Longway is a Citation 34 with a four-foot bowsprit which makes it a 38. There’s also an oversized mast, which means it’s a long way up, and down, if you’re careless. You would think this would make destinations which are a long way away, less so. Not so. Longway has so far never taken the short way.
The voyage began when the owner Hugh, bought Longway in Mooloolaba, Queensland; which is a long way from Bungendore, NSW where the owner lives and not an easy place to which to sail. So we decided to sail to Bateman’s Bay instead. This was the beginning of a tradition of taking a long time in Longway, both physically and metaphorically. Four set out: a professional skipper and three crew, including the owner for his very first bluewater passage. Not all made it.
The maiden voyage in Longway began promptly with delay. Well, it was only a day. But it was preceded by unending last minute fixes, and was just in time for the rain. But time, as always, was in short supply. So, we set out. And the rain was just in time for a South East wind (15-20 knots), to combine with the South East current to coalesce into 2 and a half to 3 and a half metre seas which brought on the crews’ first of many calls to Nature to take back her rich harvest. With the wind against us we had to motor (slowly), not sail: donk, donk, donk.
Bazza and Ethan who had repaired every little thing the owner couldn’t, failed on self-maintenance at sea and slowly proceeded to turn white and woebegone. This was sad, but the owner was secretly chuffed, not having up-fluffed. However, Bazza compounded the orifice exiting by going head to head. Going below (mistake) with the one he immediately whacked the other. Well aft out in the cockpit, all was anxious: there was dread of what was in the head. Some one had to brave the bowels. Hugh went below. It was an ugly sight, made worse by an inward opening door, which saw Bazza sort of, on all fours. What more? Hugh, now thinking that he might also have to go, was calmly screaming, “You MUST get OUT! You MUST get OUT!” This aroused the near comatose Bazza, and he was dragged free. As for Hugh, the combined cabin chaos, blend of orifice exudings and tossing about, had him then shouting, “Get out of the way. Get out of the way.” as, like an exocet missile, he hurdled aft, and barft.
This now felt like a very long way. But hey. It wasn’t over yet. We made it to Southport – no, not very far – where we lost one crew member. Short time, so not well, long way to go. The residue regrouped, did even more repairs: autopilot failed (costly), nav. lights failed (annoying), bodies buggered (drinking required). Bazza, (always either sick or busy) decided to tidy-up the sheets and spun the winch so fast that the centre section jumped out and bounced off the coachhouse and into the sea. Ah me.
Back out to sea. More of the same. Port Macquarie arrived. Still seasick – longing for death. Navigation lights failed, yet again. Bazza, feeling guilty about the suicidal winch, went on the attack once more and got his head (and a good part of upper torso) in the anchor locker to fix the bow nav. lights. Owner Hugh, now tired and sick, was pressed into service holding an array of screwdrivers with an enthusiasm bordering on snoring and proceeded, in quick succession, to drop three of them in the water. Hugh, now only having two left, calls to Bazza, “Which screwdriver should I use now?” Bazza, ever sanguine under pressure: “Any one that’s not drowned.”
The professional skipper was now the only man standing. He’d already been a long way in many other boats. But, he opted for a spirit of camaraderie and whacked his head on the companionway to make us all feel better, while also one-upping Bazza by drawing blood. Not to be outdone, Bazza, with a mocking laugh, cruel bastard, in a great guffaw, threw his own head back into the saloon shelf – again, no blood, but bloody big lump.
On to Port Stephens. Time is now running out. Such a long way. However, at last the wind shifted and we were sailing. But not for long. Hugh, “What’s that noise under the boat?” Bazza, “It’s the propeller.” Hugh, “But we’re sailing.” “Hmmm”. Much theorising ensues: the propeller is free-wheeling to reduce drag, it’s the opposing current, it’s always been there, it’s thinking.
Hugh’s thinking: we’re on a lee shore, not sure of the motor anymore, a threatening Low in sight, night falling, dry land calling.
Meanwhile, Bazza, head in cockpit locker this time, has found lots of gear cables: pulls them all. Gears stuck, not stuck, reverse working, not working, etc. The skipper and the owner Hugh go below to demonstrate willing, and show Bazza that we can be useful. Lying on the cabin sole we stare uncomprehendingly at the engine. Dirty. Nothing appears obvious, except Hugh thinks that it seems curious that that long metal stick doesn’t seem to be attached to anything. Bazza correctly surmises that this is the propeller shaft trying to leave us. We are all sympathetic, but cannot tolerate deserters. Bazza improvises. He gets a bloody big hammer, finds the keyway skulking in the filthy bilge, trusts to luck and beats the bejesus out it via his improvised leverage system. Tools ruined. Propeller shaft back in (temporarily), but no reverse gear (the keyway insertion being a fragile fix), and we know that, given half a chance, the prop shaft will only try to get away again. Still, we don’t need to go in reverse, yet.
Ah, Port Stephens – at long last. Night arrives, no worrying low but stars, phosphorescence, dolphins. Tired but there’s a sense that there is life still. It’s now midnight, which is fortunate as we’re an ugly sight. We negotiate the leads and there’s just one more obstacle when we get to the marina: no reverse gear. It’s dark and strange, but we sight the visitor berth at the marina. It’s a close run thing: steerage, way, drifting in …… but Bazza, fearing a pontoon collision, runs to the racked bow and hurdles the pulpit – but we are not close enough. He is now suspended over the sea. “Stretch your legs back. No, BACK!” says Hugh. Bazza is now hanging between the pontoon and the pulpit. Will he be crushed into pizza base? Longway drifts in. Bazza deftly lifts a leg. A win.
Longway now sails the coast at Bateman’s Bay, where she holds the record for the longest voyage to Ulladulla – 15 hours (but that’s another story). Bazza was again on board and seasick, naturally, and, of course, fixed everything. Hugh, the owner was seasick too and obviously broke everything that Bazza fixed. Longway: it’s the only way.
(First published in Australian Yachting, July 2005 )