A new experience recently, something different, which I always enjoy.
A couple of hours on Port Phillip Bay on 15 metre yacht with my friends and co-workers. Seven of us from work.
Some of the other managers had decided that being on the water was a bit scary, so they decided not to join us.
There was an air of excitement as we stood at the allotted place at the allotted time. The Sandringham Yacht Club is a large marina with plenty of activity and plenty of boats.
The Skipper of the Terra Firma arrived and took us out to the yacht, it wasn’t as big as I’d hoped, something more the size of the Queen Mary would have kept me happy. We jumped on board and he took us through the safety briefing. Nicholas Bartels, the skipper, was good humoured, making jokes and generally putting us at ease as he worked out who the strongest swimmer was, in case anyone should fall in! He showed us how the life jackets worked and gave us a bit of a run down on his boat. He let us know that he was in charge, and that this wasn’t a democracy, no room for negotiation, if he asked us to do something, it should be done straight away.
Once he and a man called Bluey had everything in order, they untied the ropes and with a push off the pier, we were underway. The engine fired up and we gently left the marina. It was a windy afternoon, but the sun was shining and there was an anticipation of excitement and chatter amongst the team as we made our way around the other yachts, boats and other sea-going vessels that you’d never sit in!
Once clear of the breakwater it was time to hoist the sail! As it was so windy it was decided to just let the little sail at the front go up as opposed to the big one on the main mast, which I think Nicholas said was about 20 metres high. Don’t you just love my nautical knowledge! I was asked to give a hand, so Nicholas jumped up and ran towards the front of the yacht. There was no way I was running anywhere! I gingerly grabbed the wire that I assumed would keep me in the boat and sort of hunch over and shuffled my way forward.
As Bluey guided the sail up the mast I had to pull the rope. At first it was no harder than raising a flag, but then as more of the sail rose, I found I hand to grab the rope and pull hard, bending my knees and almost kneeling. I reckon I could do that once a day, great sailor I’d make.
Now the adventure started. I discovered why people get drawn in to sailing. The seven of us had our legs over the side of the boat, doing our bit to keep that side weighed down, and before we knew it we were hurtling through the water at 27 knots. (Which I think is about 50 kph). It was a thrill! The waves saw us rise and fall, the spray stinging our faces and with cries of terror and delight we heading out into the bay.
Then it was time to tack, our job was to let go of the security of the wires that we were hanging on to for dear life, and make our way across the other side of the boat. There was only a moment of panic as you look towards the other side and notice that it’s on a hell of an angle, and just below the wires on the other side is the water, it occurs to you that should you not time this just right you might end up in that water. As Nicholas brings the boat around, it levels out a bit and we all scrambled across and ensconced ourselves on the other side, grabbing the wire that we are assured keeps in 14 burly blokes. Now as the boat swings around we are again on the high-end and whipping through the waves.
We did this a couple of times. Then bang. We stopped. Just like that. It wasn’t clear what was going on, but we certainly hit something. I eagerly look towards shore. Could I swim that far? Resisting the temptation to go find a life vest, I sat as Bluey and Nicholas calmly talked to each other. Seems we ended up on an unexpected sand bank. Using the motor Nicholas gently rocked the boat backwards and forwards until we fell off the bank and were free!
A cheer went up!
A bit more speed before he turned the boat and headed for home.
Now that thrill was over, and the real thrill for the day was about to commence. Out on the water, with a can of beer in my hand and some sandwiches we peacefully sailed through the waters of Port Phillip Bay. Off in the distance I can see the Heads and Arthurs Seat. I can see Half Moon Bay where I spend many of my lunch times looking out at the same spot. Further around is the skyline of Melbourne. I have my friends and colleagues with me as we chat and laugh. Eat and drink.
I’m loving it. The stresses and the strains of life float away on the water as I look at the crested terns flying off in search of food. I see a gracious bird with a huge wing span sail off over head. I hear laughter and delight as we gently sail back to the bay.
I’m in my element here. Well, not the water as such, but outside, surrounded by nature. There’s the gentle rocking of the boat, the sound of the wind, the bird life and the water. The sun is brilliant and I’m here. I soak up the moment, recalling how grateful I am that right now the universe has reached this place in history and how lucky I am to be here.
We slowly make our way back to the club and reluctantly disembarked.
Even the surly waitress failed to dampen the high we were on as we sat around the table having a quiet drink, re-living the adventure we’d just been a part of.
A time well spent.