In January last year I bumped into E at the top of the road and pretty quickly the subject turned to boats and sailing – a shared passion. I told her I was camping out on boatsales.com.au and that day the boat of my dreams was a classic S&S 36. I wished I was in a position to buy it.
‘Don’t!’ she said. ‘Let’s buy a boat together.’ And just like that the decision was made.
You might ask, ‘why not buy with the geologist?’ But although the geologist was sure he’d like sailing he hankered not for a boat but a motorbike.
E and I began holding boat meetings, and I continued to indulge my passion for reading about long distance cruising, preferably solo, like Tania Aebi’s Maiden Voyage. After all, if there were teenage girls adventurous enough to take on the seven seas with just their autopilot for company, then surely I was capable of sailing the D’Entrecasteaux Channel by myself, if it came to that?
We easily agreed on a small yacht we could sail on the river and in the Channel, one that would be kind to us while teaching us skills.
And then we started looking. We looked at the cheapest of boats and boats that would stretch our budget, small yachts and, because they were there and the tide was out when it came to the boat market, yachts so big they extended our criteria far away from our brief.
We learned about the secret foibles yachts don’t exactly announce to the world and crafted a checklist, and because the more we looked at boats the more a little bit of luxury appealed, the budget we allowed ourselves crept up and up – and then we’d remember ourselves and shackle ourselves more firmly to our criteria.
We looked in Launceston and Hobart and we put in an offer on a lovely Cavalier. We enquired as far afield as Melbourne and Sydney.
Right at the beginning of our search we’d encountered a Catalina 27 swinging on her mooring on the other side of the river. We fell for her immediately and discussed her excitedly over a cup of coffee at The Aproneers. But it was only the third boat we had seen. We decided it was just too soon.
I was in Botswana some months later, when I learned she had come down in price and with nothing new to look at we took along our experienced friends and paid Samos a second visit. A little bit more knowledgeable now, but still with a lot to learn, we liked her just as much the second time around.
The negotiations began. We arranged the survey and bought the boat, acquiring at last that long desired status: Poor Bloody Boat Owners.
We enthusiastically listed and ticked off our tasks. E sailed, I sailed, we sailed together. With the exception of a little bit of coastal cruising, most of my sailing at the time we were searching for Samos, was around the buoys, racing on a beautiful Beneteau with a fabulous crew but the week before we took delivery of our yacht the boat owner, a most gracious, kind and generous friend, died unexpectedly and that era came to an end.
My focus turned solely to boat ownership and cruising, and racing was put to one side.
One weekend, shortly after buying Samos, the geologist and I piled the dogs on board and set sail for Barnes Bay (Bruny Island) on our first cruise. Trimming sails to win began not to matter quite so much. It was a thrill of a different kind to have Samos catch the wind, to sit back and occasionally let Tania the autopilot (but aka Raeline when sailing with a different crew) strut her stuff.
Sometimes it’s enough just to sit back in the cockpit and discover new beaches and sometimes a long reach down the river, the surf flying and the boat heeling is totally exhilarating. We coaxed her to 7.9 knots, then E got her to 8.1. Samos is ready to go racing!
Meanwhile, this week, high above us in the night sky, another Catalina -the icy comet, Catalina – with its dusty split tail is whipping across the heavens, visible near Venus and the crescent moon.