We landed in Hobart the next afternoon, a complete coincidence, or perhaps just the divine matrix's language? Visiting Tassie was the only request my beloved Daddy had made for what we were all aware, could be the Proffitt’s last visit to Australia if Scott and I couldn’t meet in the middle. Ahem. That is, if Scott’s mother refused to relinquish subliminal control over my days, my choices and my womb. The irony to me has always been that had she just let go a little - I would have given her the best of what she desired & more... If only she had let it be my choice to make.
Because of our complete oblivion to the sailing event, there was not a single hotel room available by the time I sat down to organize one. Booked out for months, we managed 2 (very expensive) rooms facing Constitution Dock for our first night at Lenna of Hobart - an elderly and magnificent hotel between Battery Point and Salamanca Place. Due to the same situation with rental cars, I timed our travel by a bus route that would take us to the Midlands for our second night in the infamous Man O’ Ross Hotel, (a pub style hotel built in 1835 with shared bathroom ammenities) followed by the third night in Lauderdale - & this ain’t Florida, folks.
It wasn’t an ideal vacation, but the excitement around the city was palpable! Electric for the maxis’ arrivals, we set our alarms for 5 AM, 30 minutes prior to Wild Oats XI’s expected crossing of the legendary finish line in the River Derwent. No alarm necessary though, as the commentators were already on the loudspeakers blaring into our hotel windows. In 30 minute increments I would wake, look into the marina, find no mast and go back to sleep again, until we rose to meet the giants in person. It was a makeshift trip based on mishaps, but overall, absolutely magical.
Back in Sydney, the morning of my parents’ flight home, I engineered my normal anti-jetlag routine of up at 4:30 AM & headed East to the beaches, but this time had a breakfast conversation that I will never forget. Looking into my parents’ eyes through my own tears, I effectively drew a line in the unseen sand of my destiny. The conclusion, strange as it may have looked from an outsider’s perspective, was that my life could not go on anymore in this fashion, because my soul was dying in it.
“He thought he could convince you with the money,” my dad said. I’m sure it hurt him to say it, knowing that it hurt me to hear it… Knowing that the newfound wealth was on everyone’s mind who was peering in. “I’ve only asked one thing of my children, Billie,” he continued, “& that is to be happy in this life. You are the only one who can answer that question, but this isn't what my favorite daughter looks like when she’s happy.”
Within a month, Scott’s laissez-faire attitude toward meeting my needs fell short again & I ended life as we knew it. Not because I wasn’t in love with him, but because, as Samantha told Smith Jarrod, “I love me more.” There wasn’t much of a “we” left anyway, I came to see as time passed… I have known nothing more painful in my life, than making the choice to walk away from someone I love, whatever the situation may be. And I had no idea what I was going to do next.
As I stood, I despised Australia. So far as I was concerned, had Scott stayed living the safe distance of 10 or so odd thousand miles away from Brisbane, then we would be living the cohesive life we had agreed upon before I ever stepped onto the Ancestors' soil. My life raft came in the form of my painfully astute gut instinct, which remained stubborn in the knowledge that I would truly adore this place, if I could just find myself in it. I was convinced that I was glitter in god’s hand, subject to god’s breath, so I decided to trust and go wherever that wind would take me.
My declaration became that I would attempt to morph into a crew member racing in the world-famous Sydney to Hobart. If I had a chance at it, then I would stay, & if I couldn’t manage making that a possibility, then it was just another square Australian peg that wasn’t fitting with my round, Californian hole of a life.
I told Scotty of my plan. That as repayment for lying to me, bringing me across the sea and then betraying his promises, he would fit the bill for me to do this. “You owe me,” I told him. And he didn’t flinch as he agreed. I don’t know if he felt guilty for the way he’d treated me, or if he just thought there wasn’t a chance in hell that I would actually be good enough to compete in “the sailing world’s Everest”. Either way, he stood behind this promise, & I will be immensely grateful in eternity for it.
“This gives you a year, Scott,” I told him, hanging on to my view of my life’s bigger picture, trying to convince him to do the same. “Go out in the world and fuck who you want to, do whatever drugs you need to, and don’t answer to anybody for a while... Please. Do whatever you need to, to prove to yourself that you are your own man.” It’s so painful to watch someone struggle with an invisible enemy, where, no matter how hard you try, there is no saving them, because they have to save themselves. “Please, go out in the world and look for a girl who is better than me. Find a woman who can travel to the ends of the earth with you looking for uranium and then have dinner reservations already booked for when you reenter civilization. Find a woman who can charm your Dad’s seventy-year-old friends before redoing your apartment, staying out all night with your mates, reminding you of your pilot’s lesson in the morning & end the day by fucking your brains out. Find a woman who can do all that, because I can. And if you do, I will happily bow down to her. If a year from now, we can see clearly & still don’t want to be together, then que sera. That is our answer. But if we’re still this heartbroken, then let’s give that go too. We’ll be different people then, or ideally, more realistic versions of who we are now." It is truly amazing what the world brings you when you stop trying to steer it’s path with your sightless, scared mind…
Through an introduction of a neighbor, all of a sudden I found myself standing on an uneven deck at the Wednesday start line of a CYCA twilight race near Sydney Harbour’s Clark Island. In my first yacht race of any kind, we were part of a four boat collision. Speed bump in my journey or Wrong Way sign? Those can be so hard to decipher when using one’s logical intellect. Luckily, my saintly gut again took control propelling me deeper into my journey, & speed bump it was, as (knock on wood,) with the thousands of sea miles I have now sailed, I have only been in 1 small collision since. (Yes, again at the start of a CY twilight race, but on a bigger boat.)
At this point you must be wondering if I have a background in sailing - my family, my childhood, anything? No. None. My parents’ business would periodically land us on boats, but “tack” to me was nothing more than an adjective for changing one's argument. But ooooooh, was I about to find out! I wasn’t only learning a new sport in a foreign country, I was also learning a new language in a foreign culture. In 10 short months I resurfaced my lifestyle and made sailing my number 1 priority. Had I not, I don’t believe I would have reached the other side of my very public, and very pass or fail intention.
Would I be wind-burnt & dehydrated, clinking glasses with my new social circle at Customs House come New Years’ Eve… Or would I not?
My parents stood together with Scotty & his, as they all waved me off the dock the morning of Boxing Day, 2013... My only regret being that he was not waiting for me 4 days later on the other end. Did he follow my crew on Yacht Tracker? Did he ignore the event entirely after our goodbye that day? Did he worry about me? Most likely, I will never get those answers, but I am happy just knowing myself all the better.
“You asked me what Hobart was like. Did you want the facts?” I inquired as he drove me back to my car. “That on Day 1, 94 racing monohulls left Sydney Harbour turning right around South Head for 600 plus nautical miles of racing in champagne sailing weather. That we flew across Bass Straight in a day at over twenty knots, surfing the rollers on the Sydney 46 named Mahligai, sail number NZ-1. That on Day 2 we smashed into a wall of storm, Southerly winds gusting at over 40 knots that we fought against for the next 3 days in 5 to 6 meter swells, all the way down the east coast of Tasmania. That our bowman, a skilled sailor whom they flew in from New York, made the passing comment to me that if we’d had a carbon rig, 'we’d have lost it by now.' That as we took on more and more water our bilge pump broke and amongst bailing it with cut-off water bottles I nearly flew off the stern in a wave, but instead swallowed my own vomit… That by the time we pulled up to Constitution Dock we had our group of loved ones waiting with a sign, a handful of cases of beer, and many, many hugs. That in time, with the calculated handicap, we placed 5th in our division. Those things are all true of what Hobart was like, but it doesn’t do it justice for me. The emotional intelligence I gained from that experience will serve me for a lifetime, across all facets of my life. It made me a better person. Listing the wind direction and number of tacks can’t ever emulate a soul’s journey through them.”
“No, I think your first answer was perfect,” he said. And he was right.