All in the same boat

Short sto­ries and ob­ser­va­tions by Het­tie Ash­win

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - THE GROOVE -

OS­MO­SIS: the grad­ual, of­ten un­con­scious, ab­sorp­tion of knowl­edge or ideas through con­tin­ual ex­po­sure rather than de­lib­er­ate learn­ing. This sums up what it is to be a yachty or that small breed of people who call the wa­ter home.

News on the wa­ter trav­els fast. And there is noth­ing like a dis­as­ter, mishap, sink­ing, near miss or catas­tro­phe to bring out those old salty dog tales. Why no-one tells you about the fab­u­lous time they had and the easy bits where noth­ing goes wrong is a mys­tery. But men­tion a drama and those ‘‘I knew a bloke once’’ sto­ries rise to the sur­face like an oil slick. It is only when the story re­turns back to the owner sev­eral sea­sons later and it has turned from a gas leak to an ex­plo­sion with ca­su­al­ties that you re­alise it is not so much the story as the telling that keeps it alive.

Boats, like people, have a his­tory and the sto­ries be­hind the wreck ly­ing in the man­groves is as fas­ci­nat­ing as the man who put it there. Ask any sailor worth his salt and he will spin a tale. A sim­ple en­quiry about the blue boat that drifted might end up into some­thing akin to a Vik­ing saga. You get the back his­tory, the drama, the ten­sion, the sim­i­lar but not quite the same tragedy, the out­come and the moral of the story. If the telling hap­pens in a chan­dlery, then it’s a given that the au­di­ence at the end will be twice what it was at the be­gin­ning.

Those new to sail­ing usu­ally lis­ten, nod and digest the in­for­ma­tion, happy in the knowl­edge that it won’t hap­pen to them. Some with a few sea­sons un­der their belts or years at the helm most of­ten have the one up­man­ship syn­drome. I’ll see your sink­ing and raise you a cy­clone. The old salts have more sto­ries than wrin­kles and will trans­fix the au­di­ence with dar­ing-do and re­mind you that there is more to the sail­ing life­style than match­ing spray jack­ets. There are lessons to be learned, ad­vice to heed and laugh­ter to be had. Some of it might get you though a trivia evening, some of it might just save your life in mount­ing seas and some might make you chuckle on those cold nights on watch.

The ben­e­fit of all this talk is in­for­ma­tion which is a to­tally dif­fer­ent thing to gos­sip. Yachties be­long to that en­tity called a col­lec­tive en­cy­clopae­dia. Want a pump? Some­one will know some­one. Need a bot­tom scrape? What’s-his-face will do it. And if you are look­ing for a jolly good scare in re­la­tion to your cruis­ing plans, just ask at the bar. Pirate sto­ries, hostage tak­ers and un­charted reefs will make your eyes pop and Low Isles might be a bet­ter op­tion.

On the flip side there is the ca­ma­raderie. If you want a bit of mus­cle, need a bit of ad­vice or to bor­row a tool, there is no bet­ter com­mu­nity than yachties. A more fiercely loyal bunch would be hard to find. Help­ing hands are al­ways there to take a rope, of­fer a spare part, share a feed of fish. Boat­ing is a bond whether you are from Ja­maica, Amer­ica, France or Oz. We are all in the same boat.

But re­mem­ber, only ask about cy­clones if you have a spare three hours up your sleeve.

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