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In which I undertake a challenging but excellent trip for my birthday.
Hoist the Mainsail - Part 1
In 1980, my mother turned thirty, and I was two. My parents sold their house and bought a brand new 38' Downeaster, custom built. They had been cruising enthusiastically for several years, and made the decision that sailing was important enough to them that they wanted to live aboard their boat. They christened the boat Katherine (my mother's middle name), and our permanent address became a slip on the end of I dock in Channel Islands Harbor, California.
In my opinion, it was the best childhood ever.
On the last day of 2007, I turned thirty. I don't have any hang ups about my age, or any disappointments about where life has led me (apart from wanting a career change I can't quite yet afford). But thirty is one of those mile marker ages, and it felt important to me to do something really significant with the date, especially since I hadn't had a good holiday in a while.
I knew that I wanted to do a sailing trip, and lucky for me it was fairly easy to agree upon that with my favourite travelling companion Mr Wiggins. In fact, it was he who led us to our eventual adventure; he was on the Manly ferry when he saw a sailboat with a web site on it. An SMS and a few minutes later and I was checking them out.
If you don't live in Australia, you probably don't know about the Sydney to Hobart, unless you're a big racing buff. It's an annual race that starts on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) and goes from— obviously— Sydney Harbour to Hobart in Tasmania. Along the way you have to cross through a notorious body of water, the Bass Strait, where relatively shallow seas, and clashing oceanic currents provide a pretty bumpy ride on a good day. In bad weather, it can be deadly.
Usually you need some kind of racing experience to participate in the race, but once the boats are all in Hobart, they need to get back to their home ports, and since no-one's in as much of a hurry, the newbies can join in the fun. That's where we came in. Getaway Sailing had 2 boats in the race. One was an impressive Volvo 60. But the cheaper fare and the synchronicity of the smaller Sydney 38 won out for me. So we signed up as two clueless crew members, and desperately sought out the last remaining accommodation in Hobart for New Years Eve.
We arrived in Hobart by plane on the morning of my birthday, and since we were staying at Battery Point, we were right in the middle of all the action. We enjoyed as much we could the two days we spent in Hobart, which largely meant eating fabulous food, but also went on a bus tour and watched a couple of performances in the International Buskers Festival.
On the morning of the 2nd, we got up bright and early, checked out of our B&B, and headed for the docks with some trepidation. Since the race boats had been docked at the wharfs for several days, we had already scoped out where we were going and which ride was ours. We met up with the skipper and a few of our fellow travellers, and began loading our baggage on to the boat. Our trip was precipitated by me promptly dropping our toiletries bag into the water. Not off to such a good start.
Toiletries recovered and mostly dry (we were smart enough to put things in plastic bags), we had a look at the bunk situation.
Thank goodness neither of us had any problems with claustrophobia.
Our skipper, Paul, took us through a safety briefing & general tour of the 38' boat that would be our home for the next (we thought) four to six days. He later mentioned that he deliberately tried to say things as scarily as possible to gauge our reactions— obviously, we were bad listeners, as we were quite undeterred!
Packing, fueling, and lunch seemed to drag by. I was anxiously looking forward to getting out on the water and under way! I felt confident and at home, trusting my childhood and my university sailing courses to carry me through the trip with aplomb, soggy toiletries bag notwithstanding. Finally, we began to motor out of Hobart's harbour on the Derwent. Many of the other racing boats were leaving at the same time, including our "big sister", Getaway Sailing's Volvo 60. Most of them left us in the dust as we slowly chugged away from the protected waters of the Derwent toward Tasman Island.
And that was where my confidence started to falter.
To be continued in Part 2...