Thursday, June 14, 2007

Messing about in boats #4

All my dad’s life has been devoted to messing about in boats – building, rebuilding, but always sailing, not having to drag his family along with him to share his passion. He once commented that he’d have been a wealthy man if it hadn’t been for boats.

Last Christmas, when we were back in NZ visiting him, dad and I leafed through his old army pay book together. Those were the days in NZ when the currency was British pounds and pence. I asked what the hand written entries in red were – there were two or three of them, made during his basic training in NZ before being shipped out to the Pacific. He gave a wry smile.

Back in Auckland he’d owned an old Mullety he’d rebuilt. He’d asked his commanding officer for a few days leave to hitch back down to Auckland to haul it out, scrub the bottom, antifoul it and pop it back in the water on its swing mooring. His CO turned him down. The red markings were where his pay had been docked as he’d gone AWOL to go and care for his boat.

In the early 40s during WWII, dad was finally shipped to the Pacific, to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, and Green Island. He found a burned out life boat washed up on one of his islands, and naturally set to rebuilding it, also making sails and a rig for it. In the photo above, that’s dad standing in the rebuilt boat.

Not only did he and a few mates use the boat for exploring the islands and their lagoons, but also for running spirits to the American GIs also based on the island from the still dad and his mates built and ran. That’s how these intrepid Kiwis augmented their meager army pay.

One day, dad got into a wee bit of trouble with his CO again. He and a mate took the life boat out for a sail. Late that afternoon, no land in site, they ran out of wind, drifting for a good few miles. Back at camp, their absence was noted at roll call. Dad’s company put out an APB to see if anyone had seen them out on the high seas.

Dad still remembers a large US cruiser steaming slowly alongside them, not daring to stop in case of Japanese submarines, peering over to make sure they were okay, but also blasting out, “Don’t you guys know there’s a bloody war on!”

Safely back on shore by the next morning, having been adrift all night, dad’s CO admonished him, and warned him that before setting out again, he’d better make a pair of oars.

2 comments:

Michael said...

Wonderful! A man and father to be proud of, Kristen. One of the few people you meet these days who has understood what life is all about, 'war on' or not!

Capt'n "O" Dark 30 said...

Love to have your dad around a campfire telling tale.. good read!!