For the Love of a Boat

The Big S

Yesterday a little piece of my heart was taken away. It wasn’t my first born’s first day at school. I didn’t have to take the family dog to the vet. I sold my skiff. You might relate if you have at any point been the owner of one, that some boats take a special place in our hearts, as I aluded to in this recent post. They don’t have to be particularly shiny, classic or even wooden really, although these kind are easy to love.

The little blue sixteen footer was towed back to Middle Harbour yesterday and with it went the last vestiges of pre-family life. It represented for me more carefree days when the working week’s end was punctuated with four hours of salt water blasting, a good dose of sun and more bruises than a stick could poke at you.

My husband and I saved up for this much loved vessel before we got married. In fact if we’d have by passed it althogether we’d probably have been able to afford a wedding sooner. We forfeited a new sofa in lieu of the boat, which we painted blue and called Big Saturday. I’d never sailed skiffs before and spent several seasons standing on its upturned shiny hull admiring the paint job we’d had done instead of an expensive weekend away. In fact our first full new suite of sails was a wedding present from my Uni sailing friends.

On classic Sydney summer days with a 25 knot Nor ” Easter blowing I think of the feeling you get reaching down to Balmoral to the bottom mark, knees buckling at the pull of the kite and the sound of water slapping on the hull as its skips over the wavelets and sometimes a thump as it lands on a big lump of swell. Near misses with sight impaired white haired gents in captain hats on more sedate craft. Ducking a nine year old in a sabot and nearly taking the cap off his head with the tiller extension. Flying through the air when your bowsprit stay breaks downwind and landing head first in the drink.

International 16ft Skiff Regatta

We even took her on a road trip once from Sydney all the way to Geelong, receiving some interesting looks when we pulled up at a vineyard in Gippsland at the end of a muddy dirt track.

The speeds you can can reach in a skiff meant we’d be happy most weekends with a place somewhere between the bottom and the middle of the fleet. That said we had one particularly good season with a few handicap wins that earned us some prize money. Which we spent behind the bar on preso night.

Apart from the many hours of fun I had on that boat, I had as many happy hours on shore with some wonderful people. Skiffs, first designed and built here, are quintessentially Sydney. They made me feel at home in this city, part of a a long established community that still thrives in pockets and nurtures friendship and respect (mostly!) amongst its many members. The cameraderie at Middle Harbour was second to none; as Amelia E. Barr puts it “The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them.

So if I am so in love with this boat and those around her why am I selling her? Well she’s been on a trailer at the front of our house for several years, seemingly unloved, certainly unused. Our fellow crew have also got mini me crews of their own too, so rounding up a threesome for a sail has become harder. Better then that she goes to a good home with some whipper snappers,  while we are at swimming school teaching the girls essential skills for righting capsized boats.

Thanks for the memories little blue boat. Do you have an all time favourite boat? Or some last vestige of pre-family days that you struggled to let go of like me?

If you’re not familiar with skiffs, here’s what you’ve been missing :)

16 Foot Skiffs past and present (Courtesy of Belmont 16 Footers and soundtrack by Midnight Oil)

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