OLD BLOKES WITH OLD BOATS AND OTHER MEMORIES

I have passed the biblical three score and ten years, so I guess you could say I am an “old bloke” and we “old blokes” have a lifetime of memories that we like to share. Our life experiences are wide and varied so we have a wealth of information that we can share.

Recently I wrote about Thornbury Lodge at Baulkham Hills and that came about from an old bloke that I was having lunch with when he asked “I never see anything about Thornbury Lodge, so I did a little investigation and came up with a article for this publication. But now to carry on with this article about “Old Blokes with old boats and other memories”

Some of my nautical memories recently came back whilst reading a novel by Tania Blanchard. Tania is an Australian novelist but is descended from German migrant ancestors who came out to Australia by ship from Germany on the “Skaubryn” in the 1950s. I also arrived in this great country in the 1950s on the Sitmar liner “Fairsea”. Whilst Tania Blanchard’s novel “Suitcase of Dreams” is a story of a migrant couple sailing to Australia and how they found life in this land different to what was promised, I found that her story, which was based on the experiences of her grandparents very similar to the experiences that my parents and my sisters also came across. Before I carry on with some other nautical experiences I will relate some of the experiences that I can recall.

After sailing across the Indian Ocean from Aden during which I saw countless flying fish. We set foot on Australian soil where we visited our very first Australian beach at Fremantle. Leaving Fremantle we than sailed across a very rough Australian Bight with waves pounding onto the deck of the Fairsea for most of the remainder of the trip to Melbourne. Upon arrival we were sent to a transitional migrant camp in the city very close to the Exhibition Centre. I think the camp was later demolished to build the Commonwealth Centre office block in the city. We stayed in the camp for around a week then we were transported to a Migrant Hostel at Brooklyn (between Altona and Footscray). In the novel “Suitcase of Dreams”, the writer tells of how the German couple found that what they were told by Australian officials back in Germany did not come to pass on their arrival here. I feel that my parents also felt let down by the information provided to them to encourage them to migrate to this land also was misleading. The hostel was nothing like what had been promised. We were living in Nissen Huts next door to abattoirs. The stench of the animals and the flies was horrendous. Needless to say my parents decided that there must be better places in Australia than that hostel. One Christmas my parents packed the family car and we drove along the Hume Hwy to Sydney. For a young boy it was an adventure passing farms and country towns with, what I thought were quaint and weird names. We stayed overnight at a Caravan Park in Yass before driving on towards Sydney.

Upon arrival in Sydney my parents sought a transfer to Cabramatta Hostel. I then grew up and lived in the Cabramatta area until I was in my thirties.

But I should get on to the nautical segment that appears in the title of this article. I moved to the Hills district around 35-36 years ago. That is also about the time that I started writing for a forerunner of this magazine. I needed to find things to write about and I joined, or rather assisted in forming, a group called “Tourism in the Hills”. I became the group’s Public Officer and involved myself along with James and Lisa Pegler in founding “Jazz at the Pines” organised by the Tourism group. Now The Hills district goes out the Hawkesbury River so my wife and I got to know some of boating fraternity that organised river cruises and house boat hire. We made some very good friends amongst those people. We travelled on the “Macquarie Princess” from Berowra Waters where I took the wheel for a little while. We also travelled on a cruise from Wisemans Ferry up and down that stretch of the Hawkesbury on another vessel, but the most memorable episode of the lot on the river is when my wife and I hired a house boat from Able Hawkesbury House Boats at Wisemans Ferry. We travelled along to the Brooklyn Bridge where we got stuck on a sand bank as the tide went out. We got stuck also on an oyster bed on the same trip. We ran out of fuel and we drifted along the Hawkesbury to Spencer where my wife took the tinny and rowed ashore to phone to get more fuel delivered to us.

So where did the title for this little piece of memories come from? A friend of mine, another old bloke, is a member of the” Friends of the Sydney Heritage Fleet”, you know the organisation that operates vessels like the tall ship ”James Craig” amongst others, on Sydney Harbour. Now this “old bloke’s” family has worked on boats on Sydney Harbour for generations. His name is Ray Jenkinson and he is going to talk all about “Old Blokes and their Old Boats” at the January meeting of the Winston Hills – Northmead Combined Probus Club. The meeting is on the 9th January at the Toongabbie Sports Club, Station Rd, Toongabbie. The meeting starts at 10am and I am really looking forward to attending to hear what Ray has to say about his love of old boats. If this is what you are also interested in then come along and join me. If you are also looking for somewhere to join and share in activities for retired people and want some fun, friendship or fellowship than you are also welcome to come along and find out more about Probus and I’ll meet and greet you there.