A regular Friday at the RedBalloon yacht, er office

So, it’s Friday at the RedBalloon office. And what were we doing to celebrate this, the most cherished or all workdays? Well the same thing I’m sure people in offices all around the world were doing. That’s right, you guessed it! We went sailing on the most beautiful harbour in the world. (What do you mean not every employee gets to do this on a Friday?)

It was to celebrate our tenth birthday and was the last in a week full of amazing experiences courtesy of some of our great suppliers, including skydiving and Artescape. Just this morning – that’s right, this blog is hot off the press - ten lucky RedBallooners had the opportunity to go sailing on Sydney Harbour. Captain Allan and first mate Felicity took us out onboard the Hunter 45 Deck Salon, ironically named Sol Cazador. Ironic because this means “sun hunter” in Spanish, and the sky was an ominous shade of grey as we pulled away from the shore…

But the weather didn’t dampen our spirits, nor the chilly (but helpful) wind. We forged ahead on our quest to circumnavigate the harbour – following in the ore-steps of our forefathers…

OK, so that’s a bit dramatic, but it really was a fantastic experience! After a short, but necessary safety briefing, where we were reminded to cross our legs to protect our ”man and lady bits” if we had to pin drop into the water in an emergency, it was anchors away! (I’m pretty sure there was no anchor, but ropes away doesn’t really have the same ring to it.)

We ducked under the Harbour Bridge and past the Opera House toward Garden Island and we each had a go at steering the vessel. It wasn’t long before there was a mutiny aboard and Roneel took his place as captain, but was soon excused from his duties after getting sneaky tips about how best to tip us over. Then the girls had a go – Alice and I, and we were flying! That lasted until Frank our new sales manager literally took the wind out of our sails and we dropped down to about 3 knots/hr. That’s about 6km/hr for those of you playing at home. OK, it may not have been entirely Frank’s fault – it was more likely the fact that the wind was being blocked by the headland – but we were practically going backwards.

Oh, and apparently a yacht is not like a car that self corrects itself when you turn a corner, Roneel discovered this when he was asked to turn a ‘whisker’ to the right. Apparently after you turn the wheel you have to straighten it again to set the boat back on a straight course. Otherwise you’ll go in a big circle. Then that opened the debate about how much is a whisker and “Allan, are you sure that’s an internationally recognised unit of measurement”?

On the journey we got up close and personal with Shark Island – not too close though, as Allan cautioned, apparently if you “stall” the yacht in the wind break that is created by the island, the vessel can easily drift towards land and run aground. Look at me with my rapidly-expanding nautical vocabulary! I may start randomly inserting these new phrases into my everyday speak, with comments like “come about” for dinner, the vegemite is on the “starboard” side of the cupboard, “beam” me up Scotty. Hold on, I may have got that last one wrong…

In fact I didn’t realise so many of our common phrases have a long history on the high seas –    “ ‘batten’ down the hatches”, “he/she’s like a ‘loose cannon’ ”, “it’s all ‘above board’ ”. And until today I thought a schooner had to have Carlton Draught in it.

Anyway, we also learnt the art of “tacking”, which helped us around Clark Island, a patch of earth in the middle of the harbour with an interesting history – Allan was a real Aussie history buff as it turns out. The Island was named after a chap from the first fleet who got permission to use the island as a vegetable patch. But his thieving comrades would sneak to the island and steal all of the vegetables at night, so after two years of toiling away in the soil, he gave up. But on the bright side, the island was named after him. We debated Mr Clark’s endurance and decided that he was a slow learner.

In an attempt to get the full sailing experience I even decided to give the marine loo a trial. It’s a very complicated process with a series of buttons you have to press before and after (thankfully not during) your, let’s call it, “business”. It’s important to wait until the vessel is not reaching (on a lean), or you may get some unwanted “motions” and things can get pretty messy below deck. I feel it’s necessary at this juncture to point out that did not happen, I’m just offering some sound advice.

Alas, our jaunt on the high seas had to come to an end. So, filled to the brim with new sailing terms and knowledge, with no Somali Pirates in sight (phew), we returned to the dock at Darling Harbour, shivering but invigorated. And although we work for one of the best companies in Australia, it was hard going back to the office after that.

Thanks Sydney by Sail for an unforgettable experience.

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