Getting it right – night nav in a little boat!


I recently spent the weekend up in the Coromandel – actually, amazingly, renting out the same bach that I spent many, many weekends at as a kid. Adlor Hill Road is named, in part, by my fathers doing – Graeme ‘Ad’ams. We put the AD in Adlor!

One night, my mother and brothers wife offered to look after the kids, which afforded myself and the bro to sneak off for an hour or so to get in a cheeky fish – but – more importantly (I feel) take a rare moment to spend some time together. Life has a way of keeping family busy – so it was nice to head off on the sea with the bro and engage in something that neither of us has had much ‘time’ to do for a while.

Essentially, we headed out in the boat (relatively small, don’t ask me the size, but it’s no launch) out to the mouth of the central bay (excuse my terminology).

There is a small rock out there called Lion Rock. That’s where we went as kids with Dad, that’s where we went on that night.

Yes. One step up from MS Paint here!

First interesting point. There is a new sand bar out there now! Well – when I say new – it probably didn’t spring up overnight. But we were both surprised to find the engine hit the sand in the middle of the bay – where the orange circle in my expertly draw map above. However, trim up, and we slowly pottered past it – the bro spotting a decent sized shark as we did.

Take more photos Kerry!

Yeah. My failure on that part. With the exciting times that followed – I really should have taken more photos. So – this is mostly a text post this time. Sorry about that!

It starts to unfold.

Well. The fishing wasn’t that exciting. We will just leave that there.

We started to head back just after the official ‘sunset’ time. The weather was ok, but still, within another half hour, it was dark. We were in a little boat. Can you see the brewing of a situation?

Shortly we realised we couldn’t see anything, and sure as heck didn’t know which of the many small lights we could see in the distance represented the bay we were trying to get back to.

It is fair to say that the bro was getting a little nervous. However, I was still in good spirits.

What we did right.

Potentially unbeknown to him, I wasn’t that worried about our location or our ‘predicament’.

First of all. We had plenty of gas, and (as highlighted on another post of mine recently) we had life vests on. The absolute worst that was going to happen was the boat was going to go down, and we were going to have a decent swim, in rather warm water to the nearest shore. Which we could see the lights for, so knew where it was.

As it way, when we hit the sandbar in the middle of the bay, I realised that we were only knee-deep in water – so hopped out of the boat and just pulled us until the bar dropped back and we were back in deep water. It was, while I was standing in the water, in the middle of the bay, with the headlamp on my head looking into the water, that I did realise this was were the bro had seen the shark, and we knew rays were out here – so was glad to be able to see the ground for quite a way around me.

Moreso, I had a pile of other gear on me and in the pack which I take everywhere which kinda had us sorted.

It included, as generally carry:

  • A headlamp (I did forget my spotlight, which would have been useful in hindsight)
  • A first aid kit, trauma kit and snack
  • Other basic survival and emergency kit

However – a couple of other items proved very useful on this night.

The Garmin Fenix

Of course, it’s nice to know where you are. And when the cell phone doesn’t get reception, and you realise you didn’t download the appropriate maps for the Topo50 app into offline mode – its nice to be able to refer to your watch to get your exact location and bearings to where you needed to go.

I simply loaded up the map screen, held up my wrist and got the right direction. I also will look at loading up the entire country offline on the phone for the Topo Maps as well. I think a hardcopy nautical chart and a compass would have been a good triple backup – but – considering it was always a low-risk environment – it’s all about balance and not panicking or being overly paranoid about things as well.

The GME Handheld Radio

This is probably the real hero of the day. Or at least – it made life really, really easy. I have a GME TX6160 (IP67 ingress-protection rating) and a couple of TX667s. I took the 6160 with me and left the 667 on the table of the bach. As we were getting closer into the small bay and starting to ponder where to aim for on the beach – we got a call on the radio from the bro’s wife asking if we were the light that had just come into view.

We organised her to come down to the beach with a torch and provide us with a target to head in on. Not long after we were moored, back the back and filtering our meager earnings with a beer in hand!

Simple precautions, great result.

It is a simple tale really – of how some simple precautions make life easy and keep you out of trouble. If I didn’t have the GPS, Radio, headlamp… well… things would have likely turned out all right – but it would have been a much longer night.

Oh. And…

I had the PLB in the bag as well. 😉