It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been preparing for an expedition, 2 years or 2 weeks, there is always five times as much to do in the last few days before departure than you realised. And the George Bass Expedition is true to form. On my first row, when I put my foot through the deck just a few days before we were about to leave and we had to re-lay part of it, I felt the same as I do today – on edge but fighting as hard as I could to get it sorted. I think we probably do this to ourselves on purpose as a subconcious way of building up our adrenaline levels so that we are totally buzzed, heads swivelling around from side to side, ready for the action. If you’re new to this sort of thing those first couple of days are so exciting you’re like a little jumping bean. It’s quite literally a dream come true. The older hands like me know how bloody aweful some of it is going to be and just how much hard work you have ahead of you so you know that you need an amped energy output to get past those first few days. So here we are, amped, primed, buzzed and itching to go.
But it’s never just down to us. Initially we thought we would have to delay because Marine Safety Victoria came back at the last minute and told us we needed a liferaft. I spent the best part of a day trying to find one, only to discover that nobody in Melbourne hires them out. It took me until yesterday to find someone on the other side of the country who would courier one down to us, but because of Australia Day (Thursday) being a public holiday, it wouldn’t have arrived until Friday. As the first 100% Australian ocean rowing crew doing an expedition in Australian waters it was important to us to leave on Australia Day. There is an intangible sense that in doing so we are doing our country proud. (I’ve been away for a long time but even I am starting to have a few Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi thoughts.) So we were all absolutely gutted that we would be delayed by even a day, especially when I’d informed the authorities in advance of our plans. But that wasn’t to be the end of the tale. Yesterday afternoon I recieved a call from Marine Safety to say that because our boat is under 7m we aren’t legally obliged to carry a liferaft. I explained that that was a relief because this is a solo boat with a short deck and no space to store one anywhere other than in a cabin so an axe would have to be taken to the hull if we ended up upside down and actually needing it! It was jolly nice of them to give us a bit of leeway. We’re somewhat of an oddity down here. This is the first time an ocean rowing boat has left Victorian waters and I’m sure the whole thing has left more than a few people scratching their heads.
And we were back on. Then I checked the weather forecast – 20-25ft southerlies predicted for Thursday. So I called it. Ben was in the workshop fitting the electrics and Clark hadn’t left Sydney yet so I rang them both and said that after the insane bipolar ‘would we leave, wouldn’t we leave’ moments we actually now wouldn’t be leaving on Thursday. We need to leave as the tide turns and at the moment the best time is looking like 4am on Saturday morning.
Clark arrives this morning and it feels like he’s already been with us because we’ve spoken to him every 15 minutes over the past few days. He’s bringing a treasure trove of kit with him, including bulging bags full of all our schmick new clothes from Zhik which will help us look more like a team and less like a rabble of wild monkeys, especially for our ABC interview today.
It’s been a tough week. Melbourne isn’t somewhere I know handy or boaty people so all favours have been called in from strangers and I don’t have my usual team around me. I’ve never been short of someone who can wield a drill, rig oars and sort out meal packs before. Ben is doing a superb job and together we’re muddling our way through it all. It’s been 5 years since I helped rig the lines on an ocean rowing boat so much time has been spent online looking at other boats and getting my head back around it. And my biggest fear – splicing, went away when I checked with Dad why we’d spliced our lines in ’07 and discovered he’d made me do it so it ‘looked nice’. No time for fancy pantsing around on this trip!
So we’re almost there and I can’t wait for the off. It’s ghastly out there but also incredibly rewarding. Bring on round 3.
If you want to see a few photos have a look at our Facebook page