February 18th, 2022Simply messing about in boats at Paynesville
THE alarm sounded as we rounded the point into Metung. I quickly bolted down the boat’s stairs in the blustery wind trying to figure out what was making the racket, and then the sound gave way to silence as the motor took its final breath.
That’s it, I thought, as the rickety old jetty on the windward shore came into focus fast as we headed for it, powerless to stop the collision, but then I had the sudden idea to throw out the anchor. I had no clue as to the depth, but judging by the swift-moving current I anticipated it to be a long way down. The chain quickly turned to warp and rattled out, finally locking into the mud as the boat yoyoed and then settled between the opposite forces of the wind and tide.
This was in the last hours of our three-day journey that for the most part, aside from some fairly savage wind, had gone without incident. Our adventure started with a 20-minute car drive from our Paynesville apartment to Metung where we had decided to leave the car. After all, Paynesville offers great waterfront eateries and a couple of grocery stores. So no vehicle necessary. Simply pull up to the wharf on the main street and pick up your supplies and then offload again on the jetty off the front lawn of our waterfront apartment.
Mind you, considering the size and intricacies of the 34-foot vessel, the handover was brief and wrapped up within five minutes. There are a couple of training videos to watch prior to your arrival however with three levels, two bedrooms and a toilet located on the lower-level fore and aft, and the galley’s lower helm station and lounge/diner on the middle as well as a flybridge station, it could be a lot for a novice.
The final question, which for me should have been the first, was “how much boating experience do you have?” I conceded I had a Master IV commercial captain’s qualification and avoided the boat handling talk.
So with the informative handover completed (he also talked a lot about going aground and I didn’t want to be one of “those” guys) it was time for me and the editor to sail off into the morning.
She (and I am not sure if it is still okay to call a vessel she but all boats are female) was a little underpowered for my liking. In fact I could hear my old grandfather saying in my head “she couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding”. This did make it a little difficult to manoeuvre in tight spots up the canals where one hesitant move meant you could be sitting alongside a $4 million Riviera 68 Sports motor yacht and not for sunset drinks, just to sign the insurance paperwork.
We did happen upon some blowy conditions, and I found it best to drive it like you’d stolen it – flat-out aiming at where you intended to be, followed by a good touch of the brakes. My method mostly worked apart from the fact the throttle was stiffer than a ‘largest pothole’ competition in the Hepburn Shire and took some arm-wrestling. The boat though mostly clean had a few spiders which made for some formidable moments as Donna hucked out the fenders and ropes to go alongside.
All in all, it was a fabulous experience taking in plenty of wildlife and scenery albeit with a side serve of adrenalin. The aforementioned breakdown, just outside our home port, ended up with an engine restart which tripped the anchor and sent us back into the direction of the mudbank. The first mate Donna came to the rescue wrestling the controls and boat back towards our dock while I heaved up the 20 metres of anchor warp and we made it back into our berth at Metung, shadowed by the company’s rescue boat who had answered our earlier call of distress.
The Gippsland Lakes are a boater’s playground of coastal lakes, rivers and lagoons in East Gippsland, covering an overall area of about 354 km². Now that’s a lot of “messing around in boats” according to The Wind in the Willows famous wisdom as uttered by the Water Rat. Stretching between the towns of Lakes Entrance, Bairnsdale and Sale and across to the Ninety Mile Beach the lakes offer something for almost every weather condition.
Words: Kyle Barnes
Scan the QR code to see a video of Kyle and Donna messing around in their boat Sunshine.