I'll sing you a song, o, a song of the sea,
Of Grandpa, his Mirror, and sailing, and me.
'Your brother's away, so I'm needing a crew
For Sunday's regatta, and it'll be - you.'
I really liked sailing, though horses came first,
But something in yacht races brings out the worst.
Your jovial Grandpa has one little quirk:
When racing a Mirror, the man goes berserk.
We started out smartly: the boat leapt away,
With me leaning out and my face full of spray,
The bow pointing high and the hull humming free,
To starboard the gunnel was splashing the sea.
My heart flew along, this was where life was at!
But round the next mark, my big bubble went flat.
In red, white and black (for the Saints), folded neat,
A brand-spanking spinnaker lay near my feet.
And now was the time, so the skipper decreed,
To hoist our new sail, but without losing speed.
I'd practised just once 'twixt the beach and the buoy,
And wasn't too keen on this new-fangled toy.
But neatly and quickly, beyond all my hopes,
I rightly positioned the sail and the ropes.
The second time round, and it went up again,
I reached up to lower it near the mark, then ...
I thought that I'd stowed it adroitly and fast,
Stuffed small in the locker to port of the mast,
But all hell broke loose at the helm ... what a din!
For werewolves and skippers are close kith and kin.
Pa swore and he yelled, then he yelled and he swore,
The seas (and the crew) cringed and sank from the roar.
The sin of all sins was the cause of his ire:
To bring down a spinnaker aft of a wire.
You halyards and shrouds, o, the trouble you make,
When a win in the Closing Regatta's at stake!
Blood's thicker than sea water, true to the last,
But don't you go testing it under a mast.
We tacked and we jibed, and in penitent haste
I crewed to perfection, no second to waste.
Now was I still daughter, or was I accursed?
I stared at those tell-tales, in fear of the worst.
To terse-bitten orders, with fumbling and dread,
I unmessed the mess of the black, white and red,
And somehow I raised it without raising hell,
We shot to the lead and we crossed the line ... well!
'Yes! You little beauty! We've done it! We've won!'
And Grandpa's false teeth shone like foam in the sun.
A hug and a trophy, our foemen we'd slain,
And I never went racing with Grandpa again.
A memoir of sailing with my Dad in the early 1970s, almost 100% true.
'Tell-tales' were little bits of wool tied to the shrouds to show wind direction. Dad was a diehard St Kilda supporter (VFL in those days) & his boat's spinnaker was in the team colours.
It was just circumstance that I didn't ever crew for Dad in another race!