Row Row Row Your Boat

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you will know I dream about tugboats sometimes – granted, dreaming is about as much as i get to do about them these days. I like all sorts of boats though. I like the way most of them smell – of brine, fuel, fish, rotting seaweed, barnacle, wet rope, rusting anchors and other things. I love the shape of them, the way they move in the water; some, foursquare and unshakable as anything, others that roll and pitch in a ripple, and still others that skim the surface with sheer contact, like sea birds.

I don’t know much about boats; they simply appeal to the aesthetics of all my senses (except perhaps taste; i’ve yet to go that far). It is mentioned in the Tug Boat Dreaming post that the credit for this sea-love goes to my father.

I learned during my trip back to Asia last Christmas, that I’d overlooked another, perhaps deeper connection.

Did you know that my mother had spent a large part of her younger years wanting to run away to sea?

Neither did I.

Until then anyway. I was stunned.

My mother is a woman of many mysteries. She doesn’t talk about herself much, except when I’ve managed to keep her awake and sufficiently lubricated with whiskey to dig some stories out of her, which is then still hard work, believe you me! She’s had a hard life, as many of that generation, in the motherland, have had. And like many of that generation, further education, self discovery, realising dreams and all that other stuff we love to talk about doing so much these days, was no more than a figment idea. They just got down to work, to survive and ensure the well being of those close to them. Pure, practical, simple. Hard yards.

Mom’s late paternal uncle (my late grand uncle) was a sailor, and remained that until the end of his days. He lived all over the place, but later settled in Hong Kong while the rest of the family were scattered around Malaysia and Singapore. His life and its work captured the imagination of one young woman. My mother.

Who then spent many nights in her youth dreaming about running away to sea.

Sound familiar?

Yep, thought so.

That Mom had this particular mad compulsion shocks me for two reasons:

1. She gets horrendously seasick. It is tempered by the anti-sick aids you can get in pharmacies these days, but she still suffers on the water regardless.

2. It is a huge departure from the small, fierce, no-nonsense woman I know, who worked like a dog and raised me to tackle the hardships of life and my own silly fancies with an iron practicality. I admit, I live a cushy enough life not to heed this too closely, but the lessons are there. I’ve always known that my mom has a crazy-escapade side through the proxy of my dad’s stories, but I have never seen it, or heard about it from her.

As I grow older, I appreciate more that Mom and Dad have many other facets than the parental ones I grew up with, but occasionally, some of these quirks still do my head in.

I’d taken this set of images during one visit to Flemming while he was in Perth, and living on True North Mark‘s boat. I’d find excuses to barge in on him if he was ‘home’ and just sit at the stern and feel the boat shift with the water, a hand on the many ropes securing her inside her berth, take pictures, talk to Flemming about random crap, and then schlep off with immense reluctance when it was time to go back to the landlubbing life.

I think my mom will enjoy them, if/when she still remembers I have a blog. But this is for everyone who has ever dreamt of boats as real magic carpets.








105 thoughts on “Row Row Row Your Boat

  1. I love the story, that is truly awesome. Can imagine you stunned and then saying something like “really??????!!!!!???? that’s crazy man!!!!!” when learning this :)

    The pictures are from my home, I feel so home sick now. I miss the Polaris so much, living on a boat is just fantastic. Well, a few things can annoy you. Image 10 on your Photoshelter gallery, those bloody propellers, which are wind generators topping up the battery, make a fierce annoying sound in strong winds when the whole sailing clubs worth of propellers take off! Also seagulls are freaks of nature, I rate them up there with the winged beasts the Nazgul ride! And the human body seems unable to remember the height of the bathroom door no matter how many times I bang my head.

    Also totally loved your visits, such a cosy fun time hanging out on the boat. Inspired, I will soon do a “Things you learn while living on a boat” and feature a few of your great portraits.

    PS. Great Photoshelter site, hey you shot a lot of nice landscapes mate :)

    1. I might have squeaked and then gone “whaaaa… serious?” or something like that. I don’t remember. Been turning it over in my head for a good 4 months or so though, so it’s had some impact!

      Hahahaha, I quite like those propellers to look at, but yeah they do make a bloody racket. I’d sleep through those though. Easily!

      Those landscapes – totally happy accidents, except for the Karijini ones. Hard to take bad photos in that place. Any old photo turns out to be a nice looking one!

      1. After living in Thailand I can sleep through anything, the propellers were no problem. I need 500 cars, 8 pubs surrounding my condo, all of them featuring Thai rock bands, and a flight path overhead before I even stir in my sleep.

  2. I love boats – perhaps not enough to commit the vast sums of money into ownership, but there is something evocative about the setting sail thing that reminds me of the 4×4 or biking into the wilderness adventures that I’m drawn to. That and the absence of people. Maybe its the way life slows down to a more manageable pace too.

    my favourite boat – a Fisher 25 (although I like the bigger ones too, the little baby one is the awesome-est)

    1. Charlie, I swear you and I must be related some (long) way up the family tree. I think of it that way too – life slowing down to a pace where you can stop to think about what you’re doing, and being more engaged with all senses awake. And yes, 4×4 wilderness adventures FTW! (not done the biking bit yet)

      This is a Fisher 25 yes?

      That would be an awesome boat to own!

      1. LOL – it its funny isn’t it! My parents are avid sailors and I’ve always grown up around boats, gone on holidays with them etc – its awesome. There can be moments when the boat is confining (I think thats holidaying with parents tbh) but mostly, its fantastic. I like the feeling of leaving and arrival – that’s when the magic happens for me.

        And yes, thats the one – they’re so cool with the little wheelhouse and ketch rig.

      2. I only ever got on boats whenever I went fishing with my dad, usually in the South China sea off East Malaysia. but once in a while also off local (Singapore) waters. Bobbing around under the oil rigs were the best… hadn’t even remembered those up until now. This was the type of boat we’d go deep sea fishing in, off Malaysia:

        Powered by ancient lorry diesels. They went slightly faster than a human jog… who ever said magic carpets were meant to be fast eh? :)

  3. Oh Charlene…if I didn’t love boats, I would fall in love with them through your images and words. To be truthful, I have fallen in love with them even more because of what you communicate especially in your photographs. You have given us the ultimate experience of being on that magic carpet ride and I for one, would like to stay on forever!

    1. That’s a helluva compliment Sabrina. Thank you :) The first World Nexus meeting location is looking more and more like Port Townsend. Lots of ‘carpets’ to choose from, and who knows, we might just get to go on a real magic ride!

  4. I can appreciate this very much. Ever since I was a kid, except for one phase where I seemed to be seasick every-time I set foot on a boat, I have felt an affinity for the sea. I could get lost for minutes, if not an hour, looking down and just watching the sea slide or rush by the side of a boat. This is a beautiful story told through your words and images, I now wonder if my mother has felt the same way. Thanks for sharing it and to Sabrina for RT’ing it!

    1. “I could get lost for minutes, if not an hour, looking down and just watching the sea slide or rush by the side of a boat.”

      I relate to that. I used to do that on fishing trips, not fish, just watch the water for days on end. It’s great isn’t it. Like staring up at the sky, but the water is formless enough to be an abstract sky from a dream.

      Time to speak to your mom? We must get our dreaming genes from somewhere.

      Thank you for visiting :)

  5. Isn’t it funny how we (even unconsciously) follow in the footsteps and dreams of our parents? I know my path around the globe has echoed the journey my mum made when she was younger. I never intended to do that, but somehow it’s just turned out that way.

    I have some friends in London who live on houseboats on the Thames, it was always so fun and interesting to go visit them, and be constantly amazed by how homely and how MUCH you can fit on on one of those things.

    Loving the blue-green tones in the top set of images.

    (OK, I guess ‘blue-green’ is actually aqua, which is the colour of water, and clearly stating the bleeding obvious!)

    Still, I love the SHADE of aqua that you’ve pulled out of them. :)

    1. Funny how that works huh? Never realise how we filter down to each other

      House boats are a way awesome idea, although having never lived in one, I have no idea how awesome they are practically. The first and only time I went to Seattle (have family there) I was totally charmed by the house boats they have on the Puget Sound. I was all “I want one, give it to me. Now!” But no one listened to the teenager. Of course!

      I have no idea how the hell I got those blue green tones. That’s the problem with mucking around joyously but not paying any attention. Went back to the RAW+xmp, saved one of them as a LR preset and…. it simply doesn’t work on photos anymore. Grrrrrr :(

      Hey, blue green is turquoise too! And that is only the colour of waters in pristine locations with expensive resorts I hear.

      You are being most entertaining of late :D

  6. Firstly Charlene, I want to say that I really like the series of photos here. All the shots have a beautiful clarity to them, and a pleasing sense of proportion… or balance, if you like. The first three are particularly interesting for the grapic look they have, too.

    I too have a fascination with boats, although I am no kind of sailor at all, I must say. All the best to your mother…

  7. Love the story and the sentiment here – especially the realization that our parents are real people with lives and dreams and hopes of their own. Terrific series of accompanying images!

    1. Thanks Marcie! It’s a funny thing to know something rationally, and another altogether for it to hit you right in the gut. I seem to need this sort of visceral realisation to remind me every once in a while.

  8. I am right there with you in those first two paragraphs! I can imagine a sailor in me and yet wonder is he really there but yet think I would like to try it. The sights, sounds and smells makes me say, yes!

    1. Ah you are a kindred spirit. I often think I would like to be a sailor, totally aware I know nothing about the actual realities of the occupation. Thanks for stopping by :)

  9. These are wonderful! I was never a boat person until my family rented a cat and sailed the British Virgin Islands last summer. Sailing and the way the water reflects on to the boat is really a sight! You’ve captured that beauty in these pics. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    1. “rented a cat” – You had me scratching my head there for a minute, haha! Glad to have brought those memories back for you. And thank you for dropping by :)

  10. Like Sabrina above, I’m not a boat aficionado. I am a word aficionado, and your words help me understand why someone might love boats.

    The photo of sun glimmering off green-tinted water is captivating!

  11. I’m blessed to be able to be living on a beach on the Kent coast, overlooking the English Channel. I totally understand your love of boats and the sea. Beautiful images!

    1. Lucky you. I’ve lived near the water (river & sea) a couple of times every now and then and it was really good for the soul. I don’t get near either often enough for my liking these days. Thank you for stopping by :)

  12. I have to also totally agree. I don’t know much about boats either , but they do make for some beautiful images !!

    1. Cheers Niki! Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to look around. That lad has been glaring at me in my memory for a long while now. Hard to forget a gaze like that.

  13. Hey Charlene. Small world. I started reading this post and thought to myself I’ve met another woman who is also into Tug Boats, I’ll have to let her know about your blog if I see her on Sunday when I get together with my photography friends. LOL. As it turns out it’s you! Fancy just randomly finding your blog like that.


    1. Cheers! It certainly is pretty wacky to learn things about the people you kinda take for granted as being what’s in your head. Gotta love that curve ball.

  14. I have a boat. A small Sunfish. That’s all I need. Sailing is my passion. I love the smells as well, but my favorite sound is the water lapping onto the hull. Even when it’s sitting idle in the water, I just love it when the small waves are bouncing off the bottom. I also love the sounds of the sails as the wave in the wind when the boat is coming about. So I can totally relate to your feelings! I’m also most happy when I’m around water either the ocean or a lake.

    You’re pictures are beautiful!

    1. You’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve never been in a boat with a sail. That’s an experience I’m keenly on the lookout for. Thank you for stopping by!

  15. Thank you for sharing your boat photos. The colours are fantastic – the old 70s photograph/dreamlike look is very evocative.

    My boyfriend has been rebuilding a fishing boat for the last four years, and I’ve taken many (terrible!) photographs of it in various stages of incompleteness. Your blog has reminded me of how great it will be when it is finally on the water, and we can escape and stare into the sea ourselves.

  16. I love boats: I love the smell, the motion, the gentle splashes the water makes against the hull. I attended a sailing camp once and and it’s really amazing how one can control the wind. I love your pictures! I think they really capture the spirit of the boats. Great job!

  17. I spent time in boats when I was young, whenever I visited my grandparents. I remember the green water, the smell, the slimy feeling, the barnacles, the feel of the water when I trailed my hand from the side of the moving boat, the sound of feet in the wooden boat…
    Thank you for sharing your story and your photos. You brought back memories!

  18. So many gorgeous images! Love them all! Water and the reflections on water are fascinating to me. You’ve captured it all so perfectly. The greens in the water are refreshing to look at. I can almost smell the air and the water…

    1. Cheers! The water was probably a bit bluer than in the photos (mucked around with them a bit), but still refreshing, especially on the very hot summer’s day these photos were taken on.

  19. Just loved going through your blog……and as I probably am close to the age of your mom loved the story of her wanting to run away to sea. It immediately brought to my mind my escapade when I was all of 6 years old. My dad owned a hotel in Budh Gaya in those days and as other uncles told me later on that our family was greatly respected there. One day at the ripe old age of 6 I ran away from home as I wanted to see the world. There is still an old sepia photo, with my mom, showing how I had managed to place one stool on top of another to open the latch of the door. It so happened that as I was wandering around town a shopkeeper spotted me and took me into the shop. On learning from me as to why I was on my own he made me sit and wait in his shop. Meanwhile my absense from home was soon noticed by my family and the police were called in when they simply could not find me anywhere. The shopkeeper after tending to all his customers locked up his shop and took me back home as all the residents of the place knew who we were.

  20. Fun story….and greetings from a fellow tugboat lover. I’m a journalist/author in New York and one of my absolute must-do’s was to find a way to get out into NYC harbor aboard a tug. I did it in 1006 when I wrote a feature story about them and spent the day aboard one. I had no idea — as I suspect many NYers do not — how absolutely essential they are to maritime commerce. NYC still gets many cruise ships and it’s the tugs that get them in and out of a harbor that’s both crowded and frighteningly shallow in some spots.

    My apartment north of NYC overlooks the Hudson River and I am absurdly delighted almost daily to see tugs and barges moving past.

    1. A fellow tug enthusiast!! That is totally awesome. The closest I’ve come to the NYC tugs are this blog: so i am very envious of your day out on them. Is the story published anywhere online? I’d love to have a read of it.

      I’m in awe over your view. NYC have such a variety of tug types. We don’t – as far as I have observed – here in Western Australia, but our ports are probably about a quarter as busy as yours.

      Edit: Found it!

  21. You had me at BOAT! Interesting post I do beleive that we inherit more than DNA there are certain traits we acquire as well. Congrats on being pressed!

  22. whoa look who’s a popular one today! :-) well last week anyway seeing as though i’m pretty late haha. great story, great memories and experiences too. great work, and how you must’ve enjoyed being able to visit someone living on a boat! haha

    1. Stephen!! You live! ;)

      It was rather exciting to be Freshly Pressed I must say. A taste of celebrity blogging, sans flaming. How good’s that?

      And I did very much enjoy hanging out in the boat. Must go back soon as Flemming is back onboard, but not for very much longer I think.

  23. Those pictures were incredible! I myself actually get horrendously seasick, which is kind of odd when you consider the fact that I live on Long Beach, but I’m not afraid of the water or anything, so I can go in and have a swim when I please. It’s just the fact that I get sick on boats that are IN the water.
    I know this isn’t related to the topic of the post, but I have a question to ask.
    Your Flickr username is Simoom, which in Arabic, means “Poison wind”. As a student of linguistics, I’m curious. Why did you choose Simoom as your username?
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
    Ashley, aka TheEverydayMuser

    1. Heh, i don’t think it matters where you live. If you’re wired to get sea/motion sick, that’s just the way it is. Some people overcome this, others never do. I wonder if there are people out there that get seasick while swimming though!

      I’ve had that flickr account for something like 10 years (give or take a couple) and no one has EVER asked me that. As a kid I was horse crazy, like a lot of other girls. And I wanted a horse like the wind, named for the wind. I’ve got a very short fuse, mellowed a little by age, mostly by control, so it seemed appropriate to name my fiery, fast mount after a gale that matched the intensity of my temper. Not that I ever did get my fiery mount. I got online accounts instead. So there you go :)

      Thank you for stopping by!

  24. A few of your older posts popped up in my reader this morning, and I couldn’t resist coming over to have a look. I have to say, it’s pretty wild to compare these nautical images with the American landscapes you’ve made recently. And very cool to know that you’ve got a longer history of making images with your nomadic amigo than I realized. :)

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