My parents are grey nomads. They have taken their small caravan around the country on the back of Dad’s pride and joy, the Leyland P76. Given the fact that all our holidays as kids were spent at campsites, I figured it would be the last thing Mum would want to do in her twilight years. But they often hit the road and rough it…more than I would. Their caravan doesn’t have a bathroom, so they have to treck to the communal loo block at the caravan park in the middle of the night. Whereas I don’t like to holiday without room service.

So when we announced we were buying a houseboat, Dad virtually had his bags packed by the door waiting for an invitation to visit. A few weeks ago, it was The Adventurer’s 50th birthday. A perfect opportunity for Mum and Dad to come over for a few days so their favorite son-in-law could show off his new toy.

Despite the rainy weather, we decided to take the house “round the corner” to the Hawkesbury River. There are some beautiful spots around there – Refuge Bay, Yeoman’s Bay, America Bay. Heading out of Pittwater, the sun came out and the waters were calm and we floated happily along. The next 2 days were very relaxing despite the fact that it poured with rain most of the time. Lots of fishing, kayaking, and generally doing nothing. On the 3rd day, The Adventurer announced that we would have to head back. He had been watching the boating forecast and there were some rough seas due. Rough seas are not necessarily related to the weather. That is, just because it’s pouring with rain doesn’t mean the seas are going to be rough. The same can be said for a lovely, sunny day, the seas can be treacherous. Going “round the corner” is tricky. The Hawkesbury River, Pittwater and the open ocean all meet for a short spell, with Lion Island smack bang in the middle. The tides all cross and it can be very dangerous. I was concerned the trip was going to be rough as my Mum is not great on the water, although she had done quite well so far. As we headed off, The Adventurer informed us it wouldn’t get much rougher than it already was. We were bobbing along quite gently so I wasn’t concerned. Dad set himself up with his camera in front of the glass sliding door and gave us a running commentary about how the trip was going. He was disappointed the water wasn’t splashing up spectacularly enough for his footage. That was about to change.

“Where’s Lion Island gone?” Dad asked innocently. In a matter of seconds, the massive island in front of us had completely disappeared from sight. The houseboat was pitching deep into troughs then coming up for a hammering from a big wave. “Ooh, that’s better” said our intrepid cameraman, as The Adventurer said “I think we’re in trouble”.

The penny dropped and Dad suddenly found himself at the helm as The Adventurer raced to the back of the boat. The dinghy had been hit by a couple of big waves and was full of water. This meant we were towing the equivalent of a cement slab and weren’t going anywhere. Meanwhile, Mum had retreated to the bedroom so she didn’t have to look at the waves, and I was holding up the pantry and the fridge which we yet to be tethered securely to the wall. My back was wedged against the pantry, one foot on the fridge, right hand on the microwave and left hand on the crockery cupboard. It was like an extreme game of Twister. I could hear the crockery sliding around and figured I’d be buying a new set when this was over. I was trying to avoid the cupboard opening and shards of glass and ceramic flying around the kitchen. As we took another few hits, I was getting very concerned. Mum was throwing up in the bedroom and The Adventurer was out the back without a lifejacket, trying to work out what to do with the dinghy. The dinghy rope had come undone and had wrapped around the left engine propellor, rendering it useless. While the dinghy was still attached to the houseboat, we were not going anywhere. The Adventurer was not sure what to do. With my 80 year old mother decorating the bedroom, I said “just get us home”. With that, he went back out with a knife and cut the dinghy free. Our lovely eBay bargain, complete with eBay bargain motor, kids lifejackets and buckets and spades went floating off upside down, and we were able to limp back to Pittwater on one engine.

The Water Police and a couple of guys from our marina took off to see if they could salvage our dinghy. Not only for us, but a loose dinghy can be dangerous to other vessels. No luck there.

Once things were settled, we checked out the news and read about a Tornado that had ripped through northern NSW the night before and had made it’s way to Sydney, doing some damage to houses. That was what had affected the seas, but there was no warning. The next day, the sun was shining and the birds were singing. It would seem we had come home a day too soon. However, the seas were even rougher than the day before. You never can tell from the weather alone.

Amazingly, we sustained very little damage. Our biggest concern was that the aluminium dinghy had damaged the hull, but it appeared to be fine. We lost 4 glasses, and only because the stems snapped off. None of the crockery was even chipped! There was even a silver lining – the quilt mum threw up on was put into the dry cleaners. They lost it and replaced it with one that is much better quality. Bargain!!!

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