Our summer school holidays are coming to a close, tomorrow the girls go back to school. For some unfathomable reason I’ve been feeling this time with them, where they are so keen to spend time with me, is slipping away.
One of the key objectives of building my NIS is to bring sailing close to their hearts. The NIS is forgiving and exciting and manageable to sail, plus the below decks experience is cosy and safe, perfect for the job of inspiring young sailors.
Building however is an isolating experience. It requires silence, thought and time. Three things incompatible with young highly social children.
So I have seized the time at hand and we’ve been adventuring in the Whilly Boat. I have had to work hard to make the sailing as not-hair-raising as possible. Whilst the youngest (Josephine) is ready for any hair-raising activity, the elder (Elizabeth) has balance issues and suffers when the movement is three dimensional.
The first trip we took the Whilly Boat to Clayton, on the Murray River, where we camped over a rainy weekend and sailed out to the tiny islands that are moated by our muddy Murray. We explored Duck’s Hospital, moored in the reeds for afternoon tea, watched Pelicans patrolling and rowed or sailed when needed. The girls took command and we followed their noses.
The second trip was a sail down the Port River to the basin where I suspected a pod of dolphins with baby may be. The wind was punchy because of the buildings and ships, we were lifted and knocked as it shifted through 60 degrees. But the water was flat and the acceleration was exhilarating. I worked like a sheep dog keeping the boat level and moving. We shipped some briny water, and had to resort to rowing the last kilometre into the breeze.
We passed freighters from Singapore that stood like Manhattan sky scrapers to our little shell and the crews gawked as we sculled or tacked by. Shipping stands out as something we have not been able to digitise and sanitise as yet. The crews were dirty as they were loading dusty stuff (concrete in one ship), they wore a scarves over their noses and mouths, surely there is a mask for that.
We passed under bridges bearing cars and trains and eventually made the basin where a tall ship, the One and All, made us feel more at home. People strolling along the docks stopped to point and take photos as we zoomed around trying to get far enough up wind to drop the sail for lunch. When under the Birkenhead bridge, we sheeted off the mizzen and dropped the main to begin our lunch.
While food was served by Elizabeth we met our dolphins. One had come to inspect us, the others stood off. Eventually we met them all as they came within a few meters. This was what we came for. The girls were mezmerised.
Running home was worrisome as the shifting gusty wind could have meant some wild gybes, so we dropped the main and used the mizzen to carry us home. Elizabeth took the helm and Josephine kept and eye out for the dolphins. Jo found them, or they found us, and we have their image as a great memory of the day. It had to be a memory because in the excitement, the camera was left in the buoyancy tank.
So in the words and sentiment of a forgettable American president, ‘mission accomplished’. Some successful sailing to inspire the girls, and hopefully some more groundwork for a life long love of it.