I don’t consider myself particularly soppy. I spent 15 years as a Sister in an Emergency Department, a role not known for its touchy-feely characteristics. In fact its main requirements are a heart of steel and a strong bladder. However, I seem to spend most of the past weekend misty-eyed and trying to stop my chin trembling. And the reason for this emotional state? A visit to an abandoned dog’s home? An excessive amount of fluffy cat pictures on Facebook? No, I attended the Women Who Sail Australia Inaugural Gathering on the Bay in Port Stephens.
I realise that this isn’t the sort of the thing that you would expect to have you reaching for the hankies but it started almost with the first lecture. Jill Henry spoke about her 46 years of sailing the world with her husband and family travelling to places I still only dream of. This was followed by Kristy Foster who broke her back not once but twice and ended up in a wheelchair for 15 years before discovering Sailing with Disabilities. She now has her own boat and works with SWD to help give others the chance she had.
The next few lectures on diesel engine maintenance and anchoring gave me respite to get my emotions in control (even I couldn’t get too upset with chain-to-rode ratios) but Barbara Cole’s Cruising the Pacific and Alaska and Linda Frylink Anderson on what to take cruising had me choked up again while I looked at their amazing photos. What had I been doing all these years?? Working, living another sort of life where I didn’t know people did this sort of thing.
The first lecture the following morning was by Ruth Boydell and was titled ‘All at sea with technology’. You’d think that would be pretty dry stuff, useful but not likely to get your eyes watering. But no. The first photo she put up on the screen was of her as a gorgeous, long-legged, 17 year old heading off to Port Moresby on a, to be frank, heap of old s***e, for the first of many adventures. I didn’t envy the boat but I did envy the 17 year old girl. By the time I listened to Lisa Blair talk about her achievements in the Ocean Clipper race and her plans to solo sail around Antarctica, I was a mess. If you add the presence of Jessica Watson, the youngest person ever to solo circumnavigate the world at the dinner on the Saturday evening, you can perhaps understand my emotional state.
It took me until I was 56 years old before I began sailing and started to have a few ‘adventures’ of my own. I wasn’t in that sort of world when I was young. You can’t turn back the clock but it would have been amazing if I had met just one of the women that attended last weekend when I was a 17 year old. What might I have done?
So thank you girls for all for your stories. You have inspired me and encouraged me to go out and do more. And if there are any 17 year olds out there reading this that want to do something amazing, let me know. I know some people that can help.