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Twas the season to be merry…

Posted by on January 14, 2012

What a big year 2011 was…

As many of you following the blog would know, we left our floating home snugged up on a mooring in the Tamar and headed southwards for what my father used to call the “silly season”.

Speaking of fathers, my Dad generously offered to come up from the Tasman Peninsula and pick us all up and head back down. “It’s only a three hour drive…” he said. A six hour round trip, actually, not including a bit of running around we had to do in between.

First there was the Christmas Ham to pick up. Nigel, the awesome butcher next to the IGA in Exeter, had brined and smoked a little ham for us the old-fashioned way, at a very reasonable price. We had library books to pick up and drop off in Exeter too, and Dad was keen have lunch at the famous Exeter Bakery. Dad was doing a bit of a trip down memory lane; he and my dear Mum (who passed away a few years ago) used to like stopping there. Apparently, on an early trip around Tassie a few decades ago, they stopped there for the first time and liked the idea of starting a small business like that in a little town like Exeter.

Exeter Bakery has different memories for me. My good friend Paul Smith was often volunteered by his father to go sailing together on their small trailer sailer that was kept on a mooring off Beauty Point. His Dad, a very nice fellow, was in the habit of buying meat pies for lunch from the Exeter Bakery on his way through, despite the early hour of the day. The pies would sit below while they sailed until around lunchtime, where upon they would brought up in their paper bags and devoured. Cold. Paul’s Dad loved nothing better than a cold meat pie on these occasions. I remember Paul’s retelling of his sailing days on the Tamar with Dad with a smile every time I see the Exeter Bakery.

After our lunch at the Bakery, we drove down to Riverside to drop off our Christmas present to the Schmidtke’s. Darren and Kris had been so very kind to us, giving us the pleasure of their hospitality and letting us use their mooring. I bought 20 meters of 14mm three strand from the chandlery at Gravelly Beach and made a medium sized ocean plait mat. It’s the first time I have ever done it with new rope, and it was difficult to get it sitting properly as the new material is so slippery. I ended up doing four rounds in the mat, making it a good size for a door mat. I also stitched the back of it all together with some 3mm VB cord, so it should last a good long time.

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Richard and I sharing a quiet moment together

Then it was off to Ravenswood. Lis has a friend there that she had borrowed some books from. She was keen to return them promptly, fearing we wouldn’t get a chance to do so again in the coming month.

Ravenswood also stirs up memories, but I won’t digress here… See below, in the comments section, for a trip to Ravenswood of 20 years ago…

From Ravenswood we departed for the south of State. As we passed the turnoff to St. Helens, I thought of how far we’d come (not far really), and how long it’s taken (quite a while). It took us three hours to get down to Dunalley, that distance took us 3 months by boat.

Want to get somewhere in a hurry? Don’t sail there, take a car or a plane.

But if you want to experience a perspective to the costal towns you’ll never see by car, sail there. By car, St. Helen’s is an uninspiring coastal town that’s struggling to outgrow its holiday shack origins. By boat, St. Helen’s is a delightful fishing town set around a marvellous natural estuary.

When we arrived in Dunalley, the boys were keen to get stuck into setting up the Christmas tree and the traditional decorations. Lis and I started making phone calls, we had a busy social calendar to organise…

Surprise visit to Kings Pier Marina Christmas drinks at Mures
We arrived Down at Hobart in time to catch dinner at Mures and be the surprise guests at the Kings Pier Marina Christmas Drinks. It was great to see many old faces and some new ones too. It was great to see everyone, and a big thank you to Kim and Kerry for organising it.

Sadly, I was a bit overwhelmed by it all and forgot to take some piccies for the blog! Darn it!

Last minute Christmas shopping
Hobart city at the height of Christmas shopping was pretty hard to take after the comparative isolation of our little life onboard in the Tamar. Even so, it was obvious the crowds were down on previous years, and watching the news on telly (the news on telly! Now there’s something I haven’t done in months!) out at Dad’s confirmed it. Retail down, economy down. Online sales up, surprise!

Back in the days when we had money, we’d put aside some for christmas in a special account. It was a bit dismaying to see how far it didn’t go…

Christmas Day
By 6am the boys has already sorted the presents twice, once by size and another by who they were for. Any suggestions to have breakfast before opening presents were drowned out in howls of protest, as expected.

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I’m trying to remember Christmas without kids… I’m sure it was good, but really, Christmas with kids is awesome.

We got a photo from our good friends Richard and Wendybird, Wendy’s airhorns for their boat had come in and Richard was looking chuffed:

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Boxing Day
Boxing Day is special because it’s the start of the other big sporting event on my calendar; The Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. No doubt many of you watched it… can you imagine the drama on Wild Oats when their hydraulic system failed 10 minutes before the start gun? No canting keel, no mainsheet winch. Three minutes before the start, they had the guts of the mainsheet winch out and swapping it for the spare. Two minutes after the start they it looked like they might actually be able to race to Hobart, then they smoked Loyal out to Sydney Heads.

Of course they ended up losing the race, and their chance to be first over the line for the 6th or 7th year running. What happened out there in the Tasman? How did they let the lead go when they clearly had a better boat and the better start, if not the better crew? Only the crews of Wild Oats and Loyal know, but it certainly was a thrilling race, right the way up the Derwent.

A visit to Copping
Good friends Jane and Aaron went cruising for a year about 18 months ago aboard their 45ft steel ketch (an Adams design) WYUNA I. Since then they have bought a farm out at Copping and raise their two kids Caleb and Morgan amongst the horses, cows and chickens of country life.

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When we parked outside their rustic outbuildings, it was great to warmly greet them and sit down around a campfire to catch up on things. Drama’s getting a mooring for their boat sorted, school (their kids went to the same South Hobart Primary school as our two boys), the little trials and tribulations that are insubstantial to relate, but define a friendship.

Aaron treated us to prawns cooked on the open fire, while we sipped wine and ate all manner of Christmas fare. The boys took off with Caleb and Morgan on the four wheelers at high speed around the farm, no doubt risking breaking every limb in their little bodies. Thankfully they’d managed to avoid doing so by the time we had to regretfully depart.

Lachie’s 10th Birthday
Lachie had been looking forward to his tenth birthday for eons. Today was the day Lachie finally got the thing he’d been looking forward to since his 5th birthday; a pocket knife. Thankfully, he also got a Bioncle (a lego action figure), which he plays with constantly in preference to the pocket knife, which seems to be reserved for “more serious duties”.

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Lachie’s friends the Guidicci clan showed up, as did Caleb and Morgan. Lachie had lots of fun catching up with friends he hasn’t seen since leaving school back in August last year. I made an orange sponge cake and filled it with marmalade and sweetened whipped cream with plenty of orange icing. I’m happy to report that it was a hit with the under 11 crowd.

Family Sail on Dexterity
Two days later we went for a nice sail in Dexterity, a John Welsford Houdini design built by my Dad. It was the first time the boys had been out in her, and our eldest was not impressed with the idea. He had his heart set on reading a book all day and didn’t take to the change in plans very well.

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Nonetheless, everybody else had a good sail; we launched from Boomer Bay boat ramp and sailed down the the Dunalley Jetty and back… The Houdini design is faster than she looks; we were scooting along very nicely in the light breeze.

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You can read more about them at John Welsford’s site.

New Year’s Eve
New Years Eve was a great time; we dropped in on good friends Richard and Wendybird down at White Beach with an armful of Mexican style nibbles I’d made that day and settled in for an excellent night catching up. Wendy’s house has a beautiful view over White Beach and out into Storm Bay, it is a view you never get tired of drinking in.

Richard confirmed his prowess at the BBQ (again) and we had a feast in fits and starts until late in the evening. Richard had his family over, including his sister from Toronto Canada. Here’s a pic of all the girls posing in their party clothes…

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We had a wonderful evening, but had no trouble putting to bed not long after watching all the parachute and signal flares get let off around midnight.

The next morning I got up and cooked breakfast for all present and then we went for a nice stroll along the beach to walk it off (there was a fair amount of bacon involved). I say “nice stroll” because that’s what us guys did. The girls took off like it was some sort of race and power walked from one end of the beach to other… Far too energetic, methinks.

We had honestly intended to travel back to Dunalley in the morning, but what with breakfast, the walk, and the delightful company, it was suddenly six in the evening and we were still there! With more guests on their way we made sad goodbyes and got back to Dad’s place before the dusk and the associated wildlife dodgem game became too bad.

Thank you, Richard and Wendy, for a special evening.

Pizza’s with Graham
The next day we were down the Peninsula again, this time to drop in on my old mate Graham. Graham has got a house half way up the channel on the northern side of Eaglehawk Neck and a decent sized bush block. He’s actually split the block in two, putting power and road into the second half and put it on the market. It’s a great location, and if anyone is interested in buying the block next to him, let me know.

Graham has built a fine wood fired pizza oven. If you haven’t had make it yourself wood fired pizza,y ou are missing out on a great culinary experience. Making your own pizza bases, pizza sauce and toppings, then assembling the whole thing to have it cooked to smokey deliciousness while enjoying a beer or three and some excellent company is a great way to spend an afternoon.

Big Monkey

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The next day we went into town to enjoy the new Big Monkey show at the Botanical Gardens.
We caught up with Noah, Eleanor, Isobel and Thomas, all friends of the boys. It was great to catch up with Toni too, a good friend of Lis’s.

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‘Minotaur Quest’, a new play by Les Winspear, is a gripping tale that whisks you back in time to the magical world of ancient Greece. You follow the adventures of young Theseus, our hero, as he battles ogres, outwits witches and attempts to defeat the dreaded Minotaur and save the children of Athens from a terrible fate. For those that know the tale of Theseus, the crew stop short of the part involving black versus white sails on the return journey.

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Minotaur Quest is performed in Big Monkey’s usual pantomime style with songs, laughs and lots of crazy fun and features a strong cast including John Xintavelonis, Jeff Michel, Carmen Falk, Lucy Wilkins and Rob Manion.

It’s an awesome production, great fun for kids an adults alike. If you get the chance, treat yourself to a show in the idyllic surrounds of the Royal Gardens. Go to here for booking information…

Dinner with the Andrews
With time fast running out, and many social appointments to squeeze in, we had to start cramming! We made a hasty visit to Richard and Hanna up at Ferntree, and then it was off to our dinner engagement.

I was keen to catch up with good friend and sailing buddy Richard (indeed, as my first sailing buddy, he should take the blame for a good portion of this cruising caper I’m now on!), his delightful wife Natasha, and their two very cute girls Ruby and Claire.

For those counting, yes, that’s three different Richards in one blog post. To add to the confusion, I used to work with two more Richards in my last two jobs. I’d like to put an informal request to any imminent parents to reconsider using the name Richard if they think their offspring are likely to populate the Hobart area. Thanks in advance.

Natasha cooked up a wonderful chicken curry and three exceptional salads, which went very well with the pear cider or Chardonnay on offer. Fine food and fine company. It was great to catch up with the family, as we haven’t seen them for six months or more.

Travel North
The following day we packed up all our gear, stuffed it into Dads car and drove north again, back to ERIK, our home on the water.

Thankfully the dinghy was where we left it, chained and padlocked to a tree. We loaded her up and headed out to the boat, happy for a calm day given how little freeboard we had.

Seasoned yachties will know what I’m talking about here; others will have to trust me that it is so when I say that boats have a particular smell when they haven’t been lived aboard a while. ERIK had that smell. It’s not an unpleasant odour by any means, its just that wooden-boat-not-lived-in smell. Previous boats we a have owned had it too, and it goes after a day or so.

Unfortunately, we had no time to shilly shally, as we had one last social function on our calendar… Catching up with my Aunt Annie (on my mum’s side) and Uncle Fred at Deviot for a BBQ dinner.

BBQ with Anne and Fred
Fred is that rare person who is an artist in his chosen vocation. His houses are thoughtfully designed, cleverly compact and practical, yet whimsically detailed living spaces. I love them. Like my dear Mum, Annie is a keen gardener, and the gardens around their home are just beautiful.

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Sadly, Dad found it tough to be there… Just too many memories of Mum, really.

Back onboard
We stayed the night at Anne and Fred’s, and after saying goodbye, we headed back to boat again. Saying goodbye to Dad was hard too. I know he likes his solitude, but I think he likes our company, and I know I will miss his, too.

The first couple of days being back on board after two weeks ashore took a bit of adjusting for all. The kids had to turn their volume knobs down a few notches; our regular living space couldn’t take the noise. I felt myself remembering the familiar moves to move around my boat, or squeeze past someone coming the other way in the saloon, or finding and using the head (the loo) in the dark. I also took a day or so to get back in the habit of watching the sky for the weather, keeping an eye on power consumption, not putting things down where the motion of the boat would send them falling.

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It’s funny what two weeks of alcohol consumption can make you forget, but then again, it ’twas the season to be merry!

4 Responses to Twas the season to be merry…

  1. Mike

    Those of you who know Ravenswood will know what the place is like. For those that don’t, Ravenswood is home to many of those of, shall we say, lower socio-economic status. Many years ago, when I was a poor student putting myself through Uni, I did a bit repossession work. “Repo” work involved going to people’s homes and retrieving goods for which they had failed to make their payments. Me and they guy I worked for would often drive a van to the many homes in the Ravenswood area, let them know the situation they were in and why we were there, then ask politely if we could come in a retrieve the goods in question. Bear in mind we didn’t have a warrant or anything, there was no legal way we we allowed to force our way into people’s homes; we had to ask. Given that the guy I worked for was mostly bald, all of 5 and a half feet high, covered in tattoos and built like the proverbial outhouse, it usually fell to me to do the asking.

    This one time, we rocked up to an old house with the obligatory car or three on bricks in the front yard, seeking to retrieve a fridge. I walked up the bare concrete steps, knocked on the door and this huge red sweaty bloke in a singlet and shorts answered the door. “Oh no…” thought I. This was going to be one of those physical confrontations we would occasionally get into. I explained why we were here and kept a close eye on his body language in case he made a lunge for me. I needn’t have worried, he was very nice and invited us inside, but requested we keep quiet as “the missus won’t be impressed at all”. So, glancing back to my boss for the nod, in we went and found the fridge. It was a pretty big unit, and full of all sorts of half eaten food. We started emptying it onto the old table in the middle of the room, including the frozen stuff from the freezer section. Important to the tale is a frozen leg of lamb that I pulled out and left with the rest of it on the table. Half way through, this skinny woman in a thick pink dressing gown comes in, lighting a cigarette. She see’s us and goes absolutely bananas. Yelling obscenities, she starts waving her arms, and I remember her long hair flying everywhere as her husband, the big bloke, stepped between us and lead her by the arm from the room. “Best make it quick, fellas”, he said over his shoulder.

    We hurriedly finished unloading the fridge, picked it up and start trying to get the thing through the door and down the stairs. The boss goes first, walking backwards down the front stairs, me hunched over carrying the other end looking at him. Suddenly I hear the door behind me open and I see my boss’s eyes widen just before I felt a WHAM on my back and I nearly dropped the fridge. “Steady!” my boss cries, as no doubt he has visions of him going down the stairs on his bum backwards with a fridge in his lap. An obscene verbal tirade starts up at full volume in my ear and then WHAM again, as I realise she is clubbing me with that damn frozen leg of lamb. Then there was a CRACK as she hits me over the head while expounding with considerable vehemence on the injustices of the system. It was all I could do to get the cursed fridge into the van without dropping it, trying to duck the blows from the harpy. It was all my boss could do to not drop the fridge from laughing.

    Sigh. Ravenswood…. such pleasant memories.

  2. Richard

    Nice work. Now I can sleep soundly.

  3. Dad

    Dear Mike,
    I take issue with the ‘Dad likes his solitude’ and comment in a gentle fatherly way. I would love a suitable partner to share my life with, but at my age and decreptitude this is probably too much to wish for? So I am saddled with solitude.
    Having my family with me anytime and more particularly at Christmas, goes a long way to cover over the intervening solitary gaps.
    Just as you enjoy your full family time, I too soak up the what seems to be a limited in later life family time.
    Great blog, keep up the good work!
    Much love, Dad