Unforgettable Family Adventure on the Tasman Sea
08 November 2015
In April this year, we went on our first overseas vacation to Tasmania with our then-3.5-month-old daughter, Esther. It was truly a memorable first family adventure, in more ways than one.
One of the highlights was a boat trip to Wineglass Bay, widely considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. It was remote and secluded (possibly a contributing factors to its natural beauty), accessible only either by a long hike, or a 4-hour round trip boat ride from Cole’s Bay, via the open Tasman Sea. Considering we were travelling with a young infant, we naturally chose the boat ride.
It was a slightly gloomy morning when we arrived at the jetty. It had been a wet night, and the dark clouds were still looming over us when the rain had stopped. We however saw a beautiful rainbow, which lifted our spirits greatly.
The sea was choppy that morning, and the boat ride felt like a roller coaster ride the moment we got out into the Tasman Sea. According to the crew, some of the waves went up to seven metres high that day! We were violently tossed around in our seats in the double-deck trimaran as we made our way towards Wineglass Bay. Several of our fellow passengers failed to retain their breakfasts in their tummies. We knew we were in for a nervous adventure that morning and we were questioning ourselves if it was a good idea to have done this with our little infant.
Along the way, we saw wildlife like eagles, dolphins, albatrosses, sea gulls, penguins, pelicans, and seals. Even though we were struggling to keep our balance with the waves crashing against our craft on all sides, the sight of some of these animals made us forget our discomfort for awhile.
We finally got to Wineglass Bay, where the waters were calmer and sky was clearer. The boat's gentle rocking and the warmth of the sun made us feel appreciably better. We even spotted the skeleton of a whale that had been washed up on the beach some time ago. There, we had lunch while admiring the scenery. It felt like the 1.5-hour-long ordeal we had put ourselves through to get there was worth it after all.
Before long, it was time to head back via the same route we had come by. Understandably, many of us were not looking forward to that. This time, we went at a higher speed to mitigate the effects of the violent waves, as the passengers had collectively made a decision to forgo looking at the wildlife again, if it meant that we could put ourselves through less discomfort. We were almost turning back into Cole’s Bay when things took an unexpected turn, both literally and figuratively.
Our vessel suddenly made a sharp turn and went back out at full speed into the Tasman Sea, towards New Zealand. The skipper then announced that apparently, a fishing vessel had sunk in the terrible sea condition. As we were the nearest vessel to where the distress call had been transmitted, the authorities had requested that we took part in the search and rescue, which also involved two other police helicopters and a search plane. The sunken vessel’s their last known location was about 10 nautical miles from where we were.
Soon we were joined by the three aircraft. Some of us took up positions at the windows around our boat, helping to look out for a life raft drifting around in the horizon. It was no easy task, with the ferocious waves tossing us all around. Others prayed for the fishermen and hoped that they would be able to make it in the tempestuous sea until they were found.
After what seemed like ages, we received a message from the authorities that the life raft had been spotted from the air, and we were told to head towards their direction to render assistance from the surface. They had finally been found more several nautical miles away from their last-known location.
When we got there, we realised there were two men in the life raft that was being thrown around by the waves like it was a toy. The police then tried to winch the men up while we stood ready below, just in case. Thankfully, the winching operation was successful, although it was certainly not without difficulty. We were relieved when both men finally got safely into the police chopper.
Esther’s first boat ride turned out to be truly an adventure that we will never forget. In fact, by the end of it, we were even wondering if at 3.5 months old, Esther could have set a record for being the youngest person to have ever participated in a search-and-rescue operation!