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Waiting for Weather in Sailors' Hell - Blackwattle

by Nancy Knudsen on 28 Feb 2008
Safe tranquil anchorage - before the chaos starts BW Media
The noise is driving us crazy.

'I am going crazy!' says the Skipper Ted. 'We have to leave here!'
'We can't leave,' I say patiently, for the fifth time in an hour, 'the weather won't let us.'


We are in one of the most pleasant protected anchorages we can remember – around us a U shaped sandy bank covered in low grey-green scrub, an anchor-loving sandy bottom, not a rock to hit anywhere, and birds – pelicans gliding, seagulls swooping, wood ducks paddling everywhere. In the early morning and late afternoon the dolphins come leaping. The sunsets are sensational, and there are other gentle cruising sailors with whom to while away our sundowners.


We've been drifting down the Australian east coast, very gradually. After always moving on, moving on to escape this season or catch that season for the last few years, we have been enjoying the lack of a schedule. We have stopped in deep green anchorages amid towering rainforests, shallow anchorages spread with swimmers.


We've sailed in calm seas, and rough ones. We have also watched the rivers rise and the towns flood as one of the worst Australian droughts in living memory is finally broken. We've watched the river bars close to all vessels and we have known we could not yet go south.


'It doesn't matter,' we have said, 'we have plenty of time.' We've enjoyed rediscovering the eastern coast, and become ecstatic at the hundreds of newly spreading indiginous birds that have been encouraged during our five year sailing absence by education and protection.


We have tied up at the private jetty of friends to go enjoy the holiday season elsewhere, and, finally, we have negotiated the shallows of Moreton Bay with trepidation, surviving the trip through the inland shallows without hitting a single sandbank.

Now we are in an anchorage quaintly called 'Bum's Bay' in Australia's holiday and surfing Mecca, the Gold Coast.


At first we are both astonished and amused by the sight that is now driving us crazy. To the south loom the tall towers of Surfers Paradise – that most inaptly named of resorts – including the highest residential building in the southern hemisphere – or was it the world? (Why a country the size of the USA with a population of 20million would want to build such a building remains a mystery to me .....).

Below this very city-looking skyline is a maze of marina berths with the 'mine's bigger than yours' kind of boats, shining white, with long pointy bows, all lined up as though constantly measuring.

Beside the anchorage is the main channel leading from the marinas – turn right to the ocean or left to the shallow waterways to Brisbane.

Using this channel to visit the Southport bar, where they ride the surf, are dozens of jet skis– they roar past us at 30-40knots, churning the water into a fury.


They have to go fast, of course, because they are competing with the powerboats large and small, who line up to go past at the same speed, but kicking up even greater washes. Together they make for a tremendous ambient rumble, which, however, is overwelmed by the noise of the helicopter joy flights which roar around above us all day. The waterskiers and the heliskiers boats who also share the Broadwater, risking death if they falter or fall, seem to be silent – nothing can be heard of these normally noisy critters, the deafening din of the rest making them, simply, no competition.

This, of course, is not all – this would be comparatively quiet if it were all. On each side of this channel there are jet ski marked slalom courses where the hired jet skis are allowed to drive. This means that anything up to six jet skis at a time also tear up and down these two courses, engines blaring, washing huge waves onto the shores. And wait – then there are the jet skiers who launch their jetskis brought from home on trailers, in our anchorage. Now, as there are plenty of sunseekers basking on the beaches and swimming on the edges (you can't swim away from the edges these days, because bull sharks have been eating people) it's a chance for the young bloods to strut their stuff – so they take off from the beach through the anchored boats at 30 knots leaving a spray of water as they curve and swish their way to the main channel.


At first we were amused. We had just arrived and were standing on our bow watching the whole chaotic scene shimmering in the shocked sunshine.
'I bet,' I say mischievously, 'that these people also drive to work in the incredible traffic noise of the superhighways all week, so they just don't notice the racket.'
'Maybe,' retorts Ted, 'or maybe they are already deaf from the all-night discos.'

Yes, at first we were amused, because we were only staying a few days to see some friends, then amble our way south to Sydney.

However, that was three weeks ago, and in the meantime, more storms and floods are engulfing the eastern lands of Australia. The beaches are again closed to surfing, and the river bars also closed. Again there is no fresh fish to buy, as the fishing boats can't go to sea.

So we have been waiting and waiting as weather system after weather system keeps the ocean turbulent and the wind coming from the south – just where we want to go..... in the meantime, as the boats in the anchorage rock and roll to the tune of the powerboats and the jetskis, and we shout at each other to be heard over the helicopters, and hang onto the coffee pot to stop it spilling its contents over the saloon floor, we have lost our sense of humour about the surrounding traffic.


A weather window - we've abandoned any idea of ambling down the coast - just three days is all we need to get to Sydney please – when will we get a weather window?

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