There’s nothing quite like the smell of two stroke in the morning.
(OR: DARRYL KERRIGAN, EAT YOUR HEART OUT)*
The Northern Territory has the highest rate of boat ownership in the country. Boat ownership here is a marker that you are Territory Tough; it’s a signifier of freedom and a ticket to the inner sanctum. Because in the Territory, boating means fishing. And fishing isn’t just a way of life, it’s THE way of life.
Mr Tea isn’t the blokiest of Territory men (thank God), and he’s not a bleeding gums, crazy eyes fisherman either. But he’s certainly pulling his weight when it comes to the boat ownership stakes.
Somehow, we seem to have become a five boat family. This is troubling given the fact that Mr Tea and I don’t have children. Between the garage and the Darwin Sailing Club, we have a couple of tinnies, a kayak, a 25ft yacht and an inflatable dinghy to service said yacht. When Mr Tea isn’t fiddling around with one of these, planning a trip or going on a trip, he’s busy haunting Gum Tree and boatsales.com.au. Let it be said, he has a problem.
The yacht really was the gateway drug, taking us from tinny owners to empire builders. And when Mr Tea first flagged buying one, I was supportive. I (like you, no doubt) imagined that on the yacht, I would instantly become thinner. I would swan around in a plunging one-piece. I’d sport white linen and a tan, and we’d drink nothing but champagne and strawberries, just like a menthol cigarette ad from 1987.
Unfortunately, the reality was less menthol cigarette and more profound sea sickness, occasional moments of oceanic beauty (look! A dugong!) and shitting in a bucket.
But I digress.
Because, just as Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob, the yacht begat more boats. Because once you have a yacht, you need a tender to get from the yacht to the beach. And that’s how we wound up with 40 kilos of an inflatable Zodiac in the shed.
And then Mr Tea and I went to visit the yacht one evening. Ostensibly to retrieve some sails, but I actually think Mr Tea just wanted to pat it. At any rate, we got there, only to find that an enterprising criminal had climbed into the boat park and removed our motor with bolt cutters.
Mr Tea was gutted. So to console himself, he went on Gum Tree and bought another (smaller) tinny and a trailer.
“The perfect car topper,” he told me. “And I can use the motor on the yacht. This is a bargain. A real bargain.”
He promptly dropped the rest of the insurance money, and then some, on trailer registration and a service for our new replacement motor.
So then there were five.
Sure, I had a boat addict for a partner and I thought Bunnings should probably stop selling bolt cutters, but apart from that I was pretty zen about the whole thing. I’d embraced our new life as a five boat family. I accepted there was no room in the shed for any of my possessions. And I had let the stolen two stroke Yamaha go. God speed, long shaft motor.
And that was when Mr Tea found it on Gum Tree.
He immediately sent off an enquiry, and sure enough, someone called “Nathan” sent us a few photos of our stolen motor.
Mr Tea is a law-abiding sort of bloke, and was a bit flummoxed by this.
“Are they really that stupid? They’d just rip off a motor and sell it online? In a place the size of Darwin?”
I assured him that there were many, many people in the Territory who were exactly that stupid.
But then we also started to freak ourselves out a bit. Maybe this was bigger than stupid. Maybe this was a boat motor smuggling ring, some kind of offshore bikie side project. Luckily, I had been watching The Bill and Water Rats on and off for years and was alert to such dangers.
So we went down to the Darwin Police Station. After repeating our story to about three different officers, we finally were assigned a pair of crack crime hounds to get on the case. Let’s call them Steve and Darren.
Mr Tea repeated his story.
Darren scratched his nose. “Hmmm. So what are you going to do about it?”
At that stage, I almost giggled. We’re at the police station, I said. What are YOU going to do about it?
Steve had the courtesy to shrug his shoulders in a way that said touché.
Darren and Steve consulted with their boss for another hour, and then the plan was in place. We would go to Stuart Park and inspect the motor and double check that it was ours. Constables Steve and Darren would tail us and as soon as we gave them the nod, they would bust this two stroke motor stealing, drug smuggling, sex trafficking bikie ring wide open.
Mr Tea immediately banned me from the police sting operation.
“Babe”, he said. “There’s no need for both of us to get caught up in this. We don’t know what will happen in there. It could get dangerous. I want you to go home. I’ll call you as soon as it’s over.”
I protested and put up a fight on feminist grounds, but really, I’m a coward at heart and I was tired of hanging out in the police station. Plus I had some important lying down to do.
So I agreed to stay clear, though nervous about leaving my love to face the inevitable bikie shoot out alone. I went home and gripped my phone for about an hour until Mr Tea called me back.
Turns out it was a bit less dire than we had imagined. No bikies or guns. No, our motor was in the hands of a couple of drugged out, skinny 19 year olds who wanted to make a quick 500 bucks. They claimed to have “bought it off a guy at One Mile”.
Our fearless constables Steve and Darren went in, retrieved the motor, delivered some wrist slapping and went back to the office for doughnuts.
Well, that’s great, I said to Mr Tea.
A win for us. Take that, petty crime.
The next day, Mr Tea made some space in the shed again for the motor, and started to rig up a hanging space for the new tinny between the 4WD and the kayak. And true to form, he went back on Gum Tree.
He turned to me from the IPad.
“How would you feel about a stand-up paddleboard?”
*With apologies to anyone who hasn’t watched The Castle. And with sympathy to all the other long suffering significant others who have to get the Torana out to get to the Commodore. Or the tinny to get to the kayak.