The Verdict

This time last week the potential excuses were stacking up and by week’s end, in the wake of a five year overdue university reunion, my physical condition for ocean swimming was very much in doubt. After more than a year of pontificating on the blog about dipping my toe in I finally did. On Sunday I was woken at some ungodly hour by a mosquito which saw me snapping the sunrise at Clovelly an hour ahead of registration time for the limited entry Clovelly 600.


The event was organised by OceanFit as part of the “TamaCloey 2.5km” swim and was aimed at beginner ocean swimmers. It definitely delivered, helped no doubt by the near perfect conditions on the day. The worst bit by far was waiting around on the beach contemplating  the awful scenario of getting a stitch or being sucked out to sea in a rip and having to be rescued. Or nibbled by something cartilaginous.

I was lucky to have some pre-swim counsel and advice from @coffeemumswims, a seasoned ocean swimmer, one of a number I’ve connected with on social media. I also paired up with another lovely lady called Sue who empathised on also being a first time ocean swim competitor. As it turned out this definition was a bit literal and really just to make me feel better; just because you havent done an actual ocean swim event doesnt mean you havent done triathlons. Anyway, she was very friendly and I appreciated her company on the start line.

I have to admit that the course instructions could have been a bit clearer, but then, I’m used to yacht races where detailed race instructions are issued with port and starboard roundings indicated for every mark. I almost had a heart attack when I mistook a turning mark for the 2.5km race for the seaward mark on our much shorter course. Needless to say the appearance of a closer pink buoy with yellow hatted fellow swimmers rounding it was a huge relief.

The swim out seemed easier despite the incoming tide, and Clovelly’s shallow waters enabled a great view of the sea life although I didn’t encounter the famous Clovelly Blue Grouper. Just after I rounded the buoy, as I stopped to catch my breath and check I wasn’t swimming to New Zealand, a friendly chap on a surf life saving ski asked me if I’d like a Martini.

I’m not actually in this picture yet

But I should be in there somewhere

Anyway, I’ll cut to the chase. I really did enjoy the swim. It certainly got the heart pumping and the lungs working at full capacity and 1km would have more than stretched me. I like the no nonsenseness of ocean swimming, as @coffemumswims puts it, the simple “swimming from A to B”.

The best bit was swimming back over the breakwater and being picked up by the surge which lifted me over the kelp beds and into the closed waters of Clovelly Bay. You don’t get that in the pool.



We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea

Last year we sold our beloved skiff and I wrote a heartfelt valedictory post about it here, where I celebrated the love of a boat that sadly had to go. In the meantime we’d sold our small house in south Sydney and headed for the leafy burbs of the ‘Shire, content with the tinny and the occasional race or delivery with old friends and connections whilst we focused on raising two girls and giving them a taste of the briny.

When we advertised the skiff online we got side tracked perusing the marine classifieds and day dreamed of the possibilities, a bit like some people do on on a Friday night accompanied by a chardy or two (actually that’s me as well). We pondered a few items in the four figure category, commenting on how lovely it would be to have something with a cabin to do overnighters on with the girls and take them outside of the heads.  Having just bought a house and not having yet sold our current one, not to mention the renovations required on the new one, we categorised a lead keel boat in the “several decades away” basket. In fact having done a few thousand miles on other people’s yachts, being a “proper” boat owner has never been top of the list.

But what would you say if someone offered you one. For free?.

Allow me to introduce you to the Red Endeavour.


Generously donated by a family friend whose budget and ambitions have changed, this boat has been a  family fixture for about a quarter of a century. Mostly sailed on Port Hacking, and definitely pre-loved, its age a barrier to her owner’s urgency to reclaim the mooring for her replacement.

Our initial reaction to the offer was “yes, yes, yes” but there is actually more to taking on an old yacht than meets the eye. If I’m honest we both knew from the outset that we couldn’t say no. We did a bit of research on insurance, rego, moorings etc. and then went down for a lookie. Having noted the need for some TLC we uttered a predictable “yes”.

The pressing need to get her off her current moorings presented some unexpected challenges, which I will elaborate on in a future post. In the meantime she’s had her bottom scrubbed (well in need)…

Dirty Bottom

a once over from a marine surveyor (with recommendations)….

On the Slip

…..and a good gurney to blow away the guano (that’s a technical term for Sea bird poo in case you were wondering,) she was starting to look like a bit of a gift horse. I daren’t look her in the mouth.

I’m going to blog (now and then) about her ressurection which may be of interest if you’ve ever cruised the classified sections of “Afloat” magazine and don’t think its silly to adopt a bottomless money pit as your pet project (what house renovations?…)

calling all carpenters

table turned

Dunno about the dunny...

Need some money for new rope

Anchors Away!

Who has an overlocking industrial sewing machine?

..and who could resist the intoxicating and romantic aroma of two stroke…

The intoxicating and romantic aroma of two stroke

…from the egg beaters…

The egg beaters...

But….most importantly, when she’s scrubbed up and sea worthy I hope to bring you tales from the ocean waves with two under 5…

pondering the high seas

are you sure about this?rail fodder

hiking training

old anchor rope

…as well as the usual escape tales from the tinny, which I assure you will retain its rightful spot (in my eyes anyway) as the ultimate getaway vehicle from the stresses of modern life…

The tinny life

 What lengths have you gone to to avoid house renovations?! :)

 PS – If you’re interested in the captions that go with the photos, just hover your mouse over the image.




Slow Out of the Starting Blocks


Early this morning I swam in the sea pool down at South Cronulla. On my own. The water was as flat as a millpond, zero breeze. Just ten laps. The water was warm and afterwards I felt a million dollars like I knew I would. Followed by ten minutes basking on the steps of the surf club with a coffee I was a new woman.

Taking part in an ocean swim has been on my agenda for an embarrasingly long time without much action. I vowed to give it a go in this post last year, hoping that a public proclamation of my intentions would force me into the necessary training regime. My efforts suggest I’m not that interested but I really I am, I just can’t seem to fit this singular activity into the hectic life that is a part time working mother of two pre-school children (who dont always sleep at night). Children and water need close attention so when I am not working and can make it to the beach with the kids, the closest I get to a proper swim is a wallow in the rock pools at low tide or at best a waist deep wade in the surf with a monkey on the hip.

My swim in solitude this morning was thanks to Reg being on holidays and at last a miniature surplus of time as a result of a long summer holiday that has allowed us to catch up on what has been a crazy busy year. When school (work) is in again it will be back to the grind and weekends dedicated (happily) to family time, sorting out the domestics, boating pursuits etc etc. So ocean swimming, other than training in the pool while the kids are in lessons, seems destined for the dream box again.

The thing that really appeals to me (having skulked around the general vibe of ocean swimming types; the ones on social media anyway) is the cameraderie and the idea that by coming last I won’t be laughed at (is this true?!). I know that if I did come last,  the physical rewards would compensate. I’d love to hear from any other ocean swimming mums and dads. Am I trying to fit too much in? How do you fit in training? Perhaps I should forget the training and just enter a swim that has a short course for beginners or would I just end up as shark food? Anyone down the southern side of Sydney interested in a weekday ocean swimming mother’s group where we can take turns?


Messing About on Boats

Do you ever wish you were four again? The other day my little girl told me she wanted to be just like me. This isn’t necessarily a good thing but it put a smile on my face. I’ll dine out on it until she’s a teenager and tells me she hates me and wishes she’d never been born. Last Tuesday we took her for her first proper sail on a 30 foot yacht.

At The Helm

 I reassured our skipper that she is well behaved and great at following instructions, almost certain that in a new and slightly unfamiliar situation she’d be looking for guidance and doing as she was told to stay safe. As it turned out she had more confidence than a cabin rat in a hold full of cheese…

…below decks on a yacht is 4 year old cubby house heaven…

Cabin Rat


Are we there yet?

Are we there yet

If she does turn out to be just like me she will love sailing and the sea with a passion. If she doesn’t, then so it is, she will be passionate about something else and that is fine. I’m not fussed if she doesn’t want to race, but if she just likes to mess about on boats, I will be a happy woman, and we will forever have some common ground on which to be friends.

Soul mates


What age would you return to if you could and what passion would you like to pass on to your own children?

Friday Photo: Modern Day Huckleberry

Matt at Como Wharf

Met a couple of keen kids fishing off the wharf at Como last Saturday. Enjoying the sunshine, experimenting with bait and being very concerned about a plastic bucket floating past that a whale might accidentally swallow. Tres cool. Have a lovely weekend one and all.

A Haggle of Herons?

Source: via Charley on Pinterest

Finally, we swept the cobwebs off the tinny on Sunday and headed for the Georges River to check out our new stomping ground. We move house in two weeks and we are beyond excitement.

A planned two hour trip turned into four, giving me a chance to flex my newly licensed tinny driving muscles. We have explored parts of George’s River before, which I wrote about here, and here.

One of the main purposes of the outing was to check out a tiny mangrove inlet that runs parallel to our new street, below our block. I was pleased to discover that all you can see from the water is a dense tract of bushland and mangroves, with the houses in our street hidden away behind.

Mangrove...somewhere on the George's River

Over the last few weeks I’ve been racking my brains for a suitable house name, possibly translated into Cornish. As we entered the little bay (which shall remain unnamed), we noticed a large group of herons sunning themselves on a disused jetty . I have always thought that herons were solitary birds, hunting alone in a quiet backwater, still as statues scanning the water for their next meal. This bunch numbered at least ten. My mum tells me the proper term is a “heronry” and she’d know because she’s a bird nerd.

When I got home I looked it up in Burnum Burnum’s Wild Things and would you believe there was the white faced heron on page one, the first species listed? I also looked it up on backyard birds where the heron’s nesting habit is described as “an untidy structure of sticks, placed in a tree.” Yep, that sounds appropriate. So there it is, our new home, perched among the trees above the mangroves shall be called “Herons Nest”.

If your house was a nest what kind of a bird would you be?

Wake up we're at the beach!

Queue at the boat ramp

Friday Photo: Stormy Weather (Through a Porthole)

A slightly different Friday ritual, following the lead of Linda from Journey Jottings 

Stormy Weather

 Shot from West Manly just past the aquarium. Edited using the Camera Bag App (Fisheye).

Been a bit bleak on the weather and tinny front lately but hope to bring you some images from the Boat show and the results of the photography competition over the next few days. Happy weekend all :)

This Moment

{This Moment} A Friday photo ritual with Soulemama. A single photo  –  no words  – capturing a moment from the week. A simple,  special moment to pause, savor and remember.

And if you’re a blogger playing along, please leave your link!

Have a great weekend.


My Top Ten Tips: Reflections on Secret Water One Year On

Rhubarb reflecting

Fifty posts, one hundred followers and a gorgeous new addition to our family later I am now celebrating exactly one year since my first blog post. Its been quite a year. Reflecting on the last twelve months I wonder if I achieved what I set out to? Committing to writing about my adventures has definitely motivated me to get out on the boat whenever we get the chance. With small children I have often been tempted to stick it in the “too hard basket” but with some convincing from Reg I have hit the water and (mostly) never regretted it.

When I first started writing I assumed that the biggest challenge would be coming up with interesting topics to blog about but unfortunately my list of ideas has been far greater than the time I have available to explore them.

I also correctly predicted a dip in blogging activity around the arrival of Jones baby number two. No matter how adventurous you think you are, most of the time, tiny babies, small, open aluminium boats and winter weather are not a successful mix. Instead I spent a couple of cosy months indoors getting to know my new little crew member and telling her about all the wonderful adventures we had planned for her.

On the whole I think I have ticked off most of the intentions on my original list; tinny tracks, beautiful things, useful things, Rhubarbs dog blog, guest blogs, beaches and “fin fur and feathers”. Food and fishing probably took a back seat and I will try harder on those this year. With the exception of our recent trip to New Zealand we didn’t even pick up a fishing rod; we soon realised that simultaneously wrestling a crayfish and a toddler whilst standing in a tinny is an unwinnable challenge which will surely result in tears. But you never know, we might catch something this year if we can get our act together.

What have I learned from my year on the water? Here’s my top ten reflections on a year of boats and babies:

  • No matter how cold the water is when you jump in, you will never regret it. Chickening out on a dip in the briny always leaves a bad taste in your mouth
  • “The house is too messy and there’s too much washing to be done” is a pointless excuse for not getting on a boat; when you’re out on the water you can’t see the mess and besides, it can’t get any messier when you are not there
  • Always take loads of food; there’s nothing as frustrating as stumbling across the perfect secret picnic spot and having nothing to sustain you but a packet of salty sultanas and a bottle of water with toddler saliva in it.

Don't leave home without your thermos!

  • Expend the same amount of effort applying sun screen to yourself as you do to your kids
  • Sort your kit out the night before; you get to spend more time on the water and you know what they say about the early bird…
  • Put carpet in the bottom of your tinny, its much kinder on the paws

Pampered pooch

  • Don’t get out of an anchored tinny when you are seven months pregnant; you won’t be able to get back in again
  • Just occasionally, be content to leave the camera in its case and just suck up the moment
  • Don’t make yourself rules about what age/temperament/mood/shoe size is the perfect one to take kids/husband/friends/dog out on the water. Everyone’s different and with kids you get good days and bad days, keep an open mind, decide on the day and use your common sense to stay safe

Built for comfort...

  • Last but not least….have fun; after all, a bad day on the water is still better than a good day in the office!

Have fun

One of the most pleasant surprises of the last twelve months has been that blogging has not become a chore. Recording my adventures has given me the photography bug and Secret Water is growing in a direction that I hadn’t planned. I recently selected a few of my favourite and more print worthy images and have started to create handmade cards…with a twist…so on that I will keep you posted…

Coming to a shop near you...

I intend to keep blogging about my on the water adventures so I would love your feedback; what did you like? What didn’t you like? What would you like? It would also be fantastic if you posted photos and details of your own adventures on the facebook page.

May 2011 be a safe and sunny year on the water for you and your family.

When was the last time you went on an adventure?

The kind of adventure that takes just a little effort to get out of the house but that when you return home leaves you feeling utterly cleansed and relaxed. Many of us might describe ourselves as the “outdoor type” but on reflection probably spend more time working, cooking, shopping, cleaning up after kids and doing all the stuff we’re supposed to do before we can have fun. And that includes you single twenty something “genYers” too, we all know how much time you spend on facebook!

 Why am I writing this blog?

My name is Charley Jones. I’m an English expat turned Australian citizen with a passion for getting on the water and being in the great outdoors. I love sailing and was lured from the beautiful and enchanting coast of Cornwall in the UK, to the equally beautiful shores of Australia by the famous Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. I also love food (which always tastes better outdoors) and my faithful Labrador Rhubarb, who is never far behind me. I am keen to pass on and share my passion with my family through our adventures in the great outdoors. I hope that this blog will inspire you to do the same.

When I became a mother at the end of 2007 I spent more time at home than I had ever done in my life. This is not always a bad thing as there is nothing like a cosy and welcoming home in which to take refuge from modern life. But I also continue to crave the relaxation that only a dose of salt water and fresh air can provide. So in 2010 my mission is to get out more and record my adventures on Secret Water, so that family, friends and likeminded people can share and benefit from my experiences on the water and great outdoors with a two year old and a Labrador in tow.

Tessa and Rhubarb

Part of my renewed motivation to go on more adventures has been fuelled by the purchase of a small tinny (12 foot aluminum boat) and outboard motor which has provided a new sense of freedom and ability to explore.  If you are still reading this blog in five months time you may notice a drop in blogging activity as baby Jones number two is due to arrive on the scene. Nevertheless, I am still determined to get on the water; but this time around I’ll be armed with the knowledge of the limitations that small babies can place on the best laid plans for adventure!


What will you read about on Secret Water?

  • Practical information for successful outdoor adventures with (or without)  kids (including the furry four legged kind)
  • Great places to take your tinny
  • Great places to go without your tinny
  • My foray into amateur fishing (I’ve been watching too much River Cottage and am convinced I can one day catch a Cray fish myself)
  • Rhubarb’s Dog Blog; the outdoor dog’s life
  • Alfresco Food; inspiration for “eating out”
  • Safety related information (from reliable sources)
  • Useful things;  reviews of useful gear that you can take on your adventures
  • Beautiful things; that we hope to capture on camera
  • Guest blogs from inspiring people
  • What’s on: a directory or inspiring and adventurous things to do and see

Hopefully you will also get to read about other people’s experiences and share yours with us too. We look forward to hearing your comments, feedback and the topics you’d like to discuss. You can also get in touch via the email addresses listed on the contacts page.

When was the last time you went on an adventure?

On the way up to Mt Kosciuszko

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...