Friday, May 6, 2016

You Are Likely To Be Eaten By A Grue

First, a very happy belated Star Wars Day to you all. May the Fourth be with you! We celebrated by watching The Empire Strikes Back. (We try to observe the most important days in the calendar. Raise the kids up right.)

Once again, I've been slow to blog. And I have heard your complaints. I submit two reasons for my poor performance, namely a) we have been working nonstop to get the boat ready and I just don't have it in me to write after ten long hours of manual labour, and b) I have been following the principle of If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, Don't Say Anything At All. We have spent the last two weeks wandering through the valley of the shadow of death. Everything broke. Nothing worked. A horde of tiny biting flies invaded. I reached epic levels of crabbiness. You would not have wanted a blow-by-blow.

But now, finally, we're getting there. Sure, the cockpit is still cushionless and full of junk, but Erik has built new shelves to stow all that stuff and new cushions sit below, awaiting only a clean surface on which to rest. The salon overflows with milk crates, but the new tool bench will absorb most of that. And so on. We have reached that point in the refit journey when we can crack open one eye to peak at the future. To ponder sandy beaches, clear snorkelling and our next port of call. To break the seal on the guide books.

Our cruising guides arrived early this week. I was giddy with excitement. Finally, we could move on. No more waking to the noise of a grinder at six a.m. No more having workmen show up while I'm still in my pajamas. No more climbing over boxes and moving bags to navigate the salon. Time to dream a little. I settled back on a piece of foam, cracked my copy of Cruising the Coral Coast (Alan Lucas, 9th ed.), and eagerly flipped through its crisp pages, searching for the section on the Whitsundays.

Instead, on all of page 10, I found Dangers. I made a bit of a face. Here I am, looking for a pleasant daydream to drown out the banging and crashing on the superyacht next door, and instead this book is determined to harsh my mellow. I skimmed the paragraphs. Male funnel-web spider, one of the world's deadliest... female redback, commonly found under toilet seats... great, great, fine great. And my favourite sentence: "Too numerous to include are the dangerous spiders whose bites are non-fatal but may leave a necrotic lesion that can take months to heal."

On to snakes. "The possibility of snakes boarding your vessel is covered in the section 'Floods'." In the meantime: one of the world's deadliest snakes, Eastern Taipan, aggressive when disturbed, multiple strikes... King Browns, copperheads, Death Adders... Enough. No bushwalking for me. I flipped the page, trying to regain my enthusiasm.

Sigh. Not what I was looking for.
Box jellyfish: 4-6 tentacle meters will kill an adult, 2m can kill a child. Irukandji: tiny, transparent; known to kill fully-dressed divers by getting down the back of their neck or stinging the face. By the time sharks showed up on the list, it felt old hat. Dingoes, wild pigs ("if cornered, head for the nearest tree,") crocodiles.

I remembered the snake-flood warning. Unable to resist further punishment, I found the section (after Weather, Swell, Currents and Cyclones).
During the drama of a flood, a snake in your bunk is about the last thing you need. The only true defense is to keep all hatches and ports closed. [...] if a snake manages to get belowdecks, do not attempt to catch it unless it is a harmless tree snake or python.
Catch a "harmless" python. Mmm hmm. I sat back to absorb that statement. Then I firmly closed the book.

Warily, I moved on to Northern Territory Coast Cruising Guide (John Knight). We don't plan to stop between Cairns and the Kimberley, but it's best to be prepared. And the book started out alright: History, Climate, Ocean Currents. My optimism returned. This going to be fine.

And then: DANGEROUS MARINE CREATURES. All caps, mind you. No fooling around here.

Small blue-ringed octopus: total paralysis, rapidly fatal. Cone shells: fatal. Seas snakes: fatal. Fire coral. Infection from regular coral. Ciguatera poisoning. Saltwater crocs again. "Any crocodile over 3 metres in length is to be considered as dangerous." I laughed out loud at that one. How jaded do you have to be, how inured to the dangers outside your door to make that statement? "Nah, a croc 2.5m long is no big deal, but 3m? Maybe show some respect." I'll tell you: any crocodile over the size of a child's school ruler is going to have me running away, and you can hand me my land speed record when I recover from the heart attack.

I chose not to delve into the author's explanation of eels, sharks and bristle worms. Another book closed.

By the time I opened Western Australian Cruising (Fremantle Sailing Club, Fourth ed.), I was morbidly curious. Could things get worse? What fresh horror hid within its pages? I ran my finger down the Table of Contents. And there it was: Dangerous Creatures and Sea Mammals.

Estuarine crocs grow to 6m. Sharks occur along the entire coast. There are more than 50 species of venomous sea snakes. Our old friends blue-ringed octopus, stonefish and cone shells pop in to say hello. Jellyfish and stingrays.

I closed my third guidebook. Enough. All I wanted was a little light relief in my day, not The Seventy-nine Painful Ways You Will Die Before You Reach the Indian Ocean. Disheartened, I dropped my chin to my chest. As I moped, I noticed a magazine on the floor - one of those free publications that litter every boating store. Bow2Stern, I thought. That ought to have some fun, happy boating articles inside. I picked it up and flipped it open:

That's it; I'm done reading. If anyone needs me, I'll be stowing sixty sachets of EasiYo.


Anonymous said...

Well, that's the way to begin the next leg of your adventure!!!Yikes, I guess you'll all be 'eyes wide open' from here on. :)
It's a great post and very educational. Perhaps the girls can make check lists of these creatures and keep a tally of how many you come across?
Best wishes to all as you set sail.
Karen M

Mark Meikle said...

If it makes you feel any better, I spent 6 Weeks in Australia, hiked through a rain forest, fished in the ocean, snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef and lived....enjoy your adventure and best wishes to all!

Catherine VK4GH said...

Its a long way from Cairns to the Kimberlies. One place must see though is Lizard Island, you will regret missing it. Great walks, history, snorkelling and cruising company. The rest is full of those dangerous creatures - crocodiles, so you cannot swim.