Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Invoking Coleridge in Paradise

It was getting to the stage where we were fighting over the last drops of water. Shark was attempting to catch a fish, seeing as our supplies of food were running perilously low. I searched around for a slaughtered Albatrosses to hang around my neck.

It all began well. Glass off harbour. A mission. A bottle of water and a tasty picnic lunch. A great little motor. "This is a great little motor. Nothing ever goes wrong with this motor," I told Shark knowledgeably. "Even though Old Salt calls all Mercurys 'black anchors' ". (Classic red herring there folks, don't pay any attention to that. Just look at the weather.)

The plan: spend some time aboard the wrecked whale chaser, an excellent opportunity for Shark to shutter some of his photographic wizardry and for the rest of us to behave like shipwrecked heathens for a few hours, then pop out the channel and across the Sound to frolic in the azure waters at Mistaken Island, lie on a warm rock in the sun and use that quiet moment of sun-soaked salt to make some sense of our individual journeys through life. Then putter back around the corner to Fisheries for a splendid picnic of crackers, cheese and avocado with lashings of Eggplant Kasundi.

We motored out to the Cheynes II, skimming across an impossibly blue briny, all set for a boy's and girl's own adventure aboard the old whale chaser, Sonny, Shark, Catherine the Great Artist (CGA) and me.

Till noon we quietly sailed on,
Yet never a breeze did breathe:
Slowly and smoothly went the ship,
Moved onward from beneath.

I wanted to show them the whale chaser's cabin that some of my clan had actually lived in, before the ship was towed away in disgrace and deposited upon a sandbar. Now the jarrah and velvet four poster bed is covered with pigeon poo. That new feathered clan have claimed the ship for their own, bursting out of the wet, metal caverns as you enter, like the bats in Darwin's street trees.

Exploding pigeons can be unnerving but it was such a beautiful day, it didn't faze us. Other boating types just couldn't help themselves but butt in. They hovered around the Cheynes II in pleasure crafted blowflies, trying to make it look like they were angling. "Piss off," I muttered uncharitably. "This is our cubby."

The first plan went awry when my skull managed to break Shark's camera's fall from a great height. No actually, my skull just broke his camera. Disemboweled it, so to speak. At about this point: See Below.

The second part of the plan, at Mistaken Island, was a great success, the bit where we got to lie in the sun and work out our lives, for Shark anyway. CGA and I indulged in shallow gossip and frittered away any chance of transcendental, existential or ordinary mental advancement. Sonny fossicked and swam, as he always manages to do for hours at any beach. Shark got it all sorted in his mind - until called into the office a few days later by the smiling assassin himself, wearing that 'we need a little chat' kind of demeanor.

I didn't tell anyone about the shark I saw ambling through the channel, days before. It was only little.

We headed off, feeling the salt dry on our warmed skin and the wind gently caress our hair. Cohen once said to Lou Reed, "You know, all the good work comes when lacking a caress." Like that Nouveau-Joycian genius ladies' man would know bloody anything. He does have a point about the erupting creative emissions of the sexually pent up artist - but why does it have to come from the man who is still sexy at 72 and not Woody Allen? I mean - wouldn't Leonard Cohen be getting caressed all the time, by Suzanne and Joni and Adjani. It's just annoying ... Sorry, where was I?

"All the men shall be sailors then, until the sea shall free them."
Perhaps it was my fault for singing Cohen out loud, at sea. But I'd prefer to blame Shark, because he brought a banana on board and any Salt, old or otherwise knows that this faux pass can mean the end of a sailor - an end almost as dramatic as that brought on by lighting your cigarette from a candle. The missing premise in this argument is that I have form for both these crimes and nothing ever happens.

The motor began to sputter. This usually creases the brow of any pilot or sea-going creature but when this fishergirl has just got her skippers ticket and this is her maiden voyage without the benevolent tutelage of Old Salt and she is also a Warrior Princess who suddenly realises she doesn't know what the fuck she's doing and then the wind freshens up onshore and the motor chucks a right tanty and gives up altogether ... it gets bothersome beyond a simple frown.

"You should never have said that nice thing about the motor," Shark told me.
"Just fix it, Shark. You like fixing things. Can you fix it, please?"
"Sounds like fuel's not getting to the motor."
"Pump it then! Pump."
So Shark pumped the fuel line and she started again, only to flag and fail a few minutes later.

We limped this way around to Fisheries, weighed anchor out of the wind and had a little think.
"I can row," said CGA. "I love rowing."
I bet she could too, she's a strong girl ... with a proper set of oars. Every time I step on one of the oar paddles whilst hauling out nets, they split. Now the paddles are much less voluptuous and a more anorexic, toothpick style.
"Maybe we can ring Old Salt."
"I don't want to ring Old Salt." I told everyone firmly. "So ... um, let's have some lunch."
"When are we going home? Can I have a drink?"
"Now we are marooned and we have a whingeing kid!"
"How much water is left?"
"There's squid jigs! I'm gonna catch some squid."
"That a sensible idea. After all, we only have two plastic shopping bags of victuals. And we may be marooned, like forever."

In the end, the trusty tinny wouldn't start at all. Shark pulled the motor hatch open, fiddled with a few things, and put it back. I started pulling up the fuel line from the tank to the motor but it was so loaded over with net that I gave up. We checked everything I could think of.
I was convinced that the adjectival crud Old Salt had been finding at the bottom of the fuel tank lately had finally migrated to the carby. Everything else was fine.
"I really don't want to ring Old Salt." It was a serious matter of pride, after all and such things as pride are worth nurturing in the most desperate of times.

Ah! well-a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!

Instead of the cross, the Albatross

About my neck was hung.

To make it more interesting, another commercial fishing boat played out net adjacent to our sorry situation, (fishermen are worse than those op shop ladies for gossip) and the pleasure craft I'd had so much fun telling to piss off recently floated nearby too - laughing, fishing and drinking beer.
We weighed everything up. We could limp home, (possible), but with the wind coming up we could also end up being barnacle fodder at Point King. Lighthouses would not save us today.
I had to ring him, dammit.

Mobile phones. Where would we be without them. That's a comment on the state of the us, not a rhetorical question. The other day I caught up with one of my besties who returns to the Homeland over Christmas. We spent the usual couple of hours trying to catch on the last two years and my phone rang the whole fucking time with inane, bullshit calls. I would have turned it off, if only I could have found it in the bottom of my handbag.

So we lay around, getting sunburnt and fishing for squid, our bellies full of Eggplant Kasundi and crackers. You can tell from the photos, we were having a terrible time.

And then! On the horizon! A Quintrex with the rooster tail wake of a boat on a mission! Saved!

Oh! dream of joy!
Is this indeed
The lighthouse top I see?
Is this the hill? Is this the kirk?

Is this mine own countree?

Long after the carby was pulled apart and put back together, it was found that the collar of the oars - under the pile of nets that we stood on, or lay on, or ate upon - pinched off the fuel line. So simple. So fixable. Of couse I thought that all along. Mmm. When you get two air signs and two water signs in one little tinny, there's sure to be a few bubbles in the brine.


  1. Most of these photos were taken by Catherine the Great Artist, except 'our cubby' (Shark) and 'saved' (Me!)

  2. I have been waiting to hear this tale - thank you!

  3. truly is paradise....

    such adventures!

    thanks for the visit.

    be well.

  4. One of life's lessons: never travel anywhere without a jar of Eggplant Kasundi.

  5. Yes, yes, but what IS Eggplant Kasundi?

  6. Oh it's the best Foxy, like brinjal pickle, a kind of Indian eggplant curry chutney.

  7. Hello Sarah,
    What a brilliant writer you are. Albany is such a nice place you are very lucky. PS long time no see keep up the good work..