Coasting Chapter 11
There was no moon and no stars were visible through the heavy cloud that hung over the New South Wales Coast that night, there was a stiff sixteen knot breeze from the South East and ‘The Breeze,’ as Craigshaw called the yacht made about nine to ten knots and they made Swansea in a little under seven hours. Neither man slept, both were enjoying the evening too much, once the course was set they put out as much sail as they could; the yacht had a bow spit and provision for a spinnaker, but that was the only sail they didn’t run with. The phosphorous in the ocean stirred up by the yacht amused Paul, he had never seen it so vividly before.
“Take a piss over the side Paul; you’ll be startled by what you see.” Paul did as Brad had suggested and he was rewarded with a fantastic phosphorous display. They played and Paul learned all the way to Newcastle.
Dave’s day was a little less entertaining than Paul’s; after he received the call from his brother giving him an approximate ETA, he booked into the Blue Pacific Motel a cheap little place under the Pacific Highway and close to Swansea Heads. The place took cash and the receptionist was bored with her job and paid Dave little or no attention; he idled his evening away watching television changing the channel every time he saw himself on the news; he read the paper and waited. Paul called at a little before one o’clock to tell him that they were within sight of the Swansea lighthouse that guarded the entrance to Lake Macquarie, and as they slipped past Moon Island, Dave could make out ‘The Breeze’s running lights.
“I can see you.” Dave told his brother on the phone. And a few minutes later they were inside Swansea Heads. They stopped briefly to pick up Dave from the jetty and then continued into Lake Macquarie.
“We’ll spend the rest of the night here.” Brad told them, “and get underway at first light.” He got no argument from either of the brothers, but sleep wouldn’t come as they sat in the stateroom and enjoyed a drink.
“When you left Sydney, did you tell anyone where you were going?” Paul asked.
Brad looked surprised at the question. “No. Why?” He replied.
“Well you could, have gone anywhere. New Zealand, off across the Pacific, anywhere.” Paul explained.
“Usually when we run up to Pittwater, or Woy Woy, I let the club know where I’m going and usually I will report when we have arrived, it’s a courtesy thing as well as being a safety thing. If we should get…..well you know anything can happen, but this little run is a bit different.”
“How’s that?” Dave asked, speaking for the first time.
“Let’s just say it’s a bit different.” Brad said conclusively
“What about customs?” Paul asked
“What about them?”
“Well suppose we go on up the coast and slip outside the three mile limit.” Paul asked.
“The three mile limit? You know why it’s a three mile limit? Brad asked, changing the subject and the tone of the conversation, “because that was how far a cannonball could travel in 1702!” Brad drained his glass and went to the bar and poured himself another glass of red. “These days territorial water extends twelve miles.” He offered the bottle to Dave who topped up his glass, and Paul drained the bottle.
“OK, what happens if we go over the twelve mile limit; will the Coast Guard descend and ask some awkward questions?” Paul wanted to know.
“No, well to be honest I don’t know but, I’ve friends who have gone out to Norfolk Island and further and never been stopped or questioned by the Coast Guard or the water police. Why do you ask?”
Paul shook his head dismissively. “No, just a general question.” The wine slowly worked and the lads relaxed and they eventually retired to their cabins.
They were out of Lake Macquarie and into the Tasman Sea by first light as Brad had promised. It was a clear, brisk morning; a watery sun that had just broken the horizon promised a fair day as did the barometer, they unfurled all of her sails as they had done the previous night and the strong easterly pushed them up the coast at twelve knots about as fast as the yacht comfortably travel. They were in the shipping lanes; freighters and container ships were on their way to Sydney and Melbourne and coal and ore carriers shuttled in and out of Newcastle and sometimes they were a bit too close for comfort. They set a course that took them away from the shipping lanes and over the horizon where they lost sight of land for the first time. Dave and Paul got familiar with the yacht and how she performed, and they had to be impressed. They had a crash course on how to use a sextant, but hoped they would never need to use the instrument, SatNav told them exactly where they were and Silva Compass kept them on a true setting; but what happens if you have a flat battery Craigshaw asked. At night they had lessons in celestial navigation, and both Dave and Paul were impressed with what Craigshaw knew and he wasn’t shy in dispensing his knowledge, he was keen to teach them and they were keen to learn, and slowly a healthy respect developed between them.
Dave always had a line over the side and they caught Snapper and Red Emperor and Paul enjoyed cooking the catch; he was becoming comfortable in the small galley and made most of the meals and the three of them shared the watches during the night. The weather was perfect, a good south easterly and a gentle swell
It took two days to get to Mooloolaba, and by the time they entered the mouth of the Mooloolah River the brothers felt quietly confident in their capacity to sail and manage the yacht. Craigshaw had been in contact by phone with the person he was to pick up and had arranged a rendezvous at the Mooloolaba Wharf at lunch time. Brad had Cooper’s ID and he wasn’t difficult to spot standing like a Gay beacon on the jetty. They knew each other vaguely, they had attended a number of functions and had developed a nodding relationship, but they were far from friends and when he saw him he shook his head in disgust.
“What a fuckin’ wanker.” He said to himself as much as to Paul who was within earshot.
‘That’s the passenger?” Paul asked.
“Unfortunately yes.” Craigshaw confirmed. Cooper was in a hurry to leave, he had been cooped up in a tiny motel on Brisbane Road for the past couple of days, he was suspicious of everyone and just wanted to get away from the Sunshine Coast as quick as possible, and Dave and Paul felt the same, this was a bit too close to Charlie Jennings, they had put a thousand kilometre’s between him and themselves over the last few days and now here they were right back at the scene of the crime.
Brad obliged and after the briefest of stops they were back out into the South Pacific again. The weather was changing, the previous couple of days had been warm and cloudless, but the weather that greeted them that afternoon was threatening; the swell was a couple of metres and the wind now came from the north making a for a choppy ride and Dave had his first bout of seasickness, and so did Cooper, much to Craigshaw’s amusement. They turned off all of the electronic aids as Paul tried to tack up the coast. Just off the Noosa coast it started to rain and the conditions became quite rough for a couple of hours, and Paul learned very quickly that there was a bit more to this sailing business than he had previously thought.
“How am I doing?” Paul asked as he stained on the wheel to maintain his course.
Brad laughed. “If you maintain this course Paul you’ll have us in Mt Isa in a couple of days,” he told Paul honestly. They turned the aids back on, it was in times like these that these instruments came into their own and it was stupid not to use them.
“Get up here, Dave” Paul called, “it’s your shift” His brother wasn’t quite emerald green, but he was certainly a soft lilac colour. Dave had taken a couple of pills and they slowly started to help battle the effects of seasickness and he took over the wheel, but the computer did the work. As they sailed further north the conditions started to improve, they sailed with just the mainsail and were making about nine knots and soon Dave found his sea legs.
“Just keep Australia to your left Dave it’s a piece of piss.” Brad told him.
“Absolutely,” Dave agreed and they sailed into the evening.
Below deck Russell Cooper was feeling wretched, and the seasickness just compounded everything. He sat in the stateroom nursing a large scotch, it was obvious that he had paid his passage and he wasn’t going to make any attempt to assist up on deck. It had been a terrible couple of weeks for him, he felt as if he had lost everything. His standing in the Gold Coast Community had always been questionable; he never became what his father and uncle had expected, he lacked their drive, their passion and their enthusiasm for business; in fact he had been a big disappointment to all of his family.
His father and his uncle had been a real estate developer’s after the war and what better place was there to develop than the Gold Coast They had bought big chuck’s of Coolangatta, Southport and Surfer’s Paradise in the late forties and early fifties; when Russell had been born you could pick up a waterfront property for five hundred pound, they borrowed heavily and on occasions they thought that they had bitten of more than they could chew, but by the time Russell was teenager the Coast was becoming exactly what his father thought it would become, he got involved in the first canal developments and Shopping Centres and his investments returned a hundred fold, Russ Hinze, Joe Bilke Petersen, and Ralph Cooper all became big names on the Coast and Russell should have taken the family to the next level, but there had been too many unsavoury incidents and embarrassments, and now here he was on the run from another embarrassment; he shook his head and threw back the last of his scotch and went to poured himself another.
Brad came down into the Stateroom and tried to be a congenial host, after all Cooper had paid a lot of money for this trip.
“Would you like a coffee, or a bite to eat?” Brad offered knowing the answer. Cooper felt better, but he couldn’t face any food.
“No thanks.” Cooper told him, “I’ve totally lost my appetite, quite honestly I like nothing more than a lay down if I might.”
“Sure, I’m not sure who is where, find an empty cabin and claim it.” Brad told him.
Craigshaw felt that he had done his duty as mine host and went back up on deck, leaving Russell to find a berth. Russell poured himself another large scotch and made his way to one of the cabins. He looked in the first one, the boys had obviously moved in there, and was about to look for another room when the large black holdall that Dave had thrown on the bottom bunk caught his eye, it looked extremely familiar it was ‘Head’ tennis sports bag, a cut above your standard Addidas, or Nike crap, or so Russell had thought when he bought it. He gave them to people as presents and they actually said ‘Russell give’s good Head bag’s’ but he failed to find the humour in it. This bag looked very familiar and finally curiosity got the better of him and he closed the door and opened the bag. It was full of cash. He shook his head
“What the …”
Up on deck Dave had fully recovered from earlier bout of seasickness and was working with Brad on how to use a sextant. Paul had the wheel and was trying to maintain a course, the sun had descended from the sky and the western horizon was a red blush, and the lights of Harvey Bay appeared in the silhouette below. The moon was rising and it was going to be a perfect night for celestial navigation.
The conditions may have been perfect, but Brad’s students although enthusiastic at first were becoming frustrated with the exercise and as the swell increased to about two metres the lesson became more and more difficult. Paul turned on the electronic aids and the boat found its own course he was tired and had about enough for the day.
“How they ever found Australia is a fucking miracle.” Dave finally announced, “I can’t make head nor tail of the Southern fuckin’ Cross; whoever named it must have been pissed that night” he concluded frustrated with his progress, Brad persevered for a little longer, but this was obviously going to take a bit of time. Dave came back to the cockpit and to relieve his brother.
“Don’t touch anything, and I’ll relieve you in a couple of hours.” Paul told him and followed Brad below.
The next day was a perfect Queensland day and ideal for sailing, late March is still considered summer off the central Queensland coast; the temperature was in the mid twenties, there was a fifteen knot south easterly that pushed them up the coast on a meter swell, the three crewmen were exhilarate sailing in such sublime conditions. They had a line over the side and were fortunate enough to catch a Barramundi Cod, quite a rare fish in these waters, and Paul barbecued it for lunch.
Their guest didn’t share their enthusiasm for the sailing or the meal he kept himself to himself plotting a scheme to get his money back.
The ideal conditions lasted all day and in the evening they were in the southern reaches of the Whitsunday Islands and as the sun set they moored on the lee side of Brampton Island, a small island with a couple of resorts; the boys were tempted to go ashore; after all they were a couple of young sailors with their own yacht in the harbour, and who knows what they might find, but they weren’t stupid, they knew they were wanted men, and not just by the police, their faces were still being flashed across television screens and they were aware that they had done well over the last few days to completely disappear, and would like to remain off everyone’s radar.
Brad had a full bar and they settled for a drink up on deck where they were joined by Cooper, who sat quietly and listened to the two brothers regaling tales that were amusing , but said nothing about who they were, where they were from, nothing about their past. Who were they? Where did they get his money? How did they get his money? Cooper thought to himself, he had a lot of questions for them, but not yet, not here; he felt very intimidated by both of them and he didn’t want to raise their suspicions. Paul caught another fish, a large snapper, and he cleaned it as Dave fired up the barbecue.
The following morning they sailed up through the islands, they past close to an uninhabited outcrop of rocks that were covered in mangroves,
“I bet there’s ‘muddies’ in there,” Dave said, meaning mud crabs.
“This place is teeming with seafood,” Craigshaw told him, “Painted Cray’s, Barra, you’ll find all sorts plus every type of shellfish scallops, prawns..” he was about to continue, but Paul interrupted him.
“You’ve got me; let’s drop the anchor and go over the side.” Paul said. Brad showed them a small cupboard where he kept some snorkelling equipment; fins and masks and everything that they would need, including a spear gun that was propped in the corner.
“Take that with you, you never know what might be down there.” Brad suggested Paul went over the side and under the waves, while Dave swam to the island and squelched through the virgin mud, and in almost no time at all they found what they were looking for.
So did Cooper, as soon as the brothers went over the side he went below and started to rifle through the ‘Head’ bag again, he ignored the money until he found a piece of paper in one of the pockets which confirmed the bag had been his.
“I thought so, I thought so,” he said loud enough to attract Brad.
“What the hell are you doing?” Brad demanded to know.
“This is my bag,” he said, “and this is my money.” Cooper told him.
“What do you mean; ‘yours,’” Brad asked standing in the doorway.
Russell sat on the bottom bunk with the bag between his feet “I was blackmailed by someone….. someone had some photos, you know very compromising photo’s…of me and…. and I was blackmailed,” he said awkwardly, “he took nearly ten million off of me over a period of time,” Russell lied very convincingly. “The last payment I made to him was a couple of million and I gave it to him in this bag, about a week ago.”
“And you can prove it’s your bag?” Brad asked.
Cooper showed him the piece of paper he pulled from the pocket of the bag, “It’s a receipt for something I bought at the Coolangatta Squash club. I’m a member of the club.”
“Dave and Paul are both from the Gold Coast; they might be members of the club.” Brad argued.
“Its mine I tell you.” Cooper said raising his voice.
“Why don’t we wait until they come back and then we can ask them?”
“Why don’t we just sail off and leave them here, I’ll split it with you,” Cooper tried, but Craigshaw wasn’t having any of it.
“I don’t think so; I only have your story, I want to hear theirs. Let’s have a drink while we wait for them” Brad said, taking the holdall and going through to the stateroom and waited for the brothers to return.
They didn’t have to wait very long Paul had found a couple of good sized cray’s just metres from the boat; there were more, but he couldn’t carry any more than two. He threw both of them up on deck and climbed aboard.
He skipped down the steps into the galley. “Hey Brad, have you got a pot big enough for …” but he never finished what he was going to say. “What’s going on?” he asked when he saw the holdall on the table.
“That’s what I’d like to know.”