STOP! HAMMOCK TIME

Tropicbird“If you need to take a slash, then do it from the swimming platform at the stern,” Julian indicated with his head towards the back of the boat when I asked what the procedure was with number 1’s.

After a day of driving around town, running errands to get things fixed on the boat – steering shaft, hydraulic ram and other technically impossible terms – I was invited to dinner, movie and see what sleeping on the boat out on water was like.

Jill, who had arrived the day before, had spent the day at the Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Association where we boarded Tropicbird’s dingi and chugged out to the 50-foot ketch.

“I’m pretty sure I saw a crocodile last night,” she said, looking around the waters as Julian guided the tiny rubber dingi to the boat.

Calming thought, I thought.

Tonight’s menu were lentils with regular and sweet potatoes mixed in with tomato paste. A lack of refrigeration meant that until we hit the islands of Indonesia, I was on a vegetarian diet.

Unless we caught fish.

I’ve never caught fish. My brother put me off it when he took me fishing as a kid. While he emptied the waters of its marine life, I sat and watched my line.

And watched.

And continued watching.

Until it was time to go.

But I digress. For the evening’s entertainment we started with ‘Tropic Thunder’ but Julian wasn’t grabbed by it so we switched to “The Goods – Live Hard, Sell Hard’.

The captain was highly entertained – until he fell asleep halfway through.

The night was hot. There was cloud cover which, like glad wrap, kept the heat in. And like any hot dish wrapped with glad, it was sticky-hot under the sky. The air was stifling and almost choking as it came to a standstill, like one of those human statues on a major city street.

Since my bed was a choice of the sitting area of the cockpit or a hammock hanging in the cockpit, I figured tonight would be a good opportunity to test the hammock out.

Julian set it up and he and Jill each retired to their cabins below. I stripped to my boxers and decided that executing a number 1 before clambering into a hammock would be more efficient then trying to hop off it again in the middle of the night.

I stood on the swimming platform at the stern and looked around as a warm stream left my body and hit the dark waters below. I peered through the darkness at the mangroves surrounding the waters. The platform was barely a foot above the liquid when I realised that crocodiles hunt near mangroves.

And are pretty active at night.

And can leap out of the water almost their whole body length.

“I’m pretty sure I saw a crocodile last night,” Jill’s voice echoed in my head.

I looked down as despair flushed over me. I pictured a scene in a horror movie where ‘evil’ is a predatory animal. I tightened pelvic muscles that I didn’t know existed to hurry up the process, squeezing every muscle below my navel, watching the water like a hovering dragonfly. Shaking out the last drops I clambered back onto the deck and breathed, waiting for my heart to slow back down from the Usain Bolt speed it was at.

The hammock hung under the cockpit canopy and didn’t leave much space between the ceiling of it and where my body would lie. Recalling how, a few years back at the beach, my attempt at sitting on a hammock sent me somersaulting into the sand, I strategically approached the hanging material like a tank driver figuring out the best route to tackle a hill.

Avoiding an Olympic gold medal gymnastic performance, I managed to lay down comfortably. But the suffocating heat was not going to let me sleep.

And neither were the abundance of insects that crowded around me as though I were a Nyotaimori  – minus the sushi rolls. I almost slapped myself unconscious until I decided that I would endure the heat and covered myself up with a bed sheet. My face was as hot as an oven and I concluded that the next day, top of the list was getting a beard trimmer and destroying the face-hell I was going through.

Just past midnight I was woken by a resounding ‘buzz’ in my ear. My hand, set to automatic rapid fire, slapped me to wake. I looked around, dazed, and could see the outline of the mangroves.

I could also see the outline of the tide. It was low and exposed the roots of the mangroves, and a large chunk of the shoreline, as though a new island had risen from the murky depths. It also meant that blood-guzzling insects would be, as the Canadians say, ‘Out ‘n’ about’.

I heard their impending approach and quickly covered up, leaving only room for my nose to stick out for air (the only time my large schnoz has proved advantageous). An hour later, I was woken again. The hammock was swinging to a silent rhythm being played by the wind. It started as a simple jazz beat but slowly turned into a speedy rock riff.

Finally, I thought as the cloud of mosquitoes blew away, sleep. That is, until the hammock was swaying as though I were doing a half-pipe down a snowy mountainside.

You gotta be kidding me, I grimaced as I tried to adjust my weight without falling off.

At six am, after a restless night of windblown mozzie rampage, I woke up to a breakfast of porridge with raisins, brown sugar and cinnamon. And a new day where I would find myself scratching all over like a DJ .

Today’s errands and running around were with Jill and Julian. It all started off with doing the laundry, driving around the industrial zone looking for someone who could take a look at the hydraulics without charging a hundred bucks just to strip it apart and then decide if it was fixable. Shopping at K-Mart and Coles, getting a beard trimmer, scoring a 75-liter waterproof backpack at an op-shop and picking up Julian’s foldable bike from the shop.

We arrived back at Dinah Beach towards the evening where I immediately headed to the showers with my beard trimmer to put it to the test.

A small mountain of hair accumulated in the sink as I sheared off my 2.5-month-old beard. No longer held down by extra weight, my head sprung up and I could stare myself  at eye-level in the mirror. The temperature on my face dropped like a sudden change in Melbourne and I could see where the mosquitoes had penetrated my hairy defence.

They will pay, I promised myself. They will all pay.

All 73 jazillion of them.

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Categories: Adventure Travel, Australia, Northern Territory, Sailing, The Timor Sea | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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