forward once I got it and tried to tie the rope but couldn’t do it – his arm apparently didn’t extend that far and he was unwilling to sacrifice it to the process so he let go – yes he let go of the buoy AND the Happy Captain boat hook. I watched as it was quickly enveloped in the inky water and sank. Just like that our chances of picking up the buoy were gone.

We stopped for a moment and talked and decided to try again, with a longer rope ready, using the old short boat hook. We came around and alongside the buoy – which I am making sound like a simple thing but in the dark – well it was far from that. First we had to find it again, then we had to get close and it kept disappearing in the waves, and then we were right on it and I had to be ready. And I tried. Yes. Success. I hooked it and we tried to tie the longer rope but against the wind and waves we couldn’t keep the boat close enough until the knot was secure and we had to let it go again. No problems – we could get it and we would try again.

I think this was the worst moment of the night for me. As we came around to try again the boat hook slid deftly into the water. Yes. One minute it was right there next to me and the next it was in front of me, teasing me, bobbing up and down on the waves. I called for the prawn net – as if that would help! I did get it and reached out but it was always going to be a hopeless cause!  

So then there was nothing left but to try the anchor. I did suggest that we could motor around until day light but we decided to try and keep trying. Happily on our second next attempt we got a good grip and were satisfied the anchor had held. Hurrah!

 

After the anchor is bedded there is all the tidying up to do, and that took a few minutes – dropping more chain to weigh it down – words I don’t even have (Peter tells me it’s the ‘scope’ – the 1;15 ratio of chain and depth of water) – switching off the engine, putting away unneeded ropes etc. It was about 10 pm when we were finally done. I went below to make some hot chocolate to sooth and calm our ragged edges and as I did Peter called out – ‘the wind has changed – it’s here already’ and it was! The 4 am revised time for the southerly change had already come – we were just in time. If we had left it any longer we would have had to battle to get to the other side and still had hard conditions. We felt incredibly vindicated.

 

Over our hot chocolates we discussed all the things we had done well, and what had gone wrong. We had picked up the buoy three times in all. In rough, raging seas, against the wind, and had some so well. Yes we’d lost the hooks, but they were replaceable. We had got the anchor bedded even though we couldn’t see the bottom and had to guess we were in sand. We had got secure in heavy seas and strong wind. We felt rather heroic. Yes there was some yelling and some pressure and less than pleasant moments but as we sat sipping our hot drinks I think overwhelmingly we all felt like victors not victims.

 

The following morning we awoke to a calmer sea. And yes, as you might have guessed the teasing buoy was quite close to us – but what was even more teasing was another buoy not very far off with an intact float and rope which would have been so much easier to pick up! If only we had been able to see it! So early in the day we slipped the anchor back up, and using the new hook Peter fashioned out of an old hook and pole we had, I picked the buoy up and we got more secure again. We could have stayed at anchor. We were holding fine but I had a sense that we all needed to take this step – to know we could still do it – and besides the buoy was closer in to shore and would make getting off the boat easier.

And there we sat. The southerly change had come and was passing us, we were secure and fine and spent the day feeling quite proud of all our efforts.

Standing listening to the waves and looking at the star – lit sky felt like a million miles away from the raging torrent the night before. In many ways everything had changed – but so had we. Yet again, we reminded ourselves that we could do this – we could handle what the weather and situations we faced, situations that were thrown up at us and do it okay. Yes. We are sailors.
O