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Monday, February 19, 2018

The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow


Now that reading has become my preferred form of travel, I was absolutely captivated by A. J. "Sandy" Mackinnon's book "The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow".

Equipped with little more than cheerful optimism and a pith helmet, Mackinnon sets out in an ancient Mirror dinghy in 1998, aged 35, to "see where I got to - Gloucester near the mouth of the Severn, I thought".

Instead, he travels from the borders of North Wales to the Black Sea - 4,900 kilometres under sail, at the oars, or at the end of a tow-rope.

I found "The Unlikely Voyage" in one of my favourite op-shops, book-plated by an ericdavies421@gmail.com whom I contacted. He replied, "I've been putting bookplates in books for the last six years and leave the books somewhere during my travels. So you may find some more."

I shall certainly look out for them as I will for Mackinnon's other book, "The Well at the World's End", but not today which turned out to be a gloomy and overcast morning after a wild and rainy night and gives me the perfect excuse not to go into town.

After all, I still have enough bread and milk and Swiss cheese and onions and lots of tinned stuff in the larder, not to mention the two portions of frozen lentil soup in the freezer, and enough tea to last me a lifetime. I even still have a whole unopened case of Coke. You're reading this, Des?

Peter the Skipper had anchored in the Bay for a few days before coming upriver, and had gone to see 'Swinging Safari' at the local cinema. He compared it to 'The Castle' and said I should see it. I checked the cine-ma's website which shows it runs until Wednesday, so Wednesday it is for my first trip into the Bay since Padma left for Melbourne on the 12th.



Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Book Thief


Forget about Markus Zusak, here's the real book thief: Peter Johnson, skipper of SY EKAZA, who's since caught the out-going tide and is on his way farther south, but not before I had fitted him out with a t-shirt emblazoned with a nauti-cal motif and 'Nelligen Yacht Club' across the chest.

I also forced a book-bag onto him, containing several yachting books, three books by James Michener, "Lost Horizon" by James Hilton (whom he should know from 'Goodbye Mr Chips", being a retired schoolteacher himself) and "Longitude" by Dava Sobel. I thought of adding some Joseph Conrad titles but, other than "Lord Jim" which everyone knows or at least ought to, his books are an acquired taste and so I left them out.



It must've whetted his appetite because he wondered what I'd eventu-ally do with all my yachting books. "Give them to Vinnies", I replied which prompted him to ask to be given first choice. Which I did and which resulted in two big armfuls of books going across to SY EKAZA.



As he did his final sail-by, I watched his Plimsoll line but all those extra books hadn't affected it at all. Perhaps he should've taken some more.



Anyway, I've probably made a friend for life which, given my age, won't commit him for long. "Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another, Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence." Good fellow, that Longfellow!



Fair winds, my friend, and safe passage!



Better late than never

Just before reaching Shallow Crossing


In my twenty-five years at "Riverbend", I've been to Shallow Cross-ing countless times but never by boat as my old motor-sailer's mast was too high for Nelligen Bridge, so when Skipper Peter of SY EKAZA asked me this morning to go upriver with him in his inflatable dinghy, I dropped everything and into his dinghy.

We motored upriver with the incoming tide, from the red spot at the bottom of the map which is "Riverbend" to the red spot at the top which is Shallow Crossing, through the most magnificent scenery imaginable.


Some 16 km as the cockatoo flies but, with the twists and turns in the river,
probably a good 25 km from one red spot to the other, the same distance as
from Batemans Bay to Moruya


It was real Heart of Darkness stuff, right down to spotting a Harlequin or two. For a moment I even thought I was dreaming as we passed some-thing called 'Bonnie Doon' but there was no sign of the Kerrigan family.



We knew we were nearing the 'Inner Station' and running out of navi-gable river when we saw the 'glamping' tent tops of 'The Escape' and heard voices coming from the Shallow Crossing Camping Ground.


Aerial view of 'The Escape'. Shallow Crossing can be seen at the end of the navigable river


After several hours on the water during which we talked about books and Fibonacci and palindromic numbers, and made a refuelling stop ...

... and cooled down for a while at Shallow Crossing ...

... it was good to see SY EKAZA and "Riverbend" again.


So after twenty-five years, I finally made it to Shallow Crossing by boat. Better late than never!



I'm no Boo Radley ...


To those who haven't read "To Kill a Mockingbird": it's not a how-to manual; instead, it teaches us not to judge a man by the colour of his skin. But getting back to Boo Radley, like him I like being alone and have sometimes wanted to join Loners Anonymous but they don't meet very often.

Human beings have been around for two and half million years. For most of this time we lived either alone or with just a few others, foraging for plants and stalking prey. This is who we really are.

For the past week I've been alone in the quiet house, reading books, and occasionally foraging through the back of the pantry for something I can add to my savoury mince. This is who I really am.

Liking to be alone is not only an acquired taste but also an acquired skill because silence can be mystical and, if you dare, diving into your inner depths can be both profound and disturbing (and very profitable to your psychiatrist).

And while the house is a testament to my runaway consumerism, what I crave most, apart from being alone with myself, is simplicity and free-dom from clutter. I still remember the years I lived in hotel rooms and out of a suitcase. I would get slightly panicky if I had accumulated more than the bare minimum and do some quick 'trial-packing' to ensure it all still fitted into the one suitcase.

Anyway, before the neighbours call me Boo Radley, I will make a foray into town to restock the pantry and talk to someone other than myself.



Saturday, February 17, 2018

No, it's not an unidentified flying object

Click on image to enlarge


I had to bring forward my weekly shower and shave - everything else is still regular, thank you! - because just before nightfall an unidentified yacht dropped anchor only metres off "Riverbend". It turned out to be another Peter from Port Stephens sailing in a French-design OVNI yacht (which is a French acronym for 'Objet Volant Non-IdentifiƩ') "EKAZA", also known as an Alliage 38.

I introduced myself as Commodore-Secretary-and-only-Member of the Nelligen Yacht Club and we've "talked shop" ever since, particularly about his yacht which is an aluminium boat with a centreboard which, when retracted, lets this 38-footer draw as little as 70 centimetres!

Peter the happy skipper and retired maths teacher ...

... and Peter the happy visitor and retired accountant

It's still early morning now but I've heard some stirrings on the "EKAZA", so I'd better fire up the kitchen for a proper sailor's breakfast for two.