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by Ross Lillistone - Esk, Queensland - Australia

Mild adventure; self reliance…

Looking over the gunwale at the shallows moving past – so foreign and threatening, and yet so wholesome and familiar.

Approaching the shore of an island that only lifts above the sea for half of the tide – the thrill of walking on its surface during its brief exposure – what will swim above it at high tide?

Shells rustling the wavelets – so mild and safe now that their energy has been expended on the bar – twenty-five meters between ferocious power and rippling familiarity – maybe this ripple was born on the western coast of America?

My small vessel is the magic carpet which gives me access all of this, and more. She is a capable seakeeper, yet she spends most of her active life in benign surroundings – kids, sun, shallow waters, fishing lines, cooler and ice…


I see the towering white, chrome and glass gas-guzzlers, but do they see me? The grim and determined looks on the faces of their owners – does their Nautical Appliance give more than it takes? Does their vessel communicate with subtle and ever-changing pressure on the tiller? Does their lifestyle allow receipt of the messages from helm, hull and air? Perhaps, but they don’t seem to have the relaxed posture of the man sitting in his tinnie, at anchor just outside the channel. The man’s face is lined, but breaks easily into a smile, and my heart tells me that I’m seeing the real man – not his self-proclaimed image. As I rock and pitch in the steep wake of the polished fiberglass monster, a cormorant takes flight from the beacon, and I follow its swoop to the mangrove…

I stand beside my boat – we are between the Big Island and the mainland – three miles one way and two miles the other; yet she gently swims in knee-deep water over a sandy bottom, undisturbed by the vehicular ferries and cabin cruisers – protected by the very shallows which give so much pleasure…

Bayside Wooden Boats Workshop

Night – the wind tugs at the boom tent and dodger, protecting me from the squadrons of mozzies and sandflies which inhabit the nearby shoreline. After my simple meal I read a favourite book by the light of a battery lantern – the sounds of partying from the boats down the bay compete with the lapping of small waves against the plywood planking inches from my ear – no competition… Much later I awake and listen – the human noise has gone, but the wind and waves remain.

Why do so few people know of this secret existence? Most of them probably think of it as adversity – one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

My boat is a teacher – she has taught me the folly of setting out without adequate preparation; she patiently tolerated my lack of attention to maintenance during those early days when I knew that I was bulletproof, and hormones ruled my mind. Now she rewards me when I scrape, sand, and then apply that magical first coat of primer; when I drive home the silicon bronze screw; when the resin oozes from the scarphed-in dutchman as I tighten down on the bar clamp.

She teaches the kids as well, but they don’t realise it yet. She gives and gives, and takes very little.

Bolger Hope

Is there any other possession in life which gives so much for so little? Perhaps to the painter, his brush, pallet and canvas; to the musician, his favourite instrument; to the woodworker, his tools. But this boat can carry me over countless miles of water, yet she came from my own hands and mind – a piece of functional art.

You can build her too…

Ross' plans are in the Duckworks store.

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