BLOG - Pleasure boating pox

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Why is our fearless editor at Quarantine Beach? To avoid a plague of morons, that's why...

BLOG - Pleasure boating pox
BLOG — Pleasure boating pox
We’re heading for Quarantine Beach. Our impending isolation comes not after a dose of scurvy, small pox or Spanish flu, but after we pulled the pin at neighbouring Store Beach with a serious dose of the poos. Despite arriving early and 'claiming' the box seat, a bunch of big-boaters have bulldozed their way into our anchoring zone. This is Sydney pleasure boating at its most narcissistic. We’ll likely hit at night.

Following some terse exchanges, experience tells us things will only get worse when their tea party heats up. They have done this to me twice before. And who wants to raft up to a bunch of badly bred grandparents singing Barry Manilow? Yes, I can smile without you. So we give them the salute — the one normally reserved for idiot motorists — and head to the next best anchorage.

Collins Beach — the third sister in the troika of beaches in aptly named Spring Cove — appeals. It gains the best protection from boat wash. So we relax and then sleep snugly. Mind you, this isn’t something you can always do here. In summer, Jump Rock is awash with kids bombing 24/7 and even louder parties erupt after tweets from Tempe to Timbuktu.

But with a classic Sydney southerly buster forecast the following day, we clear out. Collins Beach will become a dreaded lee shore. Quarantine it is. Thanks to Cannae Point, the harbour headland marked by an historic white signalling mast, you gain protection from southerlies and can hunker down.

The down side of Quarantine Beach is the incessant wash. Most prevailing sea breezes put your boat abeam to the tsunamis rolling in from afar. The waves from the Manly ferries and pleasure boats decelerating after they enter the four-knot speed restriction zone never fail to rock your boat.

In fact, Quarantine Beach is the only harbour anchorage where my wife and I have been thrown out of our bunks at night. I kid you not. Unless you have your sea legs, it’s not the ideal for lunching aboard and a boatload of landlubbers may even go green around the gills.

It’s also here, during an onboard movie night, that I inadvertently left on the outside speakers while playing Pulp Fiction. A ghost tour held by National Park Rangers, with an entourage wielding torches in tow, copped a full verbal assault. How’d it go:

– A Royale with cheese! You know why they call it that?
Because of the metric system?
Check out the big brain on Brett! You're a smart mother... That's right. The metric system.

But in the right conditions, Quarantine shines and, once ashore, delights. With sufficient chain and some extra for added insurance, our nine-month-old and 4.5-year-old look wistfully out yonder. This is a good thing. Jumping from furniture, swinging from grab rails, and running around the decks have been taking their toll. We jump in the kayak instead.

Without doubt, Quarantine’s best asset is its 200-metre-long, clean and oceanic beach. At high water you’ll find terrific swimming over limpid shallows dotted with patchwork sea-grass meadows. The weathered sandstone fringes present a no-less-rousing rock-hop or dive after donning a mask and snorkel. There is also a café doing Royales with cheese and a classy restaurant with bar. Oh, and loos for the kayakers that pull in cross-legged.

After a great family day, we idle back down Middle Harbour. It’s then that we spot Sammy the Seal. He raises his hairy maw right in front of the boat. The seal, a big one that fishing guides say has been around all winter, is playing in the narrows just downstream from the Spit Bridge.

We see its flipper next, then its tail, then SLAM! It thrashes its head from side to side with prey in its mouth. Clearly, it’s not a fish. My crew and I get a better look, turn to each other and mouth the word: "penguin." Having satisfied itself that the poor resident penguin was dead, the seal surfaced again and, crunch, cracked its body in two like it was eating an Easter egg.

In all my years of pleasure boating, I’ve never heard of anyone running over a penguin. You most certainly see the cute little birds bobbing about in the busiest parts of the harbour, where ferries criss-cross under the Harbour Bridge, for example. The creatures seem to be savvy and able to dive away with agility.

So I am supposing some scars attributed to propeller strikes on penguins actually hail from natural predators, like seals. I remember when Manly Environment Centre claimed power skis were killing penguins but an autopsy found nothing of the kind. Yet Bob Carr still banned power skis from Sydney Harbour.

Some penguin pals would doubtless like boats to go, too. They tell the mainstream press the birds are hit by boats when in fact dogs and seals are eating the colony. Boaties, on the other hand, love the little critters whose friendly disposition contrasts with the ferals that sometimes invade the waterways. – David Lockwood


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