25 April 2008

Nearly dismasted

25 April, Anzac Day, started fine with a forecast of a good sailing breeze so I set off on the 2 hour trek south to Harwood where I had arranged to rendevous with Nicky and Rob Greenlaw. I intended to stay 3 days camping in Little Dragon overnight right in front of the Big River Sailing Club.

Day 1 went pretty much as planned, Nicky, Rob and I launched without too much drama but still taking ages to get organised. When we finally got underway the weather was rather miserable, light winds and rain. Maybe Rob, who used to be a ghillie in Scotland, felt nostalgic (not that I saw any sign of that). Despite the weather we made the most of it and practiced sailing up and down the Clarence River not straying too far from the clubhouse.

However we did get as far as the Harwood Bridge and Nicky suggested that we sail under it (was she interested in the good pub just the other side?). I knew that there was meant to be 8.7 metres clearance under the bridge and I had measured my mast. I reckoned that we would only squeeze under by a whisker - not a sensible safety margin. However a couple of locals had assured us that we would get under easily "No worries!". So just for the hell of it we decided to give it a go. As we got to the point of no return I was sure that we were about to be dismasted and we all held our breath. We made it - just. Some fisherman were watching and indicated that we had only cleared by a handspan. The lesson I learned is not to believe everything the locals tell you.

That was enough adventure for me for the day, so we sailed back to the little sandy beach in front of the sailing club. My plan was to tie the stern to a convenient tree on shore and hold the bow out at right angles on the anchor. But how to get the anchor out to hold the bow? Suddenly it came to me, I remembered that I had my single kayak with me so I could paddle the anchor out. It worked just fine, although I later gathered that it is not the orthodox way to stern anchor. Apparently I should have neatly judged the moment to drop the anchor as I was sailing ashore - well next time ...

We had got pretty chilly so we all enjoyed a hot shower (thanks to the Big River Sailing Club for your terrific facilities), after that it was time for Nicky and Rob to wave me goodbye. They were going home and I planned to spend the night aboard and wait for a new crew in the morning. They were a bit worried about leaving me but I was looking forward to my first night aboard. Realistically thtere is only room for two.

After an unexpectedly good fish dinner at the Harwood petrol station and a glass of wine at the Harwood pub I was in bed by 8 pm and slept soundly for 10 hours. I awoke to the sun rising over a completely calm and misty river. Magnificent. So I celebrated my good fortune by making my first ever cuppa in Little Dragon's cockpit.
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Nicky said...

Great photos Who is that handsome bloke sailing on Anzac Day?

Nicky said...

What? No mention of the near miss 'under the bridge' experience? That was the highlight of the day for me!! Rob was a Gamekeeper in Scotland rather than a Ghillie. They are two quite separate jobs although TV often merges them as one. He doesn't actually fish! His job was to take people out stalking deer and on pheasant shoots. He was also in charge of culling foxes, rabbits and other pests to farmers! Have a great sailing trip at Hervey Bay - I'm rather envious though looking forward to my own trip away too.