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.
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”!
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.
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.
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!