Boating in Gippsland Lakes

Sailing on the waters off the coast of Croatia for a week. That’s on the cards for this European summer. If anyone has any tips, please feel free to send them along. The last time we sailed and slept on the boat, it was only for three nights and that was on a lake, albeit a very large one with a network of marshes and lagoons that flowed out into the ocean.

If you can believe it, we chartered and drove our own 37 feet cruiser for 4 days. We were sucked in by the assuring phrase on the website – “No experience required – we can teach you all you need to know“.

How many of us have fallen for this? And yet, sometimes we are drawn in to doing something completely out of the blue and possibly risky! It must be the wild side in all of us. So, in the spirit of giving it a go, there we were, on a long weekend, in the middle of Gippsland Lakes in Victoria . . . on a boat. If you have any inkling of doing the same thing and have never done it before, here are our top tips that we hope you might find useful.

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Tip #1 – Don’t trust your own eyes. Get a GPS.

Unlike driving a car, on a boat, you do lose sense of the direction you are heading in especially if there’s no shoreline in sight. On our very first morning. after a short lesson, we happily zoomed off in the direction we thought was obviously right. Not long after, we noticed that the coastline sure looks different to the very worn and well used map they provided. Turning the map around provided no more clues to landlubbers like us. So less than 20 minutes after we’ve been handed the keys to our 36 feet cruiser, we were wondering if this was a good idea after all. Fortunately for us, a speed boat chased us down and it was Greg (our trainer from that morning) telling us that we were headed towards the open ocean and that he was just checking that we were all ok.

Yeah . . no worries . . . just warming this baby up . . in fact, just about to turn around any minute.”

So, if at all possible,  use a GPS of some sort. We were saved by the one on the iPhone. More than once, we relied on it to just figure out where in the world were we!

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Captain at the helm

Tip #2 – Don’t panic if something does not work.

Also on our first day, our water system stopped working. We had no running water. “We are all going to die!” the kids yelled. So we were instantly on the phone to Greg.

Just shut it off for 15 mins and then crank it up again.

Righto Greg! We’ve tried that but clearly the key here is the 15 minutes. So, we dutifully did as we were told and we were dumbfounded when it actually worked! Well, I guess most systems on boats aren’t that complicated so standing back and giving it a bit of room did the trick. So, there no need to panic at all.

Which was just as well because Greg said he’ll come out again on his speed boat to assist us if that failed to fix it. But I realised (the next day) that the location we provided to him as to where we were was off course by miles. We weren’t even close. It would have taken Greg all morning to find us! Refer to Tip #1 before giving anyone your location.

Tip #3 – Never sit down for a meal with your boat side on to water way traffic

Imagine this. Everyone’s having a deliciously cooked breakfast when a large boat speeds past us some distance away. We see it from our side window and think nothing of it. As we are still chomping down on our sausages and eggs, we notice that our boat is starting to rock a little from side to side. This we have noticed before but this time it does not stop. The gentle swaying picks up tempo and intensity. Hmm . . . we wonder what can it be?

ImageThe calm before the storm

So, we look out our side window again and immediately it dawns on us. We were in the wake of the boat that just sped past us! And as we were side on, we were sitting ducks. Just at that moment, another wave crashes against the side of our boat and a few plates began to slide to one side.

You can well imagine what happens next. We try to hold on to whatever we could but wave after wave, the swaying and rocking of our boat gets worse and worse! EVERYTHING was going from side to side and some off the table and onto the floor. Plates, utensils, cups . . everything. Like a mini earthquake, our entire breakfast became airborne . . and there was not a single thing we could do about it.

Tip #4 – Try not to moor downstream of other boats for an overnight stay in a river

I think you can work this one out. Well, we did not and thought nothing of it. Until of course, when we noticed smells coming from the water. Then we saw the string of boats all lined up along the shore upstream of us. It was after dinner and everyone was settling in for the night. Yelch! What in the world??! Enough said.

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Well, what can I say. We certainly learned lots in our little boating trip and in the end, we made it back to the pier with the boat safely. So it was indeed an “experience“. But that was two years ago now which is usually the length of time it takes to turn anything negative into a “memorable experience” for us. This year, the sea once again calls out to us and we yearn for the salty air. We think back to Gippsland Lakes. Ahh. . . it was great wasn’t it?  So, sailing in Croatia it is. Lock it in.

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