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Talk Under Water
By Kathryn Lomer
University of Queensland PressCopyright © 2015 Kathryn Lomer
All rights reserved.
It's the freakiest thing.
When Jessica Watson set out to sail solo around the world, Mum and I followed her blog, like half of Australia I reckon. Everyone had an opinion about whether Jessica should be allowed to go, but her belief in herself never faltered. Mum was in favour. You only get one life, she used to say. Often. Just recently I finished reading Jessica's book, True Spirit, so today I grab my laptop and get online, onto her Facebook site, to let her know how much I enjoyed it. I'm not a big Facebook fan, but I'll make an exception for her. She's a celebrity now, but still seems pretty down to earth. And she's still sailing. Looks like there's going to be a movie based on True Spirit! As I check out some of the comments people have left, I notice a recent one from a girl called Summer Rainbird, who lives in Kettering! Her Facebook photo is not of her but of a small wombat, and her comment begins like this:
Summer Rainbird Hi Jessica! I'm 16 and, like you, I used to live in Queensland. But I'm living in Kettering, on south-east coast of Tasmania
I click on Read more.
for a bit over a year. There are hundreds of yachts in the marina here. Hundreds! Big yachts, small yachts and everything in between. Mostly they stay in the marina, which seems like an incredible waste. On the weekends, some of the yachts head off across the channel to Bruny Island, which is one of the most beautiful islands you'll ever see. I've never even been on a yacht! But thanks to you I have a dream of one day sailing on one, maybe not round the world like you did, but perhaps round Bruny Island. That would do me. I'm reading True Spirit and loving it. You're awesome, Jessica. Thanks for the inspiration.
A pang of homesickness hits me as I imagine the sun on the channel and sailing across to Bruny with Dad the way we used to. It's a year and a half since we left home and it feels like too long.
I leave my own comment on Jessica's Facebook page.
Will Lane You have another fan from Kettering, Jessica! I used to live there. Maybe you'll sail down that way one day. As a previous comment says, it's worth it. I've just finished reading True Spirit. It was cool to relive the whole journey.
Then I click on the wombat. Summer's Facebook page must have strict privacy settings as I'm not able to see other posts. I wouldn't normally friend random girls I don't know, but she lives in Kettering and suddenly I'd give anything to talk to someone from home. I hit Add Friend. And now I'm waiting to see if she'll friend me. She'll see my post on Jessica's page. I'm hoping that's enough to persuade her.
The next day when I check, nothing.
The next day, nothing again.
Three days later and Facebook Messenger has a personal message for me. Please, let it be Summer.
Hi Will Lane,
I saw your comment on Jessica's Facebook page today and realised it was you who sent the friend request. So you used to live in Kettering. Cool. Don't you just love Jessica Watson to bits! You've read True Spirit! I'm reading it now. It's awesome. Jessica is awesome. Your Facebook picture is of a yacht. Guess that means you sail, right? And where do you live now? There wasn't much about that on your Facebook page. Mainly about doing parkour! Hey, here's my email address. email@example.com I prefer email – it's more private. I normally only use Facebook for things like following Jessica's career.
i still cant believe you live in kettering. thats just freaky. its a great place to live. we still have our house there. i wonder if you know it. its just past the jetty where the ferry leaves for bruny. its painted green or used to be when we were living there up until april last year. my uncle has been living there for 12 months but its empty now. where do you live? im living in eden at the moment. thats in nsw. and living on that yacht in my facebook picture.
I know your house! Yes, green and there's a big shed or studio or something up the back of the yard. What a cool place to live. You must be able to see the ferry coming and going all the time from the windows. Sometimes I take it over to Bruny and back just for the fun. Just to be on the water. Yesterday I did that and there was this amazing sea fog. It was sort of spooky and wonderful at the same time, being in middle of fog and everything else disappearing, all the land at the sides of the channel. I was standing up on the top deck by myself. No cars. No other people. If it hadn't been for the fact that I could feel the thrumming of the engines through the deck I might have been on a galleon. Definitely spooky. You must miss living here.
Do you really live in a place called Eden? Is there a garden? Is it beautiful? Do you eat apples? And you live on a yacht! That is super cool. Do you go sailing all the time, too?
We live in a house up the back of the hill, up behind the shop, so it overlooks the whole bay and the marina. They added a new section to the marina last year and you wouldn't believe how many boats there are. I wonder if anyone lives on any of them.
i used to do that – take the ferry over to bruny just for fun. sometimes i took my fishing rod and fished from the jetty on the other side. sometimes i took my bike and rode out along the road towards the big cherry farm. you know where i mean? once all the cars off the ferry had gone id have the road to myself. hard going up the hill, but great fun coming down. wheeeeeee! i just thought of something. maybe you know my best friend cully? do you? hes been my friend since prep class and even though i dont live there these days he emails me from time to time. or sends a facebook message. probably when hes bored in a school class! hes my link with home. and i guess hes still my best mate really. you must go to school with him down at woodbridge where i used to go. hes 16 too so youd be in the same class. let me know wont you? btw cully only lives in kettering part of the time, when hes with his mum. most of the time he lives with his dad closer to the school.
ps is the ferry still free if you walk on or only have a bike?
pps eden is ok but maybe not all its cracked up to be.
First of all, yes, the ferry is still free but they charge for bikes now. Must be one of the last best rides you can do free. I even went over with my little sister Hannah on the replacement ferry in the winter, when the Mirambeena was up on the slip for repairs and they didn't charge me anything. They were a nice crew, too. One guy had sailed yachts all over the place for other people, in all parts of world, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, you name it, he was there. Maybe you'll do that sort of stuff one day. You said you live on a yacht now. How come? I'd really love to sail some day. I'm surrounded by yachts and I've never been on one. It's on my To Do list!
Sorry, I don't know Cully. I don't actually go to school. I'm homeschooled by my mum. Which is cool because it means I get to do the things I like to do, like grow a vegie garden, but it's lonely in other ways.
youre homeschooled. really? dad homeschooled me last year when we were first away on the boat sailing up the coast. up and down and round about really. but his heart wasnt in it after a while so we came into eden and now i go to the high school here. he taught me almost everything you need to know on a boat in that time though. even proper celestial navigation in case the gps breaks down. that was pretty much my maths lessons. and he showed me how to take the engine apart and put it back together again and how to do the maintenance on the hull although id always helped him back in kettering. now i go to the local high school which is totally boring. i miss living in kettering. and i especially miss cully. we used to do everything together. we were like this (imagine my index and middle finger tight together!) how come we live on a boat? its a long story. maybe i'll tell you some day.
Living on a boat sounds like adventure to me. It's good that you learnt all those sailing skills. You are probably just like Jessica Watson with all that knowledge and could sail around the world too! Is that something you'd like to do?
the truth is what id really like to do is move back home. get on with my life. not very adventurous is it?
Guess what? I got my little sister Hannah to ask around at school about Cully. She's only eight and in Grade 3 but Woodbridge is still a district school so everyone are in together. My other sister Violet goes to college in Hobart. She's in Grade 12. But I couldn't ask her even if she is still at school locally. She'd just roll her eyes at me and say, What did your last slave die of? Overwork? Hannah found out who Cully is and said she checked him out. He was playing basketball with some other kids. She said he was all lanky and uncoordinated, like someone had put wrong parts together. Does that sound right?
lanky? no that doesnt sound like cully at all. hes small and compact and was always a good soccer player. we played soccer together from about grade 2. and he plays cricket too. maybe she was looking at the wrong guy. but then i havent seen him for a year and a half. hey do you want to skype some time? we could talk instead of email. thatd be cool dont you think?
how come your sisters go to school and you dont?
My mum won't let me use Skype with someone I haven't actually met in person. Sorry she's really strict about some online stuff. It would be cool but it isn't going to happen. Do you have a mobile phone? We could text.
Hannah and Violet do well at school. I never did. Just the way it is I guess.
dont worry about skype. happy to email. i feel sort of connected to the place again through you. im attaching a photo of me on the boat so you know im really me and all that. i dont blame your mum though. of course you still wont know its me in the photo and that im not some weirdo but you could always take the photo down to the shop and have it checked by mrs maloney – assuming shes still got the shop. everyone around there knows me. do you like living there? what does your mum do? you know a lot about my life but i dont know much about yours. can you send a picture too?
ps dont have a mobile. didnt have any use for one when we were sailing last year. but dads promised me one for christmas.CHAPTER 2
On Saturday morning I open up my laptop to see if there's an email from Summer. There is! I look over at Dad on the bunk in the main cabin. He looks all slumped in on himself, snoring softly. I didn't hear him get back to the boat but it was probably late – as usual on a Friday night, or rather a Saturday morning. Suddenly, this life we're living seems impossible. We can't keep doing this over and over. Can we?
On impulse, instead of opening Summer's email, I get onto a jobs network for Hobart and scroll through the science jobs. Then there's this image. A bird with spread wings. I know it's a seabird from its shape before I even notice the stylised waves beneath it.
Centre for Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (CCAP) is seeking to engage a person with relevant experience to provide scientific services in support of the Centre's work. The position is available for a fixed term of four years, based in Hobart, Tasmania. A position profile and details of the vacancy are available at: www.ccap.aq
Hobart! We could live in Kettering again and I'd get to hang out with Cully. And meet Summer.
I glance over at Dad. There is probably no way he'll consider it, even though it's right up his alley. I read the ad again. He ought to jump at this. This is a chance for him to be involved at the highest levels in helping to protect his beloved albatrosses. I plug in the printer and print out the ad.
The kettle starts to whistle and I turn the burner off. I pour boiling water into the big coffee plunger. It's the smell of coffee that wakes Dad most Saturday mornings. After I pour myself one I set the plunger down next to Dad's cup all ready to go with lots of sugar in it. I put the printout next to it. Then I take my laptop up on deck. Over and over, I keep hearing the words: Hobart, Tasmania. Home.
Thanks for the photo. You don't look anything like I imagined. Maybe because you sail I thought you have sunbleached blond hair and faded blue eyes! Silly stereotyping eh. Instead you've got dark hair and brown eyes and a really nice smile. Thanks. I'll take the photo down to the shop tomorrow to have it checked.
Just kidding! LOL!
My mum. Well she's pretty cool. She's a nurse. Or used to be. Occasionally she does shifts here, but mostly she homeschools me and she paints. She's really a painter. She's also a wildlife carer. You know, for injured native animals or orphaned joeys. At the moment we've got a baby wombat called Brick. He's three months old now. We've had him since he was really tiny. He weighed a hundred grams and was smaller than a tennis ball. He had no hair and his eyes were still fused shut. We had this special humidicrib for a while for him to sleep in. And we still have to make regular feeds. I help and Hannah helps. Violet's not interested. But really Mum does most of the work.
In case you're wondering, Hannah named Brick Brick. She always gets to name the animals. I suppose there has to be some benefit from being the youngest in the family!
sorry to disappoint you re the sailor image. guess you thought id look like johnny depp in pirates of the caribbean. i wish! have you seen those movies? my hair did get a bit bleached last year when we were out on the water the whole time. does that count? he he.
so its brick on your facebook page photo!
thats cool about your mum being a painter and looking after wildlife. sounds like your mum and my dad would have a lot in common. not the painting part but the wildlife bit. dads a wildlife biologist.
i noticed you didnt send a photo. dont be shy. i know girls get all weird about appearances and all but id just like to have a face to talk to even if its by email. no pressure.
I think boys are fairly weird about appearances, too, but they just try not to show it or talk about it.
As you see, I've sent a picture.
i had a sort of a picture in my mind which was different but now ive got the real thing. if id seen you before i would have been too scared to talk to you! maybe i am anyway.
All day I think Dad's going to mention the ad any moment. He doesn't. He comes up on deck looking wasted, and drinks lots of coffee.
I go below and find the job ad in the bin. What should I do? Go up and plead with him to apply? Tell him I need to go home, to have a home, even if he doesn't? Or. Or what? I read the ad through again. It would be perfect for him. Might even make him happy again.
I know what I have to do.
In the evening Dad gets ready to go up to the pub. We usually go together on a Saturday night and have a meal there and then I come back to the boat and he goes round to the other bar and stays on. And on.
You getting ready to go up for dinner? he asks.
Nah, think I'll stay here tonight, I say. A few school things I want to catch up on. And I want to read that New Scientist article you showed me. The one on how smart an octopus is.
Righto, suit yourself, he says.
There's something sort of sad about the way he pulls himself together to go, shaving and combing his hair carefully. Digging out some clothes that don't smell of diesel. He looks okay, I suppose. In a busted kind of way.
Hey, Dad, I call out as he climbs the steps to the cockpit.
Yep? He half turns in the companionway. Behind him the sky is scattered with stars.
Excerpted from Talk Under Water by Kathryn Lomer. Copyright © 2015 Kathryn Lomer. Excerpted by permission of University of Queensland Press.
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