by Jack Binder
All the adventures that cruising sailors have don't relate to high winds and horrendous seas or idyllic anchorages with brilliant sunsets.
Bandanyah on Australia’s Kimberley Coast - many idyllic anchorages, but all Jack Binder’s stories are not about that - photo by Jack Binder
Every now and then a cruising sailor, moving from strange anchorage to strange anchorage and strange marina to strange marina comes upon a human dilemma.
Jack Binder, sailing the Australian coastline with his wife Jude, here tells a moving story of a late night visitor in a marina.
While alongside at Emu Point Slipway in Albany, I heard my dear lady shouting in the night. 'Put that down. Get out of it.'
Groggy, coming out a deep sleep, I thought she was dreaming, and was about to comfort her back to sleep, when I felt her crawl over me. That got me wide awake. I sleep next to the companionway.
Rising in the dim light, I heard Jude shout that someone had been on our boat and had just gotten off. So without a thought, I was away like a shot, over the rail, onto the dock and off towards the empty parking lot. In the dim single lamp, a large figure was walking off with something in his arms. I ran after, shouting, 'Put that stuff down! Walk away and nothing more will happen!'
Reaching alongside the figure, he was bigger than me, shirtless and carrying our two green shopping bags in one hand, and in the other, swishing round n'round something like a long kung fu stick, which I carefully kept out of its range.
The dark marina
Again I said, more calmly this time, 'Now look buddy, you don't want any trouble. Just put that stuff down, and get out of here and there'll be no trouble.'
Not a word in reply, just the swishing of that long stick. I looked about the dark marina, not a soul in sight. Looking back to the young man, the stick caught the arc light and became our homemade boat hook whose sharpened stainless end doubles as a gaff.
Jude now suddenly rushed up and damn near tackled the fellow, and I had to yell at her to keep away. 'He's got our boat hook!'
In a shrill voice she yelled out, 'That's my dirty laundry in those bags! Just put them down and get out of here.'
What was this character doing? Dead of night, stealing dirty laundry and an ancient boathook. I didn't want trouble, not for us nor this young fellow. But he wouldn't stop walking towards the exit, so I began screaming out 'Help! Robber! Help!' I was so loud; someone would either come running or call the police. But the lad just kept slopping along the pavement and no one came to our aid.
Emu Point Slipway is an industrial area. There's a marina, but few live aboard. 'Look lad, my lady and I built that boat, we built every scrap, sailed her around the world, raised our kids on her too, so she's precious to us. Won't you just put the stuff down and walk away. I promise there'll be no further trouble.'
The car park where we 'caught' him
And just about when I'd given up all hope, he stopped, and then slowly put the hook and bags down, and then shuddered and began to cry.
I have weakness for all mankind. The world's a tough place. And having pulled myself out from a rather horrible start, I find time for lost souls where ever I encounter them.
Reaching up, putting my arm round his bare shoulder, I comforted him and asked what was the matter?
In a torrent, out poured, 'They mistreat me. Won't let me out. Don't understand.'
Jude picked up her laundry and moved the boathook away from the two of us while I asked, 'You talking about your family?'
'No, I've been in hospital, but the nurse abuses me, so I ran away tonight. I didn't mean any trouble. Just thought I could get some money to get to my dad.'
I was still just in my nightshirt and suddenly feeling the cold, I said, 'Look, why don't we go back to the boat. Are you hungry?'
Well, of course we didn't get on the Banyandah, but sat on the dock alongside her, and while Jude made us cups of tea and slices of bread with marmalade, I listened to this young lads outpouring.
In a nutshell, he wasn't crazy. Just knew his rights, as we all do with the tellie informing us all the time that we have the right to this or that. And he'd found an easy way through life as a ward of our great nation. At the present moment, he was checked into a mental ward claiming he had self-harm problems, and oh yeah, he'd been abused.
I grew up in LA. The world's most fierce city. Walk into a payphone and the sharp edge of a knife might find your throat. Park your car on a dark street and a pistol may greet your exit. Abused? Crikey, I got touched up at thirteen and was drugged by two old farts at eighteen.
So I told this young man there's no profit in looking back. Life is the future, not the past. It's tough enough without carrying extra baggage. Then thinking of our welfare system, I asked, 'What's the matter, you don't like hard work?'
'No, I don't mind working. My dad and I once picked fruit and I really enjoyed lugging round the bins.'
'Well then, Life is an opportunity. Get off your butt and go somewhere in life. The system will make you a captive.
They pay you enough to survive, but not to progress. And unless you make a break, you'll be no more than you are now for the rest of your life. Look at us; seen the world, love all critters and still going strong because we have had dreams.'
Yes, I know, won't erase a lifetime of problems in a couple of hours, so we asked if he had family then listen to a string of woe about broken marriages and his mom's new man not wanting him around. It didn't surpass my own history.
'What about your dad?'
'Yeah, he's great. In Queensland but.'
'Well, that seems the best course to me. Change of venues gives you a new start, and if your dad will help, you'll find some support while you get yourself moving forward again. Just find a dream.'
Considering it was three in the morning, Jude then asked the most important question, 'What are you going to do now?
Always practical she suggested, 'Why not go back to the hospital and tell them what you've done and ask them to place a telephone call to your father.'
Surprising us both, he agreed, so we gave him a shirt and old jumper, exchanged my Ugg boots he'd nicked for a pair of sunny Queensland flip-flops, and he walked out of our lives.
Jude called the hospital around ten, and the staff nurse exclaimed, 'Oh, you're the couple.' Then reported he'd told her the whole story and that they were attempting to put him in touch with his father.
Do hope his life has a happy ending. A few days after that we set sail across the Great Australian Bight.
To read all about Jack and Jude Binder's latest books, 'Where Wild Winds Blow' and 'Practical Boat Bits and Tips' http://www.sail-world.com/index_d.cfm?nid=91207!click_here, or simply to buy them http://jackandjude.com/books/!click_here.
Jack and Jude Binder photograph of the west coast of Tasmania on a calm misty day