My secret life with boats

It’s time to come clean. I’ve never really liked boats, ships, yachts, dinghies, canoes, kayaks or any other seafaring vessel. I find this aversion peculiar, as I adore swimming, and the sea, and rivers, and dams – I just don’t like boats. My dislike could be a combination of not growing up with boats, or the immense trust I put in my feet to walk away when things are not good anymore – something that you cannot do when you’re on a boat.

One of my more taxing boating experiences was doing my wifely duty by spending the evening of my 30th birthday at an Armscor corporate function on a pleasure boat on the Hartbeespoortdam. I should add that I was heavily pregnant with son number 2. Due to a lapse in spousal communication I was not dressed correctly – maternity pants and T-shirt, versus all the other women being dressed to the nines in ball gowns. Dear old Anneli van Rooyen was the guest artist and tried her best on a stage that was just too small. The unkindest cut of all was  that to reach the loo (which I had to do frequently, due to my condition), I had to climb over the stage and steal Anneli’s thunder. It was then that I realised: If I wanna walk away, I wanna walk away – not waiting until 12:30 pm for the boat to sail back to shore. Suffice to say that there was quite a lot of making it up to me in the weeks, months and years to follow.

So, we have now lived in Sydney for almost a year and I perceive a little shift in my loathing of boats. Firstly, I love the fact that I can catch a ferry – something that I do almost every day – in the same way that I would catch a bus. I have even found myself taking a ferry just for the hell of it; going to places across the bay that I never intended visiting.

Boats are also a huge point of discussion between Duan and me as we walk from our flat over weekends. Passing the luxury yachts and cabin cruisers moored in the marinas in our neighbourhood, the conversation would go something like this: “Who do you think own these? Have you ever seen any one of them moving? How much should a person earn to be able to afford such a toy? Have I told you the joke about the happiest two days in a boat owner’s life – the day he buys the boat and the day he sells it?” I just nod my head. Yes, I cannot believe that you would want one of these, no, I don’t know what such a boat owner would earn, and yes, I have heard the joke – in fact, I heard it last weekend when we passed this way.

I have even started taking a slight interest in the huge ocean liners waiting for their passengers to board in Sydney Harbour. I see the throngs of excited seafarers walking towards the Overseas Passenger Terminal on their way to board the Royal Caribbean or the Seafaring Princess. They are dressed in what can only be described as resort wear – with a muddle of nautical t-shirts, white slacks, and even the odd navy-blue cap with gold buttons on the peak. Watching them from afar, I wonder if the reality of the cruise will match their pre-cruise excitement.

My parents were quite partial to the odd cruise in their later days. My mom would fondly talk about the handsome grey-haired men with their blazers and slacks who were employed by the cruise liners to dance with the lonely widows choosing the excitement of a cruise to spice up their lives. I was quite horrified: “So these men are there to dance with the old ladies?” “Yes”, my mom would say, “and making them very happy in the process.” “So, wouldn’t it be nice if there were beautiful women, dressed in ball gowns, who would go around making the older men on the ship very happy?” My mom would click her tongue in irritation. “No need to bring this conversation into the gutter!” Well, I was just wondering …

The long and short of this tale is that my time here in Sydney has softened my stance towards boats. I have even caught myself looking at possible cruises on the internet. There is one leaving in October 2017 that will stop in Tahiti and the Easter Islands, while finally docking in Santiago. It does cost the same as the GDP of a small African country, so no going there. But a girl can dream, can’t she?

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