|Aurora australis on 22 April 2017 - Island Park Reserve, Dunedin|
The following day, the Captain was on a mission. The conversation with Lyall had certainly galvanised him into action.
"Now, we have to make sure that we have everything packed and put inside the boat that we need to go up to Picton" he said, "and of course we have to take down the front half of the boat shed..."
I was thinking that it would be quite good if I could get a handle on one bit of information at a time but the instructions just kept coming.
"Naturally, I'm going to have to make sure I have all the tools with me that I'm likely to need. Oh, and I'm going to have to make sure that the camper is ready to go too, so that'll need cleaned and organised. I guess you can do that..."
The Captain finally stopped to draw breath.
"Camper?" I queried. "What's the camper got to do with any of this? Would I not be better off helping you pack the boat instead of faffing about with the camper? And what's this about taking half the boat shed down?"
I got one of those looks that speak volumes - you know, the one that seeks to establish what planet you happen to be inhabiting at this particular moment in time! The Captain spent a few seconds studying me - perhaps quizzically, or maybe it was with a degree of sympathy for the obvious shortcomings in my comprehension of the situation under discussion.
"Well it's obvious isn't it?" he started. "We have to take the front half of the shed down to get the boat out..."
"Yes, I realise that," I responded, "but surely we can't do that now."
"So when do you suggest we do it? When we've moved the boat?" came the tongue-in-cheek reply which might just have been tinged with a tad of frustration.
I took a deep breath and composed myself before going on the explain that throughout the boat build so far there had been an almost obsessional focus on keeping the boat dry but now it was being suggested that we take half the shed down thus exposing a good proportion of the boat to the elements. And according to the forecast, the weather was going to be far from clement over the next few days!
"So all I'm wondering is why so soon? Should we not wait 'til closer to the time...so we know that the weather hasn't caused havoc with the move plans? And I don't know that I have the height or the strength to help you remove the frame without risking damaging the boat in the process. Those steel poles are heavy you know." I knew that I was, somewhat irrationally, close to tears at this point. I also knew I was being rather petulant but somehow I felt completely out of my depth...totally out of my comfort zone...and it wasn't a place I liked being.
|How would we remove the frame of the front half of the shed without damaging the boat?|
It transpired that it had always been the Captain's intention to ask our good friend Al Perry to help take the shed down. He knew all along that we couldn't manage that bit between us. And the camper? Well, once the boat went up to Picton then he would be moving up there too and the camper would be his accommodation until he could move into the boat. It all actually made perfect sense, it's just I was missing a few of the pieces that would have completed the puzzle for me!
And so the next three weeks raced by in something of a haze. The front half of the shed was taken down with the very able help of Al. The boat was packed and the camper was sorted out and cleaned. We continued to keep a close eye on the weather, keeping our fingers crossed that heavy rain would stay away from our route north and especially the Lewis Pass. The road was prone to slips and slips could disrupt Smoko's travel plans.
As I got into the car to drive home from work on Thursday 04 May I wondered what the next day would bring. The day for loading Smoko was all but here. I was experiencing a mixture of emotions - elation, excitement, nervous anticipation...and maybe just a hint of trepidation. So much was riding on these next few days.
I was still working hard at keeping the 'what if's' at bay when I turned into the driveway that led to the caravan. And there stood Lyall's truck, ready for an early start in the morning. I stopped dead in my tracks - partly because the truck was across my parking space but also because it was now so real - it was actually going to happen.
|'...and there stood Lyall's truck, ready for an early start in the morning.'|
"Well, looks like it's going to happen. The crane will be arriving at 8am tomorrow so they can get a good early start on the loading."
Ah yes, the crane. I'd forgotten we needed one of those too.
Friday dawned fine and sunny...but cold. We were up bright and early and busied ourselves doing 'stuff'...you know, those inconsequential things that really don't need to be done but that you turn to when you can't think what else to do. It wasn't long before we heard the sound of a heavy vehicle heading in our general direction
"That'll be the crane" the Captain said, "I'll go and see if he needs a hand with anything." And with that, off he strode.
Now I'd heard a lot of conversations about the crane in the course of the planning and I had a very clear picture of it in my head. Obviously it would look something like this:
I'd asked lots of questions about whether there would be enough room for the crane and wasn't exactly certain why the Captain didn't seem to share my concerns. On that Friday, as I peered out of the caravan window, imagine my surprise when this is what I saw.
Hmmm - not quite what I'd had in mind but it did explain the Captain's lack of concern. Whilst I was still pondering the crane, Lyall arrived and suddenly it was all go. I put my coat on and went outside to watch the proceedings. Lyall and the crane driver were deep in conversation, clearly working out the logistics of the move. In his right hand Lyall had a large strop whilst the crane driver was busy looking through what appeared to be a large tool box on the back of the crane.
Armed with a second strop the pair of them approached the boat. The Captain had built a cradle for the boat to sit in all those years ago when the Smoko was turned and she had sat in it ever since. And it was this cradle that was going to be used to lift the boat onto the truck. The strops were carefully tied onto the cradle. Very carefully the crane was raised just a few centimetres to check whether the boat was balanced...which on that first attempt she wasn't. She was gently lowered to the ground again and the exercise was repeated with different length strops. It was quite amazing to watch the skill and care that was on show with tiny adjustments being made to find the perfect set-up. The process was unbelievably calm - no histrionics, no dramas, just endless patience and absolute co-operation.
And then the sweet spot was found. The Captain was dispatched to the rear of the boat and was given a rope to help steady Smoko as she was raised. In one of those moments of female logic , I did wonder how the Captain - standing barely 175cms tall and weighing in at 80kgs (give or take a bit) - was going to have any influence on a 4 tonne boat but I was sure there would be a perfectly adequate explanation. And then suddenly, Smoko was airborne. It was almost imperceptible at first but then she was raised higher as they started to manoeuvre her round towards the truck.
I don't know how the guys felt at this point but I think it's fair to say my heart was in my mouth. There was also something almost balletic about whole operation. Everything that was involved was on such a large scale and yet the movements were incredibly gentle. Smoko continued on her trip towards the truck, with the Captain valiantly holding onto his rope!
Before too long she was hovering over the truck and then oh so gently she was lowered down until the cradle sat squarely on the truck's trailer.
The strops were removed before the rudder and dodger were carefully craned on board Smoko ready for the journey north. Once that was completed, the crane driver's job was over so he packed all his bits and bobs away and left. Meanwhile, Lyall and the Captain were busying themselves strapping Smoko to the trailer so she was all ready for Monday morning.
And then it was all over. Lyall packed all his belongings away and headed home. We had a celebratory coffee with our friends Allister and Claire Perry who had arrived early on in the loading process. Claire had taken on the role of chief videographer whilst Al was providing much needed moral support. By midday the Captain and I were alone. We ventured back outside, feeling at a bit of a loose end. The Captain climbed up onto the boat as it sat on the trailer.
"You looking for something?" I shouted up to him.
"Nah" came the reply. "Just thought I climb up here...well, because I could, I suppose. Doesn't it feel strange. And on Monday, she'll be gone!"
We spent the weekend relaxing. There were things that needed to be done, but nothing was urgent...and certainly nothing was needed for Monday. We both reckoned the Captain had earned some downtime.
When I left for work on Monday, the Captain and I finalised the arrangements around how I would be able to grab photos of Smoko as she made her way through Dunedin. It was very fortunate that the one way system which leads north out of the city goes right past the hospital where I worked. I'd checked with my boss that it was OK for me to disappear for ten minutes or so to take photos, so all we needed to do was work out the logistics of how I would know she was on her way.
Because the vehicle and load were so big, Smoko was going to require a pilot vehicle for the entire journey. And also because of her size, the journey could not begin until 9am. We decided the easiest thing was for the Captain to phone me as soon as the truck left the property. That would give me enough time to get from work to a suitable place nearby for taking photos. It all sounded eminently sensible.
It seemed an awfully long wait for that phone call. I arrived at work at my usual time (around 7.30am) and initially found it easy to busy myself. But as the time approached 9am I was on tenterhooks, waiting for my phone to ring. I checked my phone with alarming regularity - after all I didn't want to miss the drive-by. Nine o'clock came and went, then five past - no call. Ten past nine - still no call. Had the Captain forgotten he was supposed to be phoning me? No - he wouldn't do that. Quarter past nine - still nothing. I started wondering how long I should wait before phoning the Captain...Twenty past nine - still nothing. I decided to start walking outside - I needed to do something! And then it was half past nine. 'Right' I thought 'I'm going to phone'. But just as I reached into my pocket for my phone, the Captain's number showed up on the screen.
"OK - they're on their way," said the Captain. "We had one or two problems getting out of the driveway - had to take the gatepost out and remove some branches from the trees but all good now. They should be with you in about ten minutes I reckon. Off you go."
And with that he hung up. I walked a few hundred metres up the road, trying work out where I would get the best view. I got to what I hoped would be the perfect spot, then stopped and waited. I watched and watched for what seemed an interminably long time...and then I saw her.
The pilot vehicle was travelling behind the truck to stop cars going up the outside lane of the one way system. There was something quite surreal watching Smoko heading towards me that morning. What I was watching represented six years of our life. She seemed to go past me in next to no time. She disappeared along the road and round a corner and was lost from my view.
As I stared down the road after her, a multitude of emotions were coursing though my body. I felt elated and proud...but also sad and more than a little scared. Life was going to be quite different from now on. It was going to be a time of change - and some of those changes were going to be more profound, more challenging than I would ever have anticipated on that late autumn morning. But a person far wiser than I once said 'If nothing ever changed there'd be no butterflies.' That, for me, puts the whole thing into perspective. Bring on the butterflies!