This photo taken shortly before we left the marina in Sydney headed north to Port Douglas in 2007
Why we should have known better than to go back to Mackay
The post below is an excerpt of a letter I wrote to family in 2007 when we were on a trip on our first boat, a 40’ Beneteau, sailing it from Sydney to Port Douglas. We had the in-laws on board to help us as our now nearly 8 year old was only 1 at the time and they were a great help both with her and with watches to help get us there in a timely manner. As you will see, Mackay does not hold fond memories for us, so I’m not surprised by all that went down this time… I thought you might find it amusing! By the way, to protect the innocent, MIL and FIL are my dear Mother and Father in law. This is what I had written:
What a night we had. Since I wrote last we had a lovely day cruising up the coast heading for Mackay, no strong winds in sight strangely so we had the engine running the whole time, but sails up as well so we were making great time. The Skipper said we would be in around 6pm so I radioed Volunteer Sea Rescue just prior to let them know we were safe and pulling in. The Skipper had me doing all the radioing yesterday so I could learn how to use it.
So we hung around outside the harbor for a few minutes just pulling the sails in and putting out fenders and lines, all that stuff and then made our way into the newish Mackay Marina at about 6:15pm. The office had said they would be closed, but will leave us a key in the fire box at the end of the jetty. We were all out on deck trying to find the right coloured pile-on so we would know where to make our turn.
Anyway, we made our first turn into the marina and had only one more turn to make when the engine quietly gave up the goat. Yes that’s right she died right while we were making our final turn. (And I’m not sure how much you know about boats, but that means we can’t stop.) You see we had been having problems with the engine, think I mentioned that in previous emails already, but The Skipper usually just went down there and bled the air out and got it going again, but all this malarkey usually took a good ten minutes then we would turn the key a few times before it would finally start up again. We didn’t really have time for all that. Ironically, when I radioed the marina earlier on and they asked how long we would be staying I said we weren’t sure yet as we had an engine problem to sort out first.
So – no power, little steering and we are about 100m from the rock wall and steadily heading towards it unable to do much about it. I remember thinking, “oh dear, that means we can’t stop, oh dear, there’s a rock wall, oh dear, it’s going to damage the boat, oh dear we can’t stop!” I think I turned to The Skipper and (without trying to panicked) I said “so what happens in this situation?”
MIL was thankfully minding Miss 1 downstairs so FIL and I untied the previously set fenders and got ready to fend off any of the multi million dollar yachts we were approaching. I yelled out to MIL to put Miss 1 in her seat (safe and secure where she can’t escape) and grab a fender. The Skipper said, “I’m going to put the anchor out!” then he quickly realized that we can’t since it needs the engine to operate, and we haven’t had a chance to look at how to override it yet. (Had only owned the boat 2 weeks at this stage.) So that blows that one. Then miraculously, I don’t know how he managed to think clearly, but The Skipper yelled, “I’m going in here!” pointing to the nearest berth, which was a nice biggun and there was only two of them available, so lucky for us.
Anyway, he started to make his turn, we were going a little fast for my liking of course, but nothing we could do about that. FIL, MIL and I had our fenders ready, we opened the side gate and just waited, nothing more we could do. Steadily we went in and we just ever so slightly touched the side of the boat to the dock, a little more heavily than normal but thankfully no damage that couldn’t be polished out later. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t worse! The adrenalin was pumping I can tell you.
MIL jumped off the boat and put a stern line on while FIL got off the front and took care of the bow while I tried to sort fenders and keep my heart out of my throat long enough to get the job done.
Crikey we must have looked like a bunch of idiots to anyone watching.. Thank goodness it was dark.
So the boat is in, we’ve got lines on and we are all cursing and thanking our lucky stars and The Skipper jumps off the boat and says:
“Like a glove!” Just like Jim Carey in Ace Ventura.
So here we are in a massive berth, The Skipper had to get someone to let him out the gate so he could walk round to the dock we were supposed to go into and try to find our key so we could all go out and sink some coldies.
I can’t believe how lucky we were, how lucky the engine didn’t die outside the marina, how lucky we were that there was a big berth available, so we had somewhere to crash land, and how lucky we all were that The Skipper was on board and kept his head. (Even if he did use the F word a lot and his Mum was a bit shocked.)
So now I just need to get to the Marina office in the morning and explain why we are moored next to the big fancy yachts and not in the ‘pleb’ section where we are supposed to be..