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The Rock-itt : September 2010
We continue the adventures of Australia's greatest ever actor Errol Flynn and his life and journey from the city of Hobart in Tasmania as a youngster to the dream factories of Hollywood USA, where he became an international superstar and one of the world's most celebrated legends in his own lifetime. It's now 1930 and in our last instalment we found Errol and his crew had slipped out of Sydney Harbour in the darkness of night on board Errol's new but extremely old yacht Sirocco, and were battling heavy weather as they made their way up the New South Wales east coast to their first port of call, the small fishing village of Port Stephens. The journey northward was difficult and uncomfortable as Sirocco ploughed into the huge green swell which continually washed over her, finding its way below decks saturating almost everything on board. Errol and his crew were stricken with sea sickness which didn't help their battle with the elements. When the ancient diesel engine began spluttering and coughing, Errol had to go down into the cramped engine room which reeked of exhaust fumes, and combined with the vile smelling bilges, made him even sicker. As Sirocco ploughed, tossed and rolled so did Errol as he was thrown in all directions including on top of the hot metal of the engine which burnt and blistered his flesh. There was no choice, as they had reefed the main sail and were running with the storm jib because of the blustery conditions but they still needed forward propulsion to be able to steer Sirocco in the fast gusting squall. To lose the diesel now could prove disastrous. Errol managed to make some repairs and adjustments to keep the engine running but was bruised, burnt and battered for his efforts. But soon to his dismay, Errol discovered the diesel wasn't the only problem that Sirocco had, for in the dimness of the engine room Errol could hear water swishing to and fro with the roll of the boat and further investigation showed that the water in the bilges was level with the decking boards. To his utter horror Errol realised that Sirocco was taking on water at an alarming rate. Clambering up the narrow stairway and onto the main deck, Errol found Rex, Charlie and Trelawney all huddled together in the wheel house violently ill. But there was no time to commiserate if they wanted to stay afloat and Errol quickly rostered each to take a turn at the hand pump to pump out water as fast as they could to keep the boat from foundering in the heavy seas. It took the rest of the night and half the next day pumping out the bilges to get there, but finally Sirocco limped into the bay at Port Stephens. Relieved, they dropped anchor and with a tin of dry biscuits, which was about the only thing that was dry, they climbed into Sirocco's tender and rowed to a jetty. The jetty had a dilapidated shed built on it which stank highly of dead fish. Too tired to care about the repulsive smell or the condition of the structure, the four men utterly exhausted by their ordeal, curled up on the wooden floor thankful for the motionless peace and quiet and slept soundly till the following morning. The next day revitalised by a good night's sleep, Errol and the crew ate a hearty breakfast then set about the task of getting Sirocco ship shape. She had over two foot of water below decks and mostly all onboard was sodden. Rex suggested that he take a walk into the village for quick reconnoitre. But was no sooner gone than he was back again lamenting that there was a gross lack of the fairer sex in Port Stephens and that they should weigh anchor and set sail for their next port of call. But there was a mountain of work to get through before they could once again set off which actually took another two days before all was complete. Eventually their task of cleaning done and with a fresh southeaster at their stern, Sirocco showed just how she could travel in proper conditions and sped along at a quick rate of knots shaking the moisture off her like a duck. She glided across the tops of the white foaming green swell with the fine lines of her narrow hull covering distance fast and effortlessly. With the diesel engine shut down, the sound of the wind in her sails and the swish of the sea wiping her sides, she quickly left Port Stephens in her wake.