I have two great fears in my life – heights and sailing. For the life of me I cannot look down from any great height (think two foot off the ground or more) without my stomach doing somersaults and the soles of my feet hurting. It has always been thus. The sailing thing is a more recent acquisition although it is founded on travel sickness which has ‘always been thus’ as far back as my memory stretches.
It evolved into fear of sailing once we became boat owners. Some of you may know that we built a sailing boat in our backyard over a period of 20+ years. Once launched, it was imperative that I too partake of the joys of the sea. I partook. And fell victim to the dreaded puking thing.
Not wanting to give up too easily, having berthed the gigantic baby over an extended labour, I tried many times, without any luck, to become friends with her. Here is just one of those times –
It is well known in my family that a sailor I am not. However, I have braved the waters on several occasions. One such time was not long after our yacht, Finnally, had been launched. She was moored at the Small Yacht Club near Port Adelaide. Relatives visiting from interstate were keen to go and see her. Being the gracious host that I am I went along with my family. Husband, two sons, my brother and his wife.
Finnally was moored at the end of a long finger. Between the finger and the yacht was a three metre stretch of water. Not a long stretch admittedly. But to me it looked impossibly wide. It might as well have been a trip to the other side of the ocean . To get on board one had to navigate the way across in a tender. A very small aluminium rowboat. That held three generous sized adults. Which most of us were. Discussion about this Very Serious Matter was had quietly at home with the husband. He assured me it was a cinch. I would be fine. There would be lots of hands to help me. I was not entirely convinced. It still worried me but I agreed to go. I must have managed to negotiate the chasm without too much hassle as I have no recall of the crossing over. Not even the climb up the side ladder to the deck. I was decidedly nervous about hanging onto a few strips of aluminium. My life depended on it being able to carry my weight. Not just that either. It was attached to the side of a vessel that was anchored in water. Water that moved constantly. The movement of every breath was magnified a millionfold like the proverbial flapping of butterfly wings. Which, on good authority, are responsible for catastrophic storms on the other side of the world. I could fall. And drown. Die! That had been another Point of Concern I raised.
We had a leisurely visit on board. It was a beautiful sunny spring day. The bright blue sky was clear of clouds. A light ocean breeze lightly caressed the skin. The smell and taste of the ocean soothed the soul. In the distance sea gulls lazily rode the air currents with nary a flutter of wings, their raucous calls breaking the silence. Dolphins could be seen swimming around the boats hunting for tasty snacks of fresh fish. It was idyllic. The picnic lunch spread was even more tasty in these suorroundings on board Finnally.
Inevitably the time came to return home. I had been dreading this moment. Playing out the steps in my mind, psyching myself up. There was no other way to cross. Except perhaps swim. That, I knew, was not a viable option. My brother and his wife were the first to be taken back. It went without a hitch. My husband returned with the tender. Climbed on board. He instructed my two primary school age sons to cross over with me. I again Raised Concerns. And again was convinced all would be fine.
Flashes of my trip back to dry land is vividly etched in my memory. The boys climbed down into the tender first. Nimble as monkeys. Then it was my turn. Encouragement rang out from all quarters each tentative step down the ladder. At this point it is important to remember that the boat is still floating on water. Water is, as mentioned afore, very responsive to movement. Of any kind. Big or small. I could feel her swaying in synchrony with every move I made. It was not a comforting feeling. My knuckles were white as I clenched the sides of the ladder with a grip of iron. Eventually I reached the last rung of the ladder. The next step was down into the teeny tiny little tender being held in place by my two very young sons. Babies really. What on earth had he been thinking to give them such a job?! My life was in the hands of CHILDREN!! Mine admittedly. But children nevertheless. With words of advice ringing from above, below and across the waters. I had no choice but to take the plunge down into the minute moving target beneath me. Holding my breath, I stepped out into space.
I do not have a clear memory of exactly what happened next. I am told by those who witnessed The Event that I had stepped into the side of the tender instead of the middle. Teeny tiny little tenders floating on water are even more responsive to movement than fifty two foot ferro-cement yachts. I know this now. The moment I stepped into the tender it lurched heavily to the side. I recall someone yelling at me to get into the middle. At this point I was not capable of balancing myself let alone actually moving aboard a precariously rocking boat. My life and that of my children was at risk! The next thing I recall is my body turning into a giant V. I was wedged between the two seats on my back like a stranded whale with my feet sticking up in the air. Meanwhile my oldest son was frantically instructing his younger brother to quickly go to the other end of the tender and “weigh as heavy as you can”. Somehow it seems I managed to get myself up onto the seat without overturning the tender. The breach to land was navigated by my children. My brother and his wife held out hands to help me step onto terrafirma. Except it was NOT. With relief I had stepped out of the boat only to fall very heavily onto my knees. (The feeling was not dis-similar to that of falling in an airpocket aboard the Flight from Hell. ) Marina fingers too float on water. I know this now. It hurt. A lot. My knees were heavily bruised for days. As were various other parts of my anatomy.
Not long after this trauma adjustments were made. Finnally was moved as close to the finger as possible and a set of sturdy wooden stairs built for boarding. I might add here that when revisiting the memories of this Near Death Experience my palms sweat, my mouth goes dry as dust, my breath is fast and shallow, my heart palpitates. I have diagnosed it as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – cause: tender bender.
As you can see from this photo the stretch of water between the end of the finger and Finnally (the big boat in the middle) is HUGE !!
© Raili Tanska
Written in response to Lady Calen’s Exercise 17