Thursday, December 21, 2006


At some stage i will also need to learn how to handle a gun. But in the meanwhile i must find my sea legs.

Which in a strange way reminds me of the time i used to live with a one-armed and one-legged junkie in a rough shack in Hilton. Glen would get pretty absent-minded when he was on the smack. On any given morning he might walk into the kitchen where i'd be eating something like cornflakes with water (we didn't have much money) and he'd go "Where did i leave my arm?" and i would say, hanging on the door, or, on top of the fridge (when we had a fridge), or in the back of the Fairlane; depending. "Oh, thanks man," he'd mumble, and go strap the thing back on. It had a hook. After his right arm was rendered useless in a motorcycle crash, he elected to get it cut off in order to use the hook. Glen never had quite so much trouble finding his legs; they were always either attached to him or next to wherever he nodded off, because he needed them both to walk there, i guess. The arm, however, got about a bit. Both these hollow prostheses were frequently employed for shoplifting purposes.

But i digress. Preparations need to be made for the upcoming treasure-hunting documentary. Simply losing one's teeth and getting tattooed is insufficient, even with bandanna and eye-shadow. Basic gun-handling is required, but the sea legs must come first. Must be able to stand firm on a rolling deck while firing clip after clip from the automatic. So how to go about finding my sea legs? But of course! "Let's go sailing!" i suddenly shout to Mayhem. She looks startled. "Can you sail?" she asks. "Can i sail!?" i ask in mock incredulity. "Ha!" After donning our Sunday best, Mayhem and i hit the beaches, grab a sailing craft, and prepare for launch. Mayhem clambers onto the canvas deck while i push off.

"Whatcha doing mister?" A twelve-year old boy has waded out and grabbed hold of the craft. He pulls it back around into the wind. "You gotta point it into the wind or it will just take off," the little brat is telling me. Well, der fred, i'm thinking. I want it to take off. "And that boom can swing around and hit you in the head. You sure you know what you're doing, mister?"

Hmm. Apart from reading Moby Dick, being in possession of a recipe for seafood chowder, and having wet legs, i have no sailing qualifications. Mayhem has flattened herself to the deck and is regarding me closely, her saucered eyes filled with doubt and fear. "Pah!" i spit. "I was belaying the golliwobblers when you was a light in your father's eye!" I kick off and clamber up along one of the twin bows, and as the cat swings, i grab the tiller and rope. I bring on the sheet and head for the Narrows, sailing about four points from the wind. I check the sail for any tell-tale luffing, and run my eyes over the jam cleats. "Woo hoo!" cries Mayhem, lying prone on the deck. "Here we go!" The spray flies. I taste salt in the corners of my mouth. Probably all those potato chips i had earlier, i think. Oh, yeah: i forgot about all that beer ...

Before we hit the ferry run i go about. "Watch your head on the boom," i call, and realise Mayhem is still glued to the deck. "Not getting up," she says. "I don't trust that thing." She points at the boom. Ah, she's been hornswaggled and pugwashed by that interfering know-it-all twelve-year-old swabbie. I try to reassure her. "No first mate of mine is going to be scuppered by a sail, not while i'm master of this ship!" I slap the gunwale with a salt-encrusted hand. And swerve violently to avoid a channel marker.

"Art Director, are you sure you know what you're doing?" asks Mayhem, quite understandably. She looks across the water to some other sailors. "Because everyone else is wearing life jackets." I emit a hearty laugh, and spit sideways into the wind. "Pah! I've sailed from Pitcairn Island to Rock Harbour by dead reckoning - in the roughest seas known to man!" i say, quoting Theroux as i clamber over her to hand her the rope. "Just me against the elements, with the waves threatening to pitch-pole my frail craft! Now eyes to the fore and man the tiller! Heave her to starboard! No, the other way. That's it. You're sailing!" Mayhem laughs insanely, and pulls tightly on the rope, knuckles showing white. "Aye, it's rough out there and you can hardly see the bowsprit before your eyes! Aye, and the wind's shifting too. But never mind, Mr Christian! Give him twenty lashes - that'll take the strut out of him!" I take my literary leanings to a patch of deck near the pointy ends. Mayhem, as she sails towards the South Perth skyline, is still lying completely prone on her back. She does conduct herself extremely well from the horizontal. "It seems they will give these hire boats to anyone," she observes, staring up at the scudding clouds. "Like, there's no sanity test or anything."

I notice there are a couple of cats way over by the Barrack Street jetty, and the old sea salt from the hire shop is roaring toward them in an aluminium dingy. Looks like they've been blown over there under sail and don't know how to turn around. I point them out to Mayhem. We are beginning to feel more amphibious. Mayhem is even coerced into a more upright position, and we perform a pretty satisfying gybe. Ah, nothing like a nice gybe. We break out the camera and celebrate the fact that no-one and nothing is yet Lost Overboard.

South China Seas? Pirates? Sunken cargoes? Bring them all on, i say! Ha ha! Aye, my sea legs is back now, Cap'n.

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