Lucky bastards, I thought.
There couldn’t have been better conditions for a late evening sail. Gentle nor’ wester, smooth seas and the setting autumn sun gave the lighthouse a gentle pinkish glow.
A nice boat, too — looked about a 35-footer. A bit close-in ‘though; he’d have to tack out to sea again soon. But he didn’t tack. He eased sails and broad-reached directly towards me. It was a pretty sight.
I’d launched my kayak from the boat ramp on the northern side of Norah Head and was fooling about on some small waves breaking over a nearby bombie. I decided to paddle out to meet him and warn him to stand off a bit.
“G’day. Be a bit careful, mate. Nasty reefs in close here.”
“OK. Thanks. How far to Pittwater?”
That puzzled me. When I’d spotted him rounding the head he’d been beating up the coast. So he was actually sailing away from Pittwater. Maybe he’d suddenly decided to head for the closest overnight mooring?
I know the Central Coast pretty well but didn’t have a ready answer to his question. I could have made a quick guess of the distance but felt a bit uncomfortable. With only an hour or so of light left, was he depending on my accuracy?
Just then, he had to harden-up and tack out to clear the reef, so I had some time to think as I paddled after him. But he yelled back to me, “Where is this?”
Perhaps he’d just made this landfall from way out? Maybe even from New Zealand? Odd, though; you’d reckon a seagoing yacht would have a GPS. In any case, the two men on board were obviously strangers who needed help.
“That’s Norah Head lighthouse.” And then I asked, trying to understand why he was apparently sailing in the wrong direction, “Where did you come from?”
He was middle-aged, portly and ruddy faced; sounded English. Didn’t look like a yachtie. Nor did his mate — a scrawny bloke lounging against the mast with a grin on his face and a can of VB in his hand. Now downwind of them both, I could smell the beer. London my arse.
“I reckon Pittwater is about 40 kilometres away.” Just to be extra helpful, I pointed, “That way. To the South.”
“Shit, we must have passed it on the way up. How will we be able to find it?”
A good question, since they had maybe four or five hours of sailing in the dark ahead of them. I made my reply as simple as possible. “Go back out to the lighthouse. Turn right, the way you came, and then sail to the furthest point you can spot from there. When you round it, you will see Barrenjoey.”
“Haven’t you got a chart?”
“No. This boat didn’t come with any, but I brought along this Sydney street directory.”
Better be lucky bastards, I thought.