Fly away home

We don’t often leave Escape Velocity and when we do we worry that she’ll be ok while we’re gone. Before we left for Victoria and Tasmania we had a difficult time finding a safe place to leave our home. Sydney is bow-to-stern packed with boats. Every marina, every mooring field is dense with yachts of all kinds and after calling every club, marina and boatyard I could find I came up empty. As time ticked by and our planned departure date approached with no solution I took the plunge anyway and booked our flights and car rentals in a sheer act of optimism that it would all work out in the end.

Salvation came in the form of Women Who Sail Australia, a private Facebook group who share local info and can generally be relied on for up-to-date tips in just about anything related to boating in Oz. I put out a call to my sailing sisters and within days I had a mooring booked at a small boat shed up the Parramatta River. Roger, the owner, was borderline non-verbal on the phone but promised a heavy and safe mooring ball and a ride to shore when we left for the airport so we could leave our dinghy at Escape Velocity for the duration.

On moving day we had no trouble finding the boatshed but Roger was nowhere to be found. He finally answered our phone calls and asked if we could wait until he finished a repair job further upriver. Sure, we said, and Jack held EV in station against wind and rambunctious ferry wakes for the promised half hour, which then stretched past an hour. Finally Roger and crew appeared in a paint-spattered, beat-up launch. He approached and asked if we could wait until “after lunch.”

Jack and I looked at each and shouted back simultaneously. “No!”

“We’ve been circling for more than an hour!”

“Ok,” he said reluctantly. “We have to move a boat.” And they disentangled a small powerboat from one of the moorings on the outer edge of the mooring field and moved it to another mooring further into the river shallows. Jack and I picked up the newly freed mooring, only to discover we would be within a few feet of the small sailboat just behind. Not ideal, but Roger assured us all the moorings are oversized and plenty strong enough to hold us in any weather. We snugged up as tight as we could to give maximum clearance with our neighbor.

We asked where we could land our dinghy and it turns out, no place. What?! There’s no public dock, Roger’s is packed with his work boats, the nearby rowing club won’t allow dinghies and the ferry landing prohibits tying up even at the back and out of the way of ferries. It was Friday and we weren’t leaving for the airport until Tuesday. And we can’t get ashore.

We spent some time on boat projects, but then in a desperate act of defiance we tied up to the back of the ferry dock anyway when our friend Alex offered to pick us up and take us shopping. It was a welcome break from the relentless wind and ferry wakes in our temporary home upriver.

Roger took us ashore on the day we left and we called him the day before we returned to make sure he’d still be around to take us back to EV from the ferry dock. He promised to be at work at the boatshed until 5 o’clock.

It’s fun to fly over Sydney because the harbor is beautiful even from the air. We easily picked out the opera house and harbor bridge and just for fun I tried to follow the river to where our boat was. I counted the curves and bridges we remembered navigating. And suddenly there was Escape Velocity, easily recognized by the orange canvas and bright kayaks on deck! As the plane banked to the airport approach we watched in awe and relief that we could see our home from the air and that she was safe and sound, just as we’d left her. And did we grab a camera and snap a photo? No, we did not.

We had an easy time collecting our luggage and taking the train and ferry and we were back at the dock within sight of our home within an hour. It was 4:30 and Roger was nowhere to be found. When we called he told us he was towing a boat, that we would see him passing the ferry dock soon and that he would come get us as soon as he could. Sure enough we watched as he towed a sailboat down river and in a little while he came back to the boatshed and took us and our luggage the 100 yards to Escape Velocity.

We told him we’d be leaving in the morning so we could get back to Sydney and a supermarket. We don’t have any fresh food onboard, we told him. He seemed concerned.

“What will you eat?”

“Spaghetti, probably,” said Jack.

We hoisted our luggage up onto our deck and climbed aboard, happy to be home before dark and waved goodbye and thanks to Roger. A few minutes later he reappeared, still looking concerned. I think the idea of spaghetti must have been unimaginable.

“There’s a restaurant over there,” he said, and he pointed across the river. “And another one on the other side of that marina down there,” pointing the other way, “but they don’t like you tying up there.”

We assured him we’d survive the night on spaghetti and jarred sauce, which happens to be Jack’s specialty, and we celebrated our homecoming with a bottle of red.

The next day we motored the five miles back down the river to our old anchorage at Rozelle Bay and went ashore to the supermarket for a few essentials. Back onboard I was unpacking and sorting laundry when Jack called down, “Hey, I think that’s Roger towing another boat!” Sure enough there was the beat up workboat towing a sailboat right past us. We stood on deck and waved as he went by and he called out, “I’m the patron saint of derelict boats!”

He was gone before we could reassure him about the spaghetti.

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