Sailing…Does it ever go according to plan?

Monday was all azure blue skies and glorious sunshine. However, of course, when we were going sailing on Tuesday with my Dad, it was dull and overcast, and we weren’t even sure there was going to be any wind.

However, that didn’t really matter. That’s because it’s been a couple of years since I’d been out sailing with Dad, and thanks to being cautious about covid, we haven’t seen him for a while either. Moreover, our daughter was also on school holidays, and I’d finally managed to pry her away from her friends for a day out. So, when you look it at like that, no matter how the sailing turned out, we were in for a wonderful day!

Lion Island viewed from Pittwater.

Yet, that’s not to say we still weren’t hoping for a perfect day out. A steady, but not gale force, wind with sunny skies good for photography, great conversation, and I did mention something about food? I was particularly looking forward to ordering my Fisherman’s Basket from Palm Beach Seafoods. Yum. Nothing like a good grease and oil change now and then! I’m now really sure grease is good for my engine, but it sure tastes good.

This all brings me to possibly the most challenging aspect of sailing. You’re 100% at the mercy of the wind. Be that too much wind, not enough wind.

Well, maybe it’s not quite 100% controlled by the wind, because other weather factors also come into play. We get some scorchingly hot Summer days here where I’d rather not be out on the water burning to a crisp. On the other extreme, I know some of you live in parts of the world where your marinas are buried under snow and ice in Winter, and that puts an end to sailing. On this front, we’re pretty lucky. Our Winters are pretty temperate, and you can sail all year round. However, there’s still about a month each year where you’re better off staying home and snuggling up in your woollens in front of the heater.

Dad sails a Catalina. It’s a beautiful boat with everything you need to sleep onboard and it certainly feels luxurious. You can sit up there on the deck and soak up the view without the boom hitting you on the head and throwing you overboard. You can also get in and out of the boat without getting wet. That can be a real bonus.

However, there’s still something thrilling about being in a small craft almost at one with the ocean, even if it is pretty hard work constantly adjusting the sails and ducking under the boom. However, there’s that exhilaration of speed and shooting through the water, which is pure fun.

Of course, catching the wind on any sail craft is problematic, and also seems to require an intuitive sense. Indeed, the initiated, can pick up speed in a relatively light wind and in such a small craft, its absolutely exhilerating!!. Indeed, putting all this overthinking aside, it’s fun. Pure fun.

Boarding the ferry on a sunny day.

Anyway, I’ve put the cart before the horse already talking about sailing, because we still need to catch the ferry from Ettalong to Palm Beach. Meanwhile, our journey to Palm Beach on the ferry from Ettalong is always an adventure, and I was really looking forward to that too. It’s been a few years, and what with Covid, we’re lucky to travel anywhere at the moment. However, while we had perfect weather on Monday, it was chilly with grey, overcast skies yesterday, and instead of hanging out outside as usual, we huddled indoors. I took no photos, and sat there wearing mask and gloves…humph.

In additon to the ferry and sailing trips, I was also looking forward to having my fisherman’s basket at Palm Beach Fish & Chip Shop. This has been a ritual ever since I was my daughter’s age, when I stayed at “Palmy” with a friend. I even worked there briefly, but didn’t make the cut. I was more in-tune with baking than the fast food industry. However, I still like to reminisce, especially about nights eating pizza at Palm Beach jetty with friends, while drinking Dad’s second-rate French Beaujolais.

However, they’re closed on Tuesdays, and I was left staring through the window at an empty shop. We sat down and had lunch together at the other takeaway shop. I enjoyed a very generous fish burger while chatting with our daughter, which was probably the most remarkable part of the day. She’d planned to bring a friend along and they were going to head to the beach while Dad and I went sailing. However, the friend was grounded, and our daughter didn’t quite twig that lunch with Papa included sailing. The last time we took her sailing didn’t go well. She was absolutely terrified. However, she was much younger then, and Dad had more of a racing yacht then. It was much more sensitive to the wind and I remember some exhilarating (terrifying) moments. While Dad’s always looking for converts to sailing, he hasn’t taken our daughter or my mother out on the boat since then.

Sailing’s been something I’ve dabbled in as a by-stander over the years. I went sailing with my dad a few times when I was at school. We sailed lasers down at Middle Harbour, and I really loved it. Again, it was more of an exhilarating experience and nothing to stop you from flipping over, which is why my Dad prefers the safety and security of his yacht these days. I don’t know why those sailing outings with my dad stopped all those years ago. That was him, not me. I would’ve kept going. The family also spent a week onboard a yacht sailing around the Hawkesbury River and Pittwater. A few years ago, my parents had a place at Palm Beach and the previous owners had left a laser behind. This was a wonderful opportunity for our family. Our son was doing sea scouts. It was great for him to have access to our own boat, and I went out with my husband. I was really little more than ballast, and he did all the hard work. However, I still loved being out there, and a few times we even took the dogs. If I didn’t have my health difficulties, I could see myself as a sailor. I can sense the waves in my soul, which could also be what makes for the poet in me.

My turn at the helm.

Meanwhile, to get out to the boat, we caught a ride from the marina. This is fun too, because this guy gives us an entertaining tour of the houses. He knows who owns which massive waterfront mansion, and always throws in some incredible stories to boot. His feet also told a story, and wished I could make a portrait. They were definitely sailor’s feet… tanned, weathered, a few jagged broken toe nails and dusted with sand. This is his second life, and he used to be more corporate. However, he clearly belongs here now, and could well be a very good friend of Hemingway’s if he was still alive today and found his way Down Under.

Dad was not happy when we pulled up at the boat. It’s only been a week, but the seagulls have pooped from one end of it to the other. Indeed, they’ve even left a nest, making themselves right at home. Fortunately, there were no eggs and Dad unceremoniously cast that into the water filled with disgust. As he cleaned the deck, the seagulls were circling like vultures. They weren’t about to give up their perch without a struggle, and no doubt their squawks of complaint acknowledged Dad’s impertinence. Meanwhile, my daughter and I waited down below in luxury. I was becoming pleased that she’d come. She was admiring the Catalina with its plush interior, and she enthusiastically raised the curtains and peered out through the portholes. Phew! It was starting to look like we had a convert in our midst, and that the terror was gone. That she might actually enjoy sailing after all. Wouldn’t that be great?!!

Our Daughter at the helm.

As I said, Dad was thinking that we weren’t going to get any wind, and we’d be under motor. However, the wind managed to get up to a trifling 2 knots, which wasn’t enough to ruffle the water, but we did get under sail. It was very relaxing , quiet and peaceful. I had a go at steering, which according to my dad was “having a sail”. To be honest, it all felt pretty calm and timid. Moreover, of course, it was only when we were heading back that the wind managed to get up to around four knots. Dad said that often happens, and I could see that he also liked a faster sail. A bit of an adrenalin rush. However, we managed to keep my daughter happy, and that was the real success of yesterday’s voyage.

Indeed, I was reminded of the importance of little things yesterday. That just sitting together is enough. You don’t need an action-packed, adrenalin-fueled adventure to have a great time. Indeed, we don’t even need to have words. We can just be.

Yet, of course, it was also pure magic to be out there again. I love experiencing the enormity of being out there on the water, even if we weren’t out at sea and far away from land. I loved soaking up this vast enormity of water all around me, with the rim of the coast snug around us. Indeed, from the comfort of my desk, I can’t help wondering what it would be like to be onboard one of those triangles of white sail you see far out on the horizon. It looks so peaceful from a distance, even though I know it’s like the proverbial duck floating on the water. While it’s all grace above, those feet are paddling like fury, working hard down below. Moreover, it’s dangerous, and I don’t need to look far to see someone who has lost their life onboard a yacht out there. Indeed, it reminds me. There’s much to be said for dreaming, but not all dreams are meant to become real.

So, in my mind’s eye I’m hovering around the horizon in my little white yacht. There’s wind in the sails, dolphins jumping past and life is all blue skies and sunny days.

Have you been sailing? Are you a sailor? I’d love to hear from you and more about your adventures.

Best wishes,

Rowena

6 thoughts on “Sailing…Does it ever go according to plan?

  1. lindamaycurry

    We’ve had boats all our married life. Except for now. The last trailer sailer was sold as we planned to spend time in our caravan. However an acquaintance is selling his boat for a good price. It is so tempting. Sailing in the fresh afternoon breeze, finding a sheltered anchorage, drinking a glass of wine, watching the sun set, sleeping to the gentle rocking of the boat, waking in the stillness of early morning. I want a boat!

  2. Rowena Post author

    I hear you! Do you think you’re going to cave in? Sounds like a great idea and you only live once! The only trouble you have is that you don’t know how long you’re going to be around and so you can’t just blow it all and throw caution to the wind either unless you have a pretty solid exit date. My husband sails at Gosford Sailing Club in a laser most weekends, but friends have a trailer sailer and Geoff’s been out with them. Next step is taking the wives a long. I want them to be sure they know what they’re doing first, especially for the other wife. I know know her all that well but one or bad experiences can be the end for some people and prevention is always better than cure.

  3. Rowena Post author

    That’s funny, Geoff, although seeing how much you love your garden, I can see you’re a real land lover.
    BTW your gardening has inspired me and I’m doing better. Plants are surviving. A simple matte of remembering to water.
    I’m working on my review. I got thrown for six last Sunday when I found out my friend’s son was in a dreadful accident. He’s okay but the whole situation wasn’t good and the driver’s been charged and a passenger is still in a coma. Young people piling in a car and high speed, bravado and stupidity. It’s also brought home that our son is in this age group now. It’s enough to have you holding onto your seat by your fingernails. Not a bad thing our son spends so much time on his computer after al!

  4. Gary A Wilson

    I have been, but never wanted to lay out all the money required to own and maintain a boat. They are undeniably loads of fun, but tend to take over more than most pets and some children.

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