Many things have happened in the month since I last posted, including the calling of the election, the launch of K-Rudd’s incisive forefinger, millions spent on confusing new ad campaigns and scare tactics aplenty. The country is in uproar! I love a good election campaign.
But even more important things than that have been happening: I have climbed above the futtocks and lived to tell the tale. Lubbers – let me explain.
People who know me realise that I’d rather die than exaggerate a point. But my first day aboard the Enterprize shall now be known as THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE. I overcame all my fears in one day, went aloft no less than three times and furled the sails. While wobbling on a rope along a yard, pyrate-style.
But not everyone who knows me realises that I’m scared of heights. Like bile-in-the-mouth, head-between-the-knees scared. You know those kids who tremble at the sight of a 2-metre diving board? Co-ordinated enough to fly under the radar at school but unco enough to look kind of funny when they run? I am still that kid.
Anyhoo. So when I was bustling eagerly around the Enterprize on my first day, Brasso in hand, the Master asked if I want to go aloft. I presumed he just wanted to let me monkey about 2 metres above the deck, but nay. With Jack, the First Mate at my side, we clipped our harnesses onto the ropes and cautiously ascended the rigging up until the first boom-thingy, or course yard. We were well out in the bay by this time, and the boat was pitching and leaning like mad, as well as the rigging, which gets narrower and scarier the more you climb.
With trembling limbs I ascended, freaked out, descended and flopped onto the deck with great pride. Then the Master came up and said, “pretty good. Up you go again.” Then strode off. I thought he was joking, but Jack said “you gotta go, quick!” Because what the Master says must be done.
So I shinnied up again, this time on my own! I touched the course yard and wobbled back down again, to general acclaim. I thought that my bravery was all used up, but again, I was told to go right up to the top. The third time, we climbed up to actually stand on the course yard. Then reach out into the abyss onto these sticking-out bits of wood called the futtocks (pictured – they’re the square thingy, but on the Enterprize there’s no lovely platform to stand on, just thin air). They have two ratlines underneath it that you have to step onto, swing out with your whole weight on your arms, then scramble up like a lunatic until you reach a higher handhold.
I stood there for ages, reminding myself to concentrate only on what was in front of me. I then chanced a peek down to the anxious faces 7000km below and started gasping and wheezing like faulty plumbing, with the earth spinning around under my feet. I think I stood there for ages, with my hands balled into little fists. Then leapt up into nothingness!! And kept going up until the topmost yard!
At this time my entire body was exhausted, and I couldn’t move. I clung to the ropes, gazing out at Williamstown and wondering what on earth I was doing. And picturing embarrassing scenes of assorted cherry pickers, cranes and hoists being required to get me down again. Meanwhile, Jack had come up again on the other side of the boat, all spry, and said, “right! Let’s get this sail gasketed!”
Oh, so I actually had to do something! We had to inch out along each sail, standing on a rope (I did the splits; nothing could have made me unhook a toe from the main rigging) and pull in this massive topsail. By bending over the yard. And wrapping it up, like a prezzie, as far as it would go. Using the non-existent strength in my arms.
Oh yes, I did that too.
Apparently they are looking for more people to go aloft, and I think I may do it! I’d like to be one of those lean, dashing rockclimber-types you see with a far-away look and bad shorts. I’m now in training to build up the strength in my arms, and be certified to go aloft whenever the mood takes me.
Last week I did the same tasks with Allen, an even gruffer sea-dog than Jack. And would you believe that I shinnied up those futtocks like they weren’t even there. Once I’d swung out into space and scrabbled for the upper handhold, the buggers had taken the first one away. And do you think I was bothered? I just kept hoisting my bulk aloft by holding onto either side of the rigging, crying ‘tally ho!’
Then got tangled up in some other lines above, but I think you get the idea.
Apart from my innumerable acts of derring-do, there’s actually some sailing to be done on the Enterprize. It’s devoted mostly to school groups and excursions, as well as booze cruises, corporate shenanigans and weddings. In a few weeks we’ll be scattering some ashes. We saw a seal in the bay, floating on its back and waving its flippers in the air.
The students are particularly hilarious. Last Friday a ferry sped up to us, with its decks lined with merry schoolies. They were jeering and shaking their fists at our lumbering craft. They were actually shaking their fists! Who does that? But all the Steiner school kids on board raced to one end of the Enterprize, shouting, beating their chests and crying ‘Bring it! Bring it, yo’!!!’ When the schoolies came around the other side again, a mighty heckling sound rolled in, and the Steiner kids did the same thing.
The whole thing is really very pleasing.