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Yachts and cruisers

Oct 30, 2006 When you hear the word, yacht, doesn’t it conjure up size? Glamour? Megayachts or the royal yacht Britannia? Personally I don’t attribute the term to my Peterson 44, preferring sailing vessel or cruising boat. The Aussies, however, have it mixed up, as in, two vessels pass each other and the powerboat gives a VHF call to the “Yacht heading south on my starboard side.” I no longer look around for someone else. He’s calling me. The sailboat.

Odd how the sense of a word can change, not just between English-speaking cultures but within one. The America’s Cup and other regattas are still known as yacht racing, but American anti-snobbism has crept into “yachting” so that it conjures up polished brass, captains wearing sport jackets and khaki pants and crews in golf shirts with the dreamboat’s name embroidered over a pocket.

But what about powerboats? Last week Tom and I anchored in an isolated bight between East and West Governor Islands in the Kimberley region of northwest Australia. We’d thought to have it to ourselves, rest up for the trip back to Darwin and civilization, but Omaroo beat us in. Omaroo was a cruising trawler with a mast and sail. In the morning we watched as they ran up and down the anchorage in their "tinny" (aluminum tender) chasing fish. We hoped they’d dash within hailing distance but they never did, so we motored our rubber duckie across to erase any guilt over appearing standoffish, and were invited aboard for the sacred rite of Morning Tea. I knew they wanted to catch the tide around Cape Londonderry, which suited our prospects, but Del served a plate of corned beef sandwiches and cookies with mugs of tea. We traded fish stories (mine are light) and got onto the subject of boats, when Gary referred to motorboats as “cruisers.”

Ah hah! No wonder Australian sailors don’t perk up when I include them in the race of cruisers, i.e. cruising sailors. In the States you do still hear a recreational powerboat with accommodation called a “cabin cruiser” so again, the Aussies are just a bit skewed. Still none of this makes me sanguine about hearing our tribe referred to as “a bunch of yachties.” Edit Module