Right now, our boatbuilding life in Tasmania seems a lifetime away.
The view from our window is of deep blue sky, that only the inland can produce, away from the haze and mist of the coast. It contrasts with the dramatic red of the MacDonnells, the remnants of a vast and ancient volcanic range that dominates the skyline of Alice Springs. Once, we are told, it was higher than Mt Everest. Erosion has left only the foothills, a parallel set of ranges, hundreds of kilometres long. The ancient volcano is still with us, however. Its the source of the rich red soil that central Australia is famous for. The sand-dunes of the Simpson Desert and Uluru. If you live here long enough, it gets into your blood and DNA.
Children born in Alice Springs, black, white and brindle are born into the Yeperenye (Caterpillar) Dreaming. They are called Little Yips. There is a local saying, you can take the child from the desert, but you can never take the desert, from the child.
For our overseas readers, Alice Springs is located in the center of Australia. The nearest major population centers are 1500 kilometers away. South to Adelaide or north to Darwin. Selah is 3000 kilometers travel by road. It is sometimes described as “remote” by city dwellers, who can only perceive of life surrounded by large populations. To the traditional custodians, it has been the center of their existence for thousands of years. For us more recent residents, it is our home.
We fled Tassy in late March, as the borders were closing down, and went straight into quarantine, as per the NT requirements. We were fortunate. Chrysanne & Paul, Deb’s sister, and her husband opened their home to us. Chrysanne had flown back from Tas the day before, so we were able to isolate together. A few days later the NT government-mandated hotel quarantine (at own expense!) for all incoming travellers. Dodged a bullet there! Deb & I were physically and mentally exhausted. We welcomed a couple of weeks of guilt-free R&R. However, I did have one more job to do to prepare Selah for her hibernation.
Before we left Tassy, we had decided to enclose the cockpit with clears, canvas, and mesh panels. This was to reduce the amount of standing water after rain. Also, in warmer climates to help with insects. With no one aboard for 9 months and the prospect of a damp Launceston winter, I wanted to prevent rainwater from entering the semi-open cockpit. That’s how rot begins.
I sat down and drew up some plans for Steve Wright, the resident sailmaker in northern Tas.
On the personal front, we have moved into our granny flat, on our property. Our daughter Haley and her husband Sam are renting the main house so we get to see the grandchildren on most days. They were not on the radar when we left to build Selah, four years ago. Watching Deb bonding with her grandchildren is joyful to see, after the sacrifices she made for the build. She is such an excellent Ma Ma.
To keep me out of mischief until the end of the year, I have taken a full-time position, mentoring a young boy with high-level autism at a local school. Like many students, his world was profoundly impacted by COVID restrictions closing his school. Predictable routines are especially important for special needs students and he has since struggled to re-engage. Our aim is to rebuild his trust so that he can self sustain by the end of the year.
Our long term plans remain unchanged. At the time of writing, Victoria has suffered a major COVID outbreak. Level three lockdowns have been re-introduced. Normally we would stop in Victoria as we head north, for provisions and shelter. It is too soon to speculate what impact the lockdowns may have on our sailing plans. We intend to have Christmas with the family. All going well, we will return to Selah late December, and cross Bass Strait sometime February / March, depending upon the weather patterns and COVID restrictions.
In the meantime, I spend a lot of time pouring over our build photos and notes. Building Selah has been one of the most rewarding times in my life, and I miss her dreadfully. On the upside: turns out Launceston Marina is probably one of the best places in the country to leave a boat long term. 70 kilometers inland, she is well away from the coastal gales that dominate the coast. Also the mostly fresh water means almost zero weed growth (who knew?) and no salt water buildup in the outboards, that are turned over every few weeks.
Well thats all for now. Wherever you are in the world, please take this thing seriously. Even if you are in the low risk category, reports are emerging of the damage COVID 19 can cause to long term health. Don’t buy into the crazy conspiracy theories floating around. You don’t want to contract this virus.
Stay safe and keep dreaming.
Pete & Deb