Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 49

I found Australia to be something of a disappointment. Somehow, I had got an image in my mind of what it was like and found it to be nothing like I expected, probably because on the first couple of days we were there, it rained. Not incessantly like it often did at home, but it rained, and somehow rain and Australia did not go together in my mind. Also, I had thought of Australia as hot. Sydney in July is not hot. I will not say it was cold — it was warm — but the temperature never got above the upper teens.

Friday, I ended up going on a trip to Sydney Wildlife Zoo, not so much because I wanted to go but because there was nothing else on offer. Luuk and Joseph were going on an architectural tour of the Opera House, arranged through some contact Luuk had been given by his professor in Amsterdam. I suppose I could have gone with them, though it was not really my thing. Also, I felt somewhat out of it when those two started to discuss architecture. I could have gone off and done something on my own but did not feel like it. So, I tagged along with Mum and Jenny when James took them to look at Australian wildlife.

Dad, of course, was off doing book signings and interviews. I caught him on the television that evening debating climate change with some Aussie politician who was saying it was all a myth. From what I could gather the politician was more worried about what a ban on carbon emissions would do to his coal-mining constituents. I might be biased, but I got the distinct impression that Dad was wiping the floor with him.

Dad was free at the weekend. Sandra had arranged a couple of outings for us all. On Saturday, we went to the Blue Mountains, then visited Bondi Beach on Sunday. The latter was pretty busy but chilly. I did not go in the water, though the guide assured us that the water temperature was higher than the air temperature, which I gathered was seventeen degrees.

On Monday, Dad was off to Brisbane. Luuk and Joseph had a whole pile of architectural sites they wanted to see, which left me with going with Mum, Jenny and James or going off on my own. I went off on my own — to Oxford Street, the site of one of the biggest gay parades in the world. Though I must admit at eleven on a July morning, there was not much sign of gay nightlife around.

I suppose I had been expecting something along the lines of Soho in London or the Latin Quarter in Paris, somewhere with narrow streets and a lot of alleys — the type of place where things could hide in the corners and be easily missed, as so much of gay life had been for so long. What I did not expect was a boulevard some thirty metres wide. Looking at the buildings, I thought that Luuk and Joseph were probably missing out on some of the best architecture in Sydney.

I spent a bit of time looking at the shops along the road. There were some nice ones but nothing of particular interest to me. As a result, I got back to the villa just after two to find Sandra loading up the fridge with supplies. She informed me that Dad was flying back this evening.

"I thought he was up there till tomorrow," I stated.

"That was the idea," Sandra replied. "He was supposed to record a discussion with one of the local political leaders. Apparently, the chap he was supposed to debate saw Friday's broadcast and decided against appearing, so it's been cancelled. You father's managed to do a couple of interviews between signings, so is flying back once the last signing is done today. I've got to meet his plane when it arrives; I'm going to have a late night."

"Sorry," I said, not knowing why I was apologising.

"That's fine; it comes with the job. Your father is a lot less troublesome than some of the celebrities I have to cater for."

I spent a bit of time chatting with Sandra. It turned out that she did not work for the publishers who were paying for Dad's visit but for a PR company. She acted as host/fixer for visiting celebrities and others who were regarded as VIPs.

Mum and Jenny got back not long after I had finished talking to Sandra. James apparently had to go into the hospital to sort out some things. Although his contract was officially over, he still had a few things to tidy up before he returned to the UK.

"He's taking us out to dinner this evening if you want to come along," Mum informed me.

"Dad's flying back this evening," I told her.

"How do you know?"

"Sandra told me," I informed Mum. "She came round to top up the food supplies. Seems the chap Dad was supposed to have debated with in the morning has pulled out."

"Now, there's a surprise," Mum commented. "I wish he had let us know."

I was just about to make a comment when Mum's phone rang. It was Dad, telling her about the change in plan. Apparently, it had only just been confirmed that he was flying back tonight. It turned out that he would not be back at the villa till late, so we might as well go out for dinner with James. I asked Mum about Joseph and Luuk.

"Luuk texted me. Joseph and he are having dinner, then going to a party with somebody that Luuk knows from his university," she informed me.

I was a bit miffed at that. Joseph could have let me know.

One thing I really did enjoy in Sydney was the food. The quality of the food I had, wherever I had eaten, was high. What was more important was that it was interesting — a blend of traditional Western European food with Oriental food. I had come across fusion food in London and generally been unimpressed by it. The place James took us for dinner that evening was really good at it. They even managed to put an Oriental twist on fish and chips and made it work.

Over dinner, Jenny and James told us that they planned to get married on the twenty-ninth of August, the Saturday of the Bank Holiday weekend.

"We weren't going to say anything till I was back in the UK and had discussed things with JayDee," James informed us. "However, I Skyped him last night, and he wanted to know if I had married Jenny. He thought we would have got married out here. So, I told him not yet, but we would when I was back in England."

"I'm surprised you have not got married out here," Mum stated.

"Actually, we thought about it," Jenny said. "But we wanted JayDee at the ceremony. If he had been able to come out with us, we would have. As it is, we will have to wait till we are back in the UK."

I insisted we get some champagne to celebrate, though Mum had to buy it. I would pay her for it when we got home.

Dad was not back when we returned to the villa. There was also no sign of Luuk or Joseph. It had gone eleven before Dad got back. Mum had already gone to bed, and I was giving it serious thought when Dad came in. I did express some surprise that he was so late.

"We didn't leave till after eight," he informed me.

"Didn't think there was a flight that late," I commented.

"It was my publisher's private jet, not commercial. Had to wait for the chairman to finish the dinner meeting he had."

"So, why was your TV debate cancelled?"

"Seems the chap I was supposed to be debating with didn't want to debate with a Pom, told them they should get an Australian who knew what he was talking about."

"Did they?" I asked.

"Yes. There was a chap from Darwin, Keith Merrick. I got talking to him at the book-signing this morning. He's a professor of environmental studies and knows his stuff about climate change. Went for lunch with him after the signing. He invited me as he wanted to pick my brains about publishing. Said he had been working on a book but did not know how to offer it to publishers. I told him to let Bob have a look at it.

"When Fiona from the station informed me that the politician they had lined up did not want to debate with me, I suggested the professor and gave them his mobile number. He had told me he was in Brisbane till Friday.

"Fiona called him, and he agreed to do it. Had dinner with him this evening and filled him in on some useful facts."

"Did this Fiona say why the politician pulled out?" I asked.

"His official reason was that he did not think it was right for them to call in a 'so-called' expert from England when they had their own in Australia. Fiona's of the opinion that he was scared that he would come off as badly as the chap on Friday. Apparently, the weekend press was not very kind to him. So, I have a free day, which is probably useful."


"When I was having lunch with Keith, I mentioned that you were looking at going into yacht design. Turns out his brother-in-law is a designer with one of the leading racing-yacht builders in Oz. Got an invitation for you to go and look at their place tomorrow."

"Where is it?"

"A place called Gosford; it's about an hour's drive north of here. I spoke to Sandra before we left Brisbane and asked her to arrange a hire car for me in the morning. Not sure if your mother will want to come with us, but I thought I might as well go along and see the type of work you will be getting into. Do you think Luuk and Joseph will be interested?"

"Joseph might be. Not sure about Luuk. You'll have to ask them in the morning or when they come in if you're still up."

"Aren't they back yet?" Dad asked, looking at the clock, which showed a time just past twelve.

"No, and I am not staying up for them," I replied, then went up to bed.

It was sometime well past two when Joseph climbed into bed. He stunk of beer. I asked him where he had been and he mumbled, "party", before rolling on his side. Not sure if he went to sleep or passed out. He was still out of it when I got up at eight in the morning.

When I got down to the kitchen, Dad was putting some bread in the toaster. He asked me if I knew what time Joseph had got back.

"About half-two," I informed him. "You didn't wait up for them?"

"Not bloody likely. At my age, I need my sleep."

"Is Mum coming with us?"

"No, she's going to have a rest," Dad informed me. "I think she has done a bit more than she should have these last few days given her condition."

He had a point there. I knew she was not due till the end of August, but she was quite large. That made me think.

"She's not having twins, is she?"

"No, Johnny, she's not. I've seen the scans. Though I do wonder if she has got her dates wrong."

"I hope not. If she has, it could be due about now," I pointed out.

Just gone eight-thirty, I went up to our room to ask Joseph if he wanted to go with us to the yacht builders. When I managed to wake him, I asked him. Not sure if he understood the question. I did though manage to decipher the reply, which was, "Leave me alone. I want to sleep." So, I left him.

Surprisingly, when I got back down to the kitchen, Luuk was there. Unlike Joseph, he did not seem to be the worse for wear. He also seemed to be apologising to Dad. He turned as I came into the kitchen area.

"Where did you go?" I asked.

"We met up with a friend, Filip Maygar; he's a Ph.D. student at the university in Amsterdam."

"He's Dutch?"

"No, he's Australian but of Dutch descent. He's doing research into floodproofing houses, so studying in the Netherlands was best for him. We Dutch probably know more about floodproofing that anyone else."

That did make some sense.

Luuk continued. "Filip invited us to a party. It was at Dobroyd Point. It's not that far away. Somehow, I lost Joseph in the party, and it took me ages to find him. When I did, he was drunk and wouldn't leave. So, I stayed with him until I could get him out and get a taxi. That took some sorting out as no one wanted to pick us up. In the end Filip drove us back."

"Was that safe?" Dad asked. "He had been drinking."

"Filip does not drink that much. Most of the time he does not drink at all. He's diabetic, and controlling his blood sugar, if he has alcohol, can be problem. He'd been drinking soda most of the evening."

I wanted to be annoyed with Luuk, but somehow what he said made sense. There had been a couple of occasions when Joseph had got drunk in the last year, and when he did, he was impossible.

I made some toast for myself. Whilst doing so, I mentioned to Luuk that we were going to look at a yacht builder in Gosford. I asked him if he wanted to come.

"I'd like to, it sounds interesting, but I'd better stay here to deal with Joseph when he surfaces," Luuk told me.

"Rather you than me," I said. "He is a right pain when he has a hangover."

"Is he?" Dad asked. "I did not think he drank that much."

"Yes," I responded. "He doesn't drink much, but occasionally he goes on a bender and does not deal with it well."

"You've never said anything about it," Dad pointed out.

"Didn't want to cause problems for him."

Dad just shook his head.

Sandra arrived shortly after and took us to the car-hire place to pick up a vehicle. Dad asked about returning it when we got back, but Sandra informed him that she would arrange its return in the morning.

We set off for Gosford shortly after nine-thirty. At first, the trip was a bit heavy going with morning traffic in Sydney. Once we got out of the city centre, the traffic got better, but it was still pretty heavy.

"Are you having problems with Joseph?" Dad asked out of the blue.

For a moment I was not even sure what he was talking about, but then I thought about things. "Not sure if it's problems, just things. Things are not the same as they were."

"I gathered. There's been a tension… No, that's not right. There's been a distance between you two since you got here."

"I think it was there before we came out."

"Luuk?" Dad asked.

"Not in the way you're thinking," I told him. "Though I think it's part of what's going on. They have architecture in common."

"But you and Joseph have boats."

"Not really, Dad. Joseph's not into yachts the way I am. He enjoys sailing, but that's about it. He only came to the yard to keep me company; he would have been stuck on his own at the house."

Dad nodded. I'm not sure if he understood or not. Then again, I am not sure that I understood. I knew things were not as they should be, but I had no idea of how they should be, let alone how to put things right.

The traffic lightened, and we were soon on the M1 travelling north towards Gosford. On the way there, we passed through some impressive cuttings, carved deep through solid red rock.

It was just gone ten-to-eleven when we arrived at our destination. I had been expecting something like Steve's yard. What we arrived, it looked more like an F1 team's headquarters: modern, sleek buildings rising up from the water's edge. Dad parked the car in an area marked for visitors. We then walked over to what appeared to be the main entrance. In fact, it was the only entrance we could see.

Once through the double doors, we came to a reception desk. A uniformed young man sat behind it. As we approached, he looked up from the screen in front of him.

"Can I help you, sir?" he asked as Dad approached the desk.

"Yes, we were told to ask for Timothy Lowstoff," Dad stated.

"A moment, sir," the young man stated. He typed something on the keyboard in front of him. "Could I have your names, please?"

"Michael Carlton and Jonathan Carlton-Smith."

There was a whirring from somewhere behind the raised area on each side of the desk. The young man reached over and retrieved something from the area hidden from sight. A moment later he handed Dad two lanyards, to which were attached visitor badges. Dad passed one over to me. I was surprised to see that my photo was on the badge; it must have been taken as I entered the building.

"If you would wear those lanyards so your badges can be seen and take a seat over there," the young man indicated a seating area off to the left. "Dr. Lowstoff will be with you shortly."

We went over to the indicated seats and sat down. However, we were not seated long. In what must have been less than a couple of minutes, a tall man in his late twenties or early thirties entered the reception area and introduced himself to us as Timothy Lowstoff. I noticed he had an English accent.

Once he had introduced himself, he turned to me. "My brother-in-law tells me that you want to be a yacht designer."

"I do."

"Well before you can design them you need to know how to build them. No use designing something that can't be built."

"That's why I am working in a boatyard," I told him.

"Good for you. Well, if you follow me, I will show you around and explain what we are doing here."

We followed him. He used the badge on his lanyard to open the door from the reception. As we passed through the door, he instructed us to make sure our visitor badges were clearly visible.

"If people can't see them, they are likely to challenge you as to why you are where you are," Dr. Lowstoff informed us.

There had been a short corridor beyond the door. When we stepped out of it, I gasped. I think Dad did, as well. The space we had entered — it was far too big to call it a room — had yachts, ranging from small dinghies to multi-man crewed racing yachts displayed within it. There must have been at least twenty boats.

"This is our showroom," Dr. Lowstoff stated. "These are most of our off-the-shelf range of boats."

"You mean you have these in stock?" I asked.

"Oh, no, we make them to order. What we mean by off-the-shelf is boats that we already have the designs and moulds for. All we have to do is make the parts and assemble them. A lot of these are specific specifications for competition so little or no variation from the competition spec is allowed. We just make them to order from the standard design."

Dr. Lowstoff guided us through the showroom, explaining the different yachts as we passed them, answering our questions as we went along. Finally, we got to a door on the far side of the showroom. Dr. Lowstoff opened it and guided us through. This was something I was familiar with. Though it might be about ten times the size of any I had experienced to date and it was built with modern, high-tech materials, it was a boatshed. Inside was a sleek black, tri-hull, oceanic racing yacht. It was a good twenty metres or more long and about the same across the three hulls.

"She was built to challenge for the America's Cup," Dr. Lowstoff said.

"Was?" Dad asked.

"Yes, there were funding problems, and she was not ready in time to compete for the right to challenge. There are also a mass of legal issues regarding the cup. At the moment, it looks as if there will be a one-on-one challenge for the cup next year. The Golden Gate Yacht Club have a similar design in USA-17, though theirs is a bit bigger."

"So, what happens to it now if it is not going to challenge for the America's Cup?" I asked.

"She'll probably be used in something like the Sydney-to-Hobart race. The consortium behind her have sold her to an internet tycoon who says he wants to race her."

The next half-hour or so were spent looking over the boat and discussing its construction. I did make a comment about using her for another America's Cup challenge. Dr. Lowstoff laughed.

"Not much hope of that," he commented. "She's already out of date for that type of racing. Word is the New Zealanders are experimenting with the use of foils on oceanic racing yachts. If that's true, then the whole game is going to be turned on its head."

"Why is that?" I asked.

"Once a boat goes up on foils, the performance of it is more dictated by airflow than waterflow. You are dealing with the engineering dynamics of a plane rather than a boat. One of the hardest jobs is stopping it taking off completely."

"Does that happen?" I asked.

"Oh, yes. Come on, I will show you some videos we have."

Dr. Lowstoff guided us up to a conference room on the first floor. There, he showed us some videos of multi-hull yachts turning over. The bow of the yacht would lift out of the water, then the yacht would flip over. We were also supplied with a technical explanation of why this happened. It reinforced the fact that I needed to get my physics A-level if I was going to design and build yachts.

Once we had seen the video, Dr. Lowstoff took us to the canteen for lunch. Over lunch, Dad asked him how he ended up in Oz.

"Well, that is partly your fault," Dr. Lowstoff replied.

"My fault?"

"Yes, Mr. Carlton. I originally intended to study medicine at university but needed three A grades at A-level to get a place. Ended up with two As and a B. That put an end to medicine. Got in to study engineering at Southampton, but I had only done maths to GCSE. A family friend recommended your maths textbook, which I found very useful — so much so that I got a first in engineering. I got particularly interested in the maths of fluid dynamics, which you had a section on, so went on to do my Ph.D. in fluid dynamics — specifically, the movement of water over solid bodies. Came out here to do some research five years ago. My area of research was on how denticulation can reduce drag in liquids, so was studying sharks. Whilst I was out here, I met Lily, now my wife. Once I had finished my Ph.D., I came back out to marry and have been here ever since.

"If it had not been for the chapter in your book on fluid dynamics, I doubt if I would have got interested in the subject. So, I would not have been doing research into denticulation which would have meant I would not have been studying sharks."

"What have sharks to do with denticulation?" I asked.

"The great white sharks and many other shark species have tiny V-shaped scales on their skin. They are called dermal denticles because they are more like teeth than scales. These massively reduce drag in the water, so increase the efficiency of the shark when it is swimming. My work in recent years has been in developing surface coatings for yachts that replicates sharkskin, so reducing drag in the water."

"I hope you are not giving too much of our technology away," a large man who had walked up to our table said.

"Not at all, Thomas," Dr. Lowstoff stated. "Mr. Carlton, may I introduce Thomas Monk, the chief executive officer and owner of Bluespeed Boats and Yachts. Thomas this is Michael Carlton and his son, Johnny."

Dad stood to shake hands with Mr. Monk; I followed suit. Mr. Monk asked if we minded if he joined us. It would have been a bit difficult to say no when he owned the canteen that we were sitting in. So, we said yes. Once he had taken a seat at the table, he apologised to Dad for not greeting us this morning but explained that he had the weekly board meeting every Tuesday morning.

"Couldn't really avoid being there, even though I wanted to meet you, which is why I gave the go-ahead for Timothy to invite you and show you around. I hope you have found it interesting."

"We have, actually," Dad replied. "Can I ask why you wanted to meet me?"

"Partly to thank you for that debate you had on Friday. It was good to see that pompous ass taken down a few pegs. More importantly, though, I wanted to ask you if you would consider fronting a documentary for us. If you would not mind missing a bit of the tour, I would ask Timothy to continue to show your son around whilst I put a proposition to you."

Dad agreed to hear what the proposition was, and once we had finished lunch, he and Mr. Monk went off, no doubt to the executive offices. Dr. Lowstoff proceeded to show me some more of the yacht-building process. To be honest, I found the tour much more interesting and far more informative once Dad had left us. Maybe, it was because Dr. Lowstoff and I were using boatbuilder's terms as we discussed things.

It was getting on for four when Dad and Mr. Monk rejoined us. Dr. Lowstoff had brought me to a part of the works where they tested equipment and fittings that they were putting into boats or considering using. A young man, not that much older than I, was explaining to me how they were testing the use of induction hobs as an alternative to gas hobs. I asked why.

"There are two issues: one is weight, and the second is safety," the young man informed me.

"How does it save on weight? Batteries are heavy," I pointed out.

"So, are propane gas bottles if you are looking at the number of gas bottles you might need on a voyage. Remember, a full six-kilogram gas bottle weighs around thirteen to fifteen kilos. Even with quite conservative use, you are probably looking at five hundred grams of gas used a day. Actually, in non-competition sailing, you are probably going to use more like a kilo a day. So, if you are looking at a two-week cruise, you are looking at having to carry three bottles. That's going to be as much as forty-five kilos. With modern batteries, that equals a hell of a lot of battery storage.

"Of course, if you are doing that sort of sailing you will probably use the larger forty-seven kilo bottles, but they come in full around the eighty-kilo mark, which is a lot of weight. If we can avoid it, so much the better.

"The nice thing about batteries is that we already have to have them on board for the navigational instruments. They can be recharged from solar cells and onboard wind turbines."

"Do those work on yachts?" I asked.

"Oh, yes," he replied. "They may not produce large quantities of power, but every little bit of power you can get is useful. The LE-300 wind generator is very good and fairly lightweight. We find that in average sailing conditions, it will keep a battery bank charged. That and a lightweight solar array can supply enough power for both the navigational instruments and your cooking. If you're careful, it will also heat your water for a shower."

"That's if your yacht has such luxuries," Dr. Lowstoff commented.

"Do yours?" I asked.

"The racing yachts don't," he informed me. "We aim to keep their weight to the minimum."

"Safety was mentioned as a second reason," I commented.

"Yes. The problem with propane is that it is heavier than air, so if there is any form of leak onboard a boat, the gas is contained in the hull and settles into the bilge. Over time, a layer of explosive gas can build up. That's why you need to make sure the bilges are regularly aired, to remove any build-up of propane."

I nodded, remembering that Steve had told me something about this when I first started to work at the yard.

"There are usually a couple of boat explosions a year caused by the build-up of propane in the bilges," Mr. Monk stated.

After leaving the equipment and fittings testing area, Dr. Lowstoff took me down to the works marina, where I was able to take out and sail a small multi-hull. Dr. Lowstoff got one of the marina staff to take me out in it. As he said, he designed yachts, but he had yet to get around to learning to sail them. Mr. Monk laughed and said when the summer came, they would have to correct that omission.

We did not have all that long to sail as it was gone four when we got out on the water, and the light was starting to fade. Paul, the lad who had taken me out, said it was not safe to sail in low light unless you were in open water, which we were not.

We left the works just after five-thirty, by which time the sun had well and truly set. Dad was facing driving home in the dark. Just after we had left Gosford, Dad asked me to call Mum and let her know we would back about seven. He suggested we go out to dinner to a place that Mr. Monk had recommended.

On the drive back, I asked Dad what Mr. Monk had wanted to speak to him about.

"He wants me to front a documentary they are looking at making on the development of a new yacht type," Dad informed me.

"Are you going to?"

"Not sure yet. I need to discuss the offer with a couple of people and look at the logistics. It would mean coming out here a few times next year and probably the year after. Also, Thomas would have to get it past the station who have commissioned it."

"They're not making it themselves?"

"No, an Aussie TV station is making it in conjunction with a couple of overseas stations."

"I would have thought they would have had their own frontman?" I commented.

"They do, but Thomas does not like him. Actually, he thinks he is a total idiot. Knows nothing about sailing or technology."

"And you do?"

"Well, according to Thomas, I know more than the chap they have got does. Apparently, Thomas had seen a couple of my industrial archaeology programmes and some of my climate-change stuff when he was in England earlier this year. He is sufficiently impressed to have already suggested my name to the station. When the chance of meeting with me came up, he was all for extending an invite to front the series."

"Are you going to do it?"

"Don't know, Johnny. I would like to do it, but there are a lot of things to consider. Need to discuss it with my agents when I get back; also with Lee, Ben and Phil. A lot will depend on what they say. I also have to keep in mind that by the time they are looking at filming, there will be a baby to take into consideration. I don't want to miss out on its development.

"I told Thomas that I was interested but could not commit to anything at the moment, that I would have to discuss it with my people back in England and check what my other commitments are. I don't have the filming schedules for my TV work for the first half of next year yet. I promised Thomas I would let him know by the end of September. He seemed happy with that."

It was about quarter past seven when we got back to the villa. Jenny had gone out for the day with James and would not be back until late, so there were only Mum, Joseph and Luuk to join us for dinner. Dad did not fancy driving anymore, so called a cab to take us to the place Thomas Monk had recommended. I was rather surprised by the reception that we got when we arrived there. We were, to put it mildly, treated almost like we were royalty. When Dad mentioned something to the waiter serving us, we were informed that Mr. Monk had left instructions that we were to be given VIP treatment. It turned out he was a part owner of the place.

Over dinner, Joseph had been very quiet. In fact, he had hardly said a word to me or to anyone else for that matter. It had gone ten by the time we got back after dinner. Dad and Luuk had to be up early in the morning to fly to Bowen. Dad had arranged a charter to take them up there. They had to be at the private airfield before dawn as it was about a five-hour flight. They would be back Thursday evening. Fortunately, Luuk had sorted all the kit they would need, and it was all packed and ready for the morning. All Dad had to do was pack an overnight bag and have an early night, which I think he was glad to get. Driving back from Gosford in the dark had been tiring for him.

The Gosford trip had also worn me out somewhat. I had, after all, spent a good five hours walking around a rather large site. So, I was quite happy to make an early night of it. Joseph came up to bed not long after I had climbed in. Once in bed, he rolled over and cuddled up next to me. This was a bit of a surprise. Although we often cuddled in bed, it was not normally something we did the moment we got into bed. Normally we lay there chatting, then sort of drifted together. Tonight though, the moment he got into bed, he scooted over to me and pulled my arm over him.

"What's up?" I asked.

"Nothing," Joseph replied.

He lay there next to me. He had said there was nothing wrong, but there was. He did not feel right. There was something different in the way things felt as he lay there in my arms.

Dad and Luuk had left by time I got up Wednesday morning. They had to be at the airfield for seven.

I went down to the kitchen area and started to prepare some breakfast. Joseph was still asleep when I got out of bed. He was still sleeping when I had showered, dressed and left the room. It was, therefore, something of a surprise when he walked into the kitchen area about ten minutes after I had started to prepare breakfast.

"When did you wake up?" I asked.

"Just as you were leaving the room," Joseph replied. "Do you have any plans for today?"

"Not really. I know Mum and Jenny are going on a trip somewhere that James has arranged. Mum said I could go with them if I had nothing better on, but I don't really fancy it. Dr. Lowstoff gave a contact at a place where you can hire a yacht. Thought I might see if I could get some sailing in — hire a dinghy or something and go out for a couple of hours."

"Sounds like fun, mind if I join you?"

"Of course not."

It turned out that things were not as straightforward as I thought they would be. Yes, I could rent a yacht for a few hours, but no, I could not just go out and sail it. There would have to be an experienced crew member on the yacht who knew the local waters and the rules about sailing in the Sydney Harbour area. That was the downside of things. The upside was they had a variety of yachts to choose from, including a couple of small foiling multi-hulls. I ended up spending far more than I intended but booked us a four-hour sailing lesson on a foiling multi-hull.

Sailing a foiling yacht was a lot different to the sailing I had done back on the Blackwater. It was, for a start, much faster. Your reactions had to be quicker, and you work a lot harder. It was also totally exhilarating. Having tried sailing a foiling yacht, I understood what Dr. Lowstoff had been talking about when he talked about the aerodynamics of them. Once they were up on their foils, it was more like being in a low-flying aircraft than on a boat. You had to keep everything in balance to stop the yacht from turning over. It was harder than you might think, as we found out a couple of times.

We got back to the villa a bit after four. As we were getting something to drink, my phone beeped. It was a text from Mum saying that we were going to a barbeque at James' for dinner. She said James would pick Joseph and me up about five. That was the answer to a text I had sent asking about dinner earlier. I checked the time, and it was twenty past four, so not long to get showered and changed. I suggested to Joseph that we should share a shower.

"Wouldn't it be quicker if we didn't?" he asked.

"Probably, but not as much fun," I answered.

We did share a shower but did not do much; there was not the time.

James picked us up at five and drove us to his apartment. Actually, I had been puzzling about how you could have a barbeque in an apartment at night. It turned out that the barbeque was not in James' apartment but in the courtyard of the apartment block. James explained that the residents group had a barbeque on the third Wednesday of each month, it was better than having a residents meeting, as more people turned up.

"But we're not residents," I pointed out.

"Doesn't matter," James informed me. "Guests are allowed. In fact, I think we get more guests than residents. Jim, who runs the barbeque, has a reputation for running one of the best in New South Wales."

I guess that James was right about there being more guests than residents. There were only nine apartments in the block but there were at least forty people at the barbeque. Somehow, I did not think there were an average of five people living in each of the apartments, something I commented on to James when he brought a couple of cans of beer over to Joseph and me.

"There's not," he stated. "I think there are only about fifteen residents in total. Most of the people here are friends of residents. There are even a couple of friends of ex-residents. The residents left ages ago, but their friends still come to the barbeques."

"Of course, they do. They don't want to miss out on my cooking," a large man dressed in vest and shorts stated. I guessed him to be in his early fifties, though by the look of him, he kept himself in shape. James introduced him to us as Jim, the man who ran these events. He then told us he was the senior consultant neurosurgeon at the hospital where James had been working.

We chatted with Jim for a bit as he was turning steaks on the barbeque. Somehow, the conversation got onto sailing and that both Joseph and I sailed. It turned out that Jim had a twenty-metre, multi-hull yacht moored at Yowie Bay.

"Why don't you two come and crew for me tomorrow," Jim said. Then he shouted across to where James, Jenny and Mum were standing. "James boy, how about we take the ladies out on my boat tomorrow? Sail round Botany Bay. With a bit of luck, we might get some whale-watching in."

Before I knew it, everything had been arranged. James would pick us up around eight in the morning and drive us down to Yowie Bay, where we would meet up with Jim and his partner, who was not at the barbeque. Although I was a bit miffed at the fact that nobody had actually asked Joseph or me if we wanted to crew, I was looking forward to Thursday's adventure.

Thursday morning, we were all up and ready to go sailing. Though I am not sure everybody was keen on the idea. It was raining. Mum reminded me to take my video camera. She made sure Joseph had his as well. James picked us up shortly after eight-twenty; we got to Yowie Bay just on nine. James pulled in and parked in an area by a row of garages. The land by the road sloped steeply down toward the water. Looking to our left, there were steps running down to where a yacht was moored. I guessed it was Jim's, as he was coming up the steps from it.

One good thing, the rain had eased off quite a bit by the time we got to our destination.

Jim's yacht was a bit of a surprise. I know he had told us he had a multi-hull which could accommodate eight, what I was not ready for was something which was clearly an ocean-going yacht. I guessed it probably cost over a million. It was about twenty-five metres in length and fifteen metres wide, with a cabined crossdeck.

"Christ, that must have cost a bomb," I commented to Joseph as we were getting out of James' car.

"Not as much as you might think," Jim, who had clearly overheard my comment, said. "Got it in a bankruptcy auction; even so, it cost nearly half a year's salary. Fortunately, I have a private mooring on the bay, so don't have marina fees to pay."

"That's useful," I replied.

"Damn right, it is. Don't think I could afford this beast if I was paying marina fees. Fortunately, my ancestors settled this area of the bay in the early years of the colony, and the property has been in the family since then. Actually, we owned most of this promontory at one time but sold parts of it off for housing over the years. We still own this house, though."

"But you don't live here?" Mum said.

"No. Bit too much of a commute if I am needed in an emergency. Besides, my sister needs it. She's got a husband and four kids. She needs a place with space, so I let her have it though we both own it. I just use the mooring.

A car pulled into the parking area, and a young man, I thought to be in his late twenties, got out. Once out of the car he came over and hugged Jim.

"This is my partner, Tim," Jim informed us. Once he had made the introductions, he led us down the steps past the house, which nestled into the hillside behind the garages, and to a jetty that stuck out into the sound. On one side of the jetty, Jim's yacht was moored. On the other there was a motor launch, a speedboat and a couple of dinghies. The steps, of course, had posed a problem for Jenny, but using her crutches and some support from James, she managed to get down them.

As we boarded the yacht, Jim announced, "Welcome to the Flying Tiger."

He then looked a bit apologetic. "I didn't name her. The original owner was Chinese, so she had that name when I got her, and it is supposed to be bad luck to rename a boat."

"But boats are renamed all the time," James pointed out.

"Of course, they are, but there is a hell of a rigamarole to renaming a boat. First, you have to completely cleanse it of everything that has the old name on it or refers to the old name. Then, you have to do a complete naming ceremony. It's just too much hassle, mate. So, she stays the Flying Tiger."

Jim gave Joseph and me a quick guided tour of the operational features of the boat. He also assured us that Tim would be crewing with us and that he knew how to run things.

"Actually, you can sail this thing single-handed if you want to. All the winches are electric and most of the operations are automated. It just makes it a bit easier if there are more than one of you," Jim commented.

"He really only needs a crew for casting off and docking," Tim stated, with a laugh. "The rest of the time it is so he can have somebody to boss around."

Jim laughed but did not deny it.

Once everybody was kitted out with lifejackets, we cast off, and Jim took the boat out into the sound under power. He kept the boat under power as we negotiated out way out into Port Hacking and then to the open sea. Once in the open water, he stopped the engines, raised the sails set to a beam reach, and the yacht proceeded to sail north. Fortunately, as we got away from the land the rain ceased.

We had been under sail for about ten minutes when Joseph nudged me and pointed to the bow. There, just ahead of the twin bows of the hulls, dolphins danced through the water. I got my video camera out of my bag, then moved to the front of the crossdeck and started to film. Tim called out, "Humpbacks starboard!" I looked to my right, then swung my camera around. Below the surface, I could make out some large grey shapes. Suddenly a whale rose out of the water, almost vertically, until it appeared to be standing on its tail, before it crashed back down.

For the next two hours we sailed north, keeping the pod of whales in sight. They seemed to be playing some sort of game: who could make the biggest splash? One would rise out of the water, falling back into it with reverberating splash, then another would repeat the performance. Sometimes, two would breach at the same time. After about five or ten minutes of this performance, all would go quiet, and the whales would start to swim north, only to repeat the game once again about fifteen minutes later.

"I intended to take us into Botany Bay," Jim said apologetically, "but thought following the pod was probably more interesting."

"It certainly was," James commented. "Do you see this often?"

"No. We generally get a dolphin escort when we are sailing around here, but whales are a bit unpredictable. Don't think I have ever seen a display like what we have seen this morning."

We lost sight of the pod shortly after twelve, so Jim dropped the sails and took us inshore under power. About fifty metres off the shore, he dropped anchor and cut the motors. The previous evening, Jim had assured us we did not have to bother to bring any lunch; he would have it covered. He did have it covered. Tim went down into the saloon cabin and brought up a couple of coolers. One contained a variety of sandwiches, pies and other edibles, the other chilled cans of beer and soda, together with a couple of bottles of wine.

Jim had brought us into a small sheltered bay of an island. He had come around to the lee of the island before anchoring. Although there had been a bit of a sea running, here in the anchorage it was a lot calmer, and the yacht gently bobbed at its anchorage whilst we lunched. After lunch, Jim said that if we wanted to, he could push it to get back down south and go into Botany Bay.

"What's there?" Mum asked.

"Dolphins, seals," Jim answered.

"We saw dolphins on the way up; we also saw whales," Jenny pointed out. "What is going to be the difference between sailing back like we came up or pushing it."

"Well, for a start if we push it, I will be using the motors. So, it will be noisier and probably choppier."

"I think I would prefer to take a gentler run back under sail," Mum stated. Jenny agreed. By the look of him, Jim was also of that opinion. That agreed, I gave Tim a hand to clear up the remains of lunch. Joseph assisted Jim in raising the anchor and getting us underway under power. As soon as we had cleared the island, Jim cut the engines and got us under sail again, and we started to make our way south.

The afternoon winter sun was warm. Joseph and I lay on the foredeck, watching for dolphins and talking. At one point I asked him what he thought of Australia.

"I love this county. It's so fresh, so dynamic," he informed me. "There's a sense of space and freedom here that I have not felt anywhere else."

I expressed some surprise at that.

"You don't see it, do you?" he asked.

"See what?"

"The vitality, the inventiveness, the freedom. When we went on the architecture tour, we saw private houses that had been put up in the Victorian period. Yes, they had the style and decoration that you associated with the Victorians, but it was different. It was lighter and freer. It didn't have the constricting feeling you get with Victorian houses in England.

"It was the same with the public buildings of the period. Yes, they reflected the Victorian approach to things, but there was something more to them — a spirit of adventure. They were prepared to try things out and see if they work."

I looked at Joseph in surprise. He was clearly seeing something about Australia that I had missed.

"I suppose they were adventurous with the Sydney Opera House," I commented.

"They were more than adventurous, Johnny. That building was designed in the mid-1950s. Jørn's Utzon's design was selected in 1957 after a competition. Nowhere else in the world would have even looked at something that experimental at that time. Australia, though, was prepared to have a go.

"That's the thing here; you can have a go. You are not constrained by the cultural norms that have been built up over centuries. Here they are creating a new culture. It would be exciting to be part of helping to build it."

I had no answer to that. Anyway, I was not required to answer. As I was pondering something to say, a pair of shadows passed across the bow of the yacht. I grabbed my video camera and started to film. As I did, a manta ray rose from the waters and, for a brief period, seemed to fly before crashing back down into the sea. Before it hit the water, a second ray was airborne, followed by a third. For the next five minutes or so, one manta ray after another would launch itself into the air, before vanishing back into the waves.

"Now that is something I've never seen," I heard Tim say. I turned my head to look back along the crossdeck. Everybody, except Jim, was standing there watching the water to see if the rays were going to rise again.

"It's the first time I've seen them in these waters," Jim called from where he stood in the cockpit. "Seen them up on the reef, but not this far South."

"They're just celebrating being free," Joseph commented. "It's like I feel in this country."

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