52 Journeys, Australia: No 2, Broken Bay, Part 2
After those first few trips to Broken Bay, I returned – for a sail on a little boat and a few days in a little shack, both in the middle of the big blue. All the while trying to imagine life here hundreds of years ago.
First, the sail. I do not possess sea legs – I shudder at the thought of the slightest heeling over – but I love the concept of being free on the ocean. On that first recce up to Pittwater, I was so desperate to get out onto the water that as soon as I spied a little boat coming in to the wharf, I called out, ‘Would you mind if I hopped on your boat for a bit?’ Shameless and desperate, yes. But as it turned out, effective. Because the captain of the boat turned out to be Charlie, an old neighbour from 30 years ago. He couldn’t accommodate my cheeky request there and then, but he very kindly agreed to take me and another old friend out for a sail a few weeks later.
A moment after I took this shot, I recognised it was Charlie!
10. ‘Gem’, 1965, Rozinante canoe yawl, 28 feet long
Our mutual friend, Lisa, and I met Charlie at Pretty Beach and as we motored out into Broken Bay, we were accompanied by a school of dolphins who played around the bow for a few minutes. It was a total delight and we yelped like kids, watching them come in and out of view.
having a whale of a time with the dolphins of Broken Bay
As I watched them play, I remembered reading how important they used to be to Indigenous Australians – apparently they worked together to herd fish into their nets.
dolphins used to help herd fish into nets :: 1
dolphins used to help herd fish into nets :: 2
Looking at Lion Island, which sits in the middle of Broken Bay just outside Pittwater, there’s no sign of modern life to distract you – you are essentially looking at exactly what Indigenous Australians would have seen.
and then everything changed
As we got closer to the mouth of the Hawkesbury, where the river meets the sea, Charlie hoisted the sail and we headed out.
out on the Tasman Sea
just imagine what’s under us!
cue the Jaws soundtrack
I joke about it now but I was genuinely a little scared; the boat heeled over so much that I felt like at any moment I could just fall into the sea. There was a lot of nervous laughter between Lisa and I, well, maybe just me. But I trusted Charlie entirely – he’s been sailing since he was a kid – so it was more like a thrill ride, knowing there was almost zero chance of imminent death. Almost.
So that was that. A fun, life-affirming and slightly nerve-wracking day on the high seas. (Thanks again Charlie and if you’re up for a sunset sail, I’m keen!)
Three months later, I headed back to the area, to spend a few nights in a shack on Great Mackerel Beach, located on the western shores of Pittwater in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, right across from Palm Beach. I’d booked it mid year, as a special treat for my two nieces, Gina and April, as well as Coco and myself; I’ve been meaning to spend a weekend with these three for years, and with Gina about to head off to Newcastle for uni, I decided it was now or never. I’d discovered The Little Black Shack a few months earlier on yet another recce to the area – I’d caught the little ferry to Currawong Beach and walked around to Great Mackerel Beach. Looking down into the Mediterranean-esque calm, turquoise water, I’d noticed a little place with a palm leaf sun umbrella on the deck, close to the water’s edge.
Intrigued, I found out its name – The Little Black Shack. I also discovered it’s a popular escape and hard to get into, but as luck would have it, there was a vacancy on my birthday a few months away. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate, especially after such a crappy year. Late afternoon on a Friday in December myself and the three girls caught the little ferry, Myra, across from Palm Beach to Mackerel.
that tiny speck in the background is the ferry heading to Mackerel Beach
It was dinner time by the time we arrived and after rustling up pizza, we hit the sack, eager to wake up early the next morning on the edge of a huge expanse of water, with nothing but bush behind us and sky above.
the shack’s main room
looking through to the bedroom
local stone painstakingly carried and positioned by the owners
who knows what lies beneath?
My brother and sister-in-law joined us for lunch that day and for some reason I didn’t capture any of it – too busy relaxing I guess. But that evening the weather turned and I reached for my camera – tucked up safe and warm inside, we could just make out the distant lighthouse through the driving rain and darkness.
stormy weather :: 1
stormy weather :: 2
The next morning I woke before the girls and spent the most glorious few hours with my camera; despite being so close to civilisation, I felt like I was far far away, surrounded by nothing else but nature. Two days before I’d arrived as a weary, wired but tired city-slicker – now I felt refreshed, relaxed and happy. In my swimmers, doing what I love best, with no one around and amongst great beauty. Renting the shack had felt like a total indulgence (it ain’t cheap) but really, the feeling it gave me was worth every penny.
the morning after the storm
One by one the girls appeared then would disappear again to nap, read, wander.
from the sea
table with a view
April – eat…read…
Just before it was time to leave, we turned up the music and danced like crazy – it felt like a final release of energy before heading back to the big smoke.
the Central Coast ferry, with Mackerel Beach in the background
I realise looking back at this post that you might think I was paid to endorse the Little Black Shack – I absolutely wasn’t. I just really loved it, mainly because this old fishermen’s cottage, modernised just enough to make it comfortable, had simultaneously calmed and excited me. And just as importantly, reminded me of the importance of getting away from the big smoke and surrounding yourself in nature – especially nature that’s as beautiful as Pittwater and Broken Bay.
It wasn’t near long enough though – I’d planned to explore beyond the shack’s immediate surrounds but between a birthday celebration and hanging out with three of my favourite humans, there just hadn’t been any time.
Yet as ‘busy’ as our relaxed weekend had been, I’d often caught myself thinking of those who’d lived here before, hundreds even thousands of years ago, and how pissed off you’d be to have lost such a paradise. The mind boggles.
Anyway, there’s one final installment coming up to finish the ‘Broken Bay’ journey (not that I would ever really be able to ‘finish’ exploring the area, even if I had years to do so). Stay tuned!