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I was brought up around boats. My late Dad was a sailor with the Royal Navy and later with the Royal New Zealand Navy. Nothing weird about that except he couldn't swim. Still, that was what he did as a young man during the latter years of the Second World War when he decided that he wanted to sail off, see the world, and hopefully be home in time for dinner.

He never returned home. In fact, when he sailed off into the unknown that was the Second World War, he had a one-way ticket that led him to a new life downunder. A place he lived, married and had children and the place he died.  He never returned home. 

He needed his Mum's permission to join up and she reluctantly gave it: her husband was away fighting in Europe and she had been left at home to keep the home fires burning. I can hardly imagine that she was well pleased to sign a document that effectively handed her eldest son over to the loving embrace of a war torn Britain and an unknown future. But she did and off my father went, leaving his home for a life of adventure, excitement and the expectation that all the nice girls love a sailor.


He eventually ended up with the occupying forces in Japan after being in the Meditteranean and from there, sailed on to the South Pacific and eventually, to New Zealand, where he met and married our own Redhead. 

As children, my older brothers and I grew up around boats. Mum taught Dad to dog-paddle which was as far as his swimming prowess ever got - yet he never gave up his love of boating and sailing and fishing and the joy of being out on the water.


As kids, we had a small 12 foot runabout and we went fishing on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour. We froze in the winter as we were forced from our beds and made to go trout fishing on the lakes around Rotorua. With buckets over our heads when it was raining. True story. 

Redhead will deny it, but we got chillblains and little frozen hands as we sat in the boat, shivering, miserable and wanting to know how much longer it would be before we could go back and put our tiny toes in buckets of warm water. While Dad stood outside, in the cold and gutted the magnificent rainbow trout that would be on our table. freshly smoked and served with toast laden down with kiwi butter.


( This bit was put in for Redhead. Nothing like having a bit of a go at her because she swears black and blue that we LOVED fishing!  And no, it didn't look like that but it probably tasted better)

But, for Dad, a child of the Depression, it must have been nectar from the gods. This ability to harvest food and do it all from the comfort of his own boat. 

For my father, messing about in boats was a ticket to a freedom from poverty and a world that would have not been possible, had he not messed about in a boat.

Later, they ditched the runabout and bought a small yacht. About a 23 foot sailing boat and they navigated the lake that they loved so much. 

When I married, my husband bought a boat. A small 12 foot runabout. Instead of the chillblains and the cold, I now fried in the hot Queensland sun and was often seen hanging over the side offering burley to the fish. The kids loved it. They found it rather magical that Mummy could bring so many fish around the boat and all she had to was spew her guts out.


We did a bareboat charter in the Whitsundays once and, as we sought our first night's anchorage in a place called Turtle Bay, he ( THE EX ) headed for a place that no other boat had anchored. It came as no surprise therefore, that some time during the night, we woke up, fell out of bed and were stuck in the mud. The radio was abuzz with people laughing about the " thick bastards " that anchored in a place that was clearly marked " DO NOT ANCHOR. " 


I was not and never have been a sailor. Unlike my father, I can swim. But swimming did not make me insensitive to the perils of seasickness and the endless assault on the wallet that comes with messing about in boats.

Messing about in boats takes a special kind of person. Someone who likes showering under a constant flow of $10 notes; really thinks that barfing into the sea is incredibly good fun; that getting sun stroke and heat stroke is character building and that " Titanic " was a love story.

No, messing about in boats is something you do on a river, under a willow tree as the world slips quietly by.


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