PAPERBACK BOOKS
NOT MAINSTREAM

Not Mainstream is a work of non-fiction/memoir that recounts the extraordinary life of Rob Warring.  

From his first taste of complete freedom while exploring the outback of Western Australia to his unrelenting passion for the sea, Rob’s journey is one of excitement, risk-taking and tough lessons.  

In his story he holds nothing back and opens up with honesty about his times in Asia and his brush with the subtle but insidious world of drug use. A professional yachtsman, fisherman and diver, in the end the reader is inspired by the man he has become and the wisdom he has to share.  

As with his first book The Boat Ride Home, this work includes and ends with profound environmental messages of hope for our planet and the wildlife. 

For more information, visit Rob's website at: www.boatridehome.com

In Store Price: $AU26.95 
Online Price:   $AU25.95

ISBN: 978-1-921240-90-4
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 274
Genre: Non Fiction 

Cover: Clive Dalkins

By the same author:
The Boat Ride Home

New Zealand customers, if you wish to order this title locally, please click here.

 

 

Author: Robert Warring
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2008
Language: English

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The Author  

Robert Warring was born in 1953 in Auckland New Zealand. He grew up in a yachting family where his love of the sea began and from where he acquired his sense of adventure, being encouraged by the exploits and blue water sailing experiences of his equally adventurous parents. 

He completed a boat-building apprenticeship and then found himself as a prawn fisherman in Northern Australia, the beginning of his life of incidents and observations culminating in an enlightening involvement with a world-renowned marine environmental operation. This is his second book. 

He lives near the rainforest village of Kuranda in far North Queensland, Australia.

Introduction   

All my adult life I have been consciously aware of the importance of maintaining a measure of personal freedom, having over the years observed the lives of ‘quiet desperation’ that many people seem to endure. Of course, I had my own periods of numbingly futile existence, until I would recall certain memories and experiences, then find the courage to make some different choices and change things.

After a typical post-World War II upbringing, forced labour in an apprenticeship I would not have chosen for myself, and a rebellious but cowardly escape from the whole depressing situation, I found myself in an old cream-coloured 1960 PA Vauxhall that my friend Mick and I had bought in Perth for $150, on the road somewhere between Geraldton and Carnarvon in Western Australia.

It was five o’clock in the morning. We had been travelling all night as we could no longer drive the car in the heat of the western desert day. The top-end overhaul we had done on the engine before we left Perth still didn’t solve the overheating problem it had when we bought the car. So we had to travel in the cool of the evening with the bonnet tied down on to a piece of timber which held it open enough to direct cool air over the motor as we drove.

As we rattled along the corrugated and seemingly endless dirt surface of the North-West Coastal Highway we watched the sky start to lighten in the east, the low rolling hills and the spinifex scrub becoming silhouetted against the first colours of the sunrise.

Suddenly, up ahead there appeared a thick cloud of dust, and emerging from it was a great herd of cattle heading in our direction. We let the car roll to a stop, got out and both sat on the bonnet to watch the spectacle.

It was like something straight out of a Wild West movie. Mick likened it to those large billboard Marlboro cigarette ads of the time. The cowboys on their horses, cracking their whips and whistling to the dogs and beasts to urge them forward, were appearing and disappearing in the dust as they chased up the stragglers. It was a strange and surreal experience after an exhausting six-hour drive, trying to put as much distance between us and the last town as we could.

As I contemplated this outback scene being played out before us, I became aware of a deep and overwhelming feeling of being free for the first time in my life. I sat there on the bonnet of that shagged-out old car with my best friend in the early morning, living our young men’s dreams of high adventure. This feeling of complete and liberating freedom was so profound, I swore then and there that it would become an integral and inviolable part of whatever I would do, and how I would conduct myself in my coming life. Thirty years later I believe I have kept my word.  

Chapter One   (part sample) 

I had been having so many new experiences since I left the safe and nurturing confines of sixties and seventies New Zealand society. My friend Scott greeted me off the plane at Sydney airport and we caught a taxi to his flat in Rushcutters Bay. The cab pulled up outside his flat and as it did I noticed a body lying in the gutter where the cab was trying to pull in. The driver sounded his horn and it was all this guy could do to drag himself out of the gutter onto the pavement and collapse again, lolling head on the outstretched upper arm, and legs drawn up into the foetal position. My first sight of a ‘homeless person’, something you never saw around the streets of Auckland at that time.

A day later it was up to Kings Cross and the strip clubs. We were accosted outside one of the clubs by a tall guy made to look even taller by wearing a big black top hat. He also had a full beard, which reached down to the centre of his chest … on one side of his face. On the other he was clean shaven with rouge on the cheek, eyeliner and lipstick. ‘Come in, my friends, and you’ll see the most beautiful girls in the Cross. Jack! Give ’em the best seats in the ’ouse!’ he called to the usher at the top of the stairs.

He did, as it turned out. We got front row seats and we were able to appreciate the girls in all their naked gyrating glory. I still hear a certain song on the radio occasionally that reminds me of that first strip club experience.

‘Woman …

Take me in your arms,

Rock me Baby….’

I know it was all part of the act but for a split second I did wonder if she liked the look of me as she threw me a ‘personalised’ silk scarf, blew me kisses until the number was over, then disappeared off the stage and out of my life forever …

Then, after a chance encounter on one of the docks where the Sydney to Hobart yachts were assembled prior to the race, I found myself aboard the Kiwi entrant Runaway (how appropriate) with skipper Ian Gibbs and crew, some of whom I knew from the Ponsonby Cruising Club in Auckland. One of the other crew members had fallen ill at the last minute and Shifty Shultz the navigator vouched for me as a replacement. Two days later, with not much more than a pair of jeans, a jumper and a borrowed set of wet weather gear, we crossed the start line off Sydney Heads, turned right and headed south for a ragingly exciting race that included weather conditions from every point of the compass and every extreme: from flat calm, to fresh, to downright frightening.

After the race I was showered with praise by the skipper and other crew members for my efforts on the foredeck. Another first in my life. I was revelling in all these new experiences and my confidence was being boosted as I embraced them and learned from them.

The after-race festivities in the Hobart pubs and aboard the different boats in Constitution Dock were winding down, and it was time to take stock of finances and future plans. My friend Michael had flown over from Melbourne and joined me in the traditional onslaught of endless days of après-race celebrating, one in particular on the winning boat, a 73-foot concrete boat called Helsal or ‘The flying footpath’, and which had a concrete mixer set up on the foredeck filled with rum and coke.

A few days later and a hell of a lot worse for wear, we found ourselves sitting on the edge of the dock, contemplating the yachts gently bobbing and tugging at their moorings in a sea of their own post-race garbage, wondering what we were going to do next. I had decided not to go back to New Zealand as my friends, family and employer expected me to do and Mick had decided not to go back to his girlfriend in Melbourne.

The decision was made for us when, as we sat there sharing our thoughts and ideas, a voice came over the PA system with a request for anyone interested in sailing one of the competing West Australian yachts back to its home town of Bunbury, just south of Perth. We looked at each other, and within minutes of the announcement, were standing in the administration office offering our services.

The boat was a thirty-four-foot Sparkman and Stevens three-quarter tonner called Hellfire, a well-known design and, after an inspection by us, a well-found and equipped little vessel. We were joined by John and Jenny, two other experienced yachtspeople, who made up our tidy crew of four. The owner, a Perth real estate agent and ‘Alan Bond’s competition’ (as he repeatedly told us), spent the three preparatory days helping load provisions and advising on any little idiosyncrasies the boat might have.

Early one overcast morning, and to a muted farewell from the owner and a few of our other sailing friends, we let go the mooring lines, slipped out of Constitution Dock and headed off down the Derwent River before a light westerly. First stop – at that point we didn’t really know, it was all in the lap of the south Australian weather gods.

We took the shortcut through the canal inside the Tasman Peninsula and picked up a moderate south-easterly breeze, which persisted until we were clear through Banks Strait and west of Flinders Island. We kept a close listening watch for the weather on Melbourne radio so we were prepared for the coming westerly change when it arrived early on the third morning after leaving Hobart. As we were still getting to know the boat and readjusting to life at sea we decided not to push things too hard and made the decision to head for the Kent group of islands north-west of Flinders.

We arrived in the early evening just as it was really starting to blow and dropped our anchor on the sheltered side of a channel formed by two islands, the main one being Deal Island. It was a good little ‘shake-down’ getting to know the boat, each other’s capabilities as crew, and to set the watch routine which would serve us for the rest of the trip to Western Australia.

That first night the wind blew hard but we had good shelter tucked in close and in company with a number of other yachts making their way home after the race. We had decided not to put a time constraint on ourselves, we weren’t racing, and as we explained to Keith, the owner, the boat would be in good order when we arrived having not unnecessarily pushed her in the expected extreme Southern Ocean weather conditions.

We knew that an east-to-west crossing of the Great Australian Bight would not be easy given the normally endless westerly weather that marched across that southern expanse. However, having spoken to others who had faced the crossing in the past, it wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility that we might just be lucky enough to pick up some north-easterly weather at that time of the year, January/February. So once we were settled in behind the island, we decided to stay there in comfort to see if in fact there was any truth to this theory.

We actually didn’t have long to wait, and as usually happens, the change came with a vengeance in the middle of the night catching us all off guard, and on a lee shore, meaning that the beach and rocks were now at our back and therefore a very real danger if the anchor dragged. There was a mad scramble amongst the half dozen boats in the bay, anchors being weighed, searchlight beams in all directions, shouting and near collisions in the dark, as we made our way across the narrow strait to the anchorage below the cliffs and lighthouse on Deal Island. Again the wind was howling but we were safe under the high cliffs.

The next day we prepared to take advantage of the wind change and get as far west as we could with it, but just before we were about to leave, a general broadcast on the VHF from the lighthouse keeper came over inviting any of us who would like to, to come up and have a look at the lighthouse. We chose to stay the extra day, took advantage of his offer, and had a great tour of the island and lighthouse by the keeper and his wife.

It was all very informative. Deal Island lighthouse was one of the very last lighthouses to still be manned by keepers. Almost all of the others in Bass Strait and on the coast were by then automated. This one was to be next. The keepers had mixed feelings about their imminent departure. On the one hand they enjoyed the solitude of the island living, being responsible for the safe passage of shipping, and striking up friendships over the radio with skippers and crews as they passed in the night. But they had just come through a rather harrowing experience in the form of the whole island catching fire and it was all they could do to save themselves, the lighthouse and the residences from being consumed by the conflagration.

We had no idea that any of this had happened until we reached the top of the steep path from the landing and were able to look out over the flat expanse of the island. Our approach from the south, and the anchorage in the channel, allowed us only the sight of steep cliffs rising sheer out of the ocean and so shielded the observer from the catastrophe that had taken place. The fire had spread over the entire island causing all the wildlife to retreat to the only unburnt part of the island, the lighthouse and residence compound where the last stand was made. So here were the two keeper families frantically fighting the fire around the buildings and at the same time having to negotiate the herds of wild goats, wallabies, possums, rats, many quite badly injured, and worst of all, hundreds of poisonous king brown snakes which were striking at everyone and anything and causing complete chaos as they made their bid for a piece of unburnt ground.

The two families finally won the battle against the fire and the snakes but the damage to the island was complete, the devastation still fresh and visible two weeks after the incident on our visit. Notions of the idyllic lifestyle were sunk soon after, when the blame game began between the two families as to who was responsible for the fire. Of course the head keeper blamed his deputy, accusing him of losing control of a domestic garbage burn. We never did get to meet the other family; they seemed to be in hiding so we didn’t hear their side of the story. But I felt sad for both parties, for the way in which an important maritime service and romantic way of life had to end on such a less-than-happy note.

Very early the next morning we headed out into Bass Strait from between the two islands and squared away on a westerly course, taking us to the north of King Island. It was blowing thirty knots plus, and there was a large swell running but we had the boat snugged down with two reefs in the main and a small jib on. She was handling the conditions extremely well.

Late in the afternoon a large cargo vessel with the decks loaded with containers came up behind us, and it was watching this ship that let us know that maybe it was blowing like hell and that we shouldn’t be out here. The ship was making heavy weather of it, wallowing and rolling heavily in the quartering sea. As she rolled, the decks were constantly swept and as she staggered out of a trough, tonnes of water would cascade off her. Then she would corkscrew into the next trough, lurch violently, bury her gunwales again and take on another load of green water. I could very easily see how these ships could lose containers off their decks in these kinds of conditions, which would then often remain semi-submerged and become a real danger to smaller vessels and yachts such as ourselves.

We watched all this from the safety and comfort of our little 34ft cork-like haven. Sitting in the sheltered cockpit, snug in our wet weather gear, enjoying an afternoon beer, we felt sorry for those poor buggers over there as they staggered past us in their heavily laden, sunken-log-like state. They rolled their gunwales under continuously and were probably puking and hanging on for dear life to the compass binnacle, and anything else they could get a hand to in the wheelhouse or the cabins below …

We carried the north-easterly for the next few days, but suspecting a westerly change soon, we decided to ease up towards Kangaroo Island in anticipation. Sure enough the next morning’s weather ‘sched’ warned us of a coming westerly so we decided to try and beat it into Port Lincoln. We made our way through the Backstairs Passage between Kangaroo Island and the mainland and late one afternoon we arrived in Port Lincoln just before the westerly did.

My memory of Port Lincoln has faded. What I can remember are huge wheat silos on the waterfront for the wheat export trade, and a large number of tuna fishing vessels rafted up alongside the main wharf. The town itself wasn’t large and most of the commercial district was strung out along a beachfront esplanade. We were anchored off the beach and made our forays ashore in the yacht’s rubber dinghy.

John and Jenny, the other two crewmembers, were cashed up. Michael and I … weren’t. The westerlies were persisting, we weren’t going anywhere for at least a week, and Mick and I were fast going broke. We had become regular patrons of one of the beachside pubs. We’d met girls but we were broke. With our last two beers, our last dollar on the pool table, it dawned on us that we might have to look seriously at this potential little cash cow, the pool table. We had to, there was nothing else for it, otherwise it would be back to the boat and the end of our beer drinking and forays with the local girls.

Michael was unarguably the ‘front man’ of the two of us. We had met on the sailing and surfing circuit in New Zealand, found we had similar ideas about what constituted fun and life, so it was no surprise to either of us that we found ourselves together on this little adventure. He was tall, extremely good looking, a consummate and accomplished bullshit artist, would, could and did charm the pants off the prettiest girls, and could talk his way in and out of any and every conceivable situation. It was a pleasure to watch him in action. Having said that, there were times when he took things ‘to the brink’ so to speak, and then it was up to me to diffuse, excuse, extract and often get us running, literally to save our skins.

So Mick turned to me and said, ‘Rob, we’re desperate, we have to start playing pool for money and win otherwise we’re buggered.’ As the old saying goes, ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ and we started to challenge the locals in their pub, at their game.

Again the difference in our styles showed on the pool table, Mick potting balls with skill, flair, accuracy and cracking power. My style was definitely the more timid of the two of us but the combination seemed to work and over the next few days we proceeded to not only make some good money, but let our egos dominate, and finally earn the ire and contempt of the local competition.

We knew the rot had begun to set in when the local boys started interfering with the position of the dollar coins we would place on the pool table, marking our place in the game sequence. When I caught them at it I let Mick know and I shaped up to the culprit. He then grabbed a pool cue, broke it over his knee and hit me over the head with the heavy end. But he ‘miss-cued’! The blow glanced off my shoulder and just clipped my ear as I ducked. That gave me the chance to lay into him, and it was on. Before we knew it Mick and I were fighting back to back against half a dozen seriously pissed off guys as we tried to make it to the door and out on to the street. Even the girls were hurling abuse at us and encouraging their menfolk to kill us and slaughter us and other bad things. This after I had been so nice to one of them under a tree in the park over the road – in broad daylight – a couple of days previously. There’s no pleasing some people …

It was the first of a number of hasty retreats we had to make over the year we travelled together. We found ourselves running down the beach, frantically pulling and pushing the dinghy into the water as our former friends threw rocks and beer glasses at us. We got out to the boat just as the wind went into the east (wow, how lucky was that!) hoisted the dinghy on board, set the sails, slid out round the corner and set our course for Western Australia.  

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