I’m not much of a night-owl when I’m in company. While other musicians head for the late-night jam, I head for bed. I’m the guy asleep in the corner of the sofa at parties.
So it’s strange, perhaps, that I love the night. Yet I do.
As darkness falls, the visual world is stripped of its third dimension. A stand of eucalypts becomes a flat silhouette in black paper. Is that pinprick of light a few feet away, or half a mile?
Conversely, sound gains depth as the white noise of daytime fades. The dog barking to its fellows over at the next farmhouse; the insistent chirp of crickets in the brush; the squeal of tyres as bored teenagers run the gauntlet out on the highway. Noises that tell of goings-on beyond my vision and my knowing.
In England, I was a keen dinghy sailer who raced every Sunday with my local club and spent a few weeks every year chartering yachts or sailing as crew. Moving to Australia presented my wife and me with the opportunity to buy a small yacht of our own.
The downside was that I had to sell my beloved Wayfarer and Supernova dinghies. However, the prospect of owning a yacht more than compensated for that. In the UK, even a small yacht – and a marina pen in which to keep it – was beyond our modest means.
I think I actually said, ‘I’m only moving to Australia if we can buy a yacht.’ I was only half-joking.
Being on the water is special. Particularly in a sailing boat, kayak or canoe, you can glide along (almost) effortlessly and silently. It gives you time to enjoy the babble of the water, the song of birds, maybe dolphins playing in your bow wave or fish just visible in the deep.
I’ve sailed and paddled coastal waters, lakes and rivers in the UK, in the Baltic and in the Ionian Sea and around Victoria, Australia. It’s just magical. To be able to move across this beautiful, alien, sometimes terrifying element through your own skill, but always by the grace of a primal power which can put you, an insignificant human, in your place – there’s nothing better.