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Monday, 17 September 2012

In which I consider taking off my pants

I had been told that Robin Hood Bay wasn’t the best option if we weren’t sure of the outboard for our first run of our newly-purchased 14-footer. We felt fairly confident, so chose to ignore that advice.

We arrived at Robin Hood Bay soon after noon. There were some waves breaking and a swell coming in, but it didn’t look bad. The weather forecast was good.

Three nice old chaps in a camper van were having a tea break near the top of the small dirt road to the beach in the north of the bay. One spoke to Paul when we arrived.

~ Too rough?
~ Nah, we’ll be right.

We got the boat ready, and Paul put on his waders.

Paul walked down the track, while I started to back the trailer down. The dirt track is steep and essentially consists of one corner – 90 degrees. I felt fairly confident, though – thinking back to the trailer-backing I did with our 22-footer in Waikawa Marina a couple of years earlier.

My confidence turned out to be unfounded, but I managed to get it backed down eventually.

The beach was littered with many bigger-than-rugby-ball-sized rocks.

The plan was to get the boat to the water’s edge, I’ll hop in, Paul will walk us out as far as he can in his waders, he’ll climb up, then I’ll row until we’re out enough to get the motor started.

We unhooked the trailer after I’d backed down as far as I could without going too far onto the sand, and we pushed it up the beach to where there were less rocks.

We struggled getting the boat off the trailer, while the odd wave splashed over the back and the wheels started to sink into the sand. My plans of stepping prince-like onto the boat went out the window, and I threw my boots into the boat and my jeans got fairly wet. The boat didn’t seem to have been taken off the trailer for quite some time before we bought it, and felt reluctant to do so now.

Eventually we got it into the water, and I left Paul holding the boat in the waves, and ran the trailer back to the Pajero and drove it up the track.

I got back down to the beach to see a wave hit the boat and push it sideways. Paul got it back in line, though. The swell seemed to have picked up. I pulled myself into the boat, and Paul took us out further into the waves. I start trying to row, and we took an oar each after he got in.

Paul was keen to get the motor going at this point, but I was somewhat concerned (read: scared) about the waves and said we should row out more, which we did.

The motor started easily, and I took the wheel, pushing us slowly out of the bay though the mounting swell and cold breeze. The motor sounded like it was dying at one point, but that was luckily just the breather on the petrol cap needing to be loosened.

The boat felt safe. We traveled north and came to Ocean Bay, which was calm and pleasant. We fished in a couple of spots without any luck. I couldn’t figure out whether it was more comfortable standing up and getting hit by the cold breeze or sitting in my wet jeans on the metal seat.

The northern point of Ocean Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand.
We decided that rather than try to get back into Robin Hood Bay, I should walk back from Ocean Bay and pick up the vehicle instead. Paul took the helm and sped us over to Robertson Point for a fish before we went in to shore. His reel fell apart after a few casts. I got a couple of snags, but managed to get my lure back both times.

Back in Ocean Bay, Paul nudged the boat toward the shore. I pulled the motor up and he jumped over the side and asked if I wanted to hop on his back. Stupidly, I shrugged my shoulders and said “ok”.

At the edge of the boat, I started to climb on his back, then he yelled something about a pop, and I try to clamber back on to the boat – my feet still on the boat while I’m almost horizontal, holding on to Paul’s shoulders like something out of a cartoon. By the time I got back on-board, the boat was in shallow water, so I walked to shore in my gumboots.

I started walking up the hill on the winding dirt road that heads back south, planning on sticking my thumb out for a lift if any vehicle approaches from behind. I laughed out loud thinking about the scenario of me climbing onto Paul’s back.

The birds were singing in the trees, and walking up the road felt good. My jeans were still quite damp and I briefly considered taking them off, but realised a guy with no pants on laughing to himself on the side of the road is unlikely to get a lift. Not that it would have mattered – it was about 7.5 kms back to the car, and nobody passed me going in the same direction.

I jogged in my gumboots down the 3 km or so descent to Robin Hood Bay. The muscles in my legs started to feel it halfway down, but slowing back down to a walk seemed wrong.

As if to reinforce the unsuitability of Robin Hood Bay for launching a boat, I noticed a surfer paddling out when I got to the vehicle. The waves seemed even bigger than before.

Driving back to pick up Paul and the boat, I passed four vehicles coming from Ocean Bay.

We got the boat back on the trailer without a fuss. The boat and motor ran well all day. Paul had been down to Oyster Bay while he was waiting for me, and he said he was very happy with the way the boat had performed.

I think we’ll make the effort to drive to Ocean Bay rather than launch in Robin Hood next time, if there’s a swell coming in.