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diary of a sailing widow


diary of a sailing widow

Anarchist ‘Sailoress’ and her better half, Anarchist ‘Mexican’ are perhaps our favorite sailing couple.  They’re both brilliant and talented, and the pretty one sent in this story fresh off her husband’s Sydney-Hobart division win and fifth overall (IRC) aboard the Beneteau 45 Victoire.  It’s a fun look at the Hobart from a different perspective.  Enjoy!

Day 1 – The Send Off

The first injury of the Sydney to Hobart was not broken ribs or sea-sickness, but a middle-aged woman getting jostled by the crowd, tripping over a dock cleat at the CYCA and coming up with a nasty bloody nose. I’ve spent my fair share of time at the club over the years and am used to it full of yachties and wannabes, but this was on another level.

I spent a good half-an-hour with brolly in hand, standing on the dock with the other widows while the boys sheltered under their boom tent. "You know you can’t sail with that on!" was called out more than once by passers-by. For a bunch of sailors about to head offshore and get drenched, they sure do like to complain about the rain.

We did our kisses and goodbyes before they left the dock. A friend once told me that goodbyes are like punctuation in life. I’m hoping this one is a comma.

We didn’t see them push off at the dock as we three widows and two orphans had spots on a motor cruiser to watch the start. I hate stink boats as much as the next sailor – until I step onto one. This one was seriously glamour. Brand new, 60 foot and I had a glass of Moet put into my hand before 11 am. The owner had sensibly hired a skipper for the day, who expertly took us out through the heads, chasing the fleet. We spotted "our" boat and before I knew it we had done a large circuit and then crossed about 100 metres in front of them doing 25 knots and kicking up a shocking bow wave. I swear I could hear the tactician swearing over the roar of the cruiser’s engine. I hope they didn’t realise it was us.

In the course of the day I broke one of my thongs, had forgotten my sunnies and the battery on the camera died before we got even near the start line. But if that’s all that is that breaks, gets left at home or malfunctions for our little family over the next few days, I’m happy.  

Day 2 – Yacht Tracker and Chick Flicks

The CYCA is missing out on some serious revenue by not selling advertising space on the yacht tracker page. They can be pretty sure of the core demographic of middle class women aged 30 – 55 and we’re as captive an audience as you get.  I am an expert at the interface having spent hours if not days on there over the past four years. But this is the first time that Tasmania has been on screen and it’s then that it hit home where he was actually going.

The majority of the day was spent on the sofa with the dog, a little dusty from the girls’ night out the night before, watching boat after boat pull out of the race and trying to remember back to High School probability charts and whether this means it’s more or less likely they’d make it to Hobart. ABC News 24 on in the background, laptop an arms reach away dressed in my usual sailing widow attire of tracksuit and, thanks to the southerly they were beating through, Ugg boots.

I resisted the temptation to check Twitter for news during the chick flick I went to see with girlfriends in the evening, but was checking in the previews and the second the credits rolled. Another couple of boats had pulled out in the time it took for boy to meet girl, boy to lose girl and boy to get girl back again.

Home to check in one more time on Yacht Tracker and listen via live streaming to the radio sked, which is enough to put any slightly apprehensive sailing widow to sleep. Not exactly a lively exchange.

Day 3 – Now where did I leave my bumbag?*

Woke up, rolled over and took laptop off the floor. Hit yacht tracker. Then SA. Then Twitter. Then ABC News. Then Yacht Tracker again. Established that they are still going, have moved into Bass straight and that there’s no need for me to change or, heaven forbid, cancel my flight to Hobart tomorrow. I’m doing the delivery of the boat to Melbourne so today’s distraction is around organising my offshore bits and pieces. A friend has had the suggestion of buying biodegradable bin liners for the delivery – pop them in the loo (which has been disconnected, sit down, poo, tie them up and throw overboard. Genius!

Day 4 – Hobart here I come!

So here I am, in Salamanca Place getting increasingly caffeinated and excited. Husband’s boat has been winning on handicap consistently overnight, and I’m making a big mental note that next time he’s NOT in an ocean race he needs to give me a tutorial on how to read the standings. The boat coming second on IRC is about to finish. How slow do they need to go to allow Husband’s boat to win? By the end of the day, thanks to meeting up with some other widows, I had half worked it out.

I started my own watch system having short naps, waking up panicking from dreams that the boat had pulled up at the dock and I’d missed it. In between I ate seafood, polishing off a dozen oysters and a glass of Tasmanian Riesling for morning tea. I was also in training for the embedding drinking session that was about to start.

Day 5 – Arrival

Come 4 am we headed to the end of the dock, took some photos of the wrong boat before I realised it wasn’t them. Finally, there they were, appearing in the pre-dawn light. They then decided to flake every sail and for all we knew clean the boat from top to bottom as we waited an HOUR for them to finally make their way in. Sensible from a boat/crew perspective, but not so much fun for us. When they did get in, we were far colder than they.

Before I knew it, we were holed up at the crew apartment, rum in hand and the debrief underway. Most stories were poo or wee related, though some of course revolved around food. Some even had something to do with the race.  By the end of the day at Customs House Bar those same stories were getting repeated, slightly more elaborately than they had been at 9am. I’m looking forward to next time and hearing them all again, matured and seasoned into fully blown Hobart anecdotes.

Bumbags are an offshore essential. EPIRB, hair bands, torch, blistex and ipod all fit neatly inside and then it can be grabbed in a hurry if need be. It also stylishly completes a Hobart New Year’s Eve outfit.