Shona. ‘She’s a real showpiece ‘, declared my brother, Skipper Bruce. Forty thousand people lining the Hobart harbour and foreshore couldn’t be wrong. The enormous crowd cheered her on as she chugged towards the dock. Smoke was billowing out of the struggling engine. Miraculously she made it to her berth before snuffing out. Skipper reckoned he’d scored well with this old girl, a 39-foot aluminium fishing boat. As a cray fisherman, he’d had a few boats in his time. This one may well have been a showpiece. As for safety, I wasn’t so sure. Shona’s predecessor had been written off after launching herself on rocks during a wild storm. Skipper seemed to have a record of boats that ended tragically.
Weaving in and out between the Tall Ships
All concerns aside, greeting the Tall Ships on the Bicentenary of Australia was an opportunity to be seized. Getting a slice of the action was something others could only dream about. We were truly amongst it as Shona puttered up the Derwent River that January day, weaving in and out between the Tall Ships. The cargo included five kids under six years of age all kitted out in tiny life-jackets, three watermelons, bottles of water, two thermoses of coffee, a carton of cigarettes and a couple of teddy bears. Just enough supplies for one day. And of course, the Skipper and me.
Their seasickness will pass
Skipper’s two boys were already seasoned fishermen. They stayed out on the deck hanging on to the starboard. My three didn’t fare so well. Being their first boating experience, the constant bobbing up and down of the boat turned their little faces an awful shade of green. I thought we should turn back. Skipper was confident their seasickness would pass as they lay motionless on the bench seating in the wheelhouse. ‘They’ll be right. I’ve seen it before’, he insisted.
It sounded like ‘buckin’ bell’ …
I got busy in the wheelhouse slicing up some watermelon while Skipper was multi-tasking at the helm. Steering the boat, flicking switches up and down on the panel, smoking. That kind of thing. Suddenly Skipper shouted out some boating terminology that I’d never heard before. It sounded like ‘buckin’ bell’. When I looked up I knew immediately what it meant. A rogue wave propelled the bow of the boat, vertically. The whitecaps were about to break and devour Shona.
Their skin returned to a normal hue
Skipper’s boys fell to the deck and slid all the way to the stern after their little hands had lost grip. Scared? Hurt? Not a bit. My little ones lying in the wheel house suddenly sprang upright. They looked around and wondered what all the fuss was about as their skin returned to a normal hue. It’s got to be said, these were tough little sailors.
Amazingly Shona rose up
Amazingly Shona rose up and over the breaking wave as Skipper steered madly this way and that. I honestly thought we would be checking out Davey Jones Locker that day. But fortunately, no. Apart from getting a good sprinkling of sea water we were all unscathed.
Shona finally got my stamp of approval.