Jervis Bay, looking toward Pt Perpendicular
We have just got back from four days away in Huskisson, on the coast south of Sydney to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We booked into a 5 star guest house, expecting luxury and pampering and ended up feeling like we were in an episode of Fawlty Towers. I won’t bore you with all the dreary details, but suffice to say it was not particularly relaxing or peaceful. The couple who run it were the desperately eager to please types (not really like Basil at all, of course) so they tended to smother you instead of just leaving you alone. They had some bloke come in in the evenings and he banged away tunelessly on the piano in the parlour (yes, they had a parlour), while sipping glasses of port. Unfortunately, Liberace’s banging permeated every nook and cranny of the house, so our afternoon naps were rudely cut short.
On Sunday we went on a whale watching cruise in Jervis Bay – well that was what it was supposed to be – as it turns out, the huge catamaran lost an engine two minutes out of port, but the intrepid skipper, instead of turning back, handed over to an obvious novice who was extremely uncomfortable with the job of steering and went below to see if he could fix things. In the meantime, we meandered about the Bay aimlessley. There had been big storms the few days before, and there was a slight swell – and it was only slight – I get seasick, and felt perfectly fine the whole time, so it can’t have been that bad. However, some of our fellow travellers were obviously not made of such stern stuff and judging by the odour on the main deck level, had tossed the burley bucket – as my husband colourfully refers to throwing up as a result of sea sickness.
So we stayed on the top deck, where were had a lot of time (3 and a half hours, to be precise) to observe our fellow passengers. There was a small, but noisy group that we kindly decided must have been from some kind of assisted living arrangement – their social skills were noticeably absent and their personal habits bordered on the alarming. There was a bunch of obviously bemused Indians – several young couples who lounged about looking as bored as we felt; and an obnoxious New Zealander who insisted in barging into the cabin area where the stand in skipper was nervously keeping us afloat and studiously poring over the map of the Bay taped to the desk and opining on various things. He would then go back out and bore his group – who as far as I could tell, comprised his long suffering wife, daughter and son in law, with stories about various natural disasters he had personally witnessed and, seeminly, barely survived — these included some sort of eruption, a bridge collapse somewhere in NZ, including the precise body count and date of the events.
After more than an hour of this, the skipper emerged from the bowels to announce that we only had one engine (no, really?) but help was on its way. Help comprised a couple of blokes in a small boat who came alongside (I think that is the nautical term). One boarded the Cat and conferred with the skipper before being escorted below – apparently his name was Dan, but alas, he bore no resemblance to Diver Dan from Seachange (sigh!). He had a long, rather oily jacket and hair that could only be described in the same way. He disappeared below while the other bloke tied up the little boat to the back of the big one then clambered on board himself. I am not sure what he did – but it didn’t make much difference, because after an hour, the Cat still only had one operating engine.
By now, despite the complimentary tea and biscuits, everyone was thoroughly bored and restless, but excitement arrived in the form of the big orange Sea Rescue boat which was despatched from HMAS Creswell, the naval base within the Bay. It came alongside and everyone waved and they waved back and it escorted us for a while, but then obviously got as bored as the rest of us with going around in circles, so roared off to look for something more interesting to do.
Eventually, two and a half hours after setting off, the skipper advised that we still only had one engine, and it looked like it was going to stay that way, so we would be waiting for just the right window of opportunity in the tide turning cycle to sort of coast back in the port. Fortunately (?), that window of opportunity was only about a further hour away.
So we went around in a few more circles then the Sea Rescue boat came back and escorted us into harbour with all its lights flashing importantly. We got in sort of next to the dock, but then the skipper announced that he had no control over anything anymore (I can’t emphasis how reassuring that was to everyone), so yelled at the Sea Rescue boat to push us in. It lined up on one side (don’t ask me whether it was port, or starboard, I have no idea – the side that wasn’t nearest the wharf) and sort of nudged us in. That seemed to work fine and they threw some ropes and secured us and off we went.
Staggeringly, the cheery staff just said, ‘see you later’ when we disembarked – no apologies, no suggestion of a refund – just ‘see you later’ – as if!
I was very bloody annoyed by this, so on our return home, phoned them and complained and the girl on the phone breezily informed me that most people just went up to the office when they had disembarked and asked for their money back – and got it. I asked her what about the people that just went off bloody angry about the whole thing – were they going to give them their money back. No, she said in a tone of voice that clearly implied she had never heard such a suggestion. We have since arranged that we will get our money back – but I wonder about the poor slobs who just wandered off dazed and bewildered by the whole experience and $110 worse off for four hours of aimless drifting and a cup of tea and a biscuit.
So, that was our anniversary weekend. As my dear husband rather drily remarked – no wonder Agatha Christie set so many of her murders in country homes and on cruises!
This is the lighthouse on Pt Perpendicular. I can’t begin to describe the force of the wind the day we were there. That is me, right in the centre of the photo. It was the day after the terrible storms that lashed the coast a little further north of where we were. I am no lightweight, and I could barely stand up for the force of the gale. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be the wife of the lighthouse keeper, isolated in such a desolate place, with no company and no communications for weeks or months at a time.