The moon was full the night they disappeared. Windswept paddocks lay clear and blue under high tatters of cloud. A car lurched, without lights, along the rutted road that ran from the town to the bay. It moved erratically, urgently, as though the driver didn’t know how to drive. The wind whipped away the sound of the engine.
At the landing the car bumped to a stop and a slim figure emerged. She moved quickly, ferrying her bags and boxes into a dinghy moored at the rickety bush jetty. Finally, satisfied that the oars and gear were right, she returned to the car and lifted out another bundle which she carried with great tenderness to the boat. She stowed it carefully in the bow, away from the wind and spray, then slipped into the boat like a cat and rowed silently out with the swirling tide.
The boat moved across the bay, through the shadows of scudding clouds. The tide was rushing out, rushing towards the entrance of the bay and beyond to the wild open sea.
She had to row across the current to reach the headland on the other side. She settled into a steady rhythm of rowing. If she kept the lights of the town lined up with the top of Price’s Hill, she’d be on the right line.
The waves slapped against the side of the boat, uneven and choppy. It became more difficult to row. Her right oar missed the water altogether, as the dinghy pitched, and sent her sprawling backwards. She was drenched with spray, and there were hours of rowing to go. Oh for a bit of flat water.
It was a desperate struggle. If she rested for a moment the tide snatched the boat and dragged it towards the entrance. It was hard to tell how long she’d been rowing. She twisted on the wooden seat to look at the headland. She wasn’t even halfway, but she was already tired and her hands were blistered from the rough wooden oars.
I’m never going to make it, she thought. It’s too hard with the wind and the tide against me.