We’re currently on day 3 of our 1,500nm journey from Adelaide to Brisbane and it’s official – this sailing life is definitely for me.
We untied the ropes at 10am on Wednesday April 6 after a few days of replacing rigging, provisioning, shopping for lures, wiring in a 1,000w inverter for Scout The Drone, and fixing navigation lights that we discovered were broken on Tuesday night just as we were ready to leave. I’m definitely getting the feeling that there really is always something breaking on boats…
Alas, we were underway. The first day was a blur, we were all on a bit of a high as we found our sea legs while Kuna rolled along from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island. I haven’t been sea sick in six years of spearfishing and week-long charter trips, but those first few hours were definitely the worst I’ve ever felt on the boat!
Thankfully it passed for me – poor Nicola is still sick and hasn’t eaten for three days. I’ve seen sea sickness cripple the toughest of guys who will promptly assume the foetal position on the floor of the boat, so I can only imagine what three days of that must feel like.
During the first day, while Nicola and Jase snuck in a couple of naps in preparation for their night watch, I amused myself by learning to tie a bowline (thanks Google!) and I’ve even used it a couple of times since!
Night rolled around very quickly and it was time to cook some dinner… With no freezer the small amount of meat we brought with us would have a short life and needed to be used, despite the average weather making it difficult to be down below.
I got the vegetables chopped – tomatoes, carrot, capsicum, mushrooms and onion – while the pasta cooked. Moved the cooked pasta to a bowl in the sink, put the vegetables into a pot with some garlic on the two burner keroscene gimbal stove, and put the mince into a pan on the other burner which was working great… until both burners soon stopped working.
I was able to just add some pasta sauce to the vegetables to finish those off, and then got out the portable stove and wedged myself in a doorway while holding onto the pan to avoid the frying mince from going anywhere as the boat rocked and rolled. Cooking in a boat is dangerous business, but highly satisfying once a warm meal is served!
After dinner, it was time for my first watch. I sat under the bimini, rugged up from the cold, listening to podcasts. Every few minutes I would poke my head up to scan for boats. I spotted my first one around 9.30pm – way away on the horizon, a couple of white lights. No red or green to tell direction. Five minutes later I checked again. He was much closer… I could see three lights now, including a green one which told me he was travelling towards me on the starboard side. All boats must have navigation lights at night. Green lights are on the right (starboard), red lights on the left (port) – I was taught to remember this with the saying “no more port left in the bottle” – port is left, and port the drink is red. He came and went, very close by, and then we tacked before Jason went back to bed. Within another 10 minutes I couldn’t see the ship at all – they’re that quick!
At 10.30pm I had to wake Jason up again – the paddle thing on the wind vane had broken, another sheared bolt, so we spent half an hour leaning out over the back of Kuna while sailing along (we wear safety harnesses just in case!) as Jason roped it all back together for a temporary fix…. Always something breaking!
I called it a night around 11pm and, handing the watch and safety harness over to Jason, went to bed in my “coffin” that is the aft berth, and slept quite well.
Day 2 I awoke just before dawn for an awesome sunrise with Nicola. We were going through the notorious Backstairs Passage between Kangaroo Island and Cape Jervis, but with no wind or swell to speak of we were just motoring. A few dolphins came to join us on the bow throughout the morning, which I don’t think will ever get old!
Around 11am I got a call from my boss and founder of Adreno, Tim Neilsen, who had just been for a successful deer hunt. He asked if I had a lure out the back yet as he’d leant me his rod with TLD 25 reel for the trip – nope, I don’t really know how to line fish – but literally right as he asked a massive school of Bluefin tuna started busting up beside the boat! I quickly hung up and began working on a rod holder system so that I could begin trolling.
Before long, we had our first fish! It was a nice sized Bonito – I’ve never bothered to shoot or eat one, but beggars can’t be choosers so I filleted it up and then spent a while washing off the blood from the decks.
The afternoon ticked on uneventfully – more motoring, a bit of eating, and lots of dolphins to keep us entertained. Around mid-afternoon Jason and I left the cockpit to enjoy the company of about 20 dolphins at the bow of the boat, all very curious about what we were. You could tell they were all just watching us, jumping up to almost meet our extended hands.
As we enjoyed the company of the pod my line started screaming at the back of the boat… Shit, we thought, we’ve hooked a dolphin… Jase helped clip me onto the boat with the harness to make sure I wouldn’t fall overboard while reeling the fish in (this line fishing stuff is new to me and so is sailing, so who knows what could happen!) and I began tentatively reeling in. It was big, whatever it was, but I was pretty sure a dolphin would have a lot more pull than this.
As I got it up beside the boat in the crystal clear, cold water of South Australia I saw the distinctive glimmer of a Southern Bluefin Tuna! This’ll be a bit better for sashimi, I told Nicola and Jase, who were both keen on the idea.
Nicola grabbed my phone to record the moment while Jason hung precariously over the edge with the gaff. After a few more runs we finally tired him enough to get a gaff in and boated my second ever fish while trolling – a Southern Bluefin Tuna!
The stoke and excitement was uncontrollable. Nicola aptly described me as being like a kid on Christmas morning! Once we had the tuna in the cockpit Jason knocked it on the head with a hammer, we took a few snaps, and then I filleted it up while throwing scraps to the dolphins who were still happily cruising along with us.
The clean-up was a mission that took a good hour and a half – blood was everywhere, but we enjoyed the fresh sashimi with soy and wasabi, and ate a red tomato curry that night, washing it down with a cold cider as the sun set on another incredible day.
Yep, this sailing life is definitely for me.