EVERY Boxing Day, I watch the start of the Sydney to Hobart with true admiration for the event’s competitors.
My own personal experience with sailing has left me in awe of the men and women who navigate their way through the long, treacherous course, on a day when most people are still immovable from the indulgences of the day before.
In my adolescent years, my family owned a small yacht called Lady Catherine in Metung on the Gippsland Lakes.
We used to go up from Melbourne every school holiday for two weeks and take the boat out every two days or so.
Being 14 or 15, the last place I wanted to be was in the middle of a giant lake system on a small craft with my parents with no easy way off, save swimming for 260 metres to shore – a desperate move I considered many times.
The last thing I wanted to do was to be told in panicked terms to tie knots and pull ropes for hours on end.
It was hell for me and I’m fairly certain it was hell for my parents to have me on-board.
Back then, blinded by my internal pain at having to be on a vessel when all my friends were buying Boost juices at shopping centres, I could not see that maybe it wasn’t enjoyable for them either to have a recalcitrant teenager lying listlessly in the middle of the boat, whining.
“It’s too bright,” I would cry in true, adolescent pain, shielding my eyes of the horrors that lay before me – dolphins gliding by, slipping in and out of the startlingly blue water, reflections of the sun making the water glint with flecks of silver between the soft waves.
“It’s so hot,” I would moan with the earphones of my discman in, playing such inspirational, calming music as Grinspoon and Silverchair. Blocking out the chirping of the birds as they flitted in and around the shore, and the sound of the splash of pelicans as they landed near the side of the boat.
This was good, family fun at its finest. It certainly didn’t help my enthusiasm levels that my parents weren’t exactly highly skilled on the high seas.
Yachting was a new thing to them, so we were all learning on the run. Our lack of sailing prowess led to some fairly hairy occasions.
Every time we attempted to come into the marina to tie up the boat, we would inevitably lose the boat hook overboard.
Pandemonium ensued, as we desperately tried to recover the boat hook, yelling shrilly at each other before banging into every pillar and post on the marina.
I’m sure it was hilarious for any bystander. There was also a constant battle getting the motor restarted when coming back to our pen.
This led to an infamous and much-repeated occasion when my dad, wearing an ill-fitting wide-brimmed cricket hat which sat up on his head like a fez, could not get the motor running after at least 57 attempts.
He deemed the hat was to blame for his inability to start the motor, and in his rage chucked it angrily into the water, standing up and bellowing, “it’s a bastard of a hat!”
It is still echoing around Lake King to this day.
Even though this was all roughly a decade ago, I still maintain respect and wonder for the people who are able to keep a boat afloat and on track.
Even more kudos for the participants that can get to Hobart with boat hook on-board and hat on head.