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billionaires boats, and t-shirts

Boatsheds are dark places of great secrets, strange procedures and complicit mixtures of method and intent. These are not the ordinary river-side sheds toppering about on rotted piers in stagnant backwaters – these are the fabulous sheds wherein are built the fastest, the lightest ocean sailing boats that have ever been imagined – and built.

Millions upon millions of dollars flow here and there like a massive tide of transferred wealth. The money for The Boat.

– and this is what they look like coming at you at about 50 mph.

Coming fucken atcha .. !!

The men who place the orders for these yachts are mostly a little on the wealthy side, mostly usually. And they come to the shed from time to time, during the build, accompanied by their wives and daughters. Formidable women with expensive hair and given to a grave seriousness about the colour of the bunk-tops, the plush on the nav station armchair, the attitude of the girl at reception… and such a handsome Accountant!

Some of these immensely wealthy men are immensely likeable; they josh around in the office and later they walk around their part-built boat nodding and smiling. Others are a little the other way. Italians, Russians, Australians, Americans, English, French, Chinese. Tight faced tight arses. But they all …

… want their boat.


They want to jockey up to the line in the Sydney Hobart race on a clear day with a red-hot north-wester blowing and when the go bugle blows every one of the cold hearted bastards that they have hired as skippers sheets his boat up for the wind and they will run you down if you do not move out of their way – they have a man in the bow who’s job it is to scream that message at everyone in his path. Men women and children. Anyone afloat who is not racing, Anyone racing who is not their equal. Anyone racing who is their equal.

The democracy of sail.

50 mph. Tons of boat. Millions of their employer’s money flat out on rough water with collisions only inches spared. Eight news helicopters overhead and every fool in Sydney who owns a boat in the fucken way. This is why sailors drink and fight. This is why they are such lively company. This is the game to be in.

There is a custom in boatsheds at the end of a build, a custom honoured by time and tradition, a giving and receiving. On the one hand we have an exhausted contract boatbuilder, scatter brained by the complex variations demanded of him by his foreman in the final days. Then there is the homicidal General Manager who’s expectations of a fast boat and a tidy profit have been torpedoed by a villainous Project Manager whose fastidious eye has caught out every short-cut devised by the foreman who’s life expectancy has been defined by the availability of the contract boatbuilders who’s attendance at the workplace varies with the wind, and the tide.

Some of them surf you see. They are human, and only a surfer knows the feeling.

They give out T-shirts too, the owners do, when the boat is done. Sometimes caps and T’s, and all bearing the logo and name of the boat just built. They give them out to the builders and staff. These are treasured items. Some of us collect them.


David Jones, Newcastle. 3rd floor. Ladies wear.

A gentleman loitering over by the chiffon scarves is waiting for his wife to sign off on her latest purchase, she joins him and as they move to the escalators he hears a sultry whisper in his ear – an issue not from his beloved, and another perfume entirely.

She {the voice} whispers .. ‘ I’d kill for that T-shirt. ‘

He’s wearing a Team Shockwave T, one of the earlier ones. He has several. Croaky was always generous.


His wife sent the lady an unused red Wild Oats X1 T three weeks later, and the Newcastle voice had it framed and presented on the wall of her home in Hamilton. There is a trodden path to it she said the last time we talked, a path trodden over my living room carpet to the prize – which I keep framed and saved on the wall. Never worn. How could I?

So we sent her another couple – They look like this, down there, and that’s T. Wiseman below in the space-shades trying to look like Josef Conrad. They usually take him along as ballast on the longer races. Plus he cannot cook under pressure.

featured pic includes a rare image of Morris and Evans – the middle two – that was a long ten years we had together lads.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. You mean a home in Hamilton is now des res?

    September 2, 2012

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