Maybe you can go on too long while you're trying to make up your mind about the best time to give up the sailing life. Maybe it's better to take the counsel of apparent signs. Signs like being unable to leave Mooloolaba, in spite of trying twice.
Maybe it's time to start over, to find something else to do with our lives?
That's a Big Question, and that's the question that we've been mulling over for the last week. Like any other Big Question, it spawns all sorts of ancillary questions. If we don't cruise, will we stay here in Australia? Will we get jobs? Would we still live on Pelagic? Would we stay in Mooloolaba, and get Elias into a day care program here?
We have begun a concerted effort to work our way into the Mooloolaba community, since it appears that we may be here for quite a while. No more for us the attitude of the Sea Gypsy, surveying with condescension the confusion of life ashore from our castle afloat. Time for us to make the best of what may be a bad job and see how well we might fit in with the community here.
Our first step was to enter the Sunday Fun Sail hosted by the Sunshine Coast Yacht Club.
Before we arrived here, I figured that being around yachties would naturally give us entree into Australian society, would give us contacts for jobs and that sort of thing. So far, in practice, being around Australian yachties has largely introduced us to single guys in their 60s who drink every day. But we were ready to renew the effort. And going out on the fun sail meant that we would use Pelagic, well, just to have fun, and not to get anywhere. We could see what that was like - maybe a future of marina living and weekend daysails would be ours.
Plus, we'd be able to follow the other boats out of the harbor, so no more embarrassing episodes of failing to find the exit.
It turned out to be a great day - overcast, with light winds, but still a fine day for a sail. But then, we couldn't find the starting line, or the motor boat that was supposed to be hoisting flags counting down to the start. A worrying sign, considering our recent difficulties with getting lost. Eventually we realized that the noon start must have come and gone. Two obvious groups of sailboats were heading out, away from town. We chose to follow the less flash group. We overtook the slowest of them, asked for directions to the mark we would all turn at, then proceeded to catch up with the rest of the group. We were able to fly the spinnaker the whole way:
At the mark, we pulled the sock over the spinnaker and gybed. Poor Elias then took the opportunity to demonstrate the perils of being under three on board a sailboat, and banged his lip into one of the extremely hard primary winches. Everything halted while we tended to him. The spinnaker stayed in its sock and we putted along under main alone while the rest of the fleet latered back towards the finish:
We eventually got the spinnaker going again, and more or less caught up with everyone by the finish, salvaging a fourth place out of a fleet of five or six. The barbecue afterwards was excellent - fun locals, having fun on boats, and not taking the whole thing too seriously.
That night, after Elias went to sleep, we talked about buying a slip at the marina, and joining the Sunshine Coast Yacht Club, and giving Mooloolaba a try for a year or two.
"Maybe they're hiring marine biologists at Underwater World," I suggested.
But the next day we caught up with the crew of Six Pack, a 31-footer from Lord Howe Island that recently completed a southern hemisphere circumnavigation. Rex and Louise have been sailing the world for decades aboard a series of small boats, with regular trips back to Lord Howe for work. We met them in Tonga, at the end of their circumnavigation, and meeting up with them in Mooloolaba was the sort of serendipitous event that brings cruising yachts together. It was also good timing, as we had been missing the unassuming company of people who enjoy seeing the world from the deck of their own boat.
We had them over to Pelagic for dinner, and afterwards, excited by their talk of sailing Patagonia, we reassessed the wisdom of staying put.
Talking it over, long into the night, we just couldn't decide what to do.
"Well," Alisa finally said. "Why don't we just try to make it away from Mooloolaba one more time. If we make it, we keep cruising. If we don't, that's three strikes, and we accept our fate and stay here."
And so that's the plan. Tomorrow we try to escape Mooloolaba one more time, and the course of our lives over the next few years hangs in the balance.