A tale of three cap­tains

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT - PENNY HUNTER

The winds have been de­scribed as “change­able” by Jeff, the la­conic man­ager of the boat hire shed. He’s just shown us the ropes on the three cata­ma­rans our group is hir­ing for a sunny af­ter­noon’s sail­ing on Lake Jind­abyne in NSW’s Snowy Moun­tains. We’ve al­ready moun­tain­biked part-way around the lake, swum in its cool waters and walked to the im­pres­sive dam wall via the pretty town from which the lake takes its name. Now we have the chance to ex­plore its sur­face.

We watch the white caps dance as another gust sweeps in. The sailors in our party are ei­ther un­per­turbed, or bluff­ing to con­ceal their anx­i­ety. Our “cap­tains” com­prise one ex­pe­ri­enced yachtie, another who is con­fi­dent he can re­call the art of tack­ing and jib­ing last prac­tised 20 years ago and a third who says lit­tle but nods know­ingly. (In the in­ter­ests of pre­serv­ing friend­ships and mar­riages, our “cap­tains” will not be iden­ti­fied. They will sim­ply be re­ferred to as Man A, Man B and Man C.)

Jeff sug­gests we take the three cats on a trial run di­rectly across the lit­tle bay in which they are moored to make sure they’re in good hands. Jok­ingly, he makes some dis­parag­ing re­marks about trou­ble­some past cus­tomers and ad­vises the cost of any res­cue is a case of beer.

Man A hops con­fi­dently aboard his sail­boat with two of the boys in our party, low­ers the rud­der, swings the tiller around and is on his way, straight across the bay as in­structed. Man B also takes a young pas­sen­ger and is soon tack­ing adeptly in the same di­rec­tion.

I am in­vited to join Man C, and we take off in an alarm­ingly dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion to the one ad­vised by Jeff. But we have the wind in our sails and all is go­ing swim­mingly ... un­til it’s not.

We are in a pocket where it seems im­pos­si­ble to catch the breeze. The lit­tle wind-di­rec­tion tell-tales on the sail flop pa­thet­i­cally. We strug­gle to turn the cat around, jerk­ing the rud­der to try and cre­ate mo­men­tum. Sit­ting be­calmed and frus­trated, we watch as Man B hap­pily whips back and forth across the lake.

Af­ter 15 min­utes of pro­fan­i­ties and a near-mutiny,

Sail­ing cata­ma­rans on Lake Jind­abyne

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