Put on Your brave

Put on Your Brave:  Part One

You can do it”, “Put your brave on Mummy,” Just think you can”, Olivia and Mia coaxed me gently.  I was frozen with fear.  Stopped in my tracks, knees wobbling and unable to take another step.

For as long as I could remember I had been petrified of heights. As a child, this fear had caused embarrassment. As an eleven-year-old, I froze in front of all of my peers half way up an 8ft rock abseiling at school camp. However, as an adult my fear of heights had become easily managed through avoidance.  This approach had served me well until today when Olivia and Mia dragged me from the pool chair begging me to join in their fun on the waterslides at the caravan park.

It had been almost a year to the day that we had left for Western Australia. We found ourselves in Yeppoon, along the Capricorn Coast of Queensland for a quick mid-year school holiday adventure.  Dave and I had recently reflected on what a significant milestone the 12-month mark had been since we decided to travel as a family and the ways we had grown as individuals and as a family.  The biggest growth in the family was by far baby Alice who was now 15 months old toddling around the caravan park like a boss, causing smiles and mischief wherever she went.

Navigating her toddling on the boat in 2metre swells may have been a different story for us on this holiday if our little mariner wasn’t so instantly lured to sleep by the gentle rocking of the sea.

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For the rest of the family, while the day to day had largely returned to the normal chaos, we had all made changes that reflected our hearts desire for the freedom that we had experienced defying traditional notions of ‘normal’.

Six months ago, I had decided not to return from maternity leave to the job I knew and loved but rather start my own law firm practicing in an area I believed deeply in.  To begin with, the flexibility of working for myself meant surfing with Dave in my lunch hour and being able to pick the girls up from school every day.  However, those close to me knew that lately, I had been working around the clock, struggling with the juggling of the demands of work and trying to be a near enough satisfactory mother, wife and friend.  While overall, we had adjusted relatively well, as we approached the end of term it become clear that we were all desperate to reconnect as a family and enjoy each other beyond day to day logistics.

So, here we were on our first day of holidays at a cross road. Would I show my two oldest daughters’ vulnerability and courage or was I just too scared? I backed down the stairs twice returning to my pool chair before I found my brave. Finally, with Mia in front of me and Olivia behind me I slowly crawled to the top of the waterslide stairs screaming at the top of my lungs all the way down. The girls too were screaming too with delight as my biggest cheer squad…our next adventure had just begun.

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Part 2: The Capricorn Coast

Stand up paddle boarding, snorkelling, caving, biking, fossicking for thundereggs had filled nearly every moment of our last five days. With an amusing but failed attempt to make it across to Great Kepple Island on our second day of the holiday (20 knot winds and large swells), we decided to make the most of ‘waiting the weather’. We were not disappointed.  While we had initially chosen the Capricorn Coast in Central Queensland as our holiday destination for the white sandy beaches and warm crystal- clear waters, when the weather turned, we were pleasantly surprised by the natural inland beauty.

We started our wet weather adventure at the Capricorn Caves, where we explored 390 million year old limestone caves. Every little palaeontologist dream was fulfilled as the caves provided a real fossil tour where the girls got to sift through sand and dirt to find real bones of marsupials who had inhibited the marvellous caves hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Our family’s love of playing in dirt and mud was brought to the next level on our second wet weather day when we fossicked for thunder eggs at Mr Hay.  While I have never really been a rock person, I admit that repeatedly sledging a metal pick at hard stone was quite cathartic and became the perfect opportunity to vent those minor school holiday frustrations associated with five people being living inside an 18ft tin can in the pouring rain.  We all found our fortunes in the mud and the excitement on the girls faces as the lovely volunteers cut open our thunder eggs with circular saws revealing the inner beauty of the agate, jasper and quartz that had been formed beautiful patters and colours was very special.

Finally, after the skies cleared, the winds dropped we decided it was time to explore the islands.  While figuring out how to get both a caravan and boat back to Sydney with one vehicle and child wrangling three kids between the two of us on a former commercial fishing boat in the open ocean has caused some logistical hurdles the absolute beauty of the Kepple Islands overwhelmed us.  Within a stone’s throw we had our choice of any number of deserted islands in the Great Barrier Reef National Park.  Surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of the Southernmost part of the Great Barrier Reef, the girls explored back in their happy place of nature. This transported us all to a state of joy from simple pleasure.  The days on the water filled all of our contentment cups. Dave finally got his peace and quiet and a moment of pride on one of the rides back home with four out of four of his girls fast asleep on the boat.

I truly hope that none of us ever get too busy to stop together enjoying the precious and restorative moments of simply being.

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Flying high! Family fishing adventures at Dampier Archipelago

The couple who fishes together, stays together? [Part 2]

Flying high! Family fishing adventures at Dampier Archipelago

Dave:

I clearly remember watching a documentary during my final year of high school on the battle to stop the Franklin and Gordon Rivers in South-West Tasmania from being destroyed by proposed hydroelectricity dams. One of the masterstrokes of those who pushed for the protection of this World-Heritage listed wilderness was to take a bunch of politicians on a whitewater rafting trip through some of the pristine canyons that were facing destruction, so that they could actually see what all the fuss was about. When interviewed at the end of the multi-day expedition, an elected official was openly weeping on camera as he described how passionately he would fight for protection of this wilderness, now that he had actually experienced what was as stake. And so it is that personal experience can make all the difference when it comes to one’s perspective.

That being the case, maybe I am a world-class bonehead for not having sooner taken Kim on a proper fishing trip in one of the plethora of spectacular locations that I have been fortunate enough to frequent at some point over the past sixteen and a half years!

Whilst there is no doubt that our family fishing experience on this trip has reached a crescendo (as I expected it would) whilst exploring the Dampier Archipelago with my good mate, Simon Tocas, the first murmurs of the tectonic shift in Kim’s attitude towards angling pursuits (and boating generally) began to show when we were a few hundred kilometres further south in the mining town outpost of Onslow. Having checked into Onslow Beach Resort for a couple of nights to escape the confines of Chelsea the Caravan, our post-breakfast conversation turned to what the day’s activities would entail. Whilst not verbatim, in what can only be described as a bizarre role-reversal between Kim and I, the discussion unfolded something like this:

Dave: Why don’t we just spend the day lounging by the pool? The kids can swim and we can relax, maybe read a book…

Kim: Nah. I want to take the boat out to the Mackerel Islands. Let’s do it!

Dave: I dunno honey. It’s over 10kms of open ocean crossing, our boat is pretty small, and it might just be a bit much. Maybe we should just chill and enjoy the resort?

Kim: C’mon – let’s do it. I’ve double-checked Windfinder and the forecast is perfect. You can even take us fishing while we’re out there. Let’s make the most of it and go on an adventure.

Dave (by this stage wondering whether he is hallucinating and/or still asleep): Umm… Ok. I’ll get the gear ready.  

As it turned out, we had an unforgettable day exploring Direction Island. Not only did we do a bit of fishing, but as we came up into the shallows of a coral flat adjacent to the island, we unexpectedly crossed paths with a huge dugong that was completely unperturbed by our presence, allowing us to admire it from near touching distance for several minutes before cruising away. Then there were the two nesting White Breasted Sea Eagles that perched proudly on the corner of the Island. As I have said so many times to Kim, going fishing is just like being part of a David Attenborough production.  

I think Kim has done a far better job of describing her ‘conversion’ to a bona fide fisherwoman in her blog than I possibly could. So, whilst I will resist the temptation to simply say, ‘I told you so’ and leave it at that, I will just add my take on a couple of snippets from each of our three family days on the water in the Dampier Archipelago. Hopefully they will provide a glimpse into the angling evolution that my dearly beloved has undergone.

On the first day, Kim became fully initiated after landing an impressive Golden Trevally all by herself. It turns out that I was not the only one who was startled by the transformation that was taking place – when she posted a photo holding the fish (wearing a characteristically dazzling smile), on her Facebook account that evening, the image would ultimately rack up more ‘Likes’ than the proud social media announcements she had made for the arrival of any of our three kids!

On the second day, Kim (not a typo) enthusiastically suggested an early morning start, so we were on the water not long after 6am. One of the aesthetic consequences of that decision was that, at least for first couple of hours, Simon’s boat had no less than three occupants who were fishing in pink pajamas. Mia was not to be outdone on the fishing front on this day, valiantly landing a solid Queenfish (which was longer, if not heavier, than her mum’s now famous Golden Trevally). Whilst my passion for fishing has never been motivated by a desire break records, I have no doubt that Mia achieved a world angling first by landing her ‘Queenie’ attired in both shorts and shirt emblazoned with matching unicorns!

Family fishing adventures in the Dampier Archipelago
Livy fishing in her PJs
Family fishing adventures at Dampier Archipelago
Mimi in her unicorn PJs, with her big Queenfish

Our third family day on the water was spent on my boat, which seemed comparatively puny after being spoiled rotten on Simon’s stalwart vessel. Despite a vastly reduced range in our capacity to explore the archipelago, we still managed to find fish without much effort. As a rod buckled over in the holder during our first trolling run of the day, I made the all important inquiry, ‘Who wants to reel in this one?’ Despite the fact that my question had clearly been directed towards Olivia and Mia, Kim made the impassioned declaration that it would be she who would be doing the reeling in on this one. Before I could offer any words of moderation, she sprung to her feet and grabbed the buckling rod, nearly toppling our two eldest daughters overboard with her rampant enthusiasm. Whilst a man can dream, I never really thought that three of my precious princesses would actually be fighting over who got to reel in a fish…

Family fishing adventures at Dampier Archipelago
Kim photobombing our fishing photo to show off her latest catch

It must also be said that our unforgettable family days in the Dampier Archipelago were marked by a different dynamic than the many previous trips when I have fished with Simon (who was formerly a full-time fishing guide) over more than 15 years. Those times have included bruising sessions of absolute tunnel vision; with the earliest start being around 2:30am and the latest not finishing until many hours into the full dark of night. In contrast, even on our days that began on the water PJ-clad, the family fishing time for this trip was still interposed with frequent and generous interventions for other activities, including paddling the SUP in the aquamarine waters, surfing a unique island beachbreak, swimming, and just chilling on deserted beaches whilst marveling at the total absence of footprints. This time around, I didn’t have a chance to cast even a single fly at a rampaging Giant Trevally or the ever-flighty yet enigmatic Permit. But, here is my confession as a hardcore Fisho: quite frankly there is no contest – I’ll take the shared family experience any day. Unicorn PJs and all.

SUP at pristine Dampier Archipelago
SUP time at Dampier Archipelago
SUP at Pilbara Islands - family fishing adventures
Kim having a break from fishing on her SUP among Pilbara Islands
The couple who fishes together stays together

The couple who fishes together, stays together? [Part 1]

The couple who fishes together stays together
After sixteen years with Dave I finally caught a fish!

Kim:

For the past sixteen and a half years, the ‘issue’ of fishing has, at times, been the single greatest point of tension in our relationship. It wasn’t the sport itself that had caused so many arguments. Rather, it was the sheer amount of time that the man who I loved most spent completely consumed and obsessed by something that I had absolutely zero interest in. As the duration of ‘me time’, shortened with the arrival of each of our daughters, I found it completely unacceptable that Dave’s need to relax was at the mercy of tide, wind, boat, and barometric-pressure. In fact, it really infuriated me that the need to have a bit of time out could not simply be satisfied by joining the local gym or catching up with a friend for coffee. Given this context, it is little surprise there was a serious shift in relationship dynamics following the day I caught my first proper fish.

For almost as long as I have known him, Dave has been fishing the Dampier Archipelago in WA with his mate Simon, who also just happened to be the best local fishing charter guide. ‘It’s my favourite place on earth,’ I would so often hear Dave declare as he virtually drooled over piles of photos of him and the boys holding big fish caught from Simon’s boat. When the penny dropped that leave passes to fly himself over to WA once a year to go fishing were not as readily available with kids, Dave took it upon himself to take up a side gig as a fishing journalist for one of Australia’s top fishing magazines. ‘This is an opportunity of a lifetime‘ I remember Dave proposing shortly after Olivia was born as the fishing magazine had just offered to fly him to the Kimberley to board an exclusive week-long charter consisting of helifishing and exploring literally uncharted waters. Accordingly, it was no surprise that as we arrived at the Dampier Transit Caravan Park, Dave had big expectations for the week.

Persuaded by the promise of deserted islands, crystal clear waters, a decent surf break, incredible marine life, and the epic company of Simon and his lovely family, I was also excited about several days on the boat exploring the Archipelago. I went from stand-up paddle boarding next to turtles, to surfing the unique beach break at Angel Island. I also found myself repeatedly asking Simon how tourists had not overrun this paradise. Indeed, Dampier did not disappoint.

SUP at pristine Dampier Archipelago
Stand up paddle boarding at pristine Dampier Archipelago
Not a footprint in sight - swimming at pristine Dampier Archipelago
Not a footprint in sight

It was about an hour into the first day that I caught my first fish. To say that the experience was nothing like I had expected would be an understatement. For many years, I had imagined sitting for hours with a rod in hand on a muddy river bank waiting for luck to strike and for the so-called prize to be a smelly, slimy sea creature. This was not the case. As I felt the rod pull and buckle, I was filled with a huge surge of adrenalin. I had no idea that when a big fish was at the end of the line, there was actual skill required. My inner competitiveness kicked in and I was not going to let this fish off the hook. To some I may have looked like I was running around the boat like a crazy woman, perhaps even a slightly negligent mama with my determination. I used all of my strength to pull my first catch briefly out of the water before experiencing the satisfaction of releasing it back to the depths. I was overwhelmed with satisfaction and joy. There was also a part of me in awe that, when the tastiest species came along, I could participate in the harvest of something that our family would later enjoy over a meal together.

There is no doubt that my newfound enjoyment in fishing has left Dave most pleasantly surprised and excited about the prospect of future family fishing adventures. Actually, scratch that, he is absolutely frothing! This trip has really provided each member of our family, on an almost daily basis, with the time and space to learn new things about one other and ourselves.

Family fishing adventures, Dampier Archipelago
Olivia, Mia, and I on our way to our fishing spot in our PJs

Tensions

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Dave:

As we seem to be moving beyond that hazy line that somehow distinguishes a ‘holiday’ from a longer state of travel and adventure, I often find myself in something of a conundrum.

Of all the wonderful activities that I have been blessed to enjoy amongst the wonders of God’s Creation, there are two that hold a special place in my heart. One is fishing (no surprise there). The other is landscape photography. Both require time. Lots of it. For any real success to be tasted, a confluence of factors must align –tides, winds and moon phase for the former; lighting conditions, careful composition, and accurate exposure for the latter.

I don’t think I was ever too deluded in my expectation that this trip would permit me to pursue both passions at large, everyday, for as long as I wanted, whenever the desire to do so seized me. Perhaps my bride would beg to differ. But I hope that I was accepting from the outset that travelling with three kids requires a totally different mindset when it comes to activity planning.

I have found that there are lots and lots of opportunities on the trip for me to pursue these passions (thanks in large part to Kim’s grace and willingness to grant me regular leave passes). But, it’s not some kind of free-for-all. One option is to bring the kids (or at least the two older girls) with me on these sorties. Another approach is too get up super early, before the van’s other inhabitants begin to stir, and head out for a quick session that has me back by around the time Kim’s first caffeine hit has begun to taper off.    

Kayaking in the Oru on Ningaloo Reef
Kayaking on Ningaloo Reef

What I have noticed over the last week or so is that, whilst the option of involving the kids in what were previously ‘me-time’ activities is not without its drawbacks, it is deeply rewarding, and is providing the raw materials for what I sense will be truly lasting memories that are full of joy.

It has also been wonderful to see that, just as Mia and Liv have such different personalities, their preferred activities for ‘Daddy-time’ involve clear individual preferences that are sometimes in sharp contrast. Looking at the ‘About Us’ section for the blog that Kim wrote before we left, it is funny to see that Liv was, then accurately, described as anxious and reserved, whereas Mia’s daredevil streak is more than hinted at. How funny it is that the opposite has emerged to date.    

Liv has been super adventurous – enthusiastically bounce arounding in chop and wind in the tinny as we zoom out at full throttle to a snorkeling spot consisting of amazing soft coral gardens that we found more than a kilometre from dry land. Upon arrival and without hesitation, she then exits the boat, navy-seal style, and happily swims around spotting fish and talking excitedly with remarkable diction through her snorkel. Mia also enjoys the boat, but on a very different basis and with a number of immutable rules. Rule No.1 – she gets to drive for a minimum of 90% of the time. In so doing, she diligently pushes and pulls the tiller steer of the outboard in immediate response to Daddy’s instructions. Rule No. 2, we are to travel at no faster than idle speed. This obviously limits our exploration range somewhat, but we did manage to putter to a footprint-less beach hidden behind a rocky outcrop. Once there, Mia happily began shell prospecting, chatting the whole time about which discoveries she was most excited to show ‘Bubba’ (our name for Olivia) when we got back to camp.      

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One of my more successful ‘Me-time’ plus ‘Kid-time’ outings was taking Olivia in the boat to some impressive sand dunes that I had noticed returning home from an early morning fishing outing whilst we were at Ningaloo Station. Olivia had expressed immediate interest in an exploratory run to check them out. I had suspected that there were some interesting wind patterns in the dunes so took a mental note that, perhaps, I could do some landscape photography when we got there. I was not disappointed. As Livy repeatedly rolled down the highest dunes like a runaway 44-gallon drum (all the while declaring that she was not even a little bit dizzy), I managed to snap a few frames of the intricate sand details.

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I’m also pleased to report that my solo fishing trips have been fruitful. In a break from my almost exclusive catch-and-release practices back home, it has been nice to actually be fishing to supply the family with a source of nutrition. The menu has varied from Spanish Mackerel (super fun to catch with lightning fast runs, but hardly a banner culinary experience) to us all feasting on a stonker of a Coronation Trout (close relative of the revered coral trout, which I recall having seen for sale at the Sydney Fish Markets for the princely sum of $95/kg).  

I’m yet to have much success in integrating a serious fishing outing with the kids, which is perhaps the last stronghold of melding ‘Me-time’ with ‘Dad-time’. The tension remains. I guess this is all a pretty good dilemma to have to try to work through…

Coronation Trout
Coronation Trout

Flyfishing in paradise

      

Grand Adventures and Domestic Joys

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Kim:

Three days ago, the girls and I were astronauts at the Carnarvon Space museum. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, this was the spot where the signal was transmitted to Apollo 11 as it orbited earth following lift-off, to proceed onwards with its mission to the moon. Two days later, the girls and I were surfers, riding the tubes (or, more accurately, bumping through the whitewash) of Wobiri beach in Ningaloo, as the sun descended into the Indian Ocean. Tomorrow, if the wind stays down, we might even try our hand as squid fisherwomen. In anticipation, our salt and pepper batter is all ready to cook up some delicious calamari.

I am so proud of the new things that the girls have already got stuck into on this trip. It is my hope that these rich and adventurous experiences will instil the confidence that they need to become strong, resilient women who love God and their fellow humans. While Dave and I contemplate, on an almost daily basis, that, because of her age, Alice is missing out on such special memories, we hope that she too is being positively shaped by having us all around to overstimulate her during her every waking moment.

Travelling with children is testing at times to say the least. As a family on the road, we have found that pronounced highs and lows often roll in a very short period. Within minutes of returning from our extraordinary surf session, we had all three girls screaming to the point where the van was literally shaking. They were sandy, tired, hungry and completely over it. While chaos at this time of day is usual for any young family, confining ‘witching hour’ into 18 feet of aluminium proves to be quite the circus. Just when we thought 3 out of 3 kids were asleep and had kicked back to enjoy a few cold beers and Kombuchas, our firstborn reappeared and inquired:  “Mum, Dad, do you ever get the feeling when you are reading a really good book and that you are told to go to bed that it is really annoying because you just want to know what happens?” Ahhhh holidays… Who doesn’t want to extend bedtime until the book is finished? Needless to say, the extension was granted.

It is funny how many of your own childhood memories resurface as you watch your children experiencing things that you so distinctly remember as a kid. For me it was watching the pure joy the girls experienced as they caught wave after wave at the beach, begging us not to have to get out of the water, despite chattering teeth and a blossoming blue hue. I still remember the nights that I lay in bed after beach days, still feeling the waves crashing over me.  

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Our family seems to track sand wherever we go. Not just the usual amount that you could expect from a beach holiday but rather an oversupply that is constantly found in every crevice of the van, car and, somehow, deep inside Alice’s ears! I vowed to myself that I would come home from this trip a tidier person, but the confined space has so far provided a more concentrated zone of destruction for all our stuff. Combined with the fact we are daily packing and unpacking a veritable mobile outdoor convention including two inflatable SUPS, a foldable kayak, a fishing boat on the roof, three bikes, goodness knows how many fishing rods, a complete scuba kit (including tank), three snorkel sets, cameras, drone, Thermomix, coffee machine, Sodastream, a weber BBQ with pizza stone, and a legion of outdoor furniture. Given our total commitment to implementing the chaos theory, our campsite is certainly not going to win any tidiness awards.

People have given me both curious and sympathetic looks when I have told them that we are travelling with a three-month-old. To be honest she is not the most difficult child. In fact, while she is still nursing, not moving and on a reasonably stable routine, she generally wins the daily award in our family for ‘Best and Fairest’. Although, maybe that is because she has the best deal of all – who wouldn’t like lying stark naked in the tropical breeze, while everyone who passes by smiles and tells you how adorable and cute you are?

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The currency of the caravan park is unique and wonderful. Love thy neighbour is exemplified in different, special and usually utterly ordinary ways each day. For me, I try to spread the love through caffeinated beverages. They think I can’t see them, but each morning I spot the longing eyes of those who stand outside boiling the kettle for their Nescafe instant, enviously peeping through the trees as I fire up the Breville. Their faces when I surprise them with a latte is priceless. Generosity is quickly repaid as it seems a recurring theme for us that we always seem to be stuck for coins or laundry detergent for our never-ending pile of washing. Our next-door neighbours have been quick to come to the rescue perhaps feeling sorry for the lady with the baby, dropping her dirty knickers as she pushes that pram to the communal laundry yet again!

As Dave and I began to pack up the van again tonight, readying ourselves for the next part of our adventure, we agreed that there is as much joy, at least sometimes, in the simple act of daily tasks as there is in introducing the kids to a wonderful new outdoor activity.

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Teach a man (or daughter) to fish…

Dave Blog 4 - Shark Bay Twilight

Dave:

I am mindful from the gracious feedback that Kim has received about the blog that many who are digitally dropping in on our adventure do so primarily to read the sage and honest mothering and life advice that my dearly beloved offers in her every post. This probably means that I will be at something of a cross-purpose (or perhaps just downright irrelevant) if I use this forum to start banging out stanzas on how incredible the fishing is over here, complete with detailed technical information about rigs, target species and localities.

So maybe I will try a different approach – trying to capture, in words, some of the more ethereal aspects of the pastime that Kim has often referred to as the ‘other woman’ in my life. I might add that such attempts have previously failed dismally in moving the needle even a fraction with Kim, although perhaps that is because it has occurred in the context of me seeking a leave pass approval for ‘not another fishing trip’.

Fishing has been a passion of mine since I could barely walk. Apart from a brief hiatus during my teen years, it has also been a constant presence. When I travelled around Australia with a mate as an 18-year-old, it would not be much of an overstatement to say that the search for the next fishing spot (made all the more difficult by the fact that we were boat-less) propelled me forward like a sail in a stiff trade wind.

At the risk of torturing a cliché, I think I can honestly say that the actual catching of fish is no longer my primary objective. No doubt it still matters. But, it also doesn’t. At least not for reasons that fall into the category of bragging rights, chest beating, or proof-of-manhood. I think that an early morning session during our time at Monkey Mia makes a reasonable case-in-point. The day got off to an epic start when Kim rolled over in our luscious cloud-like bed in the van and gently roused me, saying, ‘Dave. It’s morning. You’d better wake up. Aren’t you going fishing?’ I know I’m biased, but can I just say as an aside, WHAT A WOMAN!

Rushing barefoot the short distance from the van to the beach, my veins pulsed with a giddy anticipation that never seems to dilute, even after many hundreds (thousands?) of similar outings. With energy reserves that are somehow absent at the same early hour on a work day, I pushed my little vessel out into the breathlessly calm water and drifted for half a moment before yanking the start cord on the weathered old outboard, which sputtered to life with the comfortingly familiar smell of 2-stroke.

With only me onboard, the boat effortlessly rose to the plane and I was soon skimming across a mauve mirrored surface. Even before the first slither of the rising sun had crested the horizon, I was overcome (in retrospect, seeing how silly it sounds, I’m going to stick to such a description from which involuntariness can be inferred) with the desire to yell with joy at the top of my lungs. And so I did. No one around to hear it, so why not? Certainly can’t do that amidst the frenetic pace of a Phillip Street morning on the way to another day in court.  

After a fifteen minute or so run (equivalent to about half a kilometre on Military Road in the T3 Lane during rush hour), I cut the motor and began fishing. Not much happened at first. That seemed, somehow, like the way it should be. Then, at around the time when the morning sun was bright enough to warrant digging amongst the strewn pile of gear for my polarized sunnies, my rod doubled over and the line began to evaporate off my spinning reel. I instantly knew this was a good fish. Still gets my heart thumping as solidly as it ever has. Slowly, and with a palpable mixture of calmness and excitement, I worked the wild creature on the end of my line to the boat. It appeared in the translucent water about 15 metres off the boat’s stern and revealed itself to be what, in NSW at least, would be classed as a near-trophy pink snapper. At that otherwise crucial moment, it was unnecessary to grapple with questions of life and death as the current closed season on the species in Eastern Shark Bay to preserve this precious resource called for a release without removing the fish from the water. That still gave me the opportunity to marvel, through the lens of the glistening water’s surface, the iridescent pink, purple and neon blue markings on the fish; to snap a couple of photos that would prove wholly inadequate in capturing same; and to temporarily feel its sheer strength pulsing through the tail wrist before it gave a sharp kick and swam back to the depths from which it came.    

DaveBlog4 - Shark Bay Pink Snapper
Shark Bay Pink Snapper

To many, this might all sound like utter bullshit. (Kim, who read this entry after I finished writing it – commented when she got about halfway through the preceding paragraph, ‘Now you’re starting to crap on about fishing a bit.’) For those who so designate, I only hope that a comparable, albeit perhaps completely different, connection with the natural world can be (or better still, has already been) discovered through other means. For me, it was another beautiful reminder that I am part of a living world that has been made in an expression of infinite creativity, and entrusted to us fallible humans to steward.

It is probably completely unsurprising that I have sought to fan the flame of my fishing passion with both Olivia and Mia. It remains to be seen whether the embers will catch. Already, it has been interesting to note how they are expressing at least some level of what I choose to interpret as genuine interest in completely different ways. Olivia has become quite adept at tieing flies. Not only is she quite proud (and rightly so) of her own designs but is diligent in quizzing me as to what species of fish I think her hooked inventions will be most likely to fool. Mia, on the other hand, most loves the physical combat of battling a fish (even if it is only a 20cm bream). She wants to turn the handle of the reel against strain and feel the bend in the rod. Upon landing a fish, she is ever keen to touch its scales and even eyeballs! I have told them both, perhaps setting the bar unrealistically high, that a goal for me on this trip is to help each of them to land a fish approximating their own size. Watch this space for news of success or failure (assuming, of course, that Kim permits me to pen another blog on fishing).   

Dave Blog 4 - Morning Wake on Shark Bay
Morning wake on Shark Bay

That leads me nicely to an important postscript. In the months leading up to the trip I anticipated that a likely Achilles heel of our adventure would be too much persistent nagging by me to go fishing, and the correlated impact that would have on Kim’s sanity. Turns out that hasn’t been even the slightest problem (at least so far… touch wood). Nope, what turns out to be a far more potent Kimbo Kryptonite is the driving of long distances where not much happens for hours on end. Perhaps she will try to articulate her state of mental acuity during these ‘travel days’ in her own blog, but I simply cannot pass up the opportunity to detail one particular example of the evident temporary insanity she is enduring. Yesterday, the decision was made to crash at a motel room upon our return to Exmouth, rather than the frankly uninviting prospect of setting up the van in the late evening. I entrusted the job of booking appropriate accommodation to my reluctant wing-woman. She proceeded to do so by way of an online booking on her iPhone. Having successfully done so, she even bragged to the girls that she had found a place to stay with an indoor pool. Yippee! It wasn’t until we were nearing Learmonth airport, when Kim, seemingly reanimated by the prospect of coming back into mobile reception, blurted out, ‘Oh no. I’ve booked (and fully paid for) a hotel room in Exmouth… in the UK!’

It didn’t take long to see the humour in this 21st century travel faux pas, and I couldn’t resist at least a gentle probe into how it had come to pass that my limitlessly talented wife had booked a lovely BnB called ‘Devonshire’ for our family to stay in tonight on the other side of the planet! Even in her frazzled state, Kim joined me in fits of laughter and conceded, somewhat sheepishly, that she should have heard alarm bells when the tariff (which was great value, I might add) was quoted in pounds rather than the good old Aussie dollar. Needless to say, Kim has now firmly resolved that all future accommodation reservations will be by way of that arcane communication method – an actual telephone call.