Category: dinghy


I have a very strange dog. She is strange, and funny, in many ways, and always has been. She is a Tibetan Spaniel – short legs, long, puggish body, flat-ish face, and long hair which forms balls around the house when she moults (which is all year round). I adopted her when she was 2 years old from a work acquaintance who had to get rid of her as she kept digging her way out of the yard and terrorising the neighbour’s chickens. That should have set off an alarm bell, but it didn’t and 9 years later, she’s still digging her way out of things. I looked up Tibetan Spaniels on the internet when I first got her and it said 3 main things.

1. Tibetan Spaniels were originally bred to be bed warmers for the Tibetan Royal Family, probably a combination of a pug and a shih tzu. That makes sense. She seems to have a sense of entitlement and likes to jump onto the bed at any opportunity.

2. Tibetan Spaniels are diggers by nature. Well, no prizes there, considering the reason she was being given away in the first place. At the time, I had a completely paved backyard so it was no big deal.

3. Tibetan Spaniels are not easily trained. If a Tibby obeys a command, it was probably about to do it anyway. That’s never been a particularly helpful part of her personality  as it means she can’t be off the leash on a walk as she just takes off.

The internet failed to mention anything about thinking she’s a cat, always lying on clean washing if left on the floor, only chasing a stick or ball if it is edible, and demanding, in no uncertain terms, that it is time for a treat. This particular Tibetan Spaniel has lived an interesting life. She has lived in 9 different houses in her 11 years, and is now living out her golden years on a houseboat.

Doglet (not her real name – she’s way too naughty to be exposed online) had already earned her sea legs before we moved onto the houseboat. She had been out sailing many times on our previous boat, a 34ft sailing boat, and, except for the stairs being so steep she would often do triple somersaults to get down them, she seemed to genuinely enjoy the journey. Like me, she enjoyed it more when not really going anywhere. If things got a little choppy and swayed from side to side, she liked to wander around the top deck of the boat to make sure everything was OK, and then try to jump overboard. Other than that, she was quite at home.

The first couple of weeks after buying the houseboat, we were busy moving things on and generally pottering about, so it was a while before she was left to her own devices all day. Being so close to the dog park – about 30metres depending on the tide – my main concern was that she would want to be with all the other dogs and swim to shore. That’s OK in theory, but would she stay there all day or wander off to chase cars. Her face is flat enough!! I’m not fond of dog owners who let their dogs do their own thing and wander the streets. And sure enough, the first time she was left alone for the whole day, we arrived home to find her missing. The Adventurer grabbed the binoculars to see if she was at the dog park, while I searched the whole boat. In the dinghy tied to the back of the boat was a clue – a giant pooh. My mind immediately went to the possibility that she had slipped while trying to get back out of the dinghy and had drowned, when I heard my phone beeping. It was a message from a woman saying she had found our dog up at the school. School? The school is miles away? The swim alone would be 300metres, then up a hill across a road and up another hill. Doglet is 11years old! I could not believe that she could swim that far, so I can only guess that she fell off the back of the boat, couldn’t see the dog park from that side, started swimming and got picked up by a boat coming through the channel and dropped off on the other side. Of course it depends on what kind of boat picked her up. If a fishing trawler picked her up, did she have a day at sea reeling in swordfish before heading home? Or perhaps a pleasure craft, that indulged her with caviar, champagne and massages before dropping her to shore. My mind was going to all sorts of scenarios, but definitely not to the one that had her swimming that far!

After that adventure, she has kept herself on board, happy to wait until we come home to take her to the park. However, when the wind is blowing a gale and it’s freezing cold, making that trip can be a bit taxing. The Adventurer awoke early one morning to find it was extremely low tide, which means we were only about 20 metres from the shore. He put Doglet into the kayak, attached a very long rope, and gave the kayak an almighty heave ho, delivering her, eventually, to the beach. Getting her back was still a problem to be solved but for now, she was happy to be delivered.

The only problem with indulging our laziness is that I don’t like dogs roaming unattended, no matter how small, cute and furry they are. No one would be more shocked than me if Doglet had a snap at someone, but you just can’t tell with dogs, especially as they get older or suffer a trauma. About 2 years ago, when we were living in suburbia like normal people, there was a husky that had been adopted into a local family after it had wandered out of the bush some years earlier. This husky was quite placid, and even a little scared of humans, but really took an instant dislike to our little ball of fur. Perhaps it was her close resemblance to a possum that was the problem. The husky had been known to devour those on neighbours lawns too. One day while out for a walk, on the leash, with the children, the unattended and uncollared husky decided it wanted some Doglet for dinner and grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and shook her, like it would it’s prey. Thankfully the children were able to get themselves and the dog away and Doglet survived with a bit of expensive surgery. The reason I’m relating this story is, now Doglet has a vendetta against huskys, and this dog park has many of them visit on a daily basis! She spots one, goes straight up to it and seems to be saying “I know your kind! One of you tried to eat me. This is my park, now just keep away, cos I’m the boss!” Needless to say, these huskys have no idea what she’s going on about and find her yapping and carrying on a tad annoying.

This particular dog park is very special because of the sand and water available for the dogs to play in. Most beaches ban off-leash, and even on-leash dogs, so people come for miles to visit. In this area, there are also many restrictions in place because a lot of the area is National Park. We had some friends visiting recently, so we motored up to one of these parklands and spent most of the day. Fun for us, but it did mean that Doglet was stuck on board for the better part of the day. On the way back, The Adventurer’s crazy brother showed up in his very fast boat and decided to do “donuts” around us, making it very choppy. Doglet was outside at the time and we were relieved to find her still on board. Excitement over, so we thought, and we continued on our way back to the mooring. Suddenly we noticed Doglet had jumped in the dinghy and was trying to jump in the water. We were motoring along at about 6 knots at the time, and in the deepest part of the water way which is known to have sharks visiting from time to time – in other words, not a good place to jump off. I did mention she prefers to be on boats that don’t move much! We managed to haul her back aboard and made it back to the mooring where she promptly jumped in and swam to shore. Urgent call of nature or “just get me the hell off this boat”? We’ll never know. But it did remind us that we have to consider the furry passengers that also live aboard the houseboat.

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My parents are grey nomads. They have taken their small caravan around the country on the back of Dad’s pride and joy, the Leyland P76. Given the fact that all our holidays as kids were spent at campsites, I figured it would be the last thing Mum would want to do in her twilight years. But they often hit the road and rough it…more than I would. Their caravan doesn’t have a bathroom, so they have to treck to the communal loo block at the caravan park in the middle of the night. Whereas I don’t like to holiday without room service.

So when we announced we were buying a houseboat, Dad virtually had his bags packed by the door waiting for an invitation to visit. A few weeks ago, it was The Adventurer’s 50th birthday. A perfect opportunity for Mum and Dad to come over for a few days so their favorite son-in-law could show off his new toy.

Despite the rainy weather, we decided to take the house “round the corner” to the Hawkesbury River. There are some beautiful spots around there – Refuge Bay, Yeoman’s Bay, America Bay. Heading out of Pittwater, the sun came out and the waters were calm and we floated happily along. The next 2 days were very relaxing despite the fact that it poured with rain most of the time. Lots of fishing, kayaking, and generally doing nothing. On the 3rd day, The Adventurer announced that we would have to head back. He had been watching the boating forecast and there were some rough seas due. Rough seas are not necessarily related to the weather. That is, just because it’s pouring with rain doesn’t mean the seas are going to be rough. The same can be said for a lovely, sunny day, the seas can be treacherous. Going “round the corner” is tricky. The Hawkesbury River, Pittwater and the open ocean all meet for a short spell, with Lion Island smack bang in the middle. The tides all cross and it can be very dangerous. I was concerned the trip was going to be rough as my Mum is not great on the water, although she had done quite well so far. As we headed off, The Adventurer informed us it wouldn’t get much rougher than it already was. We were bobbing along quite gently so I wasn’t concerned. Dad set himself up with his camera in front of the glass sliding door and gave us a running commentary about how the trip was going. He was disappointed the water wasn’t splashing up spectacularly enough for his footage. That was about to change.

“Where’s Lion Island gone?” Dad asked innocently. In a matter of seconds, the massive island in front of us had completely disappeared from sight. The houseboat was pitching deep into troughs then coming up for a hammering from a big wave. “Ooh, that’s better” said our intrepid cameraman, as The Adventurer said “I think we’re in trouble”.

The penny dropped and Dad suddenly found himself at the helm as The Adventurer raced to the back of the boat. The dinghy had been hit by a couple of big waves and was full of water. This meant we were towing the equivalent of a cement slab and weren’t going anywhere. Meanwhile, Mum had retreated to the bedroom so she didn’t have to look at the waves, and I was holding up the pantry and the fridge which we yet to be tethered securely to the wall. My back was wedged against the pantry, one foot on the fridge, right hand on the microwave and left hand on the crockery cupboard. It was like an extreme game of Twister. I could hear the crockery sliding around and figured I’d be buying a new set when this was over. I was trying to avoid the cupboard opening and shards of glass and ceramic flying around the kitchen. As we took another few hits, I was getting very concerned. Mum was throwing up in the bedroom and The Adventurer was out the back without a lifejacket, trying to work out what to do with the dinghy. The dinghy rope had come undone and had wrapped around the left engine propellor, rendering it useless. While the dinghy was still attached to the houseboat, we were not going anywhere. The Adventurer was not sure what to do. With my 80 year old mother decorating the bedroom, I said “just get us home”. With that, he went back out with a knife and cut the dinghy free. Our lovely eBay bargain, complete with eBay bargain motor, kids lifejackets and buckets and spades went floating off upside down, and we were able to limp back to Pittwater on one engine.

The Water Police and a couple of guys from our marina took off to see if they could salvage our dinghy. Not only for us, but a loose dinghy can be dangerous to other vessels. No luck there.

Once things were settled, we checked out the news and read about a Tornado that had ripped through northern NSW the night before and had made it’s way to Sydney, doing some damage to houses. That was what had affected the seas, but there was no warning. The next day, the sun was shining and the birds were singing. It would seem we had come home a day too soon. However, the seas were even rougher than the day before. You never can tell from the weather alone.

Amazingly, we sustained very little damage. Our biggest concern was that the aluminium dinghy had damaged the hull, but it appeared to be fine. We lost 4 glasses, and only because the stems snapped off. None of the crockery was even chipped! There was even a silver lining – the quilt mum threw up on was put into the dry cleaners. They lost it and replaced it with one that is much better quality. Bargain!!!