“You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way”.”
― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Yesterday, we went out sailing with my Dad over at Pittwater. Pittwater is part of the Hawkesbury River estuary on the Northern edge of Sydney. We started out at the Palm Beach Marina, motoring up to Newport for petrol and then sailed back down via Scotland Island.
The royal “we” in this instance being Geoff, Mister and myself. Miss spent the day with Grandma. She is still developing her sea legs and is best going at her own pace. We, on the other hand, longed to feel the wind in the sails, the gunnels in the water and feel ourselves suspended off the edge of the known universe.
Well, that’s my idea of sailing but to be fair, we’re sailing around Pittwater. We’re not out at sea and it’s something akin to sailing in a bathtub…not a lot of risk but you certainly get a taste of something sensational.
While I’ve experienced these thrills a few times, we’ve probably had more experience with a lack of wind. What sailors call: “the doldrums”. Of course, this is quite a different wrestling with the elements.Not only is it extremely frustrating when you’re going nowhere and longing for that thrilling breeze. It can also make for a long row home and brings home emphasise the beauty of petrol power as well.
Diesel…A sailor’s insurance!
Indeed, we did use quite a bit of petrol power yesterday.
We started out from the Palm Beach Marina and then motored down to Newport for petrol. It seemed funny having a petrol stop while “sailing” but motoring can be your salvation.
Wild Oats X.
While at Newport, we spotted Wild Oats X. Not quite the same as seeing the mighty Wild Oats XI winner of eight Sydney-Hobarts 2005–2014 (eight) but still a thrill.
As much as I was there to enjoy the sailing, or indeed motoring, naturally I was also there to soak up the view with my eye. Feel transformed, rejuvenated, inspired in some way. For me, this is as much about photography, writing and just having what I’d call something of a spiritual relationship with the sea, the sun and just being out in the vast outdoors. I had a really overwhelming sense of space and even emptiness out there. When we set out, we were the only boat out on the vastness of Pittwater. At least, it seemed that way. Yet, Pittwater is part of Sydney, a world class city with over 4 million people. Whenever I’m out there, I think of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and that rustic river experience. I’m definitely not in a big city.
Optimus on Pittwater.
Leaving Newport, we spot a group of kids learning to sail on a small boat called the Optimus or Opti. The kids are learning to sail on these at sea scouts. They look like bathtubs with sails attached but they’re great to learn on.
Up until this point, Dad or Geoff have been steering and we’ve been under motor but now it ‘s time to unfurl the mainsail and Mister is at the helm steering the boat. He’s doing a great job, although he’s more used to using a tiller where you have to reverse your directions to reach your destination. He seems to adapt automatically. Dad starts talking to him about ” and “starboard” “red light”, “green light” and while I joke about having difficulty knowing my left and right, I realise I need to master this lingo myself today and I’ll be having a steer too. Or, what Dad calls “a sail”.
Indeed, it’s now my turn.
I am actually the least experienced “sailor” on board. Knowing that I don’t have great fine-motor skills and navigation has never been my strength, I am a bit cautious but this is like learning to drive in the back paddock. There’s barely anyone out here and it’s a great opportunity to get started. Indeed, it reminds me of my first driving lesson in a way. Although the yacht isn’t bunny-hopping through the water, I’m definitely over-steering and we’re swinging backwards and forwards towards my marker. I’m also so focused on trying to keep the bow on course, that I don’t have the mental energy to lookout for other boats. I am 100% focused on that spot. You know what it’s like when you’re learning to drive. That’s why you have an instructor!
The yacht we were on yesterday was a Catalina and quite a different experience to being on a laser or even a smaller yacht. It’s much more substantial and a much more “civilized” affair. Even under sail, you weren’t constantly ducking and weaving to avoid the boom as you went about. Indeed, almost the entire trip I was poised up in my princess chair truly living the life.
Well, I was until my hat blew into the water. Being more aerodynamic that a sail, the wind ran off with my hat and was unceremonious dumped near a decrepit hulk. Of course, with view towards rescue and recovery, being close to another vessel wasn’t good. Fortunately we were under motor when the hat went but even still maneuvering ale yacht around to retrieve a flimsy bit of cloth which may well be sinking, wasn’t going to be easy.
Meanwhile, the sea gulls which had made the hulk home, took an instant dislike to my invading hat. To them, no doubt it was perceived as a potentially dangerous UFO. They started swooping at it with plover-like agro as it floated helplessly by. While Dad has his doubts, Geoff plucked the hat back to safety and I was given another “I told you so”. Yes, Geoff had told me that you can’t go sailing without a cord on your hat but like a resistant teenage girl, I didn’t want a cord on my hat. It’s my everyday hat and when you’re not sailing, a cord looks a bit dicky on your hat once you’re out of pre-school.
So after a perfect day, we headed back home. Grateful for how all those magic ingredients miraculous came together. Or, indeed, thankful that my Dad had researched the weather and the wind to boost the odds.
Watching the sun sparkle across that magic diamond carpet, such a deep and brilliant blue against the golden sand bathing in glorious golden sun, we headed home.
We are sailing, we are sailing
‘Cross the sea
We are sailing
To be near you,
To be free
Sailing, Rod Stewart
Have you ever been sailing? Where did you go? Any tales of the high seas?