A crazy weekend

After meeting Ford St Clair (his nom de plume) on the St Helens Pier two years ago, and keeping in touch sporadically from that time, the man himself drove down from Wynyard on Friday to visit us in Hobart. All of us were Very Pleased to see him, and fed him pea and ham soup, jelly with cream and tea and coffee and porridge with rhubarb…

He cooked us an excellent dinner on Saturday night, using olives and bacon and chicken and cream, green beans… he was even able to almost cope with having to paw his way through our bin to find the only salt on the boat – contained in a salt grinder I had thrown out in a fury earlier in the day. Although he hates our stove, he is (apart from @littleearthstories ) the only person who has ever cooked in our kitchen/galley – he’s an excellent addition to boat life. He only fell overboard once.

On the whole, the weekend was frighteningly social. Saturday afternoon, the GoneYondas visited for an hour or two in honour of Reuben’s eighth birthday (we were also with them this time last year in Manly – when he was gifted a voucher for huggles with Honey the Boatkitten), Juleen and Rory were in town and dropped in as well, as did Christian! (Former Bidston Moss drummer and tech-man around town.) We all squished into the cockpit while the six kids did their thing…

Being tied up between two Large Old Ships – the Rhona H and the Lady Nelson, we have had to shuffle up and down the pier – about four or five times over the course of the weekend (when they are at their most active) to make it easier for them to get in and out of Sullivan’s Cove. It was on one of these occasions, with M and I up on the dock handling the lines, Christian on the bow and Ford on the stern, that I watched the gap between the boat and the dock widen, bridged only by Ford.

“Don’t fall overboard,” I suggested helpfully, at the same time that his fingertips and toes parted ways with their respective surfaces. He fell balletically, head first, then twisted like a stuntman, hitting the water feet first. M later said that he appeared to remain submerged for longer than was required. Ford later said that he too, under the water and looking up at the bottom of the boat, felt he had been down there for an unnecessary amount of time…

He eventually broke the surface looking generally resigned, and swam to the ladder. I was happy to see that he was unhurt i.e had escaped being squished between the boat and the pier, had avoided being cut up by oysters, had not hit his head… It provided he and M with much hilarity as the night went on…

We had a night of excellent food and general rambunctiousness.

Goodbyes suck – and we bade Ford farewell the following morning, as we again moved the boat along the dock. Don’t know when we will see him again 🙁

I went and consoled myself on Live Louder, another catamaran, where I drank tea and delightedly talked crimewriting with the resident crimewriter. The Smalls, meanwhile, saw our friends – Ange and Belle crewing on the Lady Nelson – and went out on a two hour odyssey on a ship much grander than their own!!

Zoe steers the Lady Nelson
Zoe steers the Lady Nelson.

DB steers the Lady Nelson.

When M went to pick them up, a beautiful Frenchwoman approached.

“I ‘ave a question I must ask you…”

“Certainly,” breathed M.

“Do you ‘ave a cat called Honey?”

M recognised her. It was our vet from Noumea! She had seen Honey three times when we were there, and had been spot-on that boat life was not making her a happy cat. While she and her partner chatted to M, I was on Bella Luna defrosting the fridge. As I put a few more things into the esky out in the cockpit, a bloke approached on the dock.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hello!” I didn’t recognise him, but thought he might be a manly boating friend of M.

“I saw you guys over here, and wanted to bring you this.” He held out a cooked crayfish. “You know – for helping me out the other night.”

“WHAT!? Oh my goodness!! Thank you so much!! That will be dinner!” The crayfish got stashed in the esky with the rest of the fridge contents.

About three weeks ago we were anchored in Missionary Bay over on Bruny Island. Around 2am the wind swung around and kicked up pretty strongly and 15 minutes after that, M and I heard a very insistent air horn. He sat up in bed and poked his head out the hatch, and just as quickly pulled it closed and started scrambling into his clothes.

“Get something warm on. Lifejacket. Grab a torch. There’s a boat on the rocks.”

We lowered Foamy into what had become a very choppy sea. Over our handheld VHF we heard, “Help! Can anybody hear us?”

“No worries mate,” said M. “We’re about 50 metres away, be with you in two minutes.”

As we got closer, we could see two boats, rafted up together, side on to the shore. A big motor cruiser was washing on to the rocks, while the yacht that it was joined to seemed to have an anchor out. We had some difficulty picking up a line from them, and at one point washed on to the shore ourselves.

M had some trouble restarting our outboard, but finally we had a line from the yacht secure and managed to pull the nose of it around and away from the other boat, giving it enough water to get their motor started. We guided the yacht by torchlight into a safe spot – the skipper seemed a bit disoriented and I remember hoping that he would not collide with Bella Luna, where there were two sleeping Smalls…

Once he seemed to be in safe water, we headed back to the motor cruiser – in the absence of the yacht it had managed to get the engines started and was reversing away off the shore. No further help was required. M and I motored back to Bella and got dry. I made cups of tea, because we were too adrenalised to go straight back to sleep.

I said a brief hello to both boats the following morning when they came by and thanked us for our efforts, but other than that, it felt like a dream. Had it really happened? Apparently it had – because M and I chatted to Glenn the Crayfish Man on the dock for quite a while – it turns out he knows Franklin very well, and we all lamented the rising property prices, the lack of vacant land for sale and the increasingly pedantic machinations of the local council. The crayfish was sensational.

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