“Bump” is actually far too genteel a word. It’s more like Ka-Boom, Ka-Thump, Ka-Rash. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
We leave Bundaberg township on the early tide. It takes a couple of hours of motoring to get to the seaway and once there the wind is fickle. At this point we should have turned back and waited another day for better wind, but we’re keen to get north and still struggling to re-learn the old adage that plans have no place in cruising.
It’s a slow trip and difficult with the wind right behind us – our best angles of sail are between 80-120 degrees, so we either have to sail the angles and gybe frequently (for non-sailors that means moving the mainsail and boom from one side of the boat to the other, a potentially dangerous manoeuvre if it’s not carefully controlled) or sail dead downwind with the mainsail on one side of the boat and the genoa on the other (known as goose-winging). We do a bit of both but it’s not comfortable and by the time we get to Pancake Creek we’re ready to stop.
By now it’s dark and being unfamiliar with the creek we opt to stay in the outer anchorage where there’s a couple of public moorings. One is already occupied, but the other is dead ahead of us so for convenience sake we pick it up.
Now, it should be said, these are not your average NSW moorings. Oh no – apparently Queensland expects the QE II to pull in at any time. The pick-up line is the size of a giant boa constrictor, and the mooring ball is huge and heavy. We run our bridle lines through the pick-up line and pull it up as snug as we can, but there’s still a lot of slack line between us and the mooring ball.
All is well and we settle in for the night. At 2.15am we’re rudely jolted out of our deep slumber by an almighty bang on the side of our hull. Did I mention this is a creek with a strong tidal flow? The tide has turned and with wind against tide the mooring ball is now lying mid-way down the boat inside our two hulls, and with every swing of the boat it crashes first against one hull and then the other. We rush up on deck with head torches and discover it’s even worse – the pull of the tide is submerging the ball and it’s going underneath one hull to re-emerge on the outside and then the process repeats itself, first one hull and the other. It’s like being inside a giant pinball machine. All we can think about is our nice new bottom paint being systemically rubbed off with each pass of the monstrous mooring ball. We think about letting it go and anchoring instead, but the chance is our anchor chain would then be dragging under the hulls too, causing even more damage. We finally come up with a solution that involves getting another line onto the mooring line and winching it up to the mast and securing it there. The recalcitrant mooring ball is now tamed. We on the other hand, are exhausted and sleep-deprived with jangling nerves. Ain’t cruising grand?!