Friday, October 31, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 65. 'Far from the Roll of the Sea.'

Work and play at Bum`s Bay.
We are exhausted, and are just discovering that little fact. We have been running on adrenaline for over a year of travel across the Pacific and now that we are settled in Bum`s Bay with no big voyage up ahead we suddenly unravel. Days, busy days , go by at anchor. We visit with Keith and his family, get driven up into the highlands to see the back country ,walk along the Gold Coast beach and through the Casuarina pine trees alive with the deafening song of cicadas, get free ice for our ice box from the nearby hotel and begin a serious boat maintenance schedule as the weather permits.

Beach vine.

We celebrate Christmas with the Watson family out on their big veranda with parrots diving in and helping themselves to the sugar while Keith throws meat scraps to the butcher birds. A very unique experience for those of us used to snuggling up close to the wood fire at this time in December.

Electrical storm on the Broadwater.

Shiriri lies to two anchors now as thunderstorms or "southerly busters" come roaring through. Even so, I scrape and paint and varnish during the sunny times and even use the belt sander while standing alongside in Edith to grind off peeling white paint from the hull. Keep busy, keep busy, to fill the non-voyaging gap in our lives with useful activity.

We often take Edith across the Broadwater to visit Keith in his office near the beach in Southport and he pops around the corner to buy some sticky buns to have with tea. As we munch and slurp he settles down to tell us another of his wartime stories. My family met Keith for the first time as a young pilot hitch hiking to London during WWII and it is a treat for me to hear his stories of being a bomber pilot. He has these stories down word perfect and is glad to have an audience with a connection to those far off but still important memories.

One day he describes the first time he took off with a full load of bombs and fuel in his Lancaster, wondering if the plane would lift off before the end of the airstrip. His hands reach out before us and ease back on the stick trying to get his aircraft to come unstuck from the earth and we see the relief on his face as he climbs and banks to form up with his comrades for a raid deep into Germany.

Why are these stories so vivid for me? Partly it is because Keith has always been a master story teller and partly it is because I have recently spent time in the midst of an ocean adventure and am having a difficult time leaving that world. How often have I told my sailing stories to non sailing peoples along the way and have ended up saying that really, it is like a wartime experience; only to see that this comparison does n`t really register either.

How brave, Keith says of our splashing around on the sea. I can imagine him flinging his big plane through the night sky to escape a fighter, and reply quietly that really Keith we were already safe at sea level and not 10,000 feet up in the air. We had no one gunning for us, but our crew has been through the valley of the shadow of death several times in the past year so we do share a rare bond with this old friend who still, after all this time, does not put aside the camaraderie of those defining years of his life spent caught up in the adrenaline charged atmosphere of combat.

With all the boat painting done that we can get at while afloat, it is time to haul Shiriri out at a boat yard to paint her hull and give her bottom a few coats of antifouling paint. We have been scrubbing her bottom clean all the way across the Pacific and it is time to put something back! One morning we follow some new friends, Rob and Michelle in ‘Carrick Roads’, north again and then branch off to the left and up the Coomera river to be hauled out onto the hard.
'Away from the roll of the sea.' Song, by Allistair Macgillivray.

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