Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A-Z # 25 (Y)

Y is for YACHT (n. a vessel used for private cruising)
Y is for YACHTING (n. the practice or sport of sailing or voyaging in a yacht)

Until I was 15 I had had nothing at all to do with yachts or yachting but that was all to change.  My first introduction to sailing came just after my 15th birthday.  I was once again on Christmas holidays with my parents in Mandurah, staying at Mandurah House overlooking the estuary.

The ANA Yacht Club of Perth had come up with the idea that Mandurah may be a suitable venue to hold an annual Easter sailing regatta.  One of their members, Gary Arnold, owned a yacht (Columbine) and  and was asked by the yacht club to go to Mandurah to test the waters, so to speak.  Gary and his parents were also staying at Mandurah House so of course we met up with them.  Gary had his two crew members (John Webster and Ron Felton) staying there too and we enjoyed watching them sail from the upstairs verandah of the guest house.

Gary eventually asked me if I would like to go for a sail but I must admit I was terrified at the thought.  I was a good swimmer so no problems there but it was something new and being a rather shy person I said "No thank you."  Mum cunningly said she would be pleased to go out in the boat which of course made me think "If mum isn't scared then why should I be?"  I very cautiously got into the boat and off we sailed.   It was fantastic....I loved it and wanted to sail all day.  I had a friend Shirley Cooksley staying with us and she and I really enjoyed going out in the boat with the boys and I have some fantastic black and white photos of all of us.  Incidentally Gary's boat was a sharpie; 19'6" in length which when racing has a crew of 3 although you could fit quite a few more on board in good weather.

I eventually went out with Gary occasionally.  We lived many miles apart as at that time I lived in Swanbourne and he in Mount Lawley and as young people couldn't afford cars back then (he was about 17 at the time and an apprentice) we mostly spoke on the telephone but did go to the pictures from time to time and of course out yachting right through the summer months.  He used to race on Saturdays and we would sail every Sunday.

Gary became a wee bit too serious for someone of 15 so I stopped seeing him but he would come to our home and just visit and chat with mum even if I was out.  He eventually talked me into seeing him again (by this time we were living in North Perth only about a mile from his home) and we had another season of yachting weekends plus other outings.  It was when Gary and I would go window shopping in Perth (as young couples did in those days as we couldn't always afford to go to the pictures etc.,) that I realised he was once again becoming too serious. He would talk about the type of furniture we would have in our home etc., and much as I was fond of him I was just to young to even consider such a serious relationship so had to bid him a fond farewell.

It was the following summer that I realised I was going to miss sailing so I bought myself a small yacht.  It was a 12ft VJ which had a crew of two...the skipper and a sheet hand....and was real fun to sail.  We took it down to Mandurah in the Easter of 1949 when the Sharpie regatta was on and one day they cancelled their event as they considered the wind was too strong.  John Webster's brother Peter was staying at the boarding house so we decided to be daring and take my little boat out for a sail.  I think we capsized about 10 times but with such a small yacht we just had to stand on the centre plate, right the boat and off we would sail again.  It was fun and quite a crowd gathered on the foreshore to watch these two idiots out there in a howling gale.  I guess we showed off just a wee bit.

When I bought my boat it had an M on the sail and I couldn't really think of a suitable name for it so  when people asked me what the M stood for I would say "MINE.'  Well anyway I thought that quite appropriate and it seemed to amuse most people.  I never bothered with a spinnaker but just used the mainsail and gib as I never raced it.  It was just for fun and I remember it with such fondness.

I kept the boat for a couple of years and then other things took my interest so I sold it.  I missed the fun of it and only ever once went sailing again.  Our local butcher owned a cruiser which he sailed and one week he asked me if I would sail with them the following weekend as it was going to be very blowy.  I wasn't too sure about being used as ballast but went and had a wonderful afternoon.  At that time in my life I was of normal weight so wasn't offended by being asked to make up the weight on board.

I hope I haven't been too boring talking about my love of yachting but as I've written this I have relived several wonderful summers in my teenage years.  I have always enjoyed watching sailing events and remember staying up nearly all night in 1983 when Australia won the America's Cup with John Bertrand at the helm.  We got about two hours sleep before setting off for work the following morning

This is not a picture of my boat as I am not clever enough to take the little picture I have and put it in my computer and then on here.  I must find someone who can show me how to do that, I really must.  Perhaps it can be done using my 3-in-one printer? I have so little technical prowess.  This VJ was owned by Howard Ash and here he is sailing it in Sydney's Middle Harbour in 1934.  Pictures courtesy of vaucluse junior/wordpress/history.


  1. Port Pirie had a sailing club and as a teen I spent many hours sitting on the wharf watching the kids who were fortunate to belong sailing around on the water. I remember being so very jealous.

  2. We weren't very well off River but I had a good office job and was able to save for my little VJ. I was never very good at team sports where you had to run (bad ankles) so yachting was one thing I could do and I guess that is why I enjoyed it so much. I used to envy those out in the big boats and yet I think the small boats were perhaps more fun.