Home' Afloat : AFLOAT December 2014 Contents 24 AFLOAT.com.au December 2014
and foresail looked reasonable, and the staysail and fisherman
looked like they’d last a little longer. But the mains’l ...
Peter handed the wheel to Sir Arthur, and I was standing by
the main sheet, just behind him, as we all began to sigh and
attempt to project how long the mains’l would last. Sir Arthur,
out on the blue water again with the breeze gusting in nicely, a
following sea, the sun bright, and in pig’s heaven at the wheel,
settled the matter quickly.
He’d buy us a new one if we’d just shut up whining.
Mission accomplished, Peter took the wheel and immediately
turned back to the harbour.
On the way back I condescended to speak with our venerable
Knight of the Realm.
“ Well, mate, since we’re going to see quite a bit of you, what
do you reckon we should call you? ”
“Let’s not be formal,” replied our Knight. “How about Sir
So we got in training for ‘The Hobart’, by racing throughout
the summer, culminating our efforts in the Montague Island
Race, a sporting event that can be unfavourably compared with
bear baiting, if you’re the bear.
The weather was horrendous, the sea huge, and we took a
battering, but by the time we had reached the island and were
rounding it, around midnight, the breeze had fallen away and the
night was as dark as pitch. We could hear the breakers rolling
against the rocks, but couldn’t see them. When we finally did, it
was because we were almost on top of them. Not wanting to start
the motor and so disqualify ourselves, we fended off the rocks
using a spinnaker pole, and made our way slowly into deeper
water. Only to find we were taking water. Fast.
Our attempts to pump the ship were met with another disaster.
The pumps had been choked by the shavings from some carpentry
the shipwright had been doing, and were out of action. We began
to panic and to bucket.
I found myself in the engine compartment, where the smell of
diesel fuel mingling with fetid air did nothing for my propensity
for sea-sickness. As the water rose in the compartment, I’d scoop
up half a bucketful, fill it with the contents of my stomach, and
pass it up to be poured overboard.
The latter carried out by Twitty Thompson, a butcher, who
made a pretence of stirring the bucket with his finger, tasting it,
and commenting unfavourably on the colour and texture of my
contribution before jettisoning it.
We kept the water down by bucketing all the way home,
only about three hundred miles after all, and praying. I did
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This, of course is not the finish. We now apply the new coats of
anti-foul, using brushes and rollers, and again working above
the head. Some of the paint goes onto the boat. A great deal of
it goes onto the painter.
At the end of the day, fourteen multi-hued crew members
adjourn to the club bar to slake their thirsts, and are usually
ejected as being unsuitable for being seen by others.
Astor, being a schooner, carried a vast amount of sail, with
confusing names like stays’l, fores’l, mains’l, fisherman, to which
we soon added spinnaker and gollywobbler. I ’m not sure whether
there is such a word as “gollywobbler” but that’s what we called it.
When our skipper, Peter Warner, bought her as Ada and
renamed her, the naming ceremony did little for the condition of
some of those sails, which seemed to date back to her launching
in 1924. So we took Sir Arthur sailing.
This was what is usually called a ploy. Sir Arthur Warner
was seriously rich, the chairman of the Astor Corporation,
manufacturers of televisions and white goods, the Victorian
Minister for Railways ... and Peter’s dad.
He was an old yachtie, and fell for Astor immediately. We
cruised out through Sydney Heads on a broad reach, with our
battered mainsail looking much the worse for wear. The headsails
Schooners Ada (Astor) and Bona with Cutter Morna. From a
painting by Ian Hansen.
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