Funnily enough, these blue boats seem to be the theme this month! Here we have the story of The Argus, a little gentleman’s cruiser floating in waters in Southern Tasmania. Owner Michael Duke wrote to us earlier this year to tell his love story of The Argus.
The Argus began taking on water. Seeing our strife, a neighbouring vessel
also crossing Lake Alexandrina Homewood bound from the 2015 SA Wooden Boat
Festival, began following, collecting our cargo as quickly as we were
Feet wet, we ran her aground on the nearest land we could find and, with the
aid of the crew from our neighbouring boat, we secured her for the night.
Then, in one of those bizarre inversions that come with entering middle age,
we phoned our kids to come and pick us up.
Our boat was a shipwreck. What should we do? Could we fix her? Should we fix
The course ahead seemed obvious and logical. Our insurance payout covered
her full market value. Then, a man with the necessary and often illusive
combined commodities of time, money and skill offered to buy our wreck!
“We can come out of this ahead. Besides, I am not a boat builder’s hairy
But something inside me adored this humble old hulk and I couldn’t let her
go. She reminded me too much of… well… me! This broken empty shell still
possessed an inherent beauty and, beyond the constraints of reason and
logic, she had potential. I guess I did too.
I was rebuilding my life because not long ago, I was
A little over two years before the mother of my children and cherished wife
of 20 years, left me after her love for me had died. Not quite broken enough, I
then crashed my bicycle resulting in a head injury.
Many say that in suffering, consolation is where you find God. The
consolations for me came in the form of a church who didn’t give up on me
and in Sally, a high school crush I ran into in a local shop she was keeping.
In the solace of empathy that can blossom in shared brokenness, Sally also,
somehow, found consolation in me. How does this happen? Coincidence?.. God?..
How should a fledgling couple, juggling the myriad of complications that go
with epic events neither had ever planned for, begin a new life together?
Buy a boat? Sure! What could possibly go wrong?
We had admired the Argus at the 2013 South Australian Wooden Boat Festival.
Just for fun, we regularly romanced about the “slow down” solace this pretty
old tub might offer, putting along the ancient river of our childhoods that
we held such affection for. Later that year, a Gumtree classified ad flashed her across our screen while
we were searching the site for something completely unrelated.
And we snapped her up for a good price.
She was honest, if a little rough, her wooden bones whispering secrets of a
much harder life. At nearly 70 years old, she required regular dabs of putty
and paint, and I was happy to oblige. Mostly though, we gently rode the
river as we were kissed by the sunset.
A year later, Sally and I married. We began our blessed union of souls on
the Murray, in the Argus. Ten winter days of warmth inside her organic-esque
belly amidst the splendours of creation. But for the tyranny of
responsibilities, we could have kept going and going.
So there it is. There is a lot of history between the Argus and us. Even
more now and much more still to come.
Somehow this strange obsession with the restoration of the apparently
obsolete also has a peculiar spiritual resonance. Around the Argus has
assembled an eclectic community who, so inspired by the folly of fixing, are
only too happy to impart their skills and knowledge just to see her sail
again. I have met most of them by accident and just at the right time. Now, in
Tasmania, I find myself drawn into the folly of other’s pursuits of passion.
The Argus bears all the mistakes of skills not yet formed, all the scars of
timbers salvaged from the frames of former factories. She is a beautiful life restored. Not to perfection, but to wholeness. And most significantly… she floats.
Thanks to Michael for writing in to us. Do you have a story to share?
Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – each month we try and showcase a new story from our audience.