Wednesday 16 January 2019

It is always a race when there are two boats on the water

The Derwent Hunter - our tall ship for a day

We had all been given bright yellow rain jackets to put on; the sort that I wore decades ago over my school uniform but under protest. Visibility was a little further than the railing on the boat, but not far enough to take in the Jurassic Park-lookalike islands, hiding out there somewhere in the fog and slanting rain. Instead, from my position under cover, I focussed on shaping the stiff, brightly coloured material, which I had stretched over my knees, into channels, and watching the water gush through them before cascading over my bare legs and onto the deck. 

We were in the Whitsunday Islands and, when booking our day's sailing and snorkelling adventure, I had had to put aside my fear of being in the water with deadly jellyfish and sharks, by focussing on the white sandy beaches in the publicity material, the Great Barrier Reef that I would get to see before it whites-out completely and the anticipated pleasures of a gentle breeze in my hair, the sight of an occasional bird and the singing and sighing of the tall ship. I hadn't envisioned dreaming of a hot bath at 8.30 in the morning.

She had a history this girl and I was impressed. Could the moral of my story be that experience counts, I wondered, as I listened to the crew distract us from the elements by recounting The Derwent Hunter's exploits? Lovingly, and expertly, crafted, she had survived mountainous seas, a trip to Antarctica, racing in a tall-ships' Sydney to Hobart, an inglorious period as a television-series prop and, intriguingly, running packages that probably could not have been posted at a regular post office. Her maker had seen 83 years before he began work on her and, would that he be alive, to hear of her 70-odd-year journey and know that she had surmounted each and every challenge that had been put before her. I know that I felt proud of her achievements and I had nothing to do with her conception.

The nearly all-female crew, too, had me beaming. Is it because I am a Mum, is it because I am a teacher or is it just what we should all be delighting in...but for days afterwards, I could not stop talking about the friendly, personable, efficient and knowledgeable way in which they guided us through the day.  

In the middle of the 'show-and-tell' session on our way back to harbour after snorkelling and lunch, the clouds lifted, the sun shone and, when all sails were hoisted, the engine was switched off. Calm, peaceful, warm, blue...until we spotted another tall ship. 

"It is always a race when there are two boats on the water."

I laughed and leant back to enjoy the spectacle, surmising that so often life's lessons come at you in the most unexpected moments. 

PS We are not in France this Australian summer and, as much as I miss Annecy, the snow and rugging up against the cold, this beach life, I have to admit, has been a lot of fun!

If you are a new reader of this blog, and would like to discover how we lived our French family life, here it is - 'But you are in France, Madame' (available in print or e-book).

The sun desperately trying to peek through the clouds. She made it.


  1. Love tall ships! This sounds like a wonderful adventure, rain and all. The one time my family and I went on a tall ship cruise (the Lady Washington - you can look her up), the sky rained buckets on us the first few hours as well, but I thought the trip was sublime. Something about the size of those ships seems just the right scale for humans.

    1. Hi Ellen, it sounds like we had similarly memorable experiences. The size and character are attractive to me; much like our French house - old, quirky, loveable. A very Happy New Year to you.

  2. Merci! et très Bonne Année à vous et vos proches!