waggypolly 72F
7449 posts
4/20/2005 6:36 pm

Last Read:
11/8/2006 10:39 pm


What do you do when you need to get from Papua to New Guinea (visa issues and the like) and your money's run out? You pick up on advice to go down to yacht club and find a passage as a cook. That bit was easy, so was the cooking, but I had no knowledge of sea-person-ship at all. Now read on .....

The night was clear and silent. My hand was on the tiller and my eyes were on a glass-smooth ocean. A moment later there were bumps and bangs and the boat was foundering against something hard. Waves crashed over the side, my feet became wet.

The captain, my companion, stood momentarily in the hatchway, bleary-eyed from sleep. Without a word, he grabbed the anchor and leapt overboard.

My life unravelled as I watched the anchor rope follow him over the side. The promise of the north Australian coastline and the certainty of my long-planned working holiday vanished. I stood alone on the deck of a 37-foot yacht, which had fetched up at a precarious angle on the outside of the Great Barrier Reef. My companion had lost his sanity and jumped overboard.

I vomited . . .. I did nothing . . .. I could not even wait . . ..

Eventually he heaved himself back on board, silently grabbed the second anchor and again left precipitously. This time I was able to wait.

When he returned I asked him what the hell he thought he was up to, leaving me like that without a word.

Rather courteously he explained that the Great Barrier Reef is like a very wide table and that even worse than hitting the edge is being washed onto the middle. It is fifty miles wide, so we had no chance of coming off the other side. He drew plans with his finger on the wet deck to show me how he had dived down the outside of the reef and made the boat as fast as possible.

His strategy saved our lives.

Now we both waited. The tide table told us that the 4pm high would be big, that we should wait a patient sixteen hours. The smaller 4am high passed, throwing the boat around on its moorings. They held and eventually it lay still on one side.

With dawn I cooked breakfast in the galley. With the rising sun I tied wet clothes to the rigging. At mid-morning I donned mask and snorkel and went overboard myself. This was my first sighting of coral and never since have I seen such clarity, such variety. At midday I prepared lunch. By 3pm the laundry was folded and the crockery stowed.

The boat began to rise and waver in the water again. My companion explained how to pull alternately on each of the anchor ropes. Knowing that we had no radio, that the shipping routes avoided proximity to the reef and that we had seen not one aeroplane, we found amazing reserves of physical strength.

As we pulled in inch after inch the boat went forward. Suddenly a wave broke in my face. We had reached the edge. My companion started the tiny four-horsepower engine and we chugged through the waves breaking onto the edge of the reef.

Another chance for my working holiday lay ahead.

Latest post: Naked

redswallow777 48M
6810 posts
4/21/2005 10:58 am

I love sailing stories....write on!

expatbrit49 62M

4/21/2005 2:41 pm

Waggy, so you had been holding out a little you old sea dog you LOL, it sounds like along with some quick thinking and good seamanship you guys were also very lucky. I have one of these stories (same area) that didnt end so well, Maybe Ill tell it sometime.

Thank You for Your Time and Attention

PurePleezHer 53M

4/22/2005 1:07 am

Quite the harrowing experience Polly, and a lesson to be learned for the both of you. Still, I have a knot in my stomach just imagining what you went through. I am very happy and grateful that you are still here and part of our lives. I hope you gave some 'balance' to that by having a wonderful expereriene! After something like that, one learns to appreciate keeping an even keel. (sorry about the pun)

rm_anacortes 74M
2850 posts
8/28/2005 12:49 pm

I have a smaller 30' sloop which I sail in NW USA and Gulf Islands of Canada.. personally I would not head out with such a small engine.. I realize they are expensive, add weight and require space for fuel.

From you, I have learned the 2 anchor "trick".. I too have gone aground mostly from poor navigation, but sometimes from poor seamanship..

I love sailing, but one cannot fool with "Mother nature".. it is serious business... I also cannot imagine being without a radio since they make inexpensive portables these days that work well.

It made a great story.. one I would work hard to avoid.. YOU MADE IT.. that is the main point.

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