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I just spent six days in a not-leaky boat

Unwashed hair, a sunburnt, peeling nose, legs lined with bruises and one toe left with the lingering pain of a brutal stubbing.

This was me at the end of last week following some time off work spent living on a sailboat and loving every second of it.

Lucky enough to have good friends who, in recent years, acquired a ship named Horizon, I jumped aboard for a week to learn the ropes of sailing and navigation.

These friends spent years working on boats overseas – before living on a catamaran around the Philippines and even raising a family amid intrepid waters – so they knew what they were doing.

I, on the other hand, struggle with knowing which way is north without having a compass on hand – navigational skills are something my dad has tirelessly tried to install in me, unfortunately to no avail.

But being on the boat, it quickly became apparent that these skills, and others – like monitoring the wind changing, checking future weather plans and planning logistics – are non-negotiables off land.

Patience is also necessary, evident in waiting at Opua Marina for three days in the hopes that replacement gear would finally make it on the courier van.

And don’t get me started on knots.

Reef, granny [because you mess up the reef knot], half hitch, cleat hitch, clove hitch, rolling hitch [did you know how many different ways there are to get hitched?] and bowline are all new terms in my vocabulary.

Something which was also vital – and which I’m much more naturally good at – is strong, clear communication.

When a gust of wind caused the boat to veer sharply on its side, every word bellowed by the caption to the person on deck was crucial.


At that point, where a particular rope had been winched a particular way, and I could see the problem sail slowly furling back up, as Horizon steadily righted herself.

The only evidence remaining was my duffel bag in the cabin down below deck lying sideways on the floor, spilling underwear and loose socks out of its side.

I purposely didn’t take anti-nausea tablets in the hopes that I wouldn’t need them, a cocky move which would have meant that any sea-sickness would have probably been well deserved, but in the end it was a gamble which paid off.

I loved the slight movement of the boat as it sat in the shallows while anchored in the bay.

For the last two nights I stayed above deck on the bench in the cockpit, listening to the waves lap and to the chorus of nocturnal birds on the mainland before I drifted off to sleep.

It doesn’t matter if you’re within eyeshot to your neighbours anchored a short distance away, living on the boat means your house, your rules [within reason].

This meant many, many naked swims – a habit I probably shouldn’t bring back to Wairarapa with me.

As with any holiday, it was nice to head home and have a hot shower and scrub the sweat, sunscreen and grease out of my hair and skin.

But life on the sea truly rocked my world.

If anyone else out there has a boat …you know where to find me.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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