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  • Writer's pictureBillie Proffitt


“So what was Hobart like?” he asked me once we settled into our balance on the trapezes, headed straight out to Mother Pacific in the exact opposite direction of the above mentioned sail.

“It changed who I am,” I replied, and then it was quiet, other than the wind.

I couldn’t help but to put myself back into my Sydney persona, a part of me that was rapidly disappearing & slowly breaking my heart as it did.  I had explained it as an amputation - my phantom limb that shot pains into my everyday life each time I had to reexplain myself, the goal I was trying to accomplish, the communication I was trying to convey, or in fact, when my jokes would walk right by their audience, incognito.  But mostly…  Mostly, it’s hurt peaked when I thought about the people & things that I was missing over there.  No matter how logical we are about why we leave something behind, it is still such a sucker punch to the stomach when we are reminded how easily life dances on without us.


The first time I visited the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia was Christmas Eve, 2010 with my then boyfriend & his parents.  My love for him is what had brought me to move nearly 8,000 miles from my loved ones, career confusion, familiar streets & LA lifestyle.  I was not entirely convinced that in my first visit I would decide that this was what the rest of my life would look like, so we agreed on a 4 month test run, by far the longest period of time we had ever spent living together at that point. Little did I know that with the tumultuous years to follow, this tried and true uber American would become more a part of the Australian culture than a fair few Aussies themselves. Little also, did I perceive, how much a man could change before my very eyes as the toxic relationship with his mother became the compass for which our shared life was steered around.  Or how close I could become to his father, a man who reminded me of my own father, who was - yet again - far away from my everyday life.  If only he’d take his power back to embrace the openminded sway and strength of my dad’s approaches, I would have given him my loyalty forever...


Try conveying all these anecdotes to the man positioned directly behind me - my old boss - as he simultaneously steers his 18' cat and trims the main sheet whilst balanced entirely on the arches of his feet.  I mean, did I need to go past listing the fact that he’s a man?  Kidding. (Well, half kidding anyway.)


Scott's dad was a race car driver before he got married, even broke at least one Australian record I know of at Bathurst, as I read in a newspaper clipping at Scott’s Nana’s house once. With his best friend’s involvement and love of yacht racing, there is no doubt in my mind that the one or two times he mentioned wanting to race sailing boats himself, did not pay justice the extent of his desires on the subject.  And so, he would walk me down the docks of Rushcutters Bay, telling me about each boat, it’s owner, how it was set to do in the big race based on previous scores...His wife always in a disapproving hurry & Scotty completely unimpressed. He looked at them with such respect and care, had I been more aware at 24, I would have felt his forlorn, or at least the restraint in which it pounded against. But alas, what is youth for, than to walk through life overlooking such details with a sense of self-centered adventure?

As (mostly) only children, we had agreed to split Christmases, alternating between California and Australia every year, assuming that the families would marry soon enough anyway.  But as December of 2012 approached, long after signing our DeFacto Marriage papers, the idea of marriage couldn’t have been further from either of our minds.  Ironically, had I made more of a nagging fuss about it, the odds are stacked much in the favor of my life being entirely different now - I’m not convinced better, but the world does not exist in only black and white.

It felt as if every person, place or thing I stated that I wanted for my life, was the exact opposite of Scott’s mother’s desires for me, for her son, for her yet-conceived grandchildren, but mainly, for her.  My body had begun to shut down, by this stage I couldn’t eat wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine or alcohol, the bloody blisters on my face had finally (after months) healed, my forced attendance of two different couples counselors seemed entirely in vain, but with my parents arriving in Sydney, at least it stopped the nightly tears come Christmas. His mother's unwavering and ignorant ego, coupled with her relentless passive-aggresivity was like nothing I had ever encountered before.  I hadn’t the vaguest clue what to do with the situation that had become my life, so what happened next came as a great surprise. Scott’s dad had organized for all of us to be on a boat in the Harbour for the start of the 68th Annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. He had inquired with me earlier if I would like him to, & I agreed, “But please don’t go too far out of your way, Robert, as I don’t want it to become a burden for you.  We fly to Tasmania the morning of the 27th anyway,” I said into the phone.  Scott shot me a look, he nodded, pushing me to force the subject.

When I hung up, Scott implied he wanted me to keep his father busy with any, and everything I could, “I get more work done when he’s occupied.”  And I agreed, but it had nothing to do with The Rolex Race.

Boxing Day morning Scotty was up early and organized a swanky picnic for us from the David Jones’ Food Hall. We stood atop the 3rd story deck, chatting in the sunshine & as the last canon fired, something washed over me like a bucket of cool, cleansing water - both shockingly unpleasant and inspiringly overwhelming at the same time. 77 massive monohulls reared up on one side and flew past me, & in the white wash aftermath, my gaping mouth & wide eyes turned to face my parents.

“No,” my Mom said, as my Dad silently shook his head. “No, you don’t.”

“I do.  Yes, I do, Mommy!  I have to do this,” & Dad rolled his eyes.

I was sold. I may have lacked direction in every part of my life, but watching this lifestyle whiz by me was like a crush on the most popular senior on your first day of high school. The butterflies were a welcome distraction from the constant struggle against my inherited Brisbane umbilical cord.

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