MIDWEEK POETRY. La Perouse Dreaming, part 2. The Whale Boat.

‘According to tradition in the Cook family,
Midshipman Isaac Smith, cousin of the wife
of Captain James Cook, RN. Afterwards an Admiral
in the British Navy, was the first Englishman to stand
on this rock and on the shores of New South Wales
on the 29th of April 1770.’

The above is from the plaque that is affixed to the rocks,
on the shore at Kurnell in Botany Bay. All pictures on
this post are courtesy of Wikipedia commons.
Captain Cook’s landing at Botany Bay.

Emanuel_Phillips_Fox_Captain_Cook_Botany_Bay[1]

We lived next door to a fisherman. Not your average weekend type with a few rods and a boat on a trailer. This man fished for a living and owned an old whaler’s rowboat. A beautiful thing that lived in one of the boat sheds at Frenchman’s Beach. He would row any neighbourhood kid over to Kurnell and drop them off there, fish and when he was ready would return to pick them up. Be there or be left behind though. Imagine my delight when I first stepped ashore adjacent to the rock that held a plaque reading the above. A Smith had set foot here, the first white man to set foot on eastern Australia. A Smith from the north of England and I stood where he had in 1770.

Midshipman Isaac Smith.

Midhsipman_Isaac_Smith[1]

The Whale Boat.

Early morning.
The sea laps at
the shore.
The waves pause, before
reluctantly leaving the sand.

Protesting loudly, the boat house
doors allow themselves to be opened.
She waits for us. Polished timbers
reflect the morning light. A jumble
of nets and pots huddle at the prow.
With the practised ease of years
he seduces her out of her lair,
and she slides into the

waiting water.

Leaning against the prow,
I dig my bare feet into the sand,

and push.
The click of oars into locks,

the spoons bite deep and she floats out.
Water pulling at my shorts
I hurl myself into the boat
and sit forward.

His hands, aged from sun and salt
grasp the smooth wooden handles.
The oars come alive,
spoons bite deep
and we glide across the bay.

Fish blood stains the deck.
I stare at it, then the bucket of
knives. He rows with a rhythm
embedded in him, becoming one
with the boat. Trying not to stare
I turn and kneel on the
forward
thwart.
Salt spray blows in my face,
the tang stirs something deep
and I dream of brave mariners.
We draw near the rocks and I
scramble over the side.
His words hang in the air.
‘Be back here by three, or
you’re on your own.’

The plaque is revealed as I stand next to it,
A Smith stood here. All else fades, a Smith.
Exploration and play fills the hours.
I watch
the sun.
Noon has long gone.
I race down
rugged tracks.
Back to the rocks.
Breath catching in my throat.
True to his word
 he returns.
Wading out
I reach it and scramble aboard.
Fish flop amongst the bilge water.
Knocking off scales that stick to the timber.

Fascinated, I watch them gasping, tails flipping.
Some thump against the hull,
while others almost 
win their bid for freedom,
‘Grab it, don’t let it out.’
They slither out of my grasp to fall back
amongst their kind.
Do they know their fate?

Small waves carry us to the beach.
Tourists, looking for the unusual
come over to admire the catch.
While he makes a sale
I hurry to the shed
and return with baskets.

A cloud of seagulls follow me,
floating above my head.
I watch mesmerized as he guts
his catch.
The gulls as is their wont, fight over scraps,
when there is plenty for all.
Salt encrusted ropes tether the whale boat.
Heave, heave, the pulley takes her back to bed.

And I?
I trudge tiredly through the sand and up the

hill. Filled with thoughts of seafaring men
who sailed the seven seas and trod on the
shores of Botany Bay.

Laurie Smith© 2013
Home is the sailor home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill.
R L Stevenson.

Looking at Botany Bay from Kurnell.

640px-Kurnell_Flags[1]

The entrance to Botany Bay. I have stood on the very edges of the heads at both sides and if my mother had known I wouldn’t have been allowed out again.

Botany_Bay_entrance,_NSW,_26th._Nov._2010_-_Flickr_-_PhillipC[1]

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14 thoughts on “MIDWEEK POETRY. La Perouse Dreaming, part 2. The Whale Boat.

  1. Owls and Orchids

    Beautiful as always Laurie, you seem to best yourself with each post. The photos are marvelous. I’ve seen La Perouse but not with the intimacy you have. Stay away from those spiders Laurie – they’re nasty things.
    ciao, Susan x

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Thanks Susan, the La Perouse of the early 60’s is vastly different to today. 😦 Yet it still has a hold of me. Spiders, blah. We think by the swelling, broken skin, runs and impromptu massive nosebleed it may have been a snake. probably a partial half hearted strike from a baby brown. I was actually working around the solar shed in the bushes. I felt a prickling sensation on my leg and thought I’d caught it on a thorn. Obviously not. Okay now though, I think. 🙂

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  2. Pagadan

    Exciting and exhilarating. I am there, and the pictures give even more of the feeling of the water. Beautiful sunset or sunrise, but what are the two pieces of material hanging from the post. Is that a mast?

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    Reply
  3. caronallan

    Laurie this has to be your best ever, the imagery, the language is so rich and evocative, I feel the sea spray on my face. The line ‘I dig my bare feet into the sand/and push’ – simple but stunning, i love it. Felt like i was really there. Brilliant.

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    Reply
    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Why thank you so much. For reasons which will become obvious in later posts, La Perouse will forever be impressed in my psyche. A blue sky or a gentle breeze will tug me straight back. I immersed myself in the landscape to such an extent that it hurt me to leave. I can conjour up feelings and sights that still make me weep. Thanks again,
      Cheers
      Laurie.

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      Reply
  4. kregianmiral

    Lovely poem, lovely history, lovely place, everything is lovely! I didn’t such a thing happened. Thank you for sharing this lovely information (too many “lovely). Keep safe & stay awesome! 🙂

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    Reply
    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      It’s fine I’be been known to use lovely once to often. Thanks for reading and commenting. The discovery and settlement of Australia makes for fascinating reading.
      Cheers
      Laurie.

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      Reply
  5. Raani York

    I’m very fond of this post – the entire post! The poem in combination with your writing and the pictures has a touching effect on me. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing, Laurie!

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    Reply
    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Hi Raani, I’m still entranced with your wonderful photo. I’m glad you like the post. Sometimes you have to write a little bit about it, otherwise people tend to so a lot of head scratching. The place enthralled me and I will be bringing it to life over the next few weeks. Did you say yo didn’t like sharks?=-O

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      Reply
      1. Raani York

        Thanks so much for your compliment on my picture. 🙂
        How come you remember these details about me not liking sharks? Fact is: They scare me *sigh* You’re doing great on your blog Laurie!!

        Like

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