In my head, the journey from George Town to Launceston takes days and days. I am astonished and disbelieving when M tells me we can make it there in one day. What the? Last time it took us a week or two… He tells me that last time we noodled our way upriver like the newbies we were – relishing the ability to stop for a night or two wherever took our fancy. And that’s correct – it was a lovely way to traverse the river – but this time? This time there are Very Strong Winds predicted and wherever we end up is where we’re going to have to stay for at least four days, and so we aim for Launceston.
To be honest, it’s a bit of a boring journey – it takes all day, and toward the end M’s patience is thinning. I steer a little bit, but he does the majority. As we get nearer to the city I am (again) struck by deja vu; the wind is already coming up and M goes through a few different scenarios about pulling up to the jetty. I can tell he’s fidgety about how it might go. This is what happened last time.
The guy who owns the pontoons remembered us when we called him and has been very kind – he allows us to stay on the pontoon that’s reserved for the Sea Scouts for $20 a night. There’s no power or water like there is on the other pontoon (which already has an occupant) but we are here – right next to the city! We’re in the confluence of the Tamar and the North Esk Rivers.
As we pull up (it’s fine) we can see that on the old industrial land opposite has been transformed on a large scale in the three years since we were here. There is a MASSIVE PLAYGROUND. “If you can just adjust all the fenders so they’re the right height,” says M, “I’ll do the rest.”
The Smalls are pleading to get on their scooters, pleading for me to come just a little way with them. Just a little bit further… and then we are going over a footbridge that has mysteriously appeared and we are at the park and the park? It’s AWESOME. Things are high and potentially dangerous. The slides are fast tubes of metal, there are mini trampolines embedded in the ground, a sky-walk, water features and swings over trench…
Small Z is rapturous. There are kids everywhere. Small DB is overwhelmed. “I’ll just stay with you,” she says to me. “I’ll look around and decide what I will go on when we come back on a school day and there’s no one else here.” Her sister is already scaling the climbing rope to the sky-walk and halfway down one of the tubular slides. We sweet-talk Small DB (“I’m too shy….”) into walking around a little with us and eventually convince her to go on one of the slides when, for some reason, there happens to be no one on it or nearby… She is reticent, and then elated.
We explore some more. Small Z is adopted by a girl her age named Taylor. Or Taylah. Or Tayla. Who attaches herself to Small Z and they go from climbing frame, to slide, to basket swing… Small DB sticks with me. Eventually Small Z gives me the signal and I saunter up to her and Taylor/Taylah/Tayla and say, “Sorry Zoe, we need to get back to the boat now, it’s getting near dinner time.”
Zoe rolls her eyes convincingly, makes her apologies and we wander off with her hissing, “I couldn’t GET AWAY.”
Halfway across the playground we stop still and die of cute. There is a caramel coloured puppy that looks like a small teddy bear. We drop to our knees and pat it until it can hardly stand upright as I quiz the owner; “What kind of dog is it? Where did you get it? Is it hard to train?”
I can feel my BoatCat midlife crisis rearing it’s evil furry head. First the Tathra bordoodle, and now this. We coo over the puppy, which I think is six months old and will not grow much bigger, until it becomes a bit ridiculous.
We walk past Taylor/Taylah/Tayla and say to her, “How CUTE is that dog!!?”
“Yeah, it’s cute. I had a dog once, but it ran away.”
We make appropriate noises, and Small DB says, “I’d like a cockatiel.”
Taylor/Taylah/Tayla nods, looking mournful.
“Yeah. I had a bird once. But it died.”
We say goodbye again.
M comes to find us, looking somewhat forlorn having been abandoned at the dock. We wander back toward the boat and stop for a celebratory drink – they have my favourite cider:
We drink to sailing journeys and exploring Launceston.