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Watt sailing adventure
Family sailing adventure - circumnavigation of Australia with two children aged 16 and 14.
NZ calling!
Sue Watt
02/19/2013, Batemans Bay

I'm sitting beside the Clyde river, watching the gulls scavenge around the jetties and harass various restaurant goers, as the day begins to slide into evening, out on my daily walk.

Peter is at TAFE - tonight he has an exam on sea safety and survival - and the children are clearing up after dinner. It's funny how routines form - how we do something a couple of times and then they become a pattern for how we live. Peter has TAFE 4 nights a week, leaving at 5 and returning around 9.30 - suddenly our afternoons have become evenings and I've been walking after dinner.

I don't mind at all having another little chunk of time to myself - I love the opportunity to walk and think and write.

Watching the boats bob about on their moorings casts a bit of a spell on me, reminding me that despite the mundane grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning that seem to take up lots of my day-to-day head space, I am after all still on that sailing journey we began nearly 2 years ago!

Peter leaves in just over a week to fly to Perth. He'll be met there by a good friend and they will then drive down to Albany where he will then join Mark to sail the yacht Kwela to Auckland. It's thrilling and fantastic that he has this opportunity and the experience will be such a gift to us all - not to mention that it gives him all the sea-hours he needs for the Masters 5 - we will miss him but cope! Our only real job in his absence is to keep the boat afloat and we have already shown ourselves to be more than up to the challenge! When he returns the house will, finally, be starting and he will be a little busy! But then we will be ready at last to head off and collect our new yacht and begin the next part of our adventure!

So on Saturday next at some unearthly hour we will set off to Canberra to take him to the airport. He flies early - at 6.30 so it will be an early start for us all but such an exciting trip! Once he is safely deposited on board the plane we - that is Erina and, I with Liam in tow - will have time to do some shopping in the big city! Yay! It will be an opportunity to visit shops that don't exist in coastal towns, browse and delight ourselves in window shopping! We will have time to catch up with some of our wider family too and then head home the following day ready for the bit we have to do while Peter is away - maintain the boat! Do all the fix-it things he normally does.

Our task has been made somewhat easier by the newly appointed marina manager popping us into a much more comfortable spot in the marina. We have been in the bay for nearly a year now, in various different spots but all have been temporary - this at last is not and means we can relax a little. It is a much more comfortable mooring and requires less adjusting of lines as it is in a pen at a floating jetty. Tides no longer affect us nor does swell, as the jetty rides up and down along with us and there is no longer a stationary wharf for us to bounce up alongside all the time as waves ripple in. We are happy - we are no longer in anyone's way, need to move if a big boat comes in to refuel and have now only to watch out when the wind stirs up rather than when the ride changes or the swell increases.

Peter expects the sailing to take around 20 days. They will sail from Albany to Robe, then to Queenscliffe in Port Philip Bay and then head across directly to New Zealand. Kwela belongs to a South African sailor, a gutsy young woman - she sailed it herself over from South Africa to Albany but needed to leave it in Albany for some repairs when she flew to her new home in New Zealand - she doesn't have the time now to sail Kwela over herself.

It will been a little sad waving Peter off at the airport but we know that this experience will be so useful for him and for our future. Mark, the fellow he is sailing with, taught us so much about sailing and safety when we were readying ourselves to leave Albany, doing a journey of this type is like an apprentiship and we couldn't have asked for a better opportunity to learn more, practice more.

By the time he returns, Peter will be such a seasoned sailor and will know so much more than before. He is already finding that the Masters 5 course is much easier than he had anticipated - how much more so after this experience!

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Master Mariner 5
Sue Watt
02/08/2013, Batemans Bay

This last week has been quite momentous for us.

For a while now, since Peter first accompanied our good friend Mark McRae from Southern Ocean Sailing on the delivery from Sydney to Albany, we have planned that he would do what was needed to obtain the necessary qualifications to be able to do deliveries himself. This would of course be a great way to support ourselves in the future. It sat then, in the backs of our minds, hovering a little like a dream that lingers when you wake. After completing his Cert IV n workplace training and assessing just before Christmas, which was something of a struggle (Lol!) it wasn't a high priority to look into what he would need to do to obtain the Master Mariners.
There are basically three components needed. A six month course at the Moruya TAFE, 1000 hours of logged sea time and sitting the licensing test which includes medical and eye tests. Part of the Masters 5 course is also the accomplishment of the Coxswain ticket, marine radio licence and current first aid.

We discovered, when we finally looked into it all on Wednesday that the whole thing had just begun and that if we acted quickly he could start immediately. It was one of those, do not pass go situations where we dropped everything we were doing and got all the enrollment sorted and then on Thursday night off he went to attend his first class. Just like that. It was crazy. One minute we were having a relaxing cuppa while reading whatever we had on the go and then next it was all emailed details and forms to fill in!

But how it good it is to have found out in time to get him started now!
Doing all of this is the equivalent of full time study so he's going to be a busy fella for a while! In early March he will go off to Albany again and then he is going to be assisting with a yacht delivery across the Tasman to Auckland. This of course will add to his already logged sea-hours and will give him considerably more than he needs, but when it comes to experience on the water you really can't have too much.

When he returns, the house - the one that has begun to feel like a story more than a reality - will finally be begun. We had expected it would start in January but the local council has processes which delay everything and it has been stuck for a while. But finally there is a light at the end of this tunnel and a start date finalised. Once he returns from New Zealand he will really be busy with building by day and classes four nights a week.

There's a verse in the bible that talks about God giving us a future and a hope and that's really what the last week has been like - looking at the future and hope that this training and equipping will give us, the opportunity to develop an income source that doesn't take us away from what we want to be doing, but rather reflects the new life we are living more fully.

I have also had in a small way some future-and-hope things going on. I've been developing a web site for a while now. Not about sailing - about the other issue I am passionate about - recovery from the effects of early childhood trauma, namely long term sexual abuse. The web site is far from how I would love it to be eventually, but it is in development and I am learning a lot as I go. It represents a web presence for me and gives me the opportunity to put some of my writing out there. You can check it out at and if you visit please leave a comment!

In addition to this, as I have learned a thing or two, I have begun a web-site for us in our sailing adventure as well. So has been birthed along with miles away! It also is very much a work-in-progress and I have lots of things to put up that I haven't got to yet, but it links right back to this blog and gives us the opportunity to include other things all in one place.

So we have both had things to get excited about and things to be stretched in and grow in. The children are enjoying being at home again and when the weather begins to cool down we will attend to some school work. In the meantime we spend plenty of time doing more appropriate things - swimming, kayaking and keeping cool in the heat of the very hot days we have been having.

It's funny how things happen sometimes. How plans burst in on you, catching you unawares, even plans you have been thinking of for a while! But it has been so good to see this development and to feel that we are moving closer every day to being better able to sustain this life.

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Adventure close to home!
Sue Watt
01/19/2013, Batemans Bay

Adventures don't only happen when we are at sea. Each weekend lately there have been incidents that have kept us entertained, amused or thoughtful. Living on board a yacht and being part of the sea-faring life can be adventurous and fun even if you are in a marina apparently!

Two weeks ago, as Peter and I were out walking in the early evening, as we do on any day that isn't pouring, we noticed flashing lights ahead on the road. As we got closer we could see that there were a number of people standing beside the road and thought perhaps there had been an accident. Closer still and we realised they were all watching the river and that something was happening out there. Our interest aroused we tried to see what they were looking at.

A boat had sunk. As we got closer we could see the masts protruding and the police boat bobbing alongside it as the officers on board were fixing police tape to it in some attempt to cordon off the area. A number of volunteers from Marine Rescue were there, but no rescue attempt could be made. The yacht had sunk and now all that could be considered was how to prevent its fuel from spilling into the river and how to bring about its retrieval.

We stopped and watched as the drama that had taken place as we had sat at home eating dinner, slipped into a story that might appear in the local paper and remain only in the memory of its hapless owner.

We knew the man. We knew the yacht. Only a few days before it had been moored alongside us as he had spent the New Year's holidays working on it. Erina had even helped with some cleaning of the hull from her kayak, a job easily done by her, not so easily to its owner. And now it sat on the river bed, forlorn and tragic.

A boat had sunk in Batemans Bay last year, we had watched the tragedy over a period of weeks as attempts to salvage it had been left in the hands of a government agency. By the time she was re-floated the damage was too great to consider repair and she had been stripped and scrapped. A tragic end to a beautiful ship. We walked home hoping that the same would not be the fate of this boat.

Less than two days later we sat on deck as a crane hauled the stricken yacht out of the water and onto the land. She had been floated enough to get her off the bottom of the river and then towed into the marina, lifted enough to allow pumping of the water that had sunk her and eventually lifted right out of the water. She is not completely ruined and now sits next to us, awaiting her final fate. We hope she will be given a second chance - we love second chances and hope that the owner will be given the opportunity to repair and restore her.

It is a sad thing to see a boat suffer as this has. And yes, we have checked all our pumps and sea-cocks and keep checking them! This yacht sank due to failure of something so simple. It sits beside us as a stark reminder of how easily the smallest mistakes and sometimes negligence leads so quickly to ruin.

Then just two days ago we watched as another drama unfolded before our eyes.

Again Peter and I had been out walking. As we returned to our boat we noticed several boats coming in from the ocean, three it seemed. Out late fishing we assumed. But as we walked along and they got closer we could just make out what looked like a big boat towing in a yacht. We sat on the rock wall then, pour curiosity piqued, and waited to see what was happening. As we watched we could see that the Marine Rescue boat was out as was the maritime boat and alongside the spot the maritime boat was moored in was a police car. We deduced that the police had accompanied maritime officers. Now we were really interested and as we sat and watched Peter suggested stories of what might be taking place!
The fishing boat was the first into the marina and we walked over and chatted to them, hoping to ascertain what had happened.

We were quickly satisfied - the local fishing enthusiasts that we knew quite well were full of their own enthusiasm to tell all!

They had been fishing about 100km off shore and had come across a drifting yacht. They quickly established that no one was on board and then set to securing it so that they could tow it in. After a few bumps and bashes they achieved their goal and began to make their slow way home. Maritime and marine rescue were contacted and as Peter and I sat and watched, officers boarded the stricken yacht and investigated.

Eventually the yacht was towed in past the marina and secured on a mooring in town where it remains.

Back in October a fellow was plucked from a yacht out between here and NZ. He had been blown way off course from the sailing trip he had intended for himself, his yacht damaged by big seas and his mast destroyed. He was on Sunrise after his rescue and we listened to his story and wondered how things can go so wrong and what inexperience and lack of appropriate training can result in. The man seemed not to have GPS or an HF radio yet found himself out of VHF range. He seemed terrified and we wondered how things had gone so wrong for him when all he had intended was to sail from Sydney down the coats a way.

We believe this is his yacht, still floating, still sailable, turned up after so many months. Perhaps he didn't have enough food on board to have been able to stay with his vessel, perhaps he didn't have the skills to keep sailing after the storm, perhaps he was simply scared by it all.

We were told when we were preparing and learning how to manage on our first big sailing journey that you never climb down into your life raft - that more boats are lost when people get scared and abandon ship, require rescue when what they could do is simply ride it out. We were told that you get into your life raft when your boat is sinking and not before. If you have to climb DOWN it's not time to abandon ship! We were told, and this vessel is confirmation of all of this, that your own boat, unless it is actually sinking, is the safest place to be out on the ocean. The yacht that was brought in had a bit of a mast left, and some sail - it could have got back to land.

Fear - and we acknowledge that fear is real and valid - makes us irrational. For lone sailors it can be fatal. I'm glad that as a family we have thought through safety issues. We know when to leave and when to stay. We have plans in place. Have done the drills.

It was sad watching the yacht be towed in - sad that it represented the end of someone's dream.

Meanwhile, our dream continues to grow. The new yacht we are buying thrills us and we are so excited! No movement yet re Argos, but we are looking for the next person who will love her as we do and are happy to take however long it takes to find that person! If the person or family who buy her learn half as much from her as we have, have half the fun, experience half the adventure we have - well they will be blessed!

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Argos is FOR SALE!
Sue Watt
01/09/2013, Batemans Bay

I have heard it said many times that when one door closes another one opens - even sometimes that when a door closes a window opens. It seems to us that since the day we decided to pursue a simpler, less stressed life aboard a yacht and spend some time sailing, that new doors open without even the last one shutting first - that windows are flung wide and that the choice - made to put our health and wellbeing ahead of financial gain - is rewarding us with blessing after blessing.

Over and over again, when we were preparing to leave Canberra to head to Albany, amazing things happened. We found the boat of our dreams and negotiated a price we could afford. We sold the car. We listed the house and sold it in a week. The furniture and items we would have no need for just walked out the door. It was amazing. Even after we arrived in Albany it kept happening. We literally swapped Peters beloved V8 ute for a car we could sight-see in (blessing the man who did the swap who had, all his life, longed for a V8 ute and never been able to own one) and then, when we were ready to leave Albany, sold that car for more than the ute was worth. We kept gasping at the way life was unfolding for us.

It has happened again. We have been given the opportunity to purchase an amazing boat, one that when I looked at it left me thinking, 'Oh, if I could only 'ave that boat - then I would be truly 'appy' (thanks Russell Brand for the loan of these words!).

Of course this door opening means another is really closing - we must now part with Argos.

Argos who has meant so much to us - from whom we learned everything - how to sail, how to read the weather, how to understand the ocean, even how to live this simpler life. She was at the top of our price range - the best we could do with what we had available to us. And she was more beautiful than we had even imagined. I remember when Peter got to Albany ahead of me and I was still packing up the house and finalising all the cleaning and everything before leaving on the plane with the children - how he had called to say he had arrived. I asked, 'Is she as good as the pictures?' And he had said, 'Better, so much better'.
It was true. We had taken a big chance buying her without being able to see her first - but we had no regrets - she was, and still is a beautiful boat. We have learned so much in her and because of her. In the Bight, when the auto-pilot failed I formed a bond with her that showed me I could sail - I could really do this thing we were embarking on and face my fears.

We have loved sailing in to a new town or port and watched as people noticed her. There was always such a sense of pride and delight as people wanted to see this amazing and very unusual yacht.

Out on the ocean she has kept us safe and in return we took very good care of her.

There is nothing about sailing Argos that we haven't liked. She is slow but steady and the inadequacies of sailing an older-style boat have been far outweighed by the beauty, the quirky lovely beauty that she brought to our lives.

Just the other morning a local, who had seen the boat tied at the jetty for a few months, asked me if I wasn't sick-to-death of living on board the boat by now. I was taken aback but had to laugh - no, I replied, not at all - I love it.

And I do. I love the freedom, the ease of our life, the fact that we really can pick up and go when we are ready, travel to other places, see more of this country and each day delight in the simple life we lead.

Even during bad weather we have found that we can easily cope - cabin fever as they call it is simply something to be managed - like bad weather or hard times in a house - at such times I plan and organise and keep on top of personal gripes and grumbles, and ensure that whenever we can, we get on deck or off the boat.

The yacht we are purchasing is bigger, significantly bigger and we will have room to spare, more room to live and more room for storage. This in the end has been the only thing we have found hard on Argos. We weren't looking to buy a new boat at this time but the opportunity arose and we have of course decided to seize the day!

Letting go of Argos is of course hard, but this is tempered by our hope that she will go to a good home. Yes, I suppose that does make her sound like a pet, but the reality is she is far more than just a boat to us - she has been our life.

We hope to pass Argos on to someone who, like us who will appreciate and value her, who will sail her with the delight we have known and for whom she will be the special and amazing yacht she has shown herself to be to us.

We have brought many of her systems forward while we've owned her - improved many aspects of her and shown her the loving care she has always deserved. We know that we are passing her on in much better shape than she was in when we stumbled across her in Albany.

It has been almost two years since we first saw pictures of her on the internet. Since we first fell in love with her shape and lines, her stern window and the sense we got of the unexpected when we first found her. It has been the best two years and while it may be time to say our good-byes it will be no easy task.

She can only go to someone who will care for her as we have and hopefully someone who will find her as delightful as we know she is. In letting her go, the one thing we can be sure of is that she will be a delight and a blessing to whoever gets her.

Check out the advertisement on - you can search using the key word 'Argos'.

The next part of our life is just around the corner. Peter still has the house to build here, beginning very soon and we hope that we will find a buyer for Argos while he is building. Once the house is finished we will be off, and not in quite the way we had thought!

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Sue Watt
12/28/2012, Batemans Bay

Sunny days and sleepy afternoons, where the hardest decisions I have to make all day involve what to wear and what to make for dinner! I love summer and holidays and Christmas most of all!

The last few weeks of managing on our own while Peter assisted in the delivery of a yacht to Albany are over. The yacht was successfully delivered, Peter learned a great deal and flew into the ACT on the morning we were due to arrive there ourselves to start a lovely few days of celebrating Christmas and catching up with our family there. What a happy reunion it was! I am sure that the man who stepped off that plane was somewhat different to the man I waved off a few weeks ago as Will Watch set sail from here. It was not all plain sailing for him as he had his first real taste of the relentless sea sickness that plagued Erina for much of our own journey. The yacht he was delivering had a very different action in the water to our own and was quite roll-ey a lot of the time. Still he managed fine and learned a few sea sickness tricks in the process. He got so much out of the trip that I couldn't complain for one moment about any of the tricky things we had to deal with in his absence - I guess it would be true to say that we all learned a great deal!

He has been asked to assist in another delivery - this time from Albany to Auckland - in March. This will give him enough hours to obtain his Coxswain ticket and after that he will be working on his Master Mariners 5. These licences will mean that he is qualified in his own right as a delivery skipper and will be able to launch out (sorry, no pun intended) on his own in a new business venture! Yes, the days of slogging over building may be drawing to a close for Peter - which seems like a shame in one way as he is just so good at it, but to be able to earn an income doing what he loves - well that's priceless!

Our electrical woes, encountered during his absence were not a simple Peter-fix as I had expected - but turned out to be our Heart-Smart interface giving up the ghost!

When we first got back here after our lovely Canberra Christmas, Peter took one look at the power display and went straight into the engine room. In between trips (when he had stopped in here briefly) he had switched off something he had thought unnecessary but realised as soon as he looked at the display that this is what was causing a problem.
Initially at least.

Alas, after a couple of days it became apparent that it was not quite so simple. In fact this was only part of what was causing our problem. We have a system on board that monitors our batteries, our shore power and how everything electrical is functioning. It has never worked quite properly but what is happening now, and had begun in his absence is that the display was dying - and has now ceased functioning all together. Our power is now working fine but we will need to replace this display in order to be able to monitor our system effectively. Not so bad.

So Christmas has come. Our second Christmas on board. It was very different being in a community which we were more familiar with and close to family and long term friends. The children and I enjoyed the local Carols By Candlelight, particularly that friends were performing at it and a big part of it. We had a lovely relaxing and delightful time in Canberra with our family and very special friends including a delightful stay at the heritage Rosebud Cottage in Cook.

Christmas will forever be a special time for me, partly because my childhood Christmases were often so hit-and-miss with many being called off at the last minute due to some inexplicable whim of my mother, and partly because when I first became a Christian it was in late November and I will never forget my first Christmas strolling through the shopping centres hearing the words of the Christmas Carols as if for the very first time - finally understanding the intent and depth of the very familiar songs. I take great delight in finding gifts that I hope will convey my love for those around me and love the sounds, gatherings and general sense of connection with others that seems to abound at Christmas.

Our yacht has also joined in with Christmas festivities again this year, proudly wearing a couple of sets of lights. Happily we were moved again to another spot in the marina and now the lights are visible from the road making her look rather grand and very joyous!

So Happy Christmas to you! We hope that 2013 holds many days of fun and adventure for you, as we hope it does for us.

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Lessons to learn!
Sue Watt
12/16/2012, Batemans Bay

You know - often I rave on to people about how I wouldn't go sailing with anyone other than Peter and it's so true. Not just the sailing bit though - it's the living on board bit where he is just the most amazing person.

For the last few weeks he has been away. Before he left we went through all the things I would need to keep an eye on, the ropes and lines, the bilges and how we sat in the water. I could do all that without too much difficulty. Before he left he checked everything he could and I know on the evening he left to return to Robe and complete the delivery of the yacht he had helped get to Robe, he was sure all would be well for me.

Ah. The best laid plans!

We have missed his presence in many ways but none more than his amazing capacity to just be on top of things. Little things become bigger things when you don't know what you are doing!

On the first night after he left everything was fine. The next night too. Then we noticed the toilet didn't sound right when we flushed it. Not too big a problem as we only use it late at night and when really necessary. But the next day I noticed the water pump sounded tired and I began to be curious. That night as we sat relaxing after dinner and I was trying to complete some hand sewing, I felt as if the lights were dim and growing dimmer. I wasn't sure - thought maybe I was a little tired and maybe this was a signal that I should head to bed - but it was true - the lights were dimmer.

A quick check of the little device that tells us how much charge the batteries are holding - which should have read 13 v while we are hooked up to shore power - sent me reeling. It was flashing the error message we get when we are on a mooring or at anchor to warn us that we have too little power to function.

I knew I couldn't deal with the problem at night. For starters I could barely see anything, but I am also not so good at logical thought when I'm tired so I decided to sleep on it and start fresh in the morning trying to figure out what was happening.

Peter calls every day, using the sat phone, just to let me know where they are - but the reception isn't so good and I knew that it would be impossible to try and hold a complex conversation about the electrical system with him, so it was us and us alone.

In the morning I set to thinking about things. What had changed? What thing that was different could have caused us a problem.....what would Peter do????

Just before he left he had been pottering about in the engine room and had come out, a little chagrined and said, You won't believe it but I've just found a switch that says hot water. I think we've got a hot water system that is independent of the engine.

We laughed. Up until now we have only had hot water on board if we've run the engine. This is what the previous owner told us to do and we never questioned it. For most things we boil a kettle to obtain hot water and use the facilities provided by the marina we are at for personal washing. Not having hot water readily available is something we have got used to and don't even really think about any more. To have had a hot water system all along just seemed laughable. But that's life we said and waited to see if the water got hotter.

It seemed to at first and then not so much and to tell the truth, after Peter left I don't think I really gave it another thought. Until now.

This was the one thing that was new and possibly causing a problem with the power.

The thing was, I had no idea where the switch to turn it off was, and judging by how long it went unnoticed I didn't have much expectation of finding it. All I knew was that it was somewhere in the engine room. And the engine room - well with no power it is like a dark and eerie cave - you can't see anything at all! The chances of me walking in and finding what I was looking for was somewhat remote! Never one to shirk from a challenge though I set off, with Liam's tiny torch to guide me and would you believe that the moment I got in there and flashed it around the FIRST thing I saw was the needed switch!

Once off, I began to hope. But nothing seemed to change.
I knew I would have to seek out someone who knew something about boat electrics and who might have a spare moment - oh and who wouldn't ask me for much in the way of payment seeing as it's just a few days before Christmas and my list is still long!

I found a helpful friend at the local sailing supplies shop who suggested googling the problem to see if anyone else had ever encountered something similar and if that didn't help, offered to have a little look.

Armed with that idea I set off home.

Google really is one of my favorite inventions. I quickly learned the names of the different components of our electrical system and read some interesting posts about the equipment. I didn't find anyone else with a similar problem but did come away with a little more confidence to push some buttons and see what might happen - well just a few anyway and none of the important ones!

I noticed, after being out that the power reading on the batteries had increased. Then Liam suggested we turn off all the internal switches - to the lights and nav equipment etc and make sure that there was nothing drawing any power. Within a few hours the power increased up to 11.55v - we felt like we were on to something. With a little fiddling I figured out how to turn off the incessantly flashing error code and things seemed at last to be settling down.

The following day it was the same - the power continued to increase very slowly and then Peter (yes, another Peter) from the sailing shop called by.
He patted us on the backs and told us that we were doing all the right things, the power was slowly coming back up and he thought that it really was that the hot water system had drained the batteries. Give it time, was all he said - it will keep going - and then reassured us that he'd come back if it didn't.

The thing is, we did get it sorted - but how long it took! If Peter had been here and not off sailing the oceans of the world (with my blessing I must add!) it would have been noticed sooner and never got so run down, of that I am certain. He would have seen the problem, known how to fix it, got it done and then had coffee with us!

So what is the moral of my little story?

Well it's not don't let your husband go off sailing another boat - though I have been tempted to call him a little hussy for running off with another boat! No, I think it is, be careful if you marry a capable person - they might just do everything and leave you clueless!

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