Manly might be a place, but it’s also a legend. Indeed, right from the very beginning of English settlement in Sydney, the local Guringai men were legendary for their “manly” attributes, which ultimately gave Manly its English name. These were the men Governor Phillip encountered at Manly Cove or its Aboriginal name: Kai’ymay.
“Their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place”.
Capt. Arthur Phillip
Tragically and I guess inevitably, those days are long gone and yet the legend of Manly lives on with its thriving surf and beach culture and epic ferry service. Yet, for the rest of us mere mortals, we’re just happy to go to Manly for a swim, get a bit of a tan, hang out with a few mates and have a bite to eat. We’re a long way from living legend status.
By the way, we’re not going on any long or strenuous walks on this tour and we’re sticking to the main drag which runs from Manly Wharf and along The Corso which takes you to Ocean Beach. There’s obviously much more to do around Manly and when we go back in April, I’d like to get to the Quarantine Station, but I’m pretty sure that requires a car. (Hold that thought. The Manly fast ferry stops there.) Anyway, this is our walk and no one else’s and is in no way a comprehensive guide to what to see in Manly.
However, we did go on a bit of a detour. We were looking for the Manly Cenotaph, but the map directed us to a park opposite the Town Hall where we found what I thought was a canon. How bizarre! As it turned out, it was a World War II-era 25-pounder Mark II field gun. Naturally, I wondered why it was there, and it turns out that the gun was presented to the council in 1983 in recognition of the close association between the Manly municipality and the School of Artillery at nearby North Head, and as a tribute to those residents who served in the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery.
Meanwhile this detour meant that we actually bypassed Manly’s famous Corso where the actual cenotaph we were looking for is conspicuously located not far from the wharf. Of course, this won’t come as a great surprise to any of you who know about my poor sense of direction, but this time Geoff was in charge of the map or perhaps Siri got it wrong. Anyway, we found the cenotaph on our way home, and to be honest, you can’t miss it!!
I guess I should probably explain why I was so keen to visit the cenotaph when most people visiting Manly head straight to the beach or for something to eat. Manly’s cenotaph is special because it was the first cenotaph to be built in Australia and it was organized and paid for by local solicitor, Mark Mitchell, whose son Alan from the 1st Battalion AIF was wounded during the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli on the 25th April, 1915. Tragically, Alan later died of wounds in Egypt on the 5th May, 1915 and was the first Manly Volunteer to die. Knowing that story, the Manly cenotaph feels incredibly personal and a symbol of not only one father’s abject grief at losing his son, but also a community’s grief as many more sons fell not only in the “war to end all wars”, but also in subsequent wars.
While we were looking for the cenotaph, we came across the markets. In yet another case of sleeping in and arriving somewhere too late, the markets were closing as we arrived. However, we did manage to check out a few stalls and I bought a great pair of Thing One and Thing Two (from Dr Suess) earrings.
As I mentioned in my previous post we bought chicken Kebabs and headed across the road to Ocean Beach and sat on the steps to eat. I’ve already mentioned the treacherous divebombing food stealing sea gulls in my previous post so I won’t elaborate.
By the time we’d finished our kebabs, Manly was bathed in the most glorious golden light as we headed towards sunset and even a row of rather ordinary but historic shops came to life in this light becoming rather photogenic.
We walked back to Manly Wharf via the famous Corso.
I know it doesn’t really sound like we saw much of Manly now that I’m back home in the comfort of the lounge, but we had a good time and saw as much as we could at the time and our Manly experience was focused more on the ferry rides than exploring a lot of Manly itself on this trip.
Have you been to Manly and do you have any stories to share? I’d love to hear from you!
Miss is now 16 and learning to drive. Not only that, she’s also found going for an extended late-night drive, can be rather relaxing. So, we regularly head out together in the Forrester together bound for Terrigal, which is a pretty hip and happening place on a Friday and Saturday night, and not just with the young folk either.
Anyway, that’s where my contribution for Thursday Doors came from this week.
I spotted this truck parked beside the Terrigal Surf Lifesaving Club. Australia is famous for our surf lifesavers who are unpaid volunteers who patrol our beach saving lives. The iconic red and yellow flags you see painted on the back of the door, feature on our patrolled beaches, and on an official level signify where it is safe to swim, and that this section of beach is being patrolled. However, the flags are also helpful for meeting friends at the beach, and “see you between the flags” is common parlance. I also park my gear under a flag, because I’m as blind as a bat and that way I’ll find it again.
Here are a few photos of how Terrigal Beach looks by day. Yes, it is pretty stunning, but it’s a bit like the Surfers’ Paradise of the Central Coast. Well, that’s probably exaggerating things, but I tend to prefer a more relaxed or even outdoorsy pace these days, which is probably a sure sign I’m getting old.
Meanwhile, I was struggling to find any really good photos of Terrigal so I might have to head back there again and recapture the place through my lens.
Anyway, this has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Dan Antion at No Facilities: https://nofacilities.com/
“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
-Vincent Van Gogh
Since our son returned from his voyage onboard STS Young Endeavour, we’ve had so many chats, and I’ve literally been squeezing out every last detail. Strangely, I haven’t even needed to coerce. He’s been surprisingly chatty and responsive to my endless questions. I have an insatiable curiosity, and after being in lockdown or isolation for so long, he was a marked man.
Despite all these stories and conversations, this is how he summed the trip up in a nutshell: “no words can describe the rollercoaster it was”.
Meanwhile, what I would like to say at the outset, is how proud I am of him and all the other Youthies onboard. That’s not just proud Mumma speak. While they had a lot of fun, they had some tough life lessons onboard, particularly when three of their number tested positive to covid three days before they were due to disembark, and had to leave the ship early. It must’ve been devastating for those who left, but the camaraderie among the group meant that it deeply affected them all. They were “one for all, and all for one”, and I was really touched by their empathy and compassion.
So here’s a bit of an overview of some of the challenges our intrepid youthies faced during their voyage.
Probably, the most obvious challenge when you first see the Young Endeavour, is height. It’s a very long way to the top of the mast. While I doubt anyone with a serious fear of heights would do the trip in the first place, that’s not to say these daredevils didn’t face some trepidation. While they were up there, they were balanced on nothing more than a wire tightrope, while they furled and unfurled the sails and they were heavy. However, this crew was apparently pretty good, and they had all been up before leaving Port Phillip Bay. Well done!
“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Another big challenge was also clearly identified before he left. That was no mobile phone, WIFI, Internet…the works! All of these were banned onboard. Surviving without social media probably wasn’t going to be his battle. However, as a gamer, we thought going cold turkey on this front was going to be tough. Yet, he hasn’t mentioned that at all.
“You can never cross the ocean until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Christopher Columbus
Physical fitness was also a serious concern. I’d watched the promotional video and it looked very physical furling and unfurling the sails. It would be too late once they were onboard and had raised the anchor to have second thoughts: “Let me off. I’ve changed my mind!!” They were committed. However, they were not alone. They were going through this very steep learning curve together and they had the “staffies” onboard. They were headed by inspirational Captain Adam “Charlie” Farley who might’ve had his official whites on for boarding and disembarking, but the rest of the time he was wearing the blue shirt like the rest of them and was inspiring alongside rather than from above. (By the way, he was the only one who managed to do a backflip off the boat while they were in Jervis Bay, and apparently he was as smooth as a “swan”.) He also stuck a motivational quote on the fridge every day.
“Seasickness: at first you are so sick you are afraid you will die, and then you are so sick you are afraid you won’t die.”
— Mark Twain
Meanwhile, seasickness wasn’t something we’ve given any consideration until we watched the informational videos. Our son has sailed for many years, and has never shown any sign of seasickness before. However, this trip was much more challenging what with crossing Bass Strait and being out at sea. Given that their website had dedicated an entire video to the subject, it wasn’t something to ignore. https://www.facebook.com/YoungEndeavour/videos/1018219102114384
Fortunately, he was only sick once after eating too much breakfast. However, things weren’t pretty for some of the others on Day Two while they were crossing notorious Bass Strait, and the sea was rolling like a Bucking Bronco. Naturally, this wasn’t pretty, and I’ll spare you most of the details. However, he did mention there was a “Red Sea” flowing through the ship, which reminded me of that famous scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life featuring Mr Creosote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U (watch at your own risk).
Yet, despite their ordeal, the Captain’s Log reported that the youthies still performed their duties, which sounds incredibly commendable. Yet, while it would be easy to feel sorry for them, all of this struggle was what they’d signed up for… throwing themselves against the elements to develop that much desired trait…resilience. Of course, resilience has never been served up on a silver platter, and only comes once you’ve stretched yourself well beyond breaking point. My dad used to call this “putting hair on your chest”. So, all these youthies must be woolly mammoths by now!
However, as bad as the seasickness was for some, there was a popular antidote…the humble Sao biscuit. Our son described them as “the wonder food of seasickness”. Indeed, written underneath the bunk above him were the words: “Saos are king”. In case you’ve never encountered a Sao biscuit, it’s very plain, and would be kind to a troubled tummy. The fact that something as plain and ordinary as a Sao biscuit could save the day, goes to show that a big problem doesn’t necessarily require a big solution.
Another consideration I had, was how roughly 20 young strangers aged 16 to 23 were going to coexist for nine days in a very confined space without erupting. Being stuck on the same boat for so long could be rather fractious, and I did address this with him before he left. However, it was actually quite the reverse. As I explained earlier, they all got on incredibly well and really looked out for each other. It’s also worth mentioning that they didn’t stay onboard the ship for the full nine days and they broke it up a bit with some activities on land.
Homesickness was another possibility. Our son has been away on Scout camps and Jamboree before, so I wasn’t expecting him to get terribly homesick. However, some of the others were younger and especially with covid around, haven’t been away from home all that much. You don’t have to be a sook to get a bit homesick, especially given the physical challenges of the journey.
In addition to the challenges, our son also shared details of the voyage.
They did a bit of singing onboard. Singing was also a bit of a thing onboard and the Captain’s Log mentioned them singing John Lennon’s Imagine, which must’ve been so moving out there at sea. J. also told me that when they were waking someone up to go on a watch, they sang a variation of The Wiggles’ song: “Toot Toot Chugga Chugga Big Red Car”: “toot toot chugga chugga big blue boat”, and by the end of the voyage, they’d call out: “Wake up Charlie” (the name of the Captain and a reference to Wake up, Jeff also from the Wiggles).
He also made a reference to them being told to “use your Navy voice”, and that they had to raise their voices to be heard. That made me laugh. When he was younger, he was always being told to “use his inside voice”, and bring the volume down. How times have changed!
“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
Meanwhile, although I thought the storytelling driving home in the car was amazing, it was nothing compared to having him bring up my good old friend Google Earth and for a virtual experience. He took me from Geelong out through the Heads of Port Melbourne and across the notorious Rip all with a click of the mouse. From there, they’d sailed across Bass Strait where they saw quite a few islands, dolphins and fed a lot of fish. Then, they anchored in Refuge Bay, which was a welcome relief from the rough seas and seasickness. They sailed up along the continental shelf reaching Jervis Bay and then onto Sydney’s Watson’s Bay where I think they spent a few days. They spent their final night moored near Taronga Park Zoo being serenaded by the elephants. I recorded the whole experience, and wished I could’ve been there. Somehow, being a couch sailor isn’t the same.
“To me, the sea is a continual miracle; The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the ships, with men in them, What stranger miracles are there?”
– Walt Whitman
These were apparently the Captain’s parting words:
“You leave with new skills, improved persistence, resilience and adaptability, as well as generally knowing you are more capable than what you probably thought. And of course, having made great new friends – most probably, friends for life”
-Captain Adam “Charlie” Farley
There is so much more that could be said, and perhaps I’ve focused a bit too heavily on the hurdles they’ve overcome rather than the fun, especially since one of my motivations is to encourage other young people to sign up. Yet, despite or perhaps because of these hardships, our son has emerged a much more confident and optimistic version of himself with a pile of gripping stories, and a swag of new friends. Indeed, even a week down the track, he still remains exhilarated.
Lastly, I would like to thank everyone who made this trip not only possible, but also such a success. No doubt so much has gone on behind the scenes, and we are incredibly grateful.
Before I head off, here are a couple of videos you might enjoy and if you or someone you know has been onboard STS Young Endeavour, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.
Well, as you may recall, Miss is learning to drive, and has had her learner’s permit for about ten days now. In that brief amount of time, I’ve been to more of the local beaches than I have in the last ten years, especially in a short space of time. Although I had ideas about starting at one end of the Central Coast and working my way up North, that plan never got off the ground. I’m not sure why, but blaming covid is a pretty safe bet. It’s killed off so many good ideas, and not just ideas either!
Anyway, this new lease of life I’m having driving all over the place with Miss, has brought me to the confronting realization that instead of being the “carpe diem seize the day person” I believed myself to be, I’ve become more of a “tomorrow” type. Tomorrow, I’ll go for a walk. Tomorrow, I’ll get to the shops. Tomorrow, I’ll get to those emails, bills, cleaning, washing. It can all wait, and it’s a pretty reasonable philosophy when you’re drifting through lockdown, and your pyjamas have become your second skin. However, we’re no longer in lockdown and although we’re still being very cautious, there’s nothing wrong with outdoors.
I guess being Sunday, it was only appropriate that Miss and I headed out for another drive. This time, we headed over to Avoca Beach. It’s quite a popular beach, but has more of a village feel than Terrigal. There’s an ocean pool, as well as some great surfing spots.
However, to be perfectly honest, we weren’t heading to the beach today. Unfortunately, It had been raining AGAIN, and Miss was also hungry. So, we headed into the fish & chips shop which is particularly good, and ordered a fisherman’s basket. Given the weather, we sat inside and enjoyed listening to live music, and feeling like we were in Byron Bay.
It’s a shame the weather has been so wet and overcast as we’ve been checking out our local beaches. Naturally, I’d much prefer blue skies dotted with a bit of white cloud and radiant, golden sunshine especially for photography. However, in the overall scheme of things right now we weren’t that concerned. As I said to a friend last week, we’re not living in a war zone, and the house hasn’t been flooded. We are good. Indeed, we are beyond good. Events of late have indeed been sobering, and I wish there was more I could do, especially as a solitary individual of limited means.
By the way, as we drove to Avoca, Miss asked me if she’d been to Avoca before. I remembered a trip with my parents once. However, I’d forgotten catching up with my school friend Emma there, and I had to share this beautiful series of photos. Miss was only six years old then, and clearly I was a tad younger back then as well.
It’s interesting seeing that photo above of myself. I look at her, and would really like to have whatever it was she was having. There’s such joie de vivre in that face. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone exuding so much joy, and yet life wasn’t easy then, and I was really quite unwell. However, as much as I can perform for the camera, you couldn’t bung that on. I was really happy to see Emma again, and we both enjoyed watching Miss cartwheel across the sand, although it was also bittersweet (but that’s another story.) Sometimes, when life is really hard and you’re just hanging on by a thread, you really do have that love of life where you’re simply grateful to be alive.
Anyway, I might put some thought into regenerating that joy, and reconnecting with my inner sparkle.
What have you been up to lately? I’d love to hear from you.
Yesterday, I had an inkling of how Noah must’ve felt when the sun came out at the end of the Great Flood. Although we haven’t been flooded in here, it’s been raining for what actually seems like longer than 40 days and 40 nights, although Geoff tells me there was a break in between, and we actually had some sunny days.
Anyway, I was in Terrigal yesterday to get my hair cut. Afterwards, I ventured down to the main drag to buy more doughnuts and go for a walk along the beach. That was when I spotted a very strange, shining object in the sky, and even wondered if it was a UFO at first.
However, It turned out to be an otherwise foreign object known as “The Sun”. It’s been raining for so long around here, that I barely recognised it once it finally stuck it’s head out again.
I haven’t been able to find any cumulative totals of how much rain has fallen locally lately. On the 25th February alone 137.6 mm fell in Gosford. That was the highest daily rainfall for February on record. We were lucky to only catch the edge of the threatened “rain bomb” during the week. However, others were badly hit.
Terrigal wasn’t looking too worse for wear. Loads of creamy foam had washed up onto the beach, and the ocean pool has metamorphosed into a kelp farm. However, while it’s looking okayish, the beach was closed for swimming due to poor water quality.
Yet, it seems that wasn’t enough to dissuade a few parents with their toddlers from paddling on the edge. Seems they must be wanting a night in Gosford Hospital with gastro. Goodness knows what’s in the water, but I wasn’t taking any chances.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed our brief visit to Terrigal, and thank you for joining me.
Normally, our daughter works at McDonald’s on a Sunday afternoon. However, she was free this afternoon and she bounced into my room suggesting donuts and a walk at Terrigal. We had discovered this donut shop during the week and had fallen deeply in love. I also was keen to go for a walk, despite the rain. Indeed, just as we’d decided to go, the heavens opened up and the Pacific Ocean came down. We checked the weather radar, and it wasn’t hanging round long. So, off we went.
It seems strange and perhaps lacking in respect to actually enjoy oneself at the moment. Russia has invaded the Ukraine, goodness knows what that means. Of course, that situation downplays the floods in Brisbane, Gympie and the usual suspects are also appearing on the news. However, we’ve barely been out since June last year, and I make no apologies for actually having fun, or spending time with the recently turned 16, Miss.
It is strange in a way to think that with everything that’s going on, that so many places are so unaffected and the rhythms of life and nature go on as normal. C’est la vie. When Lady Luck, God or whoever, lights up your path, you’ve got to seize the chance with both hands and make a run for it.
So, we bought a tray of six very scrumptious doughnuts. I won’t go through all the variations, but they had a luscious Creme Brulee Doughnut with toffee on top and a veritable subterranean lake of custard inside. As our daughter mentioned, the doughnuts aren’t too sweet, the doughnut itself is thick and doughy and there’s a luscious generosity about them. They’re a definite treat, and probably something which should be classified as a “sometimes food”.
We headed across the road, and chose a dry section of wall by the beach, and sat down to consume our hoard. After all the rain, the ground was still wet and the beach itself was covered in seaweed and didn’t smell the best. From here we not only had a stunning view of the beach, we could also watch the brewing clouds which were getting darker, full-bodied and you didn’t need to check the radar to know rain was on its way.
Meanwhile, the promenade beside the beach was pleasantly populated with dogwalkers without being crowded. Now that out kids are older, small children have regained their charm and they were incredibly captivating. We could smile and wave without needing to keep up 24/7. We’re definitely beyond that now.
Doughnuts eaten, exercise began and we walked round the rocks on this new fangled walkway the council has constructed. It’s all terribly civilised and extends access beyond the young and intrepid adventurer, but its a huge contraption superimposed on nature and I much prefer the Terrigal of my childhood. It was an unsophisticated, regional seaside town. Now, it’s Australia’s incarnation of Monaco by the sea with high density living and something in between Byron Bay and Surfers Paradise. That, I guess, makes it uniquely Terrigal and I do like it. I love seeing all the people there and there is something to be said about living it up at times too…fine dining, dressing up, and not just getting around in kayaks, sail boats, water shoes and having a real swim at the beach.
We were enjoying watching an abundance of largish rock crabs scuttling over the rocks while large waves smashed against the rocks launching a myriad of sounds something in between an orchestra and a choir as the water flowed through holes and caves. It was magic.. nature’s music.
Then, my phone rung. The number wasn’t in my contacts, which is rather unusual for me, especially when our daughter is with us and isn’t calling from one of her friend’s phones. “I think we’ve found your dog. Do you have a Lady Newton?” In hindsight, I felt like denying all knowledge of a Lady Newton. There we were on a rare outing with our daughter. Indeed, we’d actually gone out. However, annoyance was overcome by relief and gratitude and these strangers safely secured Lady in our backyard and sealed the back gate up which had become ajar in the rain.
So, the magic was over. Like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight, we were off home.
Last night, the most magnificent moon stood almost suspended among the clouds at the end of the street, an exquisite jewel of creation. Our street is rather ordinary and nothing like watching the moon rise only metres away over the beach. That said, I can’t remember the last time we actually paused the frenetic pace of life to stand beside the water’s edge transfixed by the rising moon. That should be a point of shame really.
“If you want the moon, do not hide from the night.
If you want a rose do not run away from the thorns.
If you want to love do not hide from yourself.”
Indeed, even last night, it’s glamorous appearance merely signaled a dash to fetch the camera and carpe seize the moment, rather than truly soaking it in and enjoying it for what it was an expression of nature, and perhaps even of God.
Somehow, we need to make more time to press the pause button and get outside to enjoy the world right at our feet. We don’t even need to travel to experience the world through fresh eyes. That is a point for me atm as a number of close friends are traveling through Europe and I would love to be there but can’t on so many levels. However, it helps that my Australian backyard is overseas for most of you and somewhere exotic. It’s all a matter of perspective.
PS Just had to include this moon quote about human nature:
“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never
This afternoon, I finally managed to get down to the beach for a good solid walk, making the most of the glorious Autumn sunshine before Winter sets in, sending the sun packing off to the Northern Hemisphere. Of course, many of you are actively trying to speed that process up. However, we Aussies are a resilient bunch. Although Daylight Savings Time officially ended this morning, we’re not letting Summer go without a fight. By the way, temperatures reached a high of 27 degrees today. Happy Days! It was actually perfect weather.
I really needed to get to the beach today. As you might’ve read, I’m fully immersed in researching and writing my collection of biographical short-fiction. These stories are based on the numerous stories I’ve collected researching our family histories, and there’s quite a cast of characters with a vast range of tales to tell. Each story feels like a book in itself as I research the person, location and historical framework and in effect pour all these ingredients into some kind of crucible and then try to pluck out the essence. That’s what I use to write these stories. I’m not simply writing their life stories. At times, this process has almost a mystical feel, like I’m pulling a rabbit out of a hat. That’s despite the stories being meticulously researched. So, my eyes and mind are literally buzzing from loads of alt-tabbing between various sources, which is like having flashing lights flickering in my face. It can’t be good. However, now that I’ve finally found my genre and have two stories down and two on the way, there’s no holding back.
Yet, while 100% immersion and a mono focus sounds great from a writing perspective, I still need to eat, sleep, shower and make sure my kids are taken care of and get where they’re meant to be on time and on the right day. These things are falling by the wayside at the moment, and they’ll soon be directed to the microwave and the freezer and told to “insert here”.
Well, it hasn’t got to that point yet. However, this is why I consciously need to pull myself away. I can’t attach a snorkel and keep writing underwater. I need to take breaks and undertake a variety of activities, while still keeping my eye fixed on the prize.
So, it was really great to finally get back to the beach this afternoon. It was bucketing down much of last week. Then, on the other days, it was either too sunny or I’d miss the boat or I’d simply forget to go. I know that doesn’t sound very motivated, but I’m only human. I can’t juggle ten balls in the air and expect to catch them all…especially when I’ve so focused on the one! Still, I keep asking myself How hard can it be to go for a simple walk, especially when it takes in such breathtakingly beautiful scenery? What kind of idiot am I? Well, my only rationale is that even when you live in Paradise, you still need to deal with the every day.
We don’t usually get so much seaweed on our beach. I think the heavy rain last week is probably to blame.
Just for your enjoyment, I lugged my massive Nikon DSLR with zoom lens along the beach and thought you’d particularly like to see some Surf Lifesaving touches. The red inflatable boat is known here as a “rubber ducky” and is used for beach rescues. Not sure if you’re familiar with the red and yellow surf lifesaving flags. These flags mark safe swimming area, which is also patrolled by the lifesavers or lifeguards. The flags are also a key feature of our Summer beaches and you might arrange to meet friends “in-between the flags”. Or, if you’re terribly short-sighted like myself, you leave your glasses and towel under a flag, ensuring you get back there before they shut up shop for the day.
While we’re touching on our local surf-lifesaving culture, we have a junior program called Nippers, where young kids gradually learn the ropes. Like all these activities, there’s a huge dropout rate as the physical demands and competitive aspects take their toll. It also takes a lot of commitment, and that also has a sense of heavy competition. Our lives are full to overflowing most of the time.
Both of our kids did Nippers for a few years, before taking up Sea Scouts and shifting their focus over to still water and in our daughter’s case, onto dance. As I am finding myself, it’s hard to maintain a diverse range of interests when you’re trying to conquer the world. Or, at least a particular field.
So, I’ll leave you with a few pics of the kids doing Nippers from years ago and you can imagine yourself down at the beach bright and early on a Sunday morning with the rest of us.
Although I’m not far off hitting a half century, I still haven’t lost a child-like appreciation for the tiny rock pools and their ephemeral cast of creatures ranging from small to the miscroscopic. Indeed, I still can’t resist the temptation to stick my finger in the water and poke something. I love fixating on a snail looking for any possible signs of movement, even if it was only a tad of a micro-millimetre. While such rock pools are nowhere big enough to be an octopus’s garden, they have that same sense of awe and magic.
Limpet in a rock pool.
Yesterday, Geoff and I drove to Pearl Beach, which is about 15 minutes drive away. When you look at the featured image, the row of buildings on the adjacent beach is pretty close to home. Map of Pearl Beach
In typical fashion, I’d mixed up the date of the Pearl Beach Food & Wine Festival and we turned up a week late only to find an art exhibition in the hall instead and a half-hour wait for fish & chips. Hence, we ended up walking along the beach and onto the rocks. Well, at least our feet were doing the walking while our eyes were out on stalks with the camera at the ready. That’s right. I’m talking about a real Nikon SLR camera with a zoom lens and not one of those pathetic excuses for a camera AKA your mobile phone.
Pearl Beach, NSW.
Personally, I don’t need much encouragement to find spectacular beauty in the everyday, especially when it looks like this. However, knowing that people on the opposite side of the world who’ve never been to Australia, will get to share in these places through my blog, has helped me to appreciate our everyday yet incredible, unique beauty through fresh eyes.
Rock Platform, Pearl Beach.
Pearl Beach is located 92 km north of Sydney on the NSW Central Coast and about a 15 minute drive from Woy Woy of Spike Milligan fame. Nestled away from civilization via a steep winding road through the National Park, Pearl Beach has a smattering of beach houses hiding in the bush and a community hall which forms the social hub. Real estate prices are comparatively steep and Pearl Beach has become a bit of a hide out for the rich and famous where they appear remarkably understated, blending into the landscape. There’s also a very strong artistic influence and writers and artists are lurking in the undergrowth, cafe or somewhere along the beach and rock pools. I used to take my kids to playgroup there where Santa would turn up on a vintage fire truck siren blaring. There’s also a yoga group meeting there, which I’m planning to try out in a few weeks after the school holidays. Somehow yoga in Pearl Beach has added appeal and I’ll let you know how that pans out.
Pearl Beach Pool
Speaking about our trip to Pearl Beach, we had an unexpected detour on the way home. We spotted a sign for an art and garage sale down a side street just before we drove back up the hill towards civilization. If you’ve got to know me at all, you’ll know that I’m an op shop and garage sale junkie and I’m hugely into retro and antiques. Indeed, I’m not really from the modern era.
This table is just begging for a serving of bacon and eggs.
So, I was delighted to spot a vintage laminex table with original chairs which took me time travelling back to my childhood. I’m sure we had a table and chairs something like that…or perhaps it was my grandparents’. I could almost feel my small self trying to heave myself up and onto the seat…such a battle when you’re toddling around. I managed to resist the table but I did by an antique picture frame which has waratah’s carved into the wood, a wooden box with compartments inside to help me get more organized, an Oroton bag for $5.00 (you beauty!!) and a Companion to Henry Lawson Fifteen Stories, which has a lot of incredible insights into one of Australia’s greatest writers and a few good writing tips thrown in as well. It was written in 1959 and it’s currently sitting right beside me and I want to read and work through it immediately before it gets buried in my other good intentions.
While there’s no photographic proof, a certain no-name violinist gave an impromptu recital at the garage sale to demonstrate a violin which was up for sale. Of course, the identity of this bold, shameless violinist remains a mystery but if you read in between the lines, you might be able to work it out. BTW the demo might’ve had a negative effect because as far as I know, the violin didn’t sell.
So, we ended up having quite an unexpected trip to Pearl Beach and today my husband went back to the garage sale and bought our son a surfboard. Looks like he’ll be extending his wings from sailing on still water to taking on the waves. Bring it on.
“On a day when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty.
Today is such a day.”
After watching our son sail today, my head is jam-packed with metaphors. Overflowing with adjectives, adverbs and superlatives. Indeed, I’m completely overloaded with words flying in from all directions and creating an almighty traffic jam in my head. Clearly, this is not a good thing, because as any half-decent writer knows, less is more. However, what are we supposed to do when we’re so enchanted by something, an experience, a feeling, an object, that we start spewing out metaphors, adverbs and adjectives like a broken sewerage pipe?
I don’t know. I always overdo it. Indeed, I’m one of the most enthusiastic, upbeat people I know, especially when I’m “sailing” on top of the water, and haven’t hit the deck.
Just to set the scene…The majority of the boats were an Optimus or “Opti”. Another parent described these as “a floating bathtub which uses a towel as a sail”. They’re a great sail boat to start out on because they’re relatively stable, although on the downside, they’re not as fast. Our son was too tall for an Opti and went straight to a Flying 11, which has rather complicated rigging and is a faster, but less stable boat and new recruits are likely to capsize. Indeed, they capsize a lot and usually want to quit!!
However, that’s what I’ll call the technical or business end of sailing, and I was more focused on watching my son and husband work together to get the boat assembled and to actually see Mr sail his boat. However, as much as I aspire to be the perfect Mum, I couldn’t be the passive observer and switch the writer-photographer off. Sailing is a spectacle. It’s an Adrenalin boost. A creative response was inevitable…an occupational hazard.
The skippers assembled on the grass and walked through the muddy bank to launch their boats. I don’t know how many boats were there. However, there were enough to resemble a small fleet and look quite spectacular. Yet, they’re only little and reminded me of hand-made, origami boats. Indeed, I even Googled how to make them when I got home, although I didn’t succeed. That boat didn’t even get a chance to sink!
Getting back to the race… one minute I was watching Geoff help Mr get his boat out, and the next he was gone.The boats had sailed off into the distance and the skippers merged in with the sails. Now, they were nothing more than a patch of white on a blue background.
Yet, I was still watching. Feeling something bubbling up inside but I couldn’t quite channel my thoughts into anything specific.
Sheep…the little white boats now reminded me of sheep… what with being white on the blue background. In hindsight, even I can see this was a bit far-fetched. That I’d inhaled too much magic dust, and my imaginings had gone too far. After all, I doubt whether a sheep can swim, and as for a flock of sheep wading out into the deep, that’s bonkers. Clearly, I’d had too much sun!
Still, being in serious creative overdrive, I didn’t just stop at sheep analogies. I also thought of dancers in white tutus, which is hardly surprising given that the dance studio is our home away from home. Indeed, sailing reminded me a lot of dancing with sailing being a kind of dance on water. That said, it’s not that graceful when the boom smacks you in the head, or you capsize and you’re wading through the mud to get back.
Hey, did I mention something about clouds? The boats also reminded me of white clouds. However, you’d have to say they’d had a close encounter with a steam roller with a triangular cutting attachment. After all, sails are flat, not round and fluffy.
Okay, I accept the cloud analogy doesn’t fit.
“hark, now hear the sailors cry, smell the sea, and feel the sky let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic…” ― Van Morrison
Anyway, in case you haven’t worked it out already, I was really pleased and relieved to get down to the sailing club today. Like many parents, my husband and I split up on Saturdays. Geoff does the sailing run, while I do the dance run with our daughter. While this set up is very practical, it means I haven’t seen our son sail in his new boat and they haven’t seen our daughter perform her dance solo. Moreover, each of us is missing out entirely on one child’s universe. Or, at best, we’re skimming past the outer reaches. Indeed, my husband and son missed out on half of the annual dance concert, because he had a big day. Indeed, that afternoon’s sail was just as important to him, as her dance concert was to her. That’s where you need the wisdom of Solomon. Alternatively, you could always clone yourself, so you can be in two places at once. Nothing to it!
By the time I pulled up, Geoff and Mr had got the boat out of bed and it was out on the grass waiting to be set up. Setting up the Flying 11 every week, is a bit like wrestling with an Ikea flat-pack with ropes and sails thrown in for added complexity. Geoff and the Mr almost, almost have their routine down pat and make a great team. Getting the boat ready, is a two person job and it took them some time to get the rigging sorted. Moreover, as these boats have sacrificed stability for speed, it’s frequently capsized. It’s a very challenging boat and the sort of thing “which puts hair on your chest”, as my Dad would say. However, this is the price you pay as a young sailor climbing through the ranks and learning the ropes.
“That’s what learning is, after all; not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we’ve changed because of it, and what we take away from it that we never had before, to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way is winning.”
Richard Bach, Jonathon Livingston Seagull
As luck would have it, the weather was perfect…blue skies, sunshine but not the blazing Summer heat. Probably my favourite bit, was watching all the boats get in the water. It was low tide and they needed to wade out quite a way through the mud to launch. I know there was order in there somewhere, and everyone was respectful of each other’s boats. However, I was struck by the kaleidoscope of little boats of varying classes along with their different shaped sails…a real cacophony. Indeed, I know I’ve overdosed on metaphors already, but they were like a flock of sea gulls.
If you peer deeply into the centre of the photo, you can see the fleet.
However, all too quickly, the flock had disappeared out of view, and we weren’t really a part of it anymore.We could just make out a cluster of tiny, white sails in the distance. For some reason, it felt very strange knowing Mr was one of them. I guess I’m so used to seeing anonymous yachts sailing past in the distance and it felt weird to know he was on one of them. Moreover, it’s a bit of a stretch to think of our 14 year old son skippering a boat out on the horizon all by himself. He hasn’t ridden a bike in years and is too young to drive a car, even as a learner. Yet, he was out there by himself, not out in the ocean or the open sea, but close enough. That didn’t worry me at all, because the club has a safety boat and it’s a safe area. It was more the extension of his horizons and by proxy, my own that felt uncomfortable. He wasn’t in the small pond anymore.
That’s one of the great things about sailing for kids. They can experience freedom, a degree of speed, independence and nut things out for themselves without adults hovering over their shoulder. So, while it’s not an inherently safe sport, it’s actually not too bad when you compare it to contact sports, wandering around the neigbourhood or even riding his bike.
Now, I’d still like to write a poem about it. Or, if I could, paint what I saw. However, I photographed the race with my phone and plan to get back there for the last two weeks of the season with a real camera. Open my eyes to absorb what I can. Then, I’m going to try to get in a sail myself!! I made great ballast!
Have you ever been sailing? Or, been a sailing parent? How did it go?