Simple pleasures of sailing

There is something so magical about being on the water sailing. I’ve been sailing since I was a little girl. We used to spend weeks sailing around the Gippsland Lakes on a trailer sailer, and my brother and I had a lovely little red and blue Flying Ant dinghy.  

Later as a teenager, sailboarding took over and I still absolutely love this. It’s so exhilarating when I’m hooked into my harness, the sail catches the wind and the board just flies across the top of the water. You have to be so fully present and ‘in the moment’ - going with the everchanging flow of the waves and the wind.

The yacht was slower and calmer. I remember the wind gently carrying us across lake with just the sound of the waves lapping at the hull, and the occasional flapping of the sail. Slow travel. Low impact. Connected. Every now and then dolphins would come and swim along with us. My brother and I would hang off the bow and watch them.

I loved the music that the wire stays made on the mast during windy evenings and the feeling of being rocked to sleep by the gentle waves.

Late at night when everything was quiet, I could hear the waves from Bass Strait roaring onto shore along the Ninety Mile Beach just over the dunes.  When we went back to Melbourne, I would imagine the sound of the traffic in the distance was actually those waves and I felt better - so much more at peace.

I really want our kids to grow up loving the water and sailing too. Our old dinghy has long gone, but Dad found another from an old friend on the Island so we can teach them how to sail.  The yacht, an 18 ft trailer sailer has been hiding in the shed for about 25 years.  We have talked about getting it back in the water for ages. This summer we are finally getting it ready to be launched again.

Maia is so excited to finally meet our old boat - she is super excited to get it out on the water.

We keep the Mirror dinghy, sailboard and kayaks on the beach, and if the wind is right we sail and paddle each day.

My dad built this trailer sailer in the early 70’s - an Ultimate 18. He bought the wooden hull and the top and put it all together in our carport during evenings and weekends, with the help of my carpenter grandfather. Now we are learning how to rig and restore it. That’s four generations of our family invovled with this boat - passing on knowledge and skills.

Dad and Maia happy to see the boat emerge from decades in the shed. 

For years we towed the trailer sailer down to the Gippsland Lakes behind our old DS Citroen and sailed from beach to inlet to coastal village - mooring wherever looked safe for the evening.  All four of us slept comfortably on it. My bed turned into the kitchen table and the centre plate casing became a seat. There was even a little toilet under the double bed in the bow.

Over the past week, we’ve made it our project to get the boat ready to sail again. Dad cleaned out the accummulated ‘stuff’ from around the boat - furniture, old generator - and has given that away. Evan has been hosing and scrubbing the outside. They polished up the boom and mast. Maia has cleaned up the cushions for inside.

The possums in the shed had certainly mad a bit of a mess!

Today we hooked up the trailer and towed it out into the sunlight. Mum, Maia and I stood and watched. It was such an exciting moment. Our kids had no idea what was under the big black plastic mound in the dark shed.  We all stood back and admired this lovely little yacht with it’s shiny wooden hull, imagining ourselves out sailing on the lake next time we visit.

All scrubbed up and ready to go.

I think we were all relieved that the trailer still held together as it was towed out into daylight.

Inside it’s a bit of a time capsule. My drawing pencils are still in my pocket - I always had activity books on the go. All the orange plastic plates, cups and bowls are still on the shelf. I remember stopping at the old Paynesville bakery to get a fresh loaf of hightop bread, and Mum would make us cheese and vegemite sandwiches served up on these plates. The old kettle is sitting on the kero stove, and the suncreen is in the pocket by the door. 

Tomorrow we start the cleanup inside.

Since we are in boat mode, we’ve been checking out other boats while we’ve been out and about riding our bikes.  It’s amazing - this size of boat was a pretty standard thirty to forty years ago, but now I can imagine it will look quite dwarfed beside the contemporary yachts and cruisers out on the lake - many of them twice it’s size.  It’s more than enough for us though. I can’t wait to the boating adventures start again - and the kids are so excited as well. In the meantime, we are practicing in the little Mirror dinghy. Hugh is becoming quite the skipper and Maia loves looking after the jib.  

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