The last two weeks have been busy on preparing the frames for erection. Pete drawing them up and Deb double checking, looking for errors. We are now into cutting, notching and edging, and I find myself wishing I had paid more attention to Mr Harris, my old high school wood-work teacher, as I revive long forgotten skills. Meanwhile Deb has been researching the art of working epoxy resin, which essentially holds the whole thing together. Epoxy is something of a miracle product that performs a number of functions: glue, wood preservative, gap filler, fibreglass bonding agent and cosmetic fairing bog, that should make her gleam when finished. Building a boat the size of Selah is a multifaceted process. When contemplated in its entirety, the project threatens to overwhelm so we have taken the advice of those who have gone before us, and are giving ourselves permission to take it a day at a time, enjoying the journey. These are the steps we have mapped out into project size blocks:
- Site preparation
- Materials sourcing & storing
- Strong back construction
- Frame lofting and construction
- Hull assembly
- Keels and rudders
- Fibreglassing, bogging and initial fairing
- Bridge-deck construction
- Hulls turning and joining
- Internal fit-out
- Steering installation
- Decks and turret
- High build undercoat and final fairing
OK…so at this point I must admit to more than the occasional thought of inadequacy. In those moments it helps me to remember the experiences that life has given. For twenty years we were based in Alice Springs. The majority of that time I was a Community Liaison Officer for an indigenous secondary boarding college for students from remote communities throughout the NT outback WA, QLD & SA. This entailed working in some of the most remote communities on the planet. In the process I drove almost one million kilometres and went through eight Toyota Landcruisers. I was born and raised in Tasmania, but it was the NT that taught me a love for the vast open spaces of the inland, and a passion for wild places and the people who choose to live there.
Most importantly though, I learnt not to be intimidated by long journeys.
I now know that as long as we put in our eight hours a day, for the next few years, we will reach the end, and Selah will be transformed from a pile of wood, ply and epoxy into our floating home, and a vehicle for the next season of our journey.
So while I’m reminiscing about the NT, I can’t help following another train of thought. Eighty five percent of the population of Australia lives within fifty kilometres of the coast. We literally cling to a tiny strip along the SE coast, densely concentrated between Brisbane and Melbourne, almost as if we are fearful of what lies beyond. As a people, we non-indigenous have never really come to terms with the true nature of this continent we inhabit. We are a cosmopolitan city-centric people, with a corresponding world view. The vast inland is mostly characterised as the “middle of nowhere,” the implication being that anywhere away from the city has no inherent value, other than its resource potential. It’s difficult for us to get our heads around the notion that far from being the middle of nowhere, for the people who live outback- it’s the middle of everywhere: especially for those who have inhabited the lands for thousands of years. For them, every tree and rock on their country is as familiar, as your local neighbourhood is to you. Its curious to consider that most Aussies profess deep love for a country that they barley understand: and are possibly even a little fearful of.
Having said all that however, I am aware of the irony that after declaring such a deep love for the desert, Deb and I find ourselves drawn back to the coast for now. Perhaps it’s some sort of cultural DNA inherited from our seafaring ancestors. Or perhaps, as we believe, its the next season of our particular purpose for being here.