By Peter Kovesi
"I'm going to Rotto on Saturday, just for the day, with Mike. Do you want to come too?"
Whoa! We had talked about going to Rottnest so many times. We would always end up saying "Yes, but you would need to pick your day..."and 'that day' was always off somewhere in the indeterminate future. I quickly check the seabreeze website. Well, if you had to pick a day Saturday would indeed be a very good day. A moderate southerly and not much swell. OK I'm in!
We arrive early at the Leeuwin ramp and quickly launch and rig up. There is a steady chatter of radio traffic with boats logging onto Fremantle Sea Rescue.
"... departing Fremantle Sailing Club with 4 persons on board and 300 litres of fuel..."
Now my turn.
"... departing Leeuwin boat ramp, one person on board, with ... um... 6 dollars worth of fuel for my auxiliary and 16GB of memory for my cameras."
"Romeo Foxtrot Golf 4199 you are in the log, standing by".
With a light south easterly we make our way down the river sliding gently through the bridges. Gee it's nice not to have to worry about dropping a mast to get through. The police launch gently noses by, gives a friendly wave and cruises on. Once in the harbour the wind gives out and we reluctantly fire up our outboards. Bits of wind come through and fool us into trying to sail again. The Saturday morning Rottnest rush hour is starting to get under way. The wash from the power boats hits us twice. First as the waves come through and then second, back the other way, after they reflect off the ships in dock. Finally we relent and motor our way out. Once clear of the South Mole we pick up the gentle southerly and we settle down to our voyage.
It seems that every power boat on its way to Rottnest wants to check us out so we get to experience their wash from close up. Seas: Around 0.5 metres. Swell: Southwesterly around 1 metre. Wash: All directions around 0.5 metres. Still, they all give us a smile and a friendly wave. One even stops beside me for a chat. All the women on board 'really' like my boat!
Slowly the ships in Gage Roads slide by. Are we there yet? Eventually the (ex) windmills go past, the wind picks up a bit and we are on the last stretch. Finally we are gliding triumphantly over the emerald green waters of Thomson Bay. A quick discussion and we agree to continue directly on to Geordie Bay. We pick our way around Bathurst Point, past Longreach, and work our way through the channel to our destination. Had we been a bit more organised we would have brought our lunches with us and would have been free to cruise to a secluded bay of our own. Still, Geordie Bay is not too bad. We stand around for a while on the beach admiring our boats and feeling pleased with ourselves before heading off to the cafe for lunch.
Well, all too soon it's time to head back. An easy run out of Geordie Bay into a southerly that had settled in. Round to Thomson Bay, past Natural Jetty and we're off. The sea and swell had built up but our Welsford Navigators handle the conditions with superb ease. Charging along on a beam reach we surge up and down the waves. We have the ocean to ourselves. Every now and then a flying fish zips across our bows and skims away. This is champagne sailing! Cameras click and roll as we seek to record our joy. My face is sore, it has been maintaining a massive grin all day. I look across to Mike at the helm of Paul's boat, he has a huge grin too. Paul's grin peeks out from behind his camera.
It has to come to an end. The North Mole arrives and we charge into the harbour, run down to the bridges and back to the ramp. Rottnest and back in a day, 57km on the GPS track, and home in time for tea.
How good is that!