Sailing With the Sea Plane.

Yesterday, we went sailing at Sydney’s Palm Beach with my Dad. For sailing affectionados, the yacht was a 34 ft Catalina. Given our close encounter with the sea plane, I should also clarify the yacht wasn’t a WWII aircraft.

More of a photographer than sailor, it was my job was to sit in my Princess seat, making sure I didn’t fall overboard. Same with the lad, except now that he has his level 2 sailing certificate, more was expected from him…especially knowing the difference between port and starboard,  stern and bow. Actually, even I know that.

You could say that the Catalina has a few bells and whistles. This includes an in-mast furled mainsail, which means you just need to use the winch to get the sail up and down. By the way, I’m merely ballast on these sailing trips, so that’s the full extent of my technical expertise.

Jon & Geoff sailing

Geoff and Mister finally out in the Laser. Sailing on a much different scale.

Yet, sailing on the Catalina is obviously much more luxurious than our humble Laser. At the same time, I miss being right on the water, though I love not having to keep a constant eye on the boom. Ouch!

Naturally, we’ve been out on the Catalina before. However, we’ll dubb yesterday’s sail: “Who Has Right of Way?”

Dad was letting the rest of us steer, which was great fun but we don’t know all the intricacies of sailing etiquette. This meant we were constantly checking …especially being the Christmas holiday break. There was a huge cacophony of craft on the water. A veritable fruit salad of yachts, water skiers, kayakers, paddle boarders, ferries and even the sea plane thrown in.However, being under sail and something about being under a starbord tack, the lot moved out of our way…even the ferry.


While I know I said I was ballast, I did have an extensive turn steering the yacht. That is, under my father’s much needed supervision. You could also say that I had considerable assistance from my husband and son. I have no sense of direction and could get lost in a paper bag.

Yet, since I can drive a car, you’d probably think steering the yacht would’ve been second nature…a proverbial piece of cake. However, steering a yacht is a very different kettle of fish (thought I’d sneak that one in too!). After all, the road has lanes, which prevent me from swerving all over the place. However, you obviously don’t go sailing in the local pool and there are no marked lanes. Moreover, there’s no auto-correct built into the steering either. So, every time I over-correct, I have to compensate.

It wasn’t pretty.

Indeed, no doubt to the trained observer, our meandering yacht appeared very confused. Indeed, perhaps the Water Police were all set to arrest the “drunken sailor”. Not that I’d had a drop. Indeed, I was stone sober.

That’s when my Dad kindly suggested:”maintaining some kind of course and not moving the steering wheel quite so much”!


Our son having a contemplative moment inbetween giving his mother advice.

Meanwhile, my son wasn’t so kind and my husband “helped” whenever we passed another craft.

I didn’t mind. I have no ego and would rather bumble along having a go, than staying in my Princess seat being decorative. After all,when you carpe diem seize the day, you get used to wearing egg on your face. Moreover, you get less and less self-conscious when you step out of your box onto someone else’s turf and don’t need to get it right. Be perfection personified. You can just be your pure, unadulterated self in its shining glory.


As it’s hard to photograph yourself sailing, I photographed this passing yacht.

By the way, if you’re not into sailing, you might not fully appreciate its complexities. That there are actually many restraints and limitations you can’t appreciate from land. So, you’re not as free as a bird and sailing isn’t a surrealist dream.

Far from it.

Rather, all of your senses are constantly switched on looking out for other craft, reading the wind and maintaining an equally keen eye on what’s going on beneath the water. You’re especially needing to monitor the depth of the water and changing underwater landscapes. After all, while the dangers of crashing into another boat are more obvious, you don’t want your keel getting stuck…or worse. Fortunately, the yacht has sonar which provides a depth reading and underwater map, taking away much of the dodgy guess work. Yet, you still need to be alert and Captain the thing. Machines are simply there to assist, not take over.

Consequently, sailing is like watching that proverbial duck gliding along. Serene and peaceful from a distance, there’s a lot of work going on beneath the surface to keep the yacht moving, safe and on track.


It’s not a bird or a giant Australian mosquito. It’s the Sea Plane. Photo c: Rowena Curtin.

However, all these safety concerns ramped up a notch, when I noticed the sea plane coming in to land. The sea plane flies from Rose Bay on Sydney Harbour to Palm Beach and is an incredible site to watch…theatre in motion.

I was tracking the sea plane through the lens, when it suddenly took a sharp turn and we were staring eye to eye. That’s right. The yacht was smack bang on the runway.


That’s when Geoff asked Dad who had right of way…the yacht or the plane?

If you don’t sail, you might not appreciate that sailing is like a game of chess. That determining who has right of way, is an intrinsic part of sailing and this fundamental rule can determine the safety of the players. One false move could prove deadly…especially when it means taking on the sea plane head on.

At this point, I didn’t care who had right of way. I was all for exit stage left. After all, as Geoff’s uncle, a returned serviceman, used to say: “Some rights are worth dying for. The right of way isn’t one of them!”

However, although it felt like the sea plane missed us by a whisker, there was never any doubt. The plane was in like Flynn.

Mind you, I felt sorry for the pilot trying to land in that dog’s breakfast, wondering how many of them actually looked up? Indeed, did they even know it was there?

Of course, this is where I came into my own. The rest of the world might have disappeared, but my zoom lens was fixated on that plane tracking its every move. Indeed, it was glued. The plane was zooming in closer and closer just about to land and my trigger finger was going ballistic.I was in photographic, wow! wow! heaven.

Just as well Geoff was steering! I was so single-focused that the lens could’ve smacked straight into the sea plane before I’d registered any form of contact.

What a day! Sailing, photography, scenery, sea air…

Oh happy days!

xx Rowena

11 thoughts on “Sailing With the Sea Plane.

  1. ceayr

    It has been a while since I visited Sydney, and your delightful account has quite whetted my appetite for a return visit.
    G’day, Rowena

  2. Rowena Post author

    Thanks very much. I’ve posted quite a lot about Sydney and my meanderings with my camera and pen. We’re about to head off to Tasmania for a few weeks so stay tuned for some fantastic scenery. Did you make it down there?
    Hope you make it back here soon.
    Best wishes,

  3. New Journey

    What fun…..In Alaska I always choose the float planes over the ferries if I could…LOL weather had a lot to do with the choices…..looks like you had a great day with your family…..XXkat

  4. Rowena Post author

    We’ve been wanting to try out the seaplane sometime. It must’ve been great taking the float plane in Alaska. Where abouts were you? Alaska here I come!
    xx Ro

  5. New Journey

    I lived on Prince of Wales Island out of Ketchikan, southeast Alaska….my sisters lived up there and had a business, car shop and tow company, the only tow company on the island…it was very primitive at that time, no street lights, they were just putting in sidewalks….I stayed for 3 months, then my dad died and I took that as a sign to get off the island….I wasn’t meant to live on a rock in the middle of nowhere….lol

  6. New Journey

    However it was beautiful….and magically….was able to see the northern lights in the summer and the fisherman, bears and eagles are plentiful… least during the summer…LOL

  7. Rowena Post author

    I can’t picture you living on a rock in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes, my writing chair feels a bit like that but in a good way. My philosophical hot spot.
    BTW I went to the shops tonight and they had the Christmas goodies on sale. I bought a packet of Walkers Mini stars shortbread. They are very moreish. I shouldn’t be telling you this as you’re so careful. I hope walking the dogs burned off a bit of fuel. xx Ro

  8. New Journey

    Dont feel bad, I forgot to tell you that the grocery store here in the middle of the dessert had TimTams before Christmas….needless to say they barely made it home…LOL I miss the little stores that have specialty goodies…and don’t feel bad I had my share of Walkers shortbread this year….LOL Google Prince of Whales Island Alaska, I lived in Craig, just south of one of the little boat has really grown since 1983…and most of the island back then needed a 4 wheel drive to get to….LOL.

  9. New Journey

    I lived there over the spring/summer in 1983…the sun would set at 11:30 and come up at 4:30ish and the northern lights were visual often….it was wet (over 200 inches a year) and raining …I was a single mom, coming from the San Francisco bay area, metropolitan, to an island that I could barely get away from myself let alone anyone else…LOL it was culture shock for sure…

  10. Rowena Post author

    AI have experienced that culture shock myself a few times, although not as a single mom. Moving here 15 years ago was a huge culture shock initially but many people have move here since from Sydney recognizing the potential like us.
    That would not compare to what you went through moving to Alaska though. I’m only an hour up the road from home.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.